Saturday, April 15, 2017

Keira Celebrates Double Digits

There's something so special about hitting double digits.  It's like a rite of passage.  You have officially crossed over from the "little kid" to the "big kid" status, even though you have likely been a big kid for a while.  Keira turning ten is even bigger because - well, it's Keira.  If you have met her, you know she doesn't really do much in a little way.

For her belated birthday celebration, she invited some friends and family to The Painted Pot, a local painting spot, which speaks so well to who Keira is because she is such a creative soul.  You have to wonder if she was born with a set of crafting supplies straight out of the womb.  Great care and attention goes into her artwork, including picking out her canvas.

That's Ponytail.  I wish I had words to explain how this girl has stolen the hearts of so many, but honestly, I don't.  She is so ... Keira - beautifully one of a kind - and it is charming to so many people.

These three girls.  They are like a cord of three strands - not easily broken.  It was such a treat to see them working beside one another and with each other.  It was a highlight for me for sure.
While Keira's spunky independence is a real draw, her quiet caretaker mode checks on you and keeps you close like a good friend should.

I can not tell you the number of items in that room that had Keira's mark on them.  From her hashtag, #keirastrong, to favorite animals, to memories, to her name - that girl was a presence in that room.

 The paint store did a couple of pretty amazing projects for the family and birthday girl while they were there.  The first one was a plate that had been painted and then each friend put their fingerprint on the back of the plate.  Pretty neat to see.  Keep that tucked away - there's more to add later.  You remember how I said Keira doesn't do things little, right?

Watching friends and family all create as a celebration of this sweet one was so neat.   It reminds you of what we have all been able to learn through Keira's journey - that everyday is a gift.  Every.  Single.  Day.

The second cool project the Painted Pot did was a family tree. Watching it "grow" was pretty awesome.

Then Keira got to add her final print in red.  💓

Here's layer two for that awesome plate: hand prints from the birthday girl - that shape into a heart.

After all those projects were complete, an empty spot was left on the table, so what sounds better than cake time?  Panda cake time.

As a friend and photographer, this moment was one of the hardest parts of the day.  Singing Happy Birthday to this sweet gem and watching those ten candles being blown out was a reminder that while we all believe God can perform miracles, cake eleven will likely not come.  The elephant in the room felt a whole lot bigger right then.

In true Keira form, she wanted to cut her own cake - with the serrated knife!  She did so great.  Her heart is one of service & she loves helping others.  (Or maybe she was trying to cut a line straight to the panda head for herself.  Who knows.)

As the time wound down, friends began to say their goodbyes and snap a photo as their keepsake.

And then snuck out a piece of Keira I know well - the quiet focused artist.

Remember how I said there was more to that plate?  Ms. Keira is leaving her legacy - and she knows it.  The elephant may be difficult to talk about, but this 10 year old is handling it with more grace and love than most of us ever could.   And so, she signed that plate.  And decorated and dotted it.  Because that's how you do it.

 And I know that seems like it's the end, but this is the P.S.  As Keira went to get in her car, she wanted to send her friend Caleb some love - because she loves and misses him so very much.  That panda bear balloon had his name all over - and so she sent it to him.

The party was such a beautiful celebration of life.  Celebrate today my friends.  Celebrate today.

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


When my friend Rebecca Pierce, of Rebecca Pierce Creative and She's Building Her House, announced her 2017 Rest & Retreat, I knew it was exactly what I needed.  Some seasons of life cry out for more rest than others, and this season has done that for me.  Then when Rebecca told me I could bring my camera along, I was even more excited about the time.  I love nature.  I love all the pieces that go along with it, and I love how I feel so much more connected to God when I am in it and all other things are quiet.  Taking photos during that time can be so encouraging to me.

So, with my phone disconnected from the internet for a couple of days, and my heart more connected to God, I went on a nature walk during our solitude time.  We were staying in a home in the woods, so I decided to walk around the property.  Early that morning, I had already shot the lake behind the house, and a little exploring seemed like a good fit.

While beautiful, I knew it wasn't quite what I was looking for.  I decided to go on a drive in search of a nature trail that was in the area.  After spending 45 minutes lost and finally giving up, I found the main road and decided to head back to the house.  On my turn around, I saw a beautiful waterfall at the bottom of the hill, along with a pull off that seemed designed for viewing it, so I parked.  But once out, there was no clear spot to see the waterfall.  I decided that even though I felt God tell me to avoid the way I was trying to go, I knew better (God and my parents must both get such a chuckle out of me) and went anyway.  Below is the hill I took to try and get me a closer and better spot to the waterfall.  For scale, those trees at the bottom are probably 8-10 foot tall.

At the bottom, as you might suspect, there was nothing.  My way ended up with no real scenery and a lot of ugly surrounding me (much like life sometimes).  I was in the thick of entangled vines and trees without growth that I couldn't see past.  I know God must shake His head at me like I do at my own children sometimes.  I decided to leave and returned to my car.  As I pulled out of the lot, I drove about 20 feet and saw the sign for the trail I searched for for an hour, hiding off in the trees.  Right there under my nose the whole time, but because I was so set on my own way, I almost missed it.  So much of this journey mirrored my life that I had to smile at how God was speaking to me.

Of course that trail led to the stream that fed the waterfall.  Not just led to it, but allowed me to get in it.  And while I never had a clear shot of the waterfall, I could hear the rushing water feet away.  I sat beside it and talked with God.  I let go of the things that were stopping me from resting - right beside that waterfall.  I let go of the idea that I would be able to have what I wanted - both in my life right now and with getting that shot I was working so hard at - and moved along the trail.  I kept looking back, hopeful that I would be able to see a clear shot, but I never did, which was no surprise.

I walked that trail with my heart more open.  As I walked, I began to hear the slow stream of water.  In the midst of my own desires, I realized that I had missed what I knew God was trying to do - quite literally lead me beside still waters.  It was a beautiful gift to be reminded that God is always with us, even in the thick of things.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."  ~ Psalm 23: 1-4

Indeed, He restored my soul during that morning.  I pray that we can remember as we go about life and end up in the thick of things, God is always with us and comforts us in our darkest valleys.

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 5-on-5: April Showers

It's hard to believe that April is here already; I feel like March just sort of quietly sneaked out on me while I wasn't looking.  But, the calendar doesn't lie, so April it is.  And while I am personally struggling and sad with the fact that time is moving along so quickly, as a documentary photographer, I try to do all I can to bottle it.

The teacher in me still pops out every once in a while, and seasons and holidays are still very much a "thing" in my adult life, along with those little sing-songy phrases you know from your childhood.  And  I love to embrace the signs of those things in our lives.  Enter, Spring Showers and a toddler with an umbrella, new rain coat, and some good solid rain.  Bonus, Daddy even jumped in on this one.  Hopefully it brings back some sweet memories of your childhood or your own children playing in the rain.

Before you run off to grab your umbrella and kids to go play in the rain, you gotta quickly swing through the circle. The beautiful work of Jen Krafchik, Chestertown Maryland Storytelling Family Photographer, is up next with her April story.  (Side note: when I timed how long it took me to get through our circle before, it was a big 7 minutes. I know you need a few minutes away with beautiful pictures, so go on then! And we photographers love to know our stories and images touched your hearts, so stop being so shy and leave us some sweet thoughts.)

Until next time,