dear husband,

19 May 2015

062
{somewhere between the Grand Canyon + Arches National Park, summer of 2000}

I've spent the better part of this week unfolding love notes we wrote one another eighteen years ago. I found ticket stubs and happy meal stickers, gumball machine diamonds and cell phone numbers from another lifetime. Some days I look at you and think we've only just gotten started. It's hard to fathom that I've loved you more than half my life. I have laughed and teared up and blushed at those letters. The vast majority of them are so silly and so quintessentially teenage, but then I run across a sentence that takes my breath away. A tiny peek at the crazy love we had already found at seventeen.

You know how wonderfully awkward it is the first time you brush your teeth next to someone? Crammed next to each other in front of the sink, toothpaste dripping and crazy grins in the mirror? I had that exact same exact feeling yesterday sitting side by side in bed, reading and eating watermelon from the same fork. 

Mother's Day

15 May 2015

My people were so good to me on Mother's Day this year. Josh laughed when I was prepping the coffee pot on Saturday night so that he wouldn't have to do any guesswork the next morning. He thought I was being a bit presumptuous to assume breakfast in bed, but I figured {since I went to the store and picked up the ingredients and then set the coffee pot and added cream and sugar to my cup the night before} they had no excuses. I was greeted with a VERY loud "Happy Mother's Day" from my youngest as they barreled into our room. I was out cold and it was quite the wake up. I was overwhelmed with homemade cards and warm coffee and pigs in a blanket and a 
Stitch Fix gift card. Score! 

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After church, we met Josh's parents at a local Mexican restaurant and treated them to lunch. It was so nice to sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy their company with nothing much on the agenda. When Josh asked me how I wanted to spend the rest of the day, there was exactly zero hesitation on my part. I know for some parts of the country, summer is still very much a dream for you - I even had someone tell me it snowed for them last week and I have no idea how to process that! Here in Alabama, it's been a scorching 85* most days and we are already enjoying the lazy days of summer. With only four more days of school left this year, our brains have already shifted over to late afternoons spent around the pool trying to figure out how to manage another meal on the grill so we don't have to go home!

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Ella and I did a lot of reading on Sunday afternoon. We all watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a few weeks ago and my girls can't stop talking about Narnia. I pulled out our boxed set of books last week and now Ella can't put this one down. She is ALWAYS reading out loud, which I love. She laid right next to me for an hour and read all about the White Witch.

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These two, on the other hand, have no idea how to be still! They were in and out of the water and the barn all afternoon, but never lost the smile on their face. They demolished donuts and Doritos and cheese puffs and acted like it was the best day they had ever had.

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Can you see the end of the barn in the background? This will be our first summer with an outdoor structure near the pool and WE. ARE. PUMPED. It has completely changed the landscape of the pool area -- it's almost completely unrecognizable. Eventually it will mean a nearby bathroom and kitchenette and I'm sure my mom's hardwood floors will thank her. For now, we are enjoying the porch swing and a shady spot, but soon there will be decking and ceiling fans, too! While the bathrooms aren't on the immediate horizon, we are already loving having a full sized refrigerator just on the other side of that door -- it's been fully stocked with water, Dr. Pepper and plenty of ice pops.

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I spent most of the afternoon laying in this shady spot between my mom and my sister -- the best two moms I know. It's hard to get us all in one spot with nothing on our agenda, so we were lucky to get to do it two days in a row {yes, this is pretty much what Saturday looked like, too}. We talked about the beach and our plans for summer, we dreamed up new houses and blog projects and laughed way too much.

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I hope your Mother's Day was just as fabulous and that you got everything out of the day that you hoped for!

Over-Sharing: 4 Reasons Why I Blog

13 May 2015

Four Reasons Why I Blog

When I started writing in this spot, almost six years ago, it was without agenda. I had no dreams of grandeur, I never expected anyone to read it outside of my family and I certainly never expected to gain real-life relationships in exchange. I started small, sharing daily doses of our lives as my husband traveled and I struggled to keep one little princess entertained while subsequently growing another one. When blogging starts organically, you don't consider all of the "what-ifs" and future ramifications of sharing your story.

For the most part, friends and family have been supportive. I'm sure there are people who roll their eyes when they see a new post published, thinking why in the world would somebody care what we cooked for dinner last night. Fortunately, almost everyone I meet tells me how much they enjoy following along with our journey. Do you know what that kind of validation does for a mother's heart? In six years, I've only had a single negative comment. Now you can say that's because I don't average many comments per post, but out of almost 3000 comments, I figured I was due for some dissent. That particular comment cut at the very heart of my worries. They questioned whether I was sharing too much of my daughters with perfect strangers -- if one day they would be hurt or embarrassed by the memories we catalog here.

Several months ago, a friend casually mentioned how weird she thought it was when mothers shared ultrasound photographs on social media. I doubt she thought anything of it when she mentioned it to me over breakfast, but I'm pretty sure my chin hit the table. Maybe it's because I'm entrenched in the "mommy blogging" genre, but it had literally NEVER occurred to me that it was something I should keep private. Her reasoning was that they were showing the inside of their bodies and their unborn babies and that it was both embarrassing and uncomfortable. I wasn't at all offended and we just agreed to disagree, but it made the wheels and gears in my head start turning and I've thought of not much else since. 

That single conversation made me wonder if there are a great number of people shaking their heads as they read stories of our life. For every kind comment and word of encouragement, are there an equal number of people shaking their heads and feeling pity for our "internet-famous" children? It made me think long and hard about why we share our lives with perfect strangers and in the face of a big, scary world, what we are gaining in return. As I have mulled over these questions for the last few weeks, I decided there were a few things I wanted to tell you about "mommy blogging". Even if we still disagree at the end of this post, I want you to know where my heart is and why I feel like transparency and vulnerability are such a huge asset to motherhood. 

(1) As many stories as I'm sharing with you, they are all filtered through the discerning {and brilliant} mind of my husband. I can think of a few blogs I read where the authors have admitted their husbands don't agree with their "over-sharing" and yet they press on. While Josh and I may disagree on a great many things, I would never publish something without his consent. Anything slightly controversial or of questionable content is carefully considered, proof read and prayed about {the post about the birds & the bees is an excellent example}. I don't take sharing these stories lightly. 

(2) I'm not telling you everything. Even though I post here three days a week and it might seem like I'm rehashing every minute detail of our lives, there are plenty of things we keep private. I know that for the good of our children, for our public safety and for the health of my marriage that many topics are off limits. While it might seem that you know everything there is to know about Taz + Belly, we are only sharing a small glimpse into our everyday lives.

(3) As weird as it sounds, blogging has been such an amazing way to meet other women. Josh used to laugh at these "internet friendships", but ya'll IT'S A THING. While the vast number of them I have never met in real life, I have had countless conversations via comments, email, Instagram and even text messages with women I would have never otherwise engaged. As if that isn't crazy enough on it's own, I have a real-life friend that I met because of blogging. Jennifer and I "met" because we were pregnant at the same time, had a few mutual friends and lived near one another. We eventually met in person and I cannot tell you what her friendship has meant to me over the last year. I have always struggled with female relationships {anybody?} and it is beyond encouraging to have a friend you can relate to in so many ways. Late night text conversations about Scandal? Check. Bible study and spiritual accountability? Check. Blogging and the interwebs? Check. I might never would have had the opportunity to do life with her if I hadn't published that first ultrasound photograph <insert winky faced emoji here>.

(4) Being a mom is tough. Just two days ago, I stood in the driveway with my husband, crying over the morning we had just endured. Everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, there were tears and angry words and bitterness and it was the worst possible way to start a Monday morning. I was frustrated with Josh because I didn't feel like he was backing me up and I was even more upset with Ella for her disrespect. Of course, because he is so much smarter than me, Josh gave me a pep talk on the way out the back door and reminded me of all the reasons I don't suck at this. He pointed out that parenting is hard - none of us have it all figured out and we're all just trying to keep our kids alive! I can't consider it a failure if I have to correct one of them every single day because that's just part of raising a sane, responsible human being. What in the world does that have to do with over-sharing, you ask? Reading words a mom wrote from the heart, with transparency and vulnerability, give her a pass to over-share every day of the week. Each time I read a carefully crafted post about what she's learning about marriage and motherhood and being an adult, I mentally give her a high-five. It's those posts that give me the courage to get up and do it all again tomorrow. To share our heartaches and victories because some other mother out there is waking up to cranky kids and a stressed out husband and they need a little encouragement today. 

A few weeks ago, I read a post by a blogger that I adore. It outlined why she wasn't planning to share future pregnancies or the details of her "someday children" on her blog. She was wise to admit that because she wasn't yet a mother, everything she believed to be true was subject to change. I completely understood everything she had to say. There is a part of me that totally gets it -- why she would want to protect their security and preserve such a sacred relationship for herself. And as much as I could relate to everything I was reading, I knew that I disagreed. Sharing your story is such a personal decision - the hows and the whys and the how much is too much. That's just it - that is her story and it is beautiful and perfect for her in every way, but it's not mine. My story is one I'm choosing to share and live out on the lines and pages of this little corner of the internet. And even though you may not agree or understand completely, I am so thrilled that you come here and read our stories and leave encouraging comments and cheer us on. The tiny community I've managed to carve out here has enriched my life in so many ways and I'm not sure I could survive parenting without your support.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bible Journaling

11 May 2015

{otherwise known as: LONGEST POST EVER}

FAQs & details of my Bible Journaling Process | Illustrated Faith 

It's been several weeks since I posted anything Bible Journaling related and I thought you were due for an update. I get lots of questions on my Instagram posts and they are all things I wanted to ask in the beginning myself. Now that I have several months of faith journaling experience, I thought I'd share more details about my process, my supplies and my favorite ways to connect my faith with my talents.

Illustrated Faith

The most frequently asked question I get is "Where did you get that amazing Bible cover?!" I was fortunate enough to jump on The Pokey Rose train before she was swamped with orders and was able to secure my cover in a jiffy. Now days, you'll be waiting until she opens up shop and grabbing one as quick as you can, while supplies last. Her prices have gone up a little since then {hello, supply + demand}, but I'm telling you that they are worth every penny. It is so well constructed and I adore the way it looks. Several people have asked if I remove it to work in it each day and the answer is a big fat NO. I probably should do that {see that hot pink paint on the bottom edge}, but I've decided to be okay with whatever happens while pursuing artistic endeavors.

Illustrated Faith

And if the Bible cover wasn't cute enough all on its own, she sent me this amazing little pen pouch a few weeks ago and it complements my cover so well. It pays to be a vocal IG user and I was quick to tell her how amazing this black and gold arrow fabric was a month or so ago and she earmarked enough for a flash-sale. It is the perfect size for all of my favorite pens, plus an eraser and a few rolls of washi tape.

Illustrated Faith

Can we talk about this view? It doesn't look nearly as packed and full of tabs right here as it is in real life, but one of my favorite views is from above. I love seeing all of those bits and pieces sticking out on every side as a reminder of how often I'm digging in. It's quite the conversation starter, too! I used to be a little embarrassed about carrying it to worship or to work because it definitely causes people to ask questions and sometimes explaining why you color in your Bible is a little awkward. Now, I'm just praying that God would use it as a way to introduce my faith and share a little bit about faith journaling with anyone brave enough to ask!

Have you ever been curious about decorating the edges of your pages? Let me tell you about that. After I had been working in my Bible for several months, the edges of my pages were getting a little dingy and it was frustrating. I had seen tons of images on Instagram with beautiful page edges and I figured I could pretty them up with my markers and all would be well. Word to the wise: Decorate your page edges BEFORE you begin journaling in your Bible. Mine no longer lined up perfectly and it was hard to get the marker tips down in the crevices. Tabs and bookmarks don't help the situation. Once I finished up, I realized that I hated the way it looked. It was so bright compared to everything else and I instantly regretted my decision. Armed with some white acrylic paint and a dry paint brush, I went about distressing it a bit and lightening up the colors. I'll admit that I am MUCH happier with this version, but I have even more advice. Do not use water soluble markers to decorate the edges. I used my Distress Markers, plus the white acrlyic paint and while I love the way it looks {now}, every time I use water colors on a page, the colors on neighboring pages runs just a little. It doesn't bother me much {I kind of embrace the mess of faith journaling}, but if you don't want bleeding and messes, I would advise against it.

Illustrated Faith

But, what about mistakes? Let me just tell you that the inside cover of my Bible has seen many variations. When I first bought my Bible, I just wrote my name on the line they provided. Then as I started following the Illustrated Faith hashtag {#illustratedfaith} I was uber jealous of all the crafty girls who planned thought out cover pages. Inside cover number two was a combination of scrapbook paper, washi tape and a few drawings and while I convinced myself it would make me happy, it only lasted a few weeks. I finally settled on some scrap paper and a glue stick and I kind of love it. I decorated the page with my name and then when quotes or verses stand out to me, I make a mini tip-in and add it here. I'm guessing at some point I'll have a few in the back cover as well. If I were you, I would think about this spread for a few days before you do anything rash.

Illustrated Faith

As I look through scores of images I am struck by how many artists have a common theme throughout their Bible. They are either hardcore watercolor enthusiasts, scrapbookers, acrylic paint lovers or a master of pen and ink. I, friends, am all over the place. When I first started drawing in my Bible, I stuck with pencils and colored pencils because that is what I was good at. Slowly I began to branch out using other supplies and what I found is that both my mood and the verses I'm reading greatly affect what supplies I pull out for the day. Sometimes I'll go an entire week focused on a single medium and the very next week I won't duplicate my process a single time. Don't feel boxed in by any category of art supplies. Do what feels right that particular day and let the reading help inspire your process!

Illustrated Faith

This page started with layers of acrylic craft paint, applied with the edge of an old gift card. I added several patterns of washi tape, black pigment liners and a white gel pen for highlights. Although I've heard many people say they hate the clear, plastic tab covers that come with your tab punch, I LOVE THEM. My paper tabs tend to bend and show wear after a few weeks and I am loving how sturdy they are when covered with these plastic covers.

Illustrated Faith

This page is a combination of Distress Markers, pigment liners, washi tape and baker's twine. I used a water brush to apply the color from the markers and I love how it looks and how easy it was to blend. I was worried that using baker's twine to tie the page would result in a tear, but it actually worked quite well! I put a small piece of scrapbook paper on the backside, used a tiny punch to make two holes and then strung the bakers twine through the holes. After tying the bow, I added a small knot at the bottom of both ends to keep it from unraveling. This page sparked many baker's twine knots to come.

Illustrated Faith

Sometimes, facing pages match or coordinate and other times they don't. While I love both of these pages, neither the artwork nor the verses are related at all.

Illustrated Faith

Even though I'm not a scrapbooker by nature, I do love hoarding scrapping supplies and random bits of ephemera. Before Bible Journaling, I saved them for gift wrapping and making cards and tags. These days, they live in a box on my desk until I can find a page to work them into. This Instax photo of Ella has been hanging out since Christmas and I knew I wanted to use it eventually. When I read this passage about cheering on our brothers and sisters in Christ, I knew I had saved it for a purpose!

Illustrated Faith

I also have lots of people share how they have limited or no artistic abilities and they are worried about how to incorporate art in their Bible. Believe it or not, sometimes my pages have far more journaling than drawing. Oftentimes I rewrite Bible passages, other times I'm copying down devotional passages that I've read and then other days I'm just writing things that God is pointing out as I study His word.

Illustrated Faith

It doesn't always have to be involved or complicated. Sometimes my favorite pages have very few words, a few swaths of washi tape and some stickers. I am constantly drawn to this page with plastic hearts and letter stickers.

Illustrated Faith

Ella, on the other hand, prefers pages where we use ALL the supplies. She loves to paint and use stickers and add brads or staples to secure little bits and pieces.

Illustrated Faith

There have been days when I never even make it to my devotion book. I see a quote somewhere on social media or on a sign somewhere and it sparks some inspiration to recreate it in my Bible. This was a Facebook status made by Jen Hatmaker several weeks ago and I could not get it out of my head. I used pigment liners and water colors to decorate the page and I finished it off with a mini clothes pin. See... you can use all sorts of fun little things to mark your pages!

Illustrated Faith

For this page, I really wanted to use a stamp, but I didn't have anything that looked like I wanted it to. I was inspired by the pattern on the cover of my planner and wanted to recreate it in my Bible. I ended up cutting craft foam into triangle shapes and applied acrylic craft paint to them with a foam brush. The pattern turned out exactly as I wanted, even if I wasn't thrilled with my lettering.

Illustrated Faith

You see that earth up there? It might be my most favorite thing to add to the margins. I get so excited when I read a verse that allows me to draw some of my favorite things alongside them. Among my favorites are the earth, light bulbs, stars and moons. I have drawn and painted many variations of all of those images.

Illustrated Faith

Here is another scrapbook inspired page with plenty of baker's twine. It didn't turn out exactly as I had envisioned, but that doesn't mean I wasn't happy with how it turned out. I really love using a mini stapler to attach thicker items to the margins of my pages. You might can see there is a wrinkle in the page. You do have to be careful when adding thicker items because the weight sometimes causes pages to wrinkle or fold.

Illustrated Faith

I love that every page of my Bible looks completely different. While there are some pages that stick out to me and that I can flip to in a heartbeat, there are others that I completely forget about and then get so excited when I stumble across them again later. I love looking up the verses in church on Sunday morning and waiting to see what little treasure was left there earlier in the year. It is always amazing to see how God ties things together from week to week and month to month.

Illustrated Faith

I wondered if Bible Journaling would be something that I would eventually "grow out of" or if I would stop making time for hours at a time in the word. What I'm finding is the complete opposite. While I can't make time for lengthy faith journaling every day, I do find several times a week to make it a priority. I love discovering new art supplies, reading verses I've never heard before and continuing to learn how God can use our talents for His purposes. 

Is there anything you were wondering that I didn't cover? Sound off in the comments and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

You can read about my favorite journaling supplies here and watch a video about how I found Illustrated Faith here. This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on the links above will result in a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make this blog possible.