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Through this very tumultuous month, I have come in contact with so many people who have experienced incredible hurt.
People who are on the other side of that hurt and people who are right in the middle of it.
Each of these people who shared have a common thread. The gut-wrenching loss of stability or normalcy.
Tragedy has a way of doing that to a person.
When this motion-sick girl rides a roller coaster (which is almost never) I literally have a white knuckle grip on the bar in front of me or the person beside me.
The unknown of the ride is daunting. And the fear seems to rise up in my chest.
So I hold on. With brute strength. Still scared out of my mind. Still angry at the person who talked me into riding.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. But this time, writing is just hard. I don't want to make my grief public. I don't have any advice to give or happy words to hang on your wall.
I just know that I have to write out my grief. For someone out there. It may not be you. But it might be your friend or your friend's, friend's, friend.
People are hurting all around me and I get it. I put on the happy face at work. I give the mediocre answers to "How are you?" just like you do. But I also cry in my car before I go inside. Or sit in my little girl's bedroom for an hour in insurmountable pain. Unable to get up. Feeling lost inside your own skin.
When everyone else has moved on, I know that you can't. And won't. It's not about moving on. It's just about moving.
Finding your purpose again during such uncertainty. Not letting your mind wander into guilt as mine often does.
The only way I know to do any of that is to have a white knuckle grip on the arm of my Jesus. Even when I feel so far away from Him, I know that He is right there, waiting for my white knuckles to wrap tightly around His arm.
So that someday my clenched fists can turn to interlocked fingers. Trusting that He is fighting for me, for my husband, for my baby girl. Knowing He does His best work in the lowest of places. He hasn't left you behind.
He can move into the dark places. Those images that keep you up at night. He can take what is empty and fill it.
Whatever you are stuck in the middle of, remind yourself that God always lifts us up, just not in our timing. He hears your cries and accounts for each one.
"God can be trusted even when He can't be tracked." -Dr. James Dobson
Thank you for praying for us and our baby girl. We need each and every one. They comfort us in the darkest of moments in the hidden places. We cannot thank you enough!
Love and Laughter,
There truly are no words.
I am going to do my best. In all honesty I have been avoiding this post like the plague. I refused to sit down and write it.
It makes things too final.
We lost our little girl two weeks ago. Those weeks have felt like years. The pain has been indescribable.
Even more than an empty bedroom and quiet walls, she filled every part of our life. And memories are everywhere.
There are many times a day where I feel like I just cannot come up for air. I try to save face. Try to keep moving, but in reality, there is a season where grief sits on you like a freight train.
And friends, I am right there.
I cannot wash her fingerprints off our table. I cannot peel the stickers she put on our mirror the day they came to get her. I cannot drive by her sweet daycare without bursting into tears.
I lay in her bed trying to smell her sweet little scent.
I worry about her constantly. Pray she doesn't forget how loved she is by us and her Heavenly Father.
I know that I serve a Good God. I know that He has a plan for me and my husband. I know he has a plan for our sweet baby girl.
It is just hard to understand when you are in a season of heavy darkness.
Our pastor shared that the peace of God is greater than our understanding. It is true. Even though I feel angry, hurt, and scared, His peace has kept me from drowning.
He has granted my husband and I waves of peace and pain opposite each other to where we are able to hold each other up.
Our pastor also has said that "God does His best work in the valley". And He does. His promise to me hasn't changed. He will continue to have our baby girl in the palm of His hand. We just won't have her in arms reach right now. Which hurts.
No matter how it happens, the pain of losing a child will wreck you to your very core. Like put you in the floor to have your husband pick you up kind of pain. Praise God it does come in waves or we would never survive it.
I read this verse and God whispered hope back into this gaping, empty mama heart. It comes from Joel 2:25 "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts has eaten."
To be honest, I feel as if the last few years the locusts have eaten.
But I know that God is a God who will restore to me and my husband the barren years. I know that I am praying that He returns our baby girl.
Even though I am not in control, I know Who is.
Are we happy? No. Are we hurt? Yes. Have we given up? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Our faces aren't quite as joyful as in these photos. But we know where true joy lies. Even in pain.
We know our baby girl wouldn't want us to cry as much as we do. We just want her home.
She made me a mama and my husband a daddy. For that we are forever grateful. She was exactly, everything we prayed for in a child.
I would have people in restaurants tell me how much she looked like me.
God is good like that.
But we miss her. Like mad. How those little arms would wrap around our necks. How happy she woke up every morning. How precious it was when she knew the promises of Jesus to her.
She is one prayed for little girl. And I beg you, if you have a second, say a prayer for her. As hard as it is for me, I cannot begin to imagine how she is feeling.
As my husband and I were talking today, there is not a single thing we would do differently. We loved her something fierce. When people would ask, I had to remind myself that she didn't come from my womb. Even though I felt as if she had.
Thank you to the friends and families that have been so kind to us. People who just come up and wrap me in a big hug. The ones who let me cry. The ones that don't get tired of our grief, but grieve with us. Thank you! Words cannot express how thankful I am for you.
Most of all, I want to encourage that person out there who is in a season of grief and hurt, you are loved sweet friend and not alone. Even when our Jesus feels 10,000 miles away. He is not. Most of the time it is because He is holding you up around your waist so you can keep moving. He's so close it's hard to see Him. And when you are angry, tell Him. When you are suffocating, rest in His arms, He will breathe for you. When you are haunted by the pain, ask Him to remove those images. When you just can't walk into that bedroom to heal, He will let you stand on His feet.
Satan has used this time to tell me some impressive lies. Yet, ironically my favorite song right now is "Sons and Daughters" that says, "When the lies speak louder than the truth, remind me that I belong to You."
And you do sweet sister. If you ever need someone to cry with you, honey, I am learning the art of crying. I will gladly get right down in the floor with you.
Love and Laughter,
Thank you to my precious new friends Laura and Jennifer, who made these photos happen and rearranged their life for us! We cannot begin to thank you for capturing our family at such a bittersweet time. Your graciousness and kindness has been incredible. Our home is now completely filled with photos of us, thanks to you! They are like balm to our souls.
I struggle with this so many times.
Feeling spread too thin. Not able to meet the struggles coming my way with confidence and tenacity.
Not having clean enough floors. The beds not made as neatly as I would like. And Lord help me, the LAUNDRY!
I walk by the mirror and think, "Wow, you sure do have a long way to go!"
But this week, I have come to an understanding that I would like to share with any of you who possibly feel like I do.
I am not enough. By myself. On my own.
I am enough with the One who calls me ENOUGH.
I realized the more I treated myself this way the more my baby girl would follow suit.
She struggles at such a young age with feeling enough. Unable to control the roller coaster ride around her. Things that I cannot fix. Things that I desperately wish I could.
We started staring fear, insecurity, and SATAN in the face. We have no reason to be scared, to cower down, to divert our eyes. We have a God who gives us AUTHORITY and strength that Satan cannot remain in the presence of.
We started a few months back doing mirror talks, nothing fancy, just right before we brush our teeth in the mornings I stand with our baby girl and we stare hard into the mirror. I start.
"I am..." By now that's all she needs. She can take it away. And boy does that do this mama heart good. Hearing my little girl declare who she is because of Christ, in the face of Satan every day, as a toddler.
I AM BEAUTIFUL.
I AM STRONG.
I AM SMART.
I AM LOVED.
Not on our own accord, but because of Him.
The next thing we are teaching her is to quote scripture aloud. To be able to use it and when Satan comes, and he does come, she can tell him to hit the road.
Listening to her boldly proclaim that she will not be afraid for the Lord is her helper in times when all I could do is hold her, is SUPER humbling. She is learning to be a warrior.
You are a warrior too. Just like our little one, you have to peel back layers of hurt, insecurity, and fear to find it, but it is there.
Satan has come to destroy, and in this generation, it starts with our minds, our tenacity, and our faith.
I am just so glad I serve a God who does the hard part for me. He just wants me to proclaim and hold fast to what He has already promised.
Love and Laughter,
As you might know we welcomed our little girl into our home via foster care. I had spent years praying for this precious one, I just didn't know who she was.
I prayed that God would allow me to feel similar feelings that homegrown mamas feel. And he has granted me that and much more. Even though she is older, I still am up at night with her, I am running to and fro from doctor's appointments, I am staring at her face every chance I get.
I feel the weight of being a mama. I love our baby girl so much I could scream. So much it hurts. She was waited for. For a long time. Fought for. Again, for a long time. And I wish every pain and heartache she is enduring could be mine instead.
Our hearts are similar, hers and mine. We relate to each other's need for love, we understand but still can't fully comprehend the pain each of us has been through to get to this point. The ebb and flow of emotions have us running back to each other and back to our Father.
She told my husband and I that "Jesus love me so much". Oh He does sweet girl, He sure does.
When the waves of foster care crash against me, I have to keep laying us back at His feet. He loved her first. He protected her first. He fashioned her in our hearts first. Before we ever knew her name.
She is so much like both me and my husband. Isn't God good that way? Personalities, mannerisms, preferences. Heartgrown.
Even though there is so much hurt that we cannot take away or comprehend, He is still good. Her hugs, kisses, and artwork covering my refrigerator are constant reminders from Him.
Those days you watched other mamas get their hugs and kisses from their babies, I saw you. Those pieces of artwork you sent home to parents of other children, I saw you. Those nights you dreamed of rocking a precious little one in your arms, I saw you. And each of these are a gift from Me.
I am so thankful for the wait God held me in. Due to that wait, I can see what most people miss. I can cling to what many would ignore. His promise.
To set the lonely in families.
To give the orphan a name.
To mend a hopeful mama's heart with the arms of a little girl.
Friends, this motherhood thing, has been everything I have asked for and more! Thank you for your continued prayers and kindness. This process is not all puppy dogs and bunny tails. Thank you for holding us up when we hurt and caring for our baby as much as we do! Oh! And also for being patient with the lack of pictures! It kills me for you not to be able to see her precious face!
Love and Laughter,
May is a stressful month in my household. It feels much like December.
A pen marking on every weekend and evening. Unrelenting busyness.
You and your spouse see each other in passing. There is not enough time to sit down and play with your babies. You wore the same pants twice this week, because let's be real, laundry was not high on the priority list.
Everywhere you turn, it's another reminder of how little time and energy you have to give.
I see you.
While my baby girl was taking a nap today, which in and of itself is a miracle, my husband reminded me, "Believe it or not, we can do this."
The late nights, the frequent wake-ups, the oppressive schedule, the workload that never seems to end.
Typically at this point, little things become big things, family members get sick, you have to work overtime, your refrigerator stops working. Cheap shots. Attempts to keep you in bed with the sheets pulled tightly over your head.
We don't have to do this alone. You don't have to do this life alone.
There is One who waits to make 'we' into three. He gives strength when you haven't slept in two weeks. Praise! He gives a friend sweet words to uplift you at the right time. He is not surprised by yours and my weakness. He uses "May seasons" to remind you who the strength Giver is.
He can take those prayers of frustration and hurt. He is an extravagant grace-giver. And just like any good Daddy would, will wrap you up in the strongest hug.
And let you know, even though right now it's May...June's coming!"
Love and Laughter,
There is nothing better than holding a photo or album.
We are so fortunate to be a generation with access to a camera at. all. times.
Yet, myself included, we let those precious memories stay on our phones or computers. Never in the hands of our family and friends.
But we are a busy bunch. It is hard to sit down and print those memories. Put them in an album or frame.
Well, lucky for you, there is a company out there that makes this so easy.
They can connect your social media photos to actual pictures on a page. If social media is not your thing, you can choose photos directly from your phone through their app.
It is a brilliant idea. Their work is quality and gives you a tangible way to share your photos.
I love that they have even automated a process for those of us who need a hands-off way to print our everyday. They offer a photo book series where you can print every 60 photos that you post via account or hashtag, automatically.
I found them when I wanted to document my mission trip to Belize. I uploaded my photos, rearranged the order, and BAM! I was finished.
The adorable 6x6 photo book arrived to my doorstep. When people come over, I have a book of images to show, not a cell phone screen.
If you are wanting to be a better steward of your memories, check out the awesome people at Chatbooks. I love their heart for printed images. For everyone. For you.
Get to printing those photos. In your pajamas. (At least, that's how I like to do it!)
Love and Laughter,
One of my favorite memories was sitting down with my grandma at the kitchen table with her photo albums in her lap.
I remember the sweet smile that she would have when she talked about my grandpa.
How he walked miles out of the way just to carry her books home from school. How he knew the second he saw her that she was the "one". How she traveled across the country to see him off for war. How she waited for him. How their love for each other turned into a giant family.
She was a gorgeous and spunky thing, my grandma. But she had the sweetest spirit. She knew the art of storytelling.
Not just any story.
Our story. Her story. My story.
She would flip through the flimsy black pages, run her fingers over the black and white square images, and go back in time.
I got to go on that journey with her. And because she had physical images, I felt like I was there.
She took the time to share with me what it meant to be a strong, loving wife. She showed me the kind of man my grandpa was back then. And the kind of man I should look for.
And those stories still float in my mind. On days when I don't feel like being that kind of wife. On days when my selfishness takes over. I hear her. I see her precious wrinkly and arthritic fingers touching each picture.
She and my grandpa are why I do what I do. They left a legacy. One that I hope to share with each couple we meet, with each family we encounter.
I have no idea who took those images. Who their photographer was in the living room of their pastor's house on their wedding day. I would like to think that they wanted it that way.
I know I do.
At the end of your 60+ year marriage, I hope that your grandchildren look at your wedding album and think, Grandma and Grandpa had something special. Something that lasted. They would hug each other in the kitchen just like that. Grandpa always held Grandma's hand that way.
Not, "my, that was one great photographer. "
I want to produce something that lasts that helps you tell your grandchildren stories like my grandma would tell me.
I want to encourage your marriage along the way. So that it too, stands the tests of time.
My Mamaw and Papaw as I call them, and Mama and Daddy as my mama calls them are why we do photography this way. Why we do business the way we do.
They are our why.
We exist to help build strong marriages through heirloom memories so that we can renew the joy of marriage on days when our couples need it the most.
So that their grandchildren can hold the day that their family started.
So that couples can look on their walls and see the life they have begun.
So that children can watch true love unfold and live on the walls of their homes.
We hope that one day, that frame on your mantle, the canvas on your wall, the album on your coffee table could refresh the covenant that you made with each other and be the greatest story ever told in the life of your family.
Love and Laughter,
Enter at your own risk! Lots of exclamation points and smiley faces to follow!
I walked outside after a long day. Walked to our mailbox tired, weary, and still waiting.
I have been checking my email three times a day.
Making sure I haven't missed a call.
Yet, even still, silence.
I made it to our mailbox and had a dog literally jump on my back barking. The neighbor's escape artist. I mean really... I am already tired, I don't need the threat of being attacked by a dog. Whew!
I told the dog, in my best country accent, to "GIT". And he did.
I opened the door of our mailbox, slid out the stack of envelopes. Bill, ad, bill, bill, DSS.
Wait, what? We are supposed to be getting our homestudy approved, could this be our letter? The one that we have been waiting for?
I ripped it open and read way faster than I ever have. I made it to the part that still makes my heart skip a beat. "your homestudy has been reviewed and approved."
Approved? Approved!!!! APPROVED!!! :) :)
I LITERALLY danced in my driveway!!!! If I could have screamed I would have, but it was late, and my neighbors wouldn't have appreciated that I am sure.
I ran in the house and texted my husband. He was working and I just couldn't hold it in.
We both have waited a long time for approval. And I feel like that has always been a deep part of my personality.
Maybe it's the minor Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, maybe the perfectionism, maybe a lot of things.
I have sought approval. Jesus is showing me that this is something I need to work on. Our society is centered around being approved of.
I don't want approval to hold me back from life living.
I know that our family will be under high scrutiny and review for a long time. I know that there will be many days of holding my breath for approval.
I just don't want to stand in fear.
I am starting a book called Nothing to Prove. In this season for us, it's all about proving ourselves as worthy and fit parents. Worthy and fit spouses. Worthy and fit members of society.
Yet, in the midst of it, I want to find my hope in the God whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts, who has already marked me Approved, who turns the bitter into sweetness.
You don't have to prove anything to Him. Hallelujah!
Whether you are a "good enough" mama, whether your house is clean enough, whether you are a "good enough" friend, whether your meals are instagrammable, whether you have been a "good enough" spouse. None of that matters to Him. He has paid your price.
He has went before my husband and I on this journey to a family. He is already holding that precious little one. His foot has stepped in everything we will.
He has paid the price for our baby. All we have to prove is His faithfulness. And He is just that...faithful.
Love and Laughter,
It has been one week since our homestudy was submitted for approval.
And I can't quite describe my emotions.
I am anxious. Ready for this incredibly long process to be complete. Stamped. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
I am trying to cherish these moments of quiet. What it feels like in my house, waiting for our little one to come home.
Heartbroken. That our precious baby is out there somewhere, not being held, loved on, prayed over by us.
Now that our waiting is drawing to a close, I am realizing the weight of being a middle mama, a waiting mama, a can't fix it yet mama.
Yet, in all of that, I couldn't imagine any other place I would rather be. In this season. Waiting. Yearning to see that precious face.
If I didn't know Jesus, I couldn't do it. Like not in the slightest. It would be too much to bear.
1,200 children needing foster homes in South Carolina? What am I supposed to do with that?
Thankfully, I know Him. And He is the God who uses delay to grow my belief.
Belief in His capable hands. Belief that he wrote our family's story before time itself. Belief that this baby is His. He formed their little body, to be exactly right for us.
That is something I can believe in. I can wait on Him.
Wherever you are, whatever you are walking through, know that there is a God who knows you because He made you. His delay only brings about belief. His promises are good.
He will not fail you.
Love and Laughter,