Right Before My Eyes

RiOne day he fit snug in my arms.
The next, the baby in his cheeks began to fade.

Seemingly overnight his legs grew tall, his arms long and he found a voice for his opinion.

His dreams went from lullabies to dragon slayer.

He put on the fire chief’s hat and looked at me with those piercing blue eyes and deep dimples.

He didn’t have to say, “Look at me, mom!” He knew I was already fixed on him, dressed as the hero, morphing from tiny boy into man right before my eyes.

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I call him baby though he is far from it. Caden

He matures daily. His smile, his expressions, his voice, all changing and so much like his daddy.

This little one, once sleeping on my lap, stretching no further than the length from my hip to knee.

I can barely lift him as he fills out and up, though reaching for me as if still a babe.

He doesn’t just smile with his mouth, but also with his deep, soulful brown eyes.

This kid…no matter how much he grows,
will always be my baby.

Backyard Bears

At times, God shows up where I least expect Him and He whispers to my heart, without words, “Joy, watch this.”

I step out onto the third story terrace and look out as a mama bear and her cubs emerge from the thick foliage into the open area of the backyard. JCP-2149She will dig and rummage for food as the two little ones tumble and climb not too far from her reach. JCP-2067I am reminded that they do not worry about what they will eat or drink. She does not store up extra for her babies. She steps out in faith (of sorts) and trusts that she will find the food needed for herself and her little ones. JCP-2139-2It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. In a few moments of a summer afternoon, in the backyard of my sister in law’s mountain home, God shows up and in a tangible expression of love, shows me that He sees me, reminding me that I am His and He is mine.

His grace is bountiful and beauty resides among the rain-soaked, wooded mountainside, in the form of a mama bear and her two bear cubs.JCP-2144

Traveling with Boys

JCP-2-2As the boys grow older I am more intrigued with the differences between them and me. It’s incredible how they are created with an innate sense of wildness. They need adventure every day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant adventure, it can be nature. Every time my boys are loose in nature, it’s an adventure.JCP-49

We recently took a trip to the North Carolina mountains. We spent the days hiking, wading through streams, throwing rocks in creeks and using our “outside voices”…a lot.

I am constantly learning and growing from the way they experience life.

While on the trip some things were made very clear to me about “how to” travel (successfully) with boys.
photoThey need to;
Wander off the path
Throw leaves in the river (at the same time so they can watch them race and see who wins)
Skip rocks at the waterfall.
Walk through spider webs and feel the sticky strings tug the little hairs on their face as they pull it free from their skin.
Take their shirts off and flex their adventurer muscles
Scream
at the top of their lungs and make funny animal sounds.

They crave excitement and uncertainty.
They want to see how big God is,
how powerful nature can be and
how beautiful wild flowers/weeds grow.

They need to pee on trees and hock a loogie from the bridge.
They need to hear their voice echo through a canyon and laugh at the mystery of how it sounds.
They need to touch every insect they see and hold a salamander.
Stop and look at the trail they’ve left behind.
Plunge their hands into the mud and get dirt under their nails.
Taste the raindrops and feel the sun kiss the tops of their cheeks, leaving behind its warmth and color.
They need to test the limits of “No Trespassing” signs and jump from the highest point they can find.


They need to wade through lakes with sharp rock beds
See how raindrops form on petals and recognize how delicate beauty can be.


They need to balance on railing, no matter how far off the ground.

They need to play checkers on stamped cement by hopping to their next move.
They need to see all the colors infused into life.
They need to stand atop the largest rock they can find and say in their loudest voice, I’M KING OF THE ROCKS!!!

They need to believe they can be whomever they want to be. A hero, a ranger, a rock star, a professional salamander finder.

They need to know we support their adventures, endeavors and conquers.JCP-30
They need to know we believe in their dreams, no matter how grandiose.

They need to know, because one day when they face decisions about their future and we are not standing beside them, our voice will echo in their mind just like theirs did in the canyon years before. What they hear is crucial to the men they are becoming.

So, moms of boys, the next time he hands you a rock that looks like the last 23 rocks he’s said he “has to take home”, put it in your pocket to add to the collection.

JCP-47When he picks those weeds that look so much like flowers and brings you a handful with a big grin on his face, I beg you, take them, exclaiming in your most excited voice how incredibly beautiful they are and how thoughtful he is for choosing you to give them to.

Take a picture of his finds in his little hand realizing that one day his hands will be big and he will no longer be interested in showing you the petals of the flower he found on the ground.JCP-59So, do you “Have boys will travel?” Where do you like to go? What are you most looking forward to experiencing with them this Summer? Or maybe you want to add to the list about traveling with boys. Go for it, the comment section is yours.

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You were made to Shine

As I sat in my car this morning listening to Natalie Grant’s song, “Burn Bright” my eyes started stinging as the tears came. I’m not sad. I love Wednesdays!

I’ve had this song playing in the background many times, but for some reason this time, the words grabbed my attention enough to keep me sitting in my car in the driveway. Images of my beautiful friends who have walked through the darkness and come out on the other side, came flooding to mind.

People like Emily Wierenga who survived a vicious eating disorder that almost took her life. She now spends her life telling others her story through art, words and actions in hopes of shining light in the darkness.

Jennifer Riley who is by far the most creative person I know. She spends everyday creating beauty for other people. She doesn’t even know how incredible she really is.

Mollymorgan who chose life and has been recovering from anorexia for 3 years. Does she have any idea how proud I am of her?

Julie Taylor who has overcome a drug addiction thought only to be defeated in death.

This post is for you.
It’s for those still in the dark.
For the children who don’t have a choice.
It’s for the ones who are at the jumping off place. Numb and afraid that you will never feel anything again.
This is for all of you who want to scream, but don’t have a voice.

I want you to know that whether your monster is addiction, an eating disorder, discrimination because of your sexual preference or the color of your skin, depression, anxiety, abuse…
I love you
. Your Creator, God, loves you. He knows your name.
And you were made to shine.
Baby Burn Brighthurricane_deluxe_edition_Press play to listen to “Burn Bright”

Feel free to download a pdf version of the picture and quote in this post.
Baby Burn Bright pdf

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please, please, get help. It is serious and it wants to take your life. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. Click on the name and it will take you directly to the website. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

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Jesus is Lord…and you know it

I saw a billboard on the way to Nashville and then again coming home. (It was double-sided) I couldn’t take a picture at 70 80 mi. an hour, so I recreated it. Which was easy since it was black and white…no color…absolute, with no room for misinterpretation.

BillboardBoth times it made me cringe and physically sink down in my seat. I felt defensive and embarrassed when I read it.

This post is really going to rub some of you the wrong way. Feel free to stop reading now.

I am returning from a trip where God was present. He showed up. His spirit was alive and well. Jesus was glorified and the worship was sacred. I’ve not seen this kind of community, maybe ever. Interestingly enough, not one time did I feel defensive or shamefulfrightened or remorsefulregretful or resentful…you feelin’ me?

Who knew a billboard could get me this riled up? Or maybe I am just that tired of so-called “Christians” belittling others under the guise of sharing Jesus.

I’m not asking you to condone behavior. I’m not asking you to pretend. I am however asking my Jesus lovin’, God-fearing, friends to avoid making this way of life so dang unattractive.

There are hotties who love Jesus. There are married couples enjoying sex more than once a week, who love Jesus. There are those who watch Modern Family and still love Jesus. Why are we not speaking out? Why is the voice of the Pharisee so much louder than the voice of the Jesus follower?

Stop assuming that people who are living a life that you consider to be less than “good” will be attracted to scare tactics. Shame is not attractive. Fear is not attractive. Guilt is not attractive to anyone…not knowingly.

So, stop it. Stop. Stop using the name of Jesus as a way to be passive aggressive. Just…stop.

Jesus did not attract people by condemning them. He did not come to accuse, he came to save. And as followers of Christ I can’t help but know that we are to do the same.

There need not be accusations in our words and our actions, in our face, in our…anything! Denunciation does not draw anyone, if anything it pushes them further away.

So if you are threatening people with hell to bring them to their Savior, how about enticing them with heaven? How about sharing your personal story of freedom.

How about sitting down and listening to their story. Relate, empathize, be compassionate. Be attractive in a way that has nothing to do with outward appearance.

I believe in heaven and hell. The thought of anyone spending an eternity suffering is unimaginable. This is not about that. That’s an entire post in itself. That said, Tell me how many people you think see or hear a passive aggressive message like, “Jesus is Lord and you know it!” decide that they want our way of life?

There is no life in judgment. There is no life in statements that make people feel small, guilty or shamed.

I don’t want to be the traveling judge and jury. I want to be one who brings light, gives hope and shows purpose everywhere I go. Whether it be the grocery store, doctor’s office, work…everywhere I go. Though I fail often, it’s worth working towards.

What’s your first thought when reading the message on this billboard?

Standing on the Yellow Line

The other day I was driving down a road I have driven down everyday (at least once) for the last 5 years. I always glance to my right and say to the boys, “How many ducks can you count on the water?”

This day was no different. We all looked out the window at the pond. The fog was sitting just on top of the water’s surface. The boys debated over the number of ducks they saw as we drove on to school.

I dropped them off and instead of going the usual route home, I mixed it up a bit and went back the same way I came. (I’m wild and crazy like that sometimes.) As I drove past the same lake I was surprised by how much the view had changed in such a short time. The transformation was remarkable.

I debated pulling over and quickly realized that the photographer in me could not resist capturing this moment, freezing it in pixels and sharing it with you while shouting at the top of my lungs, “LOOK! THERE HE IS!!! HE KNOWS MY NAME! HE CARES! HE SEES ME!”

I pulled over by the baseball fields across the street. All I had on hand was my phone and I wanted to get as much of the splendor in the frame as possible. I walked to the yellow line in the road…in my bare feet, pajama pants, over-sized t-shirt and no bra. (I tell you this detail because normally it would be the one thing that would keep me from getting out of my car and stepping onto a public street during peak carpool hours.) I couldn’t help myself. I raised my phone and attempted to freeze time. (For those of you judging me for going bra-less in the carpool line, what can I say, I’m a risk taker.)

As I lowered my arms and turned to walk back to my car (that was illegally parked) I realized that traffic was stopped both ways. There were only a couple of cars on either side, and I justified my temporary traffic jam by rationalizing that my seemingly asinine behavior may be the only thing that allowed them to pause long enough to see the beauty of the sunrise. (At least they got a good laugh at the lady on the yellow line, still in the clothes she had slept in the night before, with her “camera phone”)

This is what I saw…
SunriseFriends, may I just tell you, this picture does not even begin to do the scene justice.

That’s what beauty does.
It shows up in the most ordinary places…when we’re not ready…when we don’t have make-up or heels on and all we have is the camera on our phone. For me, it shows up around the time I am wrestling with God. Around the time I am asking him to show me who he is and what I am to him. It happens when I am questioning my faith and what I know, in my soul, to be true.

I don’t know what giant you are facing in your life right now and you don’t know mine, but one thing that is true for both of us is the vastness of possibilities that come with faith in our Creator.

The same God who decided which colors he would use in the sunrise this morning hears my pleas and petitions. He accepts my praise and thanksgiving. And just when I need it most, he renews my weary mind and sets meaning to the phrase, “It is well with my soul.”

What about you? When was the last time you were captivated by astounding beauty in the everyday? Did you stop long enough to recognize, acknowledge and relish it?  

Between awake and asleep

Baby AI first heard this term in reference to the time between your child being awake at night and falling asleep. The phrase has stuck with me. I thought of it again the other day when leaving the apartment complex of a beautiful baby girl. Only now I think of it in the context of the (sometimes) brief period between life and death.

I can’t tell you much about this precious one’s story because there is little I know. She was born with a cardiovascular disorder that would take her life before the third month out of her teenage mother’s womb.

I don’t know why some babies live while others die. I have learned more about death in the last 3 years than in my (almost) 37 years of life. I have seen the “new normal for those left behind. I have felt the pain of loss and wept with those who mourn. It really isn’t something to be understood.

I have the best job in the world. People allow me into their lives to document moments. Some I’ve only just met, while others are known. I have shared in much laughter and happy tears. I have also been on the side of weeping and unthinkable tragedy.

There is one thing I have witnessed from both viewpoints. Love. Beautiful, unadulterated, infrangible, love.

Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” I cling to this when searching for understanding in that which was never meant to be understood. There are times when I must have deliberate confidence in the character of God, period. End of discussion. No more to say.

I have been asked many times why I would walk into a circumstance like Asher, Josiah, Daddy's handAlondra, Hsa…I respond this way, “Never do I feel the presence of God more than in these situations. There is something so holy and sacred it cannot be described with words. It’s as if Jesus himself looks on, weeping with the mother who is saying goodbye. His ways are not my ways. If I say I trust Him, I must do so in the good and the bad. If I say I want His will for my life, I must accept that while he gives, he also takes away.” This usually leaves people with little to say.

It is an enormous privilege to witness the moments between awake and asleep. It changes me. It causes me to swell with gratitude for so many things. I have a front row seat to what courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances looks like. I am blessed to be one of the witness’ to the miracle of life, documenting how precious and fragile it can be.

HandsEveryone has a story. Please remember this when bumping into strangers today. Please remember this before responding harshly or irrationally to the person who cuts across 4 lanes of traffic to avoid missing their exit.

We have no idea from whence a person is coming or going. We are completely unaware of the weight they have been given to carry.

After meeting a little girl who would change my heart, perspective and faith forever, I joined an organization that provides professional photography for families who are experiencing the loss of a child. Every session I do is to honor the memory of Hallie Green. To learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep click HERE