PS. Dear Instagram,
Thank you for making the life of the every day blogger infinitely. . .
well, better, in every way.

This morning, I was packing sack lunches with as much satisfaction as I’ve experienced in the entirety of my life (in sincerity).

Tears of gratitude streaked across my face as my soul joyously proclaimed, “What else matters, but lunches?!” (Yes, this description truly necessitated the ridiculousness of language like, “joyously proclaimed,” so get off my back.:))

In that messy moment, not a thing in the world mattered to my heart more than the mouths those lunches would feed. Not a thing.

“Our shadow by day” is a line from a hymn that I love. (Read the lyrics here or listen here: verse 3, where the men bust it out a capella??? Woooooooosh.)

Our shadow by day. . . I never realized the significance, until I moved to the desert. The difference between the shade and the beating heat of the sun, can very literally mean the difference between life and death.

The spiritual parallel is astonishing.

You see, I’ve felt so broken. So disoriented. So utterly small and completely overwhelmed.*

Then, I stepped into the shade. I stepped into His rest. And nothing has been the same.

As I actively seek my Father in Heaven, I find him. As I actively seek that spiritual shade, so to speak, my life is more fulfilling in every way that truly matters (and in most of the ways that don’t).

My brown paper sack at 6 in the morning . . . my shadow by day.

No matter how you slice it, God is there, and He is great.

(Psssst. You matter to Him, SO MUCH, by the way.)

*These feelings are part of the path we walk, those of us “who know.” All of these feelings are lingering symptoms of the journey through grief. That said, they are also symptoms that come as the result of other overwhelming, life shattering, circumstances faced by each of us every single day. Please don’t think that I’m EVER trying to compare battle wounds. Because I never am.

Above quote by the tap dancing goddess, Eleanor Powell.
Above photo, sweet Mailee, spinning in the sun.

I wish I could pass my life by simply spinning along through the warm rays of the sun.

I’ve been left in awe in recent days as I’ve pondered over just how very much I have been given. This is a refreshing respite from the cold and lonely land of self pity I’ve danced my way through over the past couple of weeks.

People, God loves us. He loves you. He loves me. He wants us to find peace. He wants us to find joy. He wants us to have security, laughter and all the beauty and goodness this world has to offer. But like the little chick, we must break out of the egg on our own. We must push and struggle, and sometimes even kick and SCREAM, in order to break that shell. But once we do. . . we are free. We are strong. We are prepared for the big world that awaits us. God doesn’t make things easy for us. No. Because he loves us too perfectly for that. He knows we need to grow, to progress  . . . to prepare for what lies ahead. . . otherwise where would we end up? Well, what happens to the chick who doesn’t develop the strength necessary to break out of his shell on his own? What happens if a well intentioned master steps in and helps by pulling the shell away? Eventually, the chicken dies, for it has not developed the strength to survive in the outside world.

As my wonderful husband reminds me (as it relates to this analogy, which ultimately belongs to him, not me), “Natalie, we are all big chickens.” (And he’s right.)

Once upon a time, someone asked me if I would die for God. There was no hesitation in my heart, “Of course I would.” The question that followed has never left my soul, “Will you live for Him?”

It’s interesting to think about. And by interesting, I’m sure I mean Earth-rattling. In quiet moments I’ve imagined myself standing up for what I believe, fighting for integrity, truth, purity, light. I’ve imagined myself as the heroine of my own story, willingly making the ultimate sacrifice for all that is good and holy! But God hasn’t asked me to make that sacrifice, what he has asked of me is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He has asked me to truly LIVE for him.

What would happen if I were to translate that same courage, that same commitment to what I believe so perfectly that I would die for it, into the LIVING of my life? How would I approach everything I do? With courage, with faith, with resolve, with a willingness to see clearly and sacrifice as necessary for the people and things in my life that matter most.

I’m in the process right now of drawing the strength and courage necessary to make a couple of very large sacrifices. I’m sure they would seem insignificant to most, but they are nevertheless, gut wrenching for me. But I want to live for my Father in Heaven at all times, and in all things, and in all places, even if that means taking big risks, doing hard things and offering up my heart and soul. . . (the living of my very life) as evidence of my faith in Him.

I believe that true sacrifice — our will for His— brings forth the greatest blessings of heaven. The greatest blessing I could ever ask for, and the greatest blessing that I believe comes as a result of our greatest sacrifices, is that of PEACE.

. . . peace that feels like spinning along through the warm rays of the sun.

I love this quote so much.

I’m really working on GROWING right now. I’m reeeeeeeeeeaching, learning, changing, embracing, submitting.  I’m committed to living deliberately, and part of that commitment requires me to take a long hard look into every corner of my life to determine if it’s all intentionally aligned with my heart.

It’s hard.

I think it would be hard for anyone. But one of my biggest revelations throughout this process has been how deeply difficult the process has been for me. I’m finding untapped reserves of grief along with other emotions that I didn’t know I’d harbored. This introspection is intriguing. . . and painful. . . and deeply frustrating, in a nearly infuriating kind of way . . . but underneath alllllll of that, it’s worth it.

I just want to be me. Healthy. Happy. Complete. Whatever that takes, whatever that means, mostly so that my children have permission to do and be the same.  I don’t want to set any example for them but that of LOVE, AUTHENTICITY, CONNECTION, COURAGE, KINDNESS and JOY.

So here I am. . . reaching, learning, changing, embracing, submitting. . . being me.

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.