2014's movie based-on-a-true-story

Ah, family photos. The grueling pain of having them done pays off for decades (at least the parents hope). When we started a family there was one tradition I really wanted to start, and so far, four years in, I've managed to be consistent. How many other things can I say the same for? Very few. But this, this was important. Family photos once a year, and a family photo book collecting all of our snap shots will be done each January. How hard can it be?

If you scroll my instagram feed you will almost never see pictures with the five of us. We're a busy family and my husband works 6 of 7 days each week. And when we're together we rarely seem to capture it on film. Oh funny, I just made a historical joke. Film. Anyway, even if you are together with your family often it doesn't mean you have an additional person around willing to patiently take pictures of you. While your kids jump and tackle and stain outfits and fill diapers all during this precious gap of time when no one is napping or over tired, hungry, crying, or on a time out. Basically I've narrowed family photo taking possibilities down to three hours a year. And darn it, we used those three hours and our beloved friends Max and Rachel came over and blessed us with these wonderful images that I will cherish for years to come.

Every year we've done family photos it's been stress-city. My hopes are sky high and to accomplish my dream photo shoot so many things have to align perfectly. Kid's behaviour, lighting, outfits not getting dirty, location working out, general moods of all of us (because faking it is 99% of picture taking and that is HARD). I've been a bit of a hot mess in the moments before family photos in the past and I vowed to be different this year. We'd take them at home, we'd be open minded about poses and shots we wanted, we'd have back up outfits and spoil the kids with marshmallows if we had to! I wanted us to get great photos but I also wanted to have fun with my family, and I know my stress rubs off on my family and can ruin the whole thing I'm working so hard to make perfect.

Of course whatever could have gone wrong probably did. Brad and Lily arrived late from a grocery run so we were hurried getting ready, and on their drive home an enraged man yelled at our car window, frightening Lily. Brad spent a lot of time debriefing her and in the end she was her usual self, but it had him on high alert for the rest of the day. Our kid's room which is always the brightest room in the house wasn't very well lit as it was an unusually cloudy day, but our friends brought an extra light and we used lamps we had around the house to add light. I've never seen my living room so lit up! I loved that because of our friend's ingenuity we could take pictures in a few spots around the house - not just the kid's shared room.

Brad was a gem and let me dress him without question. Except when I said tie-under-sweater and then there were questions. This is the kind of outfit he would preach in at church but we're comfy people at home, so it was weird for him to be curling up on the couch in a tie. But honey, lets pretend you wear this when we're reading books on the couch with the kids. And my hair is always so straight. And look at me and smile because you're such a babe. If only there were speech bubbles because they might have read, "this tie is the biggest lie I've ever told".

Also, lets talk about Christmas cards for a sec. Did anyone send them? Because we only got like five. And the two pictures above were supposed to be sent out as ours but let's be honest, these pictures were taken on Dec. 22nd so who were we kidding? Even an e-card would have made it just in time. So sadly these cute shots didn't get used. We sent out a "Merry Christmas but mainly HAPPY NEW YEAR" cover up e-card this week and used a different picture from the series. Load. Off. My. Shoulders. Maybe I'll keep the sharpie sign for next year? Oli, promise to have the same smile, mk?

I think we all have a little cognitive dissonance when it comes to family photos, or any photography for that matter. None of it is real life. It's a little too polished to pass as "oh crazy, the mail man just came by and offered to snap a couple of these while we were all pleasantly sitting together as a family of five". There are lights and there is makeup and there is preparation and we're all smiling and hugging. I'd like to say that was every day, but it's not.

Here's how we resolved this disconnect. It's true, these pictures were posed. But they're an image of a real thing. A real family that loves and cuddles and laughs. It's a movie, based on a true story. And yes, we're also a family that fights and cries and sins, but we don't need pictures to remind us of that, do we? If we're honest, it's often hardest to remember the beautiful parts. Life is hard and this world is fallen, and we forget God and his promises for us and our families. But there is great love and great forgiveness thanks to Jesus, the author of both. And these are one way we remember his grace.

Happy New Year!
His mercies are new every morning.

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