The Importance of Family Portraits

Just before Thanksgiving I got a call from a dear friend’s Mother in Law. Her family was all coming in town for Thanksgiving and it’s the first time that they would all be together in years. She wanted to book a family portrait session, and from the minute she asked I was really excited about it. Family portrait sessions are my favorite!

Becca and Seth’s family was delightful and I had a blast with all of them!

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The gorgeous redhead above is Becca and her husband Seth who introduced me to my new hubby Justin… and for that we will eternally owe them! :)

franklin-family-photographer4Becca is mom to sweet Guston who’s the same age as Baby J and they also have Baby Wiley too. They sure have their hands full and it makes photo sessions funny because toddler Gus walked off absolutely sobbing. That’s how life is with little ones! Thankfully, we got some good pics.

franklin-family-photographer5Only a few days after our photo session, I got a call from Becca learned that Seth’s grandfather had passed away very suddenly. I was heartbroken for them and very quickly finished editing their pictures.

I was so honored to have captured these moments between this sweet couple and their beautiful family. As I was taking these pictures, I told them that I was a newlywed and asked them what marriage advice they had for me. They said, “Love God. Love each other,” which pretty much sums it all up.

franklin-family-photographer3 franklin-family-photographer2I was so struck with the importance of family photos after this news. These will be some of the last photos of all of them together, and for that I am honored.

What about you? When was the last time you had a family portrait session?

Overwhelmed With Love

Wow. Can I just say WOW???

Y’all. Posting our exciting news and story was incredible for me to write out, but it was more incredible to hear from each of you who took the time to leave a sweet note – on the blog, facebook, twitter or instagram. THANK YOU!

I truly had no idea how many of you actually read the blog. I joked with a friend that often times it feels like I’m just writing to myself over here! But no, tens and tens and tens of you actually read and for that I’m so grateful. :)

Grateful

That’s the common theme in my life right now. Overwhelmed with goodness and so, so grateful.

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Justin and I just spent our first holiday together for Thanksgiving and it was so much fun! We had a huge lunch at my parents’ house with my Grandma, Aunts and Uncles, my cousins and all our babies. Between just 4 of us cousins, there were 6 kids ages 5 and under. Four of which were 2 years old or under! :) It was quite a fun and chaotic time!

Baby J got to spend time with his Cousin Ella who’s only a few months older than he is. They are too cute together and I loved this sequence of photos of them… I’m sure they’re thinking, “MOOOM! Not another picture!!!” They are quite photogenic babies (usually!).

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I am so blessed to have such amazing family and Baby J sure does love his Grandpa! Now I’ve married into one of my dear friend’s families which makes friends family – it’s amazing. So Baby J’s friend Gus is now his cousin, and I can’t wait to see them grow up together. The picture below is my friend Becca’s dear family that is now my family! :)

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My dear Sis and Ella were in town from Georgia and we got to spend some sweet time with them. I’m thankful for them both, and how cute are they?? The caption for the photo on the right should read: “Typical toddler photo.”

our-first-thanksgiving4 Our Thanksgiving weekend ended with my dear friends and our Friendsgiving Brunch! The weather was crazy warm on Sunday, so we got to play outside and let the toddlers get their wiggles out! (p.s. I just love seeing Justin and Baby J together! How cute are they??)

This newlywed season is so sweet and we’re loving getting used to life together and life together as a family now. I’m excited to have a bit more margin now to write, journal, blog, do some photography and more! I hope that you’ll be hearing from me much more regularly these days!

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying this Christmas season and all the amazing Christmas music like I am!

How was your Thanksgiving? What were some of your favorite memories??

 

A Very Exciting Surprise!

I am so excited to share one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever written with you! It’s time that I shared the news that…

Justin and I eloped!!! 

Photo by the amazing Jenna Henderson, Photographer

Photo by the amazing Jenna Henderson, Photographer

Honestly, I am still in AWE that this is my life – that all of these incredibly happy moments truly are reality. And that I get to spend the rest of my life with a man I love and adore. We are so OVERJOYED, and I wish I could tell you every little detail but for now a fun overview will have to do.

Our story all began when we got setup on a blind double date by his cousin Becca, one of my dear friends from high school. (Thank you Becca and Seth!!! We’ll owe you forever!!)  What first attracted me to Justin was his kindness and his sense of humor. He didn’t judge me for still living at home with my parents or being a single mom, but instead, he got to know the real me past all the circumstances and we clicked almost immediately.

Dating again after being out of the dating scene for almost 9 years was full of it’s comical moments… like when he officially asked me to be his girlfriend and I thought that I already was… whoops! (I will have to share that story later… it’s one of his favorite stories to tell!)

But the most common thing we experienced when we were getting to know each other were conversations that would go like this:

Me: What do you think about [insert important life topic]?
Justin would then answer with exactly what I think/hope about that topic.
Me: OF COURSE you do.

It became a joke… I’d ask something like, “What do you think about kids?” and he’d answer, “I’d love to have a large family, and I’d like to adopt.” And then I’d have to scrape my chin off the floor when his answer would exactly match my heart’s desires too. So then I started literally saying, “OF COURSE you want that.” To which he’d then say, “Oh yeah? You too?” and would wink at me in that way that makes my heart actually skip a beat.

The more these amazing conversations went on, the clearer it became that God had given each of us specific goals, desires and visions which perfectly aligned with each other. We were falling for each other…

What surprised me the most about our relationship was how EASY it was. We got along so well, we communicated so easily, that even when we had a disagreement we could resolve it really quickly. I had never experienced that before, and I knew it was a rare and amazing quality to have found!

While we were dating, a sweet friend of mine who’s a professional organizer was helping me go through boxes of my things to de-clutter and I found a journal from beginning of my freshman year of college when I was 18. In the first four pages I listed out, in a very detailed fashion, all of the many qualities I wanted in my future husband. They were things like, “kind and loving” to as detailed as, “he plays guitar.” When I found the journal this summer, I read over it and quickly realized that Justin has every single quality on my list. EVERY single one. And then I got chills. Justin is all of those things and a whole host of things I never knew I needed. It’s amazing how God can do exceedingly more than you’d even dream for yourself.

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Photo by Jenna Henderson, Photographer

There were many reasons why we decided to elope, but more on that later… complete with wedding photos!

After we had been dating for a few months, I’ll never forget a conversation that my mom and I had after Justin had just spent an evening with my family and I. She came into my room, laid on my bed and said, “I really, really like Justin. He’s so sweet and dear!” and we both started crying. It was one of those moments that just hits you: I’ve been wanting this, praying for this, waiting for a man just like him and he’s finally here.

We did pre-marital counseling which was really important to me, and during one of our last sessions our counselor said to us: “I don’t get to say this very often but you two are going to be great together.” And then I think my heart did 100,000 flips.

We ARE so good together. But more than it just being about compatibility, we both have a heart for the Lord and a desire to have a marriage that brings Him glory. We have both walked down some long and difficult roads. What I’ve found is that when God writes your story, it turns out far more beautiful than you could ever dream – even if it is looks a lot different than you thought it would.

There were some very dark days when I was pregnant with Baby J and when he was a newborn, knowing that my husband-at-the-time wanted a divorce after years of our rollercoaster marriage. I didn’t understand how any good could possibly come from such a heartbreaking situation. I knew that God could make beautiful things out of the mess of a crumbled marriage and a newborn, and I sure was hopeful that He would, but at the time it was hard to have vision.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

God surely has done immeasurably more than I could imagine in my life over the past few years. He is redeeming in big ways. But don’t think that my “happy ending” is wrapped up in a person or a relationship. Through the crumbling of my first marriage, I was humbled greatly and ultimately realized that my security and my hope is Jesus alone.

It’s been three weeks since we eloped, and we are absolutely loving newlywed life! We are learning how to live together – he is admittedly FAR neater than I am, but I’m working on it. We’re enjoying every minute and constantly look at each other and say things like, “We’re MARRIED!!” and then break out into a smile. We are so excited about being a family and both a little overwhelmed by all of the happy changes. Justin got an automatic family: he became both a husband and a Dad to Baby J all in the same day. I moved out of my parent’s house and into his place, so I’m adjusting to running a house again, including cooking and cleaning.

We are really in awe of how God has blessed us with each other and are really excited to glorify Him through our marriage. As much as we hate to admit it, that cheesy Rascal Flatts song seems to be true for us: “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”

Justin’s grandfather says, “Flowers don’t grow on the mountain, they grow in the valley.” And it was in the dark valley that I realized more about myself and my faith than any other time of my life, and the flowers in my heart grew.

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My gorgeous bouquet was by Brocade Designs

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV

In the valley or on the mountaintop, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and we should never lose hope. He is faithful in all seasons and in any circumstance, and for that I’m so grateful.

How have you seen God redeem something in your life?

Surrender

31 DAYS of SURRENDER

It takes 28 days to create a new habit, so the saying goes. So 31 days of writing and I’ll be all set! ;) I’m excited to be joining The Nester on the Write31Days challenge, which encourages writers to pick one topic or theme and write daily for 31 days on it.

I kept asking The Lord what word or theme He wanted me to meditate on for the month and the word SURRENDER kept coming up. And then I chuckled…

This is a season of lots of change for me, and I find myself constantly having to relinquish any control I *think* I have over to The Lord.

All of these changes are new, different and exciting, but it doesn’t make them any less terrifying sometimes! I’m constantly having to surrender my thinking to renew my mind.

I’m sure that lots will emerge as I take the time to write over the next month, but here are a few (and some of them are RANDOM) things that have been mulling around in my head lately:

  • My idea of what success looks like is much different now even than 6 months ago.
  • Organization, and being neat, isn’t my strong suit but I’m really working on it.
  • How to use failure to fall forward.
  • I wanted to quit social media. And the internet. But then I changed my perspective. Stay tuned for that story…
  • Going through a divorce and being a single mother has wrecked me in the best way possible.
  • I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned more in the past 2 years than almost all of my life combined. It’s been Kristen Steele on steroids.
  • HOPE. This word has been my banner word for several years. I’m in a very hopeful season right now!
  • Learning how to love again has brought out all of my deep, dark fears.
  • Refusing to live in fear but walk in love is so much easier said than done, but it’s so worth it.
  • I’ve had to say goodbye to people I love way more than I like recently and that makes me sad.
  • Hearing a toddler laugh and squeal will make almost anything better.
  • A toddler biting you will make almost anything worse, haha.
  • Laughing, happy seasons of life are amazing.
  • Dieting and making the transition to clean eating isn’t easy, but I’m hoping it’s worth it… In the meantime, I miss ice cream.
  • Surrendering my ‘ideal weight’ and learning to be gracious with myself is very hard.
  • Dating again after almost 10 years is hilarious.

That about covers some of the main themes that I’ve been thinking about recently and I can’t wait to share more about what SURRENDER looks like for me in this season.

#InfluenceConf Meet Kristen Steele

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Next week I will be packing up my stuff and heading to the Influence Conference with 300 other bloggers, but in the meantime here’s a quick online introduction!

A Little About Me
I’m Kristen, a Spunky Southern girl and a native Nashvillian. I’m a single mama to the sweetest 15-month-old bumbling baby boy I lovingly call “Baby J.” I’m walking out of the hardest few years of my life after the crumbling of my marriage and a hard divorce. But right now, I’m in an amazing season of watching God REDEEM hard, messy things.

I’m what I like to call a multi-passionate creative entrepreneur! By day I’m the Digital Publicist at B&H Publishing and I absolutely love it. I get to oversee the social media and email marketing for our amazing books that we publish by some of your favorite authors like Angie Smith, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore and Candace Cameron Bure. I get to manage Selma Wilson’s blog, our awesome President. But the part that YOU will want to know about is I manage our BH Bloggers program. More about that below…

I also blog here on Graciously Authentic about faith, motherhood/co-parenting, technology and more! I’m the Co-Founder of Graciously Authentic Media, a Rodan+Fields skincare consultant and a photographer. I love all of my passions and they all (somehow!) mesh together in my head well! :)

I started blogging years ago, then I kept writing because it helped me journey through a really hard time, and now I’m in a new season of analyzing. I love writing, but now my motives are different. I’m excited to hear from the incredible speakers and know I’ll get some wisdom about what my next steps should be.

What am are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about manning the B&H Publishing booth and getting to meet all of YOU! I’ve been a member of the Influence network’s forums for a while now and cannot WAIT to get to hug all of you in person (I’m TOTALLY a hugger!!) and share about how through the BH Bloggers program you can get books for your blog to review and giveaway. (So awesome, right??)

I’m coming by myself and other than a couple of friends, I don’t know ANYONE. So don’t be a stranger – reach out. I absolutely love meeting new friends!

Nashville Meetup!
I love that as part of the conference they have included a time on Saturday for meetups with other bloggers from your area. I have organized an event for any Nashville/Middle TN area bloggers OR anyone who’s from an area that doesn’t have an organized meetup. Come join us!!

REGISTER FOR THE MEETUP HERE

What wouldn’t you leave home without?
I wouldn’t leave home without my iPad with its keyboard. It’s so easy to bring around with me and I type so much faster than I write out in my notebook. But I sure do love my moleskine notebook too!

I also won’t leave home without my miracle-working eye cream. Traveling always takes a toll on you, and after that late night black + white party, I’ll need it! ;)

CONNECT WITH ME: InstagramFacebookTwitter • Pinterest

p.s. If you like Twitter lists, I’ve created one for the Influence Conference 2014. Subscribe to follow along with us easily. Tweet @me if you want to be added and you’re not on the list yet!

Doing Too Much and Sabbath Rest

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I have a confession.

I have a confession: I have a problem with doing TOO MUCH. My calendar these days has been filled to the brim with that cutie up there and so much more. Now granted, they are all good things, things I want to be doing. But I’ve hit my limit. It’s too much.

This Spring and Summer has been full of happiness. JOY is abundant in my life as I have gotten to soak up time with my guys, friends and family. I look around sometimes and my heart just bursts. When I see my little guy reaching for me because he wants me to hold him, or I walk hand in hand with my boyfriend… these are the moments that I have longed for, the moments that in my darkest times I wasn’t sure I’d see.

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