Wednesday, December 31, 2014


If I don't pause to look back and remember then I will surely forget.
If I don't take the time to see where I have come from I have much less appreciation for where I am currently at.
If I don't stop to reflect I miss the richness of all that I have gained in the valleys and all I have celebrated on the mountain tops.
You won't find me complaining, but neither will you find me re-writing the truth to exclude the hard things. Instead you will find me telling our story in all honesty, hard parts and all, but in a way where every time I look back and I can clearly see that God redeems every. single. thing. and works it for our good. Always.

So I sit still. And I look back. 2014. We have grown, oh how we have grown. We have been saved all over again. And we have welcomed into a wide open-arm embrace these full and raw and joyful and painful emotions, all vying for the front of our hearts at the same time. We have lived full and we have lived wide awake. I am thankful for 2014, but I leave it behind in a strange sort of way... It has grown me and changed me in ways I wouldn't trade for anything, but I kind of hope 2015 is a bit smoother of a ride.

So let's start at the beginning.

Last January we were in a scary place as a family. We didn't even know it, but we were at a crossroads, and we were starting down a path that looked innocent enough to us, but now stepping back from it all and seeing it for what it was, that path led to a dark place, and it is no wonder I felt all the questions and hesitancy in my spirit during that time. It was nothing so obvious or terrible, but it was a choosing of the world over a choosing of heaven. And little choices that take us away from the Lord can lead to bigger choices that take us somewhere we never intended to go. Maybe you remember the hardest week of motherhood I've experienced yet  that came at me out of nowhere last January while Shaun was away on a business trip. That week culminated in Drew's febrile seizure, an ambulance ride to the hospital, finally getting my husband back from his trip across the country, only there were hard things we were working through in marriage in the midst of all that which God has totally healed and mended now, but I still choose to keep private. What you might not know though, because I never shared it on here before is that in the first week of February Drew had another, afebrile seizure in his sleep. I can hardly bring myself to go back, and yet it was during all this that God totally re-directed our family and "saved us all over again..." and so even though it makes me feel like I might suffocate under the weight of that deep terror that I fought off with all my might that night as I drove him to the hospital again, in the middle of an ice storm no less, and stifled wave after wave of panic attacks and thoughts like "I can't live without my Drew bug..." as I remember calling friends from church, fighting back tears, begging for prayer that fear would not overtake me as I faced the unknowns, as I held Drew in the lobby of the e.r., him so sleepy, but finally awake enough to communicate, as we looked at the fish swimming in the tank together and I pushed back every nightmarish thought trying to break down the doors of my mind and instead named the colors of the fish with Drew and soaked in his precious little voice, the feel of his hands around my neck, his head resting on my chest.... I also remember the beauty of coming home around 3:00 a.m. (my dad drove me home through the worst of the ice storm so I could come back to nurse Jaden, and Shaun came to stay the night at the hospital with Drew) and coming into a dark and quiet house to find Shaun's Bible sitting open on the counter, post-it notes inside it scribbled with his thoughts and prayers as he waited to hear from me in the e.r. And with Jaden sleeping in my arms I broke down in the kitchen, tears streaming from my eyes at the beautiful, tender, and yet bold words he had written in his desperation. I finally fell asleep that night listening to branches in the huge trees in our back yard snapping under the weight of the ice, landing on our fence and fracturing it in several places, but with a peace that God saw us and was holding us. After several days at the hospital we chose not to go through with recommended tests after they saw an abnormality on an eeg, we proclaimed the words the Lord had spoken to us over Drew, we brought him home, we keep close watch over him when we first put him to bed, and he has been fine ever since. And he will continue to be fine. I remember when Shaun called me to tell me about the abnormality on the eeg, panic totally seized me again and Isaiah came walking into the kitchen at that moment singing his little heart out "DEATH IS BEATEN, LOVE HAS CONQUERED, WE HAVE THE VICTORY!!!" God reassured us in every possible way that He had us in His hands, that everything was going to be alright, that we could trust Him. And so we did. And the victories we experienced, in our marriage, in Drew, in our family, in every area of our life really, as we put our complete faith in Jesus all over again was undeniable. Everything changed. We were re-born, again. We have continually filled our home with worship, we have fixed our eyes on the Lord and removed all other idols, and the peace we have experienced is so, so deep. I remember the day Drew came home from the hospital, my sister called to see how things were going, and in the background she could hear Drew and Isaiah fighting... they were both trying to get things out of the refrigerator at the same time and battling over who had control of the door, and Randi and I were both laughing because we had never been so happy to hear the two of them fighting. Life is such a matter of perspective.

February. My best friend in the world, my sister, moved away. But here again, in her moving God did so much. First, I realized more fully just how much I appreciate my baby sister. Second, God used her absence along with other situations to unveil deeper issues in my heart and to bring me to a place where I depend on His love and affirmation alone for my fulfillment. And lastly and most importantly, her moving ultimately led to her and Nate's marriage, and it is the most beautiful and wonderful thing ever. I feel so close to her even though there's distance and the every day life isn't happening alongside each other, it is such a cool thing to be intentional in my phone calls, my questions, to know that the miles can't stop the memories, and to feel her intentionality in doing the same for me. There is this really sweet and warm feeling to know that we both matter to each other, and to feel the effort we are both putting in. Also in february Shaun and I went out for our valentines date to a local pizza shop and had the best heart to heart talk ever, the one that really set the tone for all the changes that began and continued through this past year.

March. I turned twenty seven. We began to get back into a normal groove of life. I did my first photo shoot since having Jaden, and from that point on was always fully booked through the end of the year, which is more than I could have possibly hoped for. (Thank you so much to all of you who trusted me and hired me for your photos this past year!!) April and May found me painting different rooms in our home, working on photography, contemplating simplifying life.... (still a work in progress!!) We also were part of a church wide fast in April leading up to Easter that totally re-vamped my perception of fasting and was an awesome time for us that solidified the direction we were heading. And at the end of May Shaun's sister and her husband moved here from Kansas City, began completely renovating and updating a house on his parents' farm, and we've gotten the privilege over the past seven months of doing life with Shaun's family as a complete family unit. I love it so much. I truly have the best in-laws. They are not just family, they are friends. I've especially loved getting to know Brittany's husband Tre in a daily life sort of way. I really, really admire his integrity, trustworthiness, conviction, honesty, energy for the Lord... the list could go on. Tuesday night family dinners at Shaun's parents' house are so special to me, and a beautiful constant in this season of life.

June ushered in a season of one celebration after another. I went with my little brother to help him pick out a ring for Mary. Right after buying the ring we had a family vacation in Sanbridge, which was just an absolutely wonderful, amazing, refreshing time where I really felt we were coming into a new season. When we came home I got to photograph my brother's engagement, which was the biggest honor ever. A few weeks later, over fourth of July weekend, my sister got engaged also, and an October wedding was planned for my brother, a December wedding for my sister. That of course meant bridal showers in September and November, along with the fall celebrations of Isaiah's third birthday, Drew's fifth birthday , Jaden's first birthday, and our seventh anniversary, not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course. Drew started pre-school, and normal life didn't stop during that time either. ;)
The best thing in the world for me in this season was learning to enjoy and be present in the moment without letting the stress of tomorrow and all the things I still had left on my to-do list steal from me. I'm not saying it went flawlessly, or that I learned my lesson once and then skipped through the rest of the year without feeling the weight of any stress. It was a daily choosing, a taking charge of my emotion and attitude, deciding what I would focus on and where my joy would come from. I didn't always succeed, but I made huge strides of progress. I learned that thankfulness and expressing gratitude are the key to switching off negativity and switching on optimism and joy. 

In every moment of every event, whether it was celebration or tears, I felt Jesus right there with me. The promise that nothing will come into my life that He won't use for my good. 
I am beyond thankful for the past 365 days.
For the lives of my loved ones.
For the beauty that can be found in every day.
For my husband, my wonderful, adorable, humorous and loving husband. :)
For the faithfulness of Jesus. 

A Happy New Year to you! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blue Christmas

Last week I shared some different red holiday outfits... it seems this week I was feeling the blue. :)
Bright vibrant blues feel fresh and wintery all at the same time.
And forgive me, my mirror needs cleaned but every time I wipe it down it takes minutes, maybe just seconds before Jaden has pulled himself up at it and is banging his sticky little fingers all over it again. And I just might think the baby prints are cute. So look past the smudges please. ;)
Fair Isle print is one of my favorites in the winter time.
Fair Isle Cardigan: AE forever and ever ago
Slouchy White tee: H&M
Dark Jeggings: AE
Flats: J. Crew

This top was a Christmas gift from last year, but was too small at the time and now fits. It is nice and long in the back and has a zipper in the front, fun little details :) It pretty much takes me a year to lose my baby weight. Usually just in time to get pregnant again. And no, I'm not announcing anything! 
Tunic Top: Target
Black leggings: Express
Black Boots: DSW
I've been getting lots of questions on my hair lately... mainly: "are those extensions?" and when I say no then "how does it get so long?"
Thinking of sharing a "hair post" in the near (but probably after Christmas) future... :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas House 2014

This year things stayed pretty simple here for Christmas. Simple but cozy, with natural greens, furs, and metallics mixed in. I used lots of boxwood decorations in for my sister's bridal shower, and I just re-used them as Christmas decor then too. I don't have photos of the outside this year, but if you were coming to our front door you'd see gold ornaments hanging in our red berry tree, garland and lights on the lamp post, a white light reindeer on the lawn (he is drew's favorite) more garland and lights on the porch railing, and more gold ornaments in a cluster hanging from a shepherd's hook. From outside you come into the living room. And that's where I'll start. :)

You can read the story of the "all is calm" sign here
The living room mantle. I like to keep it simple and symmetrical these days. I had this old, collapsible ruler I found in Shaun's great-aunt's garage when we were cleaning it out a few years ago. I was showing Drew how it worked just before Thanksgiving when I realized I could shape it into the star of David. Thus this Christmas decoration came to be. :) A few pillar candles and a tin pail of boxwood on either side. 

My mom gave me this adorable little jar with the vintage car and Christmas tree on top from my favorite shop- Fresh Vintage by Amy. It's on the mantle now too since I took those previous pictures. 

On top of our tv cabinet is our nativity. This is the first year I've had a barn for it. This one was made by my Poppop, and is so special to me. Besides the lights in the nativity there are white lights hanging inside the window as well and the living room is so cozy at night :) 
This leather recliner was given to us by our neighbors the week of Thanksgiving... they were getting a new recliner and asked if we wanted this one. So blessed. 
Cable knit pillow covers... I have an old sweater I am going to make into another pillowcase. I had intentions of doing so before Christmas, but it might just have to wait until after. 
More fur. And nuts. I'm looking for a cool old silver nutcracker. Those things take time :) 

Mr. Bearskin rug. He never looks smooth on the floor like this for long... He was one of the boys Christmas gifts from my parents last year and he is often draped over top of one of the boys when they pretend that they are a bear... :) 

My favorite cute little pointsettia pillow from my sister-in-law in our little kid chair :) 

Moving down the hallway... I couldn't find my wire card holder that I usually hang for the holidays, so I just started using some black and white polka dot tape to hang them around this baby boxwood wreath on our basement door. I love it :) 
This is our first year having mistletoe hanging in the hall! Drew often stands under it and looks up and says "mommy! look where I'm standing!" And waits for me to come kiss him :) :) 
And into the kitchen/dining room. Table top. Those little tea lights are now in tiny mercury glass cups from pottery barn but I didn't take an updated phot. :) 

The buffet is my favorite, but it's hard to get a good photo of it because it's in a tight space. These really don't do it justice. But there is a boxwood garland wrapped in white lights, tiny tree hung with bronze mercury glass ornaments, my vintage silver tea service that my dad got me from a flea market when I was in middle school (I couldn't find it though until this year on thanksgiving night I found it in a box in their basement! I was so excited!) tin reindeer ornament, our Christmas card, mirror I made from an old window frame, target wreath, woodwick candle... 

And just added into the decor since my sister's wedding are all these beautiful white flowers!! hydrangeas, roses, peonies... so gorgeous. 
Now, if you turn and go back through the basement door that's hung with all the Christmas cards and down into our family room you'll find the heart of Christmas... Our stockings and Christmas tree. 
I love our tree so much. It is not a themed tree. It is not done in all white lights (as is my preference). It is not even a real tree (also my preference). But it is hung with memories, ornaments from my Mommom and Poppop's first Christmas in the 50's. decorated by all of us, and it is so beautiful to me! I love it more than ever this year.
I let each boy choose an ornament each year, or I pick one for them that represents something that happened that year. This year Isaiah picked rudolph. 
Jaden got a baseball, because "ball-ball" is one of his first and most used words. (Now to keep him from grabbing the ball-ball off the tree and throwing it...) 
And Drew got a backpack because he started pre-school this year. 

There are a few more decorations in Drew and Saiah's room... their charlie brown tree, the snow globes we made last year, a tiny nativity, and a bucket of throw-able "snow balls"... but I didn't take photos of those this year. I loved last years decorations, the homemade wreath I hung from the ceiling and all the fresh greenery I added everywhere, but this year between work and my sister's wedding I didn't quite have the time for those extra things. The house feels cozy and Christmas-y just the same though, and I feel at rest and content. :) 

This year, especially the fall, has been crazy in a good way. And even though the busy-ness doesn't subside in the up-coming days, I'm looking forward to quieting my heart. I love to think of the moon shining down on a darkened stable, middle of the night, a birth story maybe similar to many of our own, Mary bringing a crying baby boy into the world, holding him to her chest in wonder... what does it feel like to hold the infant Son of God? I get chills down my arms just thinking of it. I want to hang on to those tingling feelings of amazement as I celebrate my Savior, making himself vulnerable, making himself human, coming to us as one of us in order to know us and relate to us and form an even closer and stronger relationship. Ultimately coming to lay His life down for us. I wonder if Mary knew just what would happen to her tiny baby one day. I wonder if she cried for the future she knew would come to Him. I will never stop loving Him. Thank you Jesus for what you did. 

(Just in case you want to see two years ago's Christmas house, here's the link to that too.) 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Matron of Honor Speech for my baby sister's wedding

A lot of you probably already know Randi & Nate's connection and how they met... It's a pretty cool story, cause he lived in Virginia, she lived in Pa, but their moms had been room mates in college so they knew each other as kids, then reconnected as adults.
But I would bet that most of you don't know my husband Shaun's connection to Nate, and it's an equally, if not even cooler story that just totally proves that Nate and Randi were meant to be.... You see my husband's mom's best friend's brother's daughter was Nate's childhood babysitter.... See? They were OBVIOUSLY meant to be.

No but in all seriousness, I just need to tell you a few stories that really give testimony to God's goodness and faithfulness in Randi & Nate's lives. Randi has always wanted to get married, and to have a family. That is her dream. But there was this problem that always stood in her way. Every time she would be about to go on a date with someone she'd be getting ready, putting on her make up or blow drying her hair, and all of the sudden she'd be about to throw up. We called it the pre-date sickness. Whoever he was would show up at the door, and Randi would beg my mom to go tell him she couldn't go, and make him leave. Of course, trying to help her realize the dream, we would force her out the door. Then she'd go on the date, and she'd come home, and whoever he was would not get another chance. Either he wasn't tall enough, or he didn't love the Lord, or he was too unstable, or he wore dirty white shoes, or he would show up to her basketball game without being invited, or he didn't wash his car, or he would try to hold her hand without knowing her well enough, or he would come on too strong and call her the next day... All very valid reasons not to get a second date, right? Somewhat hopelessly my mom and I would joke that we would know when the right guy came along if she didn't feel sick at the thought of going on a date with him.

So when I asked Randi in the fall of 2012 if there was anyone she could ever picture at the end of the aisle, and she said "I thought maybe Nate", I started wracking my brain going back through all the dates and trying to remember which one was Nate. I finally said, "Nate who??" And she said "Nate Rhoad, we've never gone on a date but I thought I could picture him at the end of the aisle." Woah! However, I knew in order for this to ever be a reality Nate would have to pursue her, and she would never even give him a hint she was interested unless he started pursuing her, and as of then they lived 5 hours apart and had only seen each other once since they were kids. So God would really need to do his thing. I just kind of tucked that random conversation away, and it was the perfect one to pull back out for today. :)

A few months later, winter of 2013, a lot of Randi's friends were in serious relationships or getting engaged, and Randi still hadn't gone on a date that didn't make her want to throw up. But her attitude in that season is what really stands out to me. Shaun was on a business trip, and I took my boys and spent the night at my parents house, and I remember Randi telling me that night how all she really needed was just to be happy for her friends as they found their future husbands, and to just find joy in watching their dreams unfold. No jealousy, no bitterness, just one hundred percent rejoicing with her friends as her dream played out in their lives. It was the most amazing and beautiful thing. I remember feeling so incredibly proud of her in that moment.

Fast forward a few months more, to April of 2013. Randi got an invitation to Virginia Beach. From Nate. And she went. AND SHE DIDN'T FEEL SICK EVEN ON THE FIVE HOUR DRIVE TO GET THERE!!! I mean, this was a big deal. My mom and I were ecstatically hopeful, but trying not to be too obvious in order not to scare Randi with our excitement. And when Randi and my parents left to come home after that first weekend, Nate hugged her and told her to keep in touch. And Randi got in the car and as soon as they were out of the driveway she exploded to my parents "Keep in touch??! What does that mean??!" Within an hour and half though Nate texted her for the first time. She was every bit as ecstatic as my mom and I hoped she would be. Days later they had their first phone conversation, and weeks later their first Skype chat. Nate never came on too strong, never scared Randi away, but consistently and gently pursued her, and every.single.event. of their relationship was a huge milestone. I'm fairly certain he always wears clean shoes and washes his car too, but I know for a fact that even if he didn't it wouldn't change the way Randi feels about him. By the second time Randi went to visit, Nate said he knew he wanted to marry her. And I have been one of the privileged who got a front row seat to watching my baby sister's dreams unfold more beautifully than she could have ever imagined.

And even though these past 10 months since my best friend moved away have been so, so hard, I wouldn't change a single thing if it means she gets to be with Nate. Because they are so very clearly meant for each other, and their faithfulness to the Lord and to each other is a blessing to everyone they know. Randi- I could not be anymore proud of you, or any happier for you. Your patience and steadfastness brought you to this point, and you deserve every bit of it. Nate- I seriously couldn't imagine a better guy for my sister. I admire your love for the Lord, your authenticity, and your integrity. We are so excited to have you become part of our family today.

To Nate & Randi

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Outfit Ideas

Just thought it would be fun to put together a post of some ideas for fun holiday outfits made up of pieces you might already have that aren't your typical "wear a red sweater for Christmas." Not that there's anything wrong with red sweaters, they're great! These are just a little bit more unexpected ways to wear red, but still feel festive. :)   

Outfit one: A red skirt. A little more unexpected than a red top. Keep it casual with a tucked in t-shirt, pair it with a button down, a cream sweater or both layered together. Add some sparkly jewelry to take it to a fancier level. Heels for the evening event, boots or booties for day time, totally versatile. 
I wore it with a tucked in polka dot button down and a pretty statement necklace and earrings.

Button down: target
Red skirt: express 
boots: Steve Madden
Necklace & Earrings: J. Crew

Outfit two: wearing a cranberry or wine color is a less obvious way to stay in the red family, but be a little more obscure about it.
I love the clean lines of this shirt and the added detail of lace and gold buttons at the wrists and neck. Cranberry looks good on most everyone. I love it paired with dark skinnies and boots or booties. I added some more gold sparkle with a necklace and ring from H&M- only $5.95 each!! (These were recent purchases- if you're looking for some fun gold jewelry they had lots of options!)

Top: Nordstrom Rack 
Jeans: AE
Boots: Steve Madden
Jewelry: H&M 

Outfit three: Do you own a little red sundress? What about pairing it with an over-sized cardigan and some booties to give it new life in the winter-time? 
Red Dress: Ross
Cardigan: CottonOn
Booties: Aldo

This was a fun challenge for me to look in my closet and find things I already had that I could wear in new ways at this time of year. The only really recent purchase was the gold jewelry from H&M, the red skirt for example I've had for 7+ years, the cranberry shirt for over 2 years, the booties for 6 years, the sundress for 2 years, etc. 
Maybe you can have fun putting together some red (or cranberry!) pieces you never thought to wear for the holidays too :) 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jaden Saylor: 13 Months

I took these photos back in October, just a few days after Jaden turned one on the twenty first. I had a few minutes on a gray misty morning while Drew was at school, and I took Isaiah and Jaden and a little wooden rocking chair that was Shaun's mom's when she was a little girl and a few apples to a cul-de-sac in our neighborhood and took pictures for about 15 minutes. Saiah watched from our open van door. Jaden LOVES balls, so I thought the apples would be a more photo friendly version of something that he would like... and we were about to make applesauce so we had tons of them. I have been so busy with photography this fall though that I didn't finish editing his pictures until today. He's 13 months now, and oh my goodness do I love this little (big) sweetheart baby.
That serious//inquisitive//wise beyond his years look is so typical.
 Pointing to big brother Isaiah, who was not-so-patiently waiting for us in the car.
When I finished Jaden's photos I let Isaiah out of the van to go on an adventure in the beautiful little field of wild flowers and leaves... Of course I had to snap a few of him too. :)

Jaden Saylor boy... Oh my goodness where do I start? He has been our most content, easiest baby yet. All of the sudden though in the last few months he has REALLY emerged, and his personality and his intensity are still surprising to me! He's not walking yet, but he can crawl so fast, and shakes his head back and forth as he goes. And in the living room he'll walk along the furniture if he's holding on. And his words! He is really starting to talk. Uh-oh is his most used word, followed closely by "ba-ball!" I don't know why the extra syllable on the front, unless he's trying to say "baseball" or "football", but he sure does love to have a catch and carry a ball around with him wherever he goes. His favorites are Drew's eagles football, his little wiffle ball, and a big bouncy blue ball we gave him. He says "mama" and "dada" and gives "mmm-nah!" kisses and says "baba" when he finds his belly button, and points to things and asks "iss" or "att"? He says "up" when he wants me to lift him, and he knows all of our names when we tell him to look or go to someone. Drew and Isaiah were both very clingy to me at this age, and Jaden loves for me to hold him, but he's not clingy at all when we are with people he is familiar with. He LOVES for his grandma or mommom or grandpa or pop or aunts or uncles to hold him and basically wants to play musical people when he's in a room full of people he knows, going from one person's arms to another. He reaches out for you so sweetly you just can't resist. And he is a major daddy's boy... oh my goodness does he love Shaun. It's so fun to see him starting to become "one of the boys..." he loves to be down on the ground watching them play, trying to steal their toys, or sitting in his little chair and watching movies with them when they watch. He went from not noticing the stairs at all to mastering them completely just after his first birthday. He can go up and down, surprisingly well, and he does not like it at all when I interrupt his conquering climb and remove him to another location. He has only slept through the night a handful of times in his year + of life.. I think 6 times to be exact. He still wakes up anywhere between 1 and 3 times a night to nurse. If I'm being honest, I look forward to hearing him stirring and wimpering for me in the night. I love to go get him from his crib, him rubbing his little eyes, then reaching for me when I come in, and carry him yawning to my room. I only nurse him for a short time before he's back asleep and I can carry him to the nursery and lay him in the crib again. I don't know what's changed, but it totally stressed me out if Drew or Isaiah woke up in the night as babies, and I would be so exhausted because of it. I don't know if I'm just used to it now or what, but it doesn't seem to affect my energy level anymore. The few nights that he hasn't woken up I still do, and I end up going in to check on him anyway. I just love his baby snuggles in the middle of the night. It's such a sweet time.
As far as food goes... Jaden loves it. All of it. He is for sure the easiest baby to feed at this age. Besides rice cereal and pureed baby foods he has been picking up tiny pieces of things with his fingers and feeding himself for about 2 or 3 months now. He likes any soft veggies I cut up for him: green beans, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, broccoli... He also loves little pieces of chicken and beef, no matter the seasoning, and of course any and all fruits, yogurt, applesauce, crackers, cheerios, and his most favorite: cheese curls. He is extremely vocal when he wants more food, and does his own unique version of the pterodactyl screech Isaiah used to do.
There is so much more I could say about him... he is our darling baby, we all love him to pieces, and he gets too many kisses to count in a day.... :)