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I bought my first DSLR camera right before my daughter Cora was born. I had no idea how to use it. I shot on automatic and didn’t bother even trying to learn anything else about my camera. It was too overwhelming. I thought fancy camera = good photos. While I am so thankful for any picture I have of my daughter, I look back and wish so much that I would have known what I do now about composition, story telling and my camera. I wish that I would have captured more of those precious everyday moments with my girl that I miss so much.

In 2011 (I think that’s when it was??) Ashley Ann told me about an online photography class she was getting ready to launch called SnapShop and asked if I would want to try it out. Ummm….yes!!! I jumped into SnapShop knowing absolutely nothing about photography. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to learn how to shoot in manual. You guys, Ashley is the best photography teacher!! Each section is so easy to understand and put into practice. Ashley teaches you all about your camera, elements of composition, how to tell a story with your photos, and how to shoot in manual. I turned my camera to the manual setting when I began this course and I never turned it back again. I am by no means a professional photographer, but I love knowing how to use my camera and capturing the “extraordinary in my ordinary” as Ashley describes it.

Cyber MondaySnapShop is now a subscription based photography site with two anchor coursesโ€“ SnapShop: DSLR & SnapShop:Phone. I have taken the phone course as well and it is just as great as her DSLR course! By subscribing to SnapShop you have access to both courses, new information is added monthly and you can work at your own pace. It is such a great deal! If you are wondering if this course is for you, the website says,

SnapShop is for the person looking to capture the beauty of their days through photography. It is also for the aspiring photographer hoping to hone skills without the constraints of sticking to class times.

So….I am telling you this because I love SnapShop. I love using my camera to tell the story of my family. And I love a good sale.

Today only, Ashley is offering 50% off the initial registration fee of $50. This is their last large discounted sale this year. Use code CYBERMONDAY to get a $25 discount on the initial registration and access to all course content. The $5 a month subscription fee will still apply until canceled. Or give this as a gift and use the code to get $25 off a $100 annual membership fee. I promise this is such a good deal for the amount of content you will have access to! Promise.

Grab a subscription for yourself or give a subscription as a gift. This would be such a fun Christmas gift! Visit the FAQ page for more information on how SnapShop works or click here to register.

*disclaimer: affiliate link used

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  • Mary Ann - I saw your post on Tuesday…a day late. But I’ll check into her product. I bought a nice camera (Canon Rebel) as a present to myself when I retired. But I am afraid of it, to be honest. So I need a class for sure. I love your photos. You capture some of the most honest and sweet photos of your boys and family.ReplyCancel

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DaySpring’s Black Friday sale is going on now. Here are a few of my favorite deals…

picmonkey-collageGive Thanks Wooden Caddy $30 $10

Illustrated Faith Starter Kit and ESV Journaling Bible $89.98 $60

Shine Your Light Pillow Cover $25 $10

Really Wooly Plush Gift Set $29.97 $15 (I had to include Flora, Cora and Nora!)

Give Thanks Letterpress Block Set $78 $25

Everlasting Light Wooden Candlestick Holders $60 $25

Illustrated Faith Gratitude Devotional Kit and 18-month Agenda Set $59.98 $40

Everlasting Light Star Tealight Holder $44 $15

Illustrated Faith Praise Book $57.99 $35

Make sure to check out the rest of the specials too! They have added even more products since I started this post. You can also take 30% off the rest of the site by using the code FRIDAY16 at checkout. Happy Christmas shopping!


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img_0280newHalloween came and went and it is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just two weeks away! Every year we go trick or treating with the cousins on my side of the family. We torture the kids with a group photo before they take off running for the candy!

img_0283newIt is always worth it though. Love these cousins!

img_0287newThis year Levi told me he wanted to be a scuba diver. I was so excited he wanted to be something new (and super creative!) this year. We asked Griff if he wanted to be a scuba diver too and he thought it was great. Originally I thought all three boys would be scuba divers but then at the last minute the boys thought Jake should be a shark. We asked Jake if he wanted to be a scuba diver or a shark and he growled at us all…definitely a shark. I found this cute costume and it sealed the deal.

I searched Pinterest for a DIY scuba diver costume and there were a lot of cute ideas. This one and this one were the most helpful. I spray painted two liter soda bottles for the air tanks and made a little backpack thing by sewing together elastic. I got tubing and a little metal plumbing piece from Home Depot. The mouth pieces were from our breathing machine…they were perfect! I cut the flippers out of a piece of foam and attached elastic to go over their shoes. The flippers looked so cute but they said they made it too hard to walk and took them off after about 2 minutes. The masks were from Amazon. I ordered the two pack and one was pink which didn’t go over very well with my boys. Ha! We ended up using a permanent marker and colored the pink part so it was purple instead…just a warning if you have boys!

img_0288new img_0289new img_0293newI wish I would have taken some close ups of each of them in their costume but there was so much pressure to get to the candy that I forgot! A few swimming pictures and we were off. These costumes were so fun and those scuba divers were too cute. And that little shark…cute, but super scary!

You can see the boys’ past costumes here, here, here, and here. Football players, a football, superheros, and cows. I love boys. And oh my goodness…I can’t handle how much those cute little boys have grown!

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  • Kelly - My son was a shark this year too! love it! so cute!! KellyReplyCancel

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  • Jody - My niece wanted us to be Piggie and Elephant this year. So she was a cute Piggie and I was Gerald. We went in January to the p&e musical and they are her favorite books.ReplyCancel

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  • Mary Ann - How adorable. We are so lame, we usually just buy a costume. Braxton my grandson was Bumblebee Transformer. It was a cute costume and he word it to bed, so I guess it was a hit. I was so sad though…he got sick in the early morning hours of Halloween Day so he missed school, his class party, and the parade. But he had fun later in the day. I love your costumes. Jake being the shark was so cute.ReplyCancel

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img_9744newAbout a month ago DaySpring asked if they could send me some products from their new Illustrated Faith line. Have you seen all the beautiful Bible journaling popping up everywhere? I mean, there is some serious talent out there. And what an awesome idea to incorporate art with God’s beautiful Word.

img_9773newI love the idea of Illustrated Faith but I have never done any Bible journaling like this and I knew I would have a hard time with it. I am a perfectionist to the max and drawing in my Bible kind of stresses me out. Also, time. Right now with three little ones I just don’t feel like I can squeeze one more thing in.

But then I had the idea that maybe I could use the same concept with my boys. We have been memorizing Scripture together and I thought they might like illustrating some of the verses they have been learning. DaySpring was super kind and went with my idea. I picked out products that I thought would work well with kids, specifically boys since flowers and pink hearts don’t go over well around here. Ha ha ha. When I opened the box and told the boys that they could use anything they wanted, they were so excited.

img_9774newDaySpring also sent me the new Illustrated Faith Through Christ Devotional Kit. I was so surprised when I opened the kit and saw that my friend, Megan, was the collaborator on this kit! It is so fun and colorful! She did such a great job writing the devotional and picking out all the fun elements that go along with this kit. It is a good one! The emoji face stamps were a favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚

img_9926newFor each “journal entry” I had my boys choose a verse they had memorized.

img_9922newGriffin and I worked together to come up with an idea of how to illustrate his verse. I did the writing and helped him with his drawings.

img_9924newThen he added stickers and stamps and colored everything in.

img_9901newLevi copied the verses and did all the writing himself. I helped him brainstorm ideas of how he could illustrate his verses but he did all the drawings too!

img_9889newI thought he did such a good job! He was really proud.

img_9904newWe tried using the Illustrated Faith journals DaySpring sent us but they were too small for my boys. They didn’t have enough room on a page to fit all their drawings and writing. We picked up some art journals from Hobby Lobby to use instead. I think the Illustrated Faith journals would work fine for older kids, but I would suggest something a little bigger if you are trying this with younger kids.

img_9879newI thought having my boys illustrate their faith sounded like a good idea but I honestly wasn’t sure how into it they would be. They loved it! We have been using their journals off and on for about a week now and they often ask if they can do another page.

Here is what we came up with…

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img_9963newThis was the perfect way for us to spend time reviewing verses we had memorized as well as talk about what they mean. And it was really fun too!

To get you (or your kids!) started on your Bible journaling journey, DaySpring is offering a special coupon code for my readers. Use coupon code JESS5 to take $5 off any $30 purchase (offer good September 13th-20th). If you are wondering what products we used, I linked them all below. And don’t forget that there is free US shipping with any $50 order!

img_9984newIllustrated Faith products we used:

IF Through Christ Devotional Kit | IF Black Eyed Pea Ink Pad | IF Date-it Stamp | IF Precision Pens | IF Clear Acrylic Block | Rainy Day Tiny Text Stickers | IF Animals 31-Piece Die Cut Prompts | IF Notebook Journal (we ended up using a bigger art journal) | IF Alphabet Stickers (various colors) | IF Number Stickers (various colors) | Crayola 12 Twistables Colored Pencils

disclaimer: affiliate links used

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  • emily - this is such a great idea! i loved their little drawings and i’m sure brainstorming ideas was such a sweet time for you all! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Thank you, Emily!

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  • Mary Ann - What a clever and fun idea. Levi did an amazing job. Griffin reminds me of my grandson (Braxton, age 6) with his tongue out when he’s concentrating on something very important. When they look back at those books years from now, they will remember how much their mama helped them and how much those bible verses meant to them at their young ages. Thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your posts.ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Your grandson sounds so fun, Mary Ann! I bet he would have a great time with my boys!

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    • Jess - Your grandson sounds so fun, Mary Ann! I bet he would have a great time with my boys!ReplyCancel

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  • Leah - That’s great! I’m curious how you do memory verses? One a day? One a week? Do they have to completely learn it by memory? Or just a few words?ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Hi Leah! We have done it different ways but right now we are using the Fighter Verse App. It is so great! I am working through the Foundation Verses with my boys right now. We have a chart with all the verses for them to keep track of and for incentives every time they fill up a row (6 verses). I use the App to keep track for myself and for reviewing with them. Levi can memorize word for word. Griffin is almost there but usually needs a few more prompts. It is really amazing how much they take in! We try to do one a week but often they can do more. I just move on when I feel like they have it down pretty good and we continue reviewing too! Hope that helps. Email me if you have more questions!

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    • Jess - Hi Leah! We have done it different ways but right now we are using the Fighter Verse App. It is so great! I am working through the Foundation Verses with my boys right now. We have a chart with all the verses for them to keep track of and for incentives every time they fill up a row (6 verses). I use the App to keep track for myself and for reviewing with them. Levi can memorize word for word. Griffin is almost there but usually needs a few more prompts. It is really amazing how much they take in! We try to do one a week but often they can do more. I just move on when I feel like they have it down pretty good and we continue reviewing too! Hope that helps. Email me if you have more questions!ReplyCancel

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  • Kelly - Jess! This is an amazing idea! I think my kids might really get into this! Thank you so much for sharing! We have JUST recently really gotten going with Scripture memory after me really wanting to for a while. This will be great! KellyReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    So glad this might help, Kelly! I have loved memorizing Scripture with my boys. They are such little sponges and blow me away with how much they remember!

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    • Jess - So glad this might help, Kelly! I have loved memorizing Scripture with my boys. They are such little sponges and blow me away with how much they remember!ReplyCancel

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  • Melissa Joy - I love this! I have been doing this with my kids through the summer, just using colored pencils and twenty-cent notebooks. I love this post though, and just went over to get a package of die-cuts, and a couple of those neat date-stamps (one for me, but some to share too!). My kids do their copywork and artwork while I read Bible stories to them and quiz them on their catechism. It really works wonderfully to have their hands busy, and their eyes focused while their ears are listening and hearts are engaged by faith. God bless your home, Jess!ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Such a great idea, Melissa! I agree that it is so helpful to have their hands busy. So helpful. Hope you guys love your new IF products!

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    • Jess - Such a great idea, Melissa! I agree that it is so helpful to have their hands busy. So helpful. Hope you guys love your new IF products!ReplyCancel

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  • Linda - Such a fantastic idea, and your photos are beautiful! Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Hi, Linda! Thank you!

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  • Madison - LOVE this! Your boys did a great job!ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Thank you, Madison!

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Processed with VSCO with s2 presetAs of Friday, we finished up our fourth week of school. The school year is flying by already! Levi was so pumped for first grade. And look how cute and grown-up he looks all dressed up and actually wearing a shirt! On the way to school the first day, one of Levi’s cousins told my sister-in-law that it “feels so weird to be wearing a shirt”. Ha ha ha. I think Levi would share in his sentiment.

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levi-first-gradeWe had such a good summer but Levi was ready to try out this all day school thing. (He only went half-day for kindergarten.) His favorite part of school is lunch. I am going to be in trouble when summer rolls around again because apparently his school has amazing cooks. I don’t think my daily sandwiches will reach the high bar that they seem to be setting for me.

img_9630new“Everybody smile for mom so I can actually go to school!” He hates being late.

img_9624newThere we go. Look how cute they are. The little boys wouldn’t tell you that they miss Levi but, oh my goodness, those first few weeks were rough. I didn’t realize what a peacemaker Levi is among his brothers. So, we are all adjusting. Mom is figuring out life with a school kid, the little boys are figuring out how to get along when it’s just the two of them, and Levi is loving school. His only complaints have been that he is tired and has to miss out on some farming. And he misses his mom sooooo much! Ok, he didn’t say that he misses me but I know deep down he really does. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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I have to share one more first day of school story…

As I was walking down the hallway after dropping Levi off that first day, one of our teacher friends caught my arm and said she had something for me. She came out of her classroom and handed me a vase of flowers. There were three pink roses. I was so surprised and asked her why she was giving me flowers. I mean, the teachers should be getting all the flowers! She quickly told me to read the card and went back to her class. As I was walking out of the building it clicked that Cora would have been in third grade this year. Cora would have been in her class. The card said that as she prepared her classroom this year and wrote out student’s names many times, she thought of our family. She wondered what Cora would have been like and wished she could have had Cora in her class this year. The three pink roses were for third grade. And then I sobbed. One of the silly things that breaks my heart every year is that I don’t get to see my girl’s name written on name tags and school supplies. I always wonder what it would be like to see Cora Paige McClenahan on the class list. I wonder what it would be like to walk her to her classroom along with her brother. I wonder what her personality would have been like among her classmates and who her friends would have been.

This summer I parked myself in Psalm 139 for awhile and was amazed as I thought about what it means to be completely known by our Creator God. I mean, we all long to be known, right? Opening that card on the first day of school was like getting a big hug from God, a God who really knows me and loves me despite the mess that I am. A reminder that even seven years later God knows that my heart still hurts a little knowing that Cora’s name is not on the third grade class list. He knows that I hate that I can’t write her name on school supplies even though that sounds so silly to say out loud. He knows that I still long to know what my baby Cora would have been like as a third grade girl. He “discerns my thoughts from afar” and is “acquainted with all my ways”. And like the Psalmist, I cannot even fathom being known and loved like this. It is too wonderful! What a blessing to be able to rest in the presence, character and grace of the One who knows and loves me. God is always good no matter what, but it’s like extra goodness when He uses His people to encourage one another. We have the best friends.

img_7292It is hard to believe my days of having all three boys home all day have past. We are officially entering the school years. What a gift it is to watch my kids grow up and reach the next milestone, or the next school year. I mean, I miss Levi like crazy when he is at school but it is so awesome to be his mom and have the privilege of training him up as he becomes a “big boy”. Whenever I am missing Cora it is just another reminder of how precious these days are. First day, first grade. These school years are a gift and I’m ready to cheer on that cute little first grader who is so full of personality!

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  • Paige - He’s such a good good father.

    Your boys are precious!!!ReplyCancel

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  • Toni :0) - The flowers are so sweet, friends are a blessing. Since I have a senior this year in high school I can tell you the years are fleeting. Happy to hear you are savoring the days. All we can do is be there for them and help them to soar.ReplyCancel

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  • Tiffany - So so touching. That was very kind of you to share and so thoughtful of your teacher friend to remember.ReplyCancel

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  • Meggie - That is so special! I can’t even fathom the way He loves us! Love your family and your updates!! =)ReplyCancel

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  • Sarah @ The Teacher's Wife - What a sweet and thoughtful teacher – I would have cried my eyes out too! I’m sure that meant a lot. And wow, Levi sure has grown! My girl started kindergarten and it’s been an adjustment too. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

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  • Andrea - Thank you, Jess, for always sharing your heart. I have cried many times reading your words. I’ve been following you since Cora’s illness. She and my daughter would be the same age. My heart breaks for you that you can’t share the special moments with her. You’ve helped me to remember to not take these days for granted and to hug and love my kiddos more. Prayers for your family!ReplyCancel

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  • Mary Ann - Oh wow…Levi is really a big boy. Same with my only grandson, my Braxton who is in first grade this year too. They remind me of each other…Braxton has dark blonde hair, blue eyes, stocky build and so full of fun and mischief. The school years fly by so fast and we blink and our kids are all grown up way too quickly. I’m so happy that the teacher is such a kind, loving person to have given you those beautiful roses. She is one of the Lord’s servants who brought you one of His tender mercies and reminded you that your Cora will never be forgotten. My niece who lost her baby girl at 5 months from a neurological disease bought a pink backpack last month, filled it with school supplies, and took it to the school. She has a son (age 4) so he helped his mom. They gave it to one of the teachers to give to one of the 2nd grade girls who may have needed it the most. My niece said it breaks her heart to know that her little girl (Makenzie) will never go to school, never have a backpack, never be in school class pictures so giving the backpack to another girl in need eased her heartache a bit. You mama’s are so amazing and I am in awe of your faith, your hope, your trust in God, who is always be there to pull us through life’s greatest challenges. Have a wonderful day.ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Hi Mary Ann! I love what your niece did to remember her precious Makenzie! What a great idea. Such a sweet way to honor her daughter and bless another little girl. I will have to remember that! Thank you for your kind words!

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    • Jess - Hi Mary Ann! I love what your niece did to remember her precious Makenzie! What a great idea. Such a sweet way to honor her daughter and bless another little girl. I will have to remember that! Thank you for your kind words!ReplyCancel

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  • Kelly - What an amazing, amazing teacher friend and an even more amazing God! KellyReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Hi Kelly! Yes, I am constantly amazing how God shows His extravagant love for us. So amazing.

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    • Jess - Hi Kelly! Yes, I am constantly amazing how God shows His extravagant love for us. So amazing.ReplyCancel

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  • Kimberly Oyler - i want to hug that teacher! what a kind thing to do. i remember when you posted that cora would have been been starting kindergarten a few years ago, and so now i think of you at the beginning of every school year. love and miss you, jess!ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Yes, she definitely deserves a big hug! Thanks for continuing to think of us, sweet friend! Hope you are doing well in Hawaii!!! I bet all of your Kansas family is missing you lots! Someday we will hang out again!

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    • Jess - Yes, she definitely deserves a big hug! Thanks for continuing to think of us, sweet friend! Hope you are doing well in Hawaii!!! I bet all of your Kansas family is missing you lots! Someday we will hang out again!ReplyCancel

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  • Kimberly - I know you must miss your sweet Cora immensely– and what an amazingly thoughtful teacher to be thinking of her as she was preparing for the year. It doesn’t sound silly at all that you’d like to be writing her name on school supplies. I just love your heart and your perspective on mothering– it reminds me not to take these fleeting days for granted. Hugs to you!ReplyCancel

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    Jess Reply:

    Thank you for your kind words, Kimberly. Yes, each day is such a gift!

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