Thursday, January 29, 2015

Talking About Heaven -

{Photo credit to my dear Shannon, from our Wintery beach walk this evening on Ormond Beach}

"I'll be traveling far from home, but I won't be looking for to roam.
I'll be crossing o'er the Great Divide, in a better Home to reside." 
~ Glory Bound by The Wailin' Jennys ~

It may not seem apparent visibly to most people, but I am almost constantly thinking about Heaven. 
After Avery died, I often would raise my hands towards the sunset because I felt as though Heaven was ripping the sky open and pouring through into our world. But I stopped after awhile because people simply didn't understand and I got tired of their blank looks after I explained. 

I talked about Heaven often, for the past 5.5 years, because Heaven was the Hope & Joy in the midst of terrible grief. 

Heaven is our Promise. 

I can't tell you how many adults told me that "anyone your age shouldn't be talking about Heaven, you should be thinking about your great life...". 

I'm not even going to get into how bad that theology is, but I will say that I felt like an old soul in a young body.
Maybe they weren't dreaming about Heaven at 50 & 60 years old because thankfully they hadn't just been to 10 funerals in a year. 

To me, Heaven is and always will be: a Place where the people that I life and miss live on; 
it is our Far Better Land, it is Peace, it is Glory; it is no more sin, it is no more tears, it is no more goodbyes. 
It is wellness, wholeness and seeing the face of the Savior we long to see. 
It is where every sad thing will become untrue, it is the restoration of the relationship that was broken by sin. 

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen....
But now they desire a better, that is, a Heavenly Country. 
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a City for them." 
~ Hebrews 11: 1 & 16 ~

Heaven is where I'll see my grandparents again and meet the family members I never knew. 
Heaven is where I won't ever worry about being good enough or that I'll lose my family before I die. 

Heaven will be the beautiful goodbye to a broken tempestuous dying world, and a fragrant hello to undying JOY,
as we SEE God make all things new in the Holy City, which needs no sun, for He is the light {Rev 21:22}

For Heaven is Heaven because Jesus is there. 

So yes, I can't wait, and no, I won't stop talking about it

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015

Photo taken 3 days after Avery was born - January 29, 2011

"If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You." ~ Psalm 139:11-12 

Today a very special little boy was born to some very wonderful friends.
I cried at the news, sobbed with joy and relief at the sight of his face for the first time. He was here!!! 

4 months later, I would hold him in my arms for the first time, with tears streaming down my face. I would sing hymns over him in the church I'd begged for his safety, and I'd take him to my beach on a cold and windy May Day in 2011. Oh, he was here, and every moment was rapture! 

One year and 3 days later,
I stumbled from my computer into the living room and let out a wail that came from my soul
so deep I've never heard it again, and my Daddy caught me before I hit the tile floor. 

Avery was gone. In the arms of Jesus. 

The pain is excruciating and visits often, the price for loving so deep, so hard, so much. 
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him, or know how he impacted and changed my world.
Avery was a gift and he is very much missed by his Auntie Jemmie. 

Happy 4th Birthday, little man. 

You are more alive than I've ever been, and more known than we can dream.
You are always in my heart, and I'm dreaming of the lovely things you are seeing every day. 
I will see you soon, and know "joy no one will take from you".
I'll go to bed tonight knowing that you are safe with Jesus, and His love for us is greater than we can imagine.

With love always, I'm saving up all my hugs and kisses for you until I see you again, 
~ Auntie Jemmie ~ 

2 Years ago, I wrote THIS - the story of the night he was born. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 4} -

{Week 4} January 24, 2015 

Tonight found me tromping around my favorite peaceful place, the wildlife refuge. It was super cold (for FL), the wind chill seemed to cut right through my jacket, and yet there were so many fishermen in various boats heading out. Although I took lots of pictures today, I loved this one the most. The pink water reflecting the sunset, the captain of the boat waiting for his friend, the shimmering colors, the peace and patience. 

I'm glad I was there tonight to see it. 

With love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 3} -

{Week 3} January 16, 2015 - Sunset under the Max Brewer Bridge by the Indian River. {iPod photo}

"In silence the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God." ~ Maud Hart Lovelace
{Betsy, Tacy, and Tib}

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Project 52, 2015 {Wk 1 & 2} -

{Week 1} One of the prettiest friends I have, Shannon, on our headshot photography solo photoshoot  sessions in the wildlife refuge. 
We braved 4 hours of rain, and got some amazing images. Love her & our 3 days together. - January 1, 2015 {New Year's Day}

{Week 2} I didn't take any camera pictures this week, 
but here's a sunrise panorama I shot with my iPod on a very cold and brisk morning - January 8th, 2015. 
And there's my start to this year's Project 52!!! Love it. 

With love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy 23rd Birthday, Emily! -

Today is EmilyElizabethCaseBrower's 23rd Birthday!!! 

I woke up and remembered (thankfully, haha. one year we forgot each other's) and have spent the last 5 hours trying to write something up in my head. I was drastically failing because every time words would come, I'd be swamped with this wave of delight & joy of the blessed friend she is to me. 

I wanted to run to her house and drive away with her & her two kiddos and do all our favorite things, all at once. Hahaha. Work is keeping me from it, though, and I know her birthday holds plans with her favorite people, and I hope her day is filled with the knowledge of how much she is loved. 

She's one of the few people I know who can sing almost any Disney song word for exact word. One time we put on Beauty & Beast while we were doing dishes at their 2nd house, and I couldn't at that moment recall a moment when I'd been happier than belting out semi-truths about Gaston amid laughter. 

She's one of the few people that understands the magic of Disney, and never gets tired of it. She knows Disney won't cure the world, but goodness gracious, it sure makes it so much better when you are sad. She's been there to Disney so many times I've lost count, but just take a look through her pictures, and you'll want to go.

She's strong and drop dead gorgeous, she's passionate and opinionated, she's gentle and patient (and sometimes she isn't, but she sure tries her hardest), she's honest to a fault, yet only chooses the encouraging things to tell you. She's hilarious to be around and to listen to. She is joyful and doesn't hesitate to make fun of herself. She loves deep and strong and wide, and makes you feel important by skyping or calling you at midnight before the news breaks. She loves her Ben and her girls with a fierce, undying, giving love. She is devoted and loyal. She is quieted by Scripture & quotes & prayers. She prays at the drop of a hat for her friends. She is gracious but do not cross the line of stupidity, because she has zero tolerance for that. Hahaha. 

She's an all-hours sort of friend. Even though our sleep schedules are so different now with her kids and my work schedule, we still manage to send each other things we know will make each other laugh, or type up short messages here and there. She keeps me laughing, and I need that so much. 

She understands quite a lot about how deeply I love, even when she doesn't say it. She could see it every time I held those precious babies for the first time - Georgia, David, Ryan, Phoenix. She has pulled me into their joyful life, and not let me go. She has made sure that I feel loved and welcomed and known. She hasn't left me without a sense of belonging, even when I'm loud or sad. 

We think so much alike in photography. Truly, her maternity & newborn sessions & and family sessions were collaborative efforts. "And then, I just want you to stand here, but I want the light to curve around you, so just move that arm, yeah, like that, and then look away, but don't be distant, and I want it to soften this part, but not the whole lace, you know? yeah, ok, now, yeah perfect. UGH. THIS IS THE BEST." and she knows it riiiiiight when that look hits my face. Hahahaha. Shooting weddings with her has only been a one-time joy, but I hope to repeat it sometime, because it was a blast. We need one with lots and lots of dancing, yo. Hook us up, kk? 

She is up for listening to whatever "AAAHHHH. I HAVE TO TELL YOU THIS." or "Today was super crappy, and I need to vent." or "I just want this dream to matter, and I need someone to listen." sort of conversation. There are rarely limits or filters to our conversations. We find in each other that deep "I need you for a little bit" kind of relationship, and it's such a blessed thing to know we have that in each other. It isn't forced or made up. God made us for community, and I've found in her one incredible kind of community - the kind that shows up and listens and makes you laugh after you've cried your eyes out. 

She gets me. I'm more myself when I'm around her than I am most people. And I'm happy there.
She is never too serious that you can't break through with something silly or a quote not quite forgotten. 

"Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? 
I thought that no one but myself....." ~ C.S. Lewis

I love being with her and I love knowing her more and more.
I'm so thankful for her, and all the ways she has poured JOY and GRACE into my life, and all the hilarious times we've shared. 

I hope 2015 is such an amazing, joy-filled, exciting yet relaxing, blessed year for her & Ben, G & Nixie! 

So Happy 23rd Birthday, babe!!!! Thank you for everything. You are one of the best. I love you. 

And don't forget --- I'll love you if you were dipped in dirt and wrapped in seaweed 
and called me every day crying because your favorite nail polish spilled on the floor. 


With love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~

{And quite excitingly & fittingly - this is my 800th post on this blog!!!! Wow.} 

Monday, January 5, 2015

December 20, 2013 -

Here's a throwback for you - the Hope's Going Away Party that EmilyBrower & I & our Moms threw for the Hopes before they moved to 'Bama last year. I've had these done for awhile, just never got around to blogging them. Then I had Becs & Shannon over for a few days last week and they were looking through pictures on my Mac, and found these. You would have thought it was the 2nd landing on the moon when they found them. And then I made them stop looking at them and promised to blog them really really really soon. Aka: ASAP. Hahaha. 

So here's December 20, 2013 in all of its Florida glory. My memories of that day: just being really happy that our gang was together, and having fun together, even if it was the last time for awhile. 

We had Boylan sodas. My favorite. 

So delicious. 

And Gus, who was such a little wee pup then. 

My heart. 

Like I said, my favorite. ;) 

Sleeping puppy. 

Our people. 

It amazes me how much G has grown up in the past year! 

Sports is a must in our gang. 

My Becs, who lights up my life....

.... and who models for me on demand.  


Sweet girl. 

There was an armadillo out. And we chased it. Hahaha. 

G loved playing with this volleyball. 

Besties. (yes, it was warm enough for shorts in December) 

Oh, those pig tails! 

Cutest little one. 

Emily is such an amazing Mama. 

Our laid back & super great party. 

The sun spills gold over this field in the evening...I miss going to this park to play volleyball with our gang! 

Nathan and his hilarious Camelbak. Georgia didn't know what to make of it. 

I have no idea what he's talking about, but this sums up our lives. Hahaa. 

Lauren, Shannon, Emily & I all tried to document as many memories as possible, I think.  

Baby Girl. 

Lauren's boots. 

Love her and her million faces. 

Being an honorary auntie sometimes means making leaf boats for your niece. 

 Becs is always a good honorary auntie too. She has the most experience out of all of us. 


That little bum! ;) 

So many smiles. 

Our girl. Gorgeous. 

Gus was running crazy. hahaha.  

Nathan & the pup. 

Pretty much everyone was keeping an eye on G or on Gus. Hahaha. We are a protective family gang. 

I'm a sucker for puppies. 

And I love my Mama. 

We all love our Mamas: Jo, Mary Ellen & Michelle. 

I have no idea what is going on here, but I remember laughing. A lot.  

We ended the night by Becs trying to teach me to Merengue. Let's say I failed. And she won. 

All in all, we miss Lauren & the Hopes a ton, and wish they would move back. They moved a year ago this Wednesday! But we are also glad and thankful for the ways God is using them in their new home and how He is leading them through new things & new journeys. We love them so much. 

This past week I've missed hanging out with Emily & Lauren so much more. Best friends are hard to come by, those who love you and want to be with you on adventures and share joy & sorrows. I'm so thankful for both of them in my life!! (But I'd totally love it if we could hang out soon, haha)
{PC: EmilyBrower (taken by Ben)}

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~