Isabela | shop

Last month I had the pleasure of taking some photos for sweet Isabela — one of the bravest teenage girls I have ever met! She is heading off to Hillsong College in just a few weeks (that’s right, in Australia!) and has set up an online shop to sell a lot of her clothes to help her 1) downsize before moving down under and 2) have a little extra pocket money for the journey. Homegirl is incredible and has been busting it working three jobs since she graduated high school in June to raise all the money she needs for college and it was an honor to spend time with her and take photos too! She is truly incredible. Super gorgeous too, inside and out. I vividly remember being in that season of life, so much unknown and excitement (and for me, definitely some fear!). Incredible things are ahead for you, Bela girl! Check out her Instagram shop here:

birth, photography

Abram | birth

I could write volumes about this day and what it meant to me personally, but all that pales in comparison to the bigger story here– Abram was born!

I met Mary in September of 2015. The week after we started going to Elevation I joined an eGroup and Mary was there. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, so genuine and has one of the most thoughtful and kind spirits. Against all odds and busy-ness of life and her move out of Raleigh, we have kept in touch and seen each other off and on at church things. I talked to her this summer, still flying high from my own birth at Baby & Company in Cary, and asked her if she would be interested in free birth photography. Anyone that does “birth work” can tell you– birth is on another level. Once you experience it, personally or even just being present, you can’t quit! It’s truly a spiritual experience. Ever since my own birth I started to feel a little flame ignite in my soul that maybe, just maybe, birth photography was something I wanted to do. You know, like as a job. Or at least a serious hobby.

Fast-forward to October 11, 2017 and I missed a phone call a 3am. I was asleep (rare, seeing as my own sweet baby does not actually always sleep at night…) and I heard CLEARLY as ever someone in my bedroom say: “Kellie.”

I opened my eyes, sat up and said “huh?!” and nobody replied. Marshall was asleep, as were the kids, and I looked at my phone to see what time it was and saw I had missed a call from Mary and had a text from her that she was at the birth center. Was it an angel  that said my name? I think so. (YES. YES IT WAS.) But at this point you probably already think I’m a weirdo from my aforementioned spiel about birth being an addictive spiritual experience (and some of you are still unsure about this whole birth photo thing in general…), so I’m going to hold off on the “do angels exist?” convo and keep going with the birth story.

Any who, it was at the birth center where I welcomed my own babe a few months earlier that I watched sweet Mary labor and bring her sweet (and big!) baby boy earth side. I had this moment when I refilled her husband’s water bottle and filled up the ice bucket in their room to make some cool rags for Mary during transition that it hit me. Birth stories are the ultimate love story. Have you seen a husband love and serve his wife during labor? A midwife speak love, truth and encouragement to a laboring mom? A mom relying fully on her breath to sustain her, the very breath God breathed into us at creation? The brilliant design of birth and the incredible, tangible atmosphere that follows? It’s all love. An amazing picture of our father’s love for us.

I shouted out loud with joy and surprise when at 7:42am Abraham “Abram” entered the world weighing 8 pounds 3 ounces and at 20 inches long– the son of two of the bravest, strongest people I’ve ever met. It was an honor to witness and be part of this baby’s birth day! Thank you barely covers it!


handpicked, personal, photography

Sarah | Just Because

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on about how much I adore this woman. She is one of the greatest blessings in my life and has been for over ten years now (and seriously she hasn’t aged even slightly in that time. How, Sarah? How?!?
When I graduated from high school and was planning to attend Meredith College in the fall of 2006, I prayed fervently like I had never prayed before for a family to babysit for. Long story short, my bible study leader in the fall of 2006 sent an email to our group and said “First one to reply gets the babysitting gig!” and I was the first! I interviewed with them later that week, got the babysitting gig and could not have even imagined the role that this lady and her family would have in my life. She has been there for everything–  they literally let me live with them after I graduated in between apartments, helped me plan our wedding and celebrated with us constantly through our engagement, gave me many pre-wedding/marriage pep-talks, visited me in the hospital when I had Lincoln (and came over on Fridays for several weeks after his birth for a few hours– LIFE GIVING THOSE FRIDAYS) and now they have the best relationship, he is seriously so in love with his Say-Say (and her husband “Matt Damon”). And those are just a few of those things. We’ve spent hours just chatting, texting each other until I am crying laughing…. I cannot imagine what my life would be now if this woman had not entrusted the care of her sweet babies to me all those years ago. Her friendship has been one of the greatest things about this life, that is unmistakeable. Such a gift! 
A few weeks ago I invited myself over to take pictures of her and Stanley while “Damon” (dying) and the kids were out of town. She and Stanley both are too gorgeous for more words… enjoy! 

elevation, God stuff, handpicked, personal, photography

Jonelle | Just Because + My Elevation Story

I’ve written some here and on social media about my kind of wacky and unique postpartum experience. It was rough times, and it was late September of 2015, that things started to calm down a bit and I started to reemerge from that season. My eczema had cleared up significantly, our marriage was strengthening, my anxiety and depression were improving and we were on the up and up. We had been attending a local church for several years and had a solid small group of other couples, but we had undeniably been feeling God pulling at us to move to a different church. Some seasons were ending in areas that we had served in, we were new parents and the time felt right for a change. Our small group was gearing up to start a new year and we felt like it was good to pull out of the group before starting a new year even before knowing where we were headed church-wise. It was kind of a fast decision, but one we both strongly felt God was guiding us to make. So, we made a list of churches in the area to visit put them in iCal for the next few Sundays and started the vetting process over again. We both had visited Elevation Church in Charlotte a few times and were longtime followers of their worship music and sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick (I actually blogged about this sermon a few months before Lincoln was born, and this sermon about fear and being brave changed my life a few months later) but having just come from a big multi-site church with many locations, I was pretty skeptical. I felt I wanted less flashy lights, big production on Sundays and just a quieter experience overall. Honestly, I was pretty not excited about finding a church. I felt like no matter what church we went to I was always disappointed in the people, and I think on some level I was just going along for the ride because I felt like I should, not because I felt like I was going to get anything from God. 
During my postpartum season, I had listened to almost every single podcast that Elevation Church put out, so I am not sure why I was so hesitant to visit in real life. We weren’t even first time visitors, we had been to the Raleigh location a few times when we were off from serving at our old church, and we even left Lincoln in the nursery there for the first time ever when he was just a few months old (also, we were there on Christmas Eve a few days before he was born when my labor started). Looking back it was so clear that this is where God was sending us to be a part, I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner. 
I think we visited on September 19th, on the way out of the worship experience Marshall was like “I want to go here for a while” and I agreed (again, not totally on board but he seemed convinced so I went with it). We signed up for E101 the next week to learn more about the church (except thats where you sign up to serve– we had no idea) and then I found an eGroup that met on Friday mornings at Jubala (hellooooo my favorite coffee place!) and that’s where I met Jonelle. 
I thought her eGroup had been meeting forever, but it turns out I invited myself to the first meeting ever. My first impression was what an answer to something that I had really been longing for but not really said anything about to God, or anyone else. I had an overwhelmingly large and supportive community of moms already. Our previous small group, local friends, my sister… I had a ton and I was kind of mommed out. I was growing tired of spending time with other moms, conversations completely dominated by nap schedules, breastfeeding woes and nighttime baby sleep. I was craving real conversation, about what was going on in my life and in theirs, things they really struggled with (not related to baby sleep) and coming out of one of the hardest seasons of my life, I was just really lonely. Sitting around the table was women in a variety of life stages and it was glorious. Jonelle is a mom of girls that are teenagers (and now with one in college) and of the other women some were moms of elementary, middle or high school kids, some were single, some were college girls themselves and it was just as my heart had desired. 
Another thing that literally took my breath away for a second, was the fact that out of a group of maybe 10 ladies, I was one of I think three that were white. After the UMC shooting in Charleston, Pastor Steven preached an unforgettable message titled “It’s In Your Hands” about racism that changed everything for me. I’ve had black friends, Hispanic friends, Asian friends, Muslim friends throughout my lifetime, but at that current season in my life literally everyone I knew and interacted with on a regular basis was white– just like me, and just like Lincoln. My heart was not comfortable when I realized that. In the sermon he talked about that it is OUR JOB to raise the next generation without the racism of our previous generations. It ends with us. It changed everything for me. Our neighbors were black and we didn’t even know their names and had lived beside them for years. Our church was majority white, our small group was 100% white. Every kid that we were friends with at the time was white. How could I teach my child that other people maybe different colors but are the same as us– loved, chosen, wanted, and valued by God– if we literally never interacted with anyone that looked different from us? I couldn’t imagine waiting until he was in kindergarten for him to meet a diverse group of people. Diverse immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list when we decided to look for a new church. So, when I got to eGroup and I looked around the table I knew that God was with me there, and this is where the future was for us. Our big mighty God that created all the things shows up in the tiniest of details in our prayers, hearts and thoughts and it is the greatest. He wants great things for us, for us to do great things and it is never too late to get started. 
So, back to Jonelle. We hit it off immediately, and after talking to her some the following Sunday at church we discovered that we both had been dabbling in the paleo and autoimmune paleo diet (literally I had not met any actual person in real life at that point that had either heard of it, or wasn’t a total skeptical about the whole “gluten free craze”) for a variety of conditions, one of which was eyelid eczema that I really thought I was the only one in the world that had that! Talk about a me too! moment. The more we got to know each other, the more it became clear that we were family through and through. This woman is so special to me! And being in her eGroup was such a gift and the doorway to what would become a seemingly endless stream of blessings flowing from this church into our lives as sermons, people, serving opportunities, the stories we get to witness and be part of.. it’s unreal how we see God moving literally on a daily basis through connections we’ve made at this church. As Lincoln got older it got more difficult to get to eGroup (and to stay the entirety of the time) but I still consider myself to be a part and I honestly doubt I’ll ever leave… 
This woman’s beauty is breathtaking inside and out, I am beyond grateful that we get to share in this season together! We met one chilly day at Sola in Raleigh for some fun headshots for blog things to come for her (she’s an avid and talented writer, in addition to all the other things that she rocks at….) and it was a total blast standing on stuff and climbing around the tables like we were the only people in there (we weren’t). Thankful barely covers it. So thankful for this family. 

documentary, everyday photos, family, handpicked, just because, parenthood, personal, photography

Just Because | Steph + Ben

So, being a mom is tough.  Figuring out what your place in the world is is tough. Finding balance in the tension of being a mother and having a career is tough.

Lincoln was a newborn when I resigned from my teaching job for the coming school year. I was supposed to be excited to have the opportunity to work from home and be with my baby all the time, but it was such an unfamiliar thing I was really not as thrilled as I thought I would be when I signed my resignation letter. There was so much unknown and comments made by co-workers and friends (“oh it must be so nice to be able to stay at home….”) that made me think I was surrendering a hardworking life for a glorified maternity leave– except permanent. 

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I remember tearfully telling Marshall… ”—but I don’t want to be just a mom! I thought there was more for me!”  I felt like I needed to start a business, write a book, do something big. Little did I realize at the time, that raising that tiny person into a  full grown human being is one of the biggest things I’ll ever do. It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t gain a lot of followers. There’s a lot of poop, boogers, squashed bananas in places there shouldn’t be squashed bananas, and lately, singing the songs to Frozen more times than I’ve ever wanted to (that’s my own fault– who showed him Frozen? Me. I did.). It’s taken time, almost two years, and I can’t say I don’t wonder what it would be like to still be working in a school (versus a virtual one) or running a business or writing a book, or going “viral” or whatever, but more days than not I find my heart and soul to be very content doing what I was designed best to do: be Lincoln’s mom. Most days, I kinda rock at it. Not in a perfect, make-all-the-right-decisions way, but in that I recognize the weight of what I’m doing. It’s big. I don’t love it twenty four/ seven, but there are moments– many of them– when the joy just catches me by surprise and I thank God that this is where he put me, even though I was reluctant. There are some freaking hard days, but there are really great days too. And those hard days aren’t all bad, just hard. Getting to this place hasn’t been easy (actually, it was the worst summer and subsequent six months of my life adjusting) but it’s been so worth it, and my perspective on everything is so different. I could not be more grateful. (If you aren’t familiar with my postpartum depression/anxiety/eczema explosion story you can read it here and my thoughts on being “just a mom” here). 
Okay, enough about my experience and exploiting a friend’s beautiful photos to share my thoughts on the complexity of mommy societal expectations. Another day, another post… 

Not to quote the title of my blog but this girl and I? We are handpicked. Like, from day one God had us in mind to be friends. We met in 2013 when Marshall and I visited our first small group at The Summit. We bonded over photography, our love for chocolate pastries and Paris, coffee and kitchen aid mixers, like all in the first 10 minutes of meeting each other. The rest is history. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had lived in the same neighborhood, literally down the street from each other, and then they moved out to the country but were still within a reasonable driving distance from our house. This lady loves so selflessly. The way she serves her husband and family is admirable. She’s like me, into a little bit of everything. We love music, crafting, Jesus, leggings, coffee, photography, etc. Samesies. 
She and her husband worked their booties off the first year and some of Ben’s life to pay off their debt so she could be at home with him and pour all her time into her photography business. In December she celebrated her last day of her day job and is officially a full time mama and small business owner and I asked her if I could come over and document this sweet time and transition. It’s hard when you’re in it to see how sweet it is. These photos are just so special and remind me so much of me and my own sweet boy. There is something so magical, just so so so magical about those everyday things. Making coffee. Playing trains. Eating breakfast together. Reading books. Getting dressed. Diaper changes. Some days its so monotonous, but before you know it they’re reading their own books, feeding themselves and NOT throwing it on the floor (right? RIGHT?!), and using the potty (or so I’ve heard). It’s hard adjusting to the slow life and being on toddler time, especially when you’ve been going 1,000 miles an hour and accomplishing more things before the sun is up than some people do all day…. for most of your life. 
But this girl? She rocks it. She rocks being Ben’s mama. He’s the sweetest little kid in the whole world (even compared to my own) and loves to snuggle and show affection, and I just love it. Even to me. Gives me hugs every time he sees me. Every time! I just love him and could eat him up! Now that she’s more flexible during the day we get to see each other a lot (like once a week!) and it makes me so happy. It’s like a promise fulfilled on so many fronts. I was so lonely and lost and confused in those early baby days, and begged God for community. Every time we see each other is just such a big reminder of God’s faithfulness in his timing in the big things and in the small. Thank you for having me over (ahem– letting me invite myself over) Steph and Ben! It was such a joy to be part of your morning. 

photography, wardrobe

Tracy | Lularoe

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You may remember my friend Tracy from last summer, I took some pictures for her fun fashion blog. She has recently decided to become a consultant for Lularoe, so we met up to take few pictures of the styles she’ll be carrying. Keep up with her on Instagram (@lularoetracyvazquez)! Yay for an exciting new opportunity! (And seriously, get to a pop-up and try their leggings on. You won’t be sorry…)


Glitter + Ruffles | Stars and Stripes Style

My amiga Tracy is a fellow Spanish teacher by day and fashion blogger by night (and track out)! She asked me to take some quick photos for her recent blog link-up, official hashtag: #starsandstripesstyle. Check out the post here:

I am not a super fashionable person and when given the choice, I tend to prefer leggings, a t-shirt and a messy bun… but following Tracy on Instagram has really inspired me to have a little more fun with my wardrobe. Especially now that I am working from home (leggings for days, literally) on the rare occasion I get to put on real people close and venture into the great outdoors, turns out clothes are quite fun! Thank you Tracy (and Alyssa!) for being fashion inspiration for teachers everywhere doing it on the cheap. You’re awesome! 

We have another shoot in a few weeks for their blog Glitter + Ruffles, getting so excited! Enjoy! There’s still another day to link-up with Tracy, head on over to her blog to check it out!

Her super cute husband was with us so he jumped in for a few shots. 

Oh, and I learned how to make gifs in Photoshop. This makes me so happy. Everytime I see it. AMERICA! 
Find Tracy on Instagram @ruffledtuesday
handpicked, parenthood, photography

Gabe, Jess, Asher + Jonas | portraits

This family has been such a blessing to us in this new season of parenthood. Most of our life is in North Raleigh or Wake Forest and this crew lives pretty close to us in the SE Raleigh area, and Jess is a stay at home mama so during my pregnancy and first few weeks of newborn life we started hanging out pretty regularly. She (pregnant and a 2 year old in tow) would come over, give me breastfeeding pep talks (not to mention was a major source of text encouragement during my crazy pre-labor), bring me dinner, help me make yummy lactation cookies, teach me her couponing ways… so many ways this lady has selflessly served me over the past several months!

She recently had her second sweet little boy (a rockstar VBAC!) and I offered to take some pictures of the four of them. Her husband takes awesome pictures, but as the self-appointed photographer of my family, I often end up with awesome pictures of everyone else and none including me and figured he could relate. Jess kept these a surprise for Gabe for Father’s Day and they are so sweet! Grateful that God continues to bless my heart with great friends. Also, can we talk about how amazing (and well-rested!!?) she looks for having two littles? Gorgeous.

education, handpicked, photography

Michelle + Wesley | portraits

Michelle was my work BFF this year. She is just one of those people that you meet and instantly feel like you’ve known for a lot longer than you really have. She is absolutely adorable, and even when I was nine months pregnant and she was a size 2, people (okay, kindergarteners) continued to get us confused. Up until the end of the school year, teachers would accidentally mix our names up and the last week of school one student looked at me, dead serious, and said, “you know what? I really get you and the Spanish teacher confused.” I am the Spanish teacher.

When I decided not to return to face to face teaching, I was super sad to not be working with her (and the rest of my amazing team), because we had a really great thing going. It is rare to find a team of five that work well together and we really mesh super well. I was sad about leaving technology and after talking to her we realized that she would be the perfect person to keep teaching it! She’s young, energetic and super knowledgeable about technology, specifically, the way we use iPads in the classroom and I felt totally better about leaving knowing I’d still be in communication with her and she’d be able to carry the torch.

Then, she broke the news to me. She’d gotten a job. Her dream job, actually, in Florida as a band director. She’d always wanted to be a band director in a beach town and hates cold weather. Perfection. So, she and her super cute boyfriend were moving the week after school ends. I cried. 

Honestly, the whole technology class thing was far from my mind, I was super happy for them, but so bummed our work BFF-ness was short lived. Michelle is such a joy to be around, so genuine and kind, loving and she gets my jokes. She also invited me to go to Cross Fit with her and I did. I don’t do Cross Fit, but I did and barely made it out alive, but she cheered me on the whole time (in between her 200m sprints, weight lifting, squats and pull ups). She also had a habit of cheering me on with pretty much anything I was doing at work…pumping, planning a lesson, figuring out what I should do with my life (motherhood has sent me spiraling into a bit of an identity crisis)…anything. She was always telling me that I could do it! Even when I was 38 weeks pregnant with the flu, she was like “you can power through!” I in fact, could not, but she was so encouraging! 

The last Sunday in May we met for Sushi and then frolicked over to the art museum for some evening lovey fun musical pictures of her and her tall, skinny, IT, musical boyfriend Wesley, and for a professional looking headshot for her new school’s fancy website.  You know, one like this one. 
One of my favorite things about Michelle is her contagious spirit. Every year she picks something to do. In the past it has been sky-diving and this year it is Cross Fit. She also casually mentioned during our photo session that she modeled at one point in her life, and when asked what she does in the evenings she practices flute in her coat closet of her apartment so that she does not disturb her neighbors. She also has the most impressive repertoire of Halloween costumes I’ve ever seen, including a functioning gum ball machine. 
She also doesn’t drink caffeine, accidentally did one time, and forgot where she parked her car. This was when she had two cars and legitimately left work early one day because she thought her car had been stolen, but then remembered where it was. I thought this was the best story every and told pretty much anyone, and then realized that may have been a mean thing to do. She was so gracious and laughed at herself and we all celebrated when Wesley came back from Indiana and helped her remember where she put things like her keys, her glasses or her car. 

Michelle! Your new school is so lucky to have you. I am most certainly going to miss you and I guess we will just have to add West Palm Beach to our places to visit. Hope your new swanky condo has room for a pack-n-play! 

Sometimes in difficult seasons I question God’s goodness. And then he goes and gives me super wonderful friends like these. In my life, in every single season when I’ve needed reinforcements, he always sends me somebody. Adjusting to working motherhood then transitioning into working-from-home motherhood has been hard for me and there have been a lot of times where I just straight up did not believe in myself enough to get to work on time, much less thinking about having a career. Am I still a good teacher? Do I even like teaching? Can I work and be mom? Can I be good at all of it? I would legitimately have conversations with Michelle about these things and she was just so kind and encouraging. This is one of those handpicked moments where I realize that her decision to teach at my school, although not her dream job, put her in a place to teach me in this season of transition and uncertainty. God knew that more than anything, I needed someone to encourage me and to keep me motivated to dream big. She was that person for me. Over the moon grateful for this girl! We are so handpicked. 

debt, education, photography

Rebekah | portraits

Let me start by saying that I graduated from college with some really wonderful ladies. My four years at Meredith College are definitely among the greatest of my life so far, and that is mostly in part to just being around and learning with and from an amazing group of women, then, as students and now as alumnae.

I go back and forth with how I feel about my undergraduate education. I had little to no knowledge about student loans or that there was a difference in paying for a private or public education. Now, as a parent I will definitely encourage my children to do the community college to public university ‘pay as you go’ route. As we continue on our debt-free journey I truly hope though that we are out of debt and able to save so that someday if we have a daughter we can afford to send her to Meredith. It is such an amazing place to learn and I have some of the best friendships because of it!

It was actually while catching up with Bekah that I shared with her how grateful I am for the unique education I received at Meredith, and that even though I was unwise in going into debt to become a teacher, God has used connections I made while I was there to get me some really great jobs to help me pay it off. He’s so good like that, doing big things in those details and using decisions we make for good. All Romans 8:28-ey and stuff.

I think I met Bekah through Cornhuskin’, but as any small college is, we ran in the same circles friend-wise. We reconnected (not that we really disconnected thanks to social media!) at our 5 year reunion a few weeks ago and decided to do some anniversary pictures this fall for her and her husband. She emailed a few weeks ago needing some updated personal photos for a project for grad school so Lincoln and I met her one afternoon to grab some quick shots. She is so lovely inside and out!

Thanks for having me, Bekah!