A place I return to……

I pulled through the narrow opening of the rusty swing gate. I steered the car carefully down the gravel path making the sharp left turn. I stopped and backed up going off-road, inwardly cringing I could be driving over a grave. I apologized in my head and straightened the car to face back the direction I came. The rusty white gate lay ahead in the distance. I briefly wondered if I could navigate the beast back through without a scratch…then pushed the thought aside.

I was stalling.

This is the hardest part for me. Getting out of the car and walking to the grave.

Most times I like to go alone because, with him, my emotions are raw. Too raw for me to share easily. Plus, I like talk to him. I tell him everything. Oh I know he is not there, not physically, but in my heart, I know he hears me. I know this is what I need.

I exit the car and briefly wonder if I should take my camera, then I think….no, I have my phone. The slam of the car door seems too loud in the small, quiet graveyard. I softly crunch through the yellow grass as I head towards the black stone. I glance at the other stones, and I smile sadly.

This place. Where so many cried, and yearned, and missed someone deeply. It’s not just their loved ones here, but part of them too. The part that died with them.

I approach his grave expecting the brick to hit my chest, and the burning tears to fly as my throat chokes. I wait and I smile my sad smile in remembrance of such a wonderful father and I realize………

I’m not as sad as years past.

In fact, I almost didn’t come this year. So many things to do, at home, and with the kids. Physical ailments – hives, hormones, and the stress of work on top of work.

I needed to get so many things done. I did not have time to drive six hours to Oklahoma and back to visit a grave. A stone. A stone in the ground and that is it.

Yet, here I am………because I couldn’t NOT come.

It was on a Sunday then too…..FOUR years ago……I hugged his neck for the last time.

I didn’t know it would be the last time. How could I? He was fine. He was my rock. He was always going to be there…..at least for many more years.

But in an instant. A blocked artery. A fateful night. He was gone. So suddenly.

So I come. I come on the Sunday I saw him last. I come to remember, and to thank him for all his years.

I bend down. Surprised by the peace I feel. Surprised that the years passing really do make it easier. My hand rests on the hot stone.

We talk.

And it ends as it always ends. My heart emptying out my thankfulness for his goodness, for his love, and for his shining example of strength. His handicap taught me so much about always pushing forward with your head up – no matter what.

My God, if a crippled man could do life so well. I could too. I could learn from my mistakes. I could love myself in spite of my failures….in spite of my anxieties…..in spite of my overwhelming stress of doing too much, seeking too hard, and falling over my dreams in a rush.

I feel his pride in my soul. My strength. The reason I keep my head up.

Maybe he is gone. Maybe he isn’t.

The tears drop as I turn away. In a blur, the dry dirt swallows them.

I turn to see his view and I think…how perfect.

A beautiful setting for a beautiful soul.

I whisper as I walk away….I’ll see you again…..real soon. And I smile.

Land of the Free

…because of the brave.

    Heroes
    By Jared Jenkins

    In war, there are lives risked and lives taken.
    Men and women giving their best to defend what they love.
    They defend their country.
    Their honor.
    Their people.

    Some call them soldiers.
    Others call them heroes.

    Our veterans have risked their lives for us.
    They have lived through hell and fought with honor,
    Many have killed,
    And regret doing so…

    For every life, there is a soul.
    For every soul, there is a life.
    For those who have died, we show great appreciation and remembrance.
    For those who live, along with them live the horrific memories of battle.
    Some, memories of defeat.
    Some, memories of victory.

    Our veterans were more than soldiers…
    They were, and still are heroes

Just a post of appreciation for our veterans as we honor them today.

Here’s Your Sign

I’m still here.

I’m still blogging.

I’m still desperately trying to follow my dream that shifts through the clutches of my hands.

Because of time.

Because of lack of know-how.

Because when it all comes down to it, I get insecure about my work.

Perfection is my enemy.

The dream of a photography business taking off. The dream of a photography business flowing smooth and operating productively – part-time mind you – while I still have time to spend with family and work 42hrs a week at my ‘other job (sha!).

And I wonder…….am I pouring all this time, and energy into the right thing? Do I really have what it takes? What does it take, exactly? Talent, drive, and fearlessness?

I imagined my photography classes I started this January would boost my self-confidence. I imagined my talent would take off. I thought the instruction would confirm my path. In fact, my heart jumped out of my chest and raced ahead of me on this, shouting, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”.

Is that my problem? My heart?

Because, really?

It seems like I am just more aware of how little I know about this business. More aware of how much farther I have to go. More, more, and more aware of how much I still have need to learn.

And I still love it – the process, the learning, the people. I do.

I am just a little overwhelmed.

At this point, I am committed to classes through the end of August. My last class is geared towards product photography. Yet, another aspect to swirl my fingers into and see what comes out.

A lot of friends tell me that people are my thing. I’m good with them; families, children, couples, and babies. Some days, I am not so sure. If one of my last sessions was any indication……well, maybe it’s a sign?

Meet my latest newborn (14 days old) and my second newborn portrait session and my first CS5 processing (that’s Photoshop).

A peaceful Slumber

Living Angel

Two Sisters

Big Brother & Sister Love

New Love

She is precious, isn’t it?

There is such a delicate sweetness to newborns and their families. The wonder of a tiny miracle and how they meld into their circle of love.

I did my best to capture the pureness, but when the talent is done? Well, the talent is done.

Her Sign

Here’s your sign.

Is that my take a final bow sign? Like, hey lady, take a hike and go point that thing at someone your own size. Or is it a message to her mom? I’m the third. I’m the last and we go by my schedule. HA! What a stinker. This picture really cracked me up.

So there are days when processing is hard, when time is my enemy, and when I think I am not cut out for this. That’s when I think I should lock myself inside a product tent, taking photos of wine glasses, and bottles (empty?).

And there are other days when I wouldn’t miss these moments for the world.

What is in store for me down this road? I don’t know. I guess I have to keep going to find out.

Super Secret Project Revealed

Well, it happened.

We pulled it off. A surprise birthday party for Jason’s mom (Happy Birthday Mom!).

She thought we had all forgot. No party, no grandkids, no handsome sons.

No presents, no cake.

Boy was she ever wrong – because this family? – knows how to party.

Surprise!

The best gift of all? HER. Being with us. Second best? We had already gotten together on the sly for her birthday present.

A gift of photographs. A gift of love (and photographs) for a woman who doesn’t just teach about love, but lives it, and passed it on to her family.

She showed us all the power of family when we met in those hospital waiting rooms praying with all our heart for her healing. She showed us the power of strength when she emerged from intensive care and knew her families faces and names after a brain aneurysm leak and a stroke on top of it. Then she showed us the power of miracles because she is still with us today. Walking, talking, and loving us all.

She tells the story of Jesus sitting with her during her dark days of a coma and encouraging her to go back and tell her family she loves them.

Never mind that we already knew that. Her story touches many, many hearts. Even the printers were moved by it.

I am intensely proud to be part of this family, it’s not just strength of it, but the compassion and care that drives it. And Sue? Is the best driver I know.

Happy Birthday to my sweet mother-in-law. We are SO glad you are here to celebrate.

Photo book with verses from 1 John Chapter Four.

She tells us to tell our kids we love them every day. The grandkids wanted her to know…………tell your grandma too.

Lots of love shared on this day.

Most of the grandkids are seeing their photographs for the first time.

Lots of birthday hugs for Grandma.

I love her joy (and her hair is sooo cute!).

She passed her love down through the generations. To a stunning group of children. I have no doubt these kids will continue to honor love with their future families just as she has.

What a special day and celebration of a beautiful woman inside and out.

1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.