captured: first big snow

We lost approximately a zillion hours of sleep because the excitement was just too much.

(after an hour of being in bed)


2am send kids back to bed, not time yet

3am send kids back to bed, not time yet

4am- oldest is officially up and there isn't much hope she will sleep from here on out

5am- middle child is officially up, parents pretend to be asleep, but really we are just postponing the inevitable


Lincoln lasted 4 minutes in the snow and thought it was awesome until he sat in it.
Naomi lasted 8 minutes and thought it was awesome until she took her gloves off and decided to touch it with her BARE hands.
Audrey wanted to stay out forever, but had to go inside with the rest of the crew.

And naturally we had to have homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles.

So, a zillion hours of lost sleep was totally worth the less than 10 minutes in the snow.

 Because this, this is childhood.


advent. {activities and readings}

The word advent means arrival.

The advent season for us, is remembering the arrival of Jesus and the hope we have in His return one day. So this Advent season, as we count down the days till Jesus' birthday, our goal in our family is to prepare our hearts for this amazing gift, our Savior, and to be purposeful with our time by spreading the life-giving aroma of Christ by serving and doing thoughtful things for others…and enjoying each other.

In the past, our Advent activities have been very full and very crafty. But now that my kids are getting a bit older, I feel like I can add in opportunity to bless others and lessen the amount of stuff we do that just fills time because that is what we are suppose to do. And let me tell you, we are only three days into Advent, and as much as we have enjoyed blessing others, we have been truly blessed ourselves.

Yesterday our activity was to create "kindness cards" to leave around our town that a stranger could pick up and find a little joy from it for their day. The girls created the cards, I wrote inside of them, and they each signed their own name. Lincoln's name was added as well, although this year he didn't have much say in it-ha. We prayed over each card for the person that would receive it. Then we put a small gift in it of $5, wrote on the outside "Please Take :)" and the girls chose where they would like to leave them around town. The kids anxiously wanted to wait around to see who would take the cards, but I told them that who ever did, they would just smile so big, I guarantee it, and then we walked away.

But you know what? God works in ways we can't foresee and imagine. Last night on Facebook someone wrote on my wall about their friend finding one of our cards at the grocery store! I would never have thought that we would find out who found even one of our cards. It was amazing to read how that little "kindness card" encouraged their day. And that stranger that received the card shared how they have been praying for our little Naomi since her diagnosis! And of course, since I'm a total sap, I cried heavy tears of joy knowing that strangers were praying for each other! Then it made me think about how our Heavenly Father thinks about us--when He does things for us to bring us joy and we show Him gratitude in return, I bet He cries tears of joy as well.

Today we made an assortment of cookies and packaged them up to deliver tomorrow to service people around town, we plan to hit up the fire station, the police station, our local Red Cross, and a local ministry.

Lincoln was napping, next year he will be able to take in more of the action. 
Not pictured: matching aprons and Christmas music blaring. 

I don't have plans to do an activity every single day, but I do plan on reading scripture every day. The kids are already used to the routine--right after lunch Audrey gets matches and lights our Advent candle that we lit on Sunday {and yes, she knows how to use a match, what the what} then they take turns getting the card out of our Advent calendar and I read or Andrew if he is on lunch break, while the candle burns, then we learn about our activity for the day. There isn't Elf on the Shelf  or a piece of candy every day or a crazy craft that we are doing. I'm keeping it simple because that's what I need. I know myself and I know that I love the holidays, but I also get overwhelmed easily and put this pressure on myself to do every single Christmas craft pinned to mankind on Pinterest. But this year, I'm giving myself a free pass. A pass to be. To enjoy. And do things, only, only if my heart is in it. Not because I see it plastered over social media. [And give yourself a free pass, not to use anything that I'm posting, don't feel obligated to do all these things, do what aligns yourself with Christ.] 


giving thanks.

We are well into the Christmas spirit in our household, we've had our {real} tree for a week, Christmas music playing since November 1, and we have already baked sugar cookies with snowflakes, trees, candy cane, and gingerbread cut-outs. But, that doesn't mean we passed up Thanksgiving and focused on a heart of gratitude. In fact, I would say this was probably one of the best Thanksgivings yet. And not for any particular reason, but we decided to be more intentional with our time and allow for open space--time to relax, time to not-do, time for quietness and to be still in our own home. And specifically, me, I'm learning to let go of seeing life, especially holidays, as a 'check-off-the-list' thing; learning to enjoy the process rather than the end result and letting go of "rules" I've given myself in the past that have hardened my mood. I want to be present and allow God to fill the empty spaces. And if I want to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, I'll do that too. {grin}

 In the past, we've been quick to fill up each day with fun activities, feeling obligated to see all family members, Black Friday shopping, and the tradition of watching the lighting in our downtown.  This year we passed on most of that. And not that those things are bad or wrong, but for us, we are desiring a season, or seasons of just being.  And what I found this Thanksgiving, is that God used our time for Him. And I'm so thankful for that. We were able to open our home to unexpected little guests, give a blanket to a young boy who was walking around in a t-shirt in the freezing cold, and bless some new friends with their first trip to the big screen movies. These moments came in the in-between, in the unplanned.

Today I finished up our Advent calendar, with a reading for each day and an activity to do. There are some blank days with zero activities, and I'm already telling myself that it's okay to not do an activity if we don't feel like it when the day comes. But to be present, in whatever we do. And to keep the heart of gratitude flowing.

We took a pit stop at the Children's Museum on the way to visit family.

Caught these two sharing secrets at the table. Be still my heart. 

Our attempt at getting Lincoln to smile. Real life at it's finest. 

Andrew and I got to sneak away for an impromptu day-date, it was fabulous! We hit up a coffee shop and I read in between working on a little secret we are going to reveal soon! 

We decided last minute to hit up our Farmer's Market this morning, live reindeer were quite the hit. 

And just for the record, Thursday evening we came home from visiting family out of town and my family ate Ramen noodles and yogurt for dinner. On Thanksgiving. Ain't no shame here.


holiday cards. {tiny prints}

One of my favorite traditions of Christmas is sending out the Christmas card and receiving them. With technology and the accessibility to contact someone through email, social media, or texting, I just love the idea of exchanging hellos through the traditional mailbox. I make a little goal for myself to get my cards mailed out sometime close to December 1st. I love writing a letter to go along with the card, reflecting back on the year to see how God has been working in our lives. I keep our cards and the letter I write each year in a special keepsake to get out with all of the holiday decor, so fun to read by the fire, sipping some homemade hot chocolate and seeing how our family has grown over the years.

I'd say half the fun in choosing the card is picking which pictures to use--thankful for our annual family photo shoot in October. The other half of the fun is choosing the design. Or in the case of Tiny Prints, you can choose the design, the layout, the font, the texture of the paper, the shape of the card, and even the envelope liner. How fun is that?! I've used Tiny Prints in the past because of the quality of their prints, but also because of their commitment to costumer service. Plus, I love to know that their products are made with corporate sustainability and printed in South Carolina and Minnesota.

While I was checking out the new holiday designs for 2013, I couldn't help but be attracted to all the cards that have gold on them. I'm slightly obsessed with a little bit of gold everywhere. Yes, you too?

I had a lot of fun plugging in our pictures into some of my favorite designs:

1. Golden Greetings

2. Stunning Stand

3. Circling Joy

 4. Adored Ornaments 

I thought I would try out the round ones that can also be hung on the tree! 
5. Spray on Glitter

Now excuse me while I dwell over which card to choose! 


sugarplum fairies. {right now}

Brother is napping, I'm making broccoli and cheddar soup, and this is my view…

the sweetest sugarplum fairies (as they call themselves) that I ever did see. ..

And for a moment, all is well in the world. 

{Pssssss. That outfit Audrey has on was mine when I was a little girl.}


the power of purchase. {christmas shopping ideas}

Something that has been on my heart lately is how much I'm buying, why, and where it is coming from.   We live in abundance and that more is always better--we need the next best gadget and upgraded bathroom sinks, and tile floors, and new hardware on the cabinets. And. And. And none of these things are necessarily wrong to have or want--trust me I would love a lot of these things. But then I go back to the verse--where my heart is there my treasure is also. (Matthew 6:21)

So, as I am making purchases, especially with the upcoming holiday season, I've been thinking about the ability to make a difference in someone's life just by what I purchase. This can get overwhelming pretty easily as I question where my food comes from, all my articles of clothing, my accessories, home goods, etc. But I think it's about doing something rather than nothing. Starting right where I am at.

I've come up with a power of purchase list of items that help sustain lives in one way or another. Some of these places I have bought from in the past and some are brand new and I've found through a friend or on Instagram or Facebook.  Take a peek and I hope it encourages you to think about your purchases you make this holiday season.

The Etsy Shop, Beautiful Uganda has some lovely hand-crafted jewelry that comes directly from Uganda by the artisan Grace Ayaa. My favorite piece is the Dreamy Mint Statement Necklace (above picture).
Simply Beautiful Shop is amazing handmade body products, I have bought from this shop before to have gifts handy for friends who need pick-me-ups and I also think they would make awesome stocking stuffers. The money from these items go to support their adoption--that's sustaining a life! 

Better Life Bags does just what it says. It helps make lives better--they hire women who wouldn't otherwise be able to get jobs near the Detroit area. Be sure to read all about their Mission Statement! They sell ipad covers and iphone wallets, and array of bags that are all custom designed by you! See the bag above? That is my design, how fun is that?! 

Echoes of Mercy is an Etsy Shop with beautiful, inspiring digital prints--which I love because you don't even have to wait to have them shipped, just emailed right to you! The purchases from this shop help a foster mama and the adoption of her twin girls. 

Humble Hilo is a new company I found on Instagram and I was instantly attracted to the vibrant colors in their bags, then I took a look at their story and saw that they partner with World Link Partners with individuals in Guatemala to help with nutrition for children, literacy, and giving opportunity for women to use their skills to help support their families. 

Beautiful & Beloved is another shop I found on Instagram. They support individuals who were once enslaved by human trafficking or living in extreme poverty--each item is created by these individuals and we have the opportunity to support them and bring awareness to these injustices. I'm loving the Aztec earrings in their shop! 

FashionABLE is a company that empowers women to earn a living, I love how you can read direct stories of women who have been changed by the opportunity to work. I've been gifted a scarf in the past from here, which are awesome--because they are light enough to work in all seasons and each come with a story attached of the woman who created it. But what I also love about FashionABLE is that there are leather goods to buy, which is great for men's gifts! 
If I come across some other shops that I love and can have a direct affect for the positive with a purchase, I will be sure to share. Do you know of a shop you love to support for this reason? Please share in the comment section! 


dear self.

[Last year I started the tradition of writing a letter to each of my children on their birthday. I've decided this year to add myself in there, I want to write a letter to myself, to remind myself of how God is moving in my life as each year passes.]

Dear Self,

You turned 31 sometime last week. It was no monumental birthday, except as life has taught you recently, it is monumental. Every day is important and worthy, even the very hard messy ones. And don't you know about those days with three small children?! Sometimes you feel like you will never get out of the trenches of hard days, but then, God gives you glimpses of grace, and you think yes, yes, this is exactly where I am suppose to be. Naomi had a hard time going to sleep tonight, which as you know, is nothing atypical for her. By the third time you put her back to bed she asked you to sing another song. You are a sucker for her sweet toddler voice, you can't say no to her asking you to sing. And in the dark of the room with the glow of the blue stars that she always requests for you to turn on, she clasped your face and repeated the Three Little Birds song line after line with you. And it felt like time stopped so you could etch her 3 year old silhouette into your heart forever. That was a moment of grace, especially before tomorrow.

Tomorrow Naomi goes in for her 6 month post-scan check up since her cancer diagnosis. And although anxiety and fear want to creep in, you know, that God is capable of giving you the peace that surpasses all understanding. This year, as you can put down in your books as your hardest year yet, it also has been the most beautiful because you felt God and saw God and heard God in ways you never thought were possible. This year you have realized that nothing, nothing can separate you from the love of God and what a comfort that is when you walk through the trenches of life. (Romans 8:38-39)

Do you realized how blessed you are? Like really realize what is before you, and I don't mean the things of this world. Yes, you are so blessed with a home and multiple cars and bed, and clean water for crying out loud. But your true treasure is your family. Your hard-working husband and your three children. God-willing, that number three may change. Isn't it exciting to think how God can use you, ordinary, broken you to be a part of His redemption story?

Ok, now let's get to the chase about turning 31. You were totally cliche on your birthday and went out bought Oil of Olay for the new found wrinkles around your eyes. Just whatever. Wrinkles around your eyes mean you have been in the sun squinting (which being in the sun is awesome in your opinion) or it means you have been smiling a lot, which is also awesome. So embrace the wrinkles, lady! And if buying Oil of Olay didn't age you quicker than turning 31, you used a gift-card to buy a new fancy cooking pan. Really? A pan. Just whatever. Oh, and you borrowed a book on CD from the library, so there's that to help embrace your age as well. And I can almost guarantee you will drink some warm tea before going to bed after typing this.

Who knows what this next year has in store for your little family. But saying 'yes' to Jesus doesn't mean easy and comfortable, but it is assurance that God is in control, and you can't go wrong with that. And remember when you heard a few months ago that it is a privilege to age? It's true. Each year is a gift. Each day is a gift. Don't let those words ever slip away.

Now go and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Live out your story for Him.


Your Self.



I'm a bit late posting about our trick or treating, but I couldn't resist sharing the adorable kiddos.

Wendy dresses made by their Gamma (Andrew's mom) and I made the hat for the Peter Pan costume--about 5 minutes before we walked out the door. 

Cousins! Spider-man and an 80s work out girl! 

Lincoln was the cutest to watch, he caught on real fast. And wanted out of that wagon as soon as we approached a house and had his bag out and ready to collect. 

We are so thankful for our neighborhood, a safe and fun place to go. The neighborhood gets together and throws a pitch in dinner too ---which is a great way to say hello to those around us. I'm not a fan of the scary Halloween, but I love that it is holiday where kids can be kids and dress up using their imagination!


my dearest audrey {you are five}.

[I write a letter ever year to my children on or near their birthday. You can read Audrey's letter from last year here.]

My Dearest Audrey Rose,

It's eleven days past you turning five and I was waiting for just the right moment to write to you. And as I was getting ready to head to bed I thought about a really sweet thing you said to me tonight and it hit me, I needed to write it down. I want you to know the words of encouragement that you fill me up with every single day. As I was getting ready to put Lincoln down for bed you entered his room and said "Happy birthday, mama!" And my response was "it's not my birthday till tomorrow." But you know what you said then? "I know, I just wanted to share my kindness with you!" 

You wanted me to feel special and loved. And I do. I most certainly do from you. A few nights ago I wasn't feeling the best when I was putting you and Naomi to bed and you got a cold washrag to put on my head and gently rubbed it around my face. You're five, and you already have such a tender way. 

This past year, you grew in so many ways. Not just physically and intellectually, but spiritually and emotionally. I think you are such a wise five year old, dear. You have a way with responding to people who are hurting. You love hard, don't ever lose that. I have a feeling that God has big plans to use your caring heart to help others. He already has! You were such an amazing big sister when Naomi was being treated for her cancer. You helped with your brother and you stayed strong. 

You know there isn't a day that goes by you don't tell me how much you love Jesus? Just last night you were dancing around with your hands in the air, worship music was playing, a fire was lit, and you exclaimed "I'm just praising Jesus and enjoying the day!" 

My prayer is that you will always continue to praise Jesus, because He loves you so deeply and even when we can't understand what is going on, we can always, always trust in His promises. He is our Hope, Truth, and Way. 

Some of your favorite things to do right now is to dress up and pretend. Girl, your imagination is beyond. You can turn a piece of grass into a fairy or look at it and see the letter r. You love to write stories and draw. And right now you at the beginning stages of reading, and it is so fun to watch your brain work and sound out words. I tried to spell a word to your daddy the other day without you knowing what I was saying, but you sounded it out and got it. Oops. :) Oh, and apparently you taught yourself how to tie your own shoes and zip your own coat, which makes my life easier. You were motivated to learn to tie because you were adding scarves around your waist for an outfit, not because you are wearing tennis shoes all the time. You are quite the fashionista, sweetie. 

Since you were born you have always been contemplative and reserved before trying things or being in places that are new to you. But you know what? You still try things and push yourself, and I love that about you. The day after you turned five we went to a party with horseback riding. You were so excited to ride, I think this was your second time riding a horse. And you got right on that horse and rode around with a leader guiding it, except the horse ended up bucking you off. And as scary as that was, you rested and you got back on a different horse and tried it again. You didn't let fear win. You can do hard things. You are brave and you are strong. 

You are also beautiful inside and out. Just the way you are. And your caring, five year old heart? Well, it is such a blessing to me every single day. Thank you. 

To the moon and back my dear, I love you.

Your Mama 

 birthday morning tradition--homemade rainbow pancakes, sprinkles, and whipped cream! 

The one thing you wanted to do on your birthday--jump on this thing at the mall, Which you asked to do since you were 3.5! And girl, you were determined to flip! 
It took you several tries to get it, but you didn't give up! 
You told me you were sitting in that so you could be Ariel and your legs wouldn't show. And you sat there and played for a good 20 minutes. 


saying yes.

[Pouring out my heart, typing and letting it go.]

This morning I had the opportunity to share God's Story in our lives, how He carried and is carrying us through this journey with childhood cancer. I'm so thankful that God opens up these doors to share, because as much as I love sharing to encourage others of God's faithfulness, I am just as in need of the sweet reminder of God's sovereignty in my life. I want to say yes to Him. In everything I do.

In everything I do. 

I'm tired of mediocre. I'm tired of separating Him into a box.

He has no boundaries. It's not just a Sunday morning thing. Or a checklist.

And frankly, I'm tired of striving for comfort and safe.

I say these things not because I want some radical change in my life, but if that is what He wants. Then I want it too.

I feel this stirring in my heart, in my little family's lives. So I ask God to help my unbelief and use me for His glory.

If God can bring me a joy and peace in my scariest of times, what can He do if I give Him my everyday?

I am human and seek desires of my own heart every day and my mind is filled with thoughts of selfishness and bitterness and greed and as if I desire more than I have. But. But there is grace, and I welcome grace into my heart to cover my hearts selfish desires. After all, God gives grace freely. And I'm thankful for that.

So, I say yes. Yes to my great God that goes before me, and does immeasurably things.

The girls were leaving church one morning and said "this is how we praise Jesus, we lift our hands and dance!" Gosh, I have so much to learn from my children. And the picture of Lincoln, well, I just can't handle his cuteness in a tie. 


dear naomi. {you are three}

[I write a letter to my children every year on their birthday, or at least near their birthday. I began this tradition last year. You can read Naomi's second birthday letter here.]

My Dearest Naomi Fae,

It's 15 days past your third birthday and I've thought about this letter every day since. I write these letters on your birthday to reflect back on the year God has gifted you with, gifted me with. And this year, I think I just needed more time to acknowledge that you are three. That we are here. It doesn't seem that old, but to me, it feels like you have been with me since before time. In your three short years, you have a story God has so beautifully orchestrated, I can't wait to share glimpses of grace from this year as you grow. And although three is considered small, I see it as a big milestone. In fact, every day is a milestone, every day is a gift. Will you carry those words close to your heart? You are only three, but that's 1,095 gifts.

You grew this year in part feisty-ness and part sweet-ness. I truly love how God gave you both of these attributes, I think they will serve you well in years to come. Your feisty side often comes out before bed. In which you may leave your room no less than four times after we put you to bed. The other night, or I should say early morning at 3am,  I heard your bedroom door slam, I come into your room to find you and Audrey playing. You are always the first awake, but I think it's because you secretly love the extra snuggles you get with mama and daddy as we try to coax you back to sleep in our bed, but never works. Your independence comes out every time you get dressed. You don't like help, and you have been dressing yourself for a good year now. Which is quite helpful for me, until the occasional moment you come outside in a tank top and shorts and a dress over it with an umbrella and cowgirl boots in 45 degrees. Now, let me share your sweet side, because my oh my, your heart is so full of compassion. You my dear, are (almost) always so quick to share with your siblings. You are a beautiful reminder to me of  where to store my treasures--to not become attached to earthly things, but to store my treasures in heaven. This may not make total sense to you yet (or maybe it does, I never want to underestimate a child's faith, your faith has most certainly inspired mine), but I have a feeling you will continue to be a reminder to me of these verses from Matthew 6. Just a few days ago you asked for a plastic bag. And before I knew it, you had it completely full with toys (one of which was Audrey's, and you hollered at her to ask if it was okay) to give to other children that didn't have any. I love the deep joy you find in giving.

On your actual birthday, you got all fancy and we had a tea party inside at our local mall with our little family and then we visited a local chocolate shop.

You know what is one of my favorite things about you right now? Your little, adorable toddler voice. I love listening to you share your dreams right after you wake because I get to hear your voice go on and on. This morning you told me your dream was about Dorothy (from the Wizard of Oz) having a little lamb (like Mary had a little lamb). Girlfriend, you crack me up. You love to make up stories and then say "I'm just pe-tending mama" and then you giggle. Before nap and bedtime you always request for me to sing to you. And I love you for that, because, sweet honey, you may not realize it yet, but I don't have most pitch-perfect voice, yet, my voice is your comfort. I will never forget the moment I sang to you while you were recovering from your surgery this past May. You were so peaceful as I laid over you, just singing your favorite song Three Little Birds.

Don't worry, every little thing is gonna be alright. 

This is true. Everything is going to be okay, because God has a plan for you. So much bigger and better than I can ever imagine. And I trust in that plan. Do you know how deep my love is for you? Like crazy deep. Well, God's love for you is even deeper.

You never cease to amaze me, like the other day when you learned to write your name completely unassisted and without prompt. You love playing babies, doing puzzles, and changing 17 times a day. And your imagination blows me away. Just this evening I caught you and Audrey playing with a large black trash bag (I told you guys not to put it on your heads, but continued to let you play with it) and you put your body in it to pretend to be snails then you guys put your arms in it and pretended to be dragons. If I ever get rid of all your toys and give you trash bags for presents, you will know why. Toys are out, imagination is in.

Although I mention you and Audrey a lot, because you two are pretty much two peas in a pod, you have a special affection for your brother. You give him toys in the morning while he waits in his crib for mama or daddy to get him out. You always request a hug from him before he goes to bed and when he wakes. I love hearing you call his name through the house--with the L missing. "'incoln, come here! I have something for you!"

You are just right in our family. You were made to be Lincoln's older sister and Audrey's younger sister. You were made to be our daughter. And most certainly the daughter of our King.

I'm so thankful for you, Naomi. Cheers to three!

I love you to the moon and back.

XO- Your Mama


from the weekend.

Yesterday we spent the good part of the day at an orchard a few hours away to celebrate my niece turning one. We had the best weather, blue clear skies, not too hot and not too cold. The day included a hayride, apple picking, a corn maze, a playground, and of course, cake.

And for the first time in months, I took pictures with my DSLR. I admit, I became lazy with just using my phone camera. It's easy to take with me, I always have it, it's small enough to carry, and it has quick editing. But, I do miss pictures with my real camera after using it again. I love being behind the camera,  being able to truly capture moments in time. Time to start pursuing this passion more!

{fall is my favorite time}

This weekend also included hosting an outdoor movie night with over 60 people from our church (for the elementary kiddos). So thankful for the beautiful weather for this too!

There is nothing on the agenda for this Sunday afternoon, except enjoying just being together. My heart is filled with some much gratitude.