This Blog Has Moved!

Hey guys! The new blog is at jennyvandyck.com/blog/. Go visit me there!

While you’re at it, go like my Facebook page!

Thanks for visiting!

Jenny

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Gatlin Family: Dallas Family Photography

I had a great time photographing the Gatlin family, fellow OU alumni and BSU alumni, at the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, TX this November. This park is GORGEOUS, so it only made sense to photograph this beautiful family there.

Their daughters, Harper and Lucy, are complete dolls and made my job totally easy! What a sweet family. Thank you for the great afternoon at the park, Stacey and Beau. Enjoy your photos!!

Be sure to see more of this family on our Facebook page!

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OklaHOME

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

“So, where are you from?”

I don’t necessarily dread this question because I’m ashamed of where I come from. I dread it because I sound like an idiot when I answer it. Every time. I was born in Del City, Oklahoma, where my entire family is from. But I grew up most of my life and graduated high school in Corpus Christi, TX. Oh, and there were those few years as a kid when I lived in Seattle. But then I moved to Norman, Oklahoma when I went to school at OU. But now I live in Fort Worth, Texas, where my immediate family lives.

And that’s usually the answer that tumbles out of my mouth, because people need information. All information. I can’t leave room for confusion, now can I?

The real question should be, “Where is home to you?” We can go all over the world and plant our feet in different places, but home is where you can plop down on the couch, leaving all formalities aside. We can meet new people and experience all the world has to offer, but home is where people know you deeply and let you just be you, no questions asked. We can eat in the finest restaurants with the most important people, but home is where you can open the fridge and help yourself to whatever you want. Home is where it is easy, where your true self can be at rest. Home is the place you ache for when life gets hard and confusing. Home is where the heart is.

Where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet

For me, home is…

  • In my parents’ kitchen
  • At Grandma’s house on Mallard Drive
  • In my big green couch with my roommates around me
  • On the beach
  • Behind a camera
  • The benches outside the student union at OU

I write this at the Starbucks on Campus Corner in Norman, where I’ve spent hours as a student either studying or just being with people. I’m spending today photographing several families on campus, and though campus is practically dead the day after Thanksgiving, it will be bustling with people tomorrow for the big Bedlam game. Fans and students, who also call Norman “home,” will come together to support their team. There’s something awesome about this school, this town– the spirit that keeps people together. And it’s not just about a game. It’s about a love for this place we all call home.

We know we belong to the land…

This is the place where I met some of my best friends, where I grew as my own person, where I laughed and cried, where I took risks, where I was part of something bigger than myself. I’m both a Texas girl and an Oklahoma girl. I love my school. I love my home state!

So for all of you who also love this state and this school, here’s to you, and this place we call “home.”

And the land we belong to is grand!

Oh, and for those of you wondering what a “Sooner” is…

Originally Indian Territory, the state of Oklahoma was opened to settlers in a “Land Rush” in 1889. On a given date, prospective settlers would be allowed into the territory to claim plots of land by grabbing the stakes marking each plot. A few of these settlers entered to claim land before the official start of the land run; these cheaters were called “Sooners”.

Oklahoma! OK!

Here’s a nostalgic photo of me (as a freshman!) and Jason White.

Oh, and BEAT OSU!!!!!

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Thank God for the Fleas

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”

-Harry Ironside

One of my heroes is Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian woman who, along with her sister and other family members, were imprisoned in a Nazi camp during WWII for hiding Jews in their home. Her story The Hiding Place is incredible and will encourage your soul tremendously. In it, she recounts her family’s story of hiding Jews, being caught, and the horrible years inside Nazi work camps which pushed her toward knowing God even better.

Corrie’s lesson on thankfulness came to mind as I think about Thanksgiving. Do I express thankfulness consistently and intentionally each day? Do I see each aspect of my life, big or small, as from God, who is working in me for His glory? Do I “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…”?

The following excerpt from The Hiding Place describes a series of events with Corrie and her sister Betsie as they learn about thankfulness.

Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us–perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers–were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop.

It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.

But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of health and hope.

Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors…It was not a wish. It was a fact.

The move to permanent quarters came the second week in October. We were marched, ten abreast, along the wide cinder avenue…Several times the column halted while numbers were read out–names were never used at Ravensbruck. At last Betsie’s and mine were called…We stepped out of line with a dozen or so others and stared at the long gray front of Barracks 28.

Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Because of the broken windows, the vast room was in semi-twilight. Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere, plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid.

Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all, but great square tiers stacked three high, and wedged side by side and end to end with only an occasional narrow aisle slicing through.

We followed our guide single file–the aisle was not wide enough for two–fighting back the claustrophobia of these platforms rising everywhere above us…At last she pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block.

To reach it, we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with–how many?

The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw…Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.

‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

‘Such as?’ I said.

‘Such as being assigned here together.’

I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

God has a plan. God has an intricate knowledge of His world and His people. Even the “useless” or miniscule elements in life– well, we have been commanded to thank God for them. This is His will for us.(1 Thess. 5:18)

Look around. What obvious and not-so-obvious things do you need to thank God for? For me, I needed to thank God for my slow, old MacBook with a crashing Firefox. I thanked God for a bed and a roof over my head. I thanked God for Thanksgiving, for family, for rest, for my jobs, for weddings that I’ve photographed and the ones that I will in the future.

If we don’t thank God, then we could miss out on understanding His purposes later. If Betsie had not stopped to thank God for the fleas (even when she did not understand why they had fleas), she would not have understood the significance of the guards avoiding their barracks later. That’s the amazing part of the story. God works in our thankfulness to give us perspective on what He is doing and how He works. He knows how all things work together. We not only need to trust Him for understanding, but also thank Him when it does not make sense.

I hope that this story has encouraged you. If anything, it can give us some perspective on how blessed we are. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday Funday: Brilliant Idea

My most crazy-slash-inspiring ideas have come to me on a late night, usually when staying up with roommates. We start talking about old funny stories, and before you know it we are brainstorming some new and BRILLIANT idea/scheme/party  that will “be the funniest thing. Like, ever.” A lot of times these would backfire, and I’d remind myself that nothing good happens past 10 pm.

Some past genius ideas as a result of these late night conversations:

1. Spring-o-ween: I lived in this super ghetto charming house on DeBarr Ave a couple of years in college. My 5 (yes, FIVE) roommates and I hosted a ton of parties, because we lived in walking distance of campus, had a wrap-around porch, and we were just plain awesome. Well, we missed Halloween for some reason, probably because we didn’t want to make the other Halloween parties sad because ours was better. So one night we were sitting around discussing past costumes and getting depressed because we gave up Halloween to the other party houses. The idea sparked and grew into something beautiful: a Halloween party in April, called SPRING-O-WEEN. Facebook invites were sent, plans were made, and that party was awesome. I dressed as Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray (that movie was totally in then!). We had a dead Abe Lincon, a Facebook page, and even a homeless guy show up. That party went down in history. It is the first of many Other-Season-O-Weens, like the Denver Summerween of 2010. BRILLIANT idea.

L-R: Tracy Turnblad, 70’s Anissa

2. American Eagle photos: It was a frigid and snowy January night. We were gathered around the TV, intently watching for the news we had all been waiting for. They finally announced it, and my roommates and I jumped for joy as we read the words “University of Oklahoma-campus closed.” That meant NO WORK for us the next day! We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning just because we could. As the 6 inches of snow blew in that night, we brainstormed snow activities we could do the next day. Among the brilliant ideas was this one: to take American Eagle-esque model photos out in the snow. In shorts. I think right before this happened I said, “Rita, Michelle, go put shorts on. Now.” BRILLIANT idea.


It was so cold. I couldn’t feel my legs all afternoon. But it was so worth it as the comments rolled in on Facebook from other bored and snowed-in friends. You know you love photo comments, too; don’t deny it.

3. Hilary Duff Fan Club: To make a long story short, my friends and I brainstormed this idea in to get back at a friend for some heinous friend crime* that I can’t remember now. Fueled by revenge, we decided to invent OU’s first Hilary Duff Fan Club, led by none other than the friend we were totally pranking. We made this amazing flier* in Microsoft Word (fancy!) that pleaded for 6 people to sign up to make the club official. After making, oh, around 200 free copies in the computer lab (thanks, lab fees!), we spent all night taping these fliers up all around campus– on every floor of every dorm, in the student union, and yes, even in the boys bathroom. We knew, just knew, that in the morning the whole campus would be bustling about this “funny” prank. Though the response to the fan club were completely underwhelming, our friend’s response did not satisfy my need for vengeance, as he was basically like, “Um, why did you guys do that?” In the light of morning, that late night scheming and hours of work weren’t the most brilliant ideas we’ve had. Lesson learned. BRILLIANT idea.

(*not really)

On a related note, where has H-Duff been lately? The last time I saw her was in “Raise Your Voice,” which I loved suffered through with some friends who dragged me to the theater to see it.

Thanks for reminiscing with me. Maybe one of these days my late night ideas will have much more significance in the world.

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Caitlin + Luke: Oklahoma Engagement Photography

It was 2010. I decided to staff a collegiate summer training program in Denver. Basically, we had 50 college students from around the country gather in Denver, CO to work hard and grow a lot. Little did I know that two of those students would eventually date, get engaged, and plan a wedding a few years later.

Yep. That is our rag-tag “Project Denvs” crew that we ran around with all summer. I guess it took me a few years to realize how many people’s eyes are closed in this picture. But that is beside the point.

They seemed so young that summer, Caitlin and Luke! I remember those times we drove to the top of Mount Evans together, had a dance party in an outside mall, and ate Sour Patch Kids (Luke loves SPKs!). More importantly, that was a great summer of growth in the Lord, encouragement, and service. They weren’t even dating that summer. They were just two kids at a summer training program. Who would have known that a few years later I’d be taking their engagement photos?

Caitlin and Luke, we are so excited for you! See you on your wedding day!

To see more of Caitlin and Luke’s engagement session, please visit their featured gallery on jennyvandyck.com.

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Bonus Mongers: The Story of the Senior Class

“Can we do that for bonus points?”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this question last year. Teaching English Language to a bunch of juniors taught me a lot of things, one of which is not to venture down the slippery slope of bonus points. One minute you’re generously allotting an extra point on a quiz; the next, you’re defending the honor and prestige of bonus points for “special occasions,” in the midst of frequent bonus-askings.

Until one day, I had had enough. I put my foot down, exclaiming, “Stop bonus mongering!”

It all changed after that.

I heard the phrase “bonus mongering” almost every day after that. They could not let it go. It became the joke that would define the rest of our year. As the weeks went on, I slyly tried to set up opportunities for a “Can that be for bonus points?” moment, just to see if they would take it. On most days when they were sharp, they took the bait! It was a little win I looked forward to during second period.

All kidding aside, this is a great class of students. Fast forward one year, and they are seniors. SENIORS. These kids are filling out college applications and deciding on majors that will eventually lead to their future careers. They serve in their community generously. They are involved in church and are faithful to the mission of God’s Kingdom. These are some brilliant students, and I don’t tell them that enough.

On another note, these people are HILARIOUS. Besides their jokes about bonus points, I can always (and I mean ALWAYS) count on them to crack me up during class no matter what we are doing. Some days I have to challenge them to write their witty comments down on a piece of paper for “share time” later, just so we can make it through the lesson. Their humor, I believe, is a great asset of this class. They really have a joyful spirit, that they usually let overflow into the classroom in the form of witty banter, puns, and clever one-liners that I could never think up. They should be proud. I am.

As they get ready for the next “chapter” in life, I can only hope that their trust in God grows exponentially! I’m excited for them as they plan for the days and months ahead of them. Hoping their time at CLPS has benefited them not only academically but spiritually, I dream of only the best experiences for each of them in the years to come. I pray these students go on to influence their generation and the ones after for the glory of God!

Peace and Blessings,

Miss Van Dyck

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Just Go For It

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Those words hit me in the heart when I heard them at a women’s conference this summer. The speaker, dear Pam Rosewell Moore, shared her story about her life and the many adventures the Lord had taken her on, with this captive audience of 20-to-30-something single women. There I was in that audience, pondering all of these options I had in life, scared to death of failing. Sweet Pam looked straight at me (it seemed like it, ok?) and said those words. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. You MUST do the thing you THINK you cannot do.  This woman, whose story thousands of people admire, had such an “OK, I’ll go” attitude in life. If there was a need, she went after it. She made herself available to influence others. Throughout her adult life, she did the things she thought she could not do. And she has a great story to tell. She experienced God. She said, “OK,” even with the fear of failing in the back of her mind.

Now this adage has been challenging in many areas of my life, yet it applies specifically to this business venture I’ve recently undertaken. “Start your own business,” “Just go for it!” “You are too good not to do this for a living,” were some of the phrases I heard from friends and family throughout my decision making. But when I talked the Lord about it, well, He continued to remind me that I’m in His moral will for my life, and in that, there is freedom to choose. There is freedom to do what I love. There is freedom to serve others with this gift. There is freedom to not know all the answers and to learn along the way. There is freedom to take risks if it means blessing people. So I said, “OK.”

I want to do what I love while I stay in God’s will for my life. There is great freedom in doing what you love. There is great freedom in this new life God gives to His children. While this is “just a job,” it is a great way for me to bless others with beautiful art of themselves, of their wedding day or of their family in this single moment in life. For that I am thankful.

Since going for it, God has overwhelmingly blessed me with opportunities. I would have missed out on His goodness if I had let the fear of failing dictate this decision. God has shown me how He doesn’t work in fear, but works through our obedience to Him, and through our trust in His goodness.

So I’m just a normal gal who said, “OK,” to an opportunity. I did the thing I thought I could not do. Look at your life. What is the thing you think you cannot do, the thing that has no hope left, the thing that you are afraid to do? You will never fully know if it was possible unless you did that thing. You never know, it might be worth the shot.

So while you’re at it, check out my brand spanking new website: www.jennyvandyck.com.

A big THANK YOU to my dear friend Jenn Duckworth for taking my portraits early on a cold Saturday morning. You are fabulous! Thank you for helping me make my dream come true!

This next one we like to call “the Pinterest pose.” If you have spent 5 minutes looking at fashion-type things on Pinterest, you will recognize this pose.

Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me to look past the what-ifs so that I could see the goodness on the other side of fear. Your faith and friendship mean the world to me.

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Baby Beck: Fort Worth Child Photography

Congrats to the Dawson family! Ryan and Susan welcomed their baby boy into the world on June 1st after what seemed like an eternity of waiting! I had the privilege of photographing this new little guy when he was just a week or so old. I know these first days are ones to cherish, and I can’t wait to watch Beck grow! Enjoy a little preview of the newest addition to the Dawson family.

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Fort Worth Prom Photography

It’s that time of the year. Every Friday and Saturday night for the past three weeks, I would drive around town and see limousines full of high schoolers, decked out in shiny threads and ball gowns, on their way to the biggest night of their high school careers. So many hours of planning and anticipation have led up to this one night of the year, one night where girls get to dress in their most beautiful dream gowns and feel like princesses, one night where memories of those high school years culminate in a grand finale.

Prom.

I love random trivia. So here is some random prom trivia for you. Did you know the word “prom” originates from “promenade,” which is a march of guests into a ballroom? Today’s proms are inspired by debutante balls of the Victorian era of the US, when young girls entering adolescence officially “came out” to society, now eligible for meeting appropriate suitors. By the 1950s, proms became a normal part of a teenager’s high school career, and today we still celebrate this rite of passage with sometimes extravagant or themed proms.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of photographing some juniors going to their senior prom. This group was a riot! We had a ton of fun running around and capturing those moments before they left for the dance. Megan and Brianna, best friends for years, looked stunning in their gowns and beautiful makeup and were naturals in front of the camera, striking poses on their own, which I loved! Their dates, Nicholas and Brian, were great sports as I made them pose and give me a variety of “looks.”

I hope your prom was one to remember, and that these photos add to the great memories you’ve had this year!

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