Let me introduce you to the Peter family. I spent the day with them at their home in the suburbs of Seattle while the trees burst into bloom all around us in April. A few things I love about this film... the mother's laugh and how she feels it with her whole being. Then how it spills out onto her family. The light on all their faces. The sink bath. All the movement... the water, the girls' dresses as they spin beneath the cherry tree, all the fallen blossoms and the way they choose to play and laugh at the end of the day. I have many many photographs from this day but I leave you now with their film...
"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play."
-Heraclitus (Greek philosopher 535–475 BC)
a slideshow of the images:
It was as though the air was thick with humility and gentleness and wild all at once. It was a bit humid and everyone had sweat on their foreheads from the heat, plus the added excitement of it being photo shoot day. I arrived with my family and felt welcomed, at home and as though we had entered through a wardrobe-like entrance into their own magical corner of Narnia, in Orlando, Florida.
The boys laughed as they threw wooden spears and built teepees and Dad was always nearby for encouragement and gentle guidance. The mama was barefoot with dirty toenails (that was my favorite thing) because she digs in. I saw her watching and digging in at every moment but also intentionally allowing her boys to be free. It was so inspiring. They climbed the treehouse one board at a time, the eldest arriving to the top first and threw a thick, tangled rope down to the littlest still down on the dirt. They wrestled near the water's edge until the sky turned pink and they all dared one another to jump in. Mama got close but tossed the boys in with a hearty laugh.
Like any life it was not without challenge, so the parents were sure to hold one another's gaze in the middle of the noise to find home again. I loved seeing him gaze at her with all the boys laughing between them.
I had tucked my camera away long after the sun had set and we all talked as the kids covered themselves in dirt from the garden and chased fireflies in the dark.
I kept hugging Jenny (the mama) and wishing we could keep talking; such a quiet wise spirit. We finally pulled away and it almost seemed like it had never happened. Like being in Neverland and I kept looking out my window hoping we could be back.
This is my time with the Cunningham family that evening.
The Martins family overflows with a contagious joy. I had the honor of living life alongside them for one day, and that day happened to fall in the week before they had their final court date making them a family FOREVER! All four of these beautiful children were adopted out of foster care and their story is one that spills out redemption and beauty and heartbreak and glory and proof that love has the capacity to grow so much bigger than any of us could possibly imagine. Chelsea, the mama, has graciously shared her words here that she wrote for each of her children on the eve of their adoption... you will find them below the film.
"My dearest Poppy. I do believe I dreamed of you before I met you. I held your name tightly in my hands, it was as if God had whispered a little secret in my ear that bonded us before we ever met. Now I find myself breathless when I watch your kind soul free in our home. I have been witness to the gentleness in your hugs and the wisdom in your young words. Then I fill my lungs with a deep breath when I hear you call my name "mommy" and from my dream I awaken to find that it is my reality. You are mine and I am yours, forever.
My dearest Finn. You challenge the worlds every thought. You question, push and create. You are unlike anyone that has everlived. The power that your bold spirit holds can change this world. So always stand strong for the weak my love. Speak truth even when no ones ready to hear it. Love in a way that has never been done before. Do all these things to bring Glory to the Lord. But always come back home to hug your mothers neck even when I'm old, because you are my Finn Thomas no matter where you go.
My dearest Sage. Oh how I love you. I see Jesus in your green eyes. I feel him in your hugs and witness his goodness in your free love. As you grow into a man in this hard world, may your heart stay soft and your love be free. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mother as your learning to be a son. This I promise you, that I will never let you go. Today, tomorrow and forever more you are home.
My dearest Jonah. I am your mommy. My heart has longed for this day before I was brave enough to say it. My son, because of you our lives will never be the same. The Lord has used your little life to bring together our family. Many times I fell asleep on me knees beside your crib, my cheeks stained with tears, praying I would never have to let you go. So this is why I will always hug you a little too tight, cover your face with kisses or force you to snuggle. In my arms you belong."
"The way the Lord has used our normal lives to provide a safe home for eight foster children is beautiful. The way He has woven our family together through adoption and the redemption story He has given our four children in their young lives is so powerful. But you remove the Lord and this story looks a lot different. Underneath this redemption story is heartbreak, fear, trauma and darkness. The early years of our children's lives were meant to strip them of their innocence, callus their young hearts and rob them of their self-worth. The burden on a young couple of going from zero to four children should have been too much. But in the darkness is where the glory of our Lord shines so bright. To us family is freedom, it is a new song to sing!"
“It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.” -2 Corinthians 4:5-8
"Life is a series of moments… and we all have life moments that define us.
There is a before that moment and after that moment. If we’re lucky, most of those life-defining moments are joyous.
For me, the most soul stirring, life-changing moments are the birth of my son and the murder of my father.
The last time Joy photographed our family was 6 short months after my step-brother killed my dad and step-mom in their home. It doesn’t matter why… there is no why. The biggest life lesson that I have carried with me since I got the call from the sheriff in Texas is that everyone has a story and knowing a person’s story makes it easy to empathize with them and impossible to hate them- even my step-brother.
I recently got tattoos on my inner arms and they are anchored by roman numeral dates on my wrists- the birth of my son and the death of my dad. I’m not sure what I believed before my dad died, but ‘Holding on for Life’ by Broken Bells has become our secret language…the way my dad has let me know he is ok. So much so that ‘holding on for life’ is forever tattooed on my arm.
If you hire Joy to take family photos, you probably already feel like you know her because she is so vulnerable and raw with her images and her words…just like an old friend. I never imagined myself crying during our harvest session but when Joy asked about my tattoos (I didn’t have them at our session 3 years ago), the flood gates opened and I cried from grief and happiness and gratitude and heartache and contentment.
It’s been 4 years since I got that call and its part of my story. Most days I don’t have to talk about it but when I do, I can talk about it without tears. But on this day, when Joy spent the day with our family, the tears flowed easily and I want anyone who watches this video to know they are all happy tears because when you experience incredible loss you also become acutely aware of all of your blessings. I’m grateful that Joy was able to capture my blessings and wicked dance moves… tears and all."
HERE IS THE VIDEO. I AM OVERWHELMED WITH EMOTION TO HAVE THE HONOR OF SHARING IT WITH YOU.
Watch it full screen...watch the entire thing... and then come back here and look through the photographs down below.
Music: Tyler Williams, 'Earth, Sky or Ground"
And here are a bunch of my favorite images from our day together at their home in Seattle. It was his first time ever pitching. His mama was so proud.
last month we moved from texas to tennessee. one year prior we had moved from washington to texas. two years before that we called the road our home. and up until then, california was the place where our roots had been firmly planted.
there have been many reasons for the moves… work, adventure, healing. but really, at the heart of it all i believe we have been looking for home.
i lived the first twelve years of my life in the same house in a suburb of los angeles. i had a paper route, filling my bike with papers at 5am on saturdays and knew the name of every family member in every house on the block. i walked home from school everyday. i felt safe. known.
every december my dad and i would walk to the closest park, he would climb up into the tallest branches of the trees and knock down clumps of mistletoe for me to catch below. we would break them into pieces and make little bundles with pretty string for me to sell door to door for a dollar at christmastime. it made me happy.
but then my parents got divorced. things were ugly. my mom and i had to leave that house in a hurry and we moved into an apartment across town. inside of me it felt like i was escaping a fire in slow motion. i knew the safest thing to do was to leave, but as i pressed my face to the glass i could almost see the memories of my childhood turning black. in the twenty four years since, i have been back to that house only a few times. i went alone about five years ago and drove slowly past the house, wondering if anyone looking on in the neighborhood may catch a glimpse of the girl who's heart was formed right there on that corner lot. the apricot tree in the yard with branches once heavy with fruit that squished sticky between my toes as i ran through the grass was no longer there. and i saw a new family moving about through the front window.
i remembered laying in my backyard, looking up, dreaming of my future. my worries were small. my trust was big. my hope was bigger. i've stretched out in the grasses of many "homes" since with trust so small and worries so large that i wasn't sure the earth could hold me. clinging to half burned up memories. wishing to go back to before the fire.
i'm a mother now. sometimes it seems like a dream. because i'm most sure i am still that girl in the grass looking up. and i am. except for now i am a lot more tired and my hair is beginning to turn from brown to gray. and now, i have five little ones looking on. which makes it seem so much heavier and lighter all at once.
i believe i've spent these years since becoming a mother scrambling to find a safe place for my children reminiscent of that one i faintly remember having. but i no longer need to search. the fire that i was convinced had destroyed everything, past and future, had not consumed me. i have a home. and it is them.
i know my children are happy. they feel safe. and donny and i, we are their safe place. the soft grass in which to lay their heads and dream.
last week brandon and i went on a little date to our new local grocery store. it is humble and sweet and i'm most sure everyone we walked by nodded kindly and said hello. we gathered a few items, headed to the casher to check out and as i loaded up our groceries on the counter, i saw it... the mistletoe. it was packaged up in little bundles with pretty string for christmastime. brandon was chattering on and on but all i could hear was my dad's voice calling down from the top of the tree, "sweetheart, you ready to catch it?!" and i stood motionless in the grocery aisle. tears began falling down my cheeks. each one healing the broken earth of my childhood. i have a lot of bad memories. but this one, it is so good.
i paid the checker, gathered our groceries and walked hand in hand with my son to the car. i told him all about that old christmas tradition from when i was a girl and as we pulled into our dirt driveway toward our new little white house with the green shutters beside the creek he said excitedly, "mommy, we should do it here! you and me, let's hunt for mistletoe in our woods!" and i smiled. and he smiled.
beauty from the ashes.
these photographs are from our travels over the past few months across the country; we saw 39 states this year as a family. because we travel half the year for photography, finding a haven for our family as a place to rest and grow has been a hope we have kept close to our hearts. while traveling through tennessee in september we fell in love with a sweet little house on a few acres with a creek running through and were offered a couldn't-pass-up lease to own opportunity. it is a wonderfully central place for our work, about forty minutes north of nashville. we hope to be here for a very long while. you can see the children playing on the land of our new home in the photos at the very end of this post.
I visited Rachel Beachy and her family last month on their breathtaking homestead along the Arkansas River in Central Kansas. Her garden was the closest thing to heaven I've ever stepped into, reminiscent of what I imagine Ma Ingalls must have surely cultivated herself back on the Prairie. I was so taken by Rachel's humility and soft spoken grace and wanted to just sit on that porch a good week straight just soaking in all the wisdom spilling from her soul. I asked her to share about her passion for the soil beneath her feet and all the bounty bursting forth from her homestead.
You'll find her words below...
"I told my husband recently that he makes all my dreams come true. I’ve never dreamt of being a princess and having fancy clothes and a mansion with all the amenities. Rather, my dreams were always to have an old farmhouse with some barns, and a little land to garden and raise some animals. Two and a half years ago, we left a lovely home and community in Pennsylvania, and my dream became our reality here in Kansas.
Gardening is a sacred work to me. it’s a hard, sometimes ugly, painful and can be devastating work. But, it is also the most rewarding, hopeful, fulfilling and breathtakingly beautiful of works. In my garden I find so many life lessons and pictures of God’s work of redemption and grace for my life.
I see over and again how no matter how hard I work, how ‘right’ I do the job, or how perfect a condition I create, God alone gives the increase. God created time and life in a garden and someday I look forward to being in eternity's gardens and learning from the Master of all Gardeners. But, until that day comes, I want to be a good steward of the earth God has entrusted to me.
I want to instill in my children the privilege and responsibility that comes with being given grace we don’t deserve. I want to show them that there is so much pleasure and simple joy that can come from hard work and being willing to exercise our God-given gifts. I want them to learn that God gave us the ability to create beauty and share that with others.
I want them to know that life is a continual changing season and that no matter what season a person is in, God can still use them to bring glory to his name if we are living with purpose.
Purpose is not just a thing you do.
Purpose is something you are, something you give, something to live with meaning.
Purpose takes perseverance.
In Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind”, part of the bridge says this: ‘when those dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized… let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.’ While I don’t use country songs as my guidebook for my life, those words sum up so well how I feel. It’s okay to enjoy the dream, to live the dream, to take pride in the work. But, in midst of those great and good things, to be willing to show humility and kindness.
Humility and kindness never grow old and are always worth pursuing and extending."
Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your heart. What a gift it was so savor your space alongside you that day. - Joy
"Home not is merely a dwelling. It's not merely a state of existence. It's a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story moulded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being."
I spent sunrise til sunset with the Hall family in Minneapolis. Their home is life-giving. Their home is a place for rest and warmth and forgiveness and compassion and healing. And it's not because it's pretty or well kept or organized or clean (even though, yes, it is all of those things).
It is because even in all it's grandness, it is humble.
Their home embodied gentleness. Gentle words spoken in instruction and affirmation. Gentle hands offered to embrace and to create. Gentleness so evidently sowed into every inch of their home. And the harvest of their labor seen in the dear, rich, softhearted friendships held between the girls.
Home is the place where spirits are filled as well as bellies.
Home is where traditions are made and trust is planted.
Home is where courage is learned, grace is given and lovingkindness is cultivated.
This is their home.
I met the Hutchinson family in the wee hours, before the rising of the sun, on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota… the beautiful front yard of the place they call home. Coffee and the sunrise and back to their house for their favorite Saturday morning routine. Alicia, the mama, so graciously wrote out the breathings of her heart to accompany the images I created of her family. Her words are strung throughout the photographs below...
"Growing up, I was never the teenager you’d call to babysit or work in the church nursery. Motherhood was never on my radar. I didn’t play with dolls or pretend to be a mommy.
That life seemed too monotonous for me. I wanted bigger, better, more.
So when two pink lines on a plastic stick stared me in the face at age 19, one month after I graduated high school, I knew I had some mental adjustments to make.
The realization of what I was saying no to because of what I was saying yes to didn’t fully compute until February 26th, 2002 at 2:22pm.
The doctor handed me my brand new baby boy and everything I thought I always wanted silently tiptoed out the door, allowing all the space for my heart to swallow up this perfect human that I never knew I needed.
I realize now how lucky I was to, so early in my life, find out what I was created for.
Years and cross-country moves and so many joys and heartbreaks later, I’ve stretched my heart to fit three more beautiful babies.
I keep waiting for that original desire to creep back in—that yearning I had when I was so young to return and remind me of that other life I thought I wanted.
It never has.
My life isn’t what I had envisioned, but isn’t that always the best? Like the best surprises are the ones you couldn’t have dreamed up yourself?
We have Boy Scout meetings and baseball games. We take spelling tests around the dining room table and mend scraped knees in the bathroom. We make messes in the kitchen and clean it up together. We create models of battlefields and experiments out of vinegar. We go out on the town and we stay in and read on the couch.
We laugh and cry and argue together.
It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty. And I’ve learned in this walk of motherhood that some of the simplest things in this life are some of the most beautiful too.
I look at my son, that same face that changed my life so long ago.
In an instant. In a push. Two new people in one hospital bed.
That same little boy that I kissed and sang to each night, now can shave and look me in the eye and buy songs on iTunes.
That realization that our time with him here, in our home, is quickly dissipating, I question so many things.
Are we laughing enough?
Are we teaching enough?
Are we reading enough?
Are we doing well enough?
Are we loving enough?
The immensity of this parenting gig can swallow you whole if you let it.
But I find that snapshots of the past are all-telling.
An honest look at your everyday can make such a difference in moving forward with expectation and intention.
I can find peace with my little life-changer leaving home because I know we’ve loved him hard and we’ve loved him well. And not just with him, but with all our children...
The way Jack finds his way to his favorite place near my side to cuddle with me. The action is the same, his body just gets bigger.
The way Sophia can let everything go and sing and dance her heart out without fear of feeling silly or embarrassed because we’re all doing it with her.
The way Vera breathes deeper when I pick her up and her moon eyes shine in my direction when she does something well.
The way Noah, my oldest, still wants me to be the last to tell him goodnight and uses that time to tell me what’s on his mind.
The way we all laugh at inside jokes that are only funny to us.
That’s how I know.
That’s how I know that no matter how our parenting career began or how many things I feel I did poorly or how many times I’ve messed things up…I know.
I know that bond with my kids is thick and true.
And I know that even though these years are speeding by too quickly, these children find their home with me—with us.
The days at the lake finding treasures from nature and learning to skip rocks.
The hours by the fireplace reading thousands of pages of books.
The dozens of cookies we bake together.
These are the things we will treasure always. These are the memories we will have forever.
I want to bottle them up, tuck them away in my heart for those days twenty years from now when my house is clean, but holding less people.
I know that when that time comes, I can rest easy.
That no matter what happens, we loved our children well—
and I can hold that dear forever."
(Alicia has inspired me toward a more rich and joyful homeschooling journey, as I know she has for mamas all over. You can find more of her teaching, words and beauty on her blog Investing Love at aliciahutchinson.com.)
I recently spent a day in the breathtaking Siskiyou County in Northern California with the Heffernan family on their 1800 acre ranch, aptly named, Five Marys Farms (with Papa Brian, Mama Mary and their four little Marys in tow). I rose with the sun, roamed through their grassy prairies, ran through thick woods and admired the snow capped mountains surrounding the homestead that was first established in 1858. The day was filled with caring for the animals as a family; Black Angus cattle, Navajo-Churro sheep, Glouchester Old Spot pigs, Red Bourbon turkeys and their 40+ varieties of laying hens as well as the heart filling laughter that poured through every wooden wall of that original grain barn-turned-tiny farmhouse.
This video. Well, the images too.
Can I humbly say that it is my favorite work I've done yet? I love it.
I hope you do too. And mamas, make the video full screen & call in the kiddos because I'm sure they would love to watch as well!
Mary, the mama of Five Marys Farms, so kindly wrote the story of how they recently came to be a farming family and it is pieced throughout the photographs below. This is surely a long, rich post so give yourself time so you can make it all the way to the bottom...
Mary: "Two and a half years ago we were living a busy life in the Bay Area, Brian was a lawyer and I owned a few family based small businesses, and together we owned and operated two restaurants. Brian was raised on a farm in California where his dad farmed trees and row crops and I am a sixth generation Californian with farming roots - so we both always were drawn to the idea of buying a farm to split time between the bustle of Silicon Valley and the wide open California spaces. It was a "someday" dream since we met.
We looked for rural property several times after we were married but nothing ever worked out at the time. The restaurants pushed us to look for really premium meat raised with idyllic small farm husbandry but we could never find the right volume, quality and consistency we needed year round - and so we decided to try and do it ourselves.
We found our ranch by chance - looking primarily for land and water to raise cattle, not really for a place to live (at least at this point in our lives). It all happened quickly and soon we were the owners of a beautiful ranch that needed lots of work, cows and infrastructure. We naively thought we could do both - live a busy life in the city and be weekend warrior ranchers.
We drove up and back to the ranch every weekend for 8 out of 9 weekends - a 6 hour trip each way with four carseated kids in tow. We had lots of "windshield time" together to consider and discuss what we really wanted for ourselves and for our kids. The 8th trip we decided we decided to pick up our life and plant our roots right here on our ranch for good.
We fell in love with this land, with our small town here, with the incredible community of people willing to help us new folks learn the ropes, the local schools, and with everything about working hard together as a family raising animals everyday - with the lifestyle of ranching. We knew this was where we wanted to raise our children and grow old together.
So we sold our businesses, sold our house and have never really looked back.Ranching is no joke - it's work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no time for vacations or days off. We are up with the sun and, since every animal gets fed before we do, usually eat dinner after dark.
There are livestock in my living room and kitchen half the time, my girls are always covered in dirt and my wardrobe consists of blue jeans and torn flannel shirts and boots every day.
The daily ranch to-do list is truly never-ending and there are obstacles and hardships at every turn - back breaking work, broken pipes, drought, flooding and animals that die no matter how hard you work to take care of them. It's unpredictable and raw, with intense emotions in the highs and in the lows.
But when you ask either of us where we'd go if we had the chance for a vacation both of us would honestly answer there is no place we'd rather be than right here experiencing this life together as a family.
If we weren't here everyday - we might miss the wonder of a new baby calf being born, or a newborn lamb learning to walk for the first time, or a squealing little litter of 9 piglets learning to nurse, climbing all over each other. We feel pretty lucky we get to call this life together our own and are very proud of the meat we get to put on other families' tables."
I was so impressed while visiting Five Marys Farms at how the children were never viewed as an imposition. It was the most beautiful thing to watch as parent and child just worked and played alongside one another joyfully.
I was so intrigued and asked Mary to share a bit about how they've instilled such a thoughtful nature and work ethic into their children and she wrote her heart out in the most beautiful post on her Five Marys Farms blog… mamas, I promise her words will encourage your weary hearts and inspire you to reach your children right where they are at rather than fitting into another family's mold.
Find her most recent blogpost as well as info on how to order their farm raised products (to ship nationwide!) on their website here.
"Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above,
Praise the mount - I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be,
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander - Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart - O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above."
- Robert Robinson, hymn written is 1758
Mae, the radiant mother in these images, offered these words about her heart just after the photo session...
"We are in a season of always needing Grace.
Grace that covers half-hearted measures of attention to my girls. Grace that covers overheated tempers with my husband. Grace that covers blood deep desires to see my name renowned above my Savior's. Grace that covers receiving more from my friends than I am giving. Grace that pulls me closer to the cross despite my intense efforts of pushing away in laziness.
It's hard to allow yourself to be fully laid open in front of someone else to photograph, to not be in complete control of the image that is being presented to the world. It brings me to a level of vulnerability that I demand from my family, clients, and friends, but may not be fully prepared to rise to myself. But Joy knows. Joy knows this Grace deep, it's the same that covers her, and under that Grace she was present with us. Exactly where we are, our need and all. Thank you, Joy, for this literal image of the presence of this Glorious Grace in my life as a woman, wife, mother, Daughter of the Most High King and Servant Savior."
Mae, I saw you.
I saw you hold the faces of your babies and kiss the forehead of your husband and laugh through all the tears.
And it was so very beautiful.
"Courage is fear that has said it's prayers." - Dan Allender
This family is courageous.
Not the kind of courageous that roars and makes itself known, but the kind that humbly shows up everyday calling on holy strength to suffocate all the darkness.
Everywhere they go they take along their nature journals. Documenting the small traces of grace in nature, recording the majesty in the oftentimes overlooked traces of miracles.
Hope documented. The maple leaf turning gold as the season shifts, the dandelion seeds in the breeze, the last ripe apple left on the tree as the chill of winter whispers through the bare branches. These traces of hope giving way to a deep and ever-present peace.
They know that this life is a fragile one.
They know that not every day is a giddy leaf throwing October celebration, but that each day is worth mustering up courage to fight for the good.
the words throughout this post were written by katie...
"God has shaped such a story within this heart,
and to think He planned for my messy mixed all-over the place colors
to create something unreal with Parker’s clean brushes.
It is such a privilege to love this boy.
An honor to be a part of his moments. Forever.
He is my miracle and somehow he says I am his.
When it's a gift from God, your entire life is somehow flung into His freedom.
I just can't stop falling for the precious little traces of Heaven that run through his veins.
I pray I never understand the vastness of this gift.
Because miracles can't be understood.
Just believed, day in and day out, as the world wonders what wires us.
It sure is easy to be confident and safe in our skin,
when we know how beautifully broken we are.
Our cracks are only more vibrant, as He seals them with gold!
Love is a gift.
A gift from God, who does cartwheels when He sees us love the way love should be loved.
The past three years have been the hardest - years of loss and losing - yet years of so much good.
That alive, rich beyond money, "His Good" kind-of-good.
We have no solid plans -
on where we will live, where our careers will take us,
or even sometimes when we will see one another again after saying goodbye for the week.
While most would be frantic about this, we are so free.
Free to be free in His plans for us,
because freedom is so worth the faith fall."
When we arrived in Washington, two years and three months ago, we had merely picked a place on the map and jumped. Drawn to the fresh air, the tall trees and the fog that settled low on the mountains. It was a place to rest, a safe place to grow. We planted seeds and waited through the cold winter. Far from anything and anyone familiar. We wrestled. We surrendered and held our breath awaiting spring. In that cold, as husband and wife, we dug deep into past hurts and saw that although we had been on the adventure together, for so long we had been walking alone. In that moment we chose to fight hard for the good. The light persisted, breaking down all our walls; it was hope. It was gentleness. We began to document all of our gratitude flowing out of the struggle and our list of thanks grew and grew. Our seeds took root and blossomed. Warmth opened the petals and we saw one another anew. The soft springtime breeze carried that love into every corner of our darkness until only hope remained. In April we renewed sacred vows, bare toes in the meadow with the laughter of our children as our melody of grace in all the days that followed. With an undeserved gift woven from all the broken threads being knit together within me, a baby boy. Redemption.
For the first time in our marriage we prayed together. We listened for guidance. And over time we felt a calling to step out, from the mossy forest to a land drenched in warmth. A season for all things new, as we no longer need a place to burrow in; but a place to give, to share, to build community, and to hold our faces up to the sun and exhale. Hearts engulfed, souls exposed, arms open wide, control released, prayers lifted up, we took the leap. With my belly ripe and expectancy hanging thick, we held tight to each other and the calling that whispered from deep within. And now we are here, in the Texas Hill Country, all seven of us, this new tiny babe cooing sweetly upon my chest. We aren't clear as to what the next chapter holds but we know we must choose gentle words, tenderness and humility to light the way. And for now, we bask in evenings flooded with pink sunsets and wide open skies, giving thanks for the abundant mercy raining down all around us.
Here are photographs of our days so far here in Texas… the first half expectant for a miracle and the second half savoring our new baby boy.
on january 1st, the day ushering in all things new, our son was born. smith james prouty. 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 19 inches long. born in the living room of our new home in the wee hours of the morning.
first… their wedding film! be sure to watch it full screen in HD and then afterward scroll down to see our favorite photographs from their glorious day.
they were married in a magical mossy land of tree houses adorned with hand painted whimsy (by katie, of course), wildflowers tucked into every inch, fig and honey drenched desserts on display, layered homespun attire, butterflies, vines and wild berries woven throughout, with a custom crafted signature whiskey (from eli's family's distillery) with the given name 'the golden age' which was also the theme of this glorious event. the rain poured down and they let it drip from their hair and lashes as they exchanged vows beneath the towering old growth forest, and as the day turned to night each guest put on their wild animal mask of choice and danced until the wee hours beneath twinkle lights and watercolored blooms. each detail was breathtaking but it was the warmth of the people present who made that chilly autumn day feel like the peak of summer. 'the golden age' is defined as: an idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness… oh, and it was.
“When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” ― Mary Oliver
these two lovers, jessica and robert, they savor life to the last drop. he is a writer and she is an artist and together they are now on the brink of new life with inspiration bursting from the seams. i had the honor of photographing their wedding a few years back where i saw each detail heartsewn together into a great tapestry that was wrapped around them and warms them now as they embrace this next chapter. they drove up to petaluma, ca from los angeles while i was in northern california last month and we met in the flower fields, basked in the setting sun and watched the moon rise high above the wheat fields. i can say i saw it then and feel it now, these two are no doubt married to amazement.
This beautiful mama, Alea, wrote a little background as to the reason for this session and their specific location choice. Here are her warm words...
"I don't know what Heaven is going to look like. But there is a part of me that believes that Heaven will look different to each one of us. God has designed our hearts so unique from the other which is why are heart's stirrings are uniquely our own.
My husband and I met in college and we found our common ground was a love for Hawaii, and its beautiful islands. How we loved the mountains, the ocean, and the places where the two meet. Hawaii was a place for each of us where our hearts grew and we truly discovered the beauty of our creator. Since then, he and I have traveled back to Hawaii as a place to find rest, sanctuary, adventure, romance, beauty and a reminder of our one wild precious life.
We had longed to bring our four girls across the pacific, so they too, could see a part of their parent's hearts. So, we planned, we packed, and we went. We wanted the girls to dive into the culture and experience it fully, so we stayed for 5 weeks. It was incredible to wake up each day with the anticipation of what was in store. We hiked down crazy trails, we had to be really brave, we swam with the fish, searched for sea turtles, climbed down rocks, jumped in waterfalls, took naps in the sand, made friends with strangers, ate tons of shave ice, put flowers in our hair, surfed the waves, traveled through off beaten paths, ate pineapples, and mangos, and guava, some right off the tree, and watched the sun set over the horizon, and soaked it all up, with hearts full, ready to do it all again the next day. It was truly an adventure, and one that I hope my girls will be able to look back and remember how their parents took a risk to allow them to experience.
The place for this session was a place off the beaten path that my husband and I had found when he and I had come out to celebrate our ten year anniversary and where we renewed our vows. It was special to us, and we so thankful to share it with our girls. All our loves in one beautiful place. Joy captured such treasures for us, and gave us such beautiful reminders of our summer under the palm trees. - Alea"
"Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. Its not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary. He simply invites us. God asks what it is He's made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, "Let's go do that together." -Bob Goff
i received an email earlier this year from a mother asking if she could fly me to her home in hawaii for a harvest session…
I sought you out to capture this time for us because I know that this time may not last forever. This is perhaps the last year I will be able to stay at home full time with my girls. The most important thing to both my husband and I is to try and give our children our unconditional love and presence. We aren’t winning any awards on the financial front, but seeing the confidence that my girls have and how happy and sweet they are makes my heart burst. It makes all of the hard work feel so worth it, though sometimes it feels like we’re trying to bail a sinking ship. It’s such a precious time together and I’m so grateful for it. I see this session as an investment in remembering this incredible gift of having this time with my girls. I don’t need new clothes, but I do need to remember this. Plus, I have a crazy fear that if something should ever happen to me and I wasn’t able to raise my girls, that they perhaps wouldn't know how much I loved them and how hard we worked to give them our best. We really don’t have many family photos and I almost don’t exist in any of them. The girls are still so young. They don’t know how many nights I’ve gone without sleep when they’re feverish or how my sole motivation for every single decision first revolves around them. They wouldn’t know this love either if I was gone tomorrow, because what tangible piece of evidence is there to show them in my home? So, it was my hope with this harvest session is that you would be able to capture a little piece of our enormous love in cinema and photograph. I truly think you’re the only person that could see the beauty in our humble struggle.
i went last month. and although we were in a tropical paradise, the only beauty i could see was the intense bond of this family. stormy may have been fearful that her love had a chance of not being remembered, but i know without an inkling of doubt that even one tiny seed of this kind of love could reap endless fields of assured unending harvest. there may have only been one plumeria tree in their yard but when i closed my eyes the aroma was as strong an as entire orchard.
"Love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm And I'll be my brother's keeper So the whole world would know that we're not alone.
It's waiting for you knocking at your door In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor And you're on your knees.
Love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm And I'll be my brother's keeper So the whole world would know that we're not alone.
This is the first day of the rest of your life 'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light It's gonna be alright."
-Song lyrics by Matt Maher, Hold Us Together.
i could easily write a novel about my love for this family. we first met when they hired me to photograph them at their home in new york last year while also graciously inviting my whole family to have a slumber party weekend with them while traveling on the road. together, our kids caught minnows in their lake, ran through tall grass, searched for bear tracks at golden hour and shared pancakes and heart stories in the wee hours of the morning. we all quickly became good friends and they surely took up permanent residence inside my heart. the way they live is, in itself, a ministry. they bleed such beautiful grace, and it is shown in their determination to keep marching onward, together. i had the honor of photographing them again a few weeks ago during my bloomville, new york workshop at the turquoise barn and i could not have possibly imagined a better example of authentic gratitude for my attendees to learn from than them.
the above song lyrics, they told me, have been their family's anthem this past year and what strength there are in those words; making the everyday beautiful and whole no matter what the season... Love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm. And I'll be my brother's keeper so the whole world would know that we're not alone.
Full 8 page article published in Artful Blogging Magazine - Aug/Sept/Oct 2015
by Joy Prouty
"A daydream is a musing or fantasy while awake, a fulfillment of wishes, a fond hope. I have made it my goal to find ways to crawl within my children’s daydreams and chase after this fond hope. Taking part of their imaginative play and making it my own has deepened my art and enabled my once heavy heart to grasp ahold of a world full of everyday magic and wonder. I love the wild, messy, unrehearsed tales knit together by dandelions and the capes made of towels pulled down from the clothesline as they act out their stories, wearing crowns weaved from cherry blossoms by dirt caked hands.
Hope is the thing that keeps us going, that allows us to not fall into a weary slumber of discouragement and despair. I’ve been there, I’ve experienced despair, and I have had seasons where I considered the idea that perhaps the darkness was the place my most “authentic” art would be found, but there was always a pulling within my soul toward the light. Light is, in truth, the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. Trying to feel my way in the dark had only led me to stumble. I began to remember that childlike faith was always my lantern, the illumination to my path.
I sat beneath our willow tree last week and watched my children at play, completely free as they sang melodies to the birds and spoke of the tales that spun in their minds. Their happiness was not dependent upon achievements or recognized success; joy was found merely by grabbing hold of the low hanging leaves of the willow tree, swinging from one branch to the next. I ran inside to grab my camera, knowing that the photographs taken would act as visual gratitude lists to look back upon on future weary days. There was a time not long ago where I had made a conscious choice not to pick up my camera, but in the midst of that season I also missed all the joy, and it was the eventual recognition of everyday gratitude present in the midst of that struggle that pulled me out of it. When I quiet my mind to take notice of the details in our days, with no other reason except to pursue being present, I am always drawn to the bright spots. When I close my mouth and take my lens cap off, I allow myself to listen. That is what photographs have always been for me: stepping stones into a place of clarity.
It is so easy to get lost within the traffic of my mind: the to-do lists, the endless burdens of grown-up obligations and worry that has the ability to consume any shred of creativity lurking beneath. It’s really just fear of the unknown in pretty packaging. But when I allow myself to exhale and take notice of my place in nature without obligation to technology or hustle, I can literally feel the stress drip out of my body and the inspiration begin to flow from within like a river. This is when the art comes. I join my children in their fairytales, I envision a castle in the sky, a lilypad beneath my head and instead of staring at my phone, I look up, I try to find a picture in a cloud and allow myself to laugh and actually feel the depth of the pleasure. I make sure I have my camera always nearby to document that cloud; another bright spot of hope to add to my treasure chest of gratitude.
I spend so many hours working in our garden with the children; it has been the most filling version of meditation for me. Last summer, when we preserved our food, I found the sweetest jams came from the fruit allowed to ripen on the vine the longest. My sweet pea flowers had their most lovely aroma once fully in bloom. And my brussels sprouts, if picked too soon, were too bitter to taste. It was all about needing enough time to mature.
The season that is unrushed has the most beautiful harvest.
My photography has come full circle, and in the digging I have realized that the strongest inspiration for my art has always been in the simplicity of childhood. After years of working tirelessly to infuse creativity into my business, I turned a corner not long ago and now allow myself to indulge in daydreaming and let my creativity lead my business. As I have dug in deeper, clients have followed along, making the business side of things no longer feel like work, and allowing my art to flourish from a more rich, personal place. When I lift my camera to my eye, I don’t always aim to get the perfect exposure, but more, I look for a creative way to show hope illuminated. When I compose a photograph to be shared, I yearn to plant seeds of inspiration in the viewer to seek out wonder in their own surroundings. This beauty is always found within, in the capacity of one’s willingness to breathe in a moment and exhale, conjuring up daydreams in the mundane everyday."
*magazine is currently available at local bookstores and magazine stands!
"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."
- Laura Ingalls Wilder
i first met katie daisy years ago, purely as the artist that i had admired from afar and whose soulful paintings i looked upon in my home as inspiration to breathe deeply throughout my days. from that time, our connection grew and i had the honor of documenting her with her fiancé eli among the aspens and wildflowers in bend, oregon, the town they met and fell in love. within katie i saw a passion grow, a depth and sensitivity towards this man and a freedom in sharing life alongside another. her heart had begun to swell and it was undeniably reflected not only in her art but in her spirit. and now, in my my recent trip to bend, their two hearts, now sewn together, had grown tenfold as they had welcomed a new bloom to their garden… sweet little finn. and in katie i saw a raw beautiful vulnerability unravel. where once there may have been a pondering and a quiet, i now saw an open spilling out of overwhelming pure selfless ever-expanding love. it was motherhood. she was now the sheltering tree that had grown to shade the tiny being before her while still swaying ever so gently in the breeze, allowing nature and her beloved to lead her spirit forward.
i spent the day and evening in the place they call home; their cabin in the woods, with a river running just beside it, surrounded by wildflowers, tall ferns and the so very present aroma of contentment flowing through. it was a relaxing family morning in the cabin, followed by adventuring, and then when eli went to work in the afternoon i had the gift of seeing katie at work in her studio, with sweet finn snoozing on her back. melodies poured from their home all day… some from the radio, some created by eli, a few sung sweetly by katie to the babe on her breast, but mostly i heard the humming of nature all around them and the way it almost radiated from within them.
"Yes, I need you, my fairytale. Because you are the only person i can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought - and about how, when i went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of it's seeds."- Vladimir Nabokov