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The Pros & Cons of Marriage / eastern iowa photography

I am not going to lie, this past year has probably been the best, funniest and hardest years of my life. Whoever said marriage was a walk in the park was lying. I read a quote earlier this year that hit it spot on, "One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you're really like (Sacred Marriage)!"  That is where some of the hardest moments have happened...discovering what you're really like...and ladies and gentlemen, I can be a terror.

Marriage is BEAUTIFUL but it takes work. It's definitely like a garden, you have seasons of growth where everything is thriving but amidst the lovely greenery, you are constantly pulling out the weeds that creep in...some over time and some overnight. Those weeds are bad character traits/habits, sins of the father, previous baggage, etc.  BUT the work it takes to cultivate a garden is forgotten when the fruits arrive and so it is with marriage...the fruits outweigh the days of weed pulling.

Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think about life before Peter/marriage and honestly, before is blurry and a lot less appealing. Sounds like a typical girl in love but it's not because I NEED Peter but that I NEED Jesus, my Savior, Redeemer, Yahweh and Healer. If marriage has shown me anything, it is the grace of MY Savior, OUR Savior and His heart.

The way Peter has LOVED me has seriously changed my perspective of my heavenly Father. It's a picture of the church and Christ's love for His people. Time and time again, I prove I don't deserve Peter's love and yet he shows me grace, he pulls me up out of muck, wipes my tears away and whispers I love you. How many times has our Savior done the same thing? We fall and yet he wipes away the tears, brings joy and lifts us up again...telling us we are valued and we are loved. Pen and paper will never do justice and express how HIS grace will always be sufficient and how we are His kids.

So, if you asked me how my first year of marriage was...I would say it was rough and at times full of muck but it was mostly full of JOY. I would relive this year in a heartbeat. I have never laughed so hard, cried so much, cooked like a boss and been so encouraged.

Now, before moving on to year TWO (can I get a woot woot?) of marriage...I want to give away my favorite book. All you single peeps...this is for you too. Although it was written for couples, I would recommend it to anyone and actually my Mom read it to my little sisters if that says anything.

You and Me Forever by Francis Chan was fantastic. It is more about living with an eternal perspective than marriage honestly. Peter and I are excited to be playing for the same team and striving to live our "marriage in light of eternity." And I promise, I will give you a new copy...not our beat up copy pictured below haha!

As far as the Pros & Cons of marriage...that was just to make my post sound cooler than it really is. But I suppose I can list a few things.  Sorry, I only have Pros...because Cons all depend on your perspective!

Pros of marriage:

#1. Living with your biggest fan. Seriously, Peter is a bigger fan of me than I am of myself.

#2. When your husband likes to cook, you eat really well.

#3. You have someone to talk incessantly to..even when you think they are listening but actually fell   asleep.

#4. Partners in crime...sometimes your maturity level drops and you both can work together and do stupid things...such as tying pillows around yourself and pretending you are Sumo wrestlers.

#5. Accountability partner...yeah, sometimes I don't want to hear it but Peter keeps me focused.

#6. Built in driving instructor for those moments you think you should learn how to drive a manual car.

#7. Permanent travel companion, perfect for those moments when you are trying to navigate the Chinese subways.

#8. Practice subject for photography projects and ideas.

#9. Prayer the end of the day, together you can both look up and praise God for His goodness.

Hope you enjoyed our finer moments in life this past year!

// C A I T L Y N    B //

Not a Chef but a Servant / eastern iowa photography

The biggest lessons that I have been learning this past year is about branding + customer service + people. It doesn't matter how pretty, chic or epic your logo & website are. I mean YES, it is nice to have a good web presence but when it comes down to it, the pretty logo factor doesn't give people an experience. Giving a client an amazing "experience" with your business sounds simple enough but it can also be a struggle when you let life get in the way.

Now, one of my recurring convictions this past year has been on serving. God has given me lots of practice doing funny example is with my Husband. I really do NOT like to cook and baking is even worse. So, before I got married one of my stipulations (yes, I laid the law haha) was that I wouldn't have to cook. Well, I wasn't asked to cook or forced but honestly, Peter enjoys food. So learning how to cook has been an adventure of learning how to serve (No, this is not a Proverbs 31 lesson). This is a somewhat "cheesy" example but honestly, it is really hard and I struggle with it sometimes but I know this makes Peter feel loved. So I remember, I am not becoming a chef but a servant.

Examples like this are a small fraction of the opportunity we have around us. My thoughts are, if I can't serve in my own home or with my family...why would I have a good attitude overseas, with those throughout the community or in my own business. This thought process keeps coming back to me and is driving me crazy. So, the past 6 months, I have been working like a madwoman to physically give more to my clients and those learning about photography or business.

You see I am NOT in control of who likes me or how many people book me...but I am in control of how I make people feel around me. I want to show everyone value, beauty & joy because God has given me value, given me beauty from ashes and a hope and joy through His Son. So it is pretty simple, make it about Him and you will be able to make it about them. When you look at from this is a joy to give, a joy to serve even the most irritating people around you and a joy to run a business. My hope this year, is that my future clients see a difference in all aspects of their experience and leave feeling valued.

This leads to paying attention to details of which I am terrible at. I don't know if it's because I am an airhead or don't like to take the time...either way, in my business it reflected poorly. When a client would book, I just filed their name and took a check. Nothing wrong with that BUT there are some simple ways you can add fun, value & thankfulness. Below are my brand new welcome packets...every client that books will now be getting these instead of a just a lovely invoice.

I really like anything gold or sparkly. These reminded me of Willy Wonka and the golden tickets.

I found these on Instagram and about died. Sea Salt & Caramel are my gig.

Overnight Prints are great to work with and are super cheap to make graphics and prints through.
Grapefruit scents are always delicious & having sensitive skin, these things have been fantastic.

// C A I T L Y N   B //

8 Things Married Couples Doing Missions Should Know

Honestly, this was the first post I wrote after spending a week in China.  I am just now posting it because I didn't want to scare anyone away and think that missions is too scary and that my time in China was a drag.

So, let's get right to the point and talk about marriage and missions or should I say the warfare side. Before Peter and I got married, one thing was talked about and made very clear...we both had a goal of moving our relationship and life overseas. How that will look, we still don't know...when, well that is still in the works as well. All we know is that if we are both walking daily with the Lord, He will show us the perfect timing and it is a matter of taking steps in the right direction.

Now fast forward to our recent trip to China.  We planned this adventure in three weeks...I literally received an email about cheap tickets to Beijing, chatted with my husband, booked the tickets, panicked and tried to un-book the tickets, connected with Bethel about photographing their kids and last but not least, packed and left. While it doesn't seem too thought out, it was.  We decided it would be a good time for us to travel on the mission field together and interact overseas. I wanted to get a feel for what we wanted to do as a team and wanted to check a dream off my list and photograph orphans. It all came together and I can say we LOVED almost everything about China but also forgot about one detail...warfare.

China is very dark...there is a heaviness about it that I haven't felt in other places throughout my travels.  It is a sneaky darkness though, one that comes on gradually and if you aren't daily on the lookout, well it will mess with you. Last time I was in China, I felt the heaviness and then almost honestly, my memories are more about my hospital experience than anything else. This time I went in prepared for battle but was more lax because I was excited to have Peter there and didn't think about the effect it would have on our relationship. We laughed together, photographed together & didn't communicate with each other. I can talk about it now because I feel like it is essential for anyone going on the mission field to be prepared and ready.

For the LORD your God is he that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. Deuteronomy 20:4

Satan used his sneaky tactic of division and we fell for it.  The division came through the lack of communication. From my side of things, I wasn't as overwhelmed with China itself but with more of the photography aspect and some of the kids. My heart was breaking for each one but I was trying to be "tough" and hold it together. Peter was overwhelmed with everything...China, the language barrier, and what he was seeing. At the end of the day, I need to talk about what I saw and Peter needs to process.

Instead of processing together we would just go to bed and start the next day.  As anyone knows the longer you hold it in, the larger it grows and things go haywire.  Towards the end of the week, my act of being "tough" broke and it was manifested in tears, anger and feeling like my husband didn't care about anything that happened that week. He just became silent and unsure of what was going on. It took advice from a late night call to my Mom and an evening of Peter and I unraveling what was going on.

For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20 

You see everyone processes life differently, but as a married couple regardless of how you process you have learn to do it together. Doing life together is communicating what is not's being vulnerable. Although, we have been married 9 months now...we still are learning about what makes each other tick.

Spiritual warfare is real.  And Satan uses what can divide people the most, whether it is your marriage or daily struggles. It happens at home and it happens overseas. It is what you do with it that matters.  Do you fall into the trap or do you fight it with God's word? We learned that we are accountable for our own walk with the Lord and how we treat each other. We are responsible for our words and actions. We have seen what the orphan looks like and we have seen oppression.  BUT now that we have seen we are responsible to change, advocate and share.

So, if you are married and going overseas.  Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Communication is hard. But unity with Christ and each other is essential. Use your experience to grow and prepare. Assume the best in each other. Work together and run the race.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. - 1 Peter 3:8

What put us into the loophole at the end of the week was partially from what was going on during the day. We were not only in a foreign land but surround by a foreign language. During the day, you can't do a lot of talking without knowing Chinese...things were at times, pretty silent. So, at the end of the day, the silence remained and a feeling of loneliness, even though your husband was a step away. It is a funny thing that you can feel so isolated in another country just because of a language barrier.

God used us and our time in China. He grew our relationship and broke our hearts...exactly what I had been praying about before I left. It happened in a way I least expected but it was good.

If you are married and heading overseas here are a few things to remember:

1 - Have your prayer warriors be lifting you up. Share what you are doing and ask that people pray for unity.

2 - Don't let the silence and darkness weigh you down. If you are busy during the day working on projects or with kids etc., spend the evening or the hour subway ride unwinding. Communicate what you saw that day, ask what was hardest, encourage each other about how the Lord worked and the open opportunities.

3 - Pray together. Sounds cliche' doesn't it? Well, when you exhausted sometimes you don't take the time and pray. Don't just thank God for the day but pray hard. Pray for each other. Pray vulnerably.

4 - Assume the best. Don't just assume your husband is not being broken and seeing the what you see. Just because he doesn't express it the same way, know that God is working in their heart just like yours. Even if you are kind, love & be patient.

5 - Bring your weapons. Something I wish we would have done, is each morning picked the SAME passage of scripture to meditate on for the day and one specific way we wanted to see God work. It would have made us communicate better and be on the same page. We don't usually read the same passage in our devotions when we are home but when you are in a battle, I feel it can be more effective.

6 - Remember it's not about you. While you are a team, it's about God, His people and sharing the Gospel. At the end of the day the glory belongs to the Lord. What you did was only possible through HIM. Our story is HIS, our photography is HIS, our journey to China is HIS.

7 - Perspective. Have someone you can talk to, other than your husband, that can give you perspective while you are overseas. I was able to talk to my Mom, gain perspective and be reminded about what was going on. She helped me open my eyes and encouraged me to keep running the race, even when things are rocky.

8 - Last but not least, enjoy the adventure. When God calls you to something, it is so beautiful. He makes beauty from ashes. Peter and I had the time of our lives and can't wait to see where this takes us. We are now more unified in the midst of what we have seen and are running together, a race that is never in vain to share the glory of the Father and what He has done. And for this we are both beyond grateful.

// Caitlyn // 

Stranger Danger - Beijing China Photographer

Do any of you remember when you were little how your parents would talk to you about "stranger danger?" The concept is simple, you don't know them you don't go with them.

What I am about to tell you, was not the smartest move I have ever made nor something I would reccomend if you are by other words, I am not leading by example.

It all began on a lovely Friday morning. We were heading to go visit a baby home and before we left I prayed He would give us an opportunity to share that day. After that, Peter and I went on our way without another thought.

That evening, we decided to stop a couple Subway exits before our hotel and visit Tiananmen Square and a famous food street. It was our end of the week time to unwind and so we casually walked down the cold street taking in the views. As we walked we heard a lady yell, "Hello" a couple of times behind us. Then before we knew it, two Chinese ladies were right at our side asking us a million questions. It threw us off because they could speak English and second because we didn't know where they had come from. We were informed that they had seen us walking and wanted to practice their English on us. They then followed up with asking us where we were going. Now a smart person would not give out that info and this is where my "stranger danger" skills failed me.

Peter and I shared where we were headed and they insisted on coming with us and showing us the area. We told them NO but they wouldn't have it. My thoughts were frantically racing around my head trying to decide what to do because I didn't want to put myself in a dangerous situation but then again it was an opportunity. After a quick glance at Peter and a shrug of the shoulders, we went with them.

It was really brisk that evening, so the next idea from the funny ladies mouths were to stop at a local tea shop to get warm and chat with them. NEVER do this if you are alone. Seeing as it were two little middle aged ladies, we decided that we could take them down if needed.

We entered the empty tea shop and were led to a back room. The door closed behind us and there we were in an ugly wall papered room with a table and two complete strangers. My nervousness peaked because we were stuck...there was no escaping this situation, so we made the most of it.

The ladies ordered four kinds of tea and cookies. Talking started. The shallow conversation masked with heavy accents began to give way to some deeper questions, "Why are you here? Are you religious, like Muslim? Have you been baptized?" I could not believe my ears, a quick smile at Peter and I knew the doors were thrown open for us. With great speed we answered their questions and began speaking about the Father and how He changes hearts and lives. They couldn't believe that He could wash their hearts clean or that you could serve Him with your life. It was soaking in and they were excited to learn. As the conversation wound down, they told Peter he could be a Pastor and wanted our email. Then came the check.

Food in China is can feast for like five dollars. So, when our bill total came we gasped. One-Hundred & Twenty dollars. Yes, you read that right...for tea and cookies. And the greatest part was, that was only half of the bill. To this day, we still don't know what happened and how we got charged that much or should I say "scammed."

The women then left us and we went to food street, hungry, stunned and thankful. You see, God set the stage for us in the most bizarre way. We didn't do anything but trust that we weren't going to get taken or killed :) China, is a dark country with countless millions of people and a feeling of no hope. It's the type of place you walk into and can feel the heaviness. China is also Communist, as in sharing the Gospel can be dangerous. The fact that we got to share with not one but two people in a private room, is unimaginable to me. I don't know whether these women accepted Him but I do know that His story never comes back void. These people are hungry and the fields are so ripe. Witnessing doesn't have to be complicated and people want to know. Share your story, the whole story, His story.

This will be put in the books as one of the most expensive witnessing opportunities but it is so worth it when we are talking about souls.

 These are snakes, scorpions & tarantulas on sticks

// Caitlyn // 

Packing for a Third World Country - China Humanitarian Photographer

Traveling?  Who doesn't love to get on an airplane and see the world ( if you don't like traveling, please don't comment because you are crazy...jkjk)?  My recent to trip to China was my fourth time leaving the country and honestly, the first time I feel like I packed like a pro! In fact, I am humming the song "Dancing Queen" by Abba and changing the words to "Packing Queen" at this very second...ok, just kidding or am I?

SO, while my blog posts for next week are percolating in my mind, lets talk about a few simple tips I learned to make you a smarter packer.

Gaffers Tape or Black Electrical Tape: I read about this trick years ago and finally got to put this into practice.  As a foreigner in another already are sticking out like a sore thumb and when you add a big camera around your neck, you are a walking target (especially in third world countries). I brought extra equipment on my recent trip and wanted the public to not notice brand this is where you are cool and take your tape, covering all of your Canon or Nikon brand names. Because the branding is so small on my lenses, I didn't bother but on all my camera bodies, they were blacked out.  I had cameras with me every day, so it was essential and honestly, I feel there were a lot less people looking at the equipment then on my other trips.

(this was the view of the park by the Bethel baby home)

Hand Sanitizer + Lotion + Toilet Paper: Yes, you read toilet paper right. In a lot of countries outside of the United States, toilet paper is not provided.  Gross but real life people. Believe me, you don't want to forget it. This time around, I packed lots "kleenex" purse packs in each of my bags. This way I was never without it (you wouldn't believe how much you miss something when it's gone). Hand sanitizer because most places just have sinks. Also, when you are traveling through the city you can be cool like me and accidently touch a hand rail at the subway and have black fingers..YUCK. Lotion, because your hands get dry from sanitizer haha!

Carry it On People: If you are going to only be gone for a week or two, don't check your bags. Peter and I were gone for one week and brought; a backpack (this had all of our camera supplies + equipment), two small roller bags (this had our clothes + hygiene essentials) & one duffle bag (this was filled with all of our gifts, etc for the kids). You don't need to pack like it's the end of the world. In most countries, wearing the same outfit several days is acceptable and comfort is more my goal. Bring layers, because weather has a temper and you never know what will happen.  Don't bring flashy jewelry either, you don't need it and why draw extra attention to yourselves. Also, rolling all shirts, keeps the wrinkles out and saves space.

Don't Bring RAIN BOOTS: So, if you follow my instagram you will see, I was very proud of my cheap purple rainboots. In my mind they were "Springy" and would be great walking in the dirty areas. I was WRONG. They hurt, rubbed in all the wrong places but the biggest problem was the SWEAT. Rubber boots don't have ventilation and when you wear them 10 hours, your feet get a built in shower. Can you say disgusting. So all those ladies out there spending $100's on those "Hunter" your money.

Garbage Sacks: I always bring those little plastic grocery bags. They are perfect for keeping your suitcase clean. Dirty laundry = sack, muddy shoes = sack, etc.

Copy Your Passport + Wear Your Bag Backwards: Copy your passport and any other documents you are bringing. Put them in different hiding places in your bags...because if you lose a copy you are stuck in that country. Also, pickpocketing is worse in other countries so it is recommended to put your backpack in the front of your body or locks on the zippers.

Headphones: Airplanes give you headphones but they break in the 12 hours of flying. Bring a pair so you don't have to worry about it.

Snacks: I like to eat where the locals go but sometimes you don't have time. I bring granola bars or nuts or something that is going to fill you up for awhile. Also, you may not like the food and that snack becomes your last resort.

Well, hopefully this wasn't too boring of a list. But it gave me a great excuse to share what people always ask and post some China photos :) By the way, if you are adopting or know someone who is...PLEASE check out the kids in need of families from BETHEL.  They are amazing!

// Caitlyn // 

Three Thing I Learned In Front of the Lens

So, pretty much my husband and I got married last summer.  It was a whirlwind of a time filled with more stress than I would like to admit...tense would be more of the right word as our families collaborated to make our wedding happen (don't get me wrong, I loved our wedding and kuddos to my awesome Mom & family for making it all come together!).

One thing that didn't happen more or less, was making time for was our engagement pictures.  I had a love-hate relationship with the idea...I wasn't going to use them for a save the date and because of the time crunch I wasn't going to print them for the wedding...therefore we skipped the idea altogether.

Fast forward to now, married and pursuing new adventures together, when the thought occurred...we didn't get engagement photos and now don't have any pictures of just the two of us and our first year of marriage.  And the fact that I am decorating my house now, we have very empty walls.  So, as soon as the thought of no photos entered my mind, so did my awesome friend Hannah.  If you haven't checked out her work lately, you are definitely missing out (  I love her style, personality and our epic photos.

I have wanted to shoot a session in a greenhouse but that hadn't happened yet either, so we took the idea and ran with it...we also explored the lovely downtown Iowa City.  Three things I learned from the experience:

#1. Get in Front of the camera - If you are a photographer and have never been in front of the camera...drop everything and find a photographer NOW.  It's essential, not only so you have lovely images but you will actually get to see what it is like to be a client.  How when you feel awkward, it's the photographer's job to make you relax...when you crunch your shoulder up like I did, the photographer directs you to push them back.  This opened up my eyes to this years shooting being different, you can never over direct and give instructions.

#2.  Get 1st year/post wedding photos - I absolutely love the idea of having a first year of marriage/post wedding session.  Things are just a lot less awkward...I mean you are married, no more worries because you are stuck together now. Personally, I know I was way more relaxed together with Peter than I would have been in my engagment photos. They would have looked fine I am sure but it would have been interesting?  So, if you have the option of getting pictures as a couple after you are married...Just DO IT (thanks for the slogan Nike ;)

#3.  I am pretty lucky I'm in love with my best friend!  It's the matter how cheesy it sounds :)

  These next two are my favorite!

 And of course you can't end a blog without some classic "bloopers"

// Caitlyn //