Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Yep, this happened.

If you ask our oldest about the prominent gap in her mouth she will eagerly tell the story of his sister kicking her tooth out. I wish I was kidding. It was a bit loose and Evy did not do it "on purpose" although as we discussed kicking someone IN THE FACE will usually result in tooth loss.  Ya know live and learn. I was not home at the time but arrived home to a bathroom splattered in blood and 2 girls with a crazy story. This photo was a hilarious re-enactment of said event and I particularly love the drama in Anni's face because "it really hurt." Seriously people we could not make this stuff up.

Spring Break in ATL

We spent spring break in Atlanta enjoying some Southern hospitality and time with Jason's sister; Annie and her family.  Between us we had 6 kiddos and at any given time there was at least one crying. The whole week was a general cacophony of shrieking, giggling, and crying. But such is life with lots of wee ones and they had a blast together.  Cousin reunions are the best!

And an over 12 hour car ride with 3 kids is not the ideal way to relax in case you were wondering.  I seriously wished for one of those limo windows that blocks out noise many a times but we powered through and made it in one day.  Abishai was a rockstar for the most part considering he was strapped in to a car seat for an entire day each way and I have a strict "Hunger Game' philosophy about what happens in the 'way' back seat: whoever emerges so be it and what happens back there..don't bother me about it.

After driving on winding mountain roads I was about to yak thus necessitating a pit stop in Chattanooga on our way there. Luckily for us it is awesome!!

The girls were so pumped to play in water and Abishai's feet had never been outside without being covered EVER in his WHOLE life so as you can see he was feeling it!

Our first morning there we headed to Dutch Monkey Doughnuts. I usually am not a doughnut fan but let me just say this place is amazing! Everyone agreed.

You can watch them making the yumminess. and then time for decisions, decisions.

We will blame the sugar

"Mama, this doughnut is the best!"

Even Abishai got his first taste of doughnut. Parenting FAIL.

Mostly we just hung out, destroyed the Shoe house (sorry!), played at parks, and listened to the girls sing Frozen songs over and over, and we had one big day out. it was the perfect pace for us. We also fell in love with this new guy...

littlest boy cousins

We love us plenty of Papa bonding time

Cosmic Kids yoga sessions in our PJ's took up much of our time

fabulous popsicles at a local coffee shop (there was some drama about who got the last strawberry one as you might be able to tell from the photo)

"Mama, look at my ninja moves" Because Evy.

me and my  homegirls heading out (you would be correct to assume there was lots of car dancing)

And just because I cannot resist..I give you the "fashion show" that ended in tears.

Girl drama. You gotta laugh or you too will be in tears.

We hit up Lego Land and the kids (including the big kid Jason) loved it

Then we headed downtown to Centennial Park to check out the fountain

Claire & Anni were the only brave crazy ones to jump IN the fountain on a 55 degree day

After surviving Chiberia it felt like heaven to have warm sun on our skin and enjoy being outside even if it was a bit "cool" for the South.

The grown folk even escaped one night for a date night!

Abishai was not feeling this picture but it is a perfect snapshot of life right now.  Full of chaos, tears, spit up, snuggles, toothless grins, pigtails, rubber-band bracelets, drama, and plenty of cousin love. It was a great spring break!

And I seriously love the following video (even though my laugh is completely heinous)! This was taken in our VERY slap happy moments driving home and I want to forever remember our family right now dancing through the chaos. So 'Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!'

Monday, April 21, 2014

On India: Part one

I have to be real with you. Life is kicking my butt. After an awesome week in ATL with Jason's sister and family we returned to life in full swing and I am just so not feeling it.  Call it the after spring break blues but I just have too much to do and not enough kid-free time to do it.  Now is when I am supposed to say something lovely like "well, I will just forget about my to-do list and hit the park" but seriously it is mounting. And when I do have a moment I pretty much feel motivated to sit on the couch and sigh.   There are big changes on the horizon too and trying to discern all that means has kept me up at night. I need some prayer time, some reflection, heck I need some caffeine.

So in these quiet moments while Mr. Abisahi is rocking his afternoon nap I will edit and post some pictures from India because I miss it so and I want to share a small piece the amazing place I was blessed to experience.  I cannot promise that these posts about my time there will be coherent (or that any of you really want to hear all about it) but I really need to process through it for myself and since I am external processor here goes..... As you may have guessed I am also super organized (do you hear the sarcasm here?) and have not sorted through the thousands of images yet so they will be in no particular order.  These images are from a small village outside of Bundi, India called Tikkarda.  Here goes....

India with her shrines tucked in small spaces on every corner leads to much self reflection and part of my prayers and soul searching lead me to realize that while I gained a deeper appreciation and knowledge of photography it really isn't only about the image for me. If you measure my trip in beautiful Nat Geo quality images I failed miserably but for me there was so much more to this time that cannot be captured with a click. Experiencing this place has been more about receiving and, I pray, offering blessing to the many kind and welcoming people that invited me into their home, their work, their family, their lives even if only for a brief time.  The sweetest memories I leave India with have no image to accompany them.  

Motherhood looks a lot the same everywhere. Babies on hips.

The most sacred parts of my time in India were not touring the Taj or seeing the Ganges but the hours I spent roaming the streets of small villages or busy streets in the city armed with my camera and a small photo book full of pictures of my story seeking to catch a glimpse or hear a part of someone else's.  The challenge of capturing small snippets in pixels and jpegs for you to see and maybe even to imagine and dream about this place and these people.  India has 4,635+ peoples, over 1500 major languages and her diversity is staggering and overwhelming but all that is needed to forget all that is to accept one invitation to chai.  Then the people become people and you become a guest in their home.

when I arrived at this outdoor temple I just sat and observed for a while.  This woman was rubbing this man's arm and praying for healing because he had been experiencing paralysis for sometime. 

Wandering around and just looking for opportunities to engage with folks was amazing! I swept a house, watched basket weaving (watching was better than when I tried to take the machete and give it a try and nearly lost a finger only to be scolded), was taught proper chapati rolling technique, got henna, shared tea and food with families. My favorite moments were just sharing a small part of life with the people of India.

These women were painting edging on the ground just outside their home and this was the reaction when my white self grabbed the brush and started "helping."

I sat in the front of this woman's home and she taught me proper chapati rolling technique. Her mother disappeared into the home and brought back some of their breakfast curry and they insisted I eat "my" chapati.  I ate the entire thing and generous portion of curry they offered which they said made them very happy.

The family brought out a chair for this man to sit on and watch the craziness.  I showed him the small photo book of my family and home and there were many interested eyes peering over his shoulder.

the children made sure to teach us a few games

I was practicing portraits and this woman invited me in to see and hold her newest great grandbaby. Her eyes were beautiful and her wrinkles were clearly well earned. This was my favorite image of the day. 

Once again I am humbled by a culture that refuses to allow a stranger to remain as one.    In Hindi there is a proverb that says "guest is god" and they treat guests with kindness and a welcoming spirit that truly blessed me during my few weeks there.  We were invited in, included in, and welcomed everywhere we went.  Just popping your head into a doorway is met with an invitation to join a meal. It is easy to fall in love at first sight with India and her people.  I'm under no illusion that there are not darker, insidious parts under the surface (as there are in every culture) but my time in India has permanently embedded her in my heart. After living in Africa for 4 years and only just beginning to understand some of the culture I have no great insight to India or her people but this was a journey that had much to teach me. I thought often about the verse of scripture that talks about the blessing you receive when you give of yourself that says it will be "pressed down and running over" and that was true for me.  The Message puts it like this, "Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity."
Now in no way was I giving or contributing a great deal but I think I have come to realize that even if you do all the development work in the world if you are not willing to simply sit and share of yourself with others you will miss so much blessing God has for us. I learned a ton and the leader of my trip was very talented and challenged me to grow and I learned so much from the others on the trip as well.  There were moments that through tears I realized, like everything, there is no short-cut to improving and that time, experience, and hard work will be the only way I will capture images that speak to people.  It feel vulnerable to try something new and not be that good at it.  It is even hard for me to put these images out there and open myself up to critique but I want to continue this journey.  I discovered that will I will continue to pursue photography I am ok with growing slowly because that is all my life with 3 kids allows for right now.  For me THE primary thing is to use imagery to tell people's stories, to communicate the beauty of God's creation, and for me the people are deserving of my focus.  Technique and skills are required for telling these stories with excellence and so I want to continue to challenge myself to grow but I learned that mostly I tend to just grab a place on the floor and start rolling chapati with women.  That I long to see what they do, how they think, hold their kids, and be a part of their lives.  And rather than merely constructing the most beautiful image I always want to communicate that the people God brings across my path are beautiful, loved by Him, and unique.  I want to try to use limited language to connect, to understand.  I want to offer blessing and receive it in abundance.  I want to learn and be challenged and rely on His spirit to lead me and I need to allow the time and space for that to happen.  More of India soon...     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

"As He spoke He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw The Lord! 'Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." John 20:20-21.

This day changes everything!! Happy Resurrection Day. Be blessed friends,  


Thursday, April 3, 2014

back to reality

I'm back from just over 2 weeks in India.  And all you have heard is true: India is fabulous and loud and chaotic and colorful and complex and the people are just amazing.  It was the first time in 7 years I had that much time to myself to think and create and JUST BE.  Sure we were shooting a ton and up early and up late and traveling around and I got sick because I ate everything (including some seriously sketchy but TOTALLY worth it street food) but action packed is how I like it. This journey was about so much more than photography for me. On the plane I read a quote in my journal from long ago "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware" (Martin Buber) and that proved true for me on this trip.  I discovered and rediscovered a lot about the 'me' I have forgotten.  She was buried in the daily grind of Mama-hood and reality of life.  I realized that the pursuit of making sure she does not continually take a back seat to the immediate is important and that God created me with creativity and using and growing those gifts is not selfish if I pursue it for His glory. I realized I feel more alive when experiencing and learning new cultures and places. I realized I missed my family and husband but being alone gave me space to remember me.  I remembered my husband always has my back and life is richer because I get to travel side by side with him. I realized my kids are exhausting and simultaneously such a gift designed just for me; for my growth, joy, challenge, and blessing.  And while I frequently feel like I might go crazy in the daily my family and friends are my tribe. My tribe for which I am grateful. With thousands of images to edit, pages of scribbled journal entries to process, and life charging ahead I am not sure when time will allow me to properly reflect and post but I just wanted to express my gratitude for the people who prayed and helped me take this step. I'm so grateful for the color India added to my life and excited to share more with you all soon.