Between awake and asleep

Baby AI first heard this term in reference to the time between your child being awake at night and falling asleep. The phrase has stuck with me. I thought of it again the other day when leaving the apartment complex of a beautiful baby girl. Only now I think of it in the context of the (sometimes) brief period between life and death.

I can’t tell you much about this precious one’s story because there is little I know. She was born with a cardiovascular disorder that would take her life before the third month out of her teenage mother’s womb.

I don’t know why some babies live while others die. I have learned more about death in the last 3 years than in my (almost) 37 years of life. I have seen the “new normal for those left behind. I have felt the pain of loss and wept with those who mourn. It really isn’t something to be understood.

I have the best job in the world. People allow me into their lives to document moments. Some I’ve only just met, while others are known. I have shared in much laughter and happy tears. I have also been on the side of weeping and unthinkable tragedy.

There is one thing I have witnessed from both viewpoints. Love. Beautiful, unadulterated, infrangible, love.

Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” I cling to this when searching for understanding in that which was never meant to be understood. There are times when I must have deliberate confidence in the character of God, period. End of discussion. No more to say.

I have been asked many times why I would walk into a circumstance like Asher, Josiah, Daddy's handAlondra, Hsa…I respond this way, “Never do I feel the presence of God more than in these situations. There is something so holy and sacred it cannot be described with words. It’s as if Jesus himself looks on, weeping with the mother who is saying goodbye. His ways are not my ways. If I say I trust Him, I must do so in the good and the bad. If I say I want His will for my life, I must accept that while he gives, he also takes away.” This usually leaves people with little to say.

It is an enormous privilege to witness the moments between awake and asleep. It changes me. It causes me to swell with gratitude for so many things. I have a front row seat to what courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances looks like. I am blessed to be one of the witness’ to the miracle of life, documenting how precious and fragile it can be.

HandsEveryone has a story. Please remember this when bumping into strangers today. Please remember this before responding harshly or irrationally to the person who cuts across 4 lanes of traffic to avoid missing their exit.

We have no idea from whence a person is coming or going. We are completely unaware of the weight they have been given to carry.

After meeting a little girl who would change my heart, perspective and faith forever, I joined an organization that provides professional photography for families who are experiencing the loss of a child. Every session I do is to honor the memory of Hallie Green. To learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep click HERE

Stepping into new

First day of SchoolSometimes we need someone, someone with whom we are well-known, to come alongside us, put their arm around our shoulder and say, “I’ll go with you. Don’t be afraid. I’ve done this before. I’ll show you what to do.”

That’s exactly what my son did for his brother today.

We closed a chapter and have already begun writing the next one. I think we’re off to a great start.

Five Minute Friday: Story

Everyone has a story. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not makes it no less real.

For some of us it’s raw and x-rated. For others it’s seemingly simple and without consequence. I believe all are intertwined. It’s messy and at times unattractive. But there are those moments of undeniable beauty. The ones where the world stops moving under our feet and we hear our heart pumping life as our lungs fill with air. If only for a moment, we feel utterly euphoric at the awareness of our oneness with the Creator.

Jim Palmer posted this picture the other day with the caption, “Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” Frank Warren.  You know my name

Isn’t this so true?!

I have a story. It is always evolving, developing and revealing the purpose behind much of my pain.

I recently shared my story with a banquet room full of women and God showed up in a big way. It was absolutely incredible and completely not of me.

It wasn’t until I invited God into the story that things began to change. Nothing was ever hidden from him anyway, but he wanted my willingness to receive.

People love stories. Bad or good, they want to here about the experience of others in hopes of finding strength they didn’t know they had.

I am looking so forward to sharing, with you, what is happening in my story and the exciting direction I am going. I can’t write it all down yet, but I will, soon.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to, reading and sharing my story. I am grateful for each and every one of you.

I love the prompt this week. Wanna play along? Click HERE to join in with the #FMF community of writers.

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

Among the weedsI was discussing with someone the other day how different my definition of beauty is from just a few years ago. It was a process, Evolving over time.

I wish I could explain the formula, but I can’t because honestly, it had little to do with me and much to do with God.

As a photographer I have prayed that God would give me His eyes. That he would show me things that seem average to the human eye, but when seen through his perspective are anything but.

He has done that. Not all at once, a little bit at a time. There are so many examples where,Diamond in the rough I believe, he has granted me access to spiritual sight and it’s absolutely beautiful.

I no longer attempt to define beauty. There is no one definition. Truly, beauty is undefinable. There is one thing I know. Beauty is important to God. He’s the one who created it to begin with. There is no denying it. All you have to do is look around and you will see Him everywhere in everything.

Wanna be a part of Five Minute Friday? Click Here.

Five Minute Friday: Brave

This week’s word is one that I’ve used more in recent days than ever before. With myself…my daughter…my sons…it seems to be at the forefront of my mind. “Be brave. You can do this!” “Great job! You are so brave!” Sound familiar, Mamas?

I saw a perfect example of bravery from 2-year-old, Sophia today. It made me wish I was as brave and trusting of my Heavenly Father as she is of her earthly father. Her whole face smiled as she soared into the air without a single doubt that he would catch her. There was no fear in her eyes. She never took them off her daddy.

runningrunning to daddydaddy's armslift offin the airflyingthe catchback in daddy's armsHappy HeartTrue bravery, I believe, is running into the Father’s arms, ready for an adventure, knowing full well that as long as he is in control, there is nothing to fear. He always makes the catch.

Easter Hangover

It was the mid 90’s. I was driving someone else’s car down a main road in the city where I was living at the time. Dawn was just about to break the horizon when it occurred to me. It’s Easter morning. I had been up for several days with the help of stimulants in the form of pill and powder and was now starting the brutal decent down from my high. I usually didn’t know what day it was so I’m not sure how I remembered it was Easter.

This picture etched so vividly in my memory… As the sun peeked over the horizon and poured it’s light into my eyes, tears ran down my sunken cheeks. “Easter…I wonder what my family is doing? My mom has already called half a dozen people by now exclaiming, ‘HE IS RISEN!’ while waiting for their reply, ‘He has risen indeed’ and will be preparing for Sunday service and dinner afterwards.”

I was 18 years old. I would spend 8 more years in mental anguish and self-inflicted torment before I surrendered control of my life in the rooms of AA.

Last night I attended the Easter service at my church. It was the best service I have ever been a part of on this important Sunday in the history of our heritage. I was sitting on the back row of the balcony and could see everything going on. Different kinds of people from all walks of life flooded the auditorium. I had a stressful time getting myself and 3 children ready to attend and quite honestly, I just wanted to check off attendance, hear the same old “Easter message” and get home to my pajama pants.

God had other plans.

I sat behind a row of several children. During the music I glanced over to see an adult holding two of the little girls up. They were fully in the moment with hands lifted in praise to the giver of life. “They get it.” I thought to myself. “I want to get it like they do.”
Our hands are lifted highGod wasn’t stressed out about what I would wear to gather in this place. He didn’t care if I stuffed myself into my spanx. It didn’t matter if I had make-up on or my hair fixed. He just wanted me. He wanted me to recognize His goodness. He wanted me to bask in His grace. He wanted me to see, first hand, faith like a child.

For those of you reading who have given up trying to change someone you love who is lost in addiction. Good. You can’t. Only God can save us from ourselves. You never know what God will use to trigger the desire for Him.

To the parents who have a prodigal son or daughter…They have not forgotten the teachings of their childhood. God’s got thisLet Him have it.

To those of you going through hell…please hear me when I say that the “Christians” who are telling you that it’s impossible to be saved while acting the way you are, just haven’t experienced the kind of lost that has seemingly swallowed you. We do the best we can with what we have and that is what they are doing.

When it comes down to the core of the matter…it is between you and God, my friend. You. And. God. He has the final say and only He knows your heart. You may be acting a fool. I did for many years. You may think God has abandoned you like so many others have. May I encourage you with this truth. God is exactly where he has always been. Awaiting your return. He wants nothing more than to bless you and shape you into His purpose. He wants to love you, provide for you and protect you from the demons that haunt you.

I know this first hand. I have sat where you sit. Maybe not in the same circumstances, but desperatelongingsearchingbegging…for some shred of hope. There is hope. Today we celebrate this hope called Jesus. There is life. Today we celebrate this life in Jesus. There is salvation. Today we celebrate the Savior named Jesus. There is abounding love. Today we celebrate the purest form of love in Jesus. There is peace that passes all understanding. Today we celebrate that peace through Jesus.

Now you know. I am rather sold out to this carpenter who walked the earth for just over 30 years. He never wrote a book. He wasn’t overly attractive. He wasn’t wealthy and His crown was made of thorns, but you see, He redeemed me. What was lost is now found. What was broken is now whole. Blind eyes can now see. He took my armor of shame and replaced it with a cloak of grace. But I had to hand it to him. He was not going to strip it off of me. I had to remove it, piece by piece. It was heavy and restricting. Now…now I am free. It was more than worth the exchange. I couldn’t always see it in the moment, but looking back I wonder how I ever missed it.

My friend, journeying alone or as a companion through the desert. My prayer for you is that, in His perfect timing, God will reveal himself to you in a way so obvious and powerful that there is no denying His presence. My prayer for you is that you will come back home.

If you want/need somewhere to turn that is “come as you are” here are a few great resources.
Central Online (Their motto is, “It’s okay to not be okay.”)
Buckhead Church a division of North Point Community Church (This is my 2nd home)
People of the Second Chance (These are my people…scarred…broken and beautiful)

 

When the Siren Sounds

Station 21 Firehouse The Atlanta Fire Department’s Station 21, offers a variety of services beyond firefighting and fire rescue. Citizens can have their blood pressure checked and obtain and learn to install child car seats, water conservation kits and fire alarms. The station also serves as a safe spot for domestic violence victims. Station 21 has a proud history, dating back to the 1940’s.

IMG_9491However, it isn’t for any of these reasons that I was first introduced to the men. For the last 3 years, they have faithfully come and shared with the Preschoolers where my son attends. There are only a few children in each class, but that doesn’t deter them. They show up and run through a demonstration of fire safety and first aid just as they would to a packed auditorium. The Chief even attends and facilitates the talk.IMG_9436

I am so grateful to each one of them for investing in the lives of these little ones. Each little IMG_9538boy now wants to “fight fire.” These guys are hero’s in our community. I would be lying if I said that I do something for them on a consistent basis. I think about it often, but rarely act on it. I plan to do better going forward.

For anyone who has schooled aged children, I cannot recommend this enough. They walk through each step of putting on their suit. All while talking to the children in an effort to diminish fear of the mask and oxygen tank.IMG_9544IMG_9550IMG_9553IMG_9554IMG_9556IMG_9558After he’s suited up and ready, the children are allowed to touch the mask, suit, helmet, while he continues talking to them, explaining what each piece is and why it is important.
IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9592IMG_9587This is so helpful in the case of an emergency. The children are learning not to be afraid of a rescue worker trying to help them.

At one point Rogers’ gear was sitting unattended by the truck.IMG_9466
Any time I see a firefighter’s helmet, a worn American flag, or hear the sound of their personal distress signal, I am instantly taken back to 9/11. All of those who were lost. The days of multiple distress signal units being heard from the rubble. It’s haunting.

To think that the same men and women who are saving people’s lives everyday would take time out to come share with us and take pictures with the children, is humbling and so incredibly appreciated.

When we took the boys to the station to deliver a thank you from the preschool children, the men were more than accommodating. They showed us around the station, let the boys take a picture with them and even slid down the pole. It is a memory that will remain at the forefront of my boys minds for a very long time.

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Who in your community is serving fearlessly to protect those you love? What can you do to appreciate them and their daily sacrifice?