Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brotherly Love

Few things in my life make me happier than watching my children love each other. It is hard to get a photo of, though, as their love is often shown in their play, in their pajamas, with Scooby Doo in the background on the TV.

I believe my children are beautiful. Doesn't every parent? But the beauty I see in the love between them is something I have longed to savor, even more than their sweet toddler faces.

I have not taken my children out for photos since our photo shoot for Lakes Magazine in September. When I took them out in the cold on Thursday morning, I had no idea what they would do. I expected some whining, even after prepping them and telling them they would be rewarded with doughnuts.

I was wrong.

There was no whining. There were very few words. I set them where I wanted them and my daughter stood still, her eyes saying everything. That she was cold, but that she wanted that doughnut. She hugged her doll close.

I backed up.

My son saw her, and approached her, and wrapped his four year old arms around her, keeping her warm, kissing her on her fluffy strawberry blond head.

In that cold field, a light dusting of snow falling from the sky, my heart melted like it does every day, when he sets himself aside for her. There out in the cold, they gave me the only gift I could have asked for this season: a memory of the bond between them.

As a mommy, I often think, "How could I ask for more than this?"

And as a photographer, all that matters to me is holding on to the things that make me think that.

After my son held her, I saw something else in my daughter's eyes. She was still cold. She still wanted that doughnut. But I saw a spark of warmth. I saw that she felt safe and loved.

And I never have to forget.

Friday, December 3, 2010


This Fall, I have learned:

  • I am not in control
  • I am small
  • I am fragile
  • So is every person I love

I have learned:

  • I was never meant to be the photographer at church events or photographing a baby in a field
  • I do not know what that means for my camera and me

I have learned to let go. I have learned to surrender and relax in to life. I have learned to grab on to what I can while it is still here, and release it when it is gone.

I have learned that I am very often misunderstood, and that is okay.

I have learned that becoming a wife and mother did not change me as much as I thought it did.

I have learned there is nothing I want that I do not have; it is useless to pine for things out of my reach when there is so much beauty around me. I have learned to soak in the little things. I have learned to be content, even in pain.

I have learned that giving can be both painful and rewarding. I have learned I have no regrets. I see God's purpose in all that is behind me; I see His timing and His hand as they shaped and healed me over the years.

I am thankful for today, and that so far it is a peaceful one.

I will be shutting down my web site this month. My Facebook page and this blog may not be far behind. Making my photography public has added stress to my life. This fall, I have been reminded of what a private person I am at my core. It is time for me to remember why I loved photography in the first place, and to do it just for me.

It is time for me to stop being concerned about the opinions of others, and to live my life as honestly as I know how, being at peace in my core, no matter what trials come.

I have learned that life is fleeting. We are all a breathe. In and out. We all have our turn.

I have learned that it is all well with me. There is no justice in hate, anger, fear or worrying. There is nothing I control but me; and I am at peace with that, too.

I have let go, and I have learned that it feels good to do so.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Loss and Giving

Two weeks ago, sweet baby Joshua closed his eyes for the last time in the loving arms of his mommy, my dear friend Jill.

I felt that I needed to update this on my blog, because I have blogged about his life.

How does one find the words for news like this?

Even beyond that, I felt uncomfortable writing this from my perspective because this is not about me. I do not desire to make it about me.

Of course the death of a sweet baby has had a profound affect on my life, my outlook, my emotions. Because Joshua was the son of my friend he has been in my life also.

I feel the loss of a human being that I looked in the eyes and loved.

This is not why I am blogging about this, though.

Beyond changing the way I see myself, the people I love, the people I have never met, and the world around me, Joshua has changed photography for me.

I never in my life expected to preserve something the way I preserved Joshua. Even while I was visiting him in the hospital, I just did not and could not believe that was what I was doing. I could not believe I was capturing something that would so soon be gone.

Honestly, I never wanted to do that.

It is, however, what I did.

A couple hours after Joshua's death, my phone rang. It was his mommy, calling in tears to ask me to photograph his funeral.

I agreed, in tears. There was no way at that point that I could tell her no, even though she gave me an out. I believe Jill understood better at that moment what that would mean than I could.

To be clear: if she asked me again, I would not tell her no. I wanted to do this. In that moment, I would have done anything for her. She is my friend, and I love her. This decisions, as with the rest of it, was not and is not about me.

The night of the viewing, I photographed the photo boards and other things around the funeral home. I spent time with Jill and another mutual friend. We all cried and some of us were even blessed to laugh a bit together that night.

My photos were on the photo boards. There were photos I had taken of Joshua's family before Jill had even conceived him, and there were photos I had taken of Joshua within his first 24 hours of life, and there were photos of him two weeks before his death.

This moved me in ways I had not expected it to.

I stayed through the viewing. And at the end of the viewing, my husband had my camera. I was sitting with a friend. We were talking.

I looked up towards Joshua's body, and I saw Jill saying good by to him.

This is the first of many images that I will never forget, but did not capture.

This is the moment I realized that I was not capable of doing what she had asked me to do. This was a moment that was real, that was full of emotion. This was an image that still brings me to tears; it breaks me every time I bring it up.

Even if I had had my camera, I don't know that I could have captured it.

For the first time in my life, I was trying to find the line between what was a moving moment to save, and what was an appropriate moment to save.

I saw many many tears that night, many faces that brought tears to my own eyes.

The sense of loss was heavy. So many people were meeting this sweet boy for the first time at his viewing.

The weight of this, still, as I think about it, brings me to sobs.

I went home that night, knowing that I would wake up and return. I returned home that night to a two year old girl that was still awake in her crib. I couldn't grab her fast enough. I let her stay up two hours past her bed time just to hear her laugh and to feel her warm cheek against mine.

In the morning, I could not think well. My emotions overwhelmed me in ways I did not expect. I did not even kiss my babies goodbye on the way out the door.

I knew, before I even left the house that morning, that I did not know how to photograph this, but I did not know why. It took me over a week for the realization to hit me:

Photography is a way for me to embrace life. I have said before that while I tend to be a serious person, photography is where I embrace the joy around me.

I just did not know how to embrace this.

Our sweet friend Carla was a saving grace for me through this, offering me hugs and pats on the arm.

I remember trying to take a photo, but my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't focus. I remember not being able to see through the viewfinder because my tears had caused it to fog over.

But what I remember the most is Jill, holding her four year old, with tears streaming down her face, lifting her hand to worship her God.

I will tell you right now, this is the one image out of all of them that I missed, that with all my heart I wish I had captured.

This image was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I took basic photos that day, and Shane and Jill will be able to remember how it looked.

There were so many moments, though, that I could not disrupt with the sound of my shutter.

I struggled for a few days with whether or not I did the right thing, letting those moments slip by. But in the end I have told myself that this was a sensitive situation, and the most important thing was that I not make it any harder for anyone involved by using my camera.

There are many images that I will keep with me forever. They would have moved you. They moved me. But they were too costly.

Never before have I had to weigh the cost of an emotional image.

I am trying so hard right now to be sensitive to the situation and to Joshie's family while still getting to my point. Please don't think I am trying to make this all about the photographic experience. It was not.

Maybe that's why it was so hard as a photographic experience.

I am sharing this side of it so that you can all understand why...

My camera feels heavier than it ever has before.
For several days, I shook when I saw my camera bag.
I haven't even looked at these photos. They are hiding on a memory card in my desk drawer.
For right now, I can't.

But I want to tell you that after the funeral, Jill's mom approached me. She looked me in the eyes and she told me, "Thank you, Molly, for all of the photos."

And for a moment, as I struggled to find words, I felt peace. I had given them something. I had done something. No matter how small. All I had wanted to do was give them a tiny big of peace and beauty and maybe, somehow, my photos had done that.

Even two weeks later, this all feels so very fresh. The images I hold only in my heart are still returning to me daily; I am still crying daily. I am hurting for my friend so deeply.

Photographing Joshua's life and death changed the way I see photos. It changed the purpose of taking photos.

I feel that photography has many wonderful purposes but I feel that my purpose with my photography has changed, and it has changed in a huge way.

I don't want to be paid anymore; I want to give. If I can in some tiny way give a hurting family peace and beauty, I want to do that. With all of my heart, I want to do that.

I have always believed that God gave photography to me as a gift. I feel he is paving a path in my heart for me to share that gift with others. This path is so drastically different than anything I ever expected, ever.

Once again, I will state that this is not about me or my wishes, except that it is my desire to follow where God leads.

I am praying that things become more clear. I am brain storming.

It will come.

I emailed two people today and turned down sessions. I have one more session booked and I will complete that obligation, but after that is finished, I will no longer be accepting family sessions. At least not for the time being.

I want to thank you all so much for your support, compliments, and love. I guess right now I have no more words, but am thankful to have finally put these words together. I was so hesitant to write this, but I truly want people to understand where my heart is.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Forever Changed

I am struggling to name this post, as I sit here listening to my children fight up stairs. Words have been running through my head all day--or maybe longer.

Yesterday Jill said to me, "It's amazing the affect he's had on people," as we sat side by side, watching him sleep in his crib. At that time, the words hadn't come yet. So I nodded. And I listened for a minute. Then said something that was most likely out of place; probably the wrong thing to say.

I've found myself thinking lately, even when I don't have time to, and I think about little "Joshie" more than anything else. Lately, everything comes back to him. The words I was looking for yesterday that I could not find there, sitting next to Jill who was sitting in Big Blue, were: Joshua has changed everything for me.

His affect on me, and so many others, has been profound.

Every day, I am thankful for things I took for granted before. I look at my babies, and it seems unreal to me that we were fortunate enough to bring them home from the hospital with us, and that they have never had any reason to return. I think about my heart, my brother's heart, my husband's heart, my parents' hearts while I am driving or doing the dishes and I praise God that none of them have had any issues.

I pass children in a store and I think, "What a miracle you are."

What a miracle we all are.

Since meeting Joshua, every minute of every day, I feel blessed. I feel fragile. I feel at peace with life in a way I never have before because I am realizing how precious it is and that none of us are entitled to anything. But we are all given gifts, and we need to treasure what we have.

I think about Jill throughout the day, when I'm feeding my kids or changing my two year old's diaper and I think, "Jill didn't get to do this today." Instead of feeling like it is a chore, I feel thankful that at least for today, I have been allowed to care for my children and that we are able to be together as a family.

I look at this tiny baby boy, and I think of all of the tears that have been shed for him. I think of all the voices that have called out to God. Who knows? Maybe those people hadn't connected with God in years--maybe some even connected with God in tears on their knees for the first time in their lives. I think of the testimony that he will share with others some day, and that his mom is sharing with thousands every day right now.

I think of the doctors that are saying, "We don't know how he is still here. This is a miracle."

What a purpose baby Joshua has served!

I don't know that I have ever felt God in a situation like I have in Joshua's. I am flooded by his presence every time Joshua comes to mind, and I am overwhelmed with the depth of this situation on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level.

After saying all this, still I know there are no words.

So I will continue to pray for Jill and all of the other Heart Families I have read about through her blog and...

I will live each day, forever changed.

Jill, I know you are breathing in and breathing out right now. I know that every day is a balancing act, and each moment is a new challenge. I know it doesn't feel beautiful to you, but beauty is coming of it. Thank you for your faithful service to our God, as a daughter, a mother, and a wife. You amaze me every day. I am proud to call you my friend, and I love you.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cover

I just wanted to share that I was so honored to have one of my photos chosen for the cover of Lakes Magazine.

To learn more about Lakes, you can visit:

The Fall Issue of Lakes should be in distribution now. And here is the mock-up cover they gave me. Yep, my made my fridge!!