Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Page Family ~ Amazing Peace

I don't remember the day but I do remember the phone call.  One of my bestest friends called me on my way to work one morning to let me know that she had just found out she was expecting baby number 2.  I was super excited for her and could hardly wait to meet this precious baby.

A few months pass by and we're all together at a youth retreat in Panama City Beach, FL.  Not to be rude in any way but I told her she was too big to be just a few months pregnant with just one baby.  I swore to her that there were two babies in her belly and she just laughed it off and assured me there was just one.  Fast forward a couple more months and she calls me to confirm my suspicions.  She's having TWINS!!!  I did what any best friend would do.  I said, "I told you so!!"  :o)  

As a friend, I'm super excited for her.  As a photographer, I am super duper excited for her!!!  My husband is a twin and all of my life I have always wanted to have twins.  I just love twins!!  :o)  I made her promise me that I would get to do their newborn session!  She thought I was crazy to mention it because, frankly, who else would she let do it?!  ;o)  I started counting down the months until they were due and getting myself all psyched up to FINALLY do a twin newborn session.  I could hardly wait!  

She had an ultrasound done to find out the sex of both babies and learned that her firstborn son, Jackson, would have two new baby brothers to play with.  Three boys, oh my!  Let the fun begin, right?!

She also learned that one of the boys, Baby B, had a blocked urethra valve and his bladder wasn't functioning as it should.  She called to let me know and asked that I be praying for that situation.  Absolutely!  Doctors would continue to monitor this throughout the remainder of the pregnancy to see if it improved.  If the blockage did not clear, Baby B would be facing a surgery very soon after his birth to correct the problem.  As months passed and checkups were held, there wasn't any improvement in this blockage.  Nothing could be done until after the babies' birth.  So, Jason and Amanda, patiently waited and enjoyed the remainder of this pregnancy.  

On February 21, 2012,  at 5:16pm, Amanda sends me a text message that says "We are having babies tonight :)!"  I could hardly contain my excitement and I kept my phone close-by for any updates on their arrival.  Since I've experienced the labor and delivery process once before, I know how overwhelming it can be to have a million phone calls and text messages blowing your phone up while you're trying to have a baby; so, I intentionally, did not respond with any follow up text messages that night to check on her or the babies.  When I woke up the next morning and still had no updates, I sent her a text to see how the boys were doing.  Baby A, Hayden, and Baby B, Harrison, had arrived late that night.  Amanda replied and said, "We're all good! :)  Please pray for Harrison though.  We serve a huge God and his lungs are very small and not mature."  At the very beginning, before she knew the road she was about to travel, she proclaimed the BIGNESS of our God.  Before she knew what would be required of her, she declared that God was larger than whatever she would face.  I am a witness to the fact that this faith never wavered.  She never questioned the proclamation she made.  Never doubted for a second that her God was huge.  It was this faith that carried her through the most challenging journey any parent could walk.  

Baby Harrison had severely underdeveloped lungs.  He was immediately hooked up to a ventilator and several other machines to monitor his vital signs.  He would make amazing progress and then there would be a set back.  His lungs were getting stronger but his bladder and kidneys were failing to work properly.  He endured a surgery to prepare his little body for dialysis.  No one knew if the dialysis would be a long term situation of if it would only be necessary for a little while.  We all prayed and hoped for every part of this to be short term.  We prayed for every facet of his little body to function independently without the need for any machines at all.  

In a very short 15 days, those prayers were answered when Baby Harrison was given angel wings and called heavenward.  It's not at all how we had hoped it would be.  Not at all what this mommy and daddy dreamed for their family.  They were looking forward to turning their family of three into a family of five.  But because they have a faith and hope in Jesus Christ, they can embrace God's plan and trust that He is bigger than what they have had to face and that His ways are so much greater than they can understand.  In walking through this with Jason and Amanda, the one thing that has been ever so constant in their lives has been the supernatural peace of God.  They will both admit to you that this was the most difficult thing they have ever had to experience but they will also admit that God's peace has been so real and tangible in their lives and it is simply that peace which has sustained them each day.  I have been so blessed to witness their faith, experience their joy as they celebrate Hayden and praise God for the short time they were able to have Harrison here.  I truly believe their story has made an impact on more lives than they can even comprehend.  

I typically would shoot a newborn session within the newborn's first ten days of life but considering the situation and circumstances we faced with Harrison, scheduling this photo session was challenging.  It was such a bittersweet conversation to have with Amanda.  We wanted to capture Hayden as this tiny new baby but our hearts ached because we should have been photographing two sweet brothers, side by side.  Nothing felt right about it.  We both agreed we wanted Harrison to be a part of the photo session some way.  Thankfully, the hospital had a photographer take some pictures of Harrison after they had unhooked him from all of the machines.  Amanda, graciously, entrusted this cd of images to me.  I did some small editing to a few of the images and had them printed for our session.  Below are images from my photo session with the Page family.  Knowing this family, knowing what they have been through, knowing how they have handled the difficult journey they were called to face, puts this session at the top of my list of favorites.  Such a sweet spirit of peace, hope and joy surround them.  

Jason and Amanda, I hope you know how much I love and adore you both.  I am so blessed to know you.  So encouraged by your faith.  So amazed at how you've grown.  So expectant at how God uses your story, your testimony, your son to impact other lives.  You are beautiful inside and out.  Your family is so precious to me.  Thank you so much for allowing me to be such a small part of it.  {hugs}

I love this picture below.  In the image on the right, Amanda asked Jackson for a kiss and he went straight for baby Hayden!  :o)

 Look how high Jackson can fly!

This was the only time Hayden gave the slightest hint of a smile.  I love that it was with a picture of his sweet twin brother.  In the picture, Harrison is on the left, Hayden is on the right.

This is one of my favorites!

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him." 
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV



Wednesday, April 25, 2012


At the beginning of this year, January 2012, I had committed myself to a lifestyle change that I knew would be very challenging and demanding.  I was optimistically excited but very, ummm...., very....unsure of my own ability to really do what I had made up my mind to do.  Seven or eight years ago, I wouldn't have balked at this decision.  I would have bowed out my chest and said, "bring it on!". 

Let's face it.  The "weight loss" challenge is exactly that.  A challenge.  So, let's add some extra baby weight to that and oh, just a few extra years from when you were "really in shape" and you no longer just have a "challenge".  You have impossibility, or so it seems. 

We all want that quick fat burn where 50 pounds drop in 2 days.  Hello fat girl on Monday.  Hello skinny girl on Wednesday.  Yep.  That's a dream.  What's the website for that weight loss pill again?  Can you tell me one more time the name of your weight loss doctor?  We live in a time when we want everything NOW.  We don't have time to wait.  I want what I want when I want it and I want it right this minute.  That's our mentality.  And that has been my mentality for the last three and a half years since I had my little girl.  I want to lose "x" pounds and I want to lose it in like three months.  Come on!  Is that too much to ask for?!  Well, realistically, yes it is!  

After facing some health issues in August last year, I hit a season of being very depressed with my overall health.  I felt like my body was in an all out attack against me and I was powerless to overcome it.  I had surgery in September and expected to be pain-free once my body had healed from surgery.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  I endured three more months of pain with little relief.  Can I be honest and tell you that this was not a very pretty place for me?  I was beginning to feel defeated.  Lie after lie after lie would bombard my mind, consistently.  And I believed them. 

I felt prompted in late November, early December to go back to my doctor and have her check things out one more time.  After my checkup, she was still questioning why/how I could still be in so much pain.  She decided to prescribe me a strong antibiotic to rule out any infection and if that didn't seem to help, we'd re-evaluate.  I sauntered out of her office with a prescription and still no answers.  I was frustrated.  Exhausted.  Spent.  Ready to give up the fight.  Throw in the towel.  If this is how my body wants to behave then fine.  I don't care.  

See.  I told you it wasn't a pretty place.  But praise God, I have a Father who loves me SO much, He will lovingly rebuke me, reassure me, encourage me, push me on and renew my mind.  Not only did He realign my mental state but He also reached down and touched my physical body.  I prayed that God would use the antibiotic and that it would work.  Prayed for it to clear up ANYTHING that should not be in there.  And then I waited.  And I trusted.  And it worked.  One week, two weeks, three weeks passed with a drastic decline in pain.  Hallelujah!!!  I, literally, felt like I had just been given a new body.  It was like my new lease on a way.  :o)  

With this sense of hurdling over a major health obstacle, I knew things needed to change.  I needed to take care of the temple God had given me.  It was no longer about a weight loss goal.  Yes, I do still have a number in mind, but its not what I'm striving for.  My goal is simply to live a healthier lifestyle; making healthier choices when it comes to what I eat and what I do to my body.  This way, I don't get caught up in a number.  I focus on a daily decision.  Did I choose a healthy option today over a bad one?  Did I exercise today?  If the answer is yes, then I've already accomplished my daily goal.  If the answer is no, then I haven't fallen from an insurmountable height; I simply didn't move a step forward.  I can try again tomorrow.  

With all of that being said, I kicked off my lifestyle change in January of this year.  I started counting calories and exercising.  I don't have a personal trainer.  I have a gym membership that I NEVER use.  I am a wife, mother, full time employee, weekend photographer, church member, daughter, sister, friend and so forth.  I have no more extra time in a day than anyone else.  I had to MAKE priorities.  I had to make up my mind what this lifestyle change would look like and consist of before I ever started it.  I had to have something in writing.  I had Jordan take some awful, humiliating pictures of me so I could see what I looked like when I started.  After seeing those pictures, I had to apologize to my husband and ask him to forgive me for looking this way and not taking better care of myself for him.  He's never loved me less or thought less of me but I knew my husband deserved my best and this was NOT it.  I took measurements so I could track my progress.  

My church has small group semesters and the first small group semester of the year would be kicking off in just a few weeks.  I decided I wanted to get involved in some sort of fitness small group this time.  I felt it would keep me motivated at least one day of the week and I knew I wouldn't drop out within the 13 week semester and I would have some accountability.  Some amazing girlfriends of mine were actually leading a small group called Highlands Dance Workout.  I felt comfortable with these ladies as leaders so I signed my happy little self up.  I don't dance.  I have no rhythm.  I am not coordinated.  So this seemed like the most ridiculous small group of choice but I was up for the challenge.  Let me just say, it was the best decision ever!  It took me a few weeks to get the moves down but I'm hanging with everyone and have felt the improvement week by week. 

Along with my Thursday night small group workout, I've also incorporated running, P90X and Insanity into my workout regimen.  It has been T.O.U.G.H.!  But I am loving them all!!!  

When we had our first small group class, I had lost 13 pounds.  I shared that with Summer, one of the leaders, just because Summer is cool like that and ALWAYS full of praise and encouragement....I just love her! ;o)  Summer also won't hesistate to ask you to share something praiseworthy with the group if you feel comfortable!  :op  After sharing my weight loss victory with her, she asked if I would mind sharing that with the group.  I'm not crowd-shy so I agreed.  I wasn't sure of the direction to take with it because it only needed to be a few minutes in length.  I was at lunch one day and used my handy little "Notes" option on my iPhone to jot down some stuff that I had actually started implementing myself at the first of the year.  It turned into something lengthy so I just typed it up and emailed it to Summer and told her she could do whatever she felt led to do with it as far as sharing it with the group.  I just shared with the class a brief overview of my weight loss and encouraged everyone to keep at it and they would see results.  Summer ended up printing copies of my little "Encouragement" notes for everyone to have.  

I thought it would be fun to share on here in case anyone reading this needs a little encouragement in their own weight loss journey.  I'm thrilled to share that, since January, I have lost 23 pounds!!  It wasn't by a pill, a vitamin, a weekly injection of B12 or any other super-pseudo scientific method.  It has simply been by a lot of self-discipline with my eating habits, exercise and some serious prayer for God to sustain me and help me take care of what He's entrusted to me.  I am 3 pounds shy of reaching my pre-baby weight and I couldn't be more excited about this whole journey!!!  It's been A LOT of work and not a lot of sleep but the rewards have been amazing and I feel great!  Every step made in the direction of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is worth celebrating.  I have a lot of celebrating to do and more to come!  I hope the "Encouragement" notes below will be an "encouragement" to matter what journey you're on right now.  
~ Encouragement ~    

Like most things we deal with & face, 99.9% of the battle is in our minds. This year I have been determined to win the battle. I am calling the shots this year & making my body submit to what I say it can/can't, should or shouldn't do. It's been SO empowering!!!
This is my encouragement to you:

Take 1 step closer to your goal weight every day...just like we aim to do with our relationship with Jesus; just taking one step closer each day.

Recognize your setbacks...I call them "my walls". First, try to avoid them but if you can't, be determined to plow through them.

Small steps that can help you reach your goal:

1. Make a healthy food choice every day. Example - pick the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the spicy chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese! :)

2. Know how many calories you need to be consuming each day & then KNOW how many calories you are eating at every meal. There are apps to help! "My Fitness Pal" is my favorite.

3. Plan your meals in advance so you don't make an impulsive decision that isn't good for you and that you will regret afterwards.

4. Avoid fast food if you can help it. If its inevitable, only choose from the healthier options (even if it's not what you really feel like eating!). Your conscience (and the scale) will thank you later!!

5. Make the choice to turn off the tv, get up & do some type of workout, even if it's after the kids go to bed and it's 8:30/9:00 at night!

6. Make the choice to not snack after supper or to not eat after 8pm.

7. Believe in yourself! Believe that you are worth investing in & that you CAN reach your goal!

Remember - the battle's in your mind! You want to lose weight more than you want that Krispy Kreme Hot Now donut!! :)

What is the time it's going to take to become a healthier you, taking care of the temple God's given you compared to the # of years you've spent overweight, unhealthy & dissatisfied with yourself?! It will be a lot of work but that time will fly by and before you know it you'll be able to see the results you've wanted and feel so proud of yourself and your accomplishments! Go after it!!

If you need motivation daily or weekly, write your goals down - write the vision & make it plain! Habakkuk 2:2, right?! :o)

Write down the steps you need to take to achieve your goals.

Take pictures of yourself & measurements. Yes, this part hurts but it can be the BEST motivation. Update those pictures & measurements each month. See the improvements & keep pushing yourself to do better each month.

YOU CAN DO IT!!! God is for you & He's cheering you on too!!

If you are a part of this group and you're at a healthy & happy weight, we applaud you! Set it in your minds now to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's always easier to maintain your weight than it is to lose it. Never stop taking care of your temple!

And just to end this post with something cute to look at, here's a picture of my sweet girl!!

Stay encouraged!!
Christy  :o)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Running To Win

Before going to bed last night I had decided I would get up at 4:30am to run on my treadmill (crazy, I know, but I do enjoy starting my day with a jog).  I laid out my workout clothes, socks and tennis shoes on my bathroom sink.  This is a must to ensure I actually stick with my plan.  I set my alarm clock, collapse into my bed with my laptop and do some photo editing before actually shutting down for the night.  Eleven o’clock, lights out. 
Five and a half short hours later, that annoying alarm disturbs the morning quiet.  I drag myself out of the bed and stumble to the bathroom, splash cold water on my face to feel somewhat bright eyed and bushy tailed and throw on my work out attire.  
I have three sticky notes stuck to my treadmill with some scriptures that keep me motivated and encouraged when I’m trudging away on the hamster wheel.  As I begin my warm up, I read over these scriptures several times and read them over and over again throughout my entire run.  The battle to keep running is all in my head so these verses are the ammunition to fight off the voice inside that says “I can’t do this.”

1 Corinthians 9:27 ~ “I beat my body and make it my slave.”
Hebrews 12:11 ~ “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 ~ “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
I had intentions of creating a really pretty motivational sign with 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Run in such a way as to get the prize”, to stick on the wall that I stare a hole in when I’m running.  But I didn’t have time and really wanted something else to look at so I made this instead:

During my run, I felt the Lord really impressing on my heart to focus on what running a race and running to win really means.  So as I paced my strides and regulated my gasping, er...breathing, I set my heart on listening.  This may seem really elementary but it really stirred my heart this morning.  
Hebrews 12:1 ~ “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  The race marked out for us...The race marked out for us.......
Every time I’ve read this verse before, I’ve envisioned athletes during the Summer Olympics lined up on the starting line, anxiously waiting to hear the gunshot that will catapult them into their full sprint; running hard to be the first one to cross the finish line.  But this morning, I saw something completely different.  Hebrews 12:1 references “the race marked out for US”.  We aren’t racing against each other.  We’re not competing with anyone else.  You are the only competitor in YOUR race.  This doesn’t mean you are alone on the journey.  You have a crowd of witnesses cheering you on, believing in you.  Your race will not look like someone else’s race.  Your race is YOUR race.  My race is MY race.  It’s not about being the first to cross the finish line.  It’s just about finishing YOUR race.  We each have our own finish line.  The goal is simply to finish and finish well.  
What has your race looked like so far?  What have been your greatest achievements?  Your greatest struggles?  What peaks and valleys have you faced on your journey?  How have you grown?  How has your faith been strengthened?  Every part of that is what makes your race unique. 
Over the past several years, I had found myself sure of the race I was running; confident that I was running well.  The scenery was beautiful; the air fresh and clean.  Maybe I was running with my head so high up in the pretty white fluffy clouds that I didn’t see the brick wall coming.  I noticed the terrain changing and the sky growing somewhat dim but I suppose I blame ignoring the warning signs on optimism.  Surely, the clouds will part and this was just a small bump in the road.  However, a mountain as high as Mount Everest loomed before me.  The earth beneath my feet turned into quick sand.  Blue skies were overshadowed by darkness.  Deep darkness.  I tried to tackle the mountain but it was dark and I didn’t know which way to turn.  Everything that I had ever been sure of in my life was suddenly on trial in my own mind.  What was truth?  Had everything I ever been taught my entire life a lie?  Jesus, are You really real?  Question after question after question flooded my heart and mind  In this moment, it was the closest I have ever been to understanding how Jesus felt on the cross when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  I broke.  I cried.  I grieved.  I screamed.  I beat the ground.  I mourned the loss of what once was and I struggled to find the new.  But all I found was more darkness.  I clawed at the dirt beneath me, searching for something solid.  I searched for the true God.  I tried to shake everything I’d ever been taught by man and reached for God’s Word alone to discover who this God I claimed to have lived for all my life really was.  As I fed on His Word in the newness of the place I’d found myself in, there sat before me a mirror.  As He revealed His truth to me, I saw the real person I had been most of my life.  And I was appalled.  Sickened.  Disgusted.  I questioned how God could ever love me.  I was prideful.  Selfish.  Critical.  Judgmental.  If you weren’t doing it “this way” or if you didn’t believe “this way” then you were wrong and shame on you.  God have mercy.  And He did.  I begged His forgiveness.  Pleaded for His mercy.  Begged for His love to be poured out in my heart like never before.  He said, “I already did.  It’s already yours.  And there’s more than enough for you My daughter.”  And I broke.  And I wept.  And I loved in a way I never thought I could.  I tasted and saw that the Lord was good.  So, so, SO good.  Through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working IN my life, I reached the top of that mountain.  I surveyed the beauty that could be seen from the mountaintop.  I looked back down into the valley of the shadow of death that I had just been set free from and I felt the weight of the accomplishment I had just achieved.  I boldly faced that valley and whispered, “Thank you.  Thank you for the lessons learned.  Thank you for the conditioning.  Thank you for testing my faith.  My character.  My existence.  Thank you.”  And in this very moment, I am building a memorial, at the top of that mountain, to the God who brought me out of the darkness and into His marvelous light!!!  
Now, I’m back to running my race.  It’s been such an incredible journey since that huge mile marker.  So many things have been happening that I finally had to buckle down and just hang on for the ride.  God has been doing exceedingly and abundantly above all that I could think or ask (Eph. 3:20) and I just stand in awe, amazement and wonder at how and why He chose me.  Who am I to be blessed this way?  Who am I to have such an incredible family, amazing husband, precious daughter, covenant friends and a phenomenal church family?  Who am I to run THIS race, Jesus?  I don’t see the finish line ahead.  And I don’t see what lies around that next corner but I am confident that Jesus is faithful to finish what He’s started and I’m confident that He will never leave me nor forsake me as I run this out.  I have no doubt there will be high and low seasons.  There will be seasons when I don’t feel like running and I hope a walk will be sufficient to just keep me moving forward.  And I know there will be a fork in the road and I will have to choose the next path.  But I know the Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth and He will light the path I should take.  I’ll be very honest and transparent with you all.  Right now, I’m not thrilled about my race.  I know God is on the verge of doing something new but as I wait that out, until it becomes clear, I feel like I’m on the hamster wheel; running but going nowhere.  And its not easy.  And I cry....because, I’m a girl and that’s what we do, we cry....a lot!  But I love when I’m on that hamster wheel and God drops a word in my heart that lifts my spirits and reignites the determination within to plow through.  I’m going to keep running my race.  And while I’m running my race, I don’t want to see others just standing by.  I want to push them into their own race; their own purpose; doing what God created them to do.  
So, let’s Run to Win!!  What is our reward?  Heaven!  Eternity with Jesus!  And that makes it worth it all!  If we keep our eyes on the prize, Jesus, and keep running toward the finish line, the cares, worries, materialistic things of this world are meaningless. 
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!”
Much love,
Christy  :o)