The Upchurch's are a beautiful family and I adore that they keep coming back to me! So honored and blessed and I am in love with their children! :) Too precious for words. This Christmas Session was a joy. So much fun! Just click on the images to see them fully and navigate through the gallery! :)
Amanda and Sean were so much fun to work with. Amanda and I have been friends for over 4 years but as her little family came together I got the joy of being there for the really big moments! After a year of marriage and already a ton of memories, it was my joy and honor to spend the weekend with them in Illinois and have this little session! Waterloo is gorgeous and I adore traveling there. I can not wait for the next session! What a beautiful family. :) * Just click on the images to see the larger versions. :)
And then the wrestling broke out bahhahaha! I kept snapping. :)
We called it done after this shot. We went on to have a beautiful and fun night with these two wonderful friends. Such a joy and blessing. The boys had all they could take.. next time we may start in the morning ;) You never know where our adventures may lead us. :)
I had to stop working long enough to write this. Sometimes our desire to give trumps everything.
I don’t write this out of emotion but out of a need. A need to share the truth. A need to share hope. A need to remind you to not give up. A need to press on and to give back. A need to prove that we are not defeated. A need to help because we are all going through something even if we aren’t saying it and someone will reach out and let this note change everything for them because it’s all about perspective and what we believe “owns us” – good or bad. A need to rebuild myself daily and help you do the same. A need to be authentic and leave a mark that goes far beyond the moment that I’m in or the emotions that I feel.
It’s very real and very raw for me and really quite hard to share.
Someone close to me once asked when they had seen my blog (and of course I’m paraphrasing), “Why don’t you just let them do what they want and not tell them anything to contradict that? Why do you feel the need to step in and say anything at all? Who are you to say do it this way or don’t do it that way? We all have a right to do it our own way.”
I’m nobody. I have no degree or expertise in any field at all. I would never tell you that you have to do it my way. My way isn’t actually “MY” way anyway. It’s just “a way” and it helps me get through this life without being defeated. And of course when it comes to Jesus I firmly believe that He is “THEE WAY” so what “better way” than that? However, I totally respect and appreciate that LOVE allows us to choose and I adore our Father God for that. When you have had relationships that showed you no choices you come to a place that you realize how precious “freedom of choice” is and you realize that “freedom of choice” is a form of love. A huge form of love. So I always respect that everyone has the right to choose.
What I write is just what I’ve lived and what you do with that is your choice but I sure have read some amazing facts, thoughts and experiences over the years from my bible and from blogs along with comments and posts on Facebook that helped build me up and reminded me to keep hope and I know that we are not alone and that being alone is the lie. What I have is Jesus, experience and a heart to love you more than just in words...but through words. What I have is a desire to shine, shine His light and as I learn to do it different, because growth is important, then I have a need to express that and share what I’ve learned because we all need a little help along the way and I know I’m thankful for WISE COUNSEL.
So I’m going to talk. And if you want to read it, grab some coffee and join me cuz everything is better with coffee. = )
These past 2 months have been some of the hardest time periods in my life and though I’m on the back side of this and feel the joy of hope that has returned I know I need to express this before the lesson just becomes a part of me and I lose the ability share the details. = )
Here’s a rundown of pivotal moments that were heart breaking and or spirit breaking. The first few are from the past couple of years but something that never leaves me day after day.
Now, no one died but you want to talk about feeling alone and feeling quite dead on the inside by the end of this list. In the beginning I was still on fire. I was still strong. #1 and #2 go hand in hand and I fought with everything in me to not let them happen. I had moments of begging and crying to God but I was full of passion and knew that He had it. I was full of faith and eventually understood that I had to stop. My arguing and fighting and clinging wasn’t going to keep things from running their course. Some things have to happen. I let go and trusted God. I stopped trying to be in control. #4 even lifted me up during it because I saw God work amazing works in my husband and I was filled with so much love and hope. Jesus held my hand through it all and I didn’t feel fear after that first day at all. I just knew that He was working this to His glory and to change some things in my husband’s life. Our world was turned upside down but I was fine. I could handle anything because God was with me.
BUT #5 and #6 came 2 weeks later and 4 weeks later, one after the other. They came at me when I was working my hardest and in huge demand in my little photography world - they hit me in my personal work and in my private self, trampling my security and even pride on both counts, literally obliterating them. My work from shooting a wedding was gone because my compact flash memory card had corrupted and I could not fathom how clients would see me because of that. I was not only devastated for me but for them. If you know me at all you know that I will do anything to not hurt someone even enduring the hurt if it will fix it. I hurt for them so deeply that I couldn’t even breathe when I found out. I felt like a total failure though it wasn’t in my control. I tried to do a redo but they wouldn’t. I wanted to work with the videographers to get stills but it wasn’t something they needed me to do. There was nothing I could do in any way to fix this for them. The only thing for me to do was to accept that sometimes bad things happen and we have to deal with them and move on. So I did very very slowly but only after a couple of weeks of sobbing every day.
Then as I am picking up the trashed crumbled pieces of my self-esteem and pride my tooth was gone. Double Whammy. Just crushed. I thought I could never smile again and didn’t for the first week at all. I couldn’t fathom in this case how people would see me either. Funny how that parallel just hit me. Perhaps on both levels there was a vanity that I didn’t recognize and definitely a security that I was clinging to other than God. I have no dental insurance or back up money supply for emergencies and don’t even own a credit card and can’t just go have a fake one made and installed and then there is the whole thing that it was a part of me, that my tooth was a part of me and now it’s not. It might as well of been my ear. Though thank God it wasn’t. But that’s seriously how devastated and ashamed I was. I kept telling God that I knew it was ok that I lost my tooth. I mean, people lose teeth. Some people have total dentures. You don’t see them running around sobbing about it and letting it put their whole spirit and life on hold. I know these things. I’m so rational it’s gross lol BUT I told Him my heart just couldn’t handle it and to please help me as I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It was too much after the devastation of the pictures and everything with our child. I was so ashamed of everything and so devastated that I still don’t know how I was functioning. I thought with all the prayer that had gone into my tooth over the past few years and God knowing that He is my provider and that only Him could I trust to help me that He would. I couldn’t see a reason why He wouldn’t. Just like the pictures. There was no place to turn except to Him. I needed His help and at the place where you can’t understand why He didn’t help you there is a devastation that may be worse than anything I’ve ever known. But I will remind you that even if I never understand why God allowed these 2 horrible things to happen to me, I believe with everything in me that He will use it for good and is now as a matter of fact. If that is the only reason for them then so be it. = )
I didn’t doubt for a minute that God would save my tooth by the way. He has the power and I had asked so why not save it. Why not? No clue. And the same thing with my pictures. I was crushed beyond measure. Hurt so deeply I couldn’t recover almost. I thought I’d never breathe again. I crumpled and sobbed as if someone had punched me on both accounts, or that they had taken something from me…well the fact of the matter is… something had been taken- my security, my pride, and my ability to function as a photographer and as a person on both accounts. My self-esteem was gone. I truly am a perfectionist when it comes to my work and though I’m always working to improve I give 2,000% at the place I’m at and never just try to get by with what I can get by with. There has never in the history of my being a photographer been a time when I didn’t give my all or the best that I could do. Period. It was a deep shame to have to tell my clients that I could not give them their wedding images and that the memories from their wedding in digital format were lost forever. I was dealing with my deepest fears. I didn’t even want to be a photographer any more. At all. Thank God I had obligations and that I am a person true to her word and that my work comes before my broken heart. God knows exactly what to do and He put safe guards in there to pull me back from this. That’s actual protection. For real. He might not of stopped it from happening but He helped me handle it when it did. I had a packed calendar-my busiest year yet, one I am still trying to get caught up on in my editing world, and I had to keep those appointments to keep shooting weddings and sessions. There was no way around it. I went to them feeling dead but I asked God to help me do my very best and to protect those images so that this would never happen again! I also gave the clients that lost their wedding images a full refund of course and am still editing the images that I can from their reception for no charge whatsoever. Normally I don’t have that kind of money just lying around but God provided two different bookings that allowed me to hand it right over to them. Pretty amazing. So thankful for His love and mercy and grace. And as for my smile, thank God that we can smile with our mouth closed = ) I’m trusting Him to help me get a fake one.. or grow a third one in its place : )
But I was really hurt and angry as first. I wasn’t full of the hope that I feel today. I was crushed. I asked God why He hadn’t protected me. I shouted at Him in my sobbing and accusing screams! I asked Him why after all these years and all the heartaches and all the humiliations and things that hold me back, why after all the things that He had saved me from – why I had to endure this humiliation that cut me in my most insecure places – my work - the place that I’m always striving to do my very best in and never feeling like I do it good enough and my face – which never looks good enough anyway??? Why did I have to now feel even less self-esteem in these areas when I already felt like the rug at the front door instead of the door? I felt this question in my heart and in my spirit and for the first time ever I felt like He didn’t have my back. I’m shocked at my own words but it’s true. I know that is not the case but it’s true that I felt that way. It was from a place deep inside of me full of hurt and humiliation and anger. My rational mind said hold up- there is a reason even if you can’t see it. But my heart was broken. Emotions are not rational.
I believe with everything in me that God will protect us even if we have to go through something that serves His purpose. He softens and strengthens and helps and comforts and causes us to accept while we are dealing with it all and then He also grows us and loves us through it. He’s done this with me so so many times! It is a true terror to me to think of being in jail or prison but if I had to do it to help people come to Christ, the way the Apostles had to endure, I know that I could because I’ve asked God multiple times to give me the strength and courage and graciousness to be able to do that. It would serve a purpose. His purpose. Nothing out of shame just out of love to bring those others to Him that could only be reached in Prison or because of the stories from these experiences later on. I get it and I believe I can endure anything if God empowers me even unto death. Death of this body is not the worst thing. It just means that I get to be with Him, that I get to step into true life. They celebrate when we arrive with them. Death of this body and my spirit uniting with them is actually a grand thing and something to celebrate. So enduring even unto death is something I know that God will help me with. Understanding that something happens for a reason makes it easy for me to deal with, it helps me endure. I am strong in this area and my faith is strong here as well. Only God knows the plan He has for my life. I’m His creation and I trust Him to protect me and that whatever and however He wants to use me is just fine. Can a crayon tell me that I have to color a certain way with it? NO. Can a bottle of paint tell me that it wants to be used by a famous artist instead of a child. NO. Can a camera speak up and express that it should be used for nature shots instead of people shots because that’s where its heart is? NO. Can any of these things ask why they have to go through the processes that they go through in order to be used? NO. And I should not either. Though we have spirits and minds and are not inanimate objects, we are tools for The Lord. I trust God with everything in me to let my life play out the way He wants it too. I will stand where He’s planted me and I will not falter. Until you take away my security and pride in my work and my tooth (which is a back side tooth thank YOU GOD that’s it’s not a front tooth.) That’s all it takes for me apparently. I’m so ridiculous. But it was real then and you couldn’t of convinced me that I was being ridiculous at the time. My devastation was an entitlement and I wore it in heartache and sorrow.
For the first time in my life however and I’m not even kidding about that, I felt my faith waver. I still had it but it wasn't quite as solid as I'd always known it to be. There were a few holes in it now. My faith had always been a rock. It was even more devastating to feel this deep inside me. I was thankful that God helped through it all but I couldn’t understand why He didn’t help me beforehand. Why I had to go through the fire. I’m amazed at what it took to get me there and to break me and how really in the scope of things I can come back from all of this but I am ashamed at the anger I felt for the first time in my life toward to our perfect and loving God. I logically know that there is a reason for everything and I don’t question that (normally). I’m kinda outraged at myself for even going to these places in my heart but am thinking God’s got a plan to use it so I’m trying to learn from it so it doesn’t happen again. He sees the whole puzzle. I can only see some of the puzzle pieces that He allows. I know that. I love and live by that. I accept that. Until some things happened that made no since to me…until somethings happened that crushed me and I couldn’t see what good could be coming from it. I would have never believed that I could have it in me to feel this way but I did. And I quit seeking Him. I still talked at Him and prayed and asked for help here and there. He’s in me. That doesn’t change. But I didn’t desire to spend time with Him for the first time in my life and it was the loneliest couple of weeks for me in my entire life of living for Him. I was mad at Him and I was hurt by Him. That’s how I saw it anyway. I couldn’t have said that. But it’s true. During those 2 weeks I didn’t get my bible out at all.
I realize now that I couldn’t endure these heartaches because I couldn’t find the purpose in them. I saw the purpose in #1, #2, #3, and #4 on my list or at least could fathom a purpose but #5 and #6. Nope. Not at all. For the first time in my life I couldn’t find the good in it. At all. Except in the fact that I had to cling to Jesus. But I cling to Jesus anyway so I was so lost in it all and so hurt! And actually for the first time ever I felt myself shoving Him away. The exact opposite. Unreal.
I know that I held out hope so many times during the process of trying to get those images back. I prayed and had faith and just knew that God would miraculously speak them into existence again. I don’t have faith the size a mustard seed…I have faith the size of a mountain. True story. So image a mountain crumbling instead of a mustard seed. When I use the words devastated or destroyed I’m not using them lightly. When a mountain of strength crashes down the hole it leaves is ginormous! There is not a moment that I don’t believe God is my help in every way and I firmly believe that all good is from Him as the bible says and so there is not a good thing that happens in my life that I don’t give Him the glory and the credit for. I also know that all bad things that happen are not bad for us. I know that is a hard thing to swallow but it’s true. The heartaches in my life have over and over driven me into Jesus’ arms. I cling to the good but I praise Him for the hardships and heartaches too. However…as I said…this time was different in my heart. I allowed myself to feel hurt at God and my trust wavered.
I knew that God spoke the world into existence and all He had to say was “Images Appear” and they would. But He didn’t and the images didn’t come back no matter how hard I prayed or begged and I was devastated and confused and crushed. God has literally always fixed the crises that were out of my control and that had not been caused by poor choices in my life. I’ve had some hard lessons, don’t get me wrong. But God has saved me from myself and others so many times. This was something that I could not have foreseen and I could not have done differently. The memory card just went corrupt and there was no way to retrieve them. I do know now that I can run a backup SD card so that I take 2 images. Chances that both cards would go out are almost nonexistent. I asked God why He didn’t tell me that Gem beforehand. Why did He not protect me? I asked Him why if not for me, then for my clients. I instantly thought about people in the bible and in today’s times that die in the name of Christ. Did they think why did YOU not protect me or did they gladly say “I’m a Christian and you aren’t changing that.”?
Everything serves a purpose. Everything.
That’s my hope. The fact that each day did continue and I did not give up photography and I do still smile and my passion for my work has returned proves to me that life goes on. None of that happened until I opened my bible and chose to seek His word. To seek Him. Nothing changed until I changed my perspective and quit focusing on the pain and hurt and started focusing on what I knew was true regardless of what I could not understand. He loves us. That’s the truth and I can trust Him no matter what I go through.
Your story may be different, your loses may be harder but in the end all the heartaches are the same. They leave us not understanding, not being able to bare the pain and heartache. And my message is that Jesus is real and He’s with you even when you’re angry, even when you refuse to spend time with Him. He’s waiting for you to change the direction you’re looking. You don’t have to understand everything to have faith. You just don’t. I’m living proof and you don’t have to let go of the anger to look at Him. Once you look at Him He can help you release it. That’s how it happened for me anyway. It may have been short lived in the span of my life here but it’s was just as real as real can be and all I can think is that maybe it’s so I can help someone else out. Maybe this will help you have hope too.
I love you. He loves you more. Ox Shannon
Ashley and Adam had the most beautiful style, the most beautiful love, the most beautiful wedding and reception. I adore the entire day. Ashley was beautiful and beautiful in heart and spirit as well and Adam was so fun and full of life and love for his bride. The two of them were electric together, just pure connection. It was my honor as always to be a part of helping them create these memories but it was also my total joy. Such a blessing to my heart and spirit! And their wedding party and friends and family were just wonderful wonderful folks. I had a beautiful time being a part of it all and can not wait to share in future moments with them! xoox
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Benjamin + Amanda
I am humbled by this couple's love for each other and their kindness and amazing personalities. They are simply beautiful together! They met in a common sociology class in collage, becoming friends and have been dating for the past year. Their story will continue on and I'm so thankful that I got to record this portion of it. It was a truly amazing day with 2 truly beautiful people. Amanda and Ben: Congratulations on a life of joy and love! So glad you have each other!
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Amanda and Ben's wedding was held at Heritage Hall in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Very Historical, very beautiful and always a pleasure to be at this venue!
Ben and Amanda's first dance was pretty special. They were beautiful together and it was like the world faded away. For a moment It really did.
Ben and Amanda danced with their family before we opened the floor up. I wish I could post all of the images. I love their hearts.
Kathy and Travis were amazing. Just a fun, wonderful exciting couple to be around and to photograph! I enjoyed every single moment with them and loved how beautiful they were together! This is their wedding story, the short version! :) Their Wedding and Reception were held at Dodson Orchards in Fredericktown, Missouri ... just a stunning venue!
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"Because Your Life is a Beautiful life"
Tim Morgan, our Preacher, was used in my life for a very important moment and he doesn’t even know it. In the span of my life he hasn’t been there that long. But wow the impact already and I just have to tell it. I am so thankful that I heard the message God placed on His heart that morning at the church a few months ago. He preached telling about the man Naaman who had leprosy in 2 Kings 5 and that lesson still has not left me and I suspect that it never will. God brings it to my heart and my mind over and over with one sentence that Pastor Morgan asked in his Sunday Morning message all those weeks ago. Let me set the scene.
Naaman had come to the door of Elisha seeking healing from being a leper because he had heard that Elisha could heal with The Power of God and Naaman apparently desperately wanted to be healed and was determined to make it happen. He was a doer. He wasn’t afraid to take the bull by the horns. Naaman also was considered an important man. He was the “Captain of the Host of the King of Syria”. What a title. He was a high ranking military official and a man of high social and economic standing. The bible says he was a great man, a mighty man in valor (valor means: boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle and heroic courage and bravery) but he was a leper. He had a skin disease that made his skin look horrible and white like death and it would have affected his nervous system and his nasal membrane: the inside of his nose. Leprosy is a fungus, if you can imagine, on the skin that kills it over time. Pieces of your flesh can fall away. I cannot imagine the pain. His skin would have had ulcers and he would have been contagious so no one would have been able to be around him on a close intimate scale and there was a chance somewhere down the road that he could possibly lose a limb to this disease. AND he was still a mighty heroic man very high up in the King’s army. He really was a great man even by our accounts today and he had a horrible disease that he desperately wanted healed.
Naaman, being so use to authority and so use to going through all of the right channels and being able to walk the line and having a picture in his head of what was expected of him because he was use to following orders, had the King of Syria write the King of Israel. Naaman seems to think that if the King of Israel commands Elisha to heal him then he will be healed. He sees it as The King of Israel being over Elisha and in control because that’s what he’s always known in his world - The Chain of Command - so he goes straight to the top. At least he thinks he’s going to the top. He’s cutting out the middle man. He’s not playing games. He wants the healing and he wants it now and he goes right to the source of power. Only he doesn’t know God yet. He doesn’t get it that God is the high authority. He doesn’t understand yet that Elisha is only a vessel for the Lord to work through and that Elisha can’t be commanded any more than we can tell the world itself to stop spinning.
So Naaman goes to his King because he trusts that he can get results and he does get them. The King of Syria writes the King of Israel. So now Naaman thinks he’s gone through the right channels and the proper procedures to insure his healing. He’s done all the right things he thinks and he’s ready for some action. Only things don’t quite work out the way Naaman thought they would. The King of Israel actually gets upset. He was so upset by this in fact, that he mourned over it and showed it publicly, as was the custom, by tearing his clothes and everyone knew he was distraught by his actions. The King of Israel understood a relationship with God and understood the unlimited, unflawed ability of His power as much as we can probably and that we are God’s creation and not His equal. The King of Israel understood that He could not command God to heal Naaman through Elisha. Knowing this and understanding that Naaman and his King obviously did not understand “A Living God” verses a manmade god and did not understand what they were asking, the King was afraid that the 2 nations would come to war over it and he was deeply deeply troubled by their request.
When word reaches Elisha, and he hears that the King of Israel has torn his clothes, he sends him a message and asks why he’s done this, why he’s upset. When the King replies and Elisha realizes what is going on, he sends word for Naaman to come to him directly so he will know that there is a prophet in Israel. Naaman goes in faith and in expectation to Elisha’s house to have Elisha heal him. I picture Naaman having been really excited! He’s heard that this man has the power of The Only Living God to take this horrible disfiguring disease and that he can make him whole and he’s going there to make it happen. His hope must have been off the charts mingled with a little “what if” but mostly just driven in hope and excitement that he was going to be clean of rotting flesh and whole.
When he gets to Elisha’s door though, Elisha doesn’t even meet him. The man surely knows how important Naaman is. He sent for him after all but Elisha sends his servant to meet him instead. Can you imagine? As Americans, whether you agree with our President today or not, you still know the importance of his office, of his position. He is our highest official; specifically our highest military official and we give him our respect and our loyalty because he leads our nation. Elisha is a man that is filled with the Spirit of God. He is a Holy Man. He has the power to heal. Naaman is going to see a very important man and he is a very important man in his own eyes. Can you imagine if the President of our United States sent for you to give you the most precious gift he could give you, something that you had longed for forever and then didn’t even meet you when you arrived but sent his servant instead? What a blow. Then to top it off the servant tells Naaman that Elisha says to go and wash in the Jordan river 7 times to be healed of his leprosy. Picture this. It wasn’t enough for Naaman to show up. It wasn’t enough that he tried to make it happen through all the proper channels and by his superior authority and by the King's final authority, it wasn’t enough that he was placing his faith in a God he didn’t know, now Naaman has to go out and do something to help this healing happen. I bet Naaman was like “Are you kidding me? You want me to do what?”
Naaman isn’t actually a practicing believer. He’s not even a new convert at this exact moment. He hasn’t gone to the temple and sat in on the service, he hasn’t jumped on the internet to read all about it and decide that he likes what Elisha believes in, he hasn’t talked with believers to see what they think. The only step toward Christ Naaman has taken is that he's placed his faith in what he’s been told and he's hoping that he will find freedom and healing from his horrible disease. Now that’s huge and it’s a first step but he’s stepping out on simple faith being driven for an answer and a fix. There is no depth to his faith and nothing to fall back on, no backbone or hard faith that he’s been walking and learning and growing in. This is a first act in his step towards being converted to “life” instead “punishment”. Naaman has simply heard from his wife’s maid servant (captured slave from Israel) that her God is real and that He can heal him through this man Elisha. That’s all he knows and he is desperate for healing. He needs this God to be real and alive. He needs for this healing to be real and this maid servant believes in this God so he’s willing to grasp on to this is desperation because He needs this God to do what no other gods have done for him, ever. Do you see the full picture here?
And now Naaman is knocking at the door and Elisha isn’t even coming out to meet him when he sent for him. Naaman isn’t use to being treated this way. In his world people hold him high. He says jump and they jump. Can you imagine not being greeted? Naaman was angry. He was full of wrath The Bible says because he thought that he would have a face to face with Elisha and that Elisha would at least speak with him and call on God to heal him right then and there. Naaman thought he would walk in and see an instant result. He thought he knew how it all was going to work out. He had a plan and a picture and he thought he got it. But he didn’t. Then on top of it all the command that Elisha gave for Naaman’s healing was crude. The fact that Naaman was from Syria and not Israel, made Naaman believe that Damascus, the capital of Syria, had better waters than Israel. We tend to be very loyal to the places that we live. Naaman would have been no different. His job was to protect Syria after all so of course he was loyal. The Jordan River that Elisha is asking him to dip in is in Israel. I can imagine it being a little beneath Naaman, a little “can you believe this common thing he has asked of me” type of attitude. Naaman of course thought so much more of his own home land and took great pride in Syria. It seems to have made him feel a bit indignant and insulted to have to do such a common thing and he was feeling a bit discarded and possibly mocked by the fact that Elisha didn’t even great him and come out to meet him. The Bible says that Naaman turned away in rage. He was going to leave. The blessing he was seeking wasn’t coming in the package that he expected and he was going to leave ticked off and miss the blessing and the whole story.
What happened next kind of melts me and excites me because I’m a “little people”. I’m not someone that runs the nation or works for the King as the head of his army. I don’t stand before important people with messages straight from God and I don’t heal lepers. I’m the little gal that was taken from her home land and working in the background to make other people’s lives the best they can be by being faithful and loyal and a hard worker no matter my circumstances just like the little maid servant that worked for Naaman’s wife and took care of her and I identify with that maid servant in a hundred ways even though we don’t even know her name. I just love her and that she shared her faith in her God with Naaman's wife and then with Naaman as well. I love that she is the puzzle piece to Naaman’s healing and that even though she isn’t a big person in the bible or the whole scheme of the world she is important in Naaman’s story and the lives of the people in Naaman’s story and now in mine and yours as well. She is a shining light that gives me hope and reminds me that every single one of us big or small in the eyes of the world matter and count and that my life is important even if I don’ t know why in my life time. Years down the line someone could be reading how God changes the life of someone profoundly and maybe I’m one of the puzzle pieces in their story, or even better yet… maybe you are. Fantastic!
So here is mighty Naaman (the important, big, knowledgeable, powerful, known man) and he is done. He’s been insulted and he’s out of there. He’s hacked off and in his temper and his not understanding the full picture and what is being asked of him, he decides he is going to settle for his circumstances and not being healed because now his hope can’t even be seen because of his emotions and his temper. He’s got tunnel vision and he’s storming out. BUT His simple servant who spends his life doing Naaman’s bidding, and is not well known and is not thought of as big and mighty, says “Wait! If the prophet had asked you to do something you thought was great or grand and worthy of your time and effort, wouldn’t you have done it? Then, how much more willing should you be to do this simple thing that he’s asked of you to do? Just go and wash yourself and be clean of your Leprosy.” Naaman listened to his servant. He was wise and he heard his servant and listened and retracted his rage. He was willing to bend. This big strong military man was willing to be reshaped and slowed down and changed. First he listens to this wife’s servant which gets the ball rolling and then when all seems lost, he listens to his own servant. Wow! He was wise and willing to be shown and taught from humble places and he changed his mind and went down and dipped in the Jordan 7 times as Elisha had told him. The bible says his skin instantly became like that of a little child: smooth, healthy, new and healed!!!!!!! Amazing!
This is the point where our Pastor Tim said the thing that helped me even unto this day. He stopped in the story of Naaman and asked us what would have happened if Naaman had only dipped in the river 6 times? Pretty simple question but what a profound thought! That question keeps coming back to me over and over as I struggle with getting stronger with this eating thing that God gave me in my journey to be healed of my past and my shame and my broken body from it all. The dead broken things in my life that have been removed from me in the spirit through my faith in Christ still need to be removed from me in my walking it out and in my obedience. I’ve watched God heal so many things inside of me one by one. He will never be finished with His work in me until the day I stand with Him in Heaven but I clearly see that I am not who I use to be. I see dramatic differences in my thinking and my desires. I also really see the broken places now shinning bright for me to notice. I want them healed. Food had always been the biggest place inside of me, the most broken place that I recognized. It was the one thing I could not control. Until recently I didn’t understand that the first sin was created with food. Of course this is my hardest battle as of right now. I’ve been working on this with The Lord for 13 years now. My healing is not complete but how close He is to bringing me to a 7th dip in the Jordan River! And I’m excited, but what a battle. So I understand what it might have been like for Naaman to suck that rage back up and to realize that maybe it wasn’t all going to happen the way he planned and with the blue prints he’d designed in his head based on what he’d been taught about God. I get it because of the journey I’m walking with The Lord even right now as I write this.
What would have happened if Naaman had not obeyed and carried his part out? It didn’t take great faith; it took “I need You to be real and to help me because there is no other help.” Faith the size of a mustard seed, that’s all it took and it took a change of heart. He thought he was above going into the Jordan River. He thought He shouldn’t even have to carry out an exercise of any kind to be healed. He had done enough. He had shown up after getting backing from the King. The command for him working out his healing didn’t make since to him. He couldn’t understand it. He knew that others had been healed with a word but how unreal that he should have to carry out this act in order to be healed when he had been told a word could be spoken and a command given over his body and total healing could have been applied in and instant. He had faith in what he had been told of God but no understanding yet, no wisdom or walk under his belt that lead him to immediately do what Elisha told him. He had to have a change of heart. Instead of an easy way to gain his healing God gave Naaman a task that seemed ridiculous to him. Why? Well, I don’t claim to know God’s thoughts but I sure can see how God was building faith in Naaman by making him obey Him instead of just handing it to him. God was asking him to step out in faith and He was changing his heart along the way. He was changing Naaman by showing him that he doesn’t see the full picture and he doesn’t know how it all works but God will work it to our good just trust Him and do what He says.
So what if Naaman had given into the idea and kind of had a change of heart and decided he would go and dip in the Jordan but only did it halfheartedly? What if he had only done it “almost” and not “all the way”? What if he had only dipped in the Jordan 6 times instead of 7? What if? Not only would Naaman not of been healed but myself and everyone else who ever read this true account and put their faith in The Word of God would not have learned a lesson from Naaman and been strengthened by his life and these several moments in his walk towards the Lord. He had to step out in a very much “unformed” faith, a very new faith that was just sparking and he had to be willing to put faith in this God He didn’t understand yet at all and who He was but because of that little flicker of faith he was healed completely.
Naaman’s healing from leprosy was so profound to him and such a faith builder that he says in 2 Kings 15 “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel!” and the bible says in vs 17 that Naaman says that he will never offer from that moment on another burnt offering or sacrifice to another god but only to The Lord. That’s a LIFE CHANGER folks. He would of missed out on a life changing event if he hadn’t stepped out in hope and faith. Everything he had ever known in his belief system and in his worship and asking for help had depended on gods that didn’t breathe and think and answer. He didn’t know any other way. God messed his whole world up in a great way and Naaman was forever changed.
God didn’t ask Naaman to run down through all the great things he’d done in this life to be saved. He didn’t ask for an account of his work in the service to The King or how he’d treated his fellow man or his family or how many drinks he’d had and if he’d ever been drunk or if he’d finished any type of training or schooling and God didn’t ask if he’d ever cheated on a wife or if he’d ever hit her or if he’d always had the best thoughts and never said bad things in fits of rage. God simply said prove you have faith by doing what I’m telling you right now.
What a message of hope. No matter what state our lives are in, God is doing something wonderful to heal the dead parts and the broken parts and the parts that keep falling away that the life has drained out of and left white and ashy - if we place our faith in Him, in His son Jesus Christ, in His death for our saving grace and His resurrection to conquer the grave and give us life for eternity with Him. AND what does he ask of us because of our faith? He’s asking us to be faithful completely to Him…not to the 6th moment when He’s asking for 7, not just “for the most part” but ALL THE WAY. Give your whole life, not just a little of it…not just the moments that are easy to give but the things that shake your world up and change it forever. Give the parts that you don’t understand, give the parts that make you mad and make you feel ashamed. Give the parts of your life up to God that need healed and run to Him instead of waiting. What are you holding on too? The dead stuff? The white stuff that hurts you and you need gone anyway? Let it go. Embrace what God has for you even if you don’t understand why He’s asked you to do something. Step out in faith even if it’s just a tiny tiny bit of faith and hold hope that He’s real and that He will help you. He’s got a wonderful plan for your life. He created you for His plan. Embrace it and let Him be a LIFE CHANGER for you.
“And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:27
JUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO VIEW THE LARGER VERSIONS
This beautiful little family melted me from the moment they stepped out of the car. This was a wonderful relaxed photo session at our home. Acia is 6 months old and her Mama, Brittany, said that the photo session was a gift from her Mama. Tylar, Brittany's husband and Acia's Daddy was great in helping us pose and snuggling in for the family shots. And Brittany was just adorable and such a sweet gal!
How could you not fall in love with this little face! Precious!
When we first sat Acia up by herself it was too cute for words. This picture will have to suffice! = )
When we first placed Acia on her belly and gave her favorite stuffed duck to her she just naturally snuggled it. I just mushed right into the ground lol. My heart is never going to be the same! :)
This child. This... child. Just makes my heart burst.
I don't always save "action" shots but I couldn't pass up this gorgeous grin at her Mama and Daddy.
And this is where the true magic happens. This is where I know this baby girl will always have a special place in my heart along with her family. Her expressions. ADORABLE! I saved way too many but how could I not? Every single one needs to be remembered forever! :)
I asked Brittany about her and Tylar: how long they had been married and where they had met. I loved her answer. "We have been together almost two years now! Married for one in August. Acia was definitely a surprise that we didn't expect so early but we wouldn't have it any other way :) We met through a mutual friend at the time and we pretty much instantly became best friends. He is my rock and I'm glad we were best friends long before we married and had a child. I couldn't ask for a better man."
I was deeply honored to do this photo shoot and so privileged to get to help create these memories for this little family. Truly just blessed. Adorable!
by Shannon Edwards
I whispered through the mist
Through time its self
Do you hear me
Can you see me
Do you know me
The world echoed back
A resounding No
That griped my very
And tore my very
Then a light shown
In the depths of the woods
A light that ran
My fears away
A light that recognized me
And valued me
And I breathed life
For the first time ever
So I memorized
The moment and
Captured it to share with you
A gift for you
The Miley Wedding was beautiful and so full of wonderful wonderful family and friends. The Bride and Groom were from Alaska which completely melted me. With Michael being in the Military, it was a gift to be stationed in Alaska and to meet Megan because of that. I am so proud of our soldier, their love, and that I got to commemorate it and them.
Family and friends flew in from all over the nation to help celebrate with them. Everything, from the moment I joined them at the wedding venue, was beautiful, lighthearted, happy and a true celebration. I am so blessed to have been a part of immortalizing this day and telling Megan and Michael's wedding story. Please scroll down to view their story. (Simply click the images to view a larger version.)
I love sharing how I view the world. Thanks for joining me. It's a fun journey. Love that you are with me in it.
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