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,

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Stages

There are times in life where we are both excited about the next stage and simultaneously wishing that the stage we are in didn't have to end.  I think a first pregnancy is often like that, especially when you are newly married.  Your time as a married couple has just gotten started and you may have hardly had the chance to begin your journey as a couple.  At the same time, you are so excited about your next step and having your first child together, that you can hardly wait for the day to arrive!

While doing my most recent maternity session, I was reminded of this beautiful balance of stages.  Mom and Dad had decided to do some Saturday morning routines together.  For them, that meant checking a couple of things off their to-do list, like putting away baby laundry and building the raved about Rock-N-Play for their little girl's arrival.  It was so fun to watch them work through their tasks and chat about their thoughts on what having this new little person would be like.

 While Mom and Dad were glad to be getting ready for their new journey, those pups weren't as excited about that first item on the to-do list.  Lucky for them, the weather really cooperated for us this morning and God blessed us with a beautiful morning for a walk around the block.  Streaming sunlight lit the path and crocuses even dotted lawns as we walked.  Of course, real life with two pups means tangled lines every once in a while, but no one seemed to mind too much.

After checking off the to-do list and taking a morning walk, breakfast was definitely in order.  I loved to watch this couple take on their roles side-by-side.  Little things like taking care of Momma's water while pregnant is such a great way to love on us.

And I loved to see this couple say a blessing over their food as we finished up our time together.  You can tell their love for each other is going to make them wonderful parents.

Until next time,