Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hospitality seems to be the theme lately. Papa (otherwise known as Pastor Roger) spent the last two weeks preaching on hospitality, we had a "hospitality" themed small group gathering and today my daily devotions were on, yep...hospitality. I think it is clear that He is trying to tell me something here!

It has been very interesting to look at hospitality from different angles. Learning the difference between being hospitable and entertaining. Learning that hospitality should start in your own neighborhood. Learning how to pray for your neighbors...but to pray with "your eyes open", meaning, listening and paying attention to the needs of your neighbors and trying your best to help fill those needs. Learning where hospitality (particularly to our neighbors) fits into God's plan for the mission of the Church. Each one of those 'angles' on hospitality could easily be their own separate blog post. Hospitality is important.

In my devotions this morning the angle was a little bit different. It skimmed the usual hospitality ideas, but this devotion was focused on being hospitable to our own family!

I don't know about you, but I am guilty of this. When we are having guests over we tend to go 'all out'. We get out our 'good' plates (in our case, this means the NOT paper kind!), we make a real dinner (not just chicken nuggets), we make sure the house is clean...etc, etc. The kids know when we are preparing for guests. They can tell, even if we didn't say anything about it.

What kind of message are we sending our kids (and husbands!) if we are always 'putting out our best' for our company, and on normal days we skimp? My devotions today were reminding me to continue to make things special for our kids, to continue to be hospitable to our own family!

And trust me, I know that there are many days when chicken nuggets, paper plates, and a dirty bathroom are what our families are going to get. There are just some days (or weeks!) when there is not time for a nice meal and a specially made desert. This goes back to the "seasons" post I wrote a few weeks back. But...even during the crazy seasons of life, we do tend to have a few (or maybe just a couple) of days each week when we 'could' make them special for our family.

I plan to seek out those types of days, and try to use them as opportunities to be hospitable to my husband and kids!

And just so that I don't leave you with a pictureless are some soggy fall leaves on my back porch. It has been very rainy here for the last few days. I am hoping that all this rain doesn't cause the leaves to fall before the peak foliage season hits!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"EPT" #2 (Easy Photography Tip)

Having a good quality camera is VERY helpful. There are things about higher quality cameras that makes life for a photographer (or even just your everyday picture snapper) much easier. Whether is has to do with the ease of the menu's or the type of glass inside the camera itself, to the mechanics of the the camera...there are reason's why an expensive camera is, well..expensive. Does an expensive camera guarantee you great pictures every time? No.

But! At the very same time, does an inexpensive camera mean that you will never get great pictures? No!!! The reason for this is simple...and yet, takes a lot of practice to figure out.

The key is finding the right light. Whether or not you have an expensive Nikon, or Canon or have a less expensive point and shoot....if you find the right light, you will get great pictures. So how do you find the right light? It is pretty much a trial and error process, although there are a few things that can make this trial and error process quicker.

First things first...natural sunlight is best, but it is important to avoid direct sun. (you'll know, because your subject will be squinting!). Shadow's are bad...your subject hiding in a shadow will make for one big ol' shadowy picture. Finding that perfect shady, but not shadowy and yet sunny at the same time spot can be difficult. Sometimes you are in the right spot, but just a small change in position will make a big difference. I go by the eyes...the second I see the subjects eyes light up (from the sun) I am sure that I am close to a good spot!

A few examples:

This picture was taken with my cell phone. While the picture is slightly "oof" (out of focus), you can see that the exposure was good and that his eyes have that nice reflection in them. I like this picture of Ethan alot! Not great camera, but good light equals a decent picture.

This picture is a good example of good exposure. This is "neighbor Owen" standing in our driveway. The sun is directly in front of him, but he is just slightly shaded by the tree's behind him. Getting him to look up just a bit made me catch the crazy amazing color in his eyes. This, taken with my Nikon (which is only an entry level not super expensive camera), is another one that I love.

This is a picture of Luke taken outside of the Church. This time, a morning on a pretty cloudy day. He is standing under the entry way roof near the front door of the Church. Again, the sun is in front of him and he is slightly shaded by something behind him.

There are tricks to use when you can't quite find the right light. I will use this picture of Elijah (taken over a year ago or so)...

We had just returned from a walk and the sun was bright. He was being happy so I was trying to grab a few pics. In this picture he is facing away from the Sun...the sun is behind him. He is also in a stroller with the canopy up, so not only is he backlit by the sun, but he is in the shade. If I had turned him around the sun would have been way too bright in his eyes and he would have never looked up at me, so instead, I used our white garage as a, sort of, reflector of the sun. I rolled the stroller over and faced Elijah towards the garage and I stood between them. This allowed for some good light in on his face and eyes. You can see that he is still a tad dark, so if I were editing this picture now I would do a very small bump in the curves just to lighten his face a bit. (I also would have fixed the white balance...which is just an example of how much you can learn in a year!).

What happens when you just can't possibly find the right light? Take the pictures anyway!! It's not always about a perfectly exposed's about capturing a moment! As you take more and more pictures, looking for these lighting situations will become like second nature for you and you will find yourself still being able to capture the moments and at the same time get properly exposed photos!!

Practice, Practice, Practice!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My new favorite pic of Jessalyn....

I am really so grateful and feel extremely blessed to have Jessalyn in our lives. When I was pregnant with her I was sure that she was going to be a boy. We didn't find out, but my 'maternal instinct' was telling me pretty clearly that she was a boy. We chose two names just in case, Jaden Matthew and of course, Jessalyn. After a long labor (through the night), she was finally born and she was a SHE! Josh and I were in shock and really could not believe that we had a baby girl in our arms.

Little did we know what an amazing blessing this little girl was going to be in our lives! This blessing became more clear as we followed her with boy, after boy, after boy :), of whom we love, and feel blessed to have....but most definitely make the blessing of our little girl even more clear to us!

She is in the final month of her 'single digits' as she is anxiously awaiting her 10th birthday. Ten going on 25. I'm not sure why we are blessed with such an amazing daughter...but I am thankful for every one of her personality traits and attributes. She is a hard working and self motivated and really strives for excellence in everything that she does. (not to confuse excellence with perfectionism...which is something that we try to help her understand as she can become frustrated when things don't come quickly to her.)

I love to hear stories about her leadership in her classroom as she organizes a line to help their class get to the lunch line quicker (she's a Brown...when she's hungry, she's hungry!) or learning of how other students look to her for help throughout the day.

Most of all, her growing faith and love for Jesus. I love to see the little notes that she leaves herself...Bible verses written in random places to remind her to be patient and kind to comforting words to help her through a difficult day. A note written on her calendar that says "Next Baptism, Get Involved".

I write this about Jessalyn because I am certainly proud of her...all the while find myself completely humbled to have been chosen as her mother! Thankful, grateful, blessed...she is truly a gift.

and, I know she reads this blog so...
I LOVE YOU!!! :)

Friday, September 17, 2010


This happens to be a season of adjustment into a new schedule of responsibilities. It is going relatively well so far. Jessalyn is enjoying 4th grade, Ethan is enjoying 2nd grade and Luke is loving his first year in school at kindergarten. I can't wait until parent/teacher conferences so I can hear all about what they are doing, because they seem to forget between the time the bell rings and get into the van. They all seem happy.

Part of this 'season' of life involves school...and soccer. Basically, it means that we don't eat any nice, real dinners. It's nearly impossible for me to spend any time cooking, which I DO actually enjoy when I have the time. We are back to the season of soccer every single day...with Luke on Monday and Wednesday and Ethan on Tues and Thursday, and Jessalyn has soccer most Monday, Wednesdays and Friday's ...and games on Saturday. Add in piano lessons, One Voice twice a week, youth group on Wednesday nights, most weeks have a worship team practice on one of those nights....well..lets just say, its pretty crazy. Never mind homework, getting together with friends, Jessalyn starting in Band (learning the Trumpet) and trying to squeeze this in all before 8pm so that hopefully the kids are in bed and have a half hour or so to read before they fall asleep. It makes for an intense day. But..we make it work and it's all good:)

Jessalyn had her first soccer game earlier this week. It went well, with her team winning 7 to 1. Jessalyn scored two goals!! She is doing really well and enjoys playing the left striker position.

Just as soon as we adjust to this season of life, it will change. It's a good thing that I actually enjoy change!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Today's best is tomorrow's starting point"

Josh and I had the awesome opportunity to be a part of a mentoring relationship with another ministry couple. This couple has kids who are grown, grandkids and have been in the heart of ministry for many years. They've 'been there, done that', so to say. They most definitely do not have a 'been there, done that' type of attitude, but because of their experiences prove to be a wonderful couple for mentoring us 'young bucks' in the ministry. We tried to meet as often as possible..which usually turned out to be monthly, until they felt a call to move out of our area. We miss this relationship for sure, but know that this is what needed to happen.

During one of our times together, John (the husband of this couple), talked about how today's best should be tomorrow's starting point. At first this didn't 'click' with me..but he explained. He used an example of his time as a teacher. I don't remember the exact specifics, but it had something to do with a project that he would have his class do. He did this project every year and each year, while explaining the project to his class, he would display the BEST projects from the previous class. Last years best projects became the starting point for the following year...and he would find that the results of this project would get better and better and better every single year.

I'm sure that this concept can be applied in many ways in each of our lives. I think of it often in my daily work as a stay at home mom and 'housewife'. A big part of my job here is keeping up with the daily household chores, and in the end, making a place of 'en gedi' for my family, especially my husband. He works VERY hard all day and the least I can do is make his return into his home each day a time of refreshment and relaxation, rather than a time of unorganized chaos. (with four kids, he usually comes home to 'organized chaos'...but there's just not much we can do about that!).

I have a very bad habit of spending a day cleaning and organizing...and instead of going on the "today's best/tomorrow's starting point" idea, I will sit around the next day thinking "the house is clean, so today I can sit back and relax". But see..what happens when I do this, is that the very next day I am back at catching up and cleaning and organizing like a crazy woman. The day's when I take to heart making today's best tomorrow's start things go MUCH more smoothly. If today, I build on the work I did yesterday, then I actually end up doing far less work in the long run.

A practical example: If yesterday I cleaned the bathroom so it's all sparkly and clean and then tomorrow ignore it completely (because I just cleaned it yesterday)...the following day I will be back on my hands and knees scrubbing the pee (yes PEE) that is on the back of the toilet and sometimes the floor from my 3 young boys. BUT...if I clean the bathroom one day and then the next day take the time to just wipe down the toilet (taking less than a minute) then I will save myself MUCH work.

...or better yet! When the bathroom only needs a little wipe down then I can have the kids take part in this as well. It is hard and overwhelming (and downright disgusting) for a 5 year old to try to clean a bathroom that hasn't been cleaned in a week.

I encourage you, to take this concept and run with it, in whatever area of your life that seems appropriate. And for me, I assure you, keeping with this idea ends up allowing me more time to sit, relax and enjoy my time at home with my kids!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Emma's 1st Birthday!

We had the privilege of being able to spend the day with some of our favorite friends and their little girl on her first birthday! We arrived late on Friday night, but had lots of time to play and snuggle on Saturday while mom and dad prepared for the party.

The party was celebrated with many of Emma's friends and family. It is clear that she is very loved by many people! It was a perfect party for a one year old. Guests both old and young enjoyed the day with yummy appetizers and being able to help participate in the opening of the presents as well as blowing out the candles. Not to mention..being able to share the yummy lady bug cake that Emma didn't want anything to do with!

Our time with Ken and Erica always seems so short...especially compared to years ago (before any of us had kids), when we spent most of our waking moments together. It is SO good that we have been able to keep this relationship going over the years, even if our time together is short.

No matter what, Josh and I are so happy to be able to be a part of Emma's life and loved being able to spend this special day with her!

Of course, pictures...(as usual, there are more on my website)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The kindergarten years.

This is my third year with a half day kindergartener. We know this drill. We like this drill...for the most part. Luke missed the kindergarten age cutoff last year by a month. It was the same for Jessalyn (because of their October birthdays). It's a good thing really, especially for Luke. He's a boy, he needed the extra year...mostly to get his reactions under control and to assure us that he wouldn't beat the other children when he didn't win or when things didn't go his way. Yes, this is Luke's personality and we have been struggling with him for years trying to help him with his anger issues. I have read and re-read books on strong willed children and they help. They really do.

Although Luke still has his moments (daily)..he is MUCH better. People look at him and can't quite believe that we had so much trouble with him. I am glad. He is really the sweetest kid and lately, out of all of my kids, seems to be the easiest to handle.

Having an extra year before kindergarten was a big deal for him. It helped in many ways. His first instinct is not to tackle someone when he doesn't get his way anymore. This will probably benefit him while he is at school:) He was also VERY comfortable with the transition to going to school. He couldn't wait and now ranks up there with Jessalyn and Ethan as actual "school goers" and he feels like a big kid. This is cool.

It helps that all three of my kids have had the same kindergarten teacher. After Jessalyn's year with this teacher, we decided that I would request her again for Ethan. Having him comfortable with her from his daily interactions with her classroom and her while picking up Jessalyn and various other activities that we participated in was a big deal for him and his first day and year of school. We requested her again for Luke and this transition seemed to go just as smoothly as it did with Ethan. We'll see...hopefully in two years she will still be there as a kindergarten teacher and hopefully I will get what I want again in requesting her for Owen. I would love for all four of my kids to start their schooling "career" with her.

Of course, the kindergarten year doesn't come without that extra trip to the school each day. Having to drop off the big kids in the morning and then Luke in the middle of the day, then heading back up at the end...along side of whatever other trips we have to make in a day (sports, groceries etc) makes for many trips out the door. I don't mind this as much now when the weather is nice, but when it comes time for boots, and hats and mittens and snowpants.....and fifty feet of snow to walk through and brushing (shoveling) off the car and scraping the ice. Yeah...this is NOT fun. The middle of the day drop off also seems to make the day go by super fast. I feel like we just get back and get settled..and get into a project and then its time to head out again. I suppose this year I only have one other kid to tow around..and no baby. This will make it easier.

But...overall, Luke is enjoying school very much. I haven't heard any reports of his temper causing a problem, and honestly, at school I don't expect it to. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love this boy.

Its funny how the act of taking a picture with a camera tends to 'lock' a moment into my mind. Maybe that is why I do it so often? I mean, obviously, the moment is 'locked' into place with a picture and when everyone looks at a picture they are reminded of the moment by what they see on the picture in front of them. For me its more than that though...when I look at a picture I not only am reminded of the moment that was captured, but I can also, most of the time, remember actually clicking the shutter release button. Even in pictures taken many many years ago. I guess, by looking at a picture I can imagine myself in the moment by thinking about how and what I was doing when I snapped it. Maybe it is this way for everyone? I don't know. But, for me, it keeps me snapping away at milestones big and small!

For example...I was inspired this morning to take a few pictures of Ethan before school. Why? It wasn't the first day (we've already done all of those pictures) is a normal Wednesday morning. The 'get out the door' routine went smoothly today (it's hit or miss)...and the kids were at school on time...which in Jessalyn world means way early.

I guess lately, Ethan has been seeming so old to me! I took notice of this today as he took a shower completely by himself...and as far as I could tell, got out of the shower and was actually pretty clean. As I watched him brush his teeth and comb the hair that he is insisting on growing long, I felt like I needed to capture this 'moment' in my mind..which translates into 'on film' (or pixels!).

So, while Jessalyn sits in the car stressing that we might not get to school at exactly 8:25 (the announcements don't start and they are not "late" until 8:40), I took the opportunity to stop Ethan at the door and snap a few memories. He was fairly cooperative...probably because he knew he was making his sister squirm in the car...because he is a pesky little brother.

...and for the record, we school with plenty of time to spare.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


A relationship like none other for this group of boys. They met when Daniel and Ethan were only a year old...then each of them got new little brothers...followed by one more brother for each of them! Karole-Ann and I like to coordinate our baby making (not really!).

These six boys spent much time together when they lived here in Meredith but a few years ago they moved away:( It was sad for all of us...but especially sad for the boys. But this move didn't affect their relationship at all. Even after all the time spent with friends at school or church..when asked about best buddies (while school and Church friends are listed too) Daniel, Andrew and Sammy are always number 1 on the list from my boys.

We were fortunate to spend much time with them this summer at camp and soulfest and then more camp. The sight of them running across the field to each other when we arrive is priceless...and then they are off and playing as if there was no time missed in between.

Although the boys spend much time all together, they do tend to pair off by age...Daniel and Ethan, Andrew and Luke and Sam and Owen. Its interesting to see the similar personalities of each of these pairs!

It has been fun to see them grow up....all six of them loving Jesus! I pray that each and every one of them will continue to hold each other accountable as they get older.

Karole-Ann and I had this idea of a little photo shoot with the boys. We came armed with denim and white t-shirts...going for a 'stand by me' type look. We prepped them...warning them that this occasion was going to happen and with the help of Cindy who was armed with brand new silly bands as a reward we were able to get them to cooperate. They actually seemed to enjoy themselves..while watching friend Brandon be silly behind the camera! We worked quickly..while battling the sun that kept creeping out from behind the clouds making our lives difficult.

When I look at these pictures from a photography perspective I can find myself frustrated by the details...ultimately, it was not the perfect time of day for this location. But! I still LOVE them..because we really did capture the personalities of the boys here and their friendships for sure. Just getting them all in one place at the same time was considered a victory...and then to get a few cute pictures of this special relationship is even better!

All of the 'keepers' are in an album on my website...but I will post a few of my faves here.

I couldn't decide which of these I like better of Sam and Owen!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yes? No?

Does this sort of idea work? I think I like it:) Josh thought the black and white was too "ghostly". I could drop the opacity even more on the b+w...or raise it more. Also...maybe a different font color for her name?

Anyway...just looking for opinions:)

An 'everyday' photography tip.

I have learned 98% of what I know about photography (which...admittedly is probably only 10% of what I NEED to know) from reading photography websites, forums and blogs. (the other 2% came from the one photography book that I read.) I am constantly amazed and grateful for those professional photographers who share their knowledge with people like me!

I figured, that I would try to share some of what I know with all of you! Again, this is not to say that I don't have more to learn...I will forever be learning the art of photography!

So...for my first 'everyday photography tip'....and remember, all photography rules are made to be broken, but some of these tips and rules are generally best to stick ya go...

I could call these "EPT's"..but then that makes me think of "early pregnancy test" instead of "everyday photography tip" I won't do that.

Or maybe I will.

When taking a picture of a person's face while focusing on good eye contact, try to get at an angle with your subject so that the whites of their eyes shows on BOTH sides of the iris...on both eyes. This might involve having the subject move their head just a tiny bit, or sometimes their head can stay in the same place but you just need to move a little bit and have their eyes follow you.

Breaking this rule is very common...and it doesn't make for a TERRIBLE picture. I have many "keepers" that do not show both sides of the whites of the eyes...but when comparing them to a photo that keeps this rule in mind there is a significant difference as to how much I like the picture! I think you will find the same.

I have an example...with the pictures I took recently of Kenzi...

There are a few differences in these two pictures..mostly, her angle towards the better lighting in #2 is better as far as her eyes go. I still very much like the first photo and considered it a keeper (and if I remember correctly, mom considered this one a keeper too!) but in comparing the two, my eye is definitely more drawn to the 2nd photo. In looking at many pictures, on my site as well as other, I have found this to be consistent in that, in a portrait type photo, I prefer the ones where you can see each side of the whites of the eyes!

Again, this does not mean that every photo that do not follow this 'rule' must be tossed...its just a little tip to some better eye contact!

So, while photographing for someone else, snapping a pic of your friend, or even trying to get a self portrait with your cell phone in the bathroom mirror...this little tip is one that is easily accomplished and can make for a much more engaging photo in the end!