Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just Be You

(photo credit HannahElisePhotography}

Today was one of those days when I was asking myself, "Hmm, and why again do I even try to blog? Ever?" 
I had a lot on my agenda, and blogging would've typically been the last thing on my brain on a day like this...except that because of this ten day tandem deal it has been one of the main things on my brain. I'm constantly thinking, "Can't forget to blog, can't forget to blog....." (smile)

Today was not a super-hero, model-status feeling type of day. At all. I had a ridiculous skin outbreak on my face. (confession: I know it was due to that bag of very very special Ritz sour cream + onion chips I treated myself to last week. Totally my fault. This happens every time I eat those.) 
So I decided to forgo makeup today and just wear this amazing coconut oil lotion my sis makes that is a natural healer. Only problem was then I felt greasy and less than beautiful and was frustrated with myself for relying so much on my outward appearance to make me feel good anyway. I also was working outdoors for several hours-weeding, edging, and cleaning my herb garden, and digging out and re-laying all the bricks that had gotten buried under the dirt over the winter. It was a big project and I overdid the hoeing..and then was mad at myself because I knew that means I will be paying for it later with some very sore arms. (this happens whenever I overstress my arms, due to an upper arm injury I had about six years ago)

So I'm sitting here now, greatly desiring above all else, a hot shower and my bed. (being honest!)
And thinking about how really, at the end of the day, its about the moments in our day that are US. Not those moments where I make myself into something I'm not. Not those perfect moments when all goes according to plan. Not those moments that are really the rare and unrealistic anyway.

But the real test, the real deal, is when I can just learn to be me. And learn to be happy in that. 
And I'm not talking about the whole "be yourself! only care about what you think and feel!" mainstream mentality. 
No, I'm talking about keeping it real, and being honest, and being okay when your day isn't all glam + glory. Calling it a happy and beautiful day even if you did spend it covered in grease and dirt. (the dirt part is actually pretty great!)

Did you know there is beauty in the real? Because it isn't about "picture perfect".
It is about joy in where God had YOU today. Whenever that was, whatever it could have the makings of wonderful if it was His plan for YOU.
And because the wisdom of Dr. Suess is so timeless, (smile) I share this quote that I love, above.
(Isn't that great?!)

Only YOU have the ability to bless + reach the people that YOU know. 
Only YOU can make the difference where Jesus has placed YOU. 
Only YOU can be YOU.
Be happy in that! Its a pretty awesome thought to think that God has given 
JUST YOU that unique opportunity!

Just be YOU.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Road Life Comedy {Part One}

(photography credit StyleLife Photography)

Most of you already know this, but for those of you who don't, I am somewhat of a "transplant". Half of the year I live on a farm with my family. The other half of the year I travel the world, quite literally. Each lifestyle is full of action and I really do love them both, most of the time.
But the road life in particular seems to lend itself to some hilarious moments.
I think it's because we meet so so SO many different people, and whenever you meet that many different people, you are bound to have some, ahem, "different" situations crop up.
Now, we do have an unwritten rule that "what happens on the bus stays on the bus", meaning that there are just certain things that happen on the road that I won't ever be sharing with the general public. But, some things are appropriate to share, and since people are constantly asking me about life on the road, I thought y'all might enjoy a little "inside scoop" of sorts on some of the funny things that happen every now and then.
*Little boy who was talking to me at our product table after a concert,
Him: "So are any of you orphans?" (I think he meant to say "adopted"=))

*Little girl, also at the product table, a different time,
Her: "So how old are you?"
Me: "I'm twenty-four."
Her: "Wow...twenty-four and NOT MARRIED?" (in an "I can't believe my ears" tone)
Me: (trying not to laugh) "Yes, dear child, it is possible."

*Picking at a hang nail that starts bleeding profusely, and the next song up is a piano song that I am supposed to play on. I do my best to play but its hard when my finger is bleeding and blood is going all over the keyboard keys. I end up with a bloody keyboard.

*Very accidentally meeting the pastor of a particular church in my PJ's one memorable night. One of my most humbling experiences to date.
(this is what comes from deciding to set up a church at 11pm one night. We were all in our PJs but no one was "supposed" to be there so who cares, right? As we were in the middle of singing all of the crazy tunes that we sing when no one else is around, possibly complete with several crazy dance moves, all whilst setting walks the pastor. I agree-what is a pastor doing in his church at 11 o'clock at night?! There was nothing to be done but introduce ourselves, PJs and wild pew dance and all.

*Getting hiccups in the middle of a song. #worstfeelingever

*Eating peanut m&m's right before going on stage and feeling bits and pieces still sticking to the inside of my mouth and corners of my lips...fifteen minutes later.

*Finally switching my purity ring from my left hand to my right hand because it was just getting really ridiculous how many people were wanting to start a conversation about my engagement. #goodgrief

*The friend that calls and tells you that they are "sending" a special "someone" to your concert. Whereupon you resolve to call in sick that night....and your family protests loudly for more reasons than one.

*Being served sloppy joes three meals in a row. it was yummy! But it was just funny too.

*Times when an anonymous Bontrager writes out the concert song list and adds different words to make us laugh, but we don't realize the change until we are in the middle of the concert.
example: "Goodnight Smooch" instead of "Goodnight Kiss".
Also there are quite a few of us right now that are more or less in "that time of life",  so recently someone wrote on the songlist "Someone You Can MEET" instead of "Someone You Can Reach"
Just for a joke. =)

*A certain individual getting so involved in their book on the front row that they don't realize it is time for their solo until another sibling comes to the mic and calls them up in front of everyone
#embarrassingforthem #funnyforus

*Backing up on stage to move out of someone's way and backing right into a mic stand that was left out. This is followed by what seemed like an agonizingly long time of arms, instrument, and legs flailing as I try to regain my balance. Thank-goodness this ended in me still being upright.
(although barely)

*A guy comes up to the cd table and says "So what's the purpose of that thing on your head?"
 (boho styled headband)
In my mind I said "Excuse me, sir? Is this still the land of the free or not?"
But in reality I was sweet and said, "Well, it's for decoration."

*I am sitting on the front row of a church. It is literally one minute before the concert is going to start and I suddenly FREAK OUT because I realize I forgot to remove my week-old red nail polish remnants! How could I have forgotten? At this stage in time my nails look like I'm still in that three yr old stage when they just let the polish wear off and don't care how bad it looks. I mentally resolve NEVER to paint my fingernails's just too much upkeep.

*But then whats even we did the concert, (me with bad nails and all) and after the concert I totally forget about my nails. Until the next night when I am at a different church and on the front row once again, one minute before the concert, and I catch a glimpse of my horrible nails and barely manage to suppress a shriek, realizing that I once again forgot to remove the polish! And although I didn't think it possible last night, in reality, tonight the nails look even worse.
Brother to the rescue loaned me his pocket knife and I FRANTICALLY begin scraping those nails. I wasn't able to get it all off in the one minute I had but all through the concert, every spare minute, I was trying to pick off nail polish remnants. Never again.

*Out and about one day, at Subway, and the lady behind the counter begins a conversation with me as I'm digging in my purse trying to locate the correct amount of change.
Her: "Are you Italian?"
Me: "No."
Her: "Are you Greek?"
Me: "No."
Her:"Well then, what are you?"
Me: (counting out my change and not thinking) "Um, I'm part German. And part Indian. And...uh, part regular?"
Whereupon we all laughed-me, the lady, and the guy making my sub.
Regular? Where did that come from? No idea...

*Having an eyelash stuck inside my eyelid for the entire concert, and being unable to do anything about it. #painful

*Thinking about something else entirely, and skipping to the ending of the song while siblings continue singing the correct part...and then we all stop and laugh and I try to recollect what song we were even singing because I was seriously in another world. The audience is sitting there obviously not getting the joke and we are all just DYING laughing although trying to pull ourselves together. I tried to explain to the audience what happened but obviously it isn't possible to communicate correctly so finally I just manage to squeak out, "I think we will just move to the next song" and you do just that, while your parents are in the front row dying of mortification at their scatterbrained daughter. (Unfortunately this scenario has happened to us more than once. And I'm not always the one at fault either...)

*Thinking if I had a dollar for every grandma who told me that I needed to meet her grandson...I'd be one rich lady! (hehe)
Ha, I'm laughing again as I finish up this post, re-living some of these moments!
By the way, I threw in "part one" with my title, thinking that I might have to do another post like this after I collect a number of stories again... 

Please leave a comment and let me know if you liked the post and would like to see more like this!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Julia||Baby Portraits

I got to meet this charming little lady @ a conference I was attending last week. 
Her family was camped just a few sites down from us and one day I was able to take her pictures!
What a DOLL!!
Seriously...those EYES. #heartmelt
And because I love mother/daughter pictures, we had to get a few with her beautiful mama.
What a fun stage. So precious to be able to capture a few of her baby expressions!
Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cultivating Refinement in a Culture of Vulgarity

{these are the notes from a session that I gave at my sister's young women's retreat last fall. 
I thought y'all might enjoy it as well}

{Refinement vs Vulgarity}
Let’s first define refinement and vulgarity.

Definition of Refinement:
:the act of process of removing unwanted substances from something: the act or process of making something pure
:the act or process of improving something
:the improved version of something

Definition of Vulgarity
:the quality or state of not having good taste, manners, politeness, etc
:something that is offensive or rude

Proverbs 31 is all about the refined woman. This woman was incredible! She glorified the Lord in her work, but also in her dress, conversation, and character. I think we all desire to be a woman like this; for others to look at us and say “there is a woman of God.”

Before we go on, I want to remind you that 
“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”

1) Choosing Refinement in our ATTITUDE
Psalm 45:13-15:  “The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the King’s palace.”

We communicate so much through our attitudes. Choose to be joyful, to wear a smile. Be happy. After all, we have Christ! This should not be a problem! Remember to remind your face that you are happy. =) Treat others kindly; be a light. 

2. Choosing Refinement in our CONVERSATION
Proverbs 11:22: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair women which is without discretion”.
Proverbs 31:26: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Our culture tells us to fill our conversation with vulgarity. Young women all around us constantly use words like  like “dude, man” and an overabundance of “like, like, like”. Our culture has taught us to think and talk in a shallow and senseless fashion. 

Think of the most refined person you know and think about their conversation. How do they talk? Do they use lots of extra words and popular phrases? Or do you know when they open their mouth that what comes out will be life-giving, and something meaningful?

The first impression we give people is by what we are wearing/how people see us. The second impression is the words that come out of our mouths.

Be a women of intelligent conversation. Study about things. Be knowledgable. Know what is going on in the world around you. Make your conversation to be edifying and uplifting, instead of filled with popular words and phrases.

3) Choosing Refinement in our DEPORTMENT
Walk like a women. Walk as if you owned the world. Not in a haughty or prideful way. But carry yourself like a women of worth, like a daughter of the King! Sit up straight. Smile. Carry yourself gracefully and with confidence. 

When you meet someone, look them in the eye, give a good handshake, and speak clearly. Be a LADY. Treat everyone the same way. Don’t act nervous or shy. Be confident in who you are in CHRIST.

And along these lines, don’t be scared of men. Please. They are normal human beings, just like you are. Treat them as such---with dignity, kindness, and courtesy. 
Chilvary isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being “lady-like” went. 
Think about that!

4)  Choosing Refinement in our DRESS
How we dress communicates volumes. The first look someone has at you will be their first impression of you, good or bad. 
The first impression you will make, like it or not, will most likely be based on your dress, because that is the first thing people will see. 
Now, ultimately, the goal is to wear clothing that immediately reflects and enhances your FACE, which is where people should see the joy of Christ. But that still means starting with a beautiful and put-together outfit. This thing of fashion isn’t a worldly or unbiblical concept; quite the opposite! There are SO many verses in Scripture that talk about fashion. 
Proverbs 31:22: “She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple”. 
Pretty classy,  right? This woman knew about dressing with dignity and honor. 

“Being well-dressed is a beautiful form of politeness”  Inslee Haynes

“Feminine beauty is the natural by-product of a women who has emptied herself, given up her own life, and  allowed God’s Spirit complete access to every dimension of her inner and outer life.” 
Leslie Ludy

Women of God can never be like women of the world.

The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.
There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.
There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.
We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of FAITH.
We have enough greed; we need more goodness. 
We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.
We have enough popularity; we need more purity.
-Margaret Dyteng Nadaud

And finally...
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world". -unknown


Friday, April 24, 2015

Life Lessons From the Calf Pen

You wouldn't think it maybe, but I am pretty sure that some of life's greatest lessons can be learned living on a farm. Its a simple country life...but there are such rich truths that come out in just the everyday nitty gritty of living on a farm + working with animals.

One of my first farm chores as a child was feeding our baby calves with my younger brother. We were just big enough to manage the bottles and I remember such feelings of satisfaction knowing that because of our work, those little calves had full tummies. At the tender ages of seven and six, we had such a sense of accomplishment and achievement knowing that we were doing our part to make this farm run.

In the recent years, I haven't been involved as much with the animals on our farm. But I still love filling in for my brothers occasionally with the calf chores. Last fall I took over for a month so they could spend every possible minute preparing for the national Bible Bee. It was such fun to do again...I loved it. 
It just so happened that over this time we had quite a few new baby calves that were born. For those of you farmers reading this, you know about this!
But for everyone else I will explain. 
Getting a newborn baby calf to latch on to the bottle can be a pretty difficult job. Every calf is different, some more stubborn than others, but most will fight this new thing that is being forced into their little mouths. 
There was one particular morning that I was dealing with an exceptionally stubborn baby calf. Try as I might, I could just not convince this calf to take the bottle. It just wanted nothing to do with me or the bottle. 
Now, I knew it was starving hungry, and that it both needed and wanted the milk. The problem was, it didn't realize that the source for its comfort was in this strange contraption I was trying to force into its mouth.
I took the nipple and squirted some warm milk towards the calf's mouth. The poor little baby about went crazy---jerking its head this way and that, trying to find the source of that delicious nourishment. But every time i would bring the nipple up to its mouth, it would shove away, as if determined to find the milk source on its own.
We had a full-fledged battle, baby calf + I. You would think I would have been the easy winner, but this little calf was fully as stubborn as I was and bent on doing everything BUT what I was trying to make it do---drink that milk!
After quite the little battle, I was the winner and the calf finally latched on and started drinking. 

And this all made me think....
You know, I am such a baby calf sometimes. Sometimes I am just so sure that I know what I need to grow. I am the calf, and God is holding the "bottle" of my life. The bottle is that lesson, or character quality, or that something particular that He knows I need to learn in order to GROW. And the only way for me to grow + get the milk, is to latch on to His bottle! He knows that I need this milk in order to grow in life. He has my best interests at heart + He knows that learning this milk is vital to my spiritual growth.

And me? Oh yes, I am definitely wanting the milk. Absolutely! I want spiritual growth in my life. I want God's blessings + instruction. But too often I don't realize that the milk is coming from the bottle. I am so sure that I can find the source for the milk on my own. Even though He is so gently and surely trying to guide + show me, I resist, wanting to find the "milk" my way. 

And so I shove away, and try to make my own way, my own plan. 
And every single time, I just end up hungry, and frustrated, and unhappy, because my way wasn't best, after all, and His was. All along He was there waiting for me, and I was pushing + shoving trying to run my life how I thought it should be, instead of trusting that even though it didn't make sense, His way was the best choice.
What about you? Can you identify with this? Do you struggle too at times with living life like this baby calf?

Next time you + I are tempted to go with our own agenda, may we will remember this baby calf, and its little story of struggle, and be reminded that God's way is best, after all!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Casual to Dressy in Denim + Black

This post is a little on a the basic side little sister thought it was a cool idea so I thought I'd give this tip a shot and see what y'all thought of it. =)

You can go from casual to dressy without changing your outfit.
Did you know that? Its a lifesaving idea! Makes your wardrobe so much more versatile. You can wear the same items in all sorts of different situations and they will "work" simply based on how you put them together.

How to do this? Its all about accessories, girls. ALL about accessories. 
You've gotta gotta gotta have them, to make an outfit pop. Don't limit yourself!

Now, I know some of you are thinking, "But I don't wear jewelry! How can I accessorize?" 
Oh, you can. Jewelry is super fun and I love it, but your accessorizing is not limited to it. I have a dear friend who never wears jewelry and yet she is one of the classiest dressers I know. Why? Because she maximizes on other kinds of accessories. 
Belts, scarves, lace camisoles, detailed headbands...the list goes on. 
So here we have the first outfit, which was what I wore for a "lots of work to do, running all over the place, I can't be worrying about my clothes, I HAVE to be comfortable" Saturday. =)
You know, that kind of day when tennis shoes are a must and you need an outfit you don't have to worry about. Stress-free, frill-free, and easy.

It was plain, and simple, and definitely not the classiest outfit I've ever worn. (hehe)
But it worked for my day. And even though it wasn't fancy, I was able to make it look nice by keeping the colors matching.
 (for example, matching the cami, shirt, and leggings, + headband instead of having all three items be different colors)
By adding the headband and a little curl to my hair, I was able to dress up the hairstyle a bit, instead of the traditional "pulled-back-tight" ponytail.
And here is how you turn the outfit to something you could wear out to lunch with friends..without even technically changing clothes.

I swapped out the long leggings for shorter lace ones. The lace on the end definitely added a dressier touch. Then I switched the tennis shoes out for my staple black sandals. The sandals were classy plus the pop of color on my toenails added a little spice.
I left my hair the exact same way it was, but added a skinny black belt + black/silver necklace to the outfit to complete the dressier look.

See how outfit #2 has a totally different feel to it that #1? Both work great in the proper settings. Both are simple + easy.

Happy outfit-planning, ladies!
 I'd love to hear what you do to turn outfits from casual to dressy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sisterhood Adventure || A Wisconsin Roadtip + Wedding

This wedding. This trip. Such special memories. So thankful we were able to experience it.
Even if it did take me half of a year to finally be posting about it!

First of all..the trip. Our friends Hannah + Amanda were the wedding photographers and since we are all from the same general area (within an hour of each other) we got to road trip up together, and stay together at the same hotel. We had a lovely trip. It was pretty short, only about four hours, and I spent quite a bit of it sleeping, believe it or not. =) We stopped for lunch at a sweet little spot about halfway there. (above)

Whilst in that town for lunch anyhow, of course we had to do a little shopping. Of course. Got some fun little deals at a unique boutique next door to the restaurant.
Back to the actual wedding. 
So the lovely bride to be was a very dear friend of my sister + I, and as soon as we got the news of her engagement we knew that this was one wedding we were not going to miss! We were enlisted to do the music for the ceremony, and also do hair + makeup for all of the bridal party ladies.
My sista is AMAZING at makeup. Seriously amazing. I feel so honored to just carry her gear around for her! She did all of the makeup and just knocked it out of the park. 
(confession time: when I want to look beautiful I ask her to do my makeup for me because she is just so good. truth)
Yours truly. My job was running the curling iron/wand, and occasionally helping with styling.
All done + gorgeous!
Alli + I with the four bridesmaids. These ladies were a joy to work with-we had such fun with them!
It was such an honor to do all of the music for the wedding ceremony. We have both played for multiple weddings but haven't had very many opportunities to do all of the music together, just the two of us. We did most of our own arrangements and worked with the bride on selections. 
And with being involved in the wedding anyway, of course we jumped on the opportunity to be part of the car decorating crew. OF COURSE. Most fun ever! Quite a challenge because it was super windy and we kept losing the gallons. But overall it was pretty successful.
So thankful to call these sweet people friends, and be able to be a part of their special day! They have such a beautiful story that God is just continuing to grow, as they now have a precious little one on the way!

Special thanks to Hannah for all of these pictures! Its definitely was a plus to have a friend as the wedding photographer, because then for once I actually had good pictures of us working during a wedding! We usually don't get that.

Also I wanted to mention that we are available (select dates, but we do have a few available!) to do music and/or bridal hair/makeup for weddings, so if you are a bride that is planning your wedding and need someone for these areas, we would be thrilled to talk with you! Feel free to send us an email, at
(remember to head on over and be following Hannah's posts this week as well!)