Your Life Matters

Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of my mother’s suicide.

Like many other people who lose loved ones in their lives, I am always keenly aware of the anniversary date as it arrives. I’m also aware of other dates – like her birthday and favorite holiday(s) – as they come up, but the death anniversary is probably the most intense. It’s the anniversary of the day she made a choice that changed her life – and the lives of all the people who loved and care about her – forever.

My mom struggled with believing that she mattered. She was convinced that people would leave her. She was convinced that nobody really cared whether she lived or died. She was convinced people would forget about her. And she was convinced that everyone would be “better off” if she was no longer here.

Those were all lies, of course, but Mom couldn’t see that. She couldn’t see past her pain, the confusion that ruled her life and the constant pendulum swing oh highs and lows that the bipolar disorder she suffered with wreaked on her mind.

Yesterday, I posted the words below on social media.

“Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight? They were wrong. They lied.”

Every year I think I won’t post anything about you, that I won’t broadcast what’s actually on my mind and heart this day each year. People don’t have to know. They don’t have to be reminded. People don’t even necessarily care. Not because they’re heartless or aren’t interested in my life or yours, but because life goes on.

And that’s a good thing.

But every year, I end up posting about you anyway because I can’t bear to think that people won’t remember you. They’ll forget (or maybe never know) that you sang, laughed, danced, breathed.

They’ll forget that you lived.

Or, even worse, I’ll forget.

So, I post. I share.
Because your life mattered. It mattered then. It matters now.
And it will matter tomorrow and every day after.

Eight years in Heaven.
Forever in our hearts.

These words aren’t only true for my mother. They are true for everyone.

You matter.

Your life matters.

You are seen. You are heard. And you are deeply loved. Not only by the friends and family in your life, but also – even moreso! – by your Heavenly Father.

Whether you believe it or not doesn’t change that fact.

Your belief does change, however, how you feel about yourself and your life. And, for that reason, I pray that if you struggle to believe it, you’ll reach out to someone to talk about it. Reach out to a friend, a counselor, your pastor, a stranger, it doesn’t really matter who. So long as you feel comfortable with and they will listen. I also pray that the Lord will begin to replace the lie(s) with truth in your mind and heart.

The Courage to Pursue

The other day I did something new. I posted my first Facebook Ad!

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This may not sound like big news to you but, for me, it’s huge. Why? Because it took courage. I announced – “to the masses” – that I not only had new wedding photography packages but that, by default, I also had a photography business. I put myself out there. And, for me that’s a pretty big deal.

I don’t like putting myself out there. Maybe it’s the INFJ in me or maybe it’s because I don’t always do so well with criticism or maybe it’s just because I’m a chicken, but the idea of announcing to the world that I’m doing anything – whether it’s writing, photographing, ministering, coaching or even just sharing my opinion – kinda makes me want to crawl in a hole. I’m concerned someone’s not gonna like what I say, what I do or why I do it and that can make this INFJ personality shrivel up and disappear.

I know I shouldn’t care. I shouldn’t let other people’s opinions affect me.

But, I also know I’m human and the truth is that the opinions of others does affect me.

I think what matters is not letting those opinions keep me from doing, saying or pursuing what I want or am called to do. And that is why I’m proud of myself for posting the Ad. That is why it feels like a big deal to me. I was apprehensive in clicking the “Promote” button that sends the Ad off into cyberspace to do its promotional thing. In fact, Scott may have had to put his hand on mine and “help” me click the button the first time (the first time, the post failed to send; so I had to do it all AGAIN and then get the courage to click the button a second time! Agony!). Yes, I was apprehensive. But I did it.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll even get a new photography client because of it. But, even if I don’t, running the Ad was worth it because I grew just a little more brave in pursuing one of the interests that I have.

 

 

 

Keeping it Simple

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Clare Boothe Luce

If you’re subscribed to this blog, you may have noticed a slight uptick in the frequency of entries I’ve been posting lately. Ok, maybe “slight” is not the most accurate word to use. It would probably be better to use “significant” or “major.” But that’s not really my point.

My point is to say that, yes, I am posting more frequently. And the reason for that is simple. I’ve simplified my online life and brought all – with the exception of one – of the sites I’ve been trying to juggle over the last few years into this one, simple blog.

Was that the right decision to make? I have no idea. All I can say is that it is the right decision for right now which is all I really need to be concerned about. Because the truth is that I crave simplicity. And efficiency. I also crave Dr. Pepper, but I’m trying to kick that particular craving. The other two, though, notsomuch.

Instead, I’m embracing them.

I am one person who has many interests. Three of which happen to be writing, photography and personal finance. And for the last few years, I’ve separated those three things. Compartmentalized them. Treated them independently of each other. And I have felt stuck and confused and stretched and incomplete as I’ve tried to split my time focusing on each of them individually.

So now, I’m just going to focus on how each of those interests (and any others) make up the complete me. And I hope that, in doing so, I can then reflect the glory of God through them.

 

Financial Peace University!

Hey you!  Yeah, you there!

The one who’s stressed about your financial situation. The one who made a resolution to “do better” with your finances this year. The one who wants a roadmap for how to starting winning with your money. The one who’s looking for what to do now that you’ve paid off your debt (woohoo!!). YOU! Listen up!

I’m facilitating a Financial Peace University class starting THIS Sunday, January 22nd at Beltway Park Church’s North Campus. This 9-week course will give you a step-by-step plan on how to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, pay off debt and build wealth. If you don’t know where to start or are just looking for some encouragement along the way, come! Come join me and other people who want to start feeling financial freedom.

Make 2017 the year you take control of your financial life!

 

An Encounter with Annette

Annette is a 40ish year old Haitian woman who has dwarfism. Due to the heavy influence of Voodoo, any kind of abnormality is seen as evil in the Haitian culture. So Annette was cast out by her family long ago.

The family lives a few doors down from the little concrete hut/pig sty that they banished Annette to when she was young, but they do little to help her live. Maybe a little food and water when they think about it, but not much else. They are embarrassed and ashamed of her so they keep her hidden away. In fact, they often put a rock in front of the tin doors  to keep her from getting out.  

Annette doesn’t speak. Only grunts. We were told the family used to keep their pigs in that same hut with her. She doesn’t have any way to bathe herself and she uses the bathroom where she sleeps. She is blind. And She is thin. Oh so very thin. 

We visited Annette today.

She was scared, but we were able to come into her “home” with love. Her hands don’t work well, but she was able to grasp the peanut butter crackers we gave her to eat. Her mouth doesn’t work well, but she was eagerly drinking the water we gave her from a Nalgene bottle. She doesn’t like her face, hands or mid-range area of her body to be washed, but we were able to wash the grime off of her neck, arms, legs and feet. 

She will never be able to thank us. She will never be able to repay us. She will never even be able to see us. 

But, that is ok.

Because this is not about us. 

This is all about her. It’s about loving her. It’s about showing her that – even though her family may forget her, be ashamed of her and even throw her away – God has not. Does not. Will not.

God has not forgotten Annette. She is more precious to Him than words could ever relay. I will never, ever understand how humans can treat another human in such a way as Annette’s family treats her.

But this is not a time or place for judgement. Her family is walking in just as much darkness as their blind sister. They are blind to the fact that she IS human and, therefore, worthy of love and life. My heart is broken for her, but it is fired up for them. Nothing about this family’s life is ok. 

We are leaving Haiti in two days. But I don’t think Annette will ever leave my mind. I am mad. I am heartbroken. And I am unsure what to do about any of it. So tonight I will pray. And tomorrow I will pray. And the day after that and all the days following, I will pray. 

And when God calls me to action, I hope I am brave enough to answer. 

(Quick note: I am not including a photo because I am on assignment here in Haiti and am not sure which photos I will be allowed to use for personal purposes yet. Perhaps, in the future, I might be able to add one or two. For now, her story just needs to be shared.)

Haiti

Today, Scott and I are flying to Haiti.

It’s not actually a Kaleidoscope trip, but we are going down there basically for the same reason. We’re documenting. Documenting what one family is doing in the country. 

We both work full-time for our Alma Mater. Scott’s been a videographer in the marketing department for 10 years, creating all kinds of promo-type videos for departments, events and other university needs. And, though, photography is not part of my “normal” duties as a Financial Analyst at ACU, my boss believes that any work for the university still benefits the university even if that “work” doesn’t fall within your actual university job description. Translation: he was happy to let me come along as the photographer. Which is pretty awesome.

This week, we’ll be covering the work that an alumni couple has been doing in Haiti for the last few years. We’ll also capture footage and photos of the help that a group of current ACU nursing students provide fort LiveBeyond this week.

So, here I sit in the Miami airport waiting to board the last of thee flights to get us from Abilene to Haiti. Once we land in Port-at-Prince, we’ll load up all the people and their luggage and drive to Thomazeu. 


Rumor has it that, on Haitian roads, this is a 2ish hour drive. And we’ll be in the back of a truck.

Memories of World Race travel days are flooding my mind! Haha.

(Posted via WP app on my phone. Please forgive any funky formatting or misspellings!)