life update | 40 weeks pregnant

Life is a little unpredictable, yes? Today I'm sharing a bit of my heart in words and photos. I'm 40 weeks pregnant + 2 days, and it feels like I'm riding a roller coaster right now, and yet finding a glimpse of peace in God's timing as we wait for our third little boy to arrive. My first two boys each came 4 days early, so I've never known what it's like to be 'overdue' (which I realize isn't technically a thing, since babies are ready when they're ready), but it's certainly been a test of patience & has felt a bit like a mental war. On one hand, I've been able to spend extra time with my little boys - hiking, baking, origami, homeschool, and lots of farm chores, while also keeping up the house (i.e. constant nesting). On the other hand, I'm feeling a little drained from the prodromal labor I'm experiencing and the fact that I never thought I'd face my due date without my baby in my arms. 

So, I've been reading, listening to homeschool podcasts and praise music, and trying to keep my face toward Jesus instead of pitying the fact that I'm 'still pregnant' when well-meaning friends & family ask. My camera has been out more in the past week than it has in the last 3 months. When my life feels out of my control, I turn to my creative outlets and that includes journaling God's word, writing his truths in my commonplace notebook, and pouring my heart out to Him every chance I get. It helps. I won't say that I'm in a perfect head-space, but He is certainly making this journey easier.

And he is such a good, good God. I woke up the past two mornings thinking "Please Lord let this baby come today..." but my heart said otherwise - I distinctly heard the words His will, not mine. More of Him, less of me. He already knows the moment that this baby will be born, and He goes before me, and that gives me the greatest peace.

I love that the spring weather is finally here. It's lifted all of our moods and we've been able to explore the new growth and actually *see* the things we've been learning about in our nature studies. (If you're wanting a book to encourage nature study, check out Julia Rothman's 3 book collection - it's amazing!)

Our homeschool days (which right now are sporadic & extremely relaxed since Remy isn't technically even eligible for Kindergarten until this fall) have become my favorite days of the week. We read good books, sing hymns, have Bible time, and learn letter sounds. Things are simple because I've purposely kept them that way, and both of the boys have thrived in this environment. We play card games & board games for math, and because we have the hobby farm and some land, the boys are always learning something new. I honestly don't think the boys even realize they're 'doing school' most of the time... it's just a natural part of life - being curious and putting "things worth observing" in front of them (Charlotte Mason). Kyle has really embraced nature study without even realizing it, and he teaches them (and me!) the most interesting facts about our natural world. It's been amazing seeing just what a wealth of knowledge he truly is, and watching him share with our children makes me see him in a completely new light. Marriage is incredible like that. You can be married for 10 years, and still learn something new about the other person. 

This morning we made origami jumping frogs, and the boys had a blast with them. I'm thankful for these moments. I know when the baby does make his grand arrival, things will likely feel off-kilter for a while...maybe chaotic at times. As any mom of three, I hope I do a good job of giving these boys the attention and love they need as we adjust. 

Isaiah 40:31 says "...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." I'm placing all my hope in Him and I'll keep praising Him, even if I'm feeling the weight of being 'overdue'. I'm so excited to meet this baby boy (and finally share his name!), but I also know that life happens in a blink, and all too soon, he'll be 5 years, 10 years , 20 years old... and I'll be holding back tears wondering where the time went. Thanks for letting me share my heart today. 

~Elyse

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Combs Family

Blogging is one of those things I rarely find time to fit in, but I knew this session needed to be shared. The Combs family is one of the sweetest you'll meet and since they knew they'd be putting their house on the market soon, they wanted to document life as they know it in their current home. These sessions are bittersweet... filled with your typical, beautiful everyday moments, but of course in the back of their mind knowing they'll soon be moving on to a new chapter. Their kiddos will continue to grow and change. But these photos will be around forever, and I hope they'll help this amazing family to look back on the memories they created there. It's all about leaving a tangible legacy (which is why I always tell my clients to PRINT their images! No grandchild of yours will know the password to your Flickr account 30 years from now...).

Combs family: wishing you all the best & I can't wait to see your new home when you move! I LOVED spending the morning with you and feel absolutely blessed to call you friends.

Enjoy.

Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer | The Austins In-Home Session

Pregnancy insomnia leaves me plenty of time to think in the middle of the night, and since I'm smack dab in the middle of editing their in-home documentary session right now, this beautiful family was in my thoughts. I always leave their sessions in the happiest mood, and I couldn't put my finger on what exactly it was until just last night (because they do so many things right and good and well) -- but it's the way they encourage closeness - between their children, between themselves as spouses, and as a whole. I overheard so many kind words about eachother while I was in their home, and I'm realizing how much these documentary sessions changes ME as a person and mother, too. I go home to my own children & feel like I have a new chance to make the best of this day - to see my children and give them all the grace they deserve while spending ample time filling up their cups. If I can do that, then I know I'm succeeding in one of the biggest goals of my life. 

Thank you Austin family for always inspiring me to love wholeheartedly. You are such beautiful examples of what it means to put eachother first.

Enjoy!

Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer | DeGroff Family In-Home Session

Meeting my clients in their most cozy, happy place -- home -- is such a joy for me. It just feels right. I get a glimpse into their ordinary, beautiful moments and then document those moments to last forever.

Seasons change quickly. Children grow in a blink of an eye. But these photos will remain. 

Enjoy. 

***PLEASE change video quality to HD in the settings area. Thank you!

Workshop for Moms: Documenting the Everyday

Black Friday is coming! And this year I have a special little something for moms....

I've had this passion burning in me for so long, and I'm so excited to share it with the world!

My hope is that this workshop for moms, Documenting the Everyday, will breath new life into the photos you take of your own children, and that months and years down the road, your children will have a splendor of images to look back on - ones that help them peek back into their past. Photos are a piece of our history, and tangible evidence of the lives we lived. 

Join me on Saturday, January 14th from 10 to 11:30 in a beautiful Downtown Kalamazoo location. To ensure you snag one of the 10 available spots AND save $25, use the coupon code BLACKFRIDAY on 11/25 from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm. 

Here's the link (and remember, the coupon code won't work until 11/25!):

Kalamazoo Michigan Family & Maternity Photographer | Baby Love + Sunshine

A great adventure is about to begin. -Pooh

This evening was filled with a golden sunset, playfulness, and loads of baby love. I'm so excited to meet their newest little one - their great new adventure - when we meet at their home for the newborn session. Anytime a family invites me in to capture them in their coziest environment makes me smile. It's such a blessing to meet and then get to know such amazing families. 

Enjoy!

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Loftis Family

Who knew November would hold the most beautiful weather for fall 2016? We were so blessed with gorgeous color, warm sunshine, and lots of laughs on our evening together. 

These four people are some of my favorite in the whole world. And I'm so grateful they saw the importance of documenting this season in life. With their girls in college, they know that a year from now, or two or three, could look and feel very different from today. My hope is that these photos will be a transport to the past when they pull these images out in 10, 20, or 30+ years, because we all know how fast those years go by! I love seeing families make the choice to get in front of the camera because future generations will LOVE these images.

Enjoy!

kalamazoo michigan family photographer | the weinberg family

Plenty of mama-baby love, snuggles with papa, a bit of sunshine, and crunchy apples. I'm so grateful to have met this beautiful family and cannot wait for the session they booked for next October! Thank you Weinberg family for placing your trust in me!


Enjoy.

continuing education | wildflowers workshop, indy 2016

As I sit down to finally write this post, four months post-workshop, I have so many memories drifting around in my head. Memories of the four hour drive to Indy - the furthest I've driven alone, part of it in a crazy downpour on a highway with too many lanes to count - and walking up the driveway into the cabin with a pounding heart... wondering what the three days ahead would hold.  This felt like such a huge step for me - investing a decent amount of money into furthering my education. I had dreamt of attending not just any workshop, but this workshop, for years. I had followed Joy Prouty on social media and read every magazine article she had written or been featured in. Something told me her workshop would be filled with my kind of people... 

When I walked into the cabin for the first time, several ladies greeted me, and I knew almost immediately that I was in for a treat. Joy's lovely quilts adorned the couches and chairs, and the ladies chatted like old friends. I loved that no one knew anything about eachother - we came with no expectations other than to learn from Joy, and only knew that the other ladies also enjoyed photography. There was not a single note of judgment. 

Over the course of the days there, something happened to me. My eyes opened to the idea of figuring out who I really was so that I could better serve my clients while also balancing my family life. I realized that I needed to make some changes, and scribbled probably 50 pages of notes in the cute green notebook Joy gave us at the beginning of the workshop. I still look at those pages every week or two, and it brings it all rushing back. The excitement, the passion, and the desire to work through some things in my life so that I could be the person God created me to be.

We really made the most of our time together thanks to Joy and her wonderful family. They have such servant's hearts. We shared our stories, ate delicious meals, chatted by the campfire, danced in the rain, and photographed the most beautiful families. We learned so much from eachother and I feel connected to these women in such a unique way. Their stories are now woven into my own, and we support and lift eachother up on a weekly basis. I'm so thankful for that.

It's rare that a day goes by when I don't think about our workshop. I think about Joy and her strength and vulnerability. I think about each of the women and the authentic way they shared. I think about the long drive home from our time together, and the prayers of gratitude I lifted up. A dream of mine came true, and the gifts I took away from that trip are abundantly pouring out of me into all areas of my life.

If you'd like to read more about the workshop, these beautiful ladies also blogged their experience from our workshop, and I know you'll enjoy reading their words...

Tara Strohl of Tara Strohl Photography
http://www.tarastrohlphotography.com/wildflowers-workshop-2/

Michelle Maddox of Isaac & Isabelle Homestead & Photography
http://www.isaacandisabelle.com/unveiling-my-heart/

If you're reading this and considering a workshop with Joy, I urge you to say yes. Go. Learn. Share. 

I'll also be blogging my own images from the two family shoots we took part in, so stay tuned! For now, here's a glimpse behind the scenes at our Wildflowers Workshop... enjoy!

kalamazoo michigan family photographer | the grau family

Did you know that location scouting is my other part-time job? (I'm only half-kidding...) : ) Photog friends, I know you understand the struggle! I adore this gem of a spot I found a while back, and the way the light streams through the foliage. With every client, every session, even if they've hired me for five years straight, I send a client questionnaire. And when it returns, the first thing I look at is the type of location they're wanting. I begin putting connections together and brainstorming what would be best for their children's ages, or best fits the interests they have. Some days (like today, just before I wrote this post) I'll grab a coffee, throw the kids in the car and drive around looking for new spots, pretty light, thick foliage. So when Katie's questionnaire said "We completely trust your eye for choosing the perfect location!"... it made my day. : )

I'm so, so thankful to know this sweet little family, and to see the story God is writing in and through their lives. I left this session on such a photographer's-high because I'm so blessed to do what I do ... I have this passion and I'm going to keep pursuing it, soaking up every bit that I learn along the way as I document real lives, real stories.

If you love what you see below - the light and the interaction and the documented love, let's chat. I still have a few openings throughout the winter for in-home or outdoor sessions. Think snowman building, gingerbread houses, hot cocoa by your fireplace, or even snuggling up in bed with books and board games. I customize each session to who you are as a family, and promise a relaxing, laid back hour or two that ends with a beautiful gallery for you to keep forever. 

Enjoy!

kalamazoo michigan newborn photographer | the sandoval family

Perfectly round baby cheeks, a sweet 'big brother' (aka: the cutest little pup named Frank), and loads of kisses & snuggles all over the house. I could've photographed this stunning little family all. day. long. They're so filled with love and joy after the birth of their new baby girl, and I was honored to be the one to capture some of her earliest days at home. 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." -Psalm 139:13-14

Enjoy. 

kalamazoo michigan newborn photographer | the orr family

A beautiful farmhouse, the cutest baby boy taking his first sink bath, and plenty of cuddles from his loving mom & dad. This session took place last winter, and I can't believe I'm just now sharing it! 

Enjoy.

kalamazoo michigan family photographer | austin family in-home storytelling session

The Austin fam and I go back a little ways... their first session took place in golden autumn fields & I remember thinking after their session how great it felt to photograph a family that just enjoyed eachother & (for lack of a better term) ignored me & my camera. ;) I was starting to get the itch to move toward documentary photography. 

Their next session took place when the gorgeous baby girl shown below was born. I visited their hospital room for a Fresh48 (a documentary/lifestyle session that takes place within 48 hours of birth). I loved every second of that shoot. Despite tricky, low lighting, and an energetic toddler, I walked away from that session with pure joy in my heart. Capturing a family and the bliss they're feeling after the birth of a new child... there's just nothing like it. 

Fast forward to a couple months ago when I received a sweet email asking if I'd be interested in documenting their typical evening routine, and my heart started beating a bit faster... ;) 

I met the Austin family at their house just before dinner on a normal Tuesday night. They were all relaxed, playing in the yard while homemade pizza cooked on the outdoor fireplace. It felt just like the night when we were in the field, except this time, we were in their most sacred, comfortable environment. I photographed their every giggle, every shared smile. I captured details, like big brother's first time using the strawberry cutting tool, or dad stirring the fire while mom prepared the rest of the meal. After dinner, the family played one of their favorite games, t-ball, and I laughed until I cried (my stomach muscles were literally sore after the next day...), and then we headed inside for some more play before bedtime routine. Bathtime, giggling while putting on pajamas, a couple of great books, some more laughs, and then hugs and lights out. It felt so familiar to me... it's what I do with my own children, and that makes me appreciate it even more.

My job is to capture the mundane, ordinary, everyday moments. You know -- the ones that change suddenly, or stop happening before you even realize things are changing, and then all you have left are memories that fade over time. Knowing that I created tangible evidence of those memories is the very best part of my job... because now you'll never forget the look on your little boy's face as daddy read him his very favorite book in his tiny toddler bed, or the way your baby girl tucked her feet up close to you as you rocked her to sleep. It's documented happiness, even in the everyday, typical moments.

If you've been considering a documentary (aka Storytelling session), can I just encourage you to take the leap and do it? It's the least scary session of them all. There are no outfits to be shopped for, because you wear whatever you would normally wear. There is no location to be chosen, because I come to you, and let me tell you... the size of your house, the amount of light, and whether or not your house is *exactly* as you want it to look does.not.matter. Every person feels this way about their house, whether they live in a fixer upper or a mansion.... and my eyes? They only see the love you wear on your face as you scoop up your child up in a moment of raw emotion.  

So, contact me. I'd love to chat, no pressure. I promise you won't regret it!

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | DeGroff Family

I'm literally posting this within minutes of finalizing their edits (amazing, right? considering I rarely blog).. but how could I not?! This family -- the way they enjoy eachother and laugh and play... it's beautiful. Rocks were thrown in the river, boo boos were kissed, necks were hugged, and crickets were caught. The sun warmed us and the wind died down just as the session began. Everything aligned for the perfect session, and I was *so* glad after they endured a gloomy session last September! (Can I tell you something that I think about every.single.day.? I LOVE my repeat clients. You all have the most special place in my heart.) DeGroff fam, I'll be sending your gallery over soon - filled with so many more incredible moments, but until then, enjoy this sneak peek! xo

kalamazoo michigan family photography | rypma family

"Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary." -Brene Brown

There's so much truth to what Brene said -- these ordinary nights you spend with your family, the walks you take in the sunshine, the laughs and tantrums and snuggling and talking -- these moments are where joy is found.

Sarah, there are no words to express how much I love you and your family. The chats we've had over coffee, the weddings we've photographed together, and the many, many times you've given me amazing business & life advice... I just appreciate you more than you'll ever possibly know. You're an absolute gem. <3

Enjoy!

kalamazoo michigan family photographer | the harker family

I love this family. 

I love how they love eachother, and how they put God and family time first. They have their priorities in line and they support eachother. I met Erica a few years ago through a mutual photographer friend, and I've learned so much from her in that short time. Like, for example, that it is possible to balance motherhood with a photography business (if you keep your priorities straight), and that you can homeschool your children in a way that works for you while doing so. She has always been a godly example as a wife, mother and business woman, and she truly believes in community over competition. I was lucky enough to watch her in action last year during one of her studio newborn sessions (I now affectionately call her The Baby Whisperer, and you can check out her amazing work here). 

This session did my heart good. The sun kept peeking in and out as the time came closer to their session, and then just before we started it completely disappeared behind the clouds. But that had zero affect on the way they loved on eachother. Sometimes cloudy day are even better in my mind, since the emotion is in the forefront of the photo rather than competing with rays of sunlight. And the emotion in this session is so true and pure and real. 

Thank you Harker family for allowing me to document this time in your lives. <3

Enjoy.

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Combs Family

Photographing this family felt like a dream come true. I've already told Sara (the gorgeous mom pictured below) that I've been a fan of hers and looked up to her for as long as I can remember. The heart she puts into her photography and the way she serves her clients is something to be admired. Several years ago when I was just beginning on this journey, I remember looking at her website and praying someday that I'd be able to photograph families the way she does... in a beautifully authentic way. Fast forward to last year when I hired her as our family photographer, and we became fast friends... quickly learning we even attend the same church and have similar passions -- for God, for our kids, and for our art. I'm so thankful our paths crossed and that I can can call her a friend. Thank you Combs family for such an amazing night together!

Enjoy.

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Schultz Family

Every session begins the same way - an email, a questionnaire, some back and forth emails or phone calls and then this beautiful creative process that envelops me. I literally have to slow down for a while, close my eyes, and visualize the location we'll be shooting in. I envision the light, the amount of direction I'll provide, the flow of poses or the way I'll ask them to move to get natural interaction and exchange. I know now that if I just show up at a session without a plan, I walk away feeling defeated, like I missed out on who the family really is - and that's not fair to my clients, my friends. 

And this session was no different. Audrey is a fantastic Kalamazoo wedding photographer. Was that intimidating? Maybe just a little bit. I'd be lying if I said no. But I absolutely love shooting for other creatives. We have that common thread and know exactly how much heart goes into every session or project. (By the way, you can check out Audrey's beautiful work here.) 

Audrey's family has this warm, relaxed, go anywhere, do anything sort of vibe. They're country folks like us and I was immediately at ease with them. We spent the evening playing in the field and picking wildflowers, and all the while they were snuggling and laughing and bear hugging and soaking eachother up. Enough of me telling you... here's just a sampling of the 142 photos they'll be receiving in their gallery. Enjoy!

Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | The Aulbach Family

An evening in the pines with this beautiful family during golden hour was just what my creative heart needed. I always fall in love with families who fearlessly play with their children and completely relax during my sessions. The overall feel of this session speaks for itself. 

And by the way, if you ever need wardrobe inspiration, just type "Aulbach" in the search bar to the right - Katie always does a fabulous job of coordinating their outfits and it's easy to see how much of a difference wardrobe makes by looking through their images. 

Enjoy!