In April, our family embarked on our first family cruise! This was a great way to kick-off our simplify plan we started earlier this year. 7 days on the open seas with stops in Grand Caymen, Jamaica and Cozumel brought us lots of family time and experiences the kids will never forget. Our days ran together, but dreams came true when the kids could have ice cream all.the.time. Highlights include dancing in a conga line on a moving sailboat in Mexico, discovering the ship had gluten free bread and pizza dough, kayaking in Grand Caymen with iguanas, and *attempting to swim with the sting rays in the open ocean. (*The kids and I got in the water and freaked out because of the giant waves and 7 ft sting rays swimming under our feet, while DJ was jumping off the boat with his Go Pro and petting the rays as if he was born in the water.)

I started a new tradition last year of only taking my inexpensive film camera with me on our vacations. It allows me to stop and appreciate little details that I would have otherwise missed if I was just snapping away. Enjoy! xo






Hello world! As much as I love posting pretty pictures of beautiful families, it’s time to start sharing about a journey that I hope encourages you on yours. It’s time to get vulnerable and real.

In a nutshell, Dustin and I are committed to loving people and using stuff, not the other way around. (*Quote credit to The Minimalists and our friend, Michael Smoot.) We are committed to raising our children in this way and that meant it was time for some tough changes.

The initial springboard to simplify stemmed from the desire to have financial freedom – freedom to travel for a year if we wanted, freedom to be radical and give our kids experiences over stuff. The journey has morphed into more, which we’ll get into later.

When we bought our home in Colorado Springs two years ago, it was a sprawling 4200 sq. ft with a 4 car garage. It was beautiful, spacious and bright, right across the street from the park! Honestly, we could’ve had a drifter living in the basement for all we knew. We hosted many parties and dinners and had ample room for everyone to bring their broods of children. But did our family of four each require 1000 sq. ft to ourselves? Seriously.

Although inconvenient (as most of this process is), we listed the home after living there for a year, made a little profit and reinvested that into a house half the size. This was our first step towards financial freedom (goal of paying cash for a house) and simplification.

Cramming the giant house into the modest home (relatively speaking) was no small feat. There was no finished basement, so where would the myriads of toys go? These first world problems were so good to sort through both physically and spiritually.

We watched The Minimalist movie together on Netflix (Friday night date night, woop!) and then I read the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (it’s on Dj’s reading list). Basically, we created a recipe for turning our life completely upside down and then people start to call you crazy. If you desire the same results, go do both of those things and then call me. 🙂 After implementing a few changes in January of this year, we spent so.much.less that month than usual. Yikes.

These thoughts originally started from conversations we had about living a life that we were called to and being an example to our children of what it meant to love others and use our gifts for good.

This led us down the path to simplify not only for financial reasons, but also for our footprint in terms of use and legacy. Our journey was and is hard! My thoughts were, of course a man can live out of a bag with one pair of shoes and floss! I’m a women! I have style! I need to select my wardrobe based on my feelings that day, not based on the choice of two shirts. I’ve been the picture of drama, kicking and screaming, as we hauled off things I thought I “needed.”

After I had my pity party, it made sense to par down to the essentials as we prepared for two moves starting in six weeks. (Dustin is training in San Antonio for the summer and we all decided to come along. Once training is complete, we’ll land in Columbus, Mississippi for a few years.)

For the next four months, we’ll be living in a 979 sq. ft. apartment and will only bring with us what we “need.” As in a few mattresses, a couch, table, clothing, shoes, books, school work (I’ll be home schooling that last 6 weeks of school, pray for me), and of course, my french press. But the list keeps growing – what about the crock pot so I can prep meals? What about the keyboard so the kids can practice piano? Should we bring bikes so we can enjoy rides as a family? The giant dog bed. My photography equipment. Legos. Markers. Sewing machine (Ellie’s new hobby) and so on. Soon, I imagine two car fulls of ‘stuff’ that we really don’t need. This is going to be challenging!

We are so thankful to have this opportunity for four months to leave our stuff behind (it will be waiting for us in Mississippi, so we’re not being THAT radical) and experience the culture of San Antonio and the country of Texas. Jesus be near.

*Also credit to The Resolution for Men, The Resolution for Women, and Seven by Jen Hatmaker.



“We live to impress people or we live to make Jesus famous. We can’t do both.” – Pastor Kelly Williams, Vanguard Church.

Wow. What are we striving for each day?

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

I see women every day who are striving for the attention of others and it literally hurts me that they don’t know there is a love way bigger than who they are trying to impress. They are worth far more than they could imagine!

I’m not sure how we got to this place, but I want to be a part of the generation where strong women unite, grow in faith together, lift each other up, put on their armor, and conquer the world by sharing the love of Christ with others. Who’s with me?

How can we do this? Where do we start? If you are in a place of comparison and competition with women in your sphere of influence, start by admitting your wrongdoings. That in itself is a huge task – tell the Lord that you lost focus on Him and placed it in the world. Repent and ask for forgiveness – then you begin anew.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I admit that I have been in this place many times, specifically related to my business. I compare my work to the work of other seasoned photographers and lose hope in my art and feel less than. If I am taking photographs to impress others, I will always fall into the trap of comparison. But if I am capturing these precious moments for the glory of God, I can only feel a sense of greatness through Him.

When we are surrounded by others who are striving to impress people, it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind the world has to offer – the latest styles, children’s fashion, crazes, Pinterest, better vehicles, nicer homes…and the list goes on and on. The solution is simple: surround yourself with women who are on fire for the Lord. Period.

If every morning in your life begins with praise for the Lord, thanking Him for your blessings, then asking Him how you can be a vessel for Him today, it is not possible to go about your day striving for anything but Him. We are here to give love, not receive it. The beauty is that in return for giving love, we get love back ten-fold. It’s awesome!

As my ten-year-old daughter reminded me recently, “Mom, I am so glad there is so much good in the world. It gives me hope! If we lived in fear, how could we have the hope of Jesus?”

Prayer: Lord, thank You for our hope in You! It is easy to focus on the negative in the world and get caught up in trends and material things. Forgive me for the times I have become a slave to this world. I ask that Your hands guide my path each day and that I listen to Your gentle whispers when I begin to go astray. I pray for women to come into my life who love You and can mentor me to grow closer to You. Lord, I want to make You famous! Help me to be brave when I don’t want to be. Help me to be bold when I am scared. Help me to step out of my comfort zone to share Your love, grace and mercy with others. Lord, realign my focus with Yours so that all I do, I do it to bring You glory!









I want to capture a forever memory of the landscape of Colorado – where we have had the pleasure of living for the past 2.5 years. We will move this summer and I want to have something that I can look at forever that will bring back memories of these years. Plus, we haven’t had family pictures done in 3 years!! Yikes! The kids have grown miles since the last ones and have changed so much.

There are 4 of us humans and 1 furry family member – Andy, Stephanie, Olivia (7), Carter (5), and Daisy (2).

Andy grew up in NC and I grew up in IN. We met when he was in pilot training for the Air Force – my sister and brother-in-law actually introduced us – and the rest is history.. We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past May and love living all over the country with Andy’s job in the Air Force. Carter loves to be rough, talks to most anyone, and loves to make others laugh! He is loving and tender on the inside, yet rough and adventurous on the outside. He is quick to give hugs and an “I love you”, but will then the next second jump off the couch in attempt to land on the table 5 feet across the room. He is very into space, dinosaurs, super heroes, and race cars. His mind thinks in patterns and he loves to build and complete puzzles. Olivia is 7 and is just like her daddy in personality! She is shy to strangers, doesn’t like attention, and like things to be just-so in life (aka, perfectionist! hah). She is athletic, loves to read and play the piano, and her American Girl dolls. She has a heart for helping others and makes us proud with her kind choices day in and day out.

We met when Andy was in pilot training in Columbus, MS. I was in graduate school at Indiana University and we dated long distance for nearly a year. Upon graduation, I moved to his first base in Charleston, SC. We dated another 8 months and were married the following summer. A whirlwind romance with many big life changes (graduation, first job, move across the country!). Andy flew the C-17 and was gone more than he was home for the 6 years we lived there. We welcomed Olivia in 2009 and then Carter in 2011(while stationed in Oklahoma).

My education is in speech pathology, but I run a virtual skincare company from home to have total flexibility with my time for the kids! I love being a professional and working towards big goals, but being in a traditional job wasn’t working for our family. Now I have the best of both worlds. Andy is a pilot and officer in the Air Force. He flew the C-17 the first 9 years of his career and is now in the T-53 here at the Academy, in addition to his duties as an AOC for Cadet Squadron 10.

Please share something that could inspire, motivate or encourage others – if you have a story to share about an obstacle or challenge in your life, feel free to share!
Everyone told us our time here in Colorado would be amazing and that Andy would have super-simple job! hah. That hasn’t been our experience and we’ve had an adjustment as a family to cope with Andy’s long work hours and time apart. It has been a season of growing in our marriage – me learning to support and encourage him while putting aside frustration that his job has been so consuming. To be honest, it was a rough time last year, but as always our love for each other always wins. Focusing on our family and the joy we can have when we are together – whether that is only a handful of times a week or every night for dinner – keeps us grounded that no matter what life throws at us, we are better together than we are apart. The kids are amazing models of resilience and blind faith and we learn so much from them as their parents!

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40. This verse is in our home and we talk about it often. Life can be scary and uncertain, but our job is to believe in the One who has the power. Often our family can get caught up in earthly things and we like to reference this verse to remind ourselves where our belief and hope come from.

Thank you, Allen Family, for the opportunity to capture your family in this season of life! It is truly an honor. Best wishes as you embark on your next Air Force assignment – hopefully we’ll cross paths again!

xo Melissa


Little Miss A finally likes me and so we got some sweet smiles this time. I love the people that the Lord brings into our lives through this military adventure. Best wishes Perrie’s on your next assignment! xoxo

We’re a military family, love the outdoors, and love to travel. Getting to experience new places and have adventures while making fantastic memories is the best part of all three. As long as there’s plenty of food, we’re up for almost anything.

We met as Juniors in high school in history class, been together ever since.

He’s a major in the USAF. I’m a stay at home mama studying Dietetics at K-State.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. – Matthew 22:38-40






“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7.



Verses like this are gracefully stitched into the Word and I seek them out as a women with a tender heart and one who is easily affected by the words and the beauty of others. As we dive deeper into the theme of self-image this month, I want to share steps that have changed my self-image into one where I truly love who I am because of who created me.As I meditate on verses like this one in Song of Songs, and on others like Isaiah 40:8 that say, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever,” a peace washes over me. That peace is the Holy Spirit within me that cannot be taken away.

If you struggle with negative self-talk, low self-esteem or poor self-image, first know that you are not alone. Secondly, “you are altogether beautiful,” like a rose bud waiting to blossom. In order to bloom though, you need water and light. The water is God’s truth and the light is His spirit in you.


Once I unveiled that my negative feelings were induced by the media, I made a decision to remove all aspects of it from my life. Celebrity magazines and television shows – gone. I avoid social media except for when I’m posting to encourage others. Not only are these channels unrealistic, but they also drive us to comparison instead of acceptance and they pull us away from our calling and our focus.

Friends, remember that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” You are loved because He first loved you. Close your eyes and create in your mind a picture of your likeness to Christ. What does it look like? How can that picture be anything but beautiful and flawless?

The struggle for me is ongoing, but my solution is reading His truth daily through a Bible study and not exposing myself to the lies of the world that surround me. I encourage you to try this for yourself and watch your buds unfold before you. Water and light.


“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Pray with me:

Jesus, I know you love me. Help me to love me too. Guide me to focus on you everyday and leave the world behind. In 1 Samuel 16:7, you said that people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I want my heart to matter to you. Thank you for your truth to guide me everyday. I want to blossom so that my life would glorify you. Amen.

For more encouragement, check out New Beginnings Ministries at  New Beginnings is a comfortable safe haven for women of all ages and all different backgrounds to not only learn about our awesome Savior, but more importantly feel His love and presence. Whether or not you have walked inside a church, are Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist or have no church denomination, we all have sinned and are in need of a Savior.