Saturday, June 28, 2014

Today I am 26 -

1991 - I was 3. :) 

Today I am 26

Today I am....away at a resort with my dearest Mama. I'm going to treat myself to what I've been craving for a year. I'm going to take my birthday money and walk up to the cabana covered bar and probably be carded because I still look like I'm 12, apparently. Thankyouverymuch. 

And then I'm going to stretch out on a pool chair in my swimsuit, slip on my sunglasses, and drink my pina colada by the pool. 
I'm probably taking an irrational amount of pictures, and I couldn't even care less that it is 90 degrees outside. 

Because I'm 26 today. 

Sometimes I feel like life is passing me by, friends are getting married and moving ahead, and even worse, leaving me behind. Sometimes I'm sad that I'm 26, and I'm not married, with children, by now. Or that I'm missing out because I'm not traveling the world or changing it.

But then I remember I only have a few short years here and become resolved to enjoy everything around me. 
And I remember too all that has changed in the past year, things I have dreamed of came true. 
It makes me really excited for this year! I can't wait to see the places I'll go and the people I'll meet. 
I love learning, exploring, finding new ways my memories and desires come alive in life. 

I'll be thankful for however many years I'm given here....because I know too much to say otherwise. 

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many." ~ Unknown

Sometimes, I'll be honest, I wish I was much more true to the lady I want to be, 
more true to my Godly legacy, more true to the calling of Christ I belong, more true to who I dreamed I would be as a child. 

But growing up doesn't happen all at once. And nor should it. Things I loved as a child, I still love now. I don't want to lose those things. Growing up is extremely overrated in my opinion. Being strong and mature is the goal, not losing the dreams you once had because adults don't climb trees or find staring at sting rays for 2 hours fascinating and crying because the whale sharks are so majestic (yo, last birthday - i miss you - best ever aquarium trip).

"It takes COURAGE to grow up and become who you really are." ~ E.E. Cummings

So I'm taking this growing up slowly. It's a peaceful journey that I love, this life. I'm thankful.  
And I can't wait to walk through more of that I'm 26. 

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me through another year. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Photography Cards are in! -

My Photography business cards arrived in the mail today!! After a particularly stressful day, I was very excited to see they had arrived and look at them - I really love them!! The colors are spot on what the website showed, and the price couldn't be beat! I ordered them from Vistaprint, and spent about 3 obsessive hours deciding on fonts, colors and sizes to get exactly what I wanted. :) I bothered Emily and Becs with a million detail options, and they are, of course, the first people I told. haha. 

My Daddy immediately confiscated one, and my Mama asked for about 10 to put in her purse. ;) 

I'm just so glad to finally have some, and have something I really love! Professional, pretty, and unoriginal. I wanted something that carried the brand or "theme" if you will, of my photography name. The minute I saw this, I thought: "old fashioned, lovely, garden, legacy, calling card - beautiful". I'm so excited to see it all come together and be able to give them out! 

We had a massive (typical for summer here) thunderstorm moving in while I was attempting to get pictures of the cards, so the lighting is all a bit tricky, but the happy part is that they look even better in person!! 

I'm a happy girl. :) 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Project 52 (25) -

 Week 25

A few weeks ago, when I was in Colorado, Emily wrote me and asked if I wanted to do a beach day for my birthday, just our close girl friends. Of course I said "YES!!", and so we planned it. 

Becca, Shannon, Tricia, Emily and I. 

And then a few days ago, I was shopping with my Mama on her birthday and thought "Oh my gosh, Shannon's birthday is the day before! We should surprise her with gifts at "my" birthday beach day!". 

So today when I got up and Becs and I drove to the beach and parked and didn't see anyone cars, I thought it was weird. But you know, maybe we were the first ones there. Remember, I thought I was headed to the beach with 4 of my best friends......."Where is Emily? so weird....." and then Emily jumps out from behind the lifeguard station screaming "SURPRISE!!" along with most of my best friends!! 

Turns out, they've been secretly planning a surprise party for me for WEEKS and I didn't have one.single.clue. 

I'm pretty sure I've been blessed with the best friends on the planet. Amazingly enough, I didn't cry. 
Although I was equal parts confusion and took me about 20 minutes to realize they came to the beach to be WITH ME. Gah. Now that makes me all teary. 

We floated and swam in the most crazy-flat, clear, warm water for 2 hours, left for pizza (due to threatening storms and lifeguards telling us to leave. "WE AREN'T LEAVING" *Lightning strikes* "Great! Let's go! Pizza!"), we went to the pizza place, almost died laughing, came back and swam for another 2 hours (and surprised Shannon with gifts!), then went for Coldstone Ice Cream at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk, and almost got our cars towed by an overzealous policeman. Thank God for Gabe's look over at the parking lot! 

I laughed more than I have in months - I'm talking tears in my eyes - can't even breathe - my abs are screaming- laughter. Becs and I finished the day off with singing Queen and songs from Beauty and the Beast all the way home at the top of our lungs. We do dramatic very well. 

It was the perfect day with the most wonderful, hysterical, giving people. I love them SO much. 

Thank you, Ben & Emily & Georgia, Miss Jo, Gabe & Leah, Bro Nathan, Jeff & Nichole, Shannon, Becs, Tricia & Cody, David & Ryan!!! 

We're already re-living the memories and quotes on FB, and my arms are already sore from all the swimming and my mind and heart are full of the sweetness and wonderfulness of the day. 

It was all-smiles and all joy and all peace and all grace and all wonderful friends and all beautiful summer. 

It was one of those great, great days with absolutely no flaws. I've been so blessed. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Shannon -

 So this morning (not being quite all awake, apparently), I scrolled through my contacts on my cell phone, saw "Sha..." and hit the button to send. A few rings and she picks up - "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!" I say exuberantly....and the voice on the other end says "It's not my birthday!" and I say "It's NOT?!!" and she says "You called the wrong person, didn't you. Who were you trying to call?" and I say "Shannon!!" and she starts laughing....because I called my friend Sharon Patterson. 


So I chatted with her and loved the fact I called someone I liked a whole lot, wished her a happy non-birthday, and hung up. This time I triple checked who I dialed and when I got Shannon Fitzgerald's voicemail, I left her a voicemail, probably very confusingly explaining the whole delightful mess. 

So HAPPY 19th BIRTHDAY to one of the dearest and most special people on the planet 
- Miss Shannon Ashley Fitzgerald. 



You know I only write what I mean, so take all these words and store them in your heart 
under the file that says "Jean Marie loves me" and know it's so true........

It may sound odd, but I have dreams for my friends. I think it might even sound odd to me to say it aloud....but I do. I dream for them. Like maybe one dreams what a sister will accomplish, or who a cousin will come to know, or how their dreams in life will fall into place in one fell joyful moment. 

Shannon brings out the dreaming in me. She has so much potential. She is incredibly smart. 
Most days it seems like we are all just working together....we take photos, we edit them, we wait on pins and needles for those first glances and happy words from the clients.....and then some other days, it's like the lights go on and the pictures come alive with meaning and life feels very full. 

I'm so glad we share our love for photography, because so many times I write Shannon to bounce ideas off of her. She's honest in the most gracious way, she is encouraging and she praises highly. She is someone you WANT to ask their opinion, because you know she will always give it with the utmost love. 

November 2, 2013 Barberville Fall Jamboree 

She is hands down one of the cutest, sweetest, most fun and relaxing people to be around ... EVER. And I think I have pretty great friends....all of my pretty great friends would agree on the spot that we love being around Shannon. Sometimes I think she will never get married because we all are so protective of her. We're like a gang of bodyguards. Hahaha! You can hurt any of us, but come hell or high water, you will not hurt our Shannon. 

She is like the shimmering light in the midst of us, and we all want the very very best for her. 

She's funny and fun to be with, she is empathetic and compassionate, she is gracious and pleasant and all those old fashioned charming words that when you read them about a person, you sigh and sort of snuggle down in your chair because you have also loved a friend that way. 

She is tiny, Irish, a fighter, loyal, faithful, sweet, intuitive, a dreamer, a sensitive and deep soul. 

 Shannon is old school...she sends me cards in the mail, filled with words of love and thankfulness for our friendship written in her flowing script.....
I've cried many days in gratefulness for being at the receiving end of those. 

She is incredibly thankful. For everything. 
Look, a flower is blooming - how sweet that is. Look, the sun is shining right through the clouds there - oh, that is gorgeous. Look, that puppy is so cute - awww, how sweet! Look, it's raining, look, it's windy, look, I just fell over into that wave - Hahaha! 

It isn't forced, or fake, or made up for others - it is a beautiful childlike wonder of life, expressed in joy. 

Now take a minute and realize how many people you know that do that......we can be driving in the car, and it will suddenly just turn into one of the best hours of the year. She makes me reluctant to drop her off at her house. She lives in joy, and spills over that joy into other people. 

It's a beautiful trait, y'all. 

Shannon makes me want to be better at that. Actually, Shannon makes me want to be better at JOY, period. 

November 3, 2013 Barberville Fall Jamboree

And it isn't all sunshine and roses and life is perfect for forever in Shannon's World. Because it's not

Sometimes it's tears late at night and hurtful words spoken in haste and sometimes it's pain over losing something or someone that just makes the world so cold you listen to "Cold Is the Night" by the Oh Hello's on repeat because Lauren moved away. (We miss you, Lauren) 

Sometimes it is confusion or fear over what the Lord is doing or how to move forward. Sometimes it is just unexplained pain that I read through her sentences of Instant doesn't have a word, it doesn't have a name, it doesn't have a reason.....sometimes it just hurts. 

Shannon has never left me alone in my grief, she has come right up alongside me and written me from her heart, she has refused to stand on the sidelines because there is nothing to say. Instead she has come up, slid her arm around my waist, squeezed me, and said nothing in a beautiful silence until I'm ready to speak. And although her world may have been hurting, she still gave and gave and gave, because that is who she is. 

January 4, 2014 - Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

And so I dream for her.....what could be, what will be, what grand places we could someday see and have memories of.
What amazing things the Lord might do through our lives. 

I distinctly remember standing next to her, our hair whipping around in some very cold winter wind, and having an almost fierce pride and love for her. As if we were sisters, and I was hoping that the best of this world could be given to someone as beautiful of heart as Shannon. 

"Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see." ~ Mark Twain 

That quote reminds me a lot of Shannon. I am deeply impacted by her life, her heart for God, her willingness to fight for the gift of righteousness, her love for her family, her gift of friendship to her friends. 

Kindness is a beautiful thing in the midst of any season of life, and Shannon has shown it in all of hers. 
She is one of the most kind people I know, and I'm so blessed and thankful to know her as friend.

Feb 28 - Shooting Gabe & Abi's wedding 

(I just had to include these .... HAHAHAHAHAHA.) Exuberance is something we know how to show.

March 29, 2014:  On the day we figured out what Barberville would be like if it was a water park. 

I want to close with this, from last year's birthday post:

"The Lord shines in her. Shannon is so full of light. 

She desires the Lord's will for her life, and it shows. 
She desires the best for everyone, sees the best in everyone, loves giving her all for everyone.
That is a Christ-like heart. She opens herself to life, and pours herself back into it with such compassion and grace. 
She is ready to love, and to be loved in any way in return. 

It is not that she has not known sorrow. It is that she has known much light. 
It it not that she never gets impatient with others or herself. It is that she understands grace.
It is not that she never feels lonely or worried or sad. It is that she knows she is beloved and redeemed. 
It is that she knows, and loves with a deep love and reverence - her Lord and Savior, Jesus. 

Because Jesus has chosen us to be His own, He has chosen us for light. Shannon shines gloriously."

"But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." 
~ Proverbs 4:18 ~  

May 2014 - Beach Day! 

Shannon, I want you to know that all you've given me in friendship has been noted, has been remembered, has been treasured.
I am so thankful to have you in my life, and to share life with you! I pray this is an amazing and wonderful year, full of God's deepest peace and richest mercies. 

Happy 19th Birthday, Shannon!!!! 

I'm SO excited for the beach day tomorrow! I can't wait to hug you and float in the sea with you. 

You are very, very loved, dearest Shan. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dear Mama -

Dear Mama ...

Happy Birthday!!! You are so very, very loved.

I am so thankful for every day I get to spend with you,
and cherish our many happy memories made - just the two of us! :D

Mama, you are a loyal, steadfast, faithful friend.
 I know I'm just one of many who have been blessed with your loving heart, your willingness to share, your tendency to find joy and bring laughter. It's a wonderful thing to know my friends all adore you - and well they should. I wouldn't have it any other way! ;)

Thank you for loving our family with your whole heart, and giving us 300%.
 I'm thankful every day for the impact you have had on my life, and continue to!

I love you more than anything, Mama. I'd move mountains for you. 

God gave our family the very best we could ever ask for - love, patience, gentleness, joy.
At the top of my list of dreams is spending all of this life with you, and forever with you in Heaven.
It's the very best of dreams, because I know it will come true.

I love you so, so much. I hope you have a wonderful Birthday!!

Your Baby Girl

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Project 52 (24) -

"Stay as sweet as you are, don't let a thing ever change you. 
Stay as sweet as you are, don't let a soul rearrange you. 
Don't ever lose all the charm you possess. 
Your loveliness, darling, the way you say "Yes". 

Stay as sweet as you are, discreet as you are, you're divine, dear. 
Stay as grand as you are, and as you are, tell me that you're mine, dear.
Young and gay, or old and gray, near to me or afar.
Night and day I pray, that you'll always stay - as sweet as you are." 
~ Nat King Cole ~ 

Week 24 

 My parents hands - they've been married 29.5 years! It will be 30 years this November. 

Today after Amanda & Troy's wedding, my Daddy, Mama and I went out to Ted's Montana Grill (our favorite restaurant!), there in Jacksonville, since we don't have one near us. Tomorrow is Father's Day, and on Wednesday is my Mama's birthday! So it was two - celebrations - worth of a dinner!! :) 

We had a great time and the food was amazing (as it always is). Mama got a free cookie and Hagen Daz ice cream for her birthday! Ted's has this amazing brown paper with western maps printed on it that goes over the tablecloths, and it was the perfect highlight in the photo, to my parents many years of faithfulness and loving commitment and joy. It just struck me how ageless and true real love can be. 

I love my parents so much! I'm grateful every day for the love and care they give to our family. Marriage seems so sweet and tender when I look at them. Everything I've ever loved about marriage has been from seeing them live it day in and day out, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow. 

Watching them and loving them, it's easy to see why love is such a beautiful and captivating thing. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sunday Afternoon at the Beach -

On Sunday, (just hours after flying in the night before from Colorado), I had the extreme desire to plant myself on some warm sand and swim in the coolness of the ocean. So I did what any other Floridian would do...I wrote some best friends and asked them to go with me. Turns out, I wasn't the only one walking out of church saying "Oh my word. The only good idea for today is the beach.". It was SO HOT (93 degrees) - it had a UV index of 11 (Extreme), and so Becca, Cam, Lynnae and I slathered on some sunscreen and then dove into the most deliciously clear, teal and green, perfect temperature water that I've been in this year so far. It was so delightful we just couldn't stop saying how great it was. 

It was just what I needed....even looking back through the pictures give me so much peace. Becca and I took our GoPro's and were dubbed "cool" by a few teenagers, which I promise you....has never happened to me before. I whispered to Becs "We are the cool kids! finally!". Being homeschooled gives you .0000000007% of a chance of ever being a cool or popular kid. So we swam around with our GoPro's, shooting absolutely blind...and from the way these turned out, I couldn't even care. 

It's like finding art you couldn't see until you got home. Like, I see it underwater, as I swim through waves....but it's so hard to explain until I see it in a photo. Gorgeous. This is why I love Florida. This is why I love the Ocean. This is why I love living on the coast and ain't never leaving. 

Enjoy some photos of Florida sunshine and Atlantic water! 

Lynnae and I. SO good seeing her again! 

Floating....waiting for the next wave to carry me over....bliss. 

Sweet friends.  

This is what I dream about in good dreams.

I've been waiting for this kind of an absolutely perfect weather & water combination ... I was SO happy.

I told Becs: "So there's this pic of the three of us, it's so wonderful, it's got light and bubbles and us....and our heads are above water, so that's kind of weird. Wonderful and weird." and she writes back and says "Aka: the definition of us.". HAHAHAA. So true.


See those thundercloud bubbles at the top left? That's what it looks like when a wave crashes over you. And it makes the most beautiful and wonderful sound. 

Split realities. 


Lynnae (on right) and me (in black)! :D 

This is what we saw for 2 hours. Two wonderful - peaceful - this is the best day- hours. 

Looking up at the sun from under 2 feet of salt water. 

Going through another wave. ;) 

This girl makes my life so much better. I love you, Becs. 

Getting ready to duck dive ... and no, a shark didn't grab that swimmer on the right - she's just diving out of frame. 

Joy. :D

I can't even put words to this - just COME DOWN HERE AND GO TO THE BEACH WITH ME.

So close to the surface......and then whoosh! air! 

The designs in bubbles underwater just amazes me. It's a whole new art world underneath there. 

God made the most beautiful things when He made water and sky and air and waves.

I love the Atlantic. 

Our day. Couldn't have been better!!!!

It was just what I needed .... and I'm so thankful we were able to go together!!

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Project 52 (23) -

Week 23 - June 5th, 2014, Monument, CO.

 The Patterson home.....where I spent this week.
It is truly a haven, a place where both sweet and sad memories have been made, but overwhelmingly a place where God's faithfulness is remembered. 

It is where peace finds me, and I've come away so refreshed, rested, joyful, and tremendously at peace. 
So thankful for God's mercies to me this week, and for giving me so many to love and know in this life.

With love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~  

Monday, June 2, 2014

In Memory of Avery -

"My heart and flesh may fail, the earth below give way, 
but with my eyes, with my eyes, I'll see the Lord. 
Lifted high upon that Day, behold the Lamb that was slain, 
and I'll know every tear was worth it all." ~ Shane & Shane

Today it has been 2 years since Avery left this earthly land for his heavenly home.

And like last year, I wanted to do something joyful and tangible in the midst of all the sadness that today holds.
So like last year, I logged onto "donations" under Show Hope and donated in Avery's honor and memory.
The money will be used for a life-saving surgery for an orphan under the care of Show Hope.

It brings me such joy to know that because of Avery, a child's life will be changed for the better,
and that Avery's name is still being spoken in our world and he is still being known and remembered.

Avery had great weight in my world, he was JOY, peace, grace, mercies, love - all bundled up in a baby.
He was promises come true, he was prayers answered, he was my "I thank God upon every remembrance of you" little man.

And so it means so much to know that somewhere....because of a baby boy who changed my world, my heart, my relationship with Jesus, my longing and love for Heaven ... there will be a life and Lord willing, a home with an earthly family, and a Heaven with a glorified family. These are my prayers as I donate to Show Hope.

Audra and John (and families) ... this isn't just for Avery and because of Avery - it is for YOU and because of YOU.
All your children have special places in my heart, and I love you all to the moon and back. 

Avery ....

From the first minute you looked into my eyes, you looked back at your Mama to make sure all was right because you weren't sure at the tears streaming down my face and the "oh, oh, oh!!'s" coming from my mouth.

I was just so overjoyed to SEE you and hold you, baby. You'll know one day how much I love you when I run and squeeze you in the longest hug in Heaven. I can't wait to see you again. I miss you so much, little man!

I miss bumping noses with you, and playing with your Mickey Mouse with you and watching your whole face light up.
Your smile was irresistible and your laugh contagious to everyone.
I miss knowing I'm your Auntie Jemmie and sending you THE cutest clothes and gifts that I couldn't resist buying for you.
I miss knowing you are growing up and walking the same earth as me. I miss praying for you.
I miss hearing the crazy things you were doing and I miss seeing your face pop up in my FB news feed.

I miss saying your name without feeling a sad punch in the gut.
I miss you with every baby being born, I miss you every time I hold a baby your age.

I miss you in your Mama's arms and Daddy's shoulders. I miss you when I look in Henry's eyes and see his curls.

I know your family misses you a million times more than I ever could, and it makes me sad that we have to wait a long time to see you again, but Jesus tells us that this is a short while here, so we are trying to be patient.

Avery .... even as I'm missing you, I'm learning that knowing you has brought me closer to Jesus. I wouldn't have made it through one year, even less 2 years without Jesus leading me! The darkness is deep without the joy of you, but Jesus is the light that is always with me. He is with me in the heavy night and during the light day. I trust Jesus with more now than I ever did before you were here.

You have taught me to be a new kind of harder brave. You have taught me to be tender, to be bold.
You've left me with the desire to capture all of this life in the best photographs I can because the ones of you mean so much. You are my inspiration when I'm tired and discouraged and don't think I can do anymore.

Because of you, Avery ..... I see wonder and meaning in the little things. I see God's hand in more of life and His grace deeper than I could ever wonder. You changed my world in a way I'd never thought I'd know again when you were born - you were proof that God loves to give His children the best.

Know that I think of you so often and I love you to the moon and back and all the stars in between.
I'll see you again SOON and there will be no more goodbyes. We'll live forever with Jesus.

And then I can tell you a million more made up pirate stories and we can dream of going to the beach in the new Land, and I can share with you all that Jesus did in our world, things you will already know, and we'll worship and praise Jesus together because He promised us all these things and MORE because He loves us.

I'm honored to have known you, and today ... I'm so thankful that Jesus holds you in His arms.

I love you, Avery John Notgrass. In 16 months, you changed my world for the glorious better. See you soon.
~ Auntie Jemmie ~

P.S. I think of you every time I see a shooting star....and thank God for you the second after.