23 weeks

Pulling out of my neighborhood, I battled mid-afternoon traffic,  trying not to speed. Glancing down at the clock on the dash, my heart started to race. Tiny tears tried to make their escape from the corner of my eyes. I knew what I was about to face would not be easy.

I took a deep breath and did the only thing I could – I prayed. I pulled into the hospital parking, slung my turquoise camera bag over my shoulder and began to make the long walk to the NICU. Hospital sounds and smells inundated me the moment I walked through the doors. I walked faster, scared that I wouldn’t make it in time.

The curtain was pulled aside and I saw them for the first time. A precious couple, in their late twenties or early thirties. The mom, clad in a hospital gown was pale and looked like she passed the point of exhaustion hours before. Next to her was her husband, a rock of man, and somewhere in the folds of the blanket he held was a perfectly formed, tiny baby. She was 23 weeks old -so very small. The tubes which ran from her mouth to a loud machine in the room was keeping her lungs open – keeping her alive.

I was there to take photographs of mom and dad saying hello to their baby girl…and then saying goodbye. So I captured everything – her tiny fingers and toes, the fuzzy hair covering her head, her little chest rising and falling with each breath. She had a first name. She had a middle name. And she was beautiful.

The hands on the clock raced while I worked behind my camera, and before I knew it, it was time for them to say goodbye to their little girl after less than 24-hours of her presence. The tubes disappeared and I was able to capture this little family during the precious moments they had left together. I tried to give them privacy, but I heard as the mom whispered through tears, “Are you sure you don’t want to stay with us baby?”

I packed up my bag and they thanked me for those priceless photographs I had captured. I had never met these people before, but I knew I would never, ever forget them after this day. I have never experienced their same pain, but I do know what it feels like to hit rock bottom, as if your world has caved in. And so, one broken human being to another, I asked if I could pray for them. They agreed and I asked the Lord to cuddle this little baby in His arms.

And then I said goodbye to their little baby who had changed my life forever.

Because, the night before, I had started to believe a lie. It had been another long week and I was discouraged and tired. So I gave in. I started to believe that I would never do ministry again. That in my job, I didn’t really have the opportunity to help people. Through tears, I told my husband how much I missed making a difference in peoples lives. I believed the lie. I put ministry in the box labeled “church” and thought I couldn’t really make a difference unless I worked at a church again.

And yet, the very next day God proved me wrong. He rocked my world. I had tried to put the vast sum of His work in a box called “church”. And while the church is helping millions throughout the world, God is even bigger than that. He can accomplish His ministry to people in anyway He sees fit. And there are people hurting everywhereThere are so many people who need to be hugged or prayed with; people who need to be cared for.

God reminded me that as long as I’m walking with Him, He’ll use me, no matter where I am.

no, no never

Jeff and I spent the weekend with our two year-old niece while my brother and his wife were welcoming their new baby boy into the world. Making this video was the highlight of the weekend.

On another note, my sister-in-law was rushed back into the hospital Tuesday morning with severe hemorrhage, leaving both their two year-old and the newborn with Jeff and I. I have so much respect for mothers – I was either rocking a baby, changing a diaper, feeding a bottle, starting a load of laundry, picking up cheerios, or beginning a new Dora episode. And I’m pretty sure my hair looked like I stuck my finger in an outlet and my shirt may have been on backwards!

Audrey was released from the hospital on Wednesday and is slowly regaining her strength! Your prayers are appreciated.

I can’t wait to have a baby with Jeff one day. It’s going to be such a wonderful experience!

ready to pop!

My mom asked me to throw a baby shower for my sister-in-law, Audrey, and I was definitely up to the task! I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest brainstorming, which brought out a crafty side in myself that I NEVER knew I had! (Definitely helps that my husband went to art school!) Here’s a quick look:

I decided on a Noah’s Ark theme for the baby shower. I had trouble locating a great book on the classic biblical story, but finally found a pop-up book at Barnes & Noble.

I found the wooden Noah’s Ark at Hobby Lobby and painted it with acrylic paint. I spray painted the clothes pins and thankfully, the animals were already pre-painted. I hung the animals on twine with the pins and spread them across the bar headed into the ark!

The blue, bubble bath punch was a huge hit! I got the recipe here and added a few rubber duckies to make it appear like a baby’s bath. Not only was it cute, but also very tasty!

Audrey has Lily’s name spelled out in letters on her pink wall, so I thought I would go ahead and make those same letters for Justin’s room. I purchased the wooden letters from Hobby Lobby, spray painted them navy blue, stenciled on the baby blue polka dots and added the ribbed with a hot glue gun.

It’s not a party without Gigi’s cupcakes! These were there mini cupcakes in the wedding cake flavor, but they added blue sprinkles for the baby boy shower theme.

To go along with the Noah’s Ark theme, my friend, Shelley, made these beautiful animal sugar cookies! Shelley does incredible work (including my wedding cake in Florida) and I saw most of the women leaving with an extra cookie to take home to their men!

My husband, Jeff, designed these cards for me! The responses were very humorous, but the majority of mom’s reminded Audrey that the house can wait and to have fun with the new baby because they grow SO fast!

Audrey is due to give birth to a baby boy, Justin Jay, in March and we are all very excited!

christmas blessings

James 1:17 reads, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”.

This Christmas especially, far more than any before it, I felt joy and incredible peace. For this holiday is not about simple packages under a tree, but it’s about a Savior who has given us the greatest gift, free of charge. Christmas is about the people who fill our lives with love. So I thank Jesus for the incredible blessing of FAMILY in my life.

My precious nieces and nephew

My precious nieces and nephew!

Papa took us all to Silver Dollar City in Branson

My mom and my sister

Mom is excited about her new son-in-law!

But they were not excited about roller coaster!

The Newsome's (minus one)

Roller coaster ridin' buddies

Mastered his leggo set in no time!

The littliest one...

Turning Jeff into a prince!

For the future 'Justin Jay'

Isn't she lovely?!

Jeremy & Christian

I'll let Santa decide...

Beautiful AND pregnant!

Dad decided we needed a new family photo!

so be good for goodness sake...

time for Jeff to open his gifts!

My very own record player!

Christmas at the Mullikin's

Mother & son

I can't get enough of baby Merritt!

Santa's little helper