Monday, November 30, 2015

100 Days Until CHINA!!! -

"Immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine...." {Ephesians 3:20}

100 days until I leave for CHINA!!! 

I'm SOOOO excited. 

Having the days start in the double digits tomorrow just makes it seem so much closer!!
I'm still amazed, honored, overwhelmed with joy that I am privileged to go. 

So thankful. I just couldn't go without writing something on the blog! 

With much love and excitement,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 48} -

{Week 48} Sunflower Maze. Fields of Yellow ~ November 25, 2015 ~ Autumn in Florida ~ iPod Touch

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!!! -

 Happy Thanksgiving!!! From my family table to yours. 

May your laughter be sweet, your memories grateful,
your conversation loving, your glances and words joyful,
your soul at peace, and your heart thankful for all our blessings. 

For we have been so blessed. 

In joy and in sorrow, His lovingkindness has rested upon us ... 
and His promises are that it always will.

 He has and always will be, Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. 
Who gives Himself to his children, Who pulls us into unfathomable love, 
Who crowns our life with lovingkindness, Who fills our days with good things and peace, 
Who has accomplished everything for us so that we may be known as His own. 

"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; 
your judgements are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord. 

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! 
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!" 

~ Psalm 36: 5-10 ~ 

As we gather with friends who have become like family today...
I look forward to many hugs, to delicious food, but most of all, rejoicing in what the Lord has done,
and holding tight the cherished knowledge of Home, here, and Home, forever with the Lord. 

With thankfulness and peace,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

{My article from 2 years ago is here, for the broken hearts missing hurting ones, my prayers are with you!} 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy 23rd Birthday, Tricia! -

Happy 23rd Birthday, Tricia!!! 

There. I've got that unextraordinary saying out of the way. Now on to the very unextrodinary that is Tricia....

"You are born in the month of Thankfulness!! perfect!"
I exclaimed this morning as I facetimed her in my jammies and wild hair at 8:30am.
She, on the other hand, looked: amazing. She was dropping mini marshmallows into her hot cocoa
and a little boy came racing up in a towel to be cuddled and get "one of dose.". 

She tackles Motherhood with bravery. With honest words. With humility.

Watching her transform from "Cody's girlfriend" at the State fair
 to "Cody's wife" (sitting on his lap at their wedding reception and kissing every 10 minutes)
to "Cody's wife/Mother of 2 boys" has been....wonderful. Beautiful. Filled with laughter.

But mostly, it has taught me that the call to live faithfully is so important, and Tricia has done it so well. 

I'm challenged by Tricia, and I'm not even a wife & mother yet! 
She holds bountiful grace in her heart. 

She's going to probably shrug almost all of this blog post off, saying I'm "too sweet & too kind". 

But I'm not. I'm saying what I know. 

And what I know is that best heart friends like Tricia are so so rare, and I'm so blessed to know her.

She is kind, sweet, precious, rare, special, joyful, thoughtful, hilarious, teasing, gentle, sensitive,
loving, fun, generous, loyal, doting, strong, brave, funny and beloved by all. 

We text in the night sometimes. To rant about how much we hate cancer. Just one line. Immediate prayers. 

"Tricia", I told Emily years ago "....holds her heart in her eyes, and she feels, thinks, sees. It's all in her eyes." 

She's listened and talked me through so many hard times, 
she's held me for long minutes of aching sobbing in grief,
she's looked past the goofiness and joking of light conversation,
she's seen me too quiet in the kitchen and slipped her arm around my waist,
and pulled me away to talk. "Jean....tell me."

She's taken a look at me, then looked again, and pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. 

She sees more than most of the world in a single glance. She is a safe place for me. :)
It's one of the reasons my heart is in my eyes when I'm with her too. 

And why JOY and laughter are so unbelievably more hilarious when I'm with her. 
I've cried laughing with her (and Emily, we are all quite the trio when we're together) so much. 

Laughter means SO MUCH, and I'm grateful for every moment I can spend with Tricia. 

Tricia took our Christmas picture this year at Barberville (really super quick in the hot heat!), 
and I wanted a pic with Tricia. Almost ALL of the pics are of me cracking up because she is so hysterical. 

This exhibits us SO WELL. Hahahahaha. 

Tricia, my "heart in your eyes" friend. My encourager and supporter. My friend and confidant. 
My prayer warrior in the night and during the hard times. My friend that walks faithfully through the joy and the hard. 

You are an immeasurable blessing to me, and I love you so very much. 

Happy 23rd Birthday!!! Life is so much better with you in it, and I always thank God for you. 

Here's to sooo many more wonderful and laughter filled memories with you. 

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 47} -

{Week 47} Saturday, November 21, 2015 ~ Winter Garden, FL ~ iPod Touch photo

So enjoyed walking around beautiful Winter Garden today, 
both for a scavenger hunt with St. Andrews friends,
and then after for leisure! It's really lovely there, and Christmas decorations were up.

Florida is still so green. ;) Oh, the Subtropics life in "Autumn & Winter". haha. 

~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On Terrorism & The Refugee Crisis -

This morning when I logged onto Facebook, I saw that several treasured friends had shared this, 
so I clicked on the article, and expected to skim through, after all, I see hundreds of photographs online 
every single day. I study them, I make them, I stare absently at them. It's my job, my world. 

But I couldn't skip through these. I was arrested by the little details, the ages, the stories. 
I look at these pictures and see little children I know and love: The curls on one little 1 yr old head.
The chub on a little arm, the way another lies down. My heart is alarmed and angry that we can't protect them better,
that their parents can't, because they can't, even though that's the ache in their heart. 

Children. Little Children. With no safe place to sleep. 

Shortly after spending a good half hour looking through the pictures, I went to make myself some tea.

I stood in my quiet, safe little kitchen, in my safe little house on my safe little street in my safe little neighborhood
 that lives just down the road from my safe little church in my safe little town,
that resides in my safe little state in my safe (not so little) Country. 

I watched the breeze blow the little oak in the backyard,
just like I have millions of times since we planted it in our safe little yard that I grew up in.
I watched a green anole climb leisurely up the side of our porch, really the only place that is scary around here
or when anything fears for their lives is when I let Lucy Mae out on the back porch and she runs after the lizards. 

Last night my legs were aching, so I took a leisurely lavender bath.
Then I had a delicious 9 hours of sleep upon a comfy mattress with a feather pillow, three sheets of covers,
air conditioning bursting with clean air, a fan swirling on high, and a happy little dog curled into the small of my back.

This morning I had breakfast, with that amazing Kerrygold butter that was on sale this week at Publix,
and Mama bought some as a treat. And then I boiled some very clean water and made some tea. 

How safe and sheltered we are here. How ridiculously blessed and how uncommonly well and fair.

Talk about a huge reality check!! My Instagram looks shallow now. So does my thankfulness level. 

The best I've read so far on terrorism and the refugee crisis. 

and from a political standpoint: "In Defense of Refugees" 

and Relevant Magazine posted this earlier in the week:

I'm not here to preach. It's been overwhelming to even touch on the refugee crisis
because it's been going on for so long, and there's so much we don't know, and the need is SO HUGE. 

I'm just here to share a few articles and how I felt this morning when I realized how safe my world is,
compared to how very unsafe many others are, and how I wish I could make their world safe too. 

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you,
giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners,
for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." ~ Deuteronomy 10:18-19 

With love from my heart,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 46} -

{Week 46} ~ Fort Christmas, FL ~ November 14, 2015 

I shot a beautiful family session here tonight, and it was just perfect weather. 
I'd forgotten how big and beautiful it was there, I'd been wanting to shoot there all year! 
So blessed. 

~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Project 52 {Week 45} -

{Week 45} Tricia & David, her oldest little man, who is getting so tall. LOVE them.
 Barberville Fall Jamboree 2015 Day 1 ~ Barberville Pioneer Settlement, Pierson, FL

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When the American Dream is not the Goal -

Recently at church, an older man I've known my whole life listened to me excitedly tell him about China, then he, a little teasingly, moved right on from that to ask me that dreaded question: "So who do you want to be when you grow up?" I, very deflated about his lack of excitement over China, and, sinking into a little bit of sadness, quickly replied "Who knows? For now it's photographer, and I love that...", my voice trailed off. I love this older guy, and I'm (mostly) used to the ribbing. 

I got home and wrote on Twitter that I felt like it was my senior year in high school all over again. 
I got asked that question probably once a day if I went out of the house. I was certainly asking it of myself. It's so much pressure! And who on EARTH KNOWS exactly who they want to be for the rest of their lives?! It's crazy! Maybe you have a little idea, maybe you've got a massive dream, but few of us (in my world) spring out of college with your whole life figured out. 

I did have my whole life figured out.....once.
Then my Sunday School teacher died of ALS the day after 9/11. 
My grandparents followed after that. Many more loved ones after that. 

My dreams altered.

 I'd be a journalist, maybe. It was where I could see my soul most clearly. 

In my later teens, every event and adventure was captured with my camera....
So I'd be a photographer. It was where I could see myself LIVE most clearly. 

My goal in life was to make it past 30. (I'm completely serious) I didn't really have big dreams anymore. 
I never ever thought about getting old. I just tried to make it every day to 30. 

Then 2011 happened, with the loss of 4 friends to cancer. 
2012 rounded around, with the prayer "Please Lord, no one else. I can't lose anyone else."
6 months later, Avery slipped from this world to the next and all my dreams ended with him.
The next few months I don't even know what happened, because I can't remember. 
It was a blur of shock as Avery's funeral became the 1st of 5, the last ending with my remaining grandmother. 

I remember standing next to her casket while everyone cried, and my eyes were dry. 
I could either lose it, and not pull it together in hours, or...I could not cry. So I stood numb in the surrounding grief. 
I watched it all play out like a movie, like I knew it would, 
with my Daddy's arm around my waist, keeping me standing,
and I thought "There is more to this life....there is Heaven. There is more.". 

** This whole post was never going to be about a list of those I've lost, it just happened this way. **

After the loss of Avery, pictures meant EVERYTHING. I had hundreds of them of him on my computer.
I'd captured every little face he'd made in the days I'd spent with him. 

Photography suddenly took on a far greater weight than just art. It took on memories
It took on HOPE to see Avery as he was, as we are promised we will see again. 

January 1, 2015 {Shannon Ashley Photography}

On November 23, 2013, I launched my photography business, and my website. 
Five days before, I had started a Facebook Photography page, and had 100 likes. 
I'd been encouraged to do this by so many friends, to just start the business, and GO!!

{an excerpt from that Nov 23rd blogpost}

"Monday, the 18th, was the turning point day.  

The day I'll remember for a long time when God opened up everything and let me SEE my dreams could be more than dreams. 
It was a wonderful, amazing day. Not only were the "likes" flowing in about my FB page, but clients were booking me, 
and it wasn't a matter of if I could do it, it was a matter of if there were enough days to do it! 

On Monday, I wrote this on Facebook: 
"Today was an exciting day. For the first time in a long time, it felt like I stopped fearing 
and just started dreaming and dreaming BIG. 
It has been a whirlwind of possibilities and I'm feeling so blessed and loved by God. Here's to the next 70 years." 

I think it is a powerful thing to have friends and family and people you don't even know 
come up alongside of you and tell you - "You can do this.", and even more than that..knowing it yourself."
{end of quote}

And it's been an exhilarating ride! I've learned so much, and I'm not done yet, by any means.
I love my job, and I love the dreams that I've been building up, and the artwork I hope to create!
I love my little Jemmie Photography business, and I love that I've been doing it for 2 amazing years.

August 27, 2015

And on September 13th, 2015, I wrote this on a Sunday in the middle of my pastor's sermon:

"Faith waits.

Sometimes for a long time. 

"I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning, and the End." ~ Rev 21

Our faith is rooted and grounded in the One who created and reigns over all our world -
as a big picture, and more personally - all our dreams.

We are not overlooked in the plan of things. 
We are intricately known, loved, heard, and seen." 


The Lord has been building up in me a good work. All the terrible sorrows and all the amazing joys,
He has been weaving into a Story that I cannot understand but yet I know I will love the best. 

The Lord has been listening to my prayers and my heartbreak and my hopes. 

God is not finished creating in me all I will be for all eternity.
God ... is not working in us a beautiful glory that will only be encapsulated and shone on this earth,
but meant to be forever as an eternal beauty and redeemed soul. We shall be like Him.

I love being a photographer. I'd love to one day be a journalist. I'd love to be a photographer AND a journalist. :D
I'd love to use both of those in ministry, whether it's in book form, or vivid art form, or story form.
Maybe I'll be an orphan advocate, or maybe one day I'll write a book on grief and joy.
I'd love to be married and have children of my own, and keep my own little house.
I'd love to see the world. I'd love to feel Scottish winds in my face, and dip my hands into the Jordan River.

But I realize that the dream and the goal which must come first is not my own. It must be Jesus.
The goal... cannot be perfection, it cannot be success, it cannot be wellness, it cannot be myself.

The goal can only be - Jesus.

In America, we dream the American dream every day. We idolize and crave the beautiful pictures,
the better scenery, the model families, the bigger homes, the clearer air, the better photographer....etc.
We make the goal --- perfectionism.

We were not created to pursue perfectionism. We were created to pursue holiness.
We were created to love One Person: JESUS. And only He.

 Jesus was not born into our world to give us the American dream.
Nor was He born to lead us in this world without suffering, pain, sorrow, loss, sadness....
He came that we might have....LIFE. Life abundant in Him.

Dream big dreams. Hope with all your heart, because He IS our Hope.

I'm finally living my dream of going to CHINA. I've known I've been called for years.
I just didn't go until now. Don't put it off so long. There is so much joy in realized dreams.

His words written to us in the Bible inspire bravery, courage, battle, pressing on, winning the race.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope (which is Jesus & all His promises) 
without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." ~ Hebrews 10:23

Faith is the assurance of things NOT SEEN. It is strong conviction. It is actionable truth.

Faith produces trust, trust produces worship. Faith spurs on obedience and action.

Faith is the assurance of things HOPED FOR.
God never calls us to lesser dreams or hopes. God never calls us to give up.

January 1, 2015  {Shannon Ashley Photography}

"Faith is the root from which all that can beautify the human character grows." - Spurgeon

We serve a God who delights in keeping His promises, and Who loves to show us His glory.
He is building us into His own little children; it's a slow journey, but we shall arrive there.

"When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. 
He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved, moment by moment within,
all our earthly experiences of innocent love. 
All that was true love in them was, even on earth, 
far more His than ours, and ours only because His." ~ C.S. Lewis

So run the race with endurance, and don't give up on your big and little dreams!!
God delights in hearing them, and in knowing the stories behind those dreams more than anyone else could ever understand.
Remember that He who gives you those hopes has given them for a reason. 

Remember that you are infinitely known, loved, heard and seen.

First, Jesus. Always, first. Then, Life. Then, the whole world, my loves, because He is King over it all,
and created it for His glory and our delight. He is in it, and so are we. Dream on....

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~