When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
It's kind of a crazy story of how I met this family. I decided to head out with the family to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens one hot summer day. They have a fantastic play area with a splash pad and the gardens are so fun to explore. I was actually knee deep in the midst of our family's 365 Project (you can see some of those pics here- I took a picture of our daily life every day for 365 WHOLE DAYS!) so I had my camera with me.
As I'm watching the kids run around and splash and play, I see another mama with a 3 kids roll up in her big double stroller with a baby about the age of mine. Naturally, my big kids ran over to play and I sat back observing and watching my baby sleep. I noticed the mama carry her middle son to the fountains and helped him to sit down and enjoy the fountains. She was so tender with him as they played and explored the water. The scene pulled at my heart and I felt the urge to snap their picture. Mama's need to be in the pictures with their babies and so often it is us mama's that are behind the camera, tasked with documenting and preserving our family's memories.
But if you know me, I'm not one to just go up to people and ask to take their picture. It's incredibly nerve wracking for me. What if she yelled at me and thought I was some creep stalking her or her kids? Honestly, that had the potential to embarrass me to the point where I could never show my face in public again. But like I said, I felt an intense need to do this. I'm pretty sure God was tugging at my heart for this one. So, I did. I went up to her and nervously spit out that I was a photographer and that I'd love to take a quick picture of her and her son and that I would email it to her later. She smiled and said of course. And here we are, that was over a year ago and I've photographed their family THREE times since then.
When Steph sent me a message to ask if I could photograph their family for a fall lifestyle/documentary fusion session, I was thrilled. I am happy to be a part of this family's memories and I'm over the moon that they have chose me again and again to document their lives.
So, I'll just go ahead and explain the why behind this picture above; it is of the upmost importance. This shot is highly representative of this family and the storm they have weathered together. This picture is a symbol of healing. Physically, mentally, emotionally. This is progress. This is the journey out of the storm and into clearer skies.
You see, Everett is a Non Fatal Drowning survivor. To say his journey has been long and hard is an understatement. Most of us cannot even imagine the trauma and the terror this family has faced. Yet, here they are. Grateful for every day, every breath, and every second they get to spend together- praising God all along the way. I won't go too much into detail because that's their story to tell, not mine. I'll just show you the story I see- and that's one of healing, hope, love, and trust.
His picture above? He's wrapped in his mama's arms STANDING and his g-tube has been removed for GOOD. The site is healing over and they aren't looking back- ever.
We played in their back yard, enjoyed the last of the day's light and fun was had by all- especially the littlest guy. Their Daddy came home straight from work and jumped right in to play and have some pictures made with his family.
We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Their joy and delight that they choose to find in everyday is nothing short of inspirational. And the way big sister loves on her brothers and includes them in her whimsical make believe world is just the most precious thing! I think big sisters have a way with that, don't you? Well, unless she gets a splinter in her finger. Then all bets are off.
If you'd like to see more of their story and read about The Miracle Boy Everett, search these hashtags on Facebook and Instagram:
Hurricane Matthew brought Fall last week. We were having temps in the mid 80's before Matthew. After him we are in the mid 60s. There was devastating flooding and storm damage, but after he moved out we were blessed with clear and beautiful skies. That's usually the way of it, isn't it? The air is crisp, clean, and fragrant. It looks like fall. It feels like fall. Break out the boots ya'll. It's here, it's time! I'm embracing the Fall!
Side note: It was brought to my attention that not everyone looks forward to pumpkin flavored everything. What?! It's true. I heard it from their own mouths. Weird, right? I assure you, I am not one of those people.
I, obviously, love Fall. I'm always excited about season changes though. But there's something about Fall that I can't get enough of; I think our time in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains really did me in for Fall. Fall in Tennessee is just incredible. Breathtaking.
So let's talk about some traditions and things that you can do to embrace Fall, but also ways to tell the unique story of your family. One thing we always found ourselves doing was taking a scenic drive, stopping all along the way to enjoy the sights. I took pictures, yes- but not many. "Why?" you may ask, "You're a photographer!" Yes. I am. It has become a part of me that I cannot imagine my life without. If I haven't picked up my camera in a few days, my soul aches for it. However, I am also a wife and a mom. And that's an even bigger part of who I am. And I want to be present in our memories. Not merely watching the day through my lens. I'm sure you feel this way too. And you should. Be an active part of your family's memories. This is where I can come in handy. I can tag along, unobtrusively, and document your day for you. Of course you will know that I am there, but I will not take an active role in your day. My job is solely to document your day. It won't be awkward though, I promise! I am friendly after all. I just mean that I will be there, but I won't intrude on your memory making. Most clients say that at some point they forget I am there. And it's really awesome to hear clients tell me after the fact at their Reveal session that they normally HATE having their picture made and that it's even more stressful having to pose a toddler- but their session with me was unlike anything they had ever experienced before. It was easy, relaxed.
Pumpkin patches are a big part of Fall. Going to the farm, hayrides, selecting the absolute perfect pumpkin for your family. What a fun activity! I think a less frequently thought of story though is for those of you that maybe DON'T have children. These are for you too! Do you have friends over or maybe it's just you and your significant other? Maybe you cook together? Drink seasonal wines? Maybe you gather around the fire pit or eat outside to enjoy the amazing weather. There's a story to tell there too. There's a story of your life without kids too...and that doesn't make your memories any less worth documenting. Some of my fondest memories are of me and my husband before we even had children! And I can't tell you how I wish I had images of us just being us, just being a couple, before children. It was a sweet time in our life. In our small, first little apartment. I will always treasure that place. Or maybe, you want to document something unique. Like, just yourself. I did it the other day. And you know what? I'm going to keep doing it. I felt a little self conscious, but 5 minutes in I was fine. I'm actually really proud of myself for taking self portraits. I am going to leave memories of me, just being me, for my children and grandchildren- for whoever comes after me. I think it's important. And maybe you do too.
So, I'll leave you today with this self portrait of me embracing Fall. I'm cuddled up in my favorite spot on the couch, in my "lounge wear" (is that the appropriate term for yoga pants when you don't actually do yoga?), no makeup, classic messy bun, doing what I love to do during naptime. I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, knowing it's cool outside, reading my favorite author (Jane Austen), and relishing in the quiet moments of motherhood.
Embrace your life.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.