Cool rain is falling here in Virginia as I sit in the coziness under my favorite blanket. I feel grateful. I love Thanksgiving, having family around, sharing delicious food, and being intentional with gratitude for each blessing & memory. Though this year was so painful with the loss of my mom (many thoughts are coming up this week in particular), I have still found it to be filled with great joy. Fall is a great time to reflect and set intentions. The gratitude that comes with reflection is inevitable. Today, I want to share those reflections with you. Grab a warm drink, maybe your favorite blanket, and let’s reflect on 2023 together.
This year brought 27 weddings and countless more engagement, family, and portrait sessions. The amount of joy I have in capturing and producing meaningful photos is priceless. The long 12+ hour days can be challenging, and the needs are constantly changing, but I am forever in love with the adventure of this art and work. It’s been a blessing to look back at every single gallery. Knowing that there are families and couples who are treasuring those photos this holiday season!
As much as I love the adventure and excitement of the wedding day, I have become an even bigger fan of a coffee shop morning or afternoon spent editing. There is one coffee shop in particular that I frequent often. Everyone knows my name, typical order, and how to create an atmosphere of rest amid a busy week. I’m definitely grateful for that spot and the joy I still find in editing for hours.
There is nothing like the feeling of the peaceful ocean. The waves of the Gulf Coast gently lap at your feet while the warmth of the sea and sun slowly setting makes you want to close your eyes and breathe deeply. March and July brought me two trips to the Florida shore, where I took long prayer walks, went dancing with friends, floated in the ocean for hours (not kidding), and truly rested.
This island has become a special place as I explored it solo for the first time. Growing up visiting the outer banks with all it’s waves, different sand, and memories, exploring the gulf became a welcomed, different experience. The discovery of this beautiful place came at a perfect time. I had no idea it would bring me so much comfort and joy, even when I am away on the East Coast. I look forward to more time there in the off-season, too!
June was the month that everything changed. For two weeks after my mom’s passing, my family and I stayed as close to each other as possible. Friends visited as we all grieved. We embraced it all and felt grateful for every bit of support. Planning the memorial was not easy. It felt like preparing for a wedding, but the hours were anything but easy. Despite the incredible loss, I was so grateful for the time with my family. And so it is so often with bittersweet moments in life.
I also learned that one’s perspective on photography really changes when photos are all you have. The photos below trigger memories that are so special to me. I loved being in the kitchen and helping mom prepare meals, especially ones for her favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. I studied all of her tips and tricks as much as possible. Even though I never thought I would make the turkey without her to call, I am grateful for every long hour we had in the kitchen listening to her favorite hymns for Thanksgiving.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
I wish I had a photo of them ALL together, but that will have to wait for my (possibly future) wedding day! Each one that I have in mind has taken time to share in “doing life” with me this year. I am blessed with some incredible mentors who talk with me daily, a whole new group of friends who love county dancing like I do (MY DREAM COME TRUE), worship team friends who feel like family, brides who became friends, and each one of my second photographers & fellow creatives who all have had my back this year through every single moment.
This year brought a ton of new connections and growth in certain friendships that brought so much light into my life. It is a blessing to know each of you – you know who you are – thank you!
“He chuckled at the memory, and then, in the instant, tears were burning in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. That was always the way of grief: laughter and tears, joy and sorrow.” – Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy
This has not been an easy year. Losing a loved one, particularly one you have been praying for since childhood, cuts deeply. Still, God is faithful, and even this death is a severe mercy. I know where my mom is, and that gives me comfort. Knowing that she is there with Jesus and knows all the beautiful truths with peace beyond comparison gives me joy. Many people have comforted me, but most of all, my Lord and Savior. He is the only one always at my side and beyond, consistent and patient to listen to even the most complex questions. Though Mom was not healed in this lifetime of her mental illness, she is finally experiencing relief. And I still believe that no prayer went to waste. It is tricky to wrap one’s head around this balance of free will, the reality that life is hard, and God’s sovereignty. One day, I may fully understand all the elements and how it all could truly be the most severe mercy. No matter what, knowing that I can continually release her into the arms of the one who always loved her more deeply than I could makes me so thankful.
If you are struggling this season with a loss, here are a few books that have comforted me over the years. Each one touches on a variety of things that might minister to you like they did to me!
Lastly, I would love to hear how your Thanksgiving was below in the comments if you’d like to share a bit – it doesn’t have to be all positive either, but it’d be fun to read what has been bringing you joy, too!