Today is my 30th birthday.  That seems strange, although I feel like I have been preparing for it ever since turning 29, so it doesn’t seem quite as shocking as I thought.  Perhaps it will seem weird when I say it outloud to someone, or write it on an official paper of some sort.

I thought I would be scared to turn 30, it is, after all, saying good bye to a bit of youth.   There is something youthful and free about your 20s.  It is an exciting time, but truth be told, a time I am ready to hold as a dear memory.  I feel as though I am ready to enter my 30s.

It is time where I will be a mother for the entirety of the decade, a time where I will learn more about what loving a person through the years actually looks like, a time where a house becomes a home and where lasting memories are formed in our children’s lives.  There are souls, one sleeping in his room and one growing inside of me, who will remember the next 10 years as a crucial and hopefully a beautiful time of their lives. How important it is to make these years count.  It won’t be easy, and there will be (many) times where I am exhausted and want to give up, or run away, or just be generally apathetic.  BUT ten years from this day, when I sit back and reflect on the last 10 years I want to be looking back at a time where I ran with all my strength the race set out for me, I want to see belly laughs and stories that will be told for years to come, I want to see us working through hard times, leaning on our God and each other.  I want to see us fighting and caring and trying, when, goshdern we are tired and everything in us wants to give up.

Here we go 30…let’s do this.

Photos below by my friend Alex Davis.

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June Day

This month we are in the middle of one of our busiest business months of the year.  There are meetings, babysitters, some extra TV gets snuck in there, there are friends helping watch Jonah so I can get work done, grocery shopping, bath time, and sweet bedtime moments.  This day was just an average day, it was a beautiful day, but not because of anything in particular, just because it was a day of living with some of my very favorite people.junedaysmall-5 junedaysmall-4 junedaysmall-6 junedaysmall-7 junedaysmall-9 junedaysmall-10 junedaysmall-11 junedaysmall-12 junedaysmall-13 junedaysmall-16 junedaysmall-18 junedaysmall-19 junedaysmall-21 junedaysmall-22 junedaysmall-23 junedaysmall-25 junedaysmall-26 junedaysmall-27 junedaysmall-29 junedaysmall-30 junedaysmall-31 junedaysmall-32 junedaysmall-33 junedaysmall-34 junedaysmall-35

A day in May

Why hello there.  I see you have come to see my little world for a moment.  It’s nothing grand or extravagant, I don’t do anything in my days that is just simply fascinating–or do I?  Come to think of it, maybe I do, maybe we all do.

Isn’t life grand and extravagant and simply fascinating? YES! I am trying to cultivate eyes to see that.  Often I am distracted, I’m tired, I’m looking at a blue screen for comfort or escape – and it kills me that I do that.  I have committed to trying to really see that beauty at least one day month, to be a scavenger of moments.   I want to seek and find the moments in my days that are dripping with love and beauty.  I want to stop them in their tracks, so that I can stare face-to-face with the glorious embodied souls inside that little rectangle.

The following images are just one day in our lives (images by David, me, and even a couple by Jonah).  The events in them are ordinary, yet extraordinary.  The boy and the man that I love are in these images, and meandering through them all I see the One that gave me these sweet treasures.mayday001 mayday002 mayday003 mayday004 mayday005 mayday006 mayday007 mayday008 mayday009 mayday010 mayday011 mayday012 mayday013 mayday014 mayday015 mayday016 mayday017 mayday018 mayday019 mayday020 mayday021 mayday022 mayday023 mayday024 mayday025 mayday026 mayday027 mayday028 mayday029 mayday030 mayday031 mayday032 mayday033 mayday034 mayday035 mayday036 mayday037mayday038 mayday039 mayday040 mayday041 mayday042 mayday043 mayday044 mayday045 mayday046 mayday048 mayday049

Two Thousand Sixteen

This annual practice of looking at all my images has become something that I really look forward to.  Each year I find myself refining my vision and what it is that I love in a photograph.  This year I can’t stop thinking about the phrase “to be human”.   I want my photographs to convey that feeling, to show in just a small way the way it feels to be a human living and breathing on this big, beautiful, hard, amazing planet.

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365 Project | Final Thoughts

On the very last day of this year, Dave and I sat on the couch and watched as images faded in and out.  We played some sappy (but tasteful) music and got a little emotional as we watched our year progress in photographs.   And what a year it was.  I suppose the biggest thing that I will feel from this past year is growth.  Mostly in growth of my little man.  Watching a child bloom from a little snuggle bug that can’t walk to a walking, talking, communicating tiny person is an incredible thing.  He really is his own little person, and we are his parents, what an immense honor and blessing.  It has been tiring and hard to be sure, I experienced anxiety that was tied to postpartum hormones and worked through it with the help of Dave and my faith (it is not forever gone, but is something that I work on and trust in God for daily).  But the good things, the insanely joyful times of this year far outweigh the hardships.  I look back and my heart wells with thankfulness and joy.

And just a quick reflection on the project itself.  Taking a photo everyday (or nearly everyday) was pretty interesting.  Mostly I loved it, there were some days were I forgot until the very end (there are several photos of Dave and I brushing our teeth or laying in bed for the night)!  It forced me to think about my day and what I wanted to remember from that day.  I also had my camera in many situations I wouldn’t normally, which helped me take photos that were not only pretty, but really documented my life.  Also, it must be noted that Dave took a lot of the photos from this project.  A lot of times I asked him to, sometimes I didn’t.  We really make a good team.  I am not doing a 365 this year, and the break in always having to remember that 1 photo is nice,  BUT I really enjoyed it and very well might do another project in the future.

With out further ado, here are few of my favorite photos (with some words) from this project.  Please enjoy!

365final001This photo was early in the year taken on the way back to Virginia for my Grandfather’s funeral.  It’s quiet, a little somber, and yet beautiful.365final003My little man was sick.  I can just feel his little body resting on mine when I look at this photo. 365final004I love this photo.  It symbolizes his Dad’s constant support, he will always be there as Jonah tries new things. 365final005Winter last year was a little tough, this was another cold.  I like being there for him when he has bedhead, a floppy sweatshirt, and a snotty nose. 365final006Jonah’s personality started developing this past year.  This photo of him copying his Daddy just cracks me up. 365final007At this point in his little life, he is a pretty big mama’s boy, but moments and photos like this point to how important Dave will be in his life, I know he will look up to him and Dave is a good man to look up to. 365final008I love this photo of family and friends around the table in Florida.  Florida will be a special place in our family’s life. 365final009There is just movement in this photo, which to me just shows the busyness of our lives.  It also shows our house, the house were we brought Jonah home. 365final010Early in the year last year Jonah started really feeling his emotions.  This was one of the first ways he would “pout”, I hope it isn’t too mean, but it was pretty cute. 365final011Sometimes I was tired. 365final012Our last visit to Dave’s childhood home.  It now belongs to someone else, but I know he and his family will always keep a piece of it in his heart. 365final013Another sickness hits our house, this time it got poor Dave.  Sometimes you have to parent when you don’t feel good. 365final014My heart melts at photos like this. 365final015That window has my favorite light.  I was happy that Jonah sat there (even for just a couple moments) and enjoyed it with me. I also enjoy how you can see the craziness of our living room. 365final016This is one of Dave’s favorite photos from the past year.  365final017We went camping in July, Jonah was happy and very messy.365final018Okay, this photo, that face.  Ugh…he is the cutest!  365final020Same caption as above. 365final021365final022This image says iconic America to me.365final023There is a funny story here.  Jonah loves dancing and as he was dancing, he wanted other people to dance too.  He made us all take off our socks and shoes, not sure why, but he did…and we did it, because he is cute 🙂 365final024My favorite photo of the year.  It is at my parents new house in Virginia.  This is not where I grew up, but it is the only home that Jonah and other kids will associate with their Grandparents home.  Lots of special memories will be made here.365final025Jonah loves to “drive”.  Gosh, I can’t imagine this photo 14 years from now…time, please slow down. 365final027Little boy, big basketball hoop. 365final028I really love how you can see Daddy in the background doing “grown-up” things. 365final029A boy and his dog.  I really hope that they have a special relationship through the next several years. 365final030I do love this light. 365final031I love how Jonah moves and contorts his body.  Our bodies can move so many ways, but as adults, I feel like we move them less.  365final032The Lyell men are hard workers.  Dave is passing down the tradition. 365final033I hope to look off into many more sunsets with this little man, dreaming and being thankful for the beauty of the world. 365final034I had to include this because it was the first time Jonah “smiled” for the camera.  I hope he doesn’t “cheese” for me too much, because I love documentary photos, but this first time was pretty adorable. 365final035Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I just like this image a lot. 365final036Dave and Jonah playing “woof”.  It’s one of his favorite games as of late.365final038This was taken the last day of 2016.  Our living room, our family, the big brown couch and toys on the floor.

So there are some favorites.  It has been a good good year.

Thursday Thinkings | 2

It’s getting a little late (well, mom late anyway), but I was thinking about this little blog and wanted to stop by and say hello.

My mind is in many places right now.  There is so much going on in our country, world and on a much smaller scale, my own personal life – in some ways I feel like my head is spinning.  One of my biggest sources of anxiety is not being able to know something, not having the answers.  When I feel like that, sometimes it helps me to think about the good things that I do know.

Some things I know :

  • I know that watching Jonah grow is a miracle, it is amazing.  As amazing as it is, I always think how miraculous and quite honestly mind blowing it is that every human started off this way.  There are little children inside all of us.
  • Fall is beautiful.  It would be my favorite season if it weren’t for the fact that it get’s dark so early and I know that a long winter is ahead.  But that aside, it is stunningly gorgeous.
  • I love Dave more that I did the day we got married.  He is my best friend.
  • God is big.  Bigger than I even know.  There is nothing I could type, no explanation I could write, that could contain the goodness of the great Lover of mankind and of my soul.
  • A toddlers gleeful laugh is one of the best sounds you will ever hear.
  • Even if it is bad for me…coffee is just so darn good.

I guess you could consider this my own version of “A few of my favorite things” song.  Gratitude brings joy.  I am so thankful for all these things that I hold in my heart.

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Thursday Thinkings | Number 1

Another new venture for my blog.   I am going to tell you right now that I will miss some weeks, but in general, I want share more. The things I post on Thursday will be about myself, what has been occupying my mind recently. Tuesdays will be more oriented towards my “day job”.

I have been thinking recently about making healthy choices.  Yes, that means when I am in church and that other doughnut is calling my name, but it is more than that.  It is physical, emotional and spiritual. You see, I have been struggling with mild anxiety and depression on and off since college.  I say that and am in some ways feel embarrassed to admit it – like I failed somehow.  I know, however, that it is all too common in this world where it seems to be the media’s job to make us as stressed and anxious as possible, where our bodies protest our poor diets and lack of movement, where thinking about God and relating to the spiritual world is unimportant or weird, and where we don’t spend enough time outside letting the suns rays hit our skin.

That is where choices come into play.  So often I make choices that I know are not good for me.  It could be food related, it could be a bad habit of checking my phone every free minute, or not giving myself time to pray and meditate. Just as I was writing this post, I was drinking a coffee.  Now I know that coffee makes me feel anxious, especially when I drink it in the afternoon, but I love the taste of it so much that sometimes I ignore the good choice and listen to that craving telling me, “but it will be so good”.

As I began to think about what to write, health kept popping into my mind, well it is hard to write about health and healthy choices when you are actively going against what you know is right.  So I marched right over to the sink and dumped the coffee out, one good decision.  Earlier today I met with a friend and we walked around the zoo, we stretched our muscles, got vitamin D in the sunshine and were able to be in community with one another.  Those were good decisions.  But don’t worry, I made some bad ones too.  There is a website that I can get on and just waste time (perhaps you know which one I speak of;)) and when I click that x button at the top of the screen I feel drained, and a little bit more empty.  It’s not that it is bad in and of itself, but I just use it as a space filler, never letting myself breath, always remaining too connected.

And those were all just decisions from today.  Everyday we come face to face with decisions.  Will we chose the things that are good for us, that give us life and help us grow, or will we chose the things we know will drain us, deplete us?  Here is to you and me and making those life giving choices!

jonahsteph-1-2This photo represents one good decision.  Yesterday Dave and I were going to go out for ice cream after dinner.  It was further away and obviously wouldn’t have been good for us.  Also, Jonah would not have had as much fun.  Here we are at the park with an apple and some water.  We had so much fun! julie_morning-1My friend who I talked about above.  This photo was taken by her son.

Lyell Vacation 2016

About a week ago Dave, Jonah and I traveled back home, muddy, dirty, and happy from our first vacation as a family – four nights of camping and 2 nights at Aunt Ashley and Uncle Billy’s house.

A couple months ago I was fiddling around on Facebook (where I certainly spend too much time, but that is a post for another time), when I saw a photographer post about a Creative Camping Trip that they were organizing.  Let’s see here, we love being outdoors, camping, hiking, etc, I am a big extrovert and love meeting new people, and I love being around creative people and photographers, so yes, I jumped all over that opportunity.  The trip was scheduled for a weekend so we decided, why not just make a whole vacation around it! We camped for 2 days in the beginning of the trip to get Jonah used to camping, then got clean, ate good food (including an amazing birthday cake Ashley made for me) and spent some time at Ashley and Billy’s new place in Marietta, then off to meet our new friends and camp again for 2 more nights.

We came back with dirt in every crevice of our cars, (and other places) memory cards full, and hearts warmed with that sweet feeling that comes from communing with special people in the grand and beautiful world that we call home.  I could write more about the amazing people with big hearts that we met, and the special time we spent with that lady that is obsessed with Jonah (his doting Aunty) or how beyond words Hocking Hills is, I could go on and on but I will keep those and all the other sweet memories locked in my heart and show you all the photographic evidence of our amazing trip.

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Beautiful vs. Pretty

I remember being little, so little that looking up at my parents they seemed like giants.  Giants that loved me.  They were so big, they had all the answers (and all the good things like food and treats).  And now, it is hard to believe that I am that big person, that giant that can make my little boy feel better.  That big, tall mama whose arms hold the best hugs.  I now know the feeling of being the little one and the big one.  And that is what I feel when I look at this photo taken by an amazing photographer, and now friend, Ashley Parsons.


Yes, it is a cute photo, but oh, is it so much more.  This photo contains a feeling.  It is the feeling of being a little, it is the feeling of being a mama, all wrapped up in a little rectangle.  Ashley took so many more treasured photos that I will share after I am done sharing words with you.

I am always thinking about photography, and my role as a photographer for both my clients and my family.  And often times a simple question pops into my head, WHY?  Why is this job important? Is it just a job, or is it more than that?  It is easy to fall into the trap as a photographer (and as the person behind the camera) that photography exists to make things look pretty and put our best foot out in the world.  And while I think that pretty pictures are nice, there is something that I long for even more than that.  I long for beautiful photos.  And yes, I do think there is a difference.

Beautiful photos tell the truth.  Beautiful photos point to something bigger and grander that is sometimes even messy.  Beautiful photos make us feel something.  And sometimes, beautiful photos might not be pretty photos.  I want the photographs that I take of my clients and of my family to mean something and to be true.  We don’t walk around all day smiling and looking into the sunset.  Sometimes we are tired, sometimes we watch our babies play and our hearts well with pride, sometimes we get stressed when it is our wedding day and there are a million people around and all you want to do is be with the one that makes our heart still, sometimes there are quiet moments that go un-noticed, and sometimes there are big, loud, crazy, muddy-kneed moments where nothing looks curated and perfect. But you know deep in your heart that is EXACTLY what makes it perfect!  Do you know what I mean??  Does this make sense?  The longer I am in this business, the more I feel this in my bones.  So please, let me see you, let me see the beauty in your world and photograph it and hand it back to you as a gift from me to you.

Here are a few photos treasured photos that Ashley Parsons gifted me. These photos are a little time capsule of an average morning in my life right now.  A morning where a toddler toddles and a mama watches.  A morning of sippy cups and daddy visits and little day time adventures.  Years from now, photos like these will make me feel something.  I might be looking up at a tall son and remember the days that he looked up to me with those big hazel eyes.

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