Saturday, June 30, 2012

Food for thought

I am coming out of a week of pure amazingness in Texas. It's no secret that I love soaking up the sun at the beach and filling my belly with legit Mexican food. This trip was of a distinctly different flavor though.

I drove to my old stomping grounds with high expectations. I needed to hear things from God's heart. I needed some tangible lessons to take home. My Dad never disappoints. (not talking about a person here)

This is what is racing through my mind and heart today- sacrifice. More importantly, obedience and sacrifice and the way they work together. I believe our move to Virginia was largely in part an issue of obedience. The church touts "Obedience is better than sacrifice" as an excuse. It's true, God desires my obedience more than He desires a sacrifice of MY choosing. But when I hear those words I hear His heart differently, paraphrased. Cheerful obedience is better than a sacrifice given begrudgingly. Ouch. More often than not, obedience is a sacrifice. Will you obey with a smile, simply soaking up the sacrifice as a point of growth? Or will obedience be secondary to the sacrifice that you are "bearing" for all the world to see? Yup. I said it. I want to be outwardly obedient and inwardly sacrificial.

How's that for soul food?

Friday, June 22, 2012

32 today.

Today is my 32nd birthday. I'd love to say that I have some amazing life tidbits to share, or even some wisdom to impart, but I can't think of any right now. I've got my eye on the prize. Texas.

We are on a road trip to visit the friends and family that we moved away from almost a year ago. We are making the 20-ish hour trek from Virginia in a car full of luggage, guitars, and boys. It's fun and exciting and crazy. The are-we-there-yets have already started and we're just 3 hours in.

So, fancy wisdom? I'm fresh out. What I can share though is an interesting observation, a realtime glimpse into my world.

I am sitting in the passenger seat, with a camera around my neck. I am determined to take some great pics chronicling our trip. And I just made a funny discovery. My hubby and I look at the world through completely different lenses. Yeah, I probably already knew it, but today it's striking me as wildly hilarious. For the past 3 hours he's been prodding me to take pictures of city skylines and architectural awesomeness. And I can't stop taking pictures of the clouds. Yes, clouds. I'm still a dreamer.

For the record, I love that we see things so differently, because that's why we make sense. Without each other he'd be missing everything up there and I'd be missing everything down here.

Just a few miles back, Justin relented to the fact that I was more interested in the sky and pointed out a beautiful shot. I was busy typing away and had put the lens cap on. As I struggled to get my camera situated, quietly scolding myself under my breath for not being ready, he said "You're about as ready as a fifth grader getting married." To which I laughed hysterically.

Happy Friday, y'all :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

claim and conquer and all that jazz

Today I conquered THIS.

What you can't see is the depth of this pile, the way it covers the massivity of our king size bed. We affectionately call it Laundry Mountain. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that this is a recurring problem in our house. I don't mind the washing, or the folding, or the putting away of clean clothes. It's when you put them all together that my brain instantly turns to mush and I am ruined. This sort of snuck up on me this week, it doesn't take long in a house of five. But today I had to buckle down and get it under control.

I wish I were a graphics genius, because I would have worked some magic on this photo and added a tiny version of myself scaling this beast. Instead, you'll have to use your imagination. Just picture me there, somewhere around my favorite yellow shorts, climbing with all my might, throwing my arm up over the edge, planting a flagpole right on top. Only, this isn't an American flag or even a flag bearing the Blankenship family crest, it's a white flag of surrender. And then, keep imagining tiny me, sitting proudly on the top of that crazy mountain looking out at the view, with a sweet sense of accomplishment. I climbed. I conquered. 

I know what you're thinking. You got to the part where I said 'flag of surrender' and spaced out. Isn't surrendering on the list of what-not-to-do-when-conquering?? Imagine my surprise when God started speaking to my heart about this while I was up to my ears in socks and undies. See, we're trained to think of claiming and conquering as acts of valor and bravery, and to think of surrender as the inferior option- the weaker choice. But God doesn't care what we know or think we know, His ways are so often the exact opposite of what society is spilling.

He says that you can't conquer without surrendering. The two work hand in hand. Doesn't make sense?? Sure it does. 

There isn't a thing in this world that I can conquer on my own, not without completely surrendering it to Him first. I couldn't take control of Laundry Mountain without surrendering to the truth that my own time management was to blame. I can't conquer negative attitudes without relentlessly going to Jesus and being honest about the ugliness in my heart. Surrender isn't weakness. There is strength that comes in recognizing that we are not strong outside of God's grace, His purpose, His hand directing our steps. So yeah, I scaled Laundry Mountain and threw out my flag. God, forgive me, for getting so wrapped up in my own head that I dug myself a hole, or in this case, built myself a mountain. 

I hope this finds you scaling all sorts of big things, coming out on top, and waving your white flag :)

P.S. My new 35mm lens is my fav, sweet aperture makes those blurry backgrounds that people are crazy for *wink wink*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the art of distraction....

.... or of being distracted.

I haven't posted in a week or something close. It's not because I haven't had anything to write about or haven't been up to any amazing craftiness. I've just been incredibly busy. In my life that usually translates to undeniably distracted All.The.Time. My mom used to tell me stories of how easily distracted I was as a child. She would ask me to do something super simple, to which I whole-heartedly agreed, only to find me ten minutes later mesmerized by the TV somewhere between point A and point B. She would laugh about how hard it was to get angry because it really was just an innocent distraction. My heart was always eager to please, but my busy brain got in the way. Now, as an adult, I am constantly baffled by the very same trait in my own kids. I can hear my momma's sweet voice in my mind retelling those stories, and it diffuses whatever annoyance I have with just a sliver of resolve to train them to hone their skills :)

I learned something from my mom about distraction. Not only was she incredibly gracious to my own wandering mind, she was also relentlessly distracted by my sisters and I. We have often said that we don't remember her shewing us away so she could work, or telling us she didn't have time to play with us, or even shushing our silly childish questions. We remember her dropping everything to play. listen, answer. Being distracted isn't always a bad thing. In fact, I think some of the things society frowns upon as being time wasters, are simply the things that we should be chasing after anyway. It's become so cliche to say "stop and smell the roses," but isn't that some serious wisdom??

It's funny how losing someone can shift your thinking so quickly. Just a year and 3 months ago I lost my sweet momma. We lost her to cancer. This will probably sound strange, but I'm so grateful for the first bout of cancer that she fought and won, because it threw my sisters and I a healthy dose of reality. I think we soaked up so much life from my mother in the years after that, so many amazing memories. We became crazy distracted by her, and her life. And now that she's gone, I am crazy obsessed with the art of being distracted the way she was.  I am counting these things less as distractions and more as gentle redirects from Jesus, reminders that these are the things that really matter.

Like just now, I took a ten minute break from writing so that Jere could hold my thumbs. It didn't make or break my day, but it was awfully important in his little two year old world.

So, what have I been up to?? I've been at the farm, hauling my basket of scraps down the the creek so I can make fabric roses while the boys play. I might have spent less time flowering and more time watching, but who cares? I've been soaking up the sight of Jere's tiny camo boots and playing with the new lens on my camera (distraction courtesy of my amazing hubby) by taking pictures of my TOMS. This is the life of a happily distracted momtographer.

I hope this finds you grabbing life by the horns, getting distracted along the way, and loving every minute of it. Happy Wednesday :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prop Shop: Chalkboard

So, it's my personal opinion that props make photos better. I'm not talking giant-show-stopping props, but the ones that add to the story. Especially if they have a little personality *wink wink. And being that I've been offering my services for FREE while I learn my craft, I don't have much of a prop budget. So, I make them. I have decided to make prop tutorials a regular part of this blog. Yay for you! And for me, because it keeps my creative juices flowin. Today's tasty morsel- this paper rose chalkboard. I used it in engagement pics, but the possibilities are endless. Don't you love it?!

Ok, so here's the deal. I started with this... a pile of craft paper I saved from a package, the cardboard box ends from the same package, a can of chalkboard paint that was hiding in my craft stash, red acrylic paint (this one's obviously totally changeable- have fun with it), paintbrush or sponge brush,a little bit of twine, a hot glue gun, and a roll of duct tape (not pictured, because it wasn't planned. super mom improv right there). If you're like me, then you need a project like this every now and then to convince your skeptical husband that all the so called "trash" that you're saving for craft projects is legit. 

First, I cut my cardboard piece down to size and painted it with the chalkboard paint. (There's two pictured because I plan on making another one later, but you only need one piece for this) I think it's helpful to note that I use trash bags as drop cloths for tiny paint projects, because once the paint dries, I can still totally use them and no one is the wiser. While the paint dried, I made the roses. (I tried simultaneously gluing the roses as I shaped them. Failed. So this is where the duct tape comes in.)
After I had about 10 of these made, I started positioning them on the frame where I wanted them. And then I filled in the tiny gaps with a couple of tiny roses. (This is pretty self-explanatory, but if you need a visual, just take another peek at the finished product.)
Then... the hot glue gun. This uses loads of glue, so just get ready. I found it worked best for me to actually put the glue on the rose and then position it, not the other way around. 

Once all of my roses were glued, I just brushed on some red paint. This isn't an exact science. Actually, I loved the way it looked to just have them sort of dusted with paint. Just keep painting till you're happy with it. 
After the paint dried, which was fairly quick, I turned it over and glued a piece of twine as a hanger. I added duct tape for good measure. A malfunctioning prop halfway through the shoot is NOT how I roll. This twine totally came in handy- short enough to hide behind the frame, but long enough for the over-the-shoulder shot.

Hope this finds you making use of something useless, and dreaming up all sorts of awesomeness of your own. If you make one of these and use it in a pic, I'd love to see it!! Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

headless ninja turtle

You don't have to be at our house very long to see that it's been hijacked by rambunctious boys. Just on the walk from my room to the kitchen for my coffee this morning, I tripped over three nerf swords, one annoying race car with sound effects, and a headless ninja turtle. By the time lunch was over we had blazed through half of a loaf of bread, a pound of deli meat, and a gallon of water. I filled the dishwasher with our breakfast and lunch dishes. And the laundry... oh, the laundry. I emptied the hampers from the weekend and sorted it into 5 loads.

This is what happens when you have three sons. It is the evidence of their presence in our home and hearts.  When I go out with the boys in tow, people don't have to ask me if I'm a mom, or if I'm a mom of boys. Duh. They see it all over me and all around me. And even if I'm out by myself, which rarely happens, I don't forget the realities of my life. Atleast not for long. All it takes is a glance in the rear view mirror to see french fries shoved into the seat behind me, or a gummy bear melted into the floor mat, or the headless ninja turtle that makes appearances everywhere. When I think about who we were pre-babies, I laugh a lot. They have rocked our world.

Do you ever wonder what people see when they look at your life? The reality is this. I am more than a crazy crafter, caker, quilter, photographer. I am more than a mom and a wife, even. I am a lover of Jesus. I want His presence to ooze out of everything I do. I can't stand the thought of people hearing my life screaming anything else but Jesus, Him crucified, His freedom, His redemption. I want my actions, my attitudes, my everything, to be the evidence of His presence in my home and heart. When I think about who I was pre-Jesus, I laugh even more. And then I cry, real tears are the overflow of my grateful heart. He has rocked my world.

I hope this finds you thinking about what you're oozing. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekend Update: Cake, Car, Crazy Cute...

Whoa. This weekend was a doozie. A wedding. A barbecue. A birthday. I am pooped. For the sake of being true to posting on a somewhat regular basis, I will just make today a post dedicated to our tiny person. He turned 2 yesterday. Honestly, I just want to go park it on the couch next to my man. But I think these tell a story. Pictures are great.



Crazy Cute.

I hope this finds you bouncing back from your weekend :)

P.S. Coming this week.... a prop tutorial, and what NOT to do when you want to take some pics in low light!

Friday, June 8, 2012

operation: get prepared.

This is for all of the people out there trying to pretend they have it all together, while everything seems to be telling a different story. This is for me. This is for you.

I have been having a week full of preparation fails. Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm trying to do the right thing, be wise and all that jazz. I'm trying to anticipate what's coming and intercept it with my awesome skills. But I'm coming face to face with a harsh truth. As the number of children under my care increases, so does my capacity to love them (and everyone said Awwwwww.) What's unfortunate is that my ability to do anything else seems to be exponentially decreasing. Can I get an amen? I'm finding that making "mental notes" is for the birds. I've changed too many diapers and slept too few hours to actually keep track of things on brain power alone. I am that girl, the one that walks away and straight forgets what I just mentally promised myself not to. Blah.

Monday: I took photos of some friends, and I was prepared. Well, I thought I was. I came with all sorts of coordinating props, totally had a PLAN. And then, after our long ascent to the top of the hay field, I realized I'd completely forgotten my book of ideas and had to try and remember them. Boo :/ Two hundred plus pictures later, we were all smiles, until I got home and realized that I hadn't checked my settings and shot all of them in JPEG. Boo. Again.
Tuesday: I spent the entire day playing with photos and mapping out blog posts while the laundry and dishes reached towering heights. Fail.
Wednesday: I kicked it in gear. I woke up, spent time with Jesus, and whipped this house back into shape. I'm talking clean bathrooms, clean laundry, folded laundry, and zero dishes. WIN.
Thursday: I played all morning with a blog post that I never finished, and then got too busy to post. I went and picked up my model and headed to the farm for more pics. I neglected to get all of the directions I needed, so I spent 10 minutes parked on a country road, then drove up a private drive and parked in front of a house for another 20 minutes that was not the right one. Fail. Jump past a successful afternoon and sweet dinner with my family. While making said dinner, something caused a chicken juice overflow in the oven and I made one of my infamous "mental notes" to clean it after the oven cooled down.
Friday/ Today: I spruced up the house with a little pick up action before I started on my little guy's fancy birthday cake. Guess what I found? Oh yeah, that scorched chicken juice that I whole-heartedly meant to clean up last night. Fail. Now, I'm sitting, waiting on my hubs to get home so I can go to the store to pick up the items that I need for this cake, the items that I forgot to put on the list. What's wrong with my brain?!

What I neglected to offer in this timeline is the fact that somewhere in there I committed my Saturday to take pictures of a wedding and then rush off to a barbecue, all on the day before my sweet boy turns two. I forgot to plan him any sort of party, not that he'll really care. But I care. Now I'm rushing around to squeeze in birthday cake construction among all of our other weekend activities, so that we can at least do cake and ice cream for him Sunday. Preparation Fail.

Do you ever find yourself in these sorts of self-inflicted predicaments? It's ok. You're in good company. Today, in the midst of my retelling and reliving of all the goofy mistakes I made this week, I keep returning to this. Proverbs 16:9 (this version from the Message) We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. Isn't that the truth?? Aside from healthier eating habits, more water, and more brain food, I NEED JESUS. With all my planning and good intentions and the subsequent flubbing up, I have to remember that I am just in need of grace and guidance. I can make all the plans in the world, but if I'm counting on myself to make it happen, it won't. I'll forget. I'll come up short every.single.time. All the brain food in the world can't change that. I need God's hand to be all over everything that I do.

I hope this finds you making plans and looking to Jesus :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

churched. by Heinz.

Do you remember the Heinz campaign from the 80s? Good things come to those who wait. Fancy fact for today- Matt LeBlanc from Friends actually starred in one of those! You Tube it. Anyway, that's what's on my mind today. Waiting. And good things. If you're reading this as a photographer, by any definition, then you probably know where I'm going with this. I take sooooo many photos trying to get that one amazing picture.

Like this one for instance. I took 249 photos of Linz just for THIS :)

I almost missed it. I didn't even realize I'd taken this photo until I got to editing.

Isn't that just like some of life's most magical moments? It happens to me all the time. I get really close to missing the great stuff, because I'm just not paying attention. I'm clickin' through life unaware of the awesomeness around me. I've gotta stop and look around sometimes! That's the trouble with waiting, isn't it? Waiting is tough. They say good things come to those who wait. It doesn't say good things come to those who are waiting. Ha. That's a bit of a buzz kill. I'm  in a season of waiting. And I am believing for the good things that come out of it.

My hubs and I are youth pastors in a small town. We are waiting for God to get crazy up in here. We are waiting for the Holy Spirit to stir hearts. We are waiting for what's next. It feels like we've been waiting forever already. In worship tonight we sang these words "And I will not forget, I won't forget Your promises." Then it hit me like a brick to the gut. That's the trouble with waiting, it's the forgetting that's the trouble. If you're like me, and find yourself waiting, begrudgingly, then maybe... just maybe, you're forgetting something.

I hope this finds you soaking up life's magical moments, waiting for good things, and not forgetting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

simple things.

There are days when I get overwhelmed with little things. That's easy to do, but silly. It's the little details that make life amazing and it's the simple things that can make it miserable too. A while back I made a poor attempt at reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. I failed. I'm no book critic, but the writing was a bit much for me. There's a part of me that longs to live in hipster awesomeness. I want to be trendy and cool and speak in poetic awesomeness all the time. But if I have to read a sentence or a paragraph four times to make sure I got it, then I'm probably missing the point. Bearing that in mind, I did glean some sweet wisdom from the perspective in this book. Being grateful for the simplest tiniest things in your life can make a world of difference, give you new perspective, yada yada yada. I got hung up on one paragraph in particular where she was talking about the way the sun glistened off of the soap suds as she washed dishes by hand. I have never looked at something as mundane as dishes and had such a beautiful thought. It was sort of inspiring. It sort of spoke to my heart in a wow-that's-kind-of-weird-and-cool-at-the-same-time kind of way.

I do love to focus on details, on the tiniest things that will be forgotten in a moment. I love to relish them for what the are- precious tiny elements of a larger, more moving purpose, a memory. Like the way my boys' jean pockets are always full of rocks. Or the look on my Jere's face when he jumps on the trampoline. I could get super annoyed that my Matthew is only happy in his special socks and his rubber boots, sure. But gosh, I'd much rather just soak all of it up, for the boyish goodness that it is.

I had the privilege of taking some pics of one of my sweet prego friends and her adorable family. I found myself hung up on the details. I think it made the whole shoot more special.

Isn't that how we should look at life? I never want to be so caught up in the big picture that I completely miss the small things that work together to get us there. I never want to resent small beginnings. But then again, I guess the same could be said for being too detail-oriented. After all, a bunch of pictures of baby shoes wouldn't do much for anybody, would it?

I hope this finds you enjoying the little stuff for what it is, small precious glimpses of the greatness to come.

Monday, June 4, 2012

weekend update. second chances.

When I started blogging again I did it with the intention of sort of logging my journey as a photographer. I wanted to show you the transformation, and I guess I wanted to be able to physically "see" it as well. I've realized, pretty quickly into it, that this is more than that. I promise not to abandon my roots here, and I'll stay true to what I set out to do. But man oh man, there's so much nonsense that Jesus is working out in me every day. I think you're supposed to see that too. How embarrassing for me :/

This weekend was nothing short of crazy gorgeous. I'm from Texas, where the sweltering heat starts before summer and lasts into fall. Virginia is so mind-boggling to me. A few days into June and I've been wearing a cardigan because the night air is so cool. It's weird. So what did I do with my two days of breezy amazingness?? Spent them inside with an attitude that was lacking a lot of Holy Spirit goodness and brimming with selfish ugly ooze. Ouch. You see, somewhere in the last couple of months I decided I didn't like it here, and started sabotaging my own life. Have you ever been there? My husband, who is sometimes more rough around the edges with his delivery than I'd like, basically told me to stop complaining or stop talking altogether. I'm not gonna lie, I found it incredibly irritating. I quickly punished him with a 5 minute silent treatment, mostly because he told me that he didn't believe I'd be able to do it. And then, ohhhhhhh then, my heart started aching. I spend a lot of time in God's presence, asking Him to weed out such instances. And when that ugliness makes an appearance, it's always heart-breaking. Luckily, this was Saturday morning, and I had some time to redeem the weekend- GRACE :)

Some time with my Bible, some time with my Father, and then a lovely evening and afternoon with my men. And Sunday, shew, it was a really good day. I got some very specific answers on some things that I've been bringing to Jesus daily, and that's always a cause for celebration. In the midst of all of it, I did a crafty update- a very timely one. Something old, given new life, new perspective, a little... personality. 

BEFORE. This chair was in one of the barns at my mom-in-law's farm. I climbed into that dark, dusty hole and fished her out. I looked at this chair and saw all sorts of potential.

First I cut away the old seat- it was super sketch. I wiped it down really well, and then did a red paint "wash" on it. I just mixed a little water with some acrylic paint to bring a little life to the red that was already there. I feel like I should stress that this is a prop, so I'm not expecting this paint job to hold up to harsh elements. In fact, I'd love for it not to. Personality.

Then I parked it in front of the TV where my man was watching golf, and settled into cutting 2 inch strips of fabric for the seat. You can find the tutorial for a scrap fabric woven seat here. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to the fabrics chosen, except that I wanted lots of color and approached it sort of like I would a crazy scrap quilt. According to the tutorial, she used 12 strips. I used 14. 

Here's where I started to freak out a little. After weaving the opposite direction, the bottom of the chair became a mess of strips and knots and aaaaggghhhh... but I just kept working anyway. I was pretty confident it would work out in the end.

Bam. AFTER. I heart this. 

Truth is, I needed this perspective. I needed the ultimate Authority on creativity to take a look at me and see all sorts of potential. I needed Him to fish me out of the dark, dusty hole I had been digging for myself. And I needed Him to refresh, repurpose, renew. I needed a second chance. Whether you're on your first, second, third... or whatever chance, I hope this finds you bracing for grace and embracing God's purposes in your everyday.

Friday, June 1, 2012

RAW is better.

My day started with me racing to the door to greet the mail only to realize I'd busted a hole in the crotch of my skinny jeans while pouring myself into them this morning. I've felt sort of off my game ever since. Too much? Maybe. Just keepin' it real. Life isn't all peaches and roses, and I think you've got to be honest about it sometimes. More importantly, you have to laugh about it. I did. And then I changed my pants.

Ever get tired of putting on that face? I do. I get tired of pretending that I've got it all together or that I'm ok with the fact that I don't. Every once in a while I freak out. Raw emotion. Love it or hate it, it's emotion in it's purest form. We've all been crazy angry and sputtered out words we would have otherwise kept under wraps. (I'm not talking about ugly overflows of the heart here, but just honest feelings) We've sobbed in response to something seemingly small, just because we were so delicately teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown. Don't get me wrong, I am definitely a fan of restraint and not a fan of being led by our emotions. But that's another post entirely :) I like raw emotion because it's real. Fake people, fake emotions, fake interactions- blah. I have a relationship with a real God. He sees my emotions for what they are, and loves me in spite of all that I really am. He knows me in the raw. Shew. I am so wrapped up in His grace. It's where I always have to return whenever life smacks me in the face with a reality check. I'm so grateful for that!

As I discover my photography style, I am finding that I'm drawn to capturing real moments full of raw emotion. I have a hard time with posed photos with cheesy smiles. I love a pic where everyone's smiling just as much as the next guy, I'm just not any good at capturing them. Those aren't the photos I get crazy for- I am so in love with candid shots. I'm not talking about the one where you're turning your head, growling, and your eyes look like they're rolling back into your head. Everyone hates those. I'm talking about pictures that tell a story. Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words was spot on. It's not so much about a picture being more important than a story, or more valuable than a verbal recollection. I think it's more about the things that we don't say. A candid photo, taken at just the right moment, says things that go unsaid in day to day life.

I hope this finds you being you, being real, RAW.

my boy, in the raw. i want to bottle that cackle and listen to it when i'm 100.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I do shoot RAW. This isn't because I'm going all photog snob on ya. It actually boils down to a simple choice. I want to decide what stays and what goes in editing. I don't trust that my camera knows best. And I certainly can't depend on myself to get all my settings right ;)