Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So... one of my best friends just got engaged and she's living in one of my very favorite places (the beautiful Pacific NorthWest, of course!) and I'm going to be one of her bridesmaids, so she's got this dilemma of PHOTOS. I would LOVE, love, LOVE to take them for her... but that would be a little tricky to be in front of the camera AND behind it all at the same time... lo and behold, her wonderful fiancĂ© came up with the brilliant beyond brilliant idea of flying me out there to take their ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS (find them HERE and HERE...)

Seriously, WHAT. A. GUY?!

First and foremost, this was not REALLY a business trip. This was a trip that Courtney and I desperately needed. Girls need their close friends to help them through life's craziness!!

Courtney told me to make a list of what I wanted to do... OBVIOUSLY I wanted to take incredible photos of her and Matt being all lovey dovey in one of the best cities in the world... but I ALSO really wanted to live that scene from the movies where they get some sort of shell creature and have to sit by the water with a big fluffy sweater and they tie a bib around their neck even though they're in public at a fairly presentable establishment... the list actually got pretty long, but that's all that matters for this post. 

Example of my thoughts and aspirations for our adventures:

Which, in turn, naturally turns in to this:

Ah, such therapy good friends, good food, and the sun setting over the best coast can be. My exhausted, weary heart found such rest this trip. 

Courtney and I on the Sound at Crab Pot.

The Viking that I am was MADE to consume meals with hammers... what's taken me so long?!

Matt, Courtney, and me enjoying our gorgeous evening, meal, and friendship at Crab Pot.
We ordered one of the bowls of goodness (they refer to them as 'SeaFeasts' at Crab Pot). They initially brought us a loaf of sourdough bread, still warm, mind you. Once our feast arrived we enjoyed every bite. I can't for the life of me remember specifically which one we ordered because I'm certain we strayed from the mussels... but I know we had crab and salmon. It came out with corn on the cob (us Iowan girls even approved of that) and red potatoes. You can find the full menu at Crab Pot's website. I don't love all seafood, so if that's something leading you to hesitate... don't let it - the food was fresh and delicious, but the experience alone is worth the visit. Two thumbs up from this girl. 

Bucket List: Item #304 - CHECK!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romans 8.28

Two weeks ago was a strange day in that three people dear to my loved ones died. It seems I go years without attending a funeral and in one day, I see three on the horizon. 

Yesterday, the funeral we attended was for a dear 14-year-old girl. In elementary school you read stories about a young girl who makes friends with her elderly neighbor woman. That was the relationship Alyssa had with my Grandmother. She would walk down to Grandma's door after school, knock lightly or ring the doorbell, and greet my Grandma with her quiet smile, "Do you have any treats today?" Grandma always has something on hand, nothing was different then. She'd invite Alyssa in and the two would enjoy a simple conversation while Alyssa held tight to her treat. Sometimes before leaving she'd ask if there were any treats for her sister. With a hug and a kiss on the top of her head, Grandma would send her off to tend to her homework.

Alyssa had always been petite. She was always quiet. And she always loved cookies.

Alyssa was a girl of few words. She was gentle in spirit and kind to everyone. Yesterday the sanctuary was packed. Young and old. Hundreds of people touched by one life. 

The father performing the service did a fine job. I can't imagine funerals are a favorite of anyone's, especially performing a service for someone so young, but he was genuine in what he had to share and he acknowledged that that's what God expects of us. That we are bound to have questions about these things. Life is hard and confusing and we're not going to get it all. Questions are okay. Questions are good.

He shared that we all had one question that was exactly the same: Why? Why do we have cancer in this world? Why does someone so young and so beautiful with her whole life ahead of her have to be taken so soon? Why does it hurt so much to lose someone? After sharing more examples, he turned the tone around and said, "It's always in the pain and in the hurt that we ask the 'Why?', isn't it?" He went on to explain that while these are appropriate questions and certainly part of the grieving process, but at the same time, we also need to be asking, Why was she so sweet? Why did you bless me with moments and memories with her? He applied it to the simplicity of everyday life: Why the beauty in this sunrise? Why the warmth from the sun? Why the melody in a song? 

This summer has been full of strange and unexpected grief. Grief I didn't even recognize I was experiencing. When the priest shared this concept with everyone present, I started reflecting on the things I have been grieving...

Last July, I was blind-sided with the news that my boss and friend had attempted suicide. I was on holiday in Boston and couldn't wrap my mind around the situation at hand. Never once did anything give me reason to believe he was depressed or unsettled. 

As the story unfolded, my coworkers and I discovered, along with the rest of the world, that it was more than depression. We discovered that for the past two decades the reality we had been living was created by false documents; fraud. Nothing would ever be the same. 

While hundreds of people lost their jobs and thousands of customers may never again see their investments, I am left with the 'Why?'s I was reminded of just yesterday: Why was I allowed six years to be a part of such an incredible community? Why did You place me in a gorgeous building that many days seemed to counter-act the fact that I wasn't crazy about the task at hand? Why was I blessed with not only so many life-long friends, but experiences with them? Why did I get to be a part of a family that had such an impact on our town? Why do I look back on these past two years in particular and have SUCH fond memories? Why did You use those people and those places to BLESS me with so much?

I can't say that I'm necessarily done asking why I lost a job that I had finally had the outlook of a future in, but I can tell you that when I turn the 'Why?'s around and start asking them with a grateful heart, I realize that not only is this not the end of the world, but that I have been overlooking SO many beautiful things that are necessary for me to thank my Savior for. God's using this season to realign my thinking to His Word. I'm starting to think it's not so much of 'everything happens for a reason', as it is 'God will use everything for the good of those who love Him'. Pretty simple truth I so easily lose sight of. 

Romans 8.26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (The Message)

Romans 8.28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

courtney & matt | engagement

Ah, Courtney & Matt. :)

So fun, so kind, SUCH a great couple. 

Matt is an adventurous, explorer type all the way from Alaska. He curiously found himself working in a diner in small-town, Po-Dunk, Iowa, one summer only to discover there was so much more there than just a summer with his buddies. 

Courtney had always worked at Bill's. I know it was her beauty that first caught Matt's eye, and can only assume it was her self-less, gentle demeanor that kept his attention throughout the summer. 

For the sake of love, let's rewind just a smidge...

After high school, Matt made his way to the University of Oregon to study all things athletic and beneficial to physical health and prosperity. (I'm sure the title of his major was very similar, but slightly less romantic.) He loved his new life on the continental Best Coast and made many great, lifelong friends. Among those friends, one managed to talk Matt into traveling back to his hometown of Po-Dunk, Iowa for their summer break... if only they'd known what life-long treasures that summer had in store for him!

Now, as for Courtney, she would probably be found on the other end of the spectrum of exploring and such... Her adventures mostly include home-made, delightful creations and maybe a brief exposure to the great outdoors. She's got a giggle that has been proven to make your heart swell (yes, just like the Grinch's). When God made her, he created a woman who was naturally everything you've always loved about your very favorite Grandma, (seriously, her kitchen always smells of fresh baked cookies, she's the most hospitable person I've met this side of Ireland, she's kind, gentle, encouraging, sweet... the list could go on and on.)

Yet, different as they may be, God brought them together one hot, Iowan summer. The two worked side-by-side serving pizza, burgers, and beer to the local crowd of Po-Dunk, Iowa.

Despite their expectations, a bond came from their jobs.

I presume you've caught on from the title and the gorgeous ring and how incredibly happy these two are together that they're getting hitched. :) It's true, but there's just a bit more I'd like to tell you...

Matt and Courtney have a GORGEOUS love story. They now have oodles and oodles of lovey-dovey photos to remember this season of their life with. (That's what happens when you hire a hopeless romantic for a photographer!) But more than these things, they're REAL PEOPLE. Sometimes an outsider might even get the crazy idea that they don't like each other (seldom, but it happens!) Courtney and Matt are REAL PEOPLE with a REAL LOVE. Over the last 3 years they've been through good times and bad, they've made the best of distance and being near each other, they've made hard decisions and been blessed with loads of adventures. They share a beautiful love because they work at it. 

I am inspired by these two as individuals, but also as a couple. They're a great team. They know how special their relationship is because they've been in situations where they've been without the other for much longer than ideal. They encourage each other and challenge each other to be better people and better parts of their communities. One of my favorite things about Matt & Courtney is being with either one of them one-on-one. Regardless of what conversations they've had or situations they are in at that time, they always have something to say about the other and just they way they say it oozes of their love for the other. I don't know if that last bit made any sense at all... but these two have got what it takes! They're an excellent model for what I'd like to be a part of one day when I fall in love. 

Thanks for being such an inspiration and example, you two. 

Love you both to the moon and back. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

rylee | 9 months

Little Miss Rylee. Full of life. Full of sass. Ours.

This little thing had quite the story before she even graced our presence on this earth! Her journey to be with us was not one every baby experiences. From day one, Miss Rylee has been determined. Gracing our presence at just over 3 pounds, she's shown us what it is to be thankful, what it looks like to be hopeful, and how to trust God in His timing, provision, and sovereignty.

Clearly, she's doing amazingly well and before we know it we'll be celebrating her first birthday! (Honestly, WHERE does the time go?!)

Grace is like oxygen. 
We wouldn't be living without it, but sadly, we hardly notice it. 
Soak it up today and give thanks. 
JOY is at stake.

These pictures remind me of all the grace I've been given and how I so easily overlook it and take it for granted. Specifically, some of the most important people in my life. It seems as though every other person I love so dearly has had a moment of life or death. Thankfully, God hasn't surrounded me with too many timid loves. 

Rylee, here, is one of those loves. The sassafrass you see in the first photo shines straight from here beautiful little heart. Another fighter we've got on our hands. :) SO blessed.

Thanks again, M&D, for letting God use you and your sweet little princess to shine light on such important truths in my life.