Argh! I totally got sucked in!!!

I boycott Black Friday. I reject the consumerism and materialism. I resist the ads and the lure of 50% off and the deal too good to pass. Except that I didn’t. I sat at the table this morning with my bagel and coffee and perused the too-good-to-be-true ads along with my covetous children.  I told them I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to get suckered into the things I suddenly might need that I didn’t know I needed. And it happened. There were things in the ads that were already on my gifting lists. I couldn’t resist. It’s good to get the best bang for your buck! Right? So I did it. I bought Christmas gifts online using Black Friday discounts on Thanksgiving Day. I did what I said I wouldn’t do. But I’m not alone. Loads of people are going to swarm the stores and online deals for Black Friday. I can say I’ve forgiven my temporary lapse in judgement – justifying that the items were on my to-gift list already and I did resist the urge to buy impulsively.  I truly don’t want to buy just because it’s a good deal. I want to create opportunity and memories and value with the money I spend. My favorite ways to gift are to either make it myself, or give with purpose. I recognize not everyone is a maker but choosing to give gifts with purpose is not that hard! Before you run out to consume all the too-good-to-miss deals on Black Friday … consider some of these ideas:

  1. Buy local and/or support small businesses. This not only contributes to your local economy but also supports a hard working family in your community. Clearly I’m passionate about small businesses as a small business owner myself and experience with my husband’s small business for 15 years – small business owners often don’t bring home as much as you might think after all of their business expenses. Boutiques, florists, service providers, home based businesses, Etsy shops  … there are loads of options! Think gift cards!
  2. Buy memberships. One of my favorite gifts from last year was my membership to the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a gift that keeps giving all year long! Another good one might be the Botanic Garden or Morton Arboretum (they are reciprocal!)
  3. Buy experiences. Especially experiences that you can enjoy together! Quality time is a huge gift! My daughter wants to go horseback riding again — there’s a Groupon for that!
  4. Supporting Fair Trade is an awesome way to give with purpose. Noonday, Thistle Farms, Lovishly, & Purpose Jewelry are some of my favorites. No only are you supporting ethical work environments but you’re also helping family provide for their children. Hubby got this chevron necklace for me off my wishlist last year. Love it! I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to a few Fair Trade sites I like.
  5. Find businesses who support causes you care about. Last Friday was my November Soul Day. I’m passionate about small businesses and I’m passionate about books too! (Would you believe I work part-time in a library as a Small Business Adviser —!) Anyway — I wanted to check out a small used book shop, Open Books, in the city. I’d heard they are a non-profit that provides literacy services to the kids in the community! How cool! That is something I’m willing to support — so I did. I bought a book for a gift and some poetry for myself, knowing I made a contribution to the work they are doing to make a difference in a child’s life. Literacy — a true gift.

Since the events that unfolded in Paris, the refugee crisis, the controversy and differing opinions – I’ve read the articles, seen the footage, prayed about how to respond. Even though I feel like my own family is just getting back on our feet – we have SO much compared to the suffering around the world. I’ve been asking myself a question surrounding these events. How can I respond to the great need out there?  Our family doesn’t have a lot of disposable income and I know financial contributions are the ideal way to help. I wanted to find a way to give to the organizations who are doing the work of compassion.  I know we can either react with fear or respond with compassion. I choose compassion.

for syria blog post

My response is to provide an opportunity to gift with purpose. I created this sweet girl specifically for this purpose, referencing a photo of a Syrian refugee. I thought of adding her to the 52 faces project I’ve been working on all year but decided I wanted her to be special. She’s in a league of her own! She will be a press printed 5×5 print (including the white border) on high quality 120lb superfine eggshell paper. For $5 you might add her to the top of a gift package or frame her as a reminder to pray for the hurting in our communities and around the world.  100% of the profits of this print will go to the efforts of World Relief in providing for the refugees. She is a limited edition print and you can find her in my shop until midnight on Sunday, November 29th. This way you will have her in plenty of time for gifting! She should arrive in your mailbox sometime during the week of the 7th. And by all means, forgive yourself if you also succumb to the Black Friday hole but keep your wits about you and gift with purpose too!

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“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” 

Have you ever experienced a moment when all of the pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together and your brain wanted to implode? Never? Hmm. Okay then.

Inside my head, I want to live life with the perspective that my days are numbered.

Inside my head, I am in control of my choices.

Inside my head, I know I have ideas I haven’t stepped out in.

Inside my head, I believe in the power of our stories, speaking into the lives of others, loving people, holding things loosely.

Inside my head I’m grounded. Self-aware. I value my health, my relationships, my work, my gifts, my faith.

Inside my head, I know what I want. But I have dreams and desires that I’ve shared with No One … and I’m not sure I’ve allowed myself to believe they could possibly become true experiences.

I attended the Storyline Conference last week and was blown away by the speakers. The stories of overcoming. The inspiration of what it could look like to live a better story. I learned about how the brain works and why we get stuck, why we don’t really listen to that inner voice. How we react instead of respond to the circumstances and challenges in life. What keeps us from living great stories.  I also learned that sometimes the story in our head doesn’t match the story we are actually living. Wow. I saw that in myself.

Here are a few quotes I wrote down that inspired me …

“The character at the end of the story is different from who they were at the beginning … What God wants is transformation … All living things God makes are designed to change … Give yourself permission to change … Show people in the way that you live that life can be more beautiful … But you don’t have to react to life. You can MAKE your life! … Life doesn’t make sense if you’re not in the middle of a story.”  – Donald Miller

“God did not create us to live a reactive life but to be co-creators of a meaningful life.” – Viktor Frankle

“If you don’t like your story start re-writing it! Write a story with high stakes. You can make your life whatever you want.” – Donald Miller

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

“What have you been afraid to try? … Forgiveness releases Fear.” – Jeremy Cowart

“What do you want to bring into the world? God wants to do it with you … God wants to bond with you in the doing of things. … Where God commands, obey. Where there is no command – we have freedom… Consumerism wants to control our stories. Don’t let the culture hijack your story.” – Donald Miller

“Fight for your own story… Invite others to be part of your story. We are not meant to live our stories alone but in community… How are you going to respond to your life?” – Justin Skeesuck & Patrick Gray

“Be true to yourself by saying what you want… Write to change one person’s life … If the dream only changes ME is that enough? Change yourself … Stay true to who you are … If we can’t have peace in our home and inside of me, how can there be peace in the world? Refuse to hate.” –Allison Vesterfelt

“We daydream about the story we want to live, but we aren’t taking action. We aren’t living that desired story … Recognize the negative events of our lives and pray about how we can redeem them … listen to the positive elements of each circumstance … become a Wounded Healer… It’s never too late to live your story.” – Bill Loke

“In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.” – Viktor Frankle

“Creative people consume art and poetry like a starving person … For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world but loose your soul? Your soul matters more than you think. Become an expert at tending your soul… In what ways are you investing in your character, craft & community?” – Shauna Niequist

“Jesus didn’t hold people accountable, he held them close … Pick people that make you better … Your going to get misunderstood, don’t worry about it! Just keep making it about Jesus, not you… Quit waiting for more green lights, just do it… Don’t aim at people – love on people – tell them who they are becoming… Stop inviting people, just bring them along with you… Don’t let other people decide who you are — Beloved. .” – Bob Goff

I’ve lived my entire life waiting for permission to be myself, uniquely me, to fly as only I can fly. I have sought affirmation that I’m okay. I have hoped for the go-ahead, the green light,  to live the life I know I’m meant to live. I’ve confused the messages – growing up in the church and in my family I learned to live a passive story, “Wait to see what God is doing and join Him in where he is already working.” “Who you are is not okay, you need to be more this or less that.” “I’ll believe it when I see it.” “You’re the weak link.”  I didn’t learn that it was okay to go create and live your story! I’ve spent a lot of time in the hardest season of my life watching other’s stories unfold in good and glorious ways. And celebrated those stories … while simultaniously wondering why my story was unchanging. Stuck. A season I wouldn’t change for the world (in hindsight) given all I learned about myself, my faith, about gratitude and contentment, about people, about soul care and self-care. Although painful — I wouldn’t change anything. But in the midst of it – that feeling of loneliness and hopelessness is a horrible feeling. I didn’t feel empowered to take it, redeem it, and write a new story. Until now.

Now, I would say —  in the middle of the story — God is working in ME and You, changing ME and YOU, developing desires, hopes, dreams, ideas, inspiration — he is working in ME and YOU and wants to use US and our circumstances to promote the Kingdom in ways that people can experience and see Heaven on Earth work right here, right now, in this place. The truth is we can’t live great stories without conflict, resistance or difficult circumstances. It’s just part of the package. So I give myself permission to create the life I want to live. To use the challenging circumstances/relationships/experiences as part of my story and the redeeming qualities of those experiences to help others live better stories. I am the writer of my own story.

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At Storyline — my biggest takeaway was — write your own story. When I’m 75 — I want to have lived a GREAT story! What do you want to do? Tell God about it — he wants to join you in living a better story!! Don’t wait for permission. Take risks. Do things that feel a little outside of your comfort zone both big and small — because that’s where God shines — in partnering with us to do what is outside of what you could do alone.  I am becoming …  and my experience at Storyline has given me some wind in my journey of becoming — some freedom to re-write my story. To begin to walk towards some sort-of-out-there desires. To forgive with abandon. To live freely — just as I am. A do-er. A free spirit. Creative. Passionate. Driven. A little bit bossy and a whole lot about the hearts of people. I don’t need permission to write my own story. To live without regrets.  I’m going to fail. I know I am. Because I’m human. But by the grace of God, I am going to live an awesome story!! Incidentally, I found this painting while thrifting today. It spoke of grander and beauty to me – a timely reminder of the kind of story I want to live!

    “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.”  Psalm 107:2


  • Jessie - Everything you say rings true with me, my problem is I’m never sure how to get started. I always feel like I’m facing a wall of closed doors with no key while others are just allowed right in. I’ll admit it’s frustrating and when I dwell on it, it can really take my joy.

  • Julie - I hear you! I’ve often asked God, “What about MY story?” Feeling the same. Like other’s stories all around me continued on and I remained. I think for me, I’d forgotten that it just takes one small change or action in the right direction to get started. I’m in control of writing my story. I don’t have to let how others view me, my circumstances, my painful emotions, determine how my story goes. One small step in the direction of my dream. Maybe creating a new habit. Choosing a different perspective. Developing a new practice. Saying no to something so I can say yes to beginning my dream. Re-prioritizing. What is the one thing you CAN do to start walking toward your dream?

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“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”
— Erma Bombeck

I see my family photography as a celebration of that “strange little band of characters.”  My passion for this journey of photographing families was born out of 1) a need to make a financial contribution to my family and 2) a deep desire to celebrate the connection of the family unit. I realize that family life is challenging. It takes a lot of work to be intentional. To manage relationships. To train our kids to be responsible independent adults. To manage a home. To juggle jobs and passions and parenting. All while managing our own little-bit-of-crazy personal lives. What I hope to do when I’m photographing my families is to celebrate the moments of connection that we create together and share an hour where the family is totally present with each other. Each time we gather, a new memory is made and I have to believe that when the final images are delivered the warmth of that hour together is re-experienced.

Photographing families has been a true gift for me too. I delight in using my craft and my eye. I gently direct and help the moments unfold as I encourage my families to connect. I help create an environment of laughter, fun & togetherness. I love to capture the true heart of the family in the glances of knowing, the mannerisms, the relaxed smiles, and the embraces. Following the session, I get to create a little collection of art from our time together using my skills, experience, and artistic eye.

Here is a little collection of my faves from my October families!

IMG_6180 IMG_6295 IMG_6300 IMG_6311


IMG_6528 IMG_6576 IMG_6786 IMG_6895 IMG_6773 IMG_6674

Some tell me they don’t think they are “pretty enough” to photograph. That the images I share are of “pretty families.” And I tell them — the beauty is in the family connections. What I capture is the beauty of connection. Every family is beautiful. Every individual in the family is truly beautiful in their own way. The varied personalities come out during our sessions and I LOVE to work with those different personalities and pull out their natural essence.  I recognize that the images I capture are not necessarily the reality of what everyone experiences at home, apart from our time together. But if I can capture one hour’s worth of connection for a family — what I capture is genuine — if even for a moment. Moments are what life is made of — it’s the moments that are beautiful. So that’s what I celebrate in my photography. The moments. The connections. The beauty that’s already there in every family. I understand that family is complicated. Siblings fight and bicker and antagonize. I understand marriage and parenting are hard work. But I’m passionate about the intentional process of that work.  And I’m passionate about celebrating our “little band of characters” as we fight for each other and do the work of learning to live together.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” ~Cesare Pavese

  • Jessie - What you do, with that passion, feels sacred doesn’t it?

  • Julie - Sacred is a great word for that, Jessie! :)

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