Last month, in the last days of the local orchard blossom blooms, I took a short morning walk with my camera. I am so amazed by these blooms that become fruit. I like to think that God wants the same from me each spring as well.
I’ve followed the Help-Portrait movement since its inception. Nashville-based celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart began Help-Portrait just a few short years ago on this simple premise: photographers coming together across the world to use their photography skills to give back to their local community. I dreamt of one day starting a Help-Portrait in my town of Lebanon, Ohio and taking the first step towards growing interest for it in my own community. At the beginning of January the seed was planted, and Lebanon had their very first Help-Portrait event.
Organized through my own home church, Urbancrest Baptist Church, we provided flyers to the members and service goers of Living Word Church just before Christmas and set a date of early January for our first Help-Portrait event. Living Word is a small church plant from our church in the same town. The mission on the Help-Portrait website says to do this: “Grab your camera, find people in need and take their picture. When the prints are ready, deliver the photographs.”
I've heard lots of people involved with the Help-Portrait movement say that “you go into Help-Portrait thinking you are going to help somebody, and in the end you are the one that is helped.” That was truly the case for the event that I was a part of this month. We had five families and family groups come to have their photo taken. Five families in my own small community that I didn't know and now I do. Five families who were celebrating life’s greatest moments—a forthcoming wedding, celebrating the birth of a new baby, being pregnant and simply children growing up in a blink of an eye and without our event it could have been a moment in their lives they wouldn't have had documented with a simple photograph. And our event provided them just that — a life moment captured with a memory in a print. The blessing to me was to hear their stories, see the church (as a body) move in ways that stretched us and taught me the best way to show the love that Jesus instructs us to do is simply to be among His people, and spread love by giving back.
Some great story-telling moments of our day: a couple who wanted their wedding photos taken just a few days before their trip to get their marriage license and be married at the courthouse, a newborn baby sleeping contentedly the whole time he was having his picture taken, and one of the sweetest moments of the day was when one of our Help-Portrait volunteers showed a group of boys how to tie a tie for their pictures (caught on multiple cameras, of course!) And seeing the boys’ big smiles when they hopped up in our set to have a picture taken with their ties on!
I cannot wait until our next Help-Portrait event — but until then this verse will serve as a reminder to me to keep the memories fresh of what we accomplished this first time. I love that these verses, translated by The Message version of the Bible, tanslates them with relating to light, something all photographers should know a little about!
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
I am always amazed at what can transpire in just a few months time. In fact, when I look back and think about the trials I’ve had throughout life and the numerous times I’ve fallen and looked for the reasons to pick myself back up I find it hard to believe it’s been thirty some years of continuous falling down and getting back up. I've been blessed to be able to understand, from an early age, this is what it takes to move on in life and get the most out of it. Some that I know, and some that I’ve come across, don't have that blessing. They wallow in self-pity, let it affect their health or find a reason to blame the lots they’ve been given in life on the circle of people around them. Me? I’ve never understood how that helps things get better. I’ve always been a lets find a way to make it better type of a person. Believe me, there are times (even recently) that I have fallen into a rut that told me I should be just like those that wallow — but I’m coming straight to you writing this blog (and picking up my blog writing pen) after months of a re-awakening of sorts and understanding that the months that have passed before my eyes in my thirties are nothing short of a miracle of who I'm becoming and will be in my forties. I’m thirty something and I’m still growing up, plain and simple.
I’ve been thinking about “growing up” lately because I have a ten year old girl and an eight year old boy. Both with challenges in their lives, either given to them by me, their parent, failing at the very thing God entrusted me to do for them (parent them!) and just because they are growing up and with growing up comes life’s obstacles. My ten year old has her first very real crush. Her heart is heavy because her first very real crush has a dad who is battling leukemia, and she senses it hurts his soul. She herself is a very sensitive soul, and so is he. She hurts for him, and prays for his family nightly, even before she “checked the box” that said she would be his girlfriend. (Well, really ... they don't do that anymore in middle school (checking the yes/no box) but I like to relate it back to how we did it when I was in school.) I don’t know what the future holds, and it’s hard for me to tell her what is to come. Will he by my boyfriend forever, she asks? I can’t answer that for her and already loathe the heartache that will come if he is not. See, her personality makes her want things very matter of fact, and there are some things in growing up that you can’t be matter of fact about. My eight year old son (and the rest of the family) deals with undiagnosed ADHD or something not-his-fault related like it that is hard to understand, in both his small and growing mind and ours as a family. This is a very real and trying time in our life where we need to adapt to his needs and help him grow on a level that we’ve never faced as a family, and grow to overcome a personality trait that hinders him from learning like that of his closest friends and hinders him from functioning like that of his big sister who paved a way my husband and I thought should be the ‘norm’ of parenting children. We were wrong, every child grows differently and every child needs differently. And once you think you have it figured out, the parenting thing, another child grows up and becomes their own person with a very different set of growing up needs.
The simple truth is this: we want them both to overcome and become their own people, people that understand that trial through adversity grows character and compassion for those going through the same things. That as we are knocked down by life’s struggles, we will get up again.
One year ago I was seeing a trainer twice a week, doing cardio one or two more times a week and losing weight. One year before that is when I began that journey of eating properly and doing exercise. Over the course from point A to point B, I lost almost 40 pounds. It wasn’t the first time I had lost those forty pounds. But then I ran out of money and couldn’t see the trainer anymore. Did she give me knowledge to carry on what we had started? Of course. She was and still is my biggest supporter. Did I know better when the summer came around and I began to go back to my uninspired, find any reason not to go out and exercise days? Of course I did. But did it stop me in my tracks from returning to the weight I had been when I started the journey to lose weight one and a half years before? No, I let clouded reality and bad, unorganized eating and lack of movement to let those pounds creep back on. To be honest, I haven’t weighed myself since I left the training almost one year ago. I’m still letting the fear of what that scale will tell me (Am I the heaviest I've ever been? Have I gained every pound back and more?) not help me move to the next step of taking control again. Taking control of something I knew would better my life for the long-term, and that I am so bent on overcoming. So today, I drank the fresh lemon water that I’ve read on the internet will help clear up my skin, boost my metabolism and I grabbed my iPod, bundled up, and went on my first proclaimed exercise this-is-just-for-me for the first time in months. That person I knew a year ago is still there, she’s just been sludged down with life and how it's making her grow. It’s been effecting me in a bad way, and not in a good way. She’s found every excuse not to eat the way she’s been taught is the best way to eat, she’s found every reason why she should be doing something else when she should be taking a simple walk or jog around her neighborhood or meeting a friend a the Y, and she’s simply let time slip by. But she knows she can be picked back up. And who knows, maybe this time she can reach the finish line.
On my iPod as I walked today this song came on. I like to write referencing other creative outlets that inspire me, and most of the time it’s music. Andrew Peterson has been on my playlist a lot lately, and this song in particular. When the video was released on my eight year old’s birthday just this past weekend, it made me connect instantly with his growing up and how I so want what’s best for his soul. But it’s his soul to grow and not mine. I’m only here to guide it along. And for that, I am grateful I get the chance to grow it, in the right way, one more day.
But you're gonna grow up and you’re gonna get lost /
Just go back, go back /
Go back, go back to the ancient paths /
Latch your heart to the ancient mast /
And hold on, boy, whatever you do /
To the hope that’s taken hold of you /
And you’ll find your way
From You’ll Find Your Way by Andrew Peterson
Last week I had my first experience at being there, with camera in hand, at a home birth. I’ve experienced birth on my own and had my own thoughts and experiences because of the three times I’ve gone through the process — but really with your own you’re just there trying to get through it all and don’t come to truly appreciate the experience until you see that baby waiting for you on the other end.
Being the observer that I was with my camera and meeting with mom beforehand, I stood in amazement as I saw her labor all day and quietly bring baby Aurora into the world completely natural, completely in control, not afraid of the pain and completely in love with baby Aurora when it was all said and done. The quote and photos below state what I observed better than I can in words.
Moments that matter, moments that tell the stories of those fighting for those less fortunate than we are and telling their story to the world. Through imagery, one story can be told and even more lives can be changed.
I am so excited to share my writing and photography today as a guest blogger for photographer Jeremy Cowart’s blog. Yesterday was Orphan Sunday at my church and at churches nationwide—and I am impassioned for the orphan after hearing my friend Jessica’s story and those like her that care for the orphan just as Jesus instructed us to do. Please visit the article and read what I have to say about my session with two sweet little girls and their new life being cared for in the shelter of those who love them.
Welcome to my new blog section of my website! This area will bring you some of my favorite images from sessions and weddings, some inspiration photographs paired with quotes, some design work, and some writing featuring my own photography that I’ve dreamed about combining since re-igniting my passion for the written word with the visual photo or illustration. I hope it’s a continual stopping point for fans of my work and new clients looking to see a collection of my previous work.
This first photography post is a look at a session I did this past summer for a client advertising for a costume-themed fashion show at an event she was planning. There were two parts to our photo sessions that day: a kids’ inspired shoot featured above and a vintage themed adult costume shoot. They both turned out beautifully.