Parents: This is what your sacrifices really amount to

My dad used to keep a real-estate ad of a huge house for sale on the lake fifteen minutes from our little home. He thought it was beautiful and his dream was to own it. I didn’t know that until after he died, and my husband told me that he had told him about it while driving him to work one morning.

It was just one more thing to make me feel guilty.

After all, I had heard my dad often speak of the RV he wanted to get one day after he retired. He wanted to pack us all inside and drive across the country, visiting the Grand Canyon and the National Monument and the Redwoods and so much more. It wasn’t something he mentioned only once. He mentioned it a lot, explaining how the trip would be. He would watch shows with me on the Discovery Channel about the country’s biggest waterparks and the best restaurants. We had a running list. He dreamt of going to Hawaii, and we talked about parasailing and eating coconuts right off the trees.

hawaii

I got my travel bug from him I think.

But, life happened.

Long before he got the house, long before he got that RV–he got cancer. And it was all cut short.

For a long time after he died I dealt with extraordinary pain over the fact that my dad’s life consisted of just a few things. Working long hours, leaving the house at dark and coming home at dark, mowing the lawn, getting dressed up for church, and leaving work early only to attend my school plays and choir concerts. At least to my childhood eyes, that’s what it all looked like. It seemed that his dreams were pitted in a future he never had. I felt guilt over my opportunity of going to Hawaii, of traveling and buying a house in Idaho–his favorite state. So much guilt.

turtle in hawaii

But I was so wrong.

Lots of things came to light after my Dad died. There was a savings account for trips and he worked hard for it. But each time a summer came around and he had a week off, my mom and he would decide to go to Disneyland instead–because my sister and I were convinced we were Disney princesses and we loved roller coasters. The new house never came because buying me a car when I was 16 came first to them, and so did school trips and clothes and the million other things I’ll never know about because he worked overtime without saying a peep just so I could have those things.

tutu

He didn’t live a life without. He lived a life of complete sacrifice. And my mom did the exact same thing as a stay-at-home mom, living a life of wiping sticky faces, chauffeuring us to soccer practice and dance recitals, and making sure we had the last piece of chicken if we were still hungry, even before she ate a thing.

The word sacrifice always sounds so painful. But when we really look at it and examine what it is and what it means in the eternal scheme of things, there is no pain. Only joy.

And I’ve learned that lately more than ever.

As soon as my husband and I decided that adoption was the way we were going to start our family we both looked at our “Hawaii” jar (because after our last amazing trip we vowed we had to go to Hawaii 185 more times before we kicked the bucket) and decided with a sigh that priorities have changed. And movie night? It turned into Netflix night so we could save some pennies for diapers and a crib. But strangely–it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt because it’s for something I love already SO much more than all those things or all that freedom.

One of my close friends sent me this picture tonight and it reminded me not only of the sacrifices we’ve already had to make for our baby–but the sacrifices that have been made all my life for ME.

12776804_10154569977378222_2099232796_o

I read this and in a single moment it all made sense to me.

Your sacrifices don’t vaporize. They don’t go unnoticed.

They are flecks of gold that add up and build mansions. Your sacrifices build your children and your grandchildren and the generations that will come long after you are gone. The things you give up grow a thousand fold and are given to those you sacrifice for. Your children, your career, your spouse, your friends, and your church–you’re building them up. Just as Heavenly Father did by sending his ONLY son for US–you as a parent or as a guardian or as a teacher mimic the exact same virtue.

I don’t even have my child yet and I feel a glimmer of what my Dad felt all those years and what my mom felt when she went along with everything in total agreement. I know now that when we hung the curtain up by his bedside during his last days–the one that had a picture of a Hawaiian beach–he didn’t stare at it longingly, wishing he had had a chance to go. I know now he wasn’t thinking of the RV he never had a chance to drive or the Grand Canyon he never had a chance to see. He wasn’t thinking about the extra cash he could have earned or the new house by the lake.

He was thinking about my sister and my mom and me–right by his side.

He was thinking about his investment.

me and dad dancing

If you vote for Trump, chances are you’re being selfish

I couldn’t believe it as soon as I heard it.

I stood at the opening of the dressing room at Ross, waiting for my husband to come out and show me some of the dress slacks he was trying on. Right beside me was a hispanic couple–she had an armful of clothes and her husband was there to wait for her, just like me.

“Put the clothes on the rack first and I’ll give you a number,” the dressing room attendant said briskly.

The woman didn’t understand. She nodded, smiled politely, and kept the clothes in hand.

The dressing room attendant said it again, this time, pointing vigorously at the rack. Partially understanding, the woman draped her clothes on the rack, trying to obey what she was saying while obviously not speaking the language.

This set the attendant on edge. “No, use the hangers,” she said gruffly. And then to the other attendant, “I don’t have time for this.”

Spanish was an area of study for me throughout middle school and high school and it was my college minor where I also directed a Spanish newscast along with the English one so I quickly came to the woman’s side. I spoke to her in Spanish, letting her know what the attendant was talking about, and even helped her hang some of the blouses. All the while the attendant stood with crossed arms, rolling her eyes as the woman “held up the line”.

spanish crew

I couldn’t believe it. How could anyone be so ignorant?

And then it occurred to me–I shouldn’t be surprised.

We live in a country built upon the backs of immigrants. Heck, we ARE immigrants. We live in a country where diversity is the only reason we have the foods we do, the cultures we do, the inventions and the technology that we do–yet suddenly we have forgotten. Suddenly, a man like Donald Trump who is not only supportive, but VOCAL about his dislike of immigrants–is actually STILL in the race. How has he not been completely shut out? It’s because we’ve forgotten who we are. And ignorance is the most violent element in society.

“I don’t have time for this,” the attendant had said. And I think that’s what a million (probably more) people think. We don’t have time for the people who are here for the same reasons we are. And Donald Trump, again and again, has spoken out about his “ideal America”, and it does not seem to reflect what we actually are.

diverse america

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists…” he said.

No, Donald. Most of them are simply trying to try clothes on at the store without having you roll their eyes at them. They’re trying to work long hours to feed their family. They’re trying to learn YOUR language, which happens to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. They’re trying to live.

The short video clip below highlighting the moment where Trump kicks a Muslim woman out of one of his rallies speaks loud and clear:

Trump kicks Muslim woman out of rally

trump photo

And to me, the most disturbing part isn’t that a presidential candidate called out a woman wearing an hijab. The most disturbing part to me is that there are hundreds–maybe thousands– of supporters around him booing her and screaming at her and being strangely reminiscent of 1940’s nazi Germany.

nazi germany

The day we’ve forgotten where we’ve come from and the mistakes that led to mass genocide, hate, and digression is the day when we deteriorate as a country and kill ourselves all over again. It doesn’t matter that you might be a Christian. It doesn’t matter that you’re white and only speak English. It doesn’t matter that your idea of the American Dream is to live and work with those who look and sound just like you. It doesn’t matter that you “don’t have time” for immigrants.

Because what we really don’t have time for is selfishness.

Somewhere along the line your great-great-great grandmother came over from Ireland or Spain or any of the other countless countries. Somewhere along the line your ancestors didn’t speak a lick of English and had to work in factories to get ahead in this country. Somewhere along the line your blood was new to this country.

irish immigrants

We can’t let a man like Donald Trump or anyone else for that matter make us forget that. We can’t let him forget that the reason he sits on his wealth and owns his fancy hotels is because somewhere along the line someone sacrificed for him to have the wonderful life he leads.

Standing behind a man who has those notions makes you selfish and blind to the reason we’re all here. It makes you forget we’re all simply–human.

I’m not making a political stance by saying that our borders should be wide open and that there should be no control. I’m not saying that protecting our nation and doing things the right way in regards to citizenship should be done away with. Obviously that would be catastrophic as well and balance needs to be struck. I don’t like even getting political because I feel like everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own vote. But this has to do with our brothers and sisters. The hate and the misunderstanding and the people who say “I don’t have time for you”–that needs to go. And we need to stand for it.

I don’t wish to live my life selfishly, only thinking about my skin and my voice and my ways of living. I don’t wish to live in a country where there is segregation–the kind of segregation that we worked so hard to overcome.

overcome

I don’t wish to stand behind a man who actually called for a “great wall” that would be “paid for by Mexico”.

Even Benjamin Franklin said of immigrants, “they contribute greatly to the improvement of a Country.”

And he is right. Our world, our country is a melting pot. How can we not speak up when we see our neighbors and our friends and our families being told to get out? How can we let dressing room attendants roll their eyes and women with hijabs get taunted and escorted out by security? How can we let any of this happen to our brothers and sisters?

How can we stay silent?

The day I chose adoption

Infertility changed me.

It introduced itself in a doctor’s office, ran over me with sharp and cunning negative tests, prodded me with needles, opened me up on a surgical table, taunted me with reminders of empty cribs and empty arms, and gave me lots of hope and lots of letdowns within 24-hour periods.

Infertility made me skeptical at the process that should be natural. It made me go from a crazy woman who obsesses over ovulation kits to the person who couldn’t care less and became bitter at the world in certain moments. It made me hate being a woman each month. It made me hate ever trying.

Infertility sucks.

negative test

The thing about me is I’ve never kept it a secret. I’ve never wanted it to be shameful or something to hide. Women go through it–and it should NEVER be a stigma. And no woman or man should go through it without lots of support, lots of conversation, and lots of vulnerable moments and self-awareness. Without this blog to vent to, without my husband and my family and in-laws and amazing friends and social media circles I would be by myself in a locked bathroom with a minus sign on a stick, wondering why the darkness is so…dark. But there is light amongst friends.

Infertility needs to be in the light.

For my husband and I, infertility has impacted our lives for four years now. I know there are so many who have struggled longer and my heart aches when I think about it. We have done it all. Ovulation kits, weird diet plans, fertility treatments, surgeries, blood tests, ultrasounds, more tests…should I go on? And each time you hold your breath, get excited, plan the nursery…and then six months go by and it’s still nothing.

with pup new years

Just a little while ago I have felt prompted to stop fertility treatments that we have been doing once a month. On top of that, I have been reminded of the first thing I wrote on my “bucket list” as a little girl for a school assignment in fifth grade and something that had been a goal of mine ever since. Adopt a baby. I told my husband about my desire for adoption when we were dating, and he loved the idea. At the time, we saw it as something we’d do when we were older, had a few biological kids, and had more money saved in the bank. But alas, Heavenly Father laughs when we make our own plans.

He’s got something better.

I realized recently, with the reminder of my sweet husband, that the strong desire that prodded my young heart over a decade ago was the preparation I needed to recognize it when the time came. THIS is the way our children will come into our lives. THIS is the plan for us. As soon as we made the decision–as soon as we looked each other in the eyes and said this was the path we were going to take– peace overcame my heart.

reading to kiddos
Reading to my nieces and nephews

I haven’t felt that kind of peace in a long time.

The comments have already begun– “Don’t you want your OWN children?”, “Are you hoping you’ll get pregnant once you adopt?”– but that’s to be expected when something a little more unique happens compared to what usually happens with a young couple. But more importantly I think, is the realization that I’ve had SO many people deeply and genuinely care. We have already had an enormous display of love, generosity, prayers, shares on social media, and messages that warm our hearts and fill our eyes with tears. I am humbled at angels on earth. The rest doesn’t matter.

The day I chose adoption–the day my husband and I came to the fork in the road and recognized the path it would take to find our baby–was the day I learned that God’s will is often hidden behind our own plans. And all we need to do is ponder, pray, and open ourselves up to accepting something that may not be what we thought was originally in the cards for us.

by chrstnas tree

As young kids we tend to learn that life follows a plan. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. But sometimes, life is funny.

Maybe first comes love, then divorce, then love again, then lots of step kids. Maybe first comes many years of single life, then a great career, and the choice to steer clear of any baby carriages. Maybe first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes lots of struggle to get that baby for the baby carriage. Who the heck knows. Life is not a picture perfect map.

We just draw on our blank canvas as we go along and connect dots along the way.

Blank billboard

Choosing adoption, in my life, wasn’t giving up on my body or throwing in the towel. It wasn’t “settling” for someone else’s child. It was simply recognizing that God has bigger plans than my own, and along the way He prepared my heart for it. He built in me the capacity to want it. I’m so grateful for lessons like that.

We’ve decided to start the process now to earn funds since adoption isn’t cheap. By September we’re hoping to have the funds necessary to get on the list and work with the organization we’ve chosen to find the beautiful addition to our forever family. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page that is already serving as an amazing blessing for us because we can’t do it alone. For us, it literally takes a village to bring in a child. And we couldn’t be more grateful to be a witness to that.

I rarely ask for favors because 1) Sometimes I have too much pride and 2) I don’t like using my blog as a platform for personal charity. BUT my family is my priority and I’m sharing this as much as I can to get closer to our baby. If you aren’t in the position to donate I TOTALLY understand–but if you will, my biggest favor is please SHARE. Since I’ve kept this blog I’ve seen the power of social media firsthand and THAT would mean the world to me more than anything else.

Click here or below to support our Adoption Miracle

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me and for being kind enough to read, to comment, to share, and to encourage.

Infertility is one of those things that can feel so lonely, amongst so many other trials, some of which you may have right now. But together we share in it, we talk about it, we sit together and cry a little and laugh a lot. We keep walking, keep choosing to go forward, and keep choosing God’s will. THAT is what makes it all worth it.

That is what I’m so thankful for.

 

What it means to be still

There are so many reasons I love being a photographer.

The energy of the people who are dressed their best, feeling beautiful as they twirl and kiss their spouses and hug their children. The way people tend to sparkle when they feel beautiful. The excitement I get out of chasing the best light and stealing killer sunsets. Getting creative with poses, apertures, shutter speeds, and techniques. Collecting lenses and awesome equipment to make my images even better than before (much to my hubby’s dismay).

But my all-time favorite thing is getting to freeze something so unique, so beautiful, so candid–that it would go unrecognized and forgotten without my lens. The little moments that have such little significance because of their brevity, yet completely define who we are.

morgan

That feels like a superpower almost.

Oftentimes I’ll be editing images and I’ll just stare at an image of the small smile and the far-off look of one of my clients, light reflecting in their eyes just so. Quiet hands. Content. Brief. Perfect.

We need more of those moments.

kissy baby

We hear it all the time. Be still and know that I am God. Yet we fill our lives with static. The radio, Netflix, our cell phones, Facebook, our own voices. We tend to fill the voids and the empty spaces with stuff. We don’t pause enough. We don’t take those moments–those beautiful, thoughtful, peaceful moments that I see through my lens–and cherish them. I’m to blame for that as well.

I think a lot of us think of being still as just not stressing out and choosing to be patient while trusting and knowing that God is there and will work it out. And while that’s probably a big part of it, I think being still is also very literal.

NICU shot

Pause yourself and sit for a while in your snapshot. Spend time with those you love, free of phones and tablets and noise.

Take time to think and read your scriptures and pray. Set things down, quiet your hands, and turn off the TV. When life gets to be too much, realize that at least 50% of that “too much” are things you can control. Things you can shut off. Things you can set aside for awhile to just be still.

I’m a busy body too, and need the constant reminder that my answers will come and my stresses will relieve when I give myself time to just quiet down and listen, free of technology and work and all the other trivial things that steal my attention. I need to give way more than a few minutes a day to the very creator of time.

Whether you are suffering from depression, a physical illness, every day stress, or the pains of waiting on an answer that hasn’t shown up yet–you won’t find your peace amidst the noise.

be still

1 Kings 19:11-12 says, “…the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

We are blessed to have the voice of the Creator speak right to us. We are so entirely blessed that He’s on our side, despite everything.

We just have to be still and find those moments of clarity.

And we have to let ourselves listen.

 

“Sorrow that the eye can’t see”

I met Mikey in Spanish class at college and then got closer to him when I started dating his room mate (my now husband).

How would I describe Mikey? Outgoing, passionate, hilarious, and overwhelmingly compassionate. He is always concerned about everyone around him, always taking interest in his friends, and always making everyone laugh. I’ll never forget showing him my ring after my husband proposed. He literally rocked back and forth saying “Oh my gosh!” with a smile bigger than my own. He was genuinely and completely happy for me, and I’ve never seen someone that invested in other people the way Mikey is.

So it didn’t surprise me when Mikey began this blog titled “Being out is in” and revealed such candor, such love, and such honesty. After years of keeping it hidden to the point where he teetered on the verge of suicide and melted into sleepless nights of depression and self-loathing, he finally decided to tell the world his struggle. That he’s a gay man living faithfully in the LDS church.

I couldn’t help but share his blog with all of you. He is sharing his story in installments, starting at the time he first discovered he felt differently as a little boy to the moments where he had to come to terms with how to carry on as a grown man.

As a member of the LDS church I stand in awe of the young men and women (and even some older men and women) who bravely share their stories, their struggles, their trials, and their triumphs. I find myself admiring those who live a life battling mental illness, turmoil, disability, loss–all of the things that have the power to stop someone in their very tracks–and who keep going despite it all. Despite the pain, the frustrations, the loneliness–Christ comes first.

It reminds me of a quote from an incredible author:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to be more like that. I strive to have that kind of courage.

I recommend giving his blog a read and a follow!

>>Being out is in<<

mikey and wife

 

 

For all that you’ve lost

Yesterday morning I was barely awake when I got the call that my Grandma had died.

She had been sick for years now, confined to a chair and her small living room, hooked up to oxygen–even long before my Dad died. It was expected to happen and we had been bracing ourselves for the last few years, but…but.

But I wasn’t ready to lose someone else of course. Just as I hadn’t been ready for all the other losses I’ve had within just a few short years. Two of my cousins, my uncle, my great-grandma, two of my grandpas, my sister-in-law, my dad–most of them had a sickness that prompted us to prepare but no matter how many times I rehearsed in my head how it would feel and how a world without each of them would be, nothing prepared me for the wash of nausea that came as I held the phone, the tears that sprang to my eyes, the emptiness that filled my heart.

me and grandma

You see, grandparents are expected to die eventually because of their age but my grandma had always been the young-at-heart, spunky, nails-done, hair-done kind of lady. In my child’s heart she’d never die because her soul was as young as mine.

She taught me when I was barely seven years old how to budget, how to shop smart, how to balance a check book and save up slowly for things I want. She taught me how to give–liberally, in fact. She taught me that things are just things but people are everything. She taught me how to give grace to those who are different and to laugh at our own expense. She smelled like White Diamonds, looked like Elizabeth Taylor, and reminded me of a spunkier, *sometimes crasser* version of Christ. Losing her meant losing a wonderful, larger-than-life person and giving me a memory in its place. A lot of memories, in fact. Enough to fill up a whole lifetime.

Losing hurts. No matter what the loss. And I know you’re nodding your head right now because you’ve also experienced your fair share. I’ve read your stories, your comments, your messages about the sleepless nights and the empty chairs at sad tables. Especially lately, more than ever, your stories have come pouring in from all over the globe. I know that there are people out there grieving a lost job, a wayward child, a reputation. Maybe you have lost faith in a friend or a church. Maybe you have lost your house, your money–your marriage. Maybe you’ve lost it all and wonder if you’ve even lost yourself.

man by the ocean

And that stinks. When I lost my Dad I thought I knew how to do this whole losing thing. I had gone through the worst of it, and anything that follow would be a piece of cake. But it’s never a piece of cake. Well, you’ll eat a piece of cake. Maybe a whole cake or tub of ice cream as you watch a sad movie. But it’s not easy.

But the gentle reminder from the spirit in those quiet moments reminds us that for all that we’ve lost, we’ve gained so much more.

John 12:24 says so beautifully, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

What a beautiful promise that every time something falls away from us, it grows in another way within our lives–whether in this life or the next. Nothing is gone forever. He loves us too much. I’ve never thought about things in that perspective until I stumbled upon that scripture today and read it a few times over. Death, loss, failures, and goodbyes–those all amount to fruit that we will see throughout our lives. I see that fruit as strength, lessons, courage, friendships and opportunities–and eternal life.

grandma and harold

I suppose I could pity myself that I’ve lost so many beautiful people in my life and have stood at so many funerals that I’ve almost lost count. I can replay the horror in my mind and agonize over the things I didn’t say or wish I’d done. But it’s so much better to think of all I’ve gained through the lives that have touched mine, even after losing them. Maybe even especially after losing them.

For all that you’ve lost so far in your life, you’ve gained so much more. You maybe don’t see it now through the tears, but it is a promise to you. One you should hold on to.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” Romans 8:18 says.

And that glory is already starting to come through.

That’s why you’re still here.

me and grandma2

Before I count my blessings

Happy 2016!

Holy cannoli–did this year fly by or WHAT? I feel like the old adage is definitely true. The older you get, the faster time flies. It’s going by at warp speed. But life is so good!

I hope that you all had an amazing Christmas season and New Year with those you love the most and that you took some time to reflect on the past year and consider all of the things that God’s hand did for you. For the Lemmon household, we had quite an adventure. We traveled and met new people and made new friends and saw lots of change. I went from selling mattresses in rainy Washington state at the beginning of the year and living in a 598 square-foot apartment to packing up all our things, moving to Idaho, quitting my job, and taking the leap to do my photography and my writing FULL TIME. Boy was it all so scary and so sudden. But it’s the best decision I ever made for myself.

taking pics

Once in Idaho, we bought our first home that’s a spacious and cozy (and much bigger than our shoe-box apartment) corner lot with trees in the front and backyard and a fireplace I always dreamed about. We were able to give our bunnies their own room (I know, weird. But totally awesome for me.) And we got a new puppy that is such a rambunctious ball of sweetness.

new home

elway

My husband graduated nursing school before coming here and now works as an RN at the biggest hospital in the area. My head is spinning with how fast everything happened, and I am so grateful that after three years of really struggling to make ends meet, scraping to get clients, and only being able to  squeeze in my passions on my days off, I can officially say that we’ve made it to where we wanted to be all along. Is the journey over? Far from it! There are so many more goals I want to reach and things I want to do. But it’s exciting when you see some answered prayers manifested right in front of you and see hard work paid off.

graudation matt

But I realized the other day, while my family was discussing new year’s resolutions in the car on our drive home from Utah, that although I’ve never struggled in counting my blessings, I think a struggle that has been mine is what comes BEFORE I count my blessings. And that’s thinking about all those things I don’t have yet, and feeling sad or inadequate that I don’t. Those feelings and those thoughts often came first and made the “blessings” feel a little bit less impactful than they should be.

For example, this time last year I remember saying, “With all of our fertility treatments, I KNOW we’ll have a baby in 2015!”. I think I said the same thing the year before that, too. And needless to say, we still don’t have any children. It’s always been something constantly at the back of my mind, eating away at me, reminding me that no, life isn’t fulfilled YET.

IMG_0798

But what a poor attitude that is! Just because not every goal is reached and not every desire is granted does not mean that I’m not fulfilled yet. I’m not half of a person–we’re not less of a family. This year I want to pay attention to what I’m thinking about before I count those blessings. Those little voices in my head that have the power to tell me I’m greatly blessed and on the right track, or that I’m lacking and not as lucky as all the rest.

This year will be a year of thankfulness. I hope you’ll join me. No matter where you are in life, no matter what you’ve been praying for or how long you’ve been praying for it–rejoice in where you’re at. It’s a beautiful place to be!

matt nursing

For 2016 I have so many goals. For my personal life, for my spiritual well being, and for my business. But those things do not define me. Only my gratitude does and the joy I recognize along the way.

Happy New Year, everyone! And I hope every day gives you something wonderful to be thankful for.

family pic