About The Good Trees

The Short version:

I’m breathing down the hot, stinky neck of almost 40, and only now in my life am I feeling like I’m actually STARTING to get “it”. (This is where you act shocked at my age, and then I will blush over the compliment and call you my new best friend and off we go being BFF’s together!)

When God promises us the “good life” what does that actually mean? My foundation in Christ was merely sand in childhood and my teenage years. Naturally, I swung the door wide open for satan to take this impressionable, lonely, unsure girl, with her thinly knit theology of God and life, and have his way with her. In a series of self destructive decisions I nearly broke myself by the end of my 20’s. My tree was withered, tired, empty and barely showing signs of life.

What I have learned over the last 10 years since my emancipation from my past is that God offers us this “good life” no matter what we offer him. What have I to give the King in my brokenness but my tears, my heaviness and my shattered heart? What He has lavished on me since my surrender is nothing short of amazing. Sometimes I refer to “past Kelly” as “she” or “her” because I feel so removed from that time in my life. Rock by rock my foundation is being relaid. I am a reforming perfectionist that is learning that I, indeed, can be a good tree that bears good fruit. As I look around at the little kingdom I’ve been given charge over I’m learning how to bear fruit in my home, my family, and my life. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I get passionate about what I love. I use lots of CAPS and !!!!!!!! when I write. I use a lot of humor (not universal I assure you), sarcasm and brutal honesty. I have a self deprecating humor about myself, my husband and children. We don’t get bent out of shape about it so neither should you.

The Portnoys

Photo by Katie Stoops

This blog is simply that….my musings on becoming a good tree. Sometimes I will write about what I am learning as a mother, a wife or in friendship. Sometimes I will write about our ministry or missions. I am also a professional photographer and I am a self taught decorator that is in the middle of redoing our poorly loved foreclosure and making it in to a cozy rustic/cottage. We uprooted our little family of five and moved out to the country to start a simpler life and open our home for ministry. This was a VERY good decision for us. We now have our own “Mustard Tree” where the birds of the air come a rest, receive love, prayer, shelter, whatever they need and then they fly away.

I write because I want to document this season in my life. The mundane and the profound. The funny and the serious. The growth and the spinning of wheels. Thank you for reading.

and LOOOONG of it…..

All of my 20’s were spent on ME! No, really….its true. I didn’t get married until I was 29. Some may say…”Wow, that’s kinda old!” when I just say, “Praise Jesus..the Kelly from her 20’s….YIKES BIKES!” The Lord knew I needed to unload my five piece luggage set of issues before the cross and come into marriage with more of a handbag’s worth of issues.

Thanksgiving 2002 my friend, Dan, invited me to have Thanksgiving with his family because I didn’t have any time off to go home to New York. He told me that all of his adult siblings thought it would be fun to dress up as traditional Indians and Pilgrims. A little odd, but all right…I’m game! This was the day I met my future husband. Unlike the movies there was no music that came on when he walked through the door, his hair didn’t blow in the breeze and a haze of white did not glow behind him. Nope….Ryan was this quiet, sneaky-funny brother that passed me the scissors so I could cut the fringe on my brown construction paper boots. I was fascinated with one thing about Ryan…his incredible height. (6’6″) What began that day was a very pure friendship with a guy. Zero attraction, zero flirting, zero “Classic Kelly” in action. It was a friendship I never gave one thought to but enjoyed immensely. We made each other laugh…a lot.

Ryan started going to my small group and wouldn’t you know it we got paired as food collection and prayer partners. God is sneaky like that. He knew we needed to grow an area of spiritual intimacy without the messiness of a relationship because one day He knew the glue to our threadbare marriage would be humor and prayer. For two and a half years we had an awesome friendship.

As my life/heart/soul finally started to heal, a healthy blinder began to be lifted from my eyes. I distinctly remember Ryan walking into small group and I got a flutter in my stomach. (cue a record scratching….WHAAAAAA????? Tall, goofy (albeit a smooth dresser) Ryan PORTNOY????) Indeed….my heart was beginning to fall for him. In an embarrassing display of junior high flirting on June 23, 2004 Ryan and I crossed from Friendville to Loversville. If any of you have had the pleasure of seeing us act out “the hug” then you can all laugh hysterically at our expense. Two weeks later we said “I love you.” and maybe a month or so later we decided we were hitching our wagons and getting married! I fell and fell hard for every square inch of those four-foot-long legs…..rawrrrrrr!!!!


On a steamy, hot Virginia Sunday, August 7, 2005 we said, “I do.” and walked excitedly back down the aisle to our dear friend, Jacob Zachary, belting out The Turtles, “Happy Together”…..and we were! We were SOOOOO in love! A true picture of God’s redemption was looking back at me, in the face of my wonderful husband.


Dunt dun duuuuuuun……

Just a mere six months after marriage we found out that we were expecting! Oh man…things were about to change BIG TIME!! Ms. Chloe Grace entered our lives like a lightening bolt of love with her raven black mohawk, sweet spirit and unbelievable imagination on November 4, 2006. My girl…MY GIRL!!!!


Photo by Katie Stoops

As I stood there in the bathroom with an incredulous look on my face, nine-month-old baby on my hip and a positive pregnancy stick in my hand I cried. Not in joy, sadly, but in sheer overwhelming fear. PREGNANT AGAIN??? So much was beginning to unravel in my marriage, our photography business was booming, we were working seven days a week trying to stay a float financially….PREGNANT AGAIN????? Needless to say, Ryan took the rest of the afternoon off while I bawled my eyes out.

Oh, Jesus, thank you for your perfect plan. Yes, I was overwhelmed that I was having two babies one day shy of 18 months apart but I was doubly overwhelmed when I found out it was a BOY! I was convinced I was made to have all girls. When I say I fell madly, deeply and truly in love with Bennett Wade the second he was born, I would not be exaggerating. Boom….heart stolen on May 3, 2008. My passionate, compassionate and sweet boy burst through the doors of my fearful heart. I also discovered, I LOVED having a son.

Photo by Katie Stoops

Photo by Katie Stoops

It’s best to read the inaugural post for the full scoop on 2008, the year we have said if we could see our “Life Chart,” 2008 would have a GIANT black “X” through it. I’ll hit the hight (low) notes… second baby born in May, 28 weddings on the calendar to shoot, Ryan working full-time, did I mention TWENTY EIGHT weddings!!!! Think travel, emails, UPS, USPS, laying out albums, editing, client meetings etc… baby and toddler…marriage spiraling out of control and then the final straw…..PREGNANT AGAIN. This time things did not go the natural course. We lost this baby on November 21, 2008. Imagine a little white feather floating down on a pile of awful and crumbling my whole world. Mayday, mayday…ship was going down.

January 2009 was not only a new year, but it was our start at rebuilding our paper thin marriage through much counseling, prayer, cutting our business in half, and NOT HAVING another baby. The phrase, “Make good choices.” was our motto. A couple of years were dedicated to getting our life, marriage, sanity and family back in balance.


Photo by Katie Stoops

February 12, 2011 our final baby was born. Rhett Anderson brought so much peace and joy into our lives with dimples, curls (RIP curls), and a smile that could melt steal. He’s a charmer for sure and we are buying what he is selling. He perfectly completed our little family.


Photo by Katie Stoops

January 2012 we felt God giving us a new vision for our family in our hearts. One that would move our family outside the city limits..in fact moving out to the country to be set apart a little more, slow our lives down, and create ministry out of our home.

June 2012 we purchased a disgustingly dirty, smokey and urine-filled (5 dogs, several cats and 8 adults that smoked lived inside) rustic foreclosure on 2.5 acres. I had vision for what it could be and with the help of our family and friends for 10 days we cleaned, painted, had the hardwoods refinished, carpets ripped up and destroyed for all eternity and made the ungodly past of that house become our present. It is very much still a work in progress to slowly update and invest in, but I rather enjoy the process and am a hobbyist at decorating.

July 2012 we opened up our front door and had our first small group meeting with a group of “twenty somethings”. Our heart belongs to the post grad bracket. The dominos began to fall in to place for ministry OUT of and IN our home. I honestly don’t know how many hundreds of visitors have come through our door in the last 18 months of living here. Our house has become a place of ministry and rest. You can get a hot meal, be prayed for, have children climb all over you, grab a cup of fresh coffee, crash in our guest room or have plenty of listening ears and hugs. We have DEFINITELY not done things perfectly or right but we are doing it and doing it as a family. We call our house our “Mustard Tree” where the birds of the air can come and rest, store up energy, are loved and then eventually fly off. The base of our ministry is the “twenty somethings”. It’s only fitting because I’m so sensitive about that decade of life. I had my own little “Mustard Tree” houses that I spent different seasons at. They are the reason I never really rejected God or self-destructed 100%. I’m so thankful for those that poured into me with their simple loving ways. I learned all I know about Kingdom living and how simple it really is because I received it first hand. This is some of the riff-raff we are currently loving on. Can you see how much they need our maturity and wisdom?


So now you are about caught up. It’s me, Ry and our three knuckleheads living out life in the kingdom and learning to be Good Trees that bear good fruit in all areas of our lives. This is where I talk about what that looks like. Thank you for reading. May you be encouraged by our journey.

5 Comments on About The Good Trees

  1. Leah Hacker
    January 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm (5 years ago)


    Thank you for writing, you are such an encouragement to me in so many ways. I can tell you, Chris and I are so there. Actually, we are in the rebuilding phase. Our tree was big and fat and lop-sided with singularly-focused success of Leah…and in the meantime, my private life was a mess. Our day came too, when our tree split down the middle. Since that time, God has drawn us back to center, to that quiet place in our souls and in our marriage where He makes all things new and beautiful. As difficult and painful as it has been to push out intruding branches and cut through the dangerous overgrowth….we are claiming this journey to be evidence of God’s grace in our home. He is busy rebuilding and we are busy learning to be fruitful in all areas of our lives…grounded in strength and grace with an outpouring of love. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to reading. And one of these days…our guys can reconnect and we can finally meet! 😉 Sending love from the Hacker’s your way!

    • Kelly
      January 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm (5 years ago)

      Leah, thank you so much for this wonderful and generous comment! I know you and Chris have seen your tree go through much rough weather but you’ve fought hard to stay together and the Lord is refining you both in to something so beautiful for his kingdom purpose. I do hope some day soon we can all meet in person. Thank you for your constant encouragement without even knowing me and your beautiful words of love. So many blessings!

  2. Teecy
    June 19, 2014 at 8:54 am (5 years ago)

    Um, loving this. How am I just discovering your blog? You are so funny- love your writing style and the honesty and hopeful way you tell your story. Twin, listen, I need to see this farm house!

    • Kelly
      June 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm (5 years ago)

      Oh my twinny twin twin!!! There you are! Way to come late to the party but so glad you came. It’s not a farm house but you are welcome to come….we would love it!!! Why didn’t we exchange numbers at the party? It’s not like I had any responsibilities that night or something. Can you come over and play at my house?

  3. alana taylor
    December 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm (4 years ago)

    So… I’m browsing Pinterest after a HARD mama day, feeling like what I do in my home doesn’t matter and then I come across a photo of your friend’s farmhouse you featured. Your words + her words were just what I needed and as I clicked around reading more and more of your heart, I felt like we are kindred spirits in regards to our hearts for our homes. I’m starting a blog soon, so you’ll be able to read a bit on my perspective {if you want}. But I just wanted to say: thank you for blogging. Don’t ever doubt that God is using your words to make a difference in the lives of people He used them today to encourage me.


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