F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Giving

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Some people are stitched into the quilt of your family in the most unexpected ways. The Mr. and I have been blessed with “adopting” (housing) two of our friends for the time being. Most people would think that after just having a baby that this would be a burden on a new family unit. However, I entirely disagree! I’ll expound.

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that stickers closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

When God gives you much. When you have something to give in return. When there is a need in someones life that you can meet in an honorable way. Do it as unto the Lord. My husband has the gift of a huge heart. When it comes to family, friends, or even complete strangers. I find myself usually being more of the icy, pessimistic, and “let me think about it” type of person in our marriage. Thomas is the ying to my yang and he balances out my lack luster personality traits wonderfully as God has revealed to me over our time together.

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I am continually and unashamedly humbled by this wonderfully habitual nature of his. So much so, that I decided I wanted to host a Friends-giving dinner for those friends who are stitched into our daily family routine now. This was a way to honor my husband by honoring his friends who in turn have become mine as well. I look fondly at these pictures because it feels like our family has expanded beyond the baby if only for a short time, and that is something to indeed celebrate! I enjoy the company, the conversations, and ultimately knowing that this home of ours is being used for more purpose than just housing an occasional visitor and my own, but helping friends get a leg up in life for whatever reason they need.

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So before December takes the stage and November thankfulness is speedily overshadowed, I wanted to say Happy Friendsgiving! May you always find comfort in this home and wherever your journeys lead you. Till next post!

All is Grace,

~The Mrs.

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Ankeny Centennial Senior Session

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I was over the moon to shoot my first Ankeny senior session since moving to Iowa and re-rooting DDP. This strapping young gentleman is a senior at Ankeny Centennial and a member of the football team. I was delighted to be contacted by his mother via our neighborhood website where I had dropped a line to my fellow neighbors about the services I provide. It’s always great to connect with someone in your own hood and both Riley and his mom made the experience shooting in the bitter cold a heartwarming experience!

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Riley is the Senior every photographer covets because he was willing to try anything, understood posing instructions, implemented his own creative posing and image ideas, and was absolutely natural in front of the camera! It was fun seeing his own vision for his photos reveal itself through humorous banter with his mother. He mentioned why he selected certain articles of clothing to give off that authentic Iowan country boy aesthetic “Not redneck though…” he elaborated.

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The first thing that came to my mind through his description of the look he was going for just blared “Smallville” in my mind. For those of you who aren’t up to speed with awesome superhero tv shows, Smallville depicts a high-school aged, football playing, farm boy, Clark Kent. The All- American guy vibe. This was especially a treat for DDP because most of our senior session clientele leans heavily on the female side. I enjoyed the simplicity of this session and hope to do more like it in the future.

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What really gets my goat is that Riley’s mom mentioned that he was seeming apathetic about getting senior portraits done in general, but come his session date, he was like a professionally polished senior rep. model with so many ideas and such a cheerful and jovial spirit! That is something I so greatly appreciate during any session because it’s something to feed off of and the energy is infectious. We certainly rolled with the punches for location options. The original Ankeny field for actual game play is located at what is now the middle school and Riley’s mom requested the gate be left unlocked for his senior session. Unfortunately, the location of choice ended up being locked out, but they both kept an amazingly good attitude about it and used the Ankeny practice field instead. It’s not often that location issues pop up, but when they do, we make dew.

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Some things just become blessings in disguise. I wouldn’t have been able to capture Riley’s alma mater in the background for some of his images (An awesome request of him) if we hadn’t been locked out of the game field across town. Those shots made my top ten for the client gallery. Another interesting gamble was the weather which turned out in our favor. Some of the more dynamic images I’ve captured come from a rather mundane colored sky. It worked wonderfully for the shot that Riley was wanting because I believe it pushed attention on the two subjects I wanted the spotlight on. First a foremost, my senior. Secondly, his school building. I’m sure a blue sky with puffy white clouds would have been nice also, but the feel would also be different. I wasn’t too worried about a gray sky as much I was about possible rain. A muted sky usually makes for very soft lighting and easier to edit if need be in my humble opinion. Although, in the back of my mind I thought if a torrential downpour occurred, some of the field shots would have an amped up drama to them.

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All in all, I was very proud of my senior and very delighted with the outcome of his session images. I’m greatly looking forward to capturing more images of local Ankeny high school seniors! Till next post.

All is grace,

~The Mrs.

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Something Old Something New

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By the title, you are probably assuming this is a wedding related post….fooled you! After now having my feet placed back under me by the Lord, I have decided to commit myself to one of my hobbies in addition to being a substitute teacher. I’ve decided to reopen myself to photography. I’ve always loved it and loved making people happy with my style of shooting and editing. I’ve gone through a kind of metamorphous with business names through those noncommittal years. You might remember my first one being “Kellyphotographics”. I wanted to sound “cool” and “techy”…embarrassing.  Eventually that name died away because I felt it didn’t represent or mesh well with my style of images. Then came the nice thing that almost everyone does now (which is NOT bad and I’m NOT putting down those who do it because it makes things brand specific) which is the first and middle name of yours truly, “Kelly Christina Photography.” I really liked this but to be honest, I just copied the smarter people who did it before me. I thought to myself, “Well, I am behind the camera taking the shots and they are MY images. So it makes sense and it sounds better….copycat. I just did it because everyone else was doing it.

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After taking a good look into my motives, I thought to myself “What drives me? I want that to be incorporated into my brand name.” The answer was so simple and as soon as I thought of it I performed a well deserved face-palm. Delightfully Downin Photography. My motive is my family pictured perfectly right above. They keep me going. They make me want to capture moments and they are the reason I want to pursue this again. The name just seemed right after thinking about it. To me our new brand name says, “We are simply who we are and we love to capture it.”  Having the blog already set up was just the icing on top of the cake.  Those old names are long gone and the new name is here to stay permanently!

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However, I’m still currently in the process of designing our website. It’s not ready to be released yet but it will be soon! It’s just a bit hard to design your own site when your newborn’s needs are so many and so frequent. I’ve allowed myself a month to finish and to finish it authentically and not just something spun together last minute because I’m rushed with Kimber. This blog will remain the window into our personal lives but with some added professional life posts.

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So keep your eyes peeled for the big website reveal! I’ll be tugging at social media once It’s ready so there’s no way to miss it! I hope you have a most blessed Thursday! Remember to thank God for something/anything today. One way we do this is through our family thankfulness jar & journal. We write something down when we think of it and either put it in the jar or in the journal. At the end of the year, we’ll look back at all the things we gave thanks for!

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All Is Grace,

~The Mrs.

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Motherhood: The Slow Embrace

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(WARNING: This post is extremely honest and blunt and intended to encourage those who have been or are going through something similar)

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“I couldn’t leave my baby’s side for more than five minutes…”

“I fell in love with my baby as soon as I laid eyes on her…”

“There was an immediate bond between us…”

“I just couldn’t get enough of her!…”

These are all things I had been told before I gave birth to our Kimberlee Joy from several friends who were regaling me with their birth stories. I remember them so clearly because I struggled for those statements to come true for me. The later half of my pregnancy had me excited and fantasizing about my precious little girl. I had nested to my fullest capacity and was ready to have her in my arms. When my OB told me I was showing signs of preeclampsia and might have to deliver early, part of me was happy because I wanted to meet her. Though the news was worrisome to some degree, it was like being told I could open a Christmas present early or something.

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Kimberlee had plans of her own and decided she wanted to join the world on her own terms and in her own time without the help of induction. I had been battling some major contractions for two days and lost two nights worth of sleep before Thomas said enough is enough and drove me to the hospital. I had only dilated to 2 cm when my contractions escalated even more. I laid there howling in pain on the triage hospital bed waiting to hear the heavenly words, “Time for you to be admitted.” That did not happen until three hours later.

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By the time I had gotten to 4 cm dilation, I was begging to know when I could have my epidural. They finally whisked me away to the birthing unit where I was given a pain medication through my IV to help me sleep so I would have energy for delivery. Soon the anesthesiologist came to perform my epidural. During the process, I fell asleep and while the Dr. was still exploring my spine, a nerve sent a shock through my leg that woke me up in a fright and I jolted suddenly with a scream. Everything seemed fine at the moment but I paid for it later.

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The epidural was like a dream come true. I could feel pressure but I wasn’t in agony anymore. I could actually get sleep! I slept for about 2 more hours before I had dilated to 10cm and the Dr. came to break my water. Once that was done, I felt ready to push and take on my birth warrior title with a vaginal delivery. I pushed for 2 hours with little progress except a fever spike. Thomas could just see the top of her head when Kimberlee started showing signs of distress from the monitor attached to my stomach. I had to make the call I thought was best for her and was soon wheeled down to the OR for an emergency C-section. I was numbed to the point where I couldn’t move or even tell when they had started cutting into me. I remember feeling dizzy and nauseous halfway through and staring into the blue cover they put in front of my face while Thomas watched them taking out organs and placing them back.

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I remember feeling tugs back and forth and eventually a weak little cry broke through the fog of my weary mind and body. Thomas came around the blue veil with our daughter tightly wrapped up. I could only see a bundle in his arms from my angle on the operating table. I hadn’t even seen her face completely or long enough to remember when she was rushed up to the NICU and I was left to be stitched up and transported. Thomas sent pictures to my phone from the NICU and I remember thinking “She’s so cute!” I studied the picture looking for similarities between Thomas and I.

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I slept like the dead that night after all the events that had transpired. I learned the next morning from Thomas that Kimberlee wasn’t breathing right after she came out. I was eager to hold her and get things rolling when a problem developed. When it was finally time for me to get up and walk for the first time to see her in the NICU, I arose and immediately my head was filled with splitting pain. It would only present itself when sitting up. When laying flat, I would be relieved of the pain in my head. I relayed my concerns to my nurse and she suspected it was spine related. She contacted the anesthesiologist immediately to perform a “blood patch”. This entailed the implementation of yet another epidural in which the Dr. would inject a vile of my blood into my spine to clot the spinal leakage that was causing my head to split. He said that once the blood is injected that the relief would be immediate. Praise God it was, but I was ordered to lay flat for another 2 hours before getting up again.

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I was discharged in the usual 3 day fashion of a C-section patient. Kimberlee remained in the NICU for five days before we took her home. The first night was as expected….Complete Overwhelm. The second night wasn’t as bad but the lack of sleep and  anxious thoughts of “This is what my life is going to be like now”, “I’m never going to get good sleep”, “I’m going to be all alone during the day”, “I can’t do this”, and etc. finally broke me and in entered post partum depression like a giant wave that had taken my breath away in one second. I felt immediately trapped and panicked by my circumstances and slowly the lies that one oppressed by depression is afflicted with started screaming loudly in my mind…”I don’t want her”, “I didn’t want this”, “I miss life being just me my dog and Thomas”, “I don’t want to wake up”, “I want to sleep forever”, “I can’t take care of her”, “I want to die”.

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I remember being terrified of waking up because when I did the depression washed over me as soon as I came back from dreaming into reality. I would look at my sweet Kimberlee and feel nothing. I was so detached from her and felt detached from everyone around me. During a visit to my in-laws house I had a mental breakdown and finally revealed what I was feeling. My husband and my in-laws told me to go downstairs and get some rest. I woke up the next morning with all of my clothes, medications, baby stuff, and bassinet all at my in-laws house. During my deep sleep, my husband moved our things over and we ended up living with my dear in-laws for almost a month. I don’t know what I would have done without them helping take care of Kimberlee. They were able to smile at her, play with her, and care for her when I felt I could not. The devil decided he wanted to steal this blessing away from me by putting guilt in my head. “You shouldn’t have to have help”, “You’re a lazy mother..a bad mother”, “You’ll fail when you move back into your house”, “You’re depression is making others sad and uncomfortable”, “No-one wants to be around you”, “You are the biggest burden”.

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I believed these things even though no-one helping me was even voicing anything of the sort. I felt like a horrible person for not being “happy” about being a mother and for not gushing over my daughter like so many others were. I wanted to be that person, but the haze was thick and I needed help. I always knew I was pre-disposed to this type of mental illness because some of my family members struggled with it also. I found comfort in seeing how God gave them victory over it because I so desperately wanted victory in my story. I talked to my doctor about what I had been feeling and more importantly what I had been thinking. At one point I was so low I wanted to drive myself off the bridge I was going over. These thoughts were NOT me. They were not of God. They were symptoms of the depression. I told my doctor that I fought negative thoughts constantly and was feeling weary of it. I ended up being prescribed Zoloft.

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The medicine takes a while to build up and I could not feel a change for many weeks. My sister, who had overcome PPD referred me to a Christian counseling service to help determine thoughts that are true and of God as opposed to those being spun by the enemy through my mental illness. Sometimes I needed people to tell me things I needed to declare out loud. “God chose you for Kimberlee”, “You are not alone”, “This too shall pass”, “You are a good mother”. I began taking every thought captive and asked God for the strength to do mind battle and take care of Kimberlee at the same time. I prayed strength for my family members and gave thanks for their help instead of letting their help make me feel guilty. I thanked God for my husband Thomas for keeping a jovial spirit in the midst of my sorrowful state. Lastly, I thanked God for Kimberlee. Even though I did not feel like I was thankful for her I did it anyway. I sought and still seek the Lord every morning and throughout the day and night.

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Slowly but surely, the fog began to lift little by little. I would feel warmth in my heart when I saw Kimberlee smile. I would hear her cry and actually want to comfort her. I slowly began to embrace motherhood and let thoughts of my past life before being a mother go. I remember actually laughing genuinely at something till I cried and thinking “This is me…Praise God”. Now I feel like the proud momma. The one that wants to dress her daughter up with pretty bows and brag about how perfectly adorable I think she is in every way. I kiss and nibble her little cheeks and feel like sometimes my heart will burst because I love her so much.

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God has taught me so much through this transition into motherhood. First and foremost I learned that I cannot be a mother without God. I literally do not have the strength, the patience, the selflessness, and the endurance apart from the Lord. I was foolish to ever believe I could and I believe quite differently now. The Lord allowed everything I thought I had control of in my life to be stripped away. My sleep, my mental health, my physical health, my appearance, my overall day and what I chose to do with it. I believe he allowed this to happen so that I would learn how to truly rely on him for each and every moment both good and bad wether I felt like it or not. Feelings are manipulated by depression but I was told that feelings should not dictate our actions. I felt hopeless, but I knew God would give me hope. I felt sad and sorrowful, but I chose to sing about how amazing and faithful God is.

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I am still getting used to my role and still occasionally fighting thoughts I know are not true, but God is healing me and teaching me along the way. I just wanted to put this out there because I know that social media and other avenues paint a picture for us about pregnancy, parenthood, and life that is glistening and perfect. Most people will not upload a photo of their screaming child or their swollen feet. I’m not saying that we need to be complaining or being little rainclouds. Rather, I think we need to be REAL. The reality for me is that my first month as a mother was so incredibly dark and I felt incredible pressure to be “normal” by standards set by others and by myself. Well people, this is incredibly normal and if you are going through the same thing I pray this encourages you to hold on, let God be God, and to see victories in your day no matter how small you think they are.

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Thank you for your prayers and please keep them coming. I know I have half of Florida praying for us right now and that boosts my spirit incredibly. Here’s to finding joy in all circumstances wether we feel up or down.

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Till Next Post,

~The Mrs. & Kimberlee Joy

 

 

 

 

Nursery Peek & Baby Updates

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As promised, I am finally delivering the nursery peek post along with some new developments in the journey with our little girl. Before we dive into the nursery pictures, I need to recognize another event that recently happened in which my Iowan family members got together to bless baby girl Downin with another baby shower! Time with family I rarely get to see is special enough, but all the teamwork that went into making this shower fun, beautiful, and delicious was extra special! From the front of the door to the dinning room table, everything was bright and welcoming.

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My dear family member Melissa worked her magic here with this festive fruit display! Not only could I not stop looking at it, but I also believe I ate my weight in fruit that afternoon. Baby girl was thoroughly pleased with my fruit binge as I could feel her happy little kicks after bites of pineapple, watermelon, blueberries, and strawberries. The fruit display however, was not the only beautiful thing to grace the dinning room table.

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My dear Momma-In-Law adorned her silver party tree with decorative baby trinkets like rattles, pacifiers, and other things that welcomed party guests to the table for a bite. While looking at the tree, your eyes would slowly descend to the bottom where little moist masterpieces covered in patterns and edible sparkles just waited to be devoured.

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I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have two. I also regret NOTHING! These cupcakes were absolutely delicious and I ended up encouraging others to eat more with the secret intent of, “The less that are there, the less I will eat”. You also wouldn’t have to look far for something delectable to wash down all the fruit and cake you just ate.

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I’m not sure if anyone knows this, (because when would it really come up in a conversation?) but I absolutely adore party punch with sorbet! It’s my favorite and if I didn’t have a shred of dignity and self control left in my body, I would have taken the whole bowl with a Jumbo straw and spoon and gone to town. Future goals. . .

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I was delighted by all the gifts for our little girl and the fun games my sister in law planned for the party. It was just plain fun and good fellowship and I appreciated every minute of it. Migraine and all. This little one is definitely going to be loved and supported by many and that in itself is a gift to know and bank on. Out of all the gifts we received, Thomas indeed had his favorite, as he should, because it was specifically meant for him!

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His Momma put this together for him and he was so proud of it! It was filled with all the diaper changing essentials and then some for other occasions. I think this gift actually made him excited to change a diaper which is really impressive considering The Mr. here sometimes gets the willies when it comes to cleaning up baby fluids of any kind. He’s going to be great though! It’s definitely fun to see him getting more and more excited as the weeks move along. Now, on to the nursery!

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Many of you already know that we’ve had baby girl Downin’s name picked out since we found out she was indeed a little lady. However, many of you might not know the story behind the reason we picked this name. I can remember way back when Thomas and I were in our 2nd or 3rd month of dating when my Momma-In-Law to be came up to me one night in her house in Port Charlotte, Florida and handed me an old white Farm Bureau mailer that felt heavy from all the papers inside. She told me that this was her story and she wanted to share it with me. I pulled out the individual papers that were neatly stacked and all in order. It was a indeed a story. A book without a cover, but soon covered with tears as I read through it. My In-Laws to be had been through so much together. Their first born Kimberlee was taken up to Heaven at only eight years of age tragically and suddenly, their second born, (My sister-in-law Amy) developed cerebral palsy and had to undergo surgeries and procedures since she was born, and then my Momma-In-Law fought a battle with cancer. Throughout the stream of words was the consistent theme of dependance on God to walk them through each of these valleys. This story was a testament to Faith and Trust in the Lord. I learned so much about Sue and Jerry that night, but also about little Kimberlee. The way Sue described her in writing was poetic. She was full of sparks with a love for others and life in general. A sweet and playful spirit was in her. I knew that if I had a daughter, I’d want her to embody those same characteristics. Therefore, the name fled to the back burner of my mind until the foreseeable future presented itself the event to bring it back to the forefront.

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When Thomas and I found out we were pregnant we discussed with each other the topic of names. We immediately started with what we wanted for a girl’s name. We had been thinking the same thing all throughout our dating years but never voiced it! Kimberlee. We wanted to honor her memory and bring the name back to the Downin family. After our little discussion and cluelessness on boy’s names, I had a feeling that God just might be giving us a Kimberlee. He delivered on my suspicion!

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For the feel of the nursery, I really wanted something whimsical, floral, and woodsy in a nature sense. Most folklore and fairy tales revolve around the setting of woods or a forest and we had the most perfect corner to decal the forest and woodland creatures you would see in those types of stories. We kept the nursery very muted in color other than pops of accent color here and there. The wall color is actually what we have throughout the house and it served as the perfect base for the creams and whites throughout the nursery. It also goes with ANYTHING. Some of the colors you will see working in tandem are pink, green, teal, gray, and coral. Major plus. Featured here, we have a teal colored glider from my In Law’s storage unit and a homemade fleece blanket from Momma-In-Law.

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One of my favorite wall decorations is from two of my dearest friends! My friend of now 11 years, Amanda, purchased this beautiful digital print with one of my favorite Biblical references which is perfect regarding the topic of pregnancy. It hangs from a chrome deer head hook from my friend Valerie that I got to pick out on one of our outings together. It adds to the forest theme of the nursery.

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We ended up getting this mobile not knowing how incredibly awesome the variety of music is! It plays at least 30 different songs and has a Christmas section and some old hymns! When the first set it up, Thomas and I just sat and listened to it for like ten minutes. It was like being at a mini concert. We would try to guess what the songs were. Something tells me we will probably end up getting sick of those songs the more and more we use it. Anything with noise will probably never leave our minds ever again. Anyways, here are some other shots. I forgot to take one of her closet which I am the most proud of because its an organizational masterpiece, but maybe you’ll just have to visit us to see it 😉

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(The Quilt Was A Homemade Gift From Family Members!)

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(Not My Actual Diaper Bag. This Is A Stunt Double)

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Well, last but not least comes the new updates on our journey towards parenthood. Only a handful of people had been informed initially but we’d really like to stick this information out there for some extra prayer seeing as we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen or when or how to navigate through these decisions yet. Many of you know that I had been looking for a short term project (month long) to help out financially till Kimberlee came. I was put on assignment at Iowa Reality in West Des Moines as an agent assistant until labor day in September and my first day of training was on Friday of last week. It was the perfect setup and I saw the relief pour over Thomas’ face when I told him how much they were going to pay me. I also had my weekly OB appointment that Friday and Iowa Reality so graciously allowed me time to go to my appointment during my training. It was at this appointment that my OB became concerned about the amount of protein in my urine sample and my current blood pressure. I also had been losing vision two weeks prior from daily headaches or migraines every other day. He asked me, “Do you need to be anywhere after this?”

I told him about how I literally just started my training two hours ago for a month long project in West Des Moines and was planning on going back to being trained after the appointment. He replied sincerely, “Well, I need to send you to the hospital and you should probably punt that project to someone else….This is more important. I think you might have Preeclampsia due to all your symptoms and we need to get you tested right away. If it’s full blown, the only way to get rid of it is early delivery.” I completely agreed with him no doubt! Kimberlee’s safety comes first. It was just the utter shock and irony of this all happening on that day and clearly the Lord saying, “DO NOT WORK.” It was hard to delivery the message to Thomas because I was so proud of myself for hooking this job and he told me how proud he was and I kind of felt like a failure both to my baby and to him after talking to my OB. I sobbed for a bit and called my mom and then Thomas who immediately told me to stay where I was and that he’d come take me to the hospital. He couldn’t care less about me having to quit. I had forgotten how understanding my husband was and relished in his words. “No more worrying about work right now. You and Kimberlee are the most important thing and that’s that!”

Before I knew it, we were there walking into the hospital to be tested. A migraine had set in upon check-in. The sweet nurse I had gave me a cold compress for my head and darkened the room after hooking me up to a baby monitor and blood pressure machine that would go off every ten minutes to make sure it wasn’t going too high. Vials of blood were taken to the lab as a fell asleep to the humming of the hospital machines. When the nurse came back an hour later, she said the results in my blood were negative for preeclampsia but they would still have to monitor the situation via a 24 hour urine collection that I could do from home. I was pleased to hear my results were okay and agreed to 24 urine collection.

On Monday, I met with another one of my OB staff and handed in my urine sample and had my blood pressure taken. He said “It’s not a matter of if you have Preeclampsia, but when your symptoms are going to worsen.” Apparently I’m in the beginning stages but the more time that passes the worse the symptoms will get which means the safety of Kimberlee and myself is at risk. Thankfully, the OB mentioned that Kimberlee is only 13 days away from being considered “full-term” (37 weeks). He suggested that we wait out the 13 days till she has developed a little more and then discuss what to do in terms of early delivery. In other words, I don’t believe Kimmy will make it to her due date of September  18th.

In the meantime, I’ve been ordered to “house arrest”. Just kidding. However, I am housebound and have been instructed to not do anything other than relax. My next appointment is this Friday on the 19th. I believe that’s when some more important decisions will be made. So now that you are up to date with the latest, please keep us in prayer. Specifically for safety for Kimberlee and I and wisdom to navigate these unknown waters as first time parents. Thanks for tuning in! I will most likely post 1-2 more times before things get crazy but you never know. Keep an eye out!

All Is Grace,

~The Mrs.

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Lewes 2016

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Few things in life heal me more than the view you see above. To some its very pretty; Your standard beach sand and fencing. To me and members of my family, it means we arrived at a place we’ve be journeying to long before I was born! So many memories to the right, left, and forward direction of this picture. For me, I got to experience my grandparent’s beautiful Lewes, Delaware beach house for my last summer as a….non-parent? Is their a word that seems less generic and strange for those who haven’t completely transitioned to parenthood yet? Maybe my pregnancy brain is cutting off all my good word usage. Anyways, the Mr. was hard at work and couldn’t attend without taking away time from the next big event in September. He thought it best that he have time in September for when our girl arrives as opposed to vacation for himself. Though I was initially disappointed at this, I came to thank God for a husband who thinks ahead to attend to the greatest need.

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I’d rather not talk about how the trip was to get there. Haha! All you need to know is that I will never travel while 30 weeks pregnant again and never take United for as long as I live. Alas, after arriving with my mom in the wee hours of the morning, we were finally in our “hilariously blue” beach house as everyone was deeming it after my cousin so eloquently stated it. I was finally able to cross an item off my bucket list by residing in the “Bay-view” room (Upper left house corner with the balcony) for the first time! My mom was so gracious to allow me the whole bed and eventually the whole room (Hopefully not because of my snoring…lovely pregnancy symptom). Waking up to the view of the Bay was like waking up on a cruise ship. From the tip of your toes looking past the bed, all you can see is Bay and horizon with the rock wall creeping out from the right. Every morning I would look out from the balcony and take in the blast of sea air.

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One of the most wonderful things about vacationing in this area is the sheer amount of activities you can dive into. Not only does our slot on the Bay allow us great access to all water sport craft, but a 10 minute bike ride from the beach house will take you straight into Cape Henlopen State Park. This park is drenched with World War history and every bike trail permeates pine scented delight. Another wonderful destination within a five minute biking distance from the beach house is the ferry terminal!

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The ferry has enchanted me since my childhood and has added an element of nostalgia every time I hear its bellowing arrival horn travel on the breeze heard by all nearby neighborhoods. I only remember riding the ferry once when I was very little. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a full trip to Cape May where its route comes from, but it was still one of the greatest joys of my life! I’m sure my other family members and I can tell you we’ve lost count of how many ferries we’ve seen come in go in our lifetime. You can usually catch one coming in around sunset when the sun is about to kiss the rock wall behind it.

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The optimal place to view the coming ferry or the sunset is right from the deck with every family member. There is something unspoken about gathering at sunset on the deck. It never has to be coordinated and no-one ever has to speak a word. It’s like the warmth of the moment draws us together to witness the end of an amazing day with yet another one of God’s masterpiece sunset canvas’. Not one is the same as the other.

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My favorite morning activity at the beach house is getting out on that beach and walking, walking, walking. I admit, pregnancy put limits on my distance. I felt my feet ache to go back when my will was aching to move forward. It was hard to strike the right balance, but I eventually got a grip on my bodily limits. Occasionally, I would have a pack of lovely walking companions with me that kept my spirits high and distracted me from the ache in my feet.

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When I really felt like going the extra mile by myself, the pier was my destination of choice. I’ve fished off this pier since I was a tiny thing. I remember my Grandpap teaching me how to tell the difference between a Blue Crab nibbling on my line as a opposed to curious fish checking out the bait. It was on this pier that my baby brother caught a 26″ flounder that looked half as big as he was at the time. Grandpap also taught us how to descale fish (Don’t knock it till you try it!).We learned so much just from fishing on the pier. Sadly, the fishing hasn’t been as rich in plunder as in years past, but just walking the pier itself is satisfaction enough.

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When the wind is just right, the Bay will start to entice out the sailing crowd. I absolutely love watching others sail! However, I was never a huge fan of being on our sailboat at the beach house. I will usually only go with the seasoned sailors of our family if I go at all. I consider my mom to be one of those seasoned sailors. She seems to have a natural knack for feeling the wind and predicting the best course of action. Mike and my mom go sailing just about every time they’re there at the beach together. If I’m in the mood, I usually pull out my favorite beige kayak and chase the sailboat for pictures out on the water. Nothing beats watching the boat from the middle of the Bay!

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Another gem located well within biking distance of the beach house is the quaint downtown area filled with good eats and vintage shops. One of my/our long standing traditions while visiting Lewes is to acquire the bounty of good food that seems to congregate at the downtown epicenter and all around it. For years my family has brought home ginormous sticky buns from the Lewes bake shop for breakfast. You can smell the cinnamon and caramel wafting through the kitchen as family members get them warm and gooey in the microwave again. This year, Grandpap did the honors off crossing off that item from my beach trip bucket list! Many thanks Grandpap! Another one of my favorite joints to eat at near the downtown area for a savory bite is Irish Eyes.

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I believe that it was with my dear cousin Joy that we discovered an appetizer at Irish Eyes that we always make a point of getting whenever we visit. The crab dip is phenomenal here! No need to even purchase a meal alongside of it because it really does hold its own. Chunks and chunks of crab meat and cream sauce with melted cheese served in a hollowed out bread bowl alongside crisp tortillas seasoned with Old Bay. It literally makes you want to jump in the Bay to eat it! I was able to share this tradition with my mom and brother seeing as they had not ordered it before and it was well received.

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After a hearty sea savory meal, it’s always a good idea to walk the historic streets of downtown to burn off the food and prevent scurvy….okay maybe a little dramatic, but walking is good so we did a bit of poking about and ended up at one of my favorite antique shops in the area. You can always tell a good antique shop from the way it smells when you walk in. Aged items and collections have a very distinct smell. If you walk in the door and don’t smell the age in every nook and cranny, it’s safe to say that you’re not amongst the real deal. Luckily for us, the comforting scent of years gone by blasted us into a state of reflection and curiosity.

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As your adventures at Lewes have you popping in and out of the beach house, you might catch a glimpse of the tide completely high or completely low. I’ve always been a fan of low tide especially in the mornings. There is something about the unseen coming to light that peeks my curiosity and I find myself becoming a Bay bottom detective when the water recedes back to unveil another mystery for me to solve. “So this is what I stepped on yesterday”, I think to myself. I pull up a large brick and walk it over to our ever growing brick pile. You might be thinking, “Bricks in the Bay?….Explain.” The beach you now see had a very rich history in the fishing trade and looked a bit more like this…

Lewes at height of mehaden fishing

(Lewes, Delaware in its big fishing days. Cape Henlopen visible at the top)

My Grandparents could tell you a bunch about the old factory and how incredibly rich the Bay was with a fish called Menhaden. The fishing industry placed here reached its beaming brilliance from the 1950’s-1960’s. In 1964, it was reported that the Menhaden catch was at its most bountiful. However, the bounty didn’t last very long and soon the Menhaden fishing industry had collapsed all along the East Coast. As you can see, there were many buildings that had to be torn down after the collapse and not everything made it to the dumpster. I distinctly remember one year that one of my cousins actually found a doorknob while walking alongside the Bay. Some find it a bit unsettling to walk the Bay bottom not knowing what they’ll step on. I on the other hand, consider it like a treasure hunt. Although the Menhaden aren’t around these waters anymore, I still bump into an occasional fish friend.

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No, I do not take pictures of dead fish. This little guy was actually alive! On one of my sandbar walks in the morning, I discovered this fish thinking it was dead. As I neared to get a closer look, this fish with its belly to the sky started swimming away from me on its back! I had never seen his before. I thought I’d try to help him out and turn him over after snapping a quick picture of his big black eye and metallic scales.

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I quickly returned him to the water belly side down and waited for him to take off. He reluctantly rolled back over on his back and swam slowly against the tide away from me. It might be safe to assume that this was a bait fish on a hook somewhere that either got free or was released and because of whatever scenario he experienced, became disoriented or his equilibrium no longer functioned. Not the most thrilling of fish stories I’ve ever told but it still counts! Good luck little fish…most likely you’ve been eaten by now.

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Soon its the end of another day. As the sun provides is last bright gleam on the water, you might see the occasional kayaker, sailboat, or paddle boarder drawn to sit in the middle of the gleam. What better way to share the last light of day than with your furry friend on the Bay. It’s the perfect ending for a fun packed day tomorrow.

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(A Beach House Breakfast by Grandpap)

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After fueling up on a well rounded breakfast, considering the weather, temperature, and other such important things, it’s time to prepare for one of my favorite water craft activities. It’s time for a boat ride on the Bay with my Grandparents! Not every boat ride is the same and not every boat ride beginning is “smooth sailing”. I cannot pride myself in being mechanically savvy like most people in my family. Handy? oh yes. I’m a DIY veteran and love construction. However, Jerry-Rigging the wiring under a boat console in 90 degree heat is not my strong suit. Knowing this makes me appreciate my Grandpap even more! Grandma and I stood over him hoping to give him some shade as he cut and rewired things under there but that’s as much as I believe we felt able to do in this circumstance. After diagnosing the problem, Grandpap was able to get the engine started and away we went!

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A tour of the Bay is the perfect outing for a shutterbug like me. I love documenting things with my camera, but there is something really special about documenting the same boat route taken each time I’ve visited Lewes. Each year that I get to spend time at the beach house, I get to take pictures of the same objects over time and compare them to my past images and see history unfold. Even the slightest change is noticeable. I will never tire of taking pictures of the same thing. Our beautiful beach house and it’s chipper coat of paint, the boats tied up along the canal ready for their next adventure, and the people I get to share all of this with. The one item I will always be breath taken by is my favorite lighthouse.

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Grandpap hardly has to ask anymore if he should get closer for a good picture because I ALWAYS want to photograph this lighthouse. The colors are so rich and the tattered rock wall adds a beautiful base to this gorgeous piece of architecture. I often imagine myself on the dock below photographing the lighthouse from my back with my lens straight up to the sky. I would walk up the stairs and capture the sea blast from past storms eating the paint. Then I would make my way to the top and circle around the light fixture capturing every single angle possible. It would be a an absolute dream!

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My thankfulness journal has been poured into everyday from this trip and many things since. Gifts such as, “The Bay Breeze”, “Boardwalk Ski-ball Tradition”, “One-on-One time with Grandparents”, “Old Stories Told”, “Grandpap’s Jokes”, “Eating Every Meal Together”, “Reminders of Grace”, and so much more fill the pages of my little pink journal. I’m so glad that I took this 10 thousand gifts challenge before my trip to Lewes. It made my experience there SO MUCH RICHER. It has made my life upon returning so much better. Looking for these little moments and recognizing them as the true gifts they are from God really does change your perspective resulting in fulness of life. It makes the gift of giving His Son, grace, new daily mercies, and forgiveness (not earned or deserved by any means) more incredibly unfathomable and it shreds up the attitude of taking it for granted in the first place. It all starts with gratitude.

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Thank you Grandpap and Grandma for hosting me and giving this summer 2016 rich memories to last me a lifetime! To my other blog readers, I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my trip in Lewes and hope you remember to look for the little gifts God gives you daily and praise Him for it! My next post will be sometime in the beginning of August when the nursery has been photographed completely to share on our Delightfully Downin Blog! Many Blessings!

All Is Grace,

The Mrs.

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Travel & Renewal

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(Bok Tower Gardens Lake Wales, Florida)

     Quite some time has passed between the last Delightfully Downin post and this one. Too much information has transpired to keep you engaged so I’ll keep my darting down bunny trails of memory and thought to a minimum. Late May I resigned my position at DMCS’s Early Education Center to acquire some much needed TLC and rest. I knew that this would put some financial strain on us as a family unit, but the Mr. also agreed that it would be good for me to “get out” so to speak and focus on our baby girl and visiting family before she arrives in September. The first adventure I planned for myself was returning to Fort Myers to spend some quality time with my family members and finally meet my little niece Ainsley Rose for the first time since her birth in December!

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     The day I arrived at my old Floridian homestead was just like Christmas without all the decorations and presents. My family trickled in within 5 minutes apart from each other. First, the Weirich girls showed up and I got to hold “little A” and make her laugh as much as I possibly could while catching up with my sister on just about everything we could scrape out of our minds at the moment. Next, my brother arrived and in typical Mike fashion, worked on his laptop in the Great Room with us occasionally adding to our winding conversation as Maddy circled profusely looking for a spot to plop her enormous rear-end.

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     One of the most incredible moments I encountered during our group piling on the floor of the Great Room was how much my niece Emma had grown! I remember seeing her walk through the door and feeling a ping of disbelief. I suppose living so far away and not seeing her as frequently makes the times we are together a bit shocking at first. I was amazed with her beauty and despite many claiming that she looks 100% Jonathan, for some reason I see so much of my sister in her both appearance and spirit. It was such a treasure learning about what she does in preschool and coaxing her to tell me who her friends are and what she does. It was also a treasure seeing how my brother in law handled her “3 year old tendencies” as I call them with so much patience, calmness, and gentleness! I had to tell my sister how impressed I was because it is NOT EASY. I’m not even at parent level yet and still had moments with my 3’s preschool class where I knew my tone crossed the line. I’m so excited to see how wonderful my nieces are going to grow up to be with such loving parents!

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     As if things couldn’t get lovelier any quicker, Amanda soon strode in visiting me before her departure to Latvia on a missions trip with her husband and other members of their church. It started to feel like a family reunion and that we should start pulling out albums or pictures. Low and behold this feeling was satisfied as Amanda whipped out a bridal album that her mother in law put together for her from her wedding day! We all gathered around on the floor (Minus Mike) and started plowing through several pages remembering funny inside jokes, pointing out fake smiles, and reliving one of my most favorite events to date. Before we knew it, Mom strode in fresh off the work wagon and started plowing through the pictures herself adding her own perspective on being a guest there. I took a moment to visually encapsulate this moment before we all dispersed back into the grain of life. My heart was full.

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     Speaking of fullness of heart, the next day was the occurrence of another event that will fill my heart eery time I remember it. My friend from high school, Justin Perry, was getting married! Justin is one of those people that I can honestly not remember knowing how or the exact moment we became friends and I love situations like that! He has a personality that is automatically friendly and you feel like you’ve known him for years because he is so graciously transparent and down to earth. I’ve only met Jessica a handful of times, but from those precious few times I saw such a radiant spirit! She has a gravitational pull and you find yourself so pleased to be in her presence. Seeing them together long before they were engaged you just KNEW it was special. Unfortunately, the Mr. could not accompany me to their wedding. However, this gave my mom and I the opportunity to road trip together and catch up a ton and spend some one on one time together. I was also so grateful to find out that I’d be sitting with people that feel like family who I also went to high school with. Thanks for that Perry’s!

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     The ceremony was one of the most God glorifying events I had ever been to. Everything reflected back to God’s goodness, faithfulness, devotion, and power. When I get to attend weddings that God is the center of it’s almost like going to church! The spirit is there and you feel it heavily in the best way imaginable. Truth is spoken and conviction reverberates those who cling to the truth. Praise is given and worship from many grateful hearts ascends into the Heavens. Love covenants are made reminding us about how much more the Lord loves us than we could ever love each other; even our spouses. Seeing Jessica and her family so strong after losing her father was a testament of faith in Christ. It was so powerful that I’m sure if any stranger off the street walked in attended the ceremony that person would come out wanting to know God more.

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     On a more superficial level, the wedding venue was decked out to the nines! Crystal everywhere your eye could see accented and reflected purple hues through billows of airy draped fabrics and added an element of romance and intimacy throughout the entire room. The food was FANTASTIC and the cake was spot on! Another special treat was watching and listening to the speeches from three of the bride and groom’s closest friends  and family. My favorite was Robbie’s speech (Yes, I’m probably biased because it’s my best friend’s husband). It wasn’t stuffed with fluff or overly gushing from the seams. It was simple, genuine, and had great touches of humor. You did great Robbie! Shakes and all. Even as a guest, this event seemed to happen all too fast and I was soon back in tow with my mom to a nearby hotel to crash for the night. We had big plans on our road trip back to Fort Myers to stop off at Bok Tower Gardens (The engagement site of my sister).

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     I had never been to the Bok Tower Gardens before. It was such a nice detour and great exercise walking around the grounds and enjoying some of God’s prettiest creations. We weren’t the only ones who had the same idea. There was somewhat of an massively enormous family group (100-150 persons) from India touring the grounds around the same time my mom and I were poking about. Thankfully the waiting time for our tour of the mansion wasn’t too bad, but just the sheer amount of people and children running around both with customary Indian clothes and some very “Americanized”taking pictures and chatting was enough to make it a funny memory for both my mom and I. Here are some of the pictures we captured that day on the grounds!

     Soon we were back on the road again searching for a place to eat. That in itself is a story all it’s own! Haha! One story you can probably ask my mom next time you see her. Anyways, it was back to Fort Myers to get prepared for my Floridian baby shower! My mom and my sister put so much effort into making it amazing and it certainly was! The food alone was superb! If you’ve never had my mom’s pulled pork and mozzarella pasta salad then you have not truly discovered what it means to have a happy tummy. It was so nice running into old friends and meeting a new one of my mom’s. Fellowship with people in general is something I greatly enjoy! Katy did an amazing job coming up with fun games to keep us on our toes and stretch some of us to get creative and out of our comfort zones. I just wanted to thank all of you ladies who came to bless my little one because in turn, you ended up blessing me all the more! Here are some moments my sister captured from the shower!

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     Good times have come and gone but this is one I will hold dear to my heart. Lastly, on my list of things I felt I needed to hit on within this post, is a word found in it’s title; Renewal. This is where the crap hits the fan so to speak and I get real transparent about my/our current state of life. Way back when we first discovered I was pregnant and that first trimester did a horrible number on my health, we decided to leave Summitcreek church where we had helped serve and get the church launched. We firmly believed the Lord was taking us to another church within our area and we knew it by name. Long story short, It is not to be our home church. Heavily disappointed with not being able to find our church home, we stopped searching and started streaming from our previous home church First Assembly in Fort Myers, Florida. We know it’s just not the same as going and serving and fellowshipping with other believers and building accountability partners.

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    Speaking only for myself, I personally started to feel disconnected from the Lord to the point where the streaming sermons stopped altogether and life went on without anything challenging, positive, and life altering going in. This started to effect my “joy”. I simply couldn’t find it and skirted around the real solution (Making God the center of my life again). I started trying to fill it up with things and material possessions trying to satiate the hunger for true joy. It was through my worldly discontentment and ingratitude that I become a bad steward of my finances and no longer trusted the Lord in providing in that faction of my life. This leads me to my point. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, I resigned my job for the summer and this has put even more financial strain on us than I had initially anticipated. I planned on doing nanny jobs/babysitting/pet sitting to help out but apparently if you are competing with someone who isn’t pregnant for the same job, I guess a pregnant lady isn’t your first choice. Something I foolishly never took into account. LOTS of rejection and lots of guilt for not being able to help my husband provide transpired. I panicked and I panicked bad. What if scenarios swirled in my head and I believed every. single. one. My walk with God was so weak that I was being viciously attacked by the enemy on a consistent basis. It wasn’t until I returned from my Florida visit that my mother “laid it out for me” over the phone.  God wants me to learn something so badly and I keep running away. It was so bad that I didn’t even realize where the root of my problem started and I needed to do some serious work to get back to holding God’s hand.

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     It’s funny where the Lord will find you sometimes. He found me recently in a Toyota of Des Moines service waiting room holding a book I received from my dear friend Manders and I finally cracked it open to reveal the answer I had been seeking about where the root of my issues began. The one word the rang through the author’s mind hit me like a ton of bricks. “Eucharisteo”. The Greek word for “Thanksgiving”. There were so many simply profound statements in this book that I could feel the words piercing my heart every time something God wanted to show me was read. I hope these encourage and challenge you as much as they have pierced me.

  • “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God -even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer, and crucifixion-this prepares the way for God to show us his FULLEST salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from ALL sin that estranges us from Him.”
  • “We enter into fullness of life if our faith gives THANKS.”
  • “Jesus counts THANKSGIVING as integral in a faith that saves.”
  • ” Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks…in EVERYTHING.”
  • “All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced the whole of my salvation? Had never lived out the fullest expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn’t taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at His feet and thanking Him?…This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed.”
  • “If we are dying of thirst, passively reading books about water quenches little; the only way to quench the parched mouth is to close the book and dip the hand into water and bring it to the lips. If we thirst we have to drink. We must DO something.”
  • “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” Erasmus said that, contemporary and admirer of Martin Luther.”
  • “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”
  • “Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life-even the hard- is made up of minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the WHOLE. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

What I found so interesting in this author’s study of Eucharisteo is that it ALWAYS precedes the miracle. She gives several references in her book. The last principle that really hits home for me is that Eucharisteo has to be LEARNED. Paul said it himself in the Bible when he wrote to the Philippians (4:11). He said, “I have LEARNED to be content with whatever I have.” We all know that in order to LEARN we need to PRACTICE and PRACTICE is the hardest part of LEARNING! Living the change out by hammering in new habits to drive out the old ones just as Martin Luther stated.

The author was able to start the “hammering” process by taking on a challenge of naming one thousand gifts she was grateful for and writing them down daily. This slowly began to change her heart and transition her into fullness of life with her walk in Christ and gave her the ability to walk through extremely terrifying and disappointing circumstances with TRUE JOY.

I believe that my ingratitude and discontentment in life came from not reflecting Eucharisteo back to my Lord and Savior. I am taking the challenge as of this post publishing. Because Eucharisteo directly links to faith in the Lord,  I am firmly believing that my faith will renew as a result of attacking the old behaviors with new ones. I shared this with you to encourage you and also to put my imperfection out in the open as a means to empower others to speak up about their struggles and seek wisdom and counsel. Just because someone doesn’t air their dirty laundry doesn’t mean it’s not there stinking up the closet and needing to be dealt with. Haha! We all fall short. Remember that. May God help us with our disbelief. Please keep your Delightfully Downin family in your prayers as we seek out our home church and refocus our center! Thank you!

What lies ahead for me this week is a visit to my Grandparents at their beach house in Lewes, Delaware! It’s my last travel adventure for quite some time. I will keep you posted on baby girl Downin and look forward to sharing her nursery sneak peek with you all in early August on the blog. We love you all and Thank you for all your prayer support and encouragement!

Until Then,

~ The Mrs.

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