Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

For those of you who don't keep up with me on Instagram or FB, you may not know that I made it to Uganda with the help of many generous people. I was beyond humbled as half my plane ticket was covered within a week of my first post about needing help to get to Uganda. Money came in each week to cover both my plane ticket and immunizations before I had to leave on the 13th of November.

I was gone for two weeks and can't even describe how complete I felt. It was so encouraging to know that God can meet every need I have no matter where I am and what the circumstances are.

When I was invited to Uganda, I can't explain it, but my heart came alive and I knew I was supposed to go and capture the story of the African Children's Choir. I'm still not sure what I am supposed to do with it now that I am back, whether it be a coffee table book, a series of blog posts, traveling to speak about my journey, or something else, but I am so glad I have the photos to share and hopefully help others in the process.

Here is a photo we took at the African Children's Choir school in Entebbe, Uganda to use as a Christmas card for everyone who supported the documentary film this past year...

African children's choir in Uganda

The kids in the choir were amazing and I am so grateful for the perspective I gained while staying with them for two weeks. They are truly inspiring and I can't wait for the film to be released in the fall of this year! I already warned Kyle that I am going to buy it and watch it every day.

When I returned from Uganda, it was Thanksgiving in Atlanta and there were flurries. If you notice in the photo above, the kids are all in shorts and short sleeves and the sun is shining. I was not too thrilled about the cold temperatures that greeted me as I came home, especially since our heat was going in and out, but happy to see Kyle! I literally ate myself to sleep at our Thanksgiving dinner - partly because I was still 8 hours ahead and still exhausted from 20+ hours of travel and partly because my stomach was just that full.

After Thanksgiving, I went right back to work with a 4-generational family photo shoot for Shutter Sweet Photography and several events right after that, including a Help-Portrait event in conjunction with the Lazarus Christmas Dinner for the homeless in Atlanta. It was awesome to use my gifts to help others. I had several last-minute holiday sessions get scheduled before and around Christmas with tons of holiday orders to fill as well.

I feel like I have been going a mile a minute since getting off the plane from Uganda. Not only with work, but personal stuff as well. I was called for help after a friend got into a drunk driving car accident (thankfully it was a one-car accident and my friend was okay). A week later, I was honored to photograph the kids Christmas Pageant at our church. It's always one of my favorite events to photograph. That weekend, I also found out our neighbor was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I took some portraits for them before his chemo started monday and spent some time with them over the next couple days.

The following weekend, I photographed a proposal in Atlanta and then got a call from Rachel Hill, a friend of mine from church who has been helping her husband fight stage 4 melanoma cancer for over two years. I photographed them in the fall of 2012 as well as the fall of 2013 before Kevin flew to LA for some last ditch efforts. Things had taken a turn for the worse and they had called in hospice. She asked if I would fly out to LA and take one last set of family photos together... I left the next day.

Candace, a friend from church, joined me on the flight and we both had a feeling that we might be there when he passed away. We had scheduled our flight to return home the night of Christmas Eve. We arrived, searched for Christmas jammies for the kids for the next morning, and prepared to celebrate Christmas the next morning. Kevin had medicine to help make him more present, which was the biggest gift we could have asked for. He was able to take part in the day and have Christmas with his family one last time... My photos from the day with the Hill family can be seen on the Shutter Sweet blog post.

I was so thankful for Candace there with me as we prayed together and took care of him the best we could. Kevin ended up passing away at 3 AM on Christmas Eve morning with Rachel and another friend by his side. Candace and I helped take care of everything while Rachel rested with the kids. We flew home and I was able to welcome Christmas morning with Kyle and my church through a candlelight service that was... perfect. Singing carols to honor the coming of Christ and focusing on the light that can pierce the darkness. I kept thinking about hope. life. death. and more hope.

The Christmas service was a huge blessing after all I had been through and allowed me to be still and find peace. I didn't want gifts, and I didn't even really want to give gifts (which is something I love to do normally). However, I knew it would be a good thing. We ended up having a low-key Christmas at Kyle's parents lake house, which was great. It was everything I could've asked for as I could sleep, eat and process everything.

After Christmas, I helped Rachel make arrangements and we had Kevin's burial on Saturday. I will never forget the sound of dirt hitting a pine box - the memories flooded back. This time, my heart broke for Rachel and her loss. It will be a long journey for her and her two kids as they find their new normal.

It was back to work after Christmas while time flies by. For the new year, I have things I want to improve - not so much resolutions, but more lifestyle changes. I am excited for the new year and am thankful for all that 2013 has taught me and the perspective I've gained. Thank you for reading.

May 2014 bring you many blessings! 

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