Sunday, December 23, 2018

An Eplett Christmas

When my friend Kim reached out to me to do pictures with her family cutting down their annual Christmas tree, I was so excited.  You see, Kim is in a different stage of life than me.  She has spent many years building the memories I am still making and her children are all now entering adulthood.  And although we may not be in the same season, we both appreciate how quickly they change.  For her, the time where all of her children are together has become less and less and she knows that she is nearing the end of this season and the beginning of the next - hence a session to hold on.

Right out of the gate, the boys found a great one and were ready to be done.  If you have ever gone hunting for a live Christmas tree though, you know you can't just take the first one you find.  There's no fun in that.  So off the crew went, dodging mud as best they could, searching high, and then low, for the perfect tree. While there always seems to be a plethora of beautiful choices, like people, they all have their own unique character.  We look to find the one that has that sweet balance between the things we most want and the flaws that we can handle.

As everyone searched, it came down to two and the debate began for which was the better tree.  No one likes to lose, so as Kim broke down the cost per child, cash came out to defend the tree of their choosing.

In the end, all the bidding kicked Momma into high gear and had her on her own pursuit to find a tree a family of 7 could agree with.  I loved that not a single adult in the group questioned following her.

And that all of them agreed to her decision.  Which her husband later showed me was the perfect fit for their house, family, and ornaments.  Lots of people jumped in to to take a turn cutting, and when they were finished, something beautiful happened.  One of their daughters wanted the bottom piece of the trunk, so the boys worked together to take care of her.  I loved watching their core come together for her.

As things began to round down, we took a minute to shot a couple of portraits.  There are moments in your life where it hits you how blessed your life is and how your other half, the person you chose, is at the root of all that.  I watched as Kim, after moving from a picture with her girls, to a picture with her boys, made a sweet step towards her husband in that realization.  The group then loaded up to head back.

Our final stop for lunch at the family's favorite place was the perfect way to polish off this afternoon hanging out - even if a meal might have been forgotten in the ordering for 9 people.  It was wonderful to see them all just talking and spending time together.

I hope this holiday season finds you able to embrace life and the people around you for all God has given you.  Remember that the days are long, but the years are short and there is true beauty to be found in every one of your days.

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Embracing The Season

Well, it's official: winter is here in Missouri - this week at least.  When my kids got a surprise snow day in mid November, building a snowman went to the top of their to-do list.  They grabbed whatever clothing they thought would work, including rain boots and tennis shoes, and got right to work rolling, packing, and stacking.

And even though we may all have been hoping for more fall like temps, it really didn't matter.  The reality was that 6 inches of snow covered my yard and frigid temps meant hats and coats.  Whether literally or figuratively, we are often ready for a change in seasons - at the end.  We have had our fill and are sort of over it.  But mid-season?  Hmm - not so much.  Between the season life says we're in, the season our environment says we're in, and the season our hearts wish to be in, there is a constant struggle.

 Sure, sometimes we can put on our rain boots and jump in the snow.  But sometimes, well, sometimes we just want to stay in our pajamas and ignore everything about the season.  The thing is, when we do, we miss out on the beautiful things God calls us to embrace in the season.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I enjoy a good day of rest - and I think that is crucial to do this regularly to keep our spirits in check.  The imbalance seems to be in the anticipation of the next season.  We are a culture that preaches we should be prepared for almost anything, and we take great pride in the idea that we are organized, ready, and have all our things together.  Until God asks us to set down our plans to embrace what He has in store for our season and we find being flexible isn't part of what we planned for.

Back in Missouri, fall showed up for us on Thanksgiving day and we were thrilled.  Like pros, the kids shifted their building skills straight over to a leaf pile and went about packing, throwing, and rolling.
I have come to understand that in organizing and preparing for every single thing that might come our way, we are failing to embrace the very season we are actually in, no matter what we think our season is supposed to look like.  We no longer know how to live without a detailed plan.  When something gets in the way of said plan, we rarely think to take pause and consider that it might actually be better this new way.  And for Christians, we are often guilty of asking for prayers that things will work out the way that we planned without considering God's plan and how it would be better.

We struggle to find joy in our season or sit with our thoughts and have real down time.  Most of us can't remember the last time we chose to be still and simply take in our surroundings - or choose to be present and engage where we are and with the people we are with.

I challenge you as this season begins to take hold, to embrace the beauty in things as God unfolds them.  Don't overwhelm yourself with thinking about what you wish was different in your season.  Be present where you are, with your people and your circumstances, rather than being distracted by all the things.  Be thankful for your situation and pray for those around you, rather than allow your frustrations with the "unplanned" to take over.  And when the leaves and snowflakes are falling, seek to find the joy God created those details for.

Until next time,

Friday, October 26, 2018

Visiting the Pumpkin Patch

I don't know about you, but I have found in the last few years that if I want to have family time, I have to intentionally put it on my calendar.  Such is our busy world I suppose.  So when October started, we picked a weekend for pumpkin picking and last weekend was it!  If you have my struggle of a busy calendar, fret not.  This season is just as much about carving as picking, so steal a couple of hours this weekend and spend some time in your kitchen with your people.

My family seems to always struggle with finding places we feel like will be a good match for us.  We tried a farm close to home, but there was no field to pick from, so we drove about 30 minutes to Augusta and found this sweet little farm this year.  It was a little bit of a walk, which on this chilly day was actually a welcome way to get our bodies warmer.

There were two fields to choose from, and if you have ever picked your own pumpkins, you know you have to weed through plenty of bad ones to find the kind you want.  My boys are forever interested in checking everything out, leaving my girl frustrated at times and following behind.  They are also interested in messing with her - my son taking the lead from his Dad to show his sister the "perfect little one" that he found for her.

But don't be worried for my girl.  She keeps up with them (or me) and can carry her own weight, err, pumpkin.  She also gives it back to them and it is molding her into a chick not to be messed with.  And even though those boys can be a pain to us both, I certainly have a soft spot for them and really love the snot out of them.

We stacked them all together and made our final picks, then the kids made a quick pit stop at a small play area while I got a few pictures of the field.

Then off to weigh our picks and pay.  It was nice to have a big kiddo working to calculate, while the little one got to watch her big brother model for her how it all works.  I loved watching my girl skip and hop to the Jeep to load up our prizes and enjoy the trek home down some windy country roads.

This weekend, I'll be joining you in carving.  Maybe I should have made sure we had the time for that last weekend.  Nah.

Until next time,

Monday, August 20, 2018

Embracing The Next Stage

I'm not going to lie.  Embracing the next stage is NOT something I have ever looked forward to in my life.  From my youth and graduations, to adulthood and changing jobs, the next stage, even the next step, is hard on my heart.  I am a pretty emotionally invested person.  The logical part of my brain tells me that going to the next step is simply, well, the next thing.  Staying where I am is typically no longer an option, so it's not really much of a choice.  But for my heart, it's not so simple.  It worries if I have made the right decision about all the details of the next step.  And then there's that quiet nagging fear that the next stage won't be nearly as great as the last one.  So you can only imagine the struggle I had in sending off my girl to Kindergarten, while simultaneously sending off my first born to high school.  To save him (and you) the added bonus of having those pictures in the world, they are not included here, but know that the stages you see here of my girl have many mirror images of my first born.  And there's no need to make a point of telling me, I already know I fall into the over sharer category on this post.  Sorry, not sorry.

Our sweet girl was SO worried about kindergarten until the day we went to get school supplies.  Every time someone asked if she was excited and ready for school, she would whine, turn, and grab my leg.  And telling her she would make so many new friends made it worse.  She was worried that the kids would be mean or the teacher wouldn't be kind or that the school would be too big.  So imagine my surprise when in one afternoon, all of that changed.  Suddenly a row of character backpacks had my girl's eyes glowing.  Only ten minutes after picking it out and landing it in our cart, she announced with glee, "Momma!  I'm so 'cited to show my teacher my new backpack!  I can't WAIT to go to school!"  My heart leapt!

Of course, a new backpack must be explored and tried on.  I love that grin that came when my girl asked me to read her what the words said agin: "Leave a little sparkle wherever you go".

Meet the Teacher Day soon followed and was a big success.  It got our girl almost completely on board for her first day.  I mean, who can resist organizing and decorating?  (All my teacher friends are nodding in agreement with me.)

Since I have been staying home, I have been making my son's favorite cookies for his first day, and freezing most of the batch to bake over the first month or longer of school.  Last year, my girl and I made them for him together.  So, this year's new tradition was to mix the cookies on the last day of summer and have some ready for the first day home.

When my son was a kindergartner, I didn't get the chance to help him get ready for school because I started work so early.  And by the time I started staying home, he had it down.  We are working hard on getting that morning routine down with our girl so that it becomes an independent task before too long.

I love getting to walk to school with my girl.  When Aaron was in elementary school, we did the same thing when the weather permitted.  I really enjoy the extra time together and being outdoors.  We'll see how she feels about it after making friends on the bus.

Meet the Teacher day and Kindergarten orientation really helped our girl feel more confident about her first day.  Saying goodbye seemed to be harder on us than her - and there were most certainly tears from this Momma.

And then - the end of the day finally came, and my girl came off the bus LIKE THIS.  She had the biggest grin running straight at me and was so excited about her first day.

I would do this story an injustice if I polished it off here.  In the midst of this week, there were plenty of pictures not taken.  Ones of my girl and I having a scuffle before cookies, followed by us both boo-hooing in my bedroom about the things she no longer wanted pictures of because it made her sad that she wouldn't be here for them anymore.  There are no pictures of me crying as I walked down the hall, or pictures of my solo lunch on the first day or walk home on the second day of school, where it suddenly hit me that I would be doing my days alone.  But all of those things happened, and we even got to throw in a melt down on the second day where a very busy night led to my girl bawling about how much she missed me and how she didn't get to spend any time with me.  I cried right along with her and made sure our morning routine now includes time for the two of us to cuddle for a while in bed in the mornings.  I have confidence it will get better, but in the midst of it, it needs to be said that embracing the next stage is hard.  So hard.

So maybe that leaves you wondering about me, and the question that seems to be on everyone's mind: what will I do with myself with all of my "free" time.  Being a stay-at-home Mom has been a beautiful journey, and one that I want to continue on even though my kiddos are away for the day.  I have gone through tons of stages of redefining myself and I am finding this is another turn on that road.  As I move forward, I am excited to have more time to shoot and edit pictures of other families - like YOURS.  If you have been following our story here and have always wanted to do pictures like this with your family, now is your time.  I am working on putting time into growing my business and would love to be able to do for other families what I have been able to photograph for my own.  If this sounds beautiful to you, then I would love to hear from you.  E-mail me so we can start talking about the perfect session for your crew.  And be on the lookout for upcoming family model calls and specials to take advantage of.  Make sure you follow me on Facebook or Instagram and subscribe to my email list so you are one of the first to know.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Finger Painting

When it comes to photography, I have different sides I see.  I have the side that observes and wants to photograph the beauty of everyday life, and then the side that grabs my camera when something is being done for the first, or sometimes last, time.  This one was a first for us.  As a stay-at-home Mom, you would think that my girl has finger painted plenty at the age of 5, but actually, until this time, she had not done it before (at least, not with me that I remember - lol).  My son hated the feeling of paint on his hands, so finger painting wasn't really on my radar.  That in conjunction with the mess (I embrace lots of things, but messes are hard for me sometimes) made this an easy pass.

And then we went to the store for a couple of things and there it was: a pad of finger painting paper on clearance for $1.  Next to it, a box of paint for $2.  My girl, lover of all things painting related, begged me in the sweetest way, "Can we get it?  Please Momma?  Please?!?"  I'm a sucker for her sometimes, so in the cart and home it went.

The beginning was a bit of experimenting with ways to paint and mixing colors.

And getting a full hand print for the first time was a bit of a thrill for my girl.

We gave it a try with more paint starting on the paper and just swirling the paint.

While fun, my girl is often series about her painting and seemed unsure about the results, so I suggested she actually use her finger to paint.

That seemed to pull the concentrated artist out of her.

In the end, she still enjoyed painting her entire hand and slapping it down on that paper (I mean, who doesn't).

And really, clean up was pretty easy - and totally worth it for the smiles.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sunflowers + Sunsets

When our girl entered the preschool stage, like most kids, she got pretty curious about things around her.  However, it's been a very different curious than when our son was this age.  I like to think that being a girl - or maybe being like her momma - has her asking more detailed questions, connecting things together, and wanting to experience things in person.  Last summer, she asked about going and seeing sunflowers, but it was too late in the season to find them in real life in our area.  (One benefit of being friends with lots of photographers that do mini sessions in sunflower fields is knowing when prime season is.)  In the last few weeks, our girl has also started asking to go outside and watch the sun set.  While we often get beautiful colors and clouds outside our front door, being able to SEE the actual sun set isn't very easy.  So while our son was away at camp, we planned a night to go hit both, and something like this certainly felt necessary to document.

Our main goal was to get our girl up close to the sunflowers to see their real life size, so we dove right in.  Daddy made sure to get her up high enough to check out the details on the flowers and see the bees working hard.  At first, she was a little unsure of being so close to the bees working.

Then Daddy decided to get his phone out for a selfie and she turned on the smiles.  I love that my husband offered right away to grab my camera and take a few pictures of us too.  We kept checking out the flowers and my girl was interested in figuring out what the bees were working for.

The fun of exploring with a preschooler is the excitement they have in new experiences.  Like the look of our girl watching the sun dip below the horizon.  And getting braver about seeing those bees up close.

After the sun set, we switched fields so our girl could have flowers a little closer to her level.  She loved being able to see them without needing a lift and got the biggest smiles when she saw one that was JUST her size!

Our girl wasn't nearly ready to go by the time my husband was. She was so excited to wander through the rows and see those sunflowers up close and personal.  She loved finding "baby" sunflowers, ones that were just her size, seeing more bees working, and looking closely to see the difference between the flowers (and pointing it out).

And honestly, my Momma and photographer heart could have followed her for plenty longer, even though we had lost the sun and most of the people that were there photographing.  The beauty of real life exists even after the sun has set.

Until next time,

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sprinkler Fun in the Summer Sun

The summer sun can be a bit of a rough one in the Midwest.  Recently, we were on an excessive heat warning for several days in a row.  You likely know that this means not only was the actual temperature blazing hot (mid 90's), but it felt even hotter (low 100's).  You might think this means that water play was a must, but actually, it means we spend a lot of our time indoors.  And if we head outdoors to do much of anything, it needs to be as the sun is taking her final bow.

This particular evening, my husband decided that with all this insane heat, in order for our grass to survive, it needed water.  My kids are no stranger to playing in the sprinkler, and I certainly have photographed it my fair share.  This night though, I was feeling pretty blah.  I really wanted to just hang on the couch and be a lazy bum.  But then came the calls from my kids and husband, and once FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in, I decided last minute to just suck it up and head out, camera in hand.

When the kids first got out there, the sun made for all sorts of fun with the water playing in its rays.  Part of playing in our front yard is my daughter saying hi to our neighbor's dog, affectionately known as Silly Lilly.  We joke that with Lilly still being young, her energy overwhelms her when people come over to see her.  Not so when my girl goes to say hi.  Lilly sits patiently for her and almost never makes my daughter scared, which is amazing because as you can see, they are about the same size.  We have dubbed her as the Lilly whisperer.

I really do love to watch my kids play and interact together.  Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times that I get frustrated with them and send them to their separate corners, but when they are loving each other, I enjoy seeing how they can take care of and teach each other.

 Of course, my husband likes to get in on the action too.  And when he sees an opportunity to have some fun of his own, he certainly doesn't shy away from it.

Even in the heat of a day like this, running through cool water can certainly chill you down.  So in the end, my kiddos soaked up the end of the sun's warmth and gave their typical responses to my camera.

On a more personal note, I sometimes fear that people have the wrong impression of our family.  In sharing a small portion of our regular life through pictures, I wonder if people somehow forget the other days of my life that my camera didn't get picked up, but instead, my voice did.  If we have met in person, you know I am just as hot mess of a human as the next person.  And that making it through the frustrating days is hard enough sometimes, so I just don't think to grab my camera every day.  More days than I care to admit, my kids don't get along, I get irritated, or I simply don't want to engage in what is happening.  Our house is lived in - I just do what I feel needs to get done for the day.  So know that our life has the same back and forth of good and bad as everyone else.  I have to practice the art of being present and I grab my camera to remember those moments I am thankful for.  I hope in seeing some of our moments, you are inspired to practice the art of being present too.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Embracing Motherhood

Being a stay-at-home Mom isn't something I grew up wanting.  Some girls dream of it all their lives.  I dreamed of being a teacher.  I found my identity in that at a very young age.  So when I first stayed home with my son over a decade ago, I didn't know that I would have to redefine myself.  I wasn't ready for a piece of me to be suddenly gone.  It's not that I didn't love my son or having the opportunity to spend so much time with him - I did.  It's just that - well, it isn't always roses and sunshine, this stay-at-home thing.  It meant lots of sacrifices and saying no to a lot of things I was able to say yes to before.  For me, I also thought that without something else to define me, I had some how lost my value.  When it came time for our son to go to school, not only did I know he was ready (I had been teaching him for years), I was desperately ready.  I needed my identity back.

Many thanks to my husband, a self timer, and a couple other helpers for these pictures.

Then I got back into the classroom, and frankly, it wasn't the same.  In the four short years I was gone, expectations had changed.  They changed so much that I went from having a career I adored, to having a job I sometimes dreaded.  To top it off, I felt like I was failing at everything.  I was failing at being the teacher I wanted to be, failing at being the mom and wife I wanted to be, even failing at being the friend I wanted to be.  Of course, if I am honest, classroom expectations weren't the only thing that had changed; I had changed too.

When I walked away a second time, while I was more sure that the decision I was making was long term, I still didn't know that I would be walking away permanently.  What I did know was that the pressure to succeed in the classroom had taken its toll on my health and my family and I knew I couldn't go through that again.  I also knew that I had seen the impact of  parents who worked long hours and it showed me I had more value in my identity as a mom than I previously thought.  And then God planned an addition to our crew and I found myself readjusting to motherhood and staying home all over again, amidst learning a new skill and trying to start up my small business.

So, here I am now, a few years older and a few more miles on my journey, and having a better understanding that God's plan is so much cooler than mine.  Don't misunderstand.  Being a stay-at-home mom has been a rough road for me at times.  There are days, a lot of them frankly, that I have wondered what I am doing.  I complain to my husband that I want to go back to work because staying home can be so emotionally and mentally draining.  Through it all though, I have learned A LOT about not only motherhood, but myself and God's design for me in motherhood.  In the fall, I'll be sending my girl off to school and the questions abound from all over - Is she so excited?  Is she ready?  Am I ready?  What will I DO with myself?!?!  I wish I could tell you it is going to be easy to send her off because I have done it before or I am ready, but I know that's a lie.  While I am excited about having more time to develop my business, I know it's going to be so much harder this time around.  I am not often good about looking ahead without reflecting back.  And Lord, even with this stay-at-home thing being hard, I know I am going to miss these times.  I have been working hard at trying to put aside my frustrations and soak up as much as I can because I know that once school begins, our time together will be forever changed.  

So, in the busy of life, I find myself pausing to smile and try to be present, and typically grabbing my camera to bottle it up.  I want to remember how much I love the way my girl finds joy in creating and playing.  How I love that she will break out into song and dance on a moments' notice, or how she loves to take walks with her dolly in her stroller.  I love what she looks like when she sits at our kitchen table to draw or paint.   To me, this is what it has looked like to embrace motherhood.

The reality is, the way I feel about the role I get to play as a Mom has more to do with the role I am asking God to help me define through Him and how I am embracing that.  After over a decade, I have found value in the role I play as a stay-at-mom, even though sometimes I want to throw in the towel.  I see that my kids see value in my job as a stay-at-home Mom too.  My teenage son has no interest in me going into a typical job and missing out on our afternoon chats.  And I know that my daughter will be so excited to come home and tell me all about her day.  Until then, I'll do what I can to soak in the time and remember it won't be too much longer until times like these will be few and far between.  The reality is that my value to God is not reliant on any of that - if I stay home or work or if I ever became a Mom at all - He loves me and deeply desires that whatever I do, I first find my identity in Him.

I hope this Mother's Day and the days that follow, you take the chance to soak in the beautiful moments of your life, regardless of what that word Motherhood looks like for you.  I pray that you are finding your value and identity in whoever God has created you to be and wherever He has called you to be.  And I pray over you Mommas, that as the days are hard and you are ready to throw in the towel in your most defeated moments, you take a deep breath and ask God to come in and remind you to be still and listen for His voice to remind you that He is with you and that He loves you so very much.

Until next time,

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rest & Retreat

Last year, I was so blessed to get to spend some time away and seek rest at my friend Rebecca's local Rest & Retreat.  I went unaware of the struggles and hurt I was carrying when we started, but very early, I figured it out and was able to pinpoint the emotions that were holding me back from resting with God.

This year, while I knew my dad's passing was the largest piece of what I was carrying, being able to nail down those emotions was much more challenging.  I wanted to be able to lay down my feelings like I had before: to yell at God or cry on God or pour out my questions to Him.  But without being able to even say what my emotions were, I didn't know how to seek God in order to hit the reset and find rest.

I learned in college that I find God's voice most easily in nature.  I hear Him in the wind and the birds and the trees.  I see Him in the land and the flowers and the animals.  I typically find rest while I quiet my soul there.  This walk, however, was different; I felt numb.  And everywhere I looked, I was reminded.  I felt dry and cracked.  Buried and hollow.  Broken and empty and rough.

I so desperately came to this time with a plan of how I thought God should speak to me.  I wanted Him to give me compassion and love and comfort to heal my broken heart.  I needed Him to help me feel His presence and hear His voice.  But by bringing in my ways of what I thought God should tell me or how He should care for me, I wasn't really seeking Him at all.  I was looking for things the way I wanted them.  Perhaps you can relate.

As I walked, I felt clearly God was telling me to stop using my voice for His and to adjust my focus.  Not to look so far away, and instead look closer in.  To allow His voice to come how, when, and where He wanted it to.  I smiled as I began to see the places that He was hiding right under foot and the ways that His voice was beckoning me to look closer.  If only shifting my mind was as easy as shifting the focus on my camera.

In my hurt and heartache, I was drowning out God's voice with the noise and rush of the world around me; I was even drowning out His voice with my own voice.  I was believing that what people did or said or what I believed mattered more than what God would do and tell me in His time.

So I changed my speed to allow God more room.  He reminded me that His voice is softer than the noise of the world - even sometimes than the noise of good people.  It does not come and go on my command, nor does it typically tell me what I expect to hear.  It does, however, remind me of the things I know to be true about God through the Bible.  It reminds me that His ways are not my ways and His timing is not my timing, but they are good and He loves me so deeply.

I don't believe it is easy to step into faith when the noise of the world is telling us to pick up the pace and take control of it all.  In fact, I know it is NOT easy.  But I pray, as you walk your journey that is difficult and full of emotions you may not be able to pinpoint and leaves you feeling numb, you'll try.  Turning to a God you may or may not know can feel strange and pointless, but it may be just the thing that softly comes in and quiets the noise of the world to help you find the rest and peace you need.

Until next time,

Monday, March 26, 2018

Embracing God in The Hard Times

When I write, while certainly sometimes the story just comes together, I would be lying to say that the words always come easy.  I write and read, and rewrite and reread, until I think I've said what I wanted to.  Sometimes I have to sit on a post; when I struggle to find the right words, I pray.  I ask God to show me what I should say (I wish I could say I always do).  So here I am, thinking back to my first post of this new "Embrace" series and the words I felt God quietly tell me.

Even things like failure, sickness, uncertainty, and loss are often used by God to bring beautiful things into our lives and ultimately bring us closer to Him.

We had just come out of a tough year losing my grandfather, my husband's grandfather, and our close friend's 10-year-old daughter all within 6 months.  Was I SURE I was ready to embrace what came my way?  My dad was suddenly sick in the hospital on a roller coaster of days and no real answers.  Yes, things were looking up, but what if they started to look down?  Was I REALLY ready to embrace those things?  Ultimately, to trust God and His plan?  The truth was, I didn't know.  Hard times are scary and can make us feel unsure about God's plan.  But, what I did know is that those things were out of my control.  Like it or not, if bad things were coming my way, I couldn't stop them, but I did have a choice.  I could lean into God and embrace Him during those tough times, or I could try and do things on my own.

When I ended that post, I wanted to remember that I am working on God's plan and not mine.

While I have beautiful aspirations, I have no idea where it (this new series) will take me or if the hopes I have for it will pan out. Certainly if God has some completely different path to take me on and asks me to take a sharp left, I have learned to be open to it. I know in the midst of it, He will certainly show me beauty, so I hope you'll be excited to join me and maybe even start your own journey of learning to embrace life as it unfolds.

I would certainly call my Dad dying a sharp left.  Even the doctors in the hospital were expecting him to be home in about a week.  My Dad, though, had lots of one-liners to remind people that our days are numbered.  "None of us are guaranteed tomorrow."  "The Big Man Upstairs knows when our last day will be."   "We all have a day."  All the lines he would say to show that even my dad, a person who loved routine and knowing what would come next, knew that he didn't have control over everything.

So, here we are.  My mother on her own for the first time in her adult life, and me, without my Daddy.  And it is HARD.  Some days, it is punch you in the gut hard.  Stay in bed hard.  Cry in the closet hard.  Sob in the shower hard.  And other days, it is just a numb feeling that sits with you as you try to process in your heart what your head has reminded you over and over again is true.

As a person who documents everyday life through a camera, sometimes that is a piece of my processing and healing when things are hard.  It's much like getting my feelings out and on paper;  it's something I feel like I can do to keep moving forward.  So, if my camera is present, and life is happening, which happens even in the midst of loss and heartbreak, I think to shoot.  So while I was with my mom after my dad passed, I did just that.

I shot details that reminded me of the little things of my Dad.  His wallet collection that started again with my kids' pictures and how I had a new one in my wallet for the next time I saw him.  The coffee mug he used since I was a little girl, everyday, without fail.  The pictures on the coffee table of he and I from when I was a young adult.  His golf ball collection.  The calendar on the fridge to mark his last moment on earth ...

I shot my mom a lot.  I shot her most often with my daughter, her "sweet distraction", as she referred to her.  Trying to be present with her, while simultaneously trying to slowly trudge through grief.

I shot her with her sister and her brother and a friend from down the street.

I shot the things we did in our three weeks that made us smile as we cried.

And I shot the Party of 3 service that was exactly what my dad asked for.

Hard times suck, and in particular death sucks.  I wish I had words of wisdom to share that would somehow ease the sting, but I don't.  I could give you beautiful verses that God gives us that tell you how there is a promise of better things and a plan that is good, but here on Earth, it is just hard.  It's that simple.

So, I'll leave you with this.  Even in the REALLY HARD times, even when I'm desperately wondering if God is with me, He has shown himself over. and over. and over again.  He has reminded me that He is certainly with me.  He sees me and hears me and has gone ahead of me.  He reminds me that He makes all the bad things beautiful, even if I have to wait until I get to Heaven to truly see that.  And so.  I have learned to embrace God in all the times.  To trust Him and His plan.  It doesn't mean I like it when the hard things come; it means I am learning to accept them and see where God is taking me in them.  I hope you can learn along with me.

Until next time,