Our Annual Attempt at Family Pictures // 2016

For the past few years, I’ve attempted to take family pictures using our trusty camera + tripod combo.

I use the word “attempt” because it truly is an attempt. Good thing I’m a big fan of lifestyle photography, because this is how the first 20 minutes went down…

My boys were not all about getting their feet wet and sandy. Because clearly we can only have wet feet during playtime, not picture time. Nate got over the disappointment of wet feet rather quickly. Miles was a bit harder to convince.

Holding Karis helped distract him from his former discontent. Also, biceps.


These kiddos are all about their baby sister.

And here’s our resident clown in action. It also looks like someone is filling her diaper…


Look at these precious babies!


Sweet Anna Grace…


And a little spicy to boot…


Nate loves to wink.


And I love his scrunchy-face smile!


Oh my goodness, this face. So funny and freaky at the same time! He’s such a crazy boy!


Here’s his sweet smile. Heart melter.


And speaking of heart melters . . . yum.


Jonathan took the camera and suggested he get some pics of me. I copped out and kept the baby with me.


And one of me with my sweet girlies.


Overall, it was a fairly successful picture session. I’m so thankful to have these memories captured!


other links of interest:
4 tips for taking your own family pictures
my camera  +  lens

Karis Faith // a natural birth story

Tuesday, September 13 was my due date. The day came and went with little fanfare, although I did take my kiddos out for breakfast like I planned.

On Wednesday morning, I got a call from my doctor’s office with an appointment for my scheduled induction the following week. My kids and I continued the morning with school like usual. Over the last 5-6 weeks of this pregnancy, I could tell my body was preparing for labor. There were contractions that didn’t lead anywhere as well as just a general feeling of discomfort. This day was no different. I had some contractions in the morning – and although they weren’t regular, they were rather uncomfortable.

I decided it was a good time to paint my toenails in case it did turn out to be labor day. I always feel better going into labor with freshly painted toenails…it’s just a happy sight to look down and see a fun color on my toes during all the pain. It also provides an extra opportunity to practice flexibility as painting toenails over a 9 month pregnant belly is no small feat.


Around 11:30, I was incredibly hungry – like the shaky “must eat now” kind. I ate some leftovers from the night before (fish tacos. yum.), then sat on the couch with Nate to finish his reading lesson.

12:15ish: Nate was sounding out words and I suddenly had a HELLO-HOW-YA-DOIN contraction. A couple more came and then Jonathan stopped home for lunch. I told him I was in pain, but wasn’t sure if it was labor. When he popped in a couple minutes later and I couldn’t talk through the contraction, I decided it must be labor.

Here’s the problem. I had only been having contractions for 8 minutes. My doctor’s office told me repeatedly to track contractions for an hour before calling them. I could tell this was no time to follow protocol. I called and told the nurse, “I’m having contractions. I’ve only had them for 8 minutes, but they’re every 2-3 minutes and painful enough that I can’t talk through them. This is my 4th baby. We’re on our way.”

Bless her heart, she tried to follow protocol and told me “the doctors are on lunch break from 1-2. There aren’t any free appointments after that, but if you come and wait in the office, we can try to squeeze you in.”

Bless it.

Our sweet neighbor came over to watch my three older babies so Jonathan and I could leave right away. It was a quiet drive to the hospital area as I worked through contractions. Once we arrived, my contractions were still painful, but had tamed a bit in intensity level (like they always do when I leave for the hospital). We slowly walked to my doctor’s office and checked in. It was around 1:30 at this time. I walked in the waiting area, breathing through each contraction. A few minutes later a nurse called out to see how I was doing. I said fine – and then clarified that I was having regular contractions 2-3 minutes apart. They called me back a few minutes later. A labor and delivery nurse was on duty that day, so she decided to check me in since the doctors were still on lunch break. I LOVE YOU, LABOR AND DELIVERY NURSE.

When she announced I was dilated to a 6, almost 7, they promptly whizzed me to labor and delivery via a wheelchair. Bless you, wheelchair whizzing lady. Once I got to my room and they got me strapped with the baby & contraction monitor, I settled in the hospital bed. During my 3 other labors, a nurse has stayed in the room with me pretty much the whole time. But on this day, my nurse got me all set up and then left Jonathan and I alone in the room. At first, it was weird. I thought, “What if this baby pops out and we’re left alone for delivery?!?!”

But then I began to enjoy the alone time. I kept working through contractions and Jonathan sat next to me. I do best in labor when I can get in a zone and intentionally prepare for and work through each contraction, so I was doing my thing while he worked on emails. I’ve never listened to music before during labor, but decided to use my earbuds and just sit in bed for a while to keep my labor from progressing too quickly. Not because I didn’t want to have the baby, but because I didn’t want to go through the pain of her coming out of my body.

I realize that sounds rather comical to put off the actual delivery – obviously I was going to give birth and there was no re-thinking that plan – so just get it over with, right? But this turned out to be one of my favorite birth experiences because of how “restful” the few hours were before Karis arrived. I write “restful” in quotation marks because I was still having regular, painful contractions. I mean, it wasn’t exactly a spa-like experience. But much more restful than any of my other labors have been.

I used those hours to listen to music, rehearse verses (this one especially), ask God for help, and thank Him for sustaining this little life inside me for 20 weeks longer than we thought she would live. It was a special – and very worshipful – time remembering God’s character and promises.

After a few hours, I decided I could either keep sitting in bed and have this baby super late, or I could get up and make things happen. Seeing as there was no way for me to escape the pain of delivery, I decided now was better than later.

As soon as I got out of bed, I felt my contractions pick up in intensity. I continued moving (using a birthing ball for support) and started feeling even more intense contractions. The doctor popped in to see how much I was dilated. 9. Almost there. My water had already broken during the contractions, but once the doctor saw I was at a 9/almost 10, she broke the other bag of water. Things just got real, my friends.

My nurse paged for “more hands and warm towels” and I was both delighted and scared to know it was time to push. The doctor told me to push several times, then said, “Almost there!” I’ve trained myself to never believe that line during labor because you don’t know what it actually means. However, in this case, we were almost there. With another big push, our little Karis Faith arrived into this world – wet, red, squealing, and absolutely perfect. 6:48 PM. 8 lbs 5.5 oz. 20 inches.

When my water broke at 20 weeks, I wouldn’t let myself think ahead to delivery. Mentally, I couldn’t handle thinking about how incredible it would be to hold Karis after wondering for so long whether she would even make it out alive. So when her little body was placed on my chest – still wet and fresh from birth – it was emotional overload. I praised God, looked at Jonathan, held Karis, and just cried. There really are no words to adequately describe those first moments in any birth, but especially in this one for me.


We chose the name Karis Faith because of all God has taught us through this little one’s life. Karis means grace.
Grace and Faith. If you’ve been reading this site for any period during the last few months, you already know how much those two words have just exploded in meaning for me. God’s grace isn’t limited to good circumstances, as He taught me so vividly when I was in the hospital and thought Karis was going to die.  His character isn’t determined by my circumstances. He is gracious…no matter what happens. But it takes faith to believe that. Something I struggle with daily. It takes faith to believe that God is good when I don’t see it right in front of me. And that God is loving when the things happening to/around me shout otherwise. Sometimes I feel ridiculous because I have to ask God for help to even believe Him. I can’t even believe Him and His promises unless He enables me.

The beautiful thing I have learned is that God does enable me to have faith. To believe that He is in complete control and deeply loves me. To harness my emotions and thoughts that scream the opposite. And to instead rest in His good sovereignty. The fact that He is able to work in my stubborn heart is all due to His incredible grace. Grace that saved my soul and draws me near to my Savior. I trust you know Jesus and have experienced His grace at work in your life.

I cannot end this birth story without telling you how much your prayer support has meant to me. To know that people I’ve never even met have been praying so faithfully for Karis is humbling. Thank you for joining with us by your encouragement, love and prayers. I’m so grateful for God’s love displayed through YOU!


You might also enjoy these posts…
// Miles’ birth story //
//Nate’s birth story //

due date thoughts


Tomorrow is my due date.

20 weeks ago, when my water broke, my prayer was that I would make it to 23 weeks of pregnancy – far enough along to be hospitalized and down the hall from a NICU to give my preemie girl as much of a chance at life as possible.

And here I am, 40 weeks pregnant. Farther than I ever thought possible.

If I’ve learned anything through the last 20 weeks, it is the importance of trusting in God. I feel like these last days of pregnancy are an especially pivotal time to practice resting in His will. I’m incredibly curious about when and how this little girl will exit my womb and enter the world as her own unique person. But that’s not for me to know right now. So I can either focus on what I don’t know (all the details surrounding her birth) or focus on what I do know.

What do I know?

I know that God’s grace is sufficient.
For the waiting period now and the labor later – whenever it happens and whatever the outcome.

That’s about where my knowledge stops. I know the character of God will remain unchanged. His love will be present, His strength available, and His grace sustaining. Beyond that, I know nothing. And I don’t have to.

That’s kinda what faith is, right?

Resting when you can’t feel.
Believing when you can’t see.
Trusting though you don’t know.

And now for some random, due date-esque thoughts…

// I started reading this book again last week because I could tell I was getting incredibly self-focused, anxious, and irritable. I thought it would be a good reminder to trust in the Lord and rejoice in the present. It has been.

// I’m aggressively trying to empty my laundry basket and dishwasher. It’s a constant job. But I hate the thought of coming home to nastiness in either the laundry closet or the kitchen. I should really attempt to live like this all the time because it makes for a nicer home.

// I bought comfy clothes for the post-partum stage. Sweatpants, cotton, elastic, perfection. I’m super happy they arrived before labor began.

// We are in our 9th week of school. I can hardly believe it! But I am so incredibly glad we began in July (even though it was slightly painful at the time) so that I won’t have the pressure of jumping back into school the day (or week) after I get home from the hospital.

// In honor of my due date tomorrow, I’m going to take my kids out for breakfast. I wanted to have something to look forward to in case baby didn’t make her appearance, so I thought this would fit the bill. Pretty excited about the occasion, I gotta admit.

// We finally decided on a name for this new family member, although we’ll wait until after baby girl is born to be 100% sure. We are going to wait to announce her name until we’re able to tell our 3 older kiddos in person. They are super curious and we definitely want them to be the first to know. Since we’ve had a hard time with the name (okay, I’m the one who’s kept tossing in different ideas; Jonathan’s been pretty sure for a while now), I just want to wait until after she’s born to be totally, completely, 100% sure. You know, rather than calling her Millicent for several months and then switching it up on everyone after she’s born. So there’s one name you can be sure we aren’t naming her. Or maybe we are and I’m just being sneaky. One never knows…

// I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your prayers. So many people have told me they’re praying for me and baby – from the time my water broke prematurely to now while I’m prepping for labor. I need your prayers and am humbled to hear of them. So thank you for being the kindest support system ever.

I’m looking forward to sharing some newborn pictures with you sooooon!

p.s. I’ll definitely be sharing via social media before I get anything posted on this site, so if you want a sneak peek, you’ll find it on instagram and facebook.


water broke 20 weeks


Always Reaching For the Next Big Thing [& how to stop]

I feel it in myself. A yearning, reaching, longing for that next big thing in life.

When I was little, it was always the next birthday. A whole year older! Cake! Presents!
Then I began longing to be a teenager, enter high school, start driving, get my first job, begin college, find that special someone – along with a plethora of smaller desires mingled among the bigger milestones.

As I grew older and began experiencing all the “next big things” I had been anticipating, I realized something: I never arrived at the next anticipated milestone and felt as if I had arrived because I immediately began longing for the next big thing.

I was contemplating this a few days ago as I exited my doctor’s appointment. At 39 weeks pregnant, you can guess what my “next big thing” is now, can’t you? Hello labor & delivery, I’m looking at you.

And then what will the next big thing be? Getting back to normal. Normal-ish.

After my third baby was born, I constantly  tried to speak contentment to myself by saying, “Once things are back to normal, this precious newborn stage will be over.” And it’s true. You always trade one stage for another.

But contentment isn’t found by reminding yourself what you’ll miss from this stage.
Nor is it found by reminding yourself how much less fortunate others are around you. As in, “There are always people having a worse day than you who would love to be in your shoes.”

Contentment is found when I am truly grateful to God for who and where I am right now. If I’m not grateful today, why do I assume my gratefulness level will increase tomorrow? I assume that because deep down I believe contentment is determined by my circumstances instead of by my heart. I assume that if I only had a nicer lifestyle, better wardrobe, or deeper relationships that I’ll be content and have freedom from reaching for the next big thing.

But that ignores the basis of contentment.

Contentment isn’t found in my stage in life, relationship status, or level of health. Contentment is found in Christ.

If I can praise God for every circumstance He brings my way today, then I will be content. And only then will I experience freedom from reaching for the next big thing. Because only then will I be truly grateful for who and where I am today.

So I take these truths and apply them to my current circumstances.
The next big thing I anticipate is labor and delivery. And then a long period of recovery. How can I stop reaching for the next stage and instead live in the today God has given?
I can give thanks to God for today. For the discomforts and pains of pregnancy. For the miracle of life inside my body. For His perfect plan and timing and the ability to rest even though I don’t know the future. For the grace He gives to sustain today & the promised grace for tomorrow.

If I can give thanks for right now – if I can live with the conviction of David when he said, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – then I will be content. There is no room for discontentment in a heart full of praise. There’s no need to reach for the next big thing when you’re overflowing with gratefulness about what God is doing right now.

What do you find yourself reaching for in life? A better job, bigger income, more fulfilling relationships?
Give your desires to God and give thanks for where He has you right now. Contentment isn’t found in your circumstances. It’s found in Christ.

There's no room for discontentment in a heart full of praise.

What I’m Using for Baby #4

I love seeing what others use and love – for themselves, their home, and family. This week, in honor of reaching 37 weeks pregnant with our little miracle baby, I thought I’d share 5 things I’m planning to use for baby #4. Make sure you stick around to the end – or just scroll to the bottom – to find out about a giveaway for 2 of these lovely items!

5 things I'm using baby 4

// O N E  //
I think I first heard about this nursing wrap via instagram. The first thing that appealed to me was that it’s an all around coverage wrap. None of this drape in the front & leave your sides hanging out business. I stalked them on instagram for a while before deciding to get one for baby #4. When I mentioned this wrap to some of my mama friends, I heard only raving reviews over how much they loved it. It can also be used as a carseat cover, shopping cart cover & scarf. Although the reason I decided to get it was because of the nursing cover function, I’m looking forward to trying it out for all its uses!


// T W O //
womp womp. Who really wants to talk about diapers? Buuut they are a necessary part of the baby experience. Unless you decide to potty train your child from day 1. Which I will not be doing. Thus the diapers.

We bought a stash of cloth diapers when I found out I was pregnant with our 3rd. And by stash, I mean 12. After a lot of research, I chose these. I used them for my 2nd until he was potty trained and then for my 3rd child the whole time. I also have a couple of the all-in-one versions, but these pocket fold diapers are my favorites.


// T H R E E //
A friend of mine made a version of this wrap and I used it constantly with Miles – especially when he was teeny tiny. I cannot wait to have this little girl snuggled up with me again!


// F O U R //
When my first little girl was born, we somehow managed to accumulate a large amount of shoes. Tiny sandals, boots, dress shoes, etc. While I think it’s totally adorable to see baby girls in super cute shoes, I have learned that I’m much more of a minimalist in this area. As in, my babies usually go around barefoot as long as it’s warm enough to do so. When Anna Grace was little and it was too cold to go barefoot, I found a little pair of pink leather ballet-type shoes that she wore all the time – so much that she wore them out!

So despite my plethora of cutie-patootie girl shoes, I decided to stick with what worked last time and use a pair of pink leather moccasins for this baby girl. I’ve heard great things about Freshly Picked and am really looking forward to trying out these moccs for baby girl!


// F I V E //
After scouring Craigslist, I found an ergo baby carrier and snagged it up for baby #3. I loved using my moby wrap for Miles when he was little, but found the ergo to be much more supportive as he gained weight. Designed to be used for littles up to 45 pounds, I even used this carrier a few months ago when Miles was feverish and wanting to be held, but I needed to start on dinner prep (picture proof!). Let’s hear it for multi-tasking!


Tomorrow morning (Friday, August 26), I’m hosting a giveaway for 2 of these lovely items (#1 & #4) on my instagram account!
I’ll pick 2 winners – one for each item. Even if you’re not in the baby stage, feel free to enter and use it for a new baby gift!

// thanks to Covered Goods & Freshly Picked for partnering with me in this post //

prego series300