When I lift my eyes up...

...I know where my help comes from. I find myself praying this prayer a lot lately. I'm blessed with work and living the dream. I have my own business and I'm home with my kids. Is it happily ever after? Yes, but it's mixed with blood, sweat, and tears. I'm willing to work hard for something I love and something I know is what I'm called to do. Lately, I've been inspired to look around me at a couple of friends of mine who are living their dream too. Not that living you're dream is easy...but, when it's right and it gives incredible joy. Ready to be inspired? Get out the tissues. Meet my friend Jen. She has an incredible story and this year she decided to share it with the world. In her own words,

"This year I am taking the plunge and training to run the Twin Cities Marathon on October 7th. I've decided that if I am going to pour myself into hours and hours of training, I wanted it to count for something more than a check mark off my bucket list! So I have decided to run to benefit New Life Family Services, a non-profit organization who compassionately opens their doors and hearts to women and men who believe abortion is the "only" solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

I know all too well the confusion and emotions of an unplanned pregnancy. Like many can likely relate, my life was rocky growing up. As my teenage years set in I started down the wrong path and, at 15 years old, I found myself pregnant. I felt scared, alone, hopeless and like a failure. What was my mom going to say? What would my friends think? What in the world was I going to do? I didn't want to have an abortion, but I couldn't possibly take care of a baby either, I was a wreck. Thankfully within a few weeks, I walked through the doors of New Life Family Services. They were amazing. I began meeting with a counselor there regularly. Without judgment, Michelle listened to me, loved on me and supported me, and it didn't cost me a dime. She talked to me about all my choices and without pressuring me in any direction, waited patiently for months for me to make the decision I felt was best. As I learned more about the possibility of adoption, I felt like it was the most loving decision I could make, but I didn't know if I could do it. I was falling in love with this little baby growing inside me, could I really just let her go? At the very least, I knew this baby deserved life. I began looking through profiles of prospective parents. I looked into the eyes of couples who, unlike me, were ready and longing to have a child they could not conceive. My heart was changing and I knew the most selfless, loving thing I could do for this baby was not only to give her life, but to give her the life she deserved. I met and ended up picking the most amazing family to adopt my daughter. They were kind, loving, and had an adorable 4 year old boy just waiting for a sibling. We agreed to what was a fairly new concept at the time; an open adoption. We would send pictures and letters back and forth once a year. On March 2nd, 1995 Sarah Ann was born. She was the most beautiful baby you have ever seen. Big blue eyes, a head full of dark hair... I still remember her fresh baby scent. I am not going to lie to you... placing her in her adoptive parents arms was one of the hardest, most painful things I have ever done. But I knew it was right, I was giving her life.

Fast forward 17 years to 2012. In June I had the opportunity to reunite with Sarah and her family... a day I will treasure into eternity. I think back to those early weeks of that unplanned pregnancy and I am beyond grateful that New Life was there when I needed them. I want to give back by raising $50 for each of the 26 miles I am running. No matter where you stand on the subject, I believe it is the heart of humanity to value the sanctity of life. NLFS makes life possible in the face of utter hopelessness. Thanks for joining me."

Jen's friends and family ending up raising over double what Jen set out to do! Incredible. On top of that she finished the 26.2 mile marathon! Did I mention she did it in just over 4 hours? YUP. She ran her race and she ran it well. I am so proud of my friend. Here a few pictures from the race. I was so happy to be there to capture it!

Be inspired. What are you called to do? What's the race you are running? Dare to dream and dream big...because incredible dreams do come true. Ask Jen!

I'm going to share another inspiring story soon...keep the tissues out!

The Hache Family Portraits (Adoption Fundraiser)

I've known this couple...for a really long time...over 10 years? And I love them. Actually I loved them both separately and then I kinda set them up. then I shot their wedding (with film) over 8 years ago. Yup. I did. Now look at their beautiful family.

How times flies.

Please don't let it be another 8 years before I get to capture your family again!

Adoption - the continuing story

I think the hardest part of adoption is learning patience. AJ has walked an incredible journey I asked her to share more of their story with us today!

"What we have gained on this journey thus far has been nothing short of AMAZING! There have been many bumps and even total heart ache (when we were matched and our adopted baby to be, Liv, died at birth), but the desire to adopt has never been stronger than it is now! I always say God is the master of hitting three birds with one stone. He takes us on a journey that is completely stretching and then we choose to obey Him, but that is just the beginning. We have learned things that we knew with our heads, but now feel that it is a true heart knowledge. When we lost our little Liv, although very hard and incredibly sad, we had a peace and knew that Liv was not our daughter just as our biological kids are not our own. They are on loan to us so that we raise them to know Jesus. God has that right to cut out the middle man and bring her straight into his arms. Her name means life and she started hers in eternity...I think it's quite fitting. We will hold her when we meet her with our Father. We really felt that God used Liv, in order to minister and be there for this 16 yr. old birth mother who had no support at all and endured abuse during the pregnancy. This mother was our first adoption. We have seen just a glimpse of the real life stories that are out there and in experiencing all of this, the Lord has also shared a bit of his heart for them, with us. Oh how he loves them and oh how he longs for the fatherless to be loved on and to know him. We are responsible. We have learned that when one is called to adopt that we need to walk in obedience and accept the call and allow God to make the rescue. We need to know that it may not be the child we expected, but He knows exactly what child we are to have and he will bring that child to us. The Lords timing is perfect and better than ours! How foolish we can be when our patients runs thin and we try to work it out ourselves. Micah and I have many reasons and excuses to justify paving our own way, but God is a beautiful Father who's word never returns void. I stand on 1 John 5:14&15 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we have asked for." We know that adoption is his will for us and therefore he is hearing our prayers and he WILL answer them. His timing is perfect! We are so excited to meet the child that God has for us and are so thankful that God has called us to adopt. We feel blessed that he has shared his heart with us in this area. He is our father and always wants what is best for all His children. This doesn't always mean that the road is going to be easy and straight, but the reward at the end is magnificent!!"

We pray for grace in the weeks, months or years to come...only God knows when more children will be added to this lovely family!


I heart Adoption (Fundraiser/Mini Sessions) Family Portrait Photography – PART 5

I have captured this family many times. AND I fully intend to keep capturing their family in the years to come! We share a love for adoption.

If you follow my blog then you know that I did a fundraiser for a start-up adoption agency called Olive Tree Adoption Agency! I did Mini Sessions for 5 families and they donated all the proceeds to adoption! I mentioned that I have a couple of friends who are in the process of adopting...the Benson's are one of those families. AJ and I have been friends for years and I've captured their family many times! LOVE THEM! I walked with her through the last 18 months in their journey with adding to their family. We'll hear more from them as their story unfolds! :)

I asked AJ to write a little about the beginning of their journey into adoption. Here it is in her own words,

"Our adoption journey began a year and a half ago initiated by a dream I had. In my dream I was in a hospital room sitting next to a woman who was giving birth. After this child was born, they immediately placed her baby in my arms and the Dr. said, 'here is your baby girl'. I knew this child was not mine, as I just saw this woman give birth to her. I explained this to the Dr. and he said, 'she is yours now'. He also said a specific address and told me that this is where we found her and then I woke up from my dream. The address I never wrote down and I am kicking myself to this day, but I believe it was to send my heart searching for this child. From that moment on, I cannot tell you how my heart was changed. I was longing for this child that I have only met in my dreams. I remember that morning after my dream I did everything I could online to find this address in hopes that this child would just fall into my lap, but no such luck. That following Sunday, after church service, I was sitting holding Noemi's new and sweet little Clara and a woman of the church came up to me and said, 'AJ, I have to tell you something that I really feel the Lord is telling me about you and Micah.' I said, 'OK, what is it?' She said, 'Adoption. I feel like the Lord said that he wants you to adopt.' Sudden tears streamed down my face. I felt a relief, an answer and permission to pursue this journey that had been burning in me. It was the confirmation I was looking for and I knew it was from God. On the car ride home, I told Micah everything. I wasn't sure how he would digest it all and just trusted the Lord for the rest. After our conversation he was surprised, but he felt it was from the Lord and just wanted to pray about it. He wanted the Lord to confirm it in his heart also. He prayed for confirmation within the next month. A few weeks later, Micah was in CA for a healthcare conference. One evening many of the attendees decided to go out to dinner together. There were about 30 people and he did not know any of them. It ended up that he found himself in a conversation with a woman who was adopted and she and her husband also adopted their child. She was a Christian and she talked with Micah about their whole journey. That night Micah called me and he said that he had a confirming conversation and that he really felt we should go forward with adoption. I was floored because if any of you know us, you know that I am the emotional and adventurous one and he is the very steady and constant one. God took care of it all. He did that. For Micah to say, 'Yep, lets add to our family through adoption.', based on a single conversation he had with a total stranger... that was a God thing. So that is how our journey all began."

I heart Adoption (Fundraiser/Mini Sessions) Family Portrait Photography – PART 4

The great thing about Mini Sessions is that people who don't usually have a pro-photographer capture their family try it and love it because it's so painless! This was my first time capturing the Forsbergs and they were such troopers! It was hot, the mosquitoes were out, I was chasing the sun and moving them around...but I think they had a good time anyway!


I heart Adoption (Fundraiser/Mini Sessions) Family Portrait Photography - PART 3

Every family is precious but give me kids with curly hair and I melt! I love this family...I've known then for years and can't believe that the last time I captured them they had two kids! Time flies. We are bonded by many things...our love for adoption is one of them.

The Krause Family

I heart Adoption (Fundraiser/Mini Sessions) Family Portrait Photography - PART 2

More love for Adoption! Here's the details of the agency we're raising money for! The Olive Tree Adoptions ministry defends the cause of the fatherless by providing support and resources for adoptive families of Bethany Church and by reaching out in love to support women in crisis, providing them with an alternative to abortion.

To that end, we have established several avenues of ministry to meet the call to care for the fatherless and see them "grafted in" (Romans 11) to both an earthly and an eternal family:

The Olive Tree Adoption Agency: We have a team that is working to pull together the resources necessary for license in Minnesota in order to establish an adoption agency that will provide low cost adoptions for families in our community. By utilizing the existing structures of the local church, and it's volunteer force, we are seeking to provide an answer to one of the greatest barriers to adoption - the financial cost. The Olive Tree Adoption Agency will provide support, consultation, mentoring, and resources for families throughout the adoption process.

The Olive Tree Fund: In conjunction with a low cost adoption agency we have established The Olive Tree Fund that is prepared to help adoptive families in our church financially through loans, grants, and fundraising. This will further decrease the cost of adoptions for families. You can download the fund summary and application HERE. If you would like to make a contribution to Olive Tree Fund, simply send a check to Bethany Church payable to the "The Olive Tree Fund"or donate online.

The Anderson Family Portraits

I heart Adoption (Fundraiser/Mini Sessions) Family Portrait Photography

I love adoption. A couple of my closest friends are in the process of adopting right now. Do you know what that means? Any moment they could get the call saying, "Your baby is ready and waiting for you. Come pick her/him up?!" Incredible. It is powerful to forever take another child into your home and into your heart. That's why I love adoption. It's a beautiful picture of unconditional love. No, we're not adopting as of yet but...you never know what the future may hold! Until the Lord calls us into adoption I want to serve the cause...one way I can do that is to raise money for OLIVE TREE ADOPTION AGENCY! So, that's what I did. Using my love and gift for photography...I did Mini Sessions for free and each family gave to the Adoption FUND. Beautiful right?

So, enjoy the next few days of family photography knowing we worked together for Adoption!