On our last full day in Chicago, we had our family’s first professional photography session. It was one of the best decisions we made after learning we would be leaving the city we love. Mike went to college with the very talented Kenny Kim who proves that great photographers are more than just expensive equipment. They have an eye, a gift, and an artistry. He not only has all three (who else could pull off beautiful images of an entire wedding on an iPhone?), but he also has one of the biggest hearts. We have enjoyed running into him at various friends’ weddings he has worked as well as favorite Chicago eateries like Urban Belly. During one of those run-in’s, he magnanimously offered to photograph our family once our adoption was finalized.
Adoption. Remember that? It was the driving force for me to begin this blog in the first place. It was what Mike and I had been planning on for almost a decade and started actively pursuing less than two years ago. It all came to a screeching halt at the beginning of this year. Where are we now? Still halted…indefinitely. My heart can’t handle any more on the subject, so we’ll just leave it at that.
Kenny still honored his generous offer. Despite his busy schedule of flying all over the world and planning his own happiest day, he squeezed us in and sent us the images. Procrastinator to the core, I did not start our holiday cards last year until close to Christmas. I had to take a quick picture of the kids and send it off. Later I realized maybe I should have at least had them wear something other than old t-shirts. This year, armed with Kenny’s pictures, I have already ordered those bad boys two weeks before Thanksgiving. I have never had so much fun doing the yearly chore and know that never again will our cards look as good. It’ll be back to old t-shirts for 2013.
When I look at the pictures, so many thoughts flood my mind. First of all, life is good. I can say that at all times no matter what because my circumstances do not determine my joy. I know that we are beyond blessed in countless ways. We will ALWAYS have reasons to be grateful. Life is also a challenge. I can say with absolute certainty that it will always have elements of difficulty no matter what. Our friend Brandon wrote these words of truth on his blog today: We feel that we have to choose between either things being good or bad. In reality both struggle and joy live together in almost every aspect of our lives. To reduce all of those things to a decision of good or bad is a disservice to ourselves and those around us.
I have a healthy husband. I have two adorable children. Mike has a job with unbeatable benefits. He is happy. These things alone make any difficulty more than worth facing. There is absolutely no comparison. On top of that, I have a house we are gradually making home. I have abundant sunshine and gorgeous mountains. I have windows into the world through things like volunteering and books that give me the perspective to know that thinking my life is anything less than overwhelmingly wonderful would be ignorantly wrong.
When I look at these pictures of our last day in Chicago, so many thoughts flood my mind. We were on the cusp of a new adventure filled with good things. Included in the goodness is the value of learning anew the meaning of trust. Trusting that when all our long held, laid out plans are blown completely to shreds that better ones are in the making. Trusting that the adjustment process is ripe with lessons to learn. Trusting that even in the moments of deep longing there is treasure BEFORE the fulfillment. All that to say, life is going smoothly. At the same time, there are moments of grief: missing Chicago, missing deep and broad community, missing the 3rd child, missing the familiar, and even missing the petty. These moments usually come unexpectedly since the grief often resides far under the surface. But it rightly manages to show itself. And things like these family pictures from our last day in Chicago both help it emerge and soothe it into manageability. They help me process life. They remind me of the importance of pictures, snapshots covering a wealth of words in a single image.
I watched our Chicago slideshow again today. After I first put it together, I think I watched it every single day, sometimes a couple times a day, for the entire month of September. Connor can still sing that Sarah McLachlan song better than he can Old McDonald. It had been awhile, but we watched and sang together again today. Pictures are worth more than a thousand words. They are priceless. Thanks to Kenny and thanks to all who have left your precious images in our struggling, joy-filled lives.