A few months ago, I was sitting on a curb at the boy’s school, watching them hi ya their way through Karate class out on the soccer field.

A beautiful blonde woman came and sat near me. I’m not sure how our conversation began, but within 45 seconds (it seemed), we were both in tears. Her daughter, Kalyn . . . was dying. And there wasn’t anything anybody could do to change it.

Two strangers. . .

Sitting on the curb. . . in the middle of the desert. . . relating on such a personal and intimate level. Never try to tell me that God is not meticulously mindful of his children.

The two of us, through tears, spoke of love and loss . . . of faith and hope. We spoke of fear and courage and submission to the perfect(ly terrifying) will of God. We only had moments together, before we were surrounded by noisy boys, ready for their momma’s undivided attention. Through misty eyes, I quickly told my new friend that I would be more than willing to photograph Kalyn’s funeral when the time came (at that point, she was optimistic that they had as many as 6 months to go, if not more).

Lisa and I lost touch for a couple of months after our “chance” encounter at Karate that day. 2 months later, almost to the day, Raleigh came home from school and told me that a little boy in his class had lost his big sister to cancer. I immediately knew it was Kalyn. I tracked Lisa down, and 2 days later, I found myself facing the most challenging shoot of my career. How would I even BEGIN to know how to approach this? I turned to Heavenly Father and essentially said, you got me in to this mess. . . you certainly better help me out of it. :) Not really (um. . .yes, really).

Today is Easter, and as I spent some time preparing this slideshow from beautiful Kalyn’s funeral, I was reminded of the astonishing POWER of the atonement and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

POWER OVER DEATH?! When we say “glory to God,” GOSH! We certainly mean it.

I’m so thankful for my understanding. I’m so thankful for my relationship with God and his son, Jesus Christ. I testify that EACH of us are KNOWN and LOVED by our Savior. He is our literal spirit brother, and he is EVER mindful of our welfare. He is ever accessible. As we cast our burdens upon him, they are made light. This is TRUE. And always so.

Happiest Easter!

Without further ado, sweet Kalyn. She was loved DEEPLY by all who knew her. . . her family, very most of all. So thankful to know, that because of Jesus Christ, their separation is only temporary.




Remember this BEAUTIFUL SONG written for us by our (now) friend, Ryan Tanner? It’s dripping with love. I couldn’t find a THING that was more fitting than this.

(Thank you, Jon, for giving me the courage to do this in the first place. You taught me what a real treasure these images can be. I’d say it again, but you already know how very much I love you.)

Sometimes, the missing* rolls in. Like a wet, heavy fog across the desert.

And it fills EVERY PORE OF MY BEING—every crevasse of my parched heart.

I look around. Everyone with their perfect babies, and their perfect pregnancies, and their perfect families. And my heart cries out. Tears stream down my cheeks and fall shamelessly upon my chest.

Life continues. PEOPLE continue. Continue to laugh, and smile, and love. . . and breeeeeeeeed.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I WOULD NOT HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY. AND—

And the line between my joy for them and my ache for me. . . is at times, imperceptible. My family is still broken. Signs of grief, pain and overwhelming devastation still float to the surface from time to time. Often, they’re overwhelming, other times, they are tender and sweet. . . either way, they keep us connected to what’s true and real about the world, connected to the things that matter most. Connceted to our God and sealed to our faith in His plan for us.

I want to heal. I want to BE healed. I want my family to heal, my children to be made whole.  I desperately want these things. But healing prematurely would equate to lessons lost. And I want the lessons more than I don’t want the pain. As bitter as those words taste leaving my heart, they are true.

Because I don’t just want to live. I WANT TO LIVE!!!!!!! I want to FEEEEEEEEEEEL. I want to BE—alive in my heart, in my understanding, in my influence. I want to be alive in my integrity. I want to say—”LIFE IS GOOD, GOD IS REAL, LOVE IS ALL AROUND US,” and when I do, I want to know it. In every pore. In every breath. In all of me.

I WANT.TO.LIVE.

*Dear You, The line between missing, self pity and overwhelming fear, is often imperceptible. THAT IS OK. Please know that. Sweet you, out there missing, hurting, wishing to be anywhere but here. It’s OK. YOU are OK. I do not judge your hurt. I do not ask you to quiet your pain, or to hide (from) your self pity, or self loathing, or from your desperation (wishing that it could all be different—willing to do anything you can to make it so). “Wherever you are, be there.” This wisdom comes from a heart that knows. A heart that would never judge you. Not ever. Don’t you dare judge yourself. You wake up every morning, and you breathe in and out all day long. Don’t you see the miracle that you are? Are you so clouded and confused that you are incapable of seeing what you are doing? You are walking on water. Despite it all, you breathe in and out all day long. In and out. All day long. You are a miracle. Just as you are. Do not judge that. And know, He “will go before your face . . . on your right hand and on your left, and [His] Spirit shall be in your hearts, and [His] angels round about you, to bear you up.” There are better days ahead. There are.

At The Breathe Intensive (and on my personal blog and in just about every speaking engagement I’ve ever done . . . ) I talk about the importance of making space for ourselves in our own lives.

There’s a thought!

At Breathe in particular, to illustrate this concept, I use an analogy of a wheel. Each piece that makes up the anatomy of the wheel, represents a different area of your life. You, my friend, are represented by the hub, and the hub is responsible for holding everything else together. So, for the sake of this analogy, the hub is the most important part of the wheel.

This parallel is set up to indicate that YOU are the most important element within the totality of your life. Yes, you heard me right. YOU MATTER. (And I’m talking here to men and women alike.) Not to say that you matter more than everyone you love, more than everyone who depends on you! Rather, you matter BECAUSE those people mean so very much to you!

I’m a photographer. I own highly sophisticated gear to help me capture the very best images I possibly can. Do you think I throw that gear around? Let it get dirty, lost, stolen or damaged? Not a chance. I need that gear to work, and work WELL, for years to come, so I treat it accordingly. You understand where I’m headed. :) In order for you to be at your very best for everyone who depends on you, you’ve got to make the time to care for and nourish the most important “occupational tool” in your life: YOURSELF.

I hear too many people express feelings of being victimized by their children, husbands, wives, jobs, lives. I hear too many people expressing feelings of having “lost themselves somewhere along the way.” Wouldn’t you rather be a joyful, active participant in your life?! Don’t you think that if you approached your life from THAT state of mind that you’d be better equip to truly bless the lives of those you love most?!

You can’t draw water from an empty well.

So first things first, if you want to ensure you’re giving the very best you have to give to the people in your life who matter most, you have to start with yourself. Again, YOU matter. (AND SO DOES GENUINE SACRIFICE, but we’ll get to that later this week.)

5 reasons you’ve got to make space for yourself in your own life:

1. Balance and joy result from feeling WHOLE.

The understanding of just how important you are is VITALLY IMPORTANT to your overall success, sense of balance in life and ultimate joy! And I will maintain that until my dying breath (and beyond).

When you’re actively engaged in activities that fill you up: reading, exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep, social connection, hobbies etc, you’re happier. Period. When you’re happier, you’re more capable of managing all crazy the variables of your life effectively: with more patience, perspective and ease.

2.  Caring for yourself increases your sense of personal worth, thus facilitating a closer relationship with God.

Even your relationship with God is ultimately dependent on your individual willingness to seek Him and make Him a part of your life. One way people fill their metaphorical wells is to spend time in prayer, meditation and religious study. As you do this, your relationship with God will increase.

As I’ve begun doing more and more mentoring of the “life coaching” variety, I’ve been astounded by how many people don’t feel connected to or loved by God. For the vast majority of them, these feelings come as a result of feelings of “worthlessness.” As these individuals care for themselves, work to nourish themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, they regain their sense of self. They gain an understanding of their worth. The natural byproduct of this understanding, is a greater ability to reach out to and connect with God. As a whole, they report that feelings of unworthiness before God diminish, and they are more readily able to connect with their Father in Heaven on a genuine level.

3.  Frankly, you’ll rock harder when you feel good about yourself!

As you take time for yourself, your energy, sense of overall satisfaction and your genuine feelings of fulfillment and enthusiasm for life increase.

These things make you BETTER at EVERYTHING you do! This passion for life that comes from feeling full, RESTED and nourished, makes you more confident and thus more COMPLETELY accessible (emotionally) to the people and things in your life that matter more than anything!

4.  Caring for yourself sets a good example for your children.

If you let life walk all over you, without caring for yourself in healthy ways, if you don’t have the ability to set up healthy boundaries in your life, you’re setting a poor example for your children.

Kids need to learn how to stand up for themselves. They need to learn how to say “I matter.” They need to learn how to say “no” to things that aren’t aligned with their values so that they can have space in their lives to say “yes” to the things that REALLY bring them joy. Kids need to learn how to take care of their bodies and their spirits. Our actions here are a million times louder than our words (times 10).

5. Feeling centered helps us be more effective in our lives.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey explains this concept as taking time to sharpen the saw. He uses an analogy of a man who is sawing a tree with a blunt saw. He’s encouraged to stop and sharpen his tool, but he replies “I can’t stop! I’m too busy sawing!” Now, you and I can see how counterproductive this is. It’s clear that if the man would take the time to stop and sharpen his tool, the tree would come down more efficiently! But he can’t see that. He’s too busy sawing to realize what’s going on! This is US in our own lives. We get so busy meeting everyone else’s needs and managing the crises and unending chaos, that we can’t step away long enough to relize that JUST MAYBE, if we took some time to get centered, some time to refuel (whatever that means for each of us individually), we might be able to manage all of these variables more effectively (and in a way that would bless everyone involved).

Don’t get so caught up in the busyness of life, that you can’t step back and truly evaluate your productivity.

The other day, while visiting my mom in Utah, I spent some time lying in the sun, looking at Mt Timpanogos. My mom was with me, and she pointed out a bald eagle flying hiiiiiiigh up in the clouds. As I sat there, watching that beautiful eagle, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wow, God loves YOU, too, Mr Eagle. He loves you enough to give you sunshine and food and a nest to sleep in. If God loves YOU that much, how much more must He love ME, His child?” I suddenly felt His love wash over me. . . warmer by far than the delicious sunshine beating on my face.

Guess what, He loves you in that same way! Each of us matters to Him. He wants us to be healthy, happy and fulfilled. He wants us to be as successful as we can possibly be at all the roles he’s given us to manage in our lives: and thus, he will give us help when we ask Him.

It’s my genuine prayer that you don’t feel so bogged down by the business of your life that you can’t make the time to step back and fill your well, sharpen your saw. God will help you find the time, if you ask him. After all, you matter . . . . To God, the very most of all.

My journey toward authenticity began the day my son died the day I died. (I can tell you from the bottom of my soul, they are one and the same.)

And there I was.

There I was. . .

(Deep exhale here.)

Nothing remained, aside from the physical form of the woman I had once been. Inside of that? Nothing was the same. When you come to THAT moment (that we all pray to God you never will) you have exactly two choices.

1.  You die.
2.  Or you don’t.

Physical death, yes, I suppose would be a third alternative (a thought that EVERY mother who’s walked where I’ve walked has entertained, even if only in an especially weak and fleeting moment), but I’m not speaking of physical death. I’m speaking of emotional death. Spiritual callus. The armor of the soul. Survival. Safety. The opportunity to disengage from the excruciating pain. The promise of relief from the acute, unrelenting torture. Option number 1, you die. See?

Option number 2, you don’t. BUT HOW DON’T YOU? HOW?! HOW?!!!! AND YES I’M SHOUTING NOW. I’M SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY BROKEN HEART. HOW DON’T YOU JUST CLIMB INTO THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS AND BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND? (Yes, my cupboard under the stairs is at the beach. Apparently. And yes, I’m done yelling at you.)

How?

You submit.

And that’s how.

You submit.

You own your nothingness before God and yet your “everythingness” within him. For we are, each of us, nothing and everything all in the same harrowing yet joy-filled breath.

The moments after Gavin died horrified me. Horror. Times infinity. To the power of a million. For all the obvious reasons yes, but for one you rarely think about in specific. Eventually, friends, you have to walk away. You have to hand your dead child over to a stranger, and you have to walk away. I’ve never felt so small. I’ve never felt so afraid. I couldn’t do it. I moaned. I cried. I held him as tightly as I could. I probably screamed out loud, though I don’t remember for certain. If I didn’t, I should have. I’d certainly earned the right.

I’ve never been so acutely focused (before or since). I was completely keyed in to the moment I was in, the feelings I was experiencing, the fear that engulfed me. And amid all that terror, amid all that submission, amid all that awareness of my nothingness before God, I found something.

Myself.

No longer was I a woman who was born in 1981, had lived a while, and was having this experience in a hospital room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in 2010. I was Natalie.

I felt connected to myself in a whole new way. Connected to my divinity as a child of God, a literal spirit daughter of The Creator of Heaven and Earth and all things that in them are. I was Natalie, and Natalie, this me, SHE had the strength required to walk away. SHE had the faith required to move through this moment (and every one that would follow). SHE had the perspective I lacked. SHE had the courage I desired. SHE knew God in a way that I had never dreamed possible.

I held her hand, I kissed his face, and I walked away.

Over time, I’ve come to know her better. Learning she existed was half the battle, now getting to know her learning to become her will win me the war.

Authenticity. It’s a practice, not an art. A journey, not a destination.

But it’s worth the work. It’s worth the commitment.

And it’s definitely worth the jump.

N

This is the first post of a series. Practical, actionable steps toward the Journey to YOU to follow.

It was a fast forward kind of day. Go go go. All day long.

And there I was standing in a strip center, a million and one things happening all around me. . . and I stopped. I leaned back onto the hood of my car, took a deep breath and I looked into the sky.

This was all that I could see.

This simple little tree, quietly going about his business, growing, growing, growing up toward the Heavens.

Little Tree is completely focused and completely unaware of the chaos alllllll around him. He’s happy, because he doesn’t waste his precious energy worrying over things and stuff and more things and more stuff. Little Tree just keeps his eyes on the sky and climbs, climbs, climbs, patiently and intentionally toward his goal.

I want to be more like Little Tree. Looking up. Calming down. Focusing in. Being still and knowing, really knowing, that He IS God, and that none of this stuff really matters, anyway.

What DOES matter you ask? Laughter, love, truth, kindness, life long learning and of course, watching soccer huddles at sunset.

All images from this post shot using the Instagram App the for Iphone.  Instagram, thank you, sincerely. You make my world a brighter place.