Christmas Sweaters, Sheep Hats, and Songs Unsung.

Most of my days are filled with busyness. My photography business is thriving in this season. My job keeps me busy with community stuff. We/I are surrounded by an extensive circle of friends and family. I’ve not written much over the last few weeks. Its very hard sometimes to convey the thoughts and pondering of a grieving parent. The holidays are filled with wonder and magic…grief although not part of the Christmas story it’s those early memories of birth and life that make the holidays at times so hard. This is our third Christmas without Evan and although softer the edges are still rough. https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-made-you-cry-holiday-season/?fbclid=IwAR0hPT1OGomkWkK62J4EhRx34Kk84rWyPtbEGKudH5z84wR-t7jLkBSqN_4

Some of the sweet memories of long ago Christmas’ are not very fresh in my mind. It’s not until I go to a sweet school program and see children dressed in their holiday bests does the rush of memories return. Most days I can be present with friends who are enjoying seeing their kiddos perform the best and sweetest Christmas tunes. But in those moments the file cabinet opens, and the files start flying out. With that, I’m immediately ushered to a Christmas program from Pre-School or Kindergarten days with my boys. It was always something that was important to us to be at our kids' programs. Wise man costumes, Christmas sweaters, sheep hats and so much more. Most of my ponderings are melancholy. I miss those days and on some level miss that for Evan I will never see these kinds of days played out with his kiddos. That the planet will not see songs sung by Evan’s kiddos. Yes, this is what this grieving mom thinks. I’m not alone in this thought. We miss the future, and we look to hold on to the past. Holidays are sticky that way especially when you have memories that are tied to traditions, and you’ve not started new ones cause it’s too painful to change the one thing you miss so much. We are trying new things and seeing what works and tweak them as we go. Maybe the thing that makes my heart sing and cry is that I choose to be present with friends who currently are experiencing these great moments. I see the love they have for their child and the special way their heart sings when they see their kiddo perform. It takes me back to those moments and just for a split second I’m transformed to that time in history when I too had a heart that sung and burst with love for my kiddos as they performed.

Photography as my Canvas...Painting My World

It was four years ago this last week that I wrote the following post on Facebook:

"I have been thinking a lot about this season that God has placed me....from leaving a job that has been the source of ministry and connection for me for over 12 years, to a position that stretched me in ways that I did not think possible....being allowed to spend time with a dear friend before her home going, to feeling the emptiness of not only the holidays but many areas of life without that dear friend....visiting my ailing parents, return from that visit only to have my mom fall and injury herself, celebrating the holidays with my husband and kids, turning around and going back to my parents only to return to say good-bye to my father in law...Monday I step into a new job...with new possibilities and opportunities that are far reaching...Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!!! I am very grateful for this time that God has reached down and given comfort in a way that has changed me.

Those life events set me on the path to photography as I began taking lessons and to see the world through the lens of my camera. It was honestly a hard season. I had no firm purpose. I was without direction. Many of those feeling came from a place of fear...lack of experience...and pride. I was starting a new job and a new hobby both of which I lacked the experience but my enthusiasm was unbridled. I have never gone into situations where I didn't have some knowledge of what I was doing and although I had a great deal of experience with my new job the environment was new and unexplored by me. My thoughts in that were I can love people anywhere so as long as I had that mindset I'd do my very best to love people. How could I go wrong??? The photography was just something I thought I would do to pass the time. To be reflective and it didn't cost much but time and brain matter. I jumped in with both feet and I've not looked back.

Which brings me back to the original Facebook post...Evan has been gone 1 year, 3 months, and 4 days ~ my Dad 1 year. During this time but really just recently I've felt a lack of purpose and direction. Reflectively, as I look back at that post many of the same feelings of that time come back to me as I've taken this "pause" to just ponder what God is calling me to do in this season of grief, loss, and reflection??? I know that there are several things that have been made clear in regards to both my vocation and photography but until that time that it is all made clearer I will continue to pause, ponder and pursue. How are you seeing your world???? What canvas are you using??? I'd love to hear from you.

Glimpses of Me

For me, it seems that most days are not without some degree of sadness. I try hard to be who I was before Evan died and at times I think that person is still there. Grief has a way of changing who we once were. Oh, I see glimpses of her….some of those glimpses are good some of them not so much. All of the same hurts, insecurities, simple pleasures and wonders are present but all of them are now sifted through grief. I have watched people and places that have always been solid places for me begin to disappear before me. As I learn more about this journey none of this is unusual. It is actually very common. People scatter….places that held happy memories become a wound that is often times too large to bandage. The very things that you thought you knew are now vague memories or are completely forgotten. 

Not too long ago I was explaining to a dear friend through tears that there is something in me….it almost feels like I’m expectant…edgy…watching but with this restlessness in me I want to see progress…I want to push. She said that it sounded similar to that of a mother birthing a child. There you have it. That is exactly how I’m feeling. It’s hard for me to rest..to practice pausing…waiting…to lean in. I’ve been listening to a lot of worship music since Evan’s death. Some of my favorites are Elevation Worship. The words are so powerful. I read an article about their song “There is a Cloud” and the meaning of the song. Such a great article I've included the link here. http://www.newreleasetoday.com/article.php?article_id=2112

One of the many verses they talk about is Hebrews 11:1. "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." I’ve included one of the verses of the song in this post. This is from Elevation Worship “There is a Cloud”.

Watching a wedding through the eyes of our son.

The day after our 27th wedding anniversary in July we had the honor of helping with and celebrating a dear family friend wed his beloved. It was fun, it was emotional, and it felt like family. It started days earlier for me and several other friends as we helped to prepare for this event. I am always so impressed with when a call goes out for helping hands that the Lord always provides what is needed. From prepping flowers, to gathering ice for the beverages...everyone came together and it made for a happy and joyous day for our friends. 

We have known Brock for most of his life as he and my son Alex have been on the soccer field from the time they were in elementary school. So many great memories of days gone by shuffling Alex, Brock and a bunch of their buddies to soccer games and school functions. It was a great day for all who joined and we are grateful to have been included. 

One of the most precious moment...was watching Brock and his brothers. Brock is the youngest of three and their love for each other and their parents really is a testament to them as a family. I had the privilege to watch this wedding through the eyes of my son Alex. I know in some ways it was melancholy for him as he must wonder about his own wedding and what will that look like for him. I can't speak to what he was feeling or thinking but I pray that the memories and love that he and Evan shared will be enough to sustain him when he does walk through the many life events he will experience. That the love of our family will keep him upright and looking forward. That the friends and relationships that have been the cornerstone of our lives will be what give him courage and strength.

For now I'm grateful for the tribe that God has given us and I am thankful to have shared just a small part of the journey that Brock and Kiana will venture down. So much love coming your way...The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

We love you and Best Wishes!!

Thank you, Mom. I can't wait to see what you capture next....

Last year I was challenged to take my art out into the world. This challenge came in the form of a letter written from Evan but I had also many friend who told me I should try. So I did and it was successful. I placed in many of the shows I entered and won small monetary prizes for those placements. I'm glad that I did it and it helped me see a different side of photography....

I was unsure if this year I would be up to the task of placing my photography in the numerous shows that I had last year. Some of my motivation was that Evan and Alex really helped to move me forward and honestly putting your work in shows is time consuming. But I felt that I had a few piece that I could enter and my motivation was different this year so I entered a few shows along with entering the California State Fair. I've included those piece in this blog post.

Being an artist is unique and beautiful. It can also be demanding and test you in ways that you thought impossible. Sometimes I think that it was more then I bargained for this thing I do. I want to say that since the loss of Evan my world has changed...I can't really describe it but I feel the full impact of my loss every single day. I was out yesterday and nearly every place that I went or drove past had a memory of something or brought back to me a conversation I had with Evan. The other night I was out looking for picture frames for photos that I was placing in an art show I ran into some dear friends who asked, How are you??? Well at that moment I was deep in the process of trying to get frames and I was great but as I talked further I was grateful to get through a conversation about how I was without tears. Please don't take that the wrong way...for me that is a step forward in my healing. I want to be at a place that the very conversation about Evan does not destroy me.....crumble me to a "bucket of tear"so to speak...."grief ambush" as it's called in my small group study that I'm doing. I want to be able to have conversations that invite people towards me...to not be afraid to see people or have them avoid me or feel awkward. To be real grief is scary....and awkward...and crummy but it is also part of the process of loving and being loved. I'm grateful to have loved Evan and that he loved me too. There is so much joy in that...if I hadn't loved there would be no sadness or this grief that I have. Maybe that is what is different is the full impact of our love is felt in loss. Yes...I think that's what is different is that I know that if I love fully the full impact of the loss of that becomes very clear and painfully real. It goes back to something I believe the Lord is showing me.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror.....1 Cor. 13:12. 

 

Snapshots and Memories.....

Today as I do every day I'm always looking...watching to see what the Lord has for me. Sometimes it's something very small. Sometimes it's more of a feeling or a calm that comes to me in the midst of a crazy day filled with busyness. The thing that I find so comforting is that there is always something. This last weekend has been filled with running. Graduations, proms, parades, celebrations and BBQ's. As I've moved through all of these "life" events I was amazed at how often you came to mind, Evan. It was as if you traveled with me to all of these events. If you had been here I know you probably would have had your own things that you would have done. You wouldn't have gone to all of the same things I did but the great thing about now is that you're ever present with me. Even in places that you wouldn't normally be. As I stepped on to the field to watch the graduation of a dear friend from Vacaville Christian Schools; I couldn't help but sense....the senior sunrise and all of the other things that I was so privileged as your mom to experience with you. How lucky I am that I was available to be in those moment with you and Alex. So thankful for your Dad who has always allowed me such freedom to be fully engaged with you guys as you were growing up. To walk along the pathway were your name is forever placed with your class. It was a bundle of emotions and tears but Jesus met me and carried me. He placed me in the path of those who knew you and had fond memories of you. It was a great comfort.

From there to kick off the Memorial Day holiday with the Fiesta Day Parade.....again not someplace you would have hung out with me but I saw and connected with so many people and in those moments of connection and friendship I saw you there. I can remember so many parades you would have been marching for band at VCS and I would walk along with the group screaming and yelling. Such great memories....I treasure them...holding them so tightly. I went from the parade to Prom to photograph some of the seniors as they embarked on their last formal gathering before graduation. It was filled with silly traditions and beautiful guys and gals and it brought about such feelings of nostalgia for me that I thought my breath would catch. So many great memories I have from your high school season....limo rides....gathering of friends...laughter that was heard through out. It was rather melancholy. I was glad that Dad took me out for dinner at Mikunis so I didn't spend too much time in my head. 

One thing that is always certain with you and Alex is that when it comes to family you always are present. This weekend was no different. On Sunday we celebrated your cousin's graduation from high school. Interestingly when I looked up to see people arriving I thought for a split second that I saw you....same hair color...same facial hair...even a shirt the same color as you had but to my great disappointment it was not you. It caught me for a moment and in the hope that others not deem me crazy....it was only my mind taking me to places that it often does only to slam me back to the world in which I am here and you are not. I like for just that brief time to believe....to be in that moment of thinking maybe....... After we got home I went out driving as that is always when I find the most beautiful things...just before sunrise or sunset. Earlier this month Alex took me out to see the sunflowers and although they hadn't bloomed they had sprouted. I was checking on them to see their progress. Just a few more weeks and they will be ready.

Monday was a day of remembering...Memorial Day. We went to see grandpa at the cemetery and I can't help that when I go see him that a piece of you is also with him. The services at the cemetery were lovely...moving...honoring and I'm grateful for all who gave their lives for our freedom. So many emotions as I thought of my dad and really thought a lot about you. I think of so many similarities between you and my dad. As I come to the end of this month I am really filled with a lot of emotion. I've cried so many tears and I don't really see an end to that anytime soon. I keep them in check more...the world is not ready for all this emotion...when tears are tied to sadness and grief there isn't much room for that in this world.  So for now I will continue to be looking...watching....and waiting for the God of comfort to give me purpose in my pain. 

God is in the every day.....be present.

I have been out sorts since about the third of November. As I look back over the last 45 days I'm trying hard to remember some of the everyday things that I stopped and photographed. On the 4th of November 2016 my life and the life of my family was changed forever. At 3:22am we were woken up to the sound of brisk knocking at our front door. When I looked through the shutters I saw two officers and realized that this could not be good news. Unfortunately it was not.....they told me that Evan had been in an accident and they needed us to come to Kaiser hospital. I woke up my husband and my son and we made our way to the hospital. I honestly don't remember much but some of the things I do remember is waiting what seemed like a life time before we saw Evan. I remember the strength with a bit of apprehension that my husband and my son displayed that day and through out our time in the hospital....and I remember how quiet it was...on the drive over...in the waiting room as we waited to see Evan. It was almost as if the Lord was putting a blanket over us....a tangible protection so to speak....so that we did not get to far ahead of ourselves. Anybody that knows me knows that (in my mind) I can go to places no one has gone before but on this day I was under the protection of the Lord who knows and sees all that is going on and I had great Hope about what was before us. Now....does that mean I was not scared...no I was totally scared. Was I not worried...OF COURSE I was worried but what I'm saying is even in the midst of being scared and worried....there was calm....quiet....a presence that only God can bring....from the moment I was woken up by the knock at the door and that has remained with me even now. 

The following moments...hours...days...weeks and now one month from Evan's passing have been a blur. So much love has been poured out on us from all over the planet. We have gotten over 300+ cards, along with emails, Facebook messages, meals, flowers...lots of flowers, more meals, hugs, words of encouragement and the list is endless as to the gifts and love that have poured our way. Really to say thank you seems so small for what has been given to us. I don't want to give this illusion that everyday has been rainbows and unicorns. It is not...I have lived in this community for over 27 years and there isn't one place that doesn't remind me of Evan....I cry frequently in public and in private.....but in that I also feel that presence that came to me that first moment when the knocking came at the front door. I hope in weeks to come to chat more about this journey as I've tried to express some of the things I believe the Lord has placed on my heart regarding loss, relationships, investing in people, and walking out our faith in the midst of great loss and tragedy. I hope to take what God shows me through the every day and move it out so that we can pondering together the beauty that surrounds us. I also want to take some of my son's writings and pair them with my photography to create a beautiful blending of two creatives using what has be placed in us to shine a light and send a smile.

To all of you who have walked with us....We love you. You're our tribe and you will never know what a blessing you have been to us. To those of you who know Evan I ask you to not forget. You carry a small piece of him with you and whether he would admit it or not that piece...that love...was Jesus. Love Well...Care often....Don't be afraid to be a zookeeper.