Category Archives: Faith

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much more than 50,000 words

As I’ve mentioned, Goodbye, Magnolia was written back in November of 2008 during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. From their website: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

I have always loved to write and felt like I was much better at saying what I wanted to say on paper than verbally. In high school, I was all about writing notes to my friends. There were no cell phones or even emails back then, so that’s what we did. My school was in a different district than a lot of my close friends from church, so we would write each other during the week and exchange notes on Sundays and Wednesdays. Some were just quick descriptions of what I did that week or what my biggest crush said or did, and some were my deeper thoughts and feelings poured out for my friends on a weekly basis.

As far as writing creatively, I can remember writing silly stories for fun when I was maybe ten or eleven, and I think I was 9 when I won a creative writing contest in the 4th grade and got to go to a nearby college to receive a certificate. I vaguely remember that, but I know it was a medieval story about two brothers and a princess. Pretty sure my mom has that packed away in a tub somewhere. If I ever find it, I’ll be sure to share that masterpiece here. ;) But I never saw myself as someone who would pursue writing someday.

Jake took part in NaNoWriMo once or twice before I did. He’s always been a creative writer – stories and lots and lots of poetry – and has had a zillion stories in that brain of his for as long as I’ve known him. We joke now about how he was the one we always thought would publish a novel someday, but now his interests lie elsewhere, and I’m the one writing novels.

Honestly, that first year (2008), I only did it to see if I could actually write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It was one of those things that you challenge yourself with just to get that feeling of completing a task. But I never expected to fall in love with writing like I did. I never expected it to make me happy, almost giddy at times. I never expected to be sitting at my keyboard with tears streaming down my face, like Joan Wilder in the movie Romancing the Stone.

This photo was taken at the halfway point. November 14, 2008. I was already way past half of the required word count, which I was pretty excited about.

At that point in my life, I thought photography was it for me. It’s funny how something comes into your life and changes things. Changes you. I knew from the moment I wrote this book that it was special. Maybe every author says that about their own books, but I don’t care. I’m saying it. I’m a sucker for a good romance and Goodbye, Magnolia is just that.

One of the themes in the book is trusting God with your future, trusting His plan. It’s kind of exciting, right? I’ve had things happen in recent years that threw me for a loop, for sure. But when I got past them, I was a better person, stronger for having gone through them. And I could look back and see how God led me through it. That’s how I feel about this whole writing thing. Writing is healing for me. Writing is hard work and frustrating at times, but so worth it.

one sunset


Last night’s sky. These were taken almost exactly 5 minutes apart starting at 6:35 pm. The progression of the change in clouds and colors was so amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a completely different sunset every few minutes.

And I needed that. I want winter to be over very badly. Overcast and gloomy and snowy, well … I’m over it. And last night, it was like God was giving me so much beauty all at once. I couldn’t even handle it. I was kind of giddy about it.

An author I follow posted a question yesterday on her Facebook asking what 5 things (besides your people) bring you the most joy in life. Beautiful sunsets were right up there on my list.

I had just hit “post” commenting on her question and I noticed the sky. I pulled my phone camera out for that first shot thinking it was a pretty sky. I think that’s exactly what I posted along with that photo on Instagram. Then five minutes later, I glanced up again and quickly snapped a few more pictures, thinking, “Wow! I thought it looked pretty before.” And then … well, God was just showing off. ;)

And I felt like it was all for me, because He knows how much I love His beautiful sunsets and He loves me that much.

how you live


Driving down a country road one fall evening after an engagement photography session in South Haven, this song – Turn Up The Music by Point of Grace (above) – was playing in my car. I can’t remember if it was on the radio or if I had the CD at the time, but it brought tears to my eyes and it filled me with such a peaceful and hopeful feeling.

I remember that feeling very vividly. It was at a time when Jake (my husband) had lost his job because the company he worked for closed its doors, and my little photography business was keeping us afloat. Barely. It was very stressful and I felt anything but peaceful at the time.

“Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open
Don’t hold in your anger or leave things unspoken
Wear your red dress, use your good dishes,
Make a big mess, and make lots of wishes …”

I longed for the peaceful, carefree feeling this song brought out in me. To focus on the little things, my children, my husband, the beauty of nature, letting go, dreaming, taking chances. No regrets! I wanted to feel like that – happy and hopeful.

“Turn up the music, Turn it up loud
Take a few chances, Let it all out
‘Cause you won’t regret it
Lookin’ back from where you have been
Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did
It’s how you live.”

I wanted a sense of security again, and I prayed for God’s help. And He provided! Time and again. (HERE is an awesome example of that!)

And here was this song, encouraging me and calming me. It was just one of those moments that has stuck with me. I posted the above video back in September of 2007 with just a brief comment like “I’m loving this song right now.” I probably didn’t say more because of the stressful emotions I was dealing with, but I’m glad I threw it up there that day because it was there for me to find again, to remember that things did get better. The job situation worked out. God took care of us.

And I’ve had many days, enjoying the sun on my face, thanking the Lord for the life He’s given me, letting myself be truly happy where I’m at, taking chances, and feeling so hopeful for the future.

“Wherever you are and wherever you’ve been
Now is the time to begin …”

“Make peace with God and make peace with yourself
‘Cause in the end there’s nobody else.”

I hope you’ll give the song a listen. :)
Oh, and here are a few pictures from the engagement session that night.

And if you want more, here’s their engagement post over on my biz blog, which I no longer update, but it remains online for all the lovely people I worked with.

On to today’s giveaway!

GIVEAWAY INFO: There are four ways to enter through the giveaway box below and each will get you five entries in the drawing.

• The first option is the only one you HAVE to do in order to be entered. I’ll ask one question in every day’s giveaway. You just have to enter your name and email address, give a brief response to the question, and you’re in the drawing.

If you want more chances to win, you can …
• Join my mailing list (if you already have, enter your email address so I can verify)
• Tweet about the giveaway and copy/paste the link from Twitter
• SHARE about the giveaway and the BLOG-IVERSARY on your own blog, Facebook*, Pinterest, etc. and link to that as well.

All giveaways will end on my actual BLOG-IVERSARY, next Thursday, February 26th, so the giveaways will all be OPEN until then.
The winners will be announced in a blog post on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27th!

* Note: If you share on a private Facebook account and we aren’t “friends”, make sure you change the audience of that one post to “public” so I can see it. ;)

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY

Last fall, I whipped up these little pocket calendars to match the ING Journals. I am using one every day to keep track of all our stuff. Here’s your chance to win one in the color of your choice. It’s a 2-year calendar with simple, blank calendar pages. No holidays or cycles of the moon or anything like that on any of the pages since I knew I would be writing all over it with appointments and gymnastics practices and such and I wanted every millimeter of space to do that. ;) They are about 4″x7″ in size.

Enter below. Tell a friend!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CLICK HERE to see all the GIVEAWAYS on one page!

TGIF! Hope you’ve enjoyed looking back with me this week. The fun’s not over yet! SEE YA’ BACK HERE ON MONDAY!

10 YEARS!

You’re here! I’m so excited! On February 26, 2005, I started this blog, and for the next two weeks, I will be looking back at the past TEN YEARS of blogging!

Ten years has gone by in the blink of an eye. At least, it seems so at times. I’ve been browsing back through old posts and, while the style of my photos (lots of borders and filters in the early days) has changed, the core of the posts has not. It started with a few posts about my kids and that’s pretty much the same today. I wrote about things we did, places we traveled, movies I loved, following my love of photography into a business, family, friends, parties, scrapbooking, memories, happy times, sad times, publishing my novel. So much of our life.

Ten years is a really long time.

So, for the next TEN DAYS, I will be looking back, sharing old photos and favorite posts, and there will be GIVEAWAYS!!!

GIVEAWAY INFO: There are four ways to enter through the giveaway box below and each will get you five entries in the drawing.

• The first option is the only one you HAVE to do in order to be entered. I’ll ask one question in every day’s giveaway. You just have to enter your name and email address, give a brief response to the question, and you’re in the drawing.

If you want more chances to win, you can …
• Join my mailing list (if you already have, enter your email address so I can verify)
• Tweet about the giveaway and copy/paste the link from Twitter
• SHARE about the giveaway and the BLOG-IVERSARY on your own blog, Facebook*, Pinterest, etc. and link to that as well.

All giveaways will end on my actual BLOG-IVERSARY, next Thursday, February 26th, so the giveaways will all be OPEN until then.
The winners will be announced in a blog post on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27th!

* Note: If you share on a private Facebook account and we aren’t “friends”, make sure you change the audience of that one post to “public” so I can see it. ;)

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY!

I’ve got a paperback copy of my first young adult novel ready to sign. The Truth About Drew was published last May.
It’s a sweet, uplifting, heart-warming story full of friendship and family with a journey to faith and a mystery surrounding a boy and his notebook.
Enter below. Tell a friend! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you have any questions at all about the giveaway, feel free to ask.

SEE YA BACK HERE TOMORROW!

something new


Happy weekend, guys! This is rare since I don’t usually post here on the weekends, but I got the itch to create something and I decided to share.

Last month, I read through the book of Proverbs. A chapter a day. One of the verses I came across was Proverbs 16:24, which says “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” I loved that and jotted it down in my notebook. And it crossed my mind that the verse and the honeycomb theme would be a cute idea for cards for my Project Life album. It’s been in the back of my mind for a few weeks now and on Friday evening, I dove in.

This is my first time designing cards to use in my albums and it was fun. Slow at times with lots of mistakes and scrapping things I didn’t like and redoing cards that needed a little extra something, but I enjoyed putting this together.

Click image to purchase

I’ve had an Etsy shop for several years, but haven’t really done much with it. Recently, I listed my pocket calendars and The ING journal and a print I designed there. So that’s where you’ll find this kit and any other future creations. :)

I put together this layout using my cards and pictures from my cousin Sarah’s wedding. The colors went so well together. I love how it turned out.

Click for larger image

LEFT SIDE

Click for larger image

RIGHT SIDE

Click for larger image

SUPPLIES USED: (click the product name to purchase)
Honeycomb Pocket Scrapbooking Kit
Project Life Design A pocket pages

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Quote love

I’ve been jotting down verses and quotes that sort of find me during my days ever since January 1st of this year. Reading through my notebook is making me very happy. I love quotes. I love collecting them. I love looking up where the quote originated from and reading more about the person who said it. It’s becoming a favorite routine of mine. And I’m LEARNing, which is exactly my goal for the year.

I was thinking about my sweet little young adult fiction book the other day and my love for quotes and verses couldn’t be any more obvious in there. Drew speaks only in quotes and cliches and verses. It’s his language. He uses it, especially the Bible verses, to guide Claire to the truth about himself and about God. How I wish I had started this notebook of quotes before I finished The Truth About Drew. So many great quotes and verses that would have worked with the story. But I’m happy with how it turned out and I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I’ll just have to save them for the next book.

This verse, that found me during my morning Bible reading a couple weeks ago, goes perfectly with Goodbye, Magnolia. Maggie thought she had her life all planned out, but it wasn’t God’s plan for her at all. I’ve been in this same situation many times in my life. Plans are made, my heart set on things going one way, and they just don’t. Sometimes things go very far in another direction. But over and over again, I have seen situations work out for the better in ways I never would have imagined. I believe this verse. I believe that the Lord knows every step I take and will take. We can plan all we want, but if we’re trusting God’s guidance and seeking Him in our lives and it’s not His will for us, those plans will change.

And so it is for Maggie, my lovely main character. Her heart was set on marrying, but it was not to be. And that was for the best. I’m getting so excited to share more of the book with you. Sign up for the newsletter for the latest on the book progress and upcoming release!

hello, monday


Morning is my normal time to blog. But it’s hard to blog when you’re away every day. Last week was one of those weeks …

– Mom and I visited our friend Erinn and her two adorable boys on Wednesday.

– Thursday was one of those “gotta get groceries” mornings that takes for-e-ver followed by bills and budget and balancing the checkbook (all those oh-so-fun things).

– Then on Friday, my hubby had an outpatient surgery very early in the morning, which required me to get up at 5 am, take him to the hospital, go home, take the kids to school, come back to the hospital and wait, wait, wait. My mom was so helpful to go get the kids for us since they had a half day of school. She and my brother Rick took them to lunch at Applebee’s before bringing them home.

OTHER HAPPENINGS:

– After school on Thursday, Zach went right out and got the shovel and cleared the porch off for me. I didn’t even have to ask. I was so proud.

– The kids played in the snow. They never do that anymore, but they went outside on Friday afternoon after they got home from lunch and ran around the yard, tried to make a snowman, did cartwheels and back handsprings (Chloe) in the snow.

– Jake sliced his thumb open while working on his mini terrain stuff. Ick! Thankfully no stitches were needed. We keep teasing that he shouldn’t craft while on pain medication.

– Started reading Dear Mr. Knightley. I’m liking it so far. The entire book is in the form of letters from the main character to a mysterious benefactor who gives her a full scholarship to college. Very interesting so far.

– Carved out a little time on Sunday afternoon to work on my Project Life album. There’s nothing like getting a big order of photos in the mail and slipping them into the page protectors along with all the cute Project Life cards.

– I’m really loving the She Reads Truth app‘s “The Bible In A Year” plan. I’m 7% through the Bible. Yay! Chloe even downloaded the app so she would have the Bible on her device, but she has also started reading through the Bible following along with the plan. Best thing about the plan … I love lists and being able to check things off as I complete a task. This plan lets you cross off each day’s reading as you go, so you can see what you’ve finished and it keeps track of the percentage of progress as well. Love it!

– Chloe spent the night at her BFF Mackenzie’s house. Just before bed, I was browsing pics on Instagram and I saw this video of Chloe singing while Kenzie’s sister’s friend played the ukelele. I could listen to that all day long. Here’s the 15 second instagram video she shared:
[embed]http://apwphotography.com/myblogpics/2015/chloehannahsong.mp4[/embed]

Happy Monday, everyone!

gracious words


Yesterday, on Stephanie’s blog, she talked about things people say just to say something, not because they really have anything good to contribute to a real conversation, but just to connect. And sometimes the words people blurt out just to have something to say can be hurtful and insensitive and not positive or uplifting at all.

This verse was in my Bible reading this morning. I’m reading through the book of Proverbs, one chapter a day in the month of January, and it made me think about that post.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24

I want to teach my kids how important it is to speak kindly to people, no matter what the circumstance, because words really can sting and the negative and thoughtless things we say stick with people and can cause damage.

I jotted this verse in my quotes+verses notebook today. I’ve been glancing through that little notebook every day just reading through the things I’ve written so far. Hopefully, these words will really stick with me and become a part of who I am and help me be a more positive, kind person as well.

Have a wonderful weekend!

a very special place

Today, I’m sharing something a little different here. Nothing crafty, no photographs, nothing about my writing projects. Today is about a very special place and the special people behind it.

For the past probably fifteen years, I have been updating the BARNABAS MINISTRIES website, keeping it up to date with the latest events and news and newsletters. BARNABAS MINISTRIES is based in Zeeland, Michigan. They work with homeless youth and their families as well as youth in juvenile detention centers and so much more. They do so much to share God’s love with the hurting youth in their community. My dear friend Michelle works there and she is how I became involved in the first place.

The Mission of Barnabas: (taken from their website)
Barnabas Ministries is passionately committed to reaching high risk youth and families with the message of freedom, hope, and healing in Jesus Christ.

The Vision:
To create an environment where hurting youth and families can discover their value in Christ, grow in that knowledge, and pass that knowledge on to others.

Every few months, I add the latest newsletter to the website and I read stories about and letters from these kids whose hearts and lives are being changed because of the work that Michelle and LoriJo (the director of Barnabas) and the other wonderful people at Barnabas are doing. They are sharing the love of Jesus with these kids and that’s amazing.

One of their biggest goals over the years has been to build The Barnabas House, a safe place for these homeless kids to stay.

The BARNABAS website has always been designed by others, but I help tweak it as needed. Other than my own website/blog and one site I designed for a small roofing company my sister-in-law worked for many years ago, I’ve never designed websites for a living. It’s just something I taught myself along the way, a skill that I have used in my own business and my way of volunteering for Barnabas. So, I have been sort of behind the scenes with the news over the years, updating the site with the latest on The Barnabas House as things progressed.

The day is drawing closer and closer when the house will finally become a reality. LoriJo has just started a GoFundMe page and I really wanted to share it here. If you are considering your giving for 2015 and looking for a worthwhile place to donate, a place that is being used and guided in a huge way by God, consider Barnabas.

HERE is the GoFundMe site specifically for the Barnabas House. You can also donate to Barnabas on their website here (click to “donate” button at the bottom of the page).

hello, monday


Welcome to 2015! It’s been a nice couple weeks off with Jake and the kids, but I’m excited to be back, to get back into our routine, and set some goals for the year. So many of the blogs I read are sharing their plans/goals/resolutions for the new year and I love that. I’m inspired by those posts. And it makes me want to share more here.

A week or two before the year ended, I was trying to decide what I could do daily that would be in line with my One Little Word – learn. It would be awesome to just spend every day learning a new kind of craft or hobby, but that’s not really doable. One of my goals this year is to spend more time in the Bible and I’ve started off great. I’m using the She Reads Truth app’s “The Bible In A Year” plan to finally read through the entire Bible. (I started it a couple years ago, trying to read it straight through, but got stuck in Jeremiah and never finished!) I’m also studying the book of John along with the She Reads Truth girls (Can you tell I love them?) and reading a Proverb a day prompted by my friend Anita this month. A very good way to start out 2015.

Many months ago, I bought this notebook (above) at Target, but it’s so cute that I just hated to use it. It’s been sitting on my desk, begging to be written in. As I’m reading through these Bible passages and reading my favorite blogs daily, I always come across verses or quotes that I love. So my little notebook now has a purpose. It will be the home for one favorite verse or quote per day. Writing things down always helps the mind remember them better, so this will be a perfect way for me to take these special passages and let them sink in.

I’m thinking I might want to do something with them, like print some out for my Project Life album or have a hard bound book made with my favorites or something. Just mulling that over for now.

Since I haven’t been around here yet this year, I haven’t shared any of the verses/quotes yet. I may end up sharing them daily on Instagram instead of an entire post for a quote, unless I have something more I want to say. But for today, here are the first five.

January 1
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
– Proverbs 1:7

January 2
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
– John 1:1

January 3 – I love this one!
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
– John 3:8

January 4 – This is one of my favorite verses and I cling to it a lot in my life.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6

January 5
Better to write for yourself and have no public,
then to write for the public and have no self.
– Cyril Connolly

Read this quote today on Emily Freeman’s wonderful blog post and really liked it, then Googled Cyril Connolly because I had never heard of him before. As part of my year of learning, I thought I should at least know a little bit about him. (He was a literary critic, writer and editor.) :)

AJAXed with AWP