The story began on Christmas 1985 when I was just nine years old. I received my first camera as a gift that year. It was film, of course. One of those old-fashioned rectangular Kodak cameras, I’m quite sure. $10? $15? $20 max? Who knows how much that camera cost. I might not have known it at the time, but that camera was undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I never once stopped taking photos. I’d claim it’s the only thing I’ve done non-stop, my whole life, since I was a little girl. But that’s not really true.
The story began in 1988. July 4, 1988, to be exact. I’d just turned 12 and received my first diary for my birthday. I wrote stupid stuff, silly stuff in that diary. Like who came to our house for Easter weekend, all the shirts my crush wore to school, the grades I got in school, and why I thought people should be nicer. $5? $8? $12 max? Who knows how much that diary cost. I might not have known it at the time, but that diary was undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I never once stopped writing. I’d claim its the only thing I’ve done non-stop, my whole life, since I was a little girl. But that’s not really true.
The story began some unknown year when I was a little girl watching Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie on burnt red couches in the family room in our basement. I ate potato chips with bermuda onion dip, and cupcakes I dug out from Tupperware in the stand-up freezer. In-between adventures with Marcia and Greg and Laura and Mary, images from a television advertisement for Children’s Christian Fund clung to my soul. A man with a white beard told me stories about children afar living in extreme poverty. He told me I could sponsor a child for just 80 cents a day and asked me why I’m waiting as I watched children walk barefoot through slums. When that little girl stared at me through the screen, my tiny heart wanted to help. I paid nothing. Nada. Zilch. I might not have known it at the time, but the continual running of those television ads were undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I watched those ads intently for years, as long as they played them on TV. I’d claim I’d forgotten about those children, about my deep-seeded passion for children and families living in extreme poverty. Maybe it was just a childhood whim, maybe the nonprofits manipulated my young, tender heart. But that’s not really true. The truth is that the passion lay dormant due to a culture that doesn’t talk much about people living in extreme poverty. Thanks to God’s grace, I was exposed to Compassion International via my favorite blogger, Ann Voskamp, in 2010. In August 2012, we sponsored our first child. In February 2014, I traveled to Haiti with Compassion International. In January 2015, I was invited by Compassion International to travel to the Dominican Republic with two other writers. And in late 2015, I traveled to Kenya with a small nonprofit, Love for Kenya, to spend 10 days with widows and children in an orphanage. Writing and photographing my way through all three trips was pretty much a dream come true.
I began dreaming about becoming an author in early 2003. The dreaming was private, intense and specific for many years.
I began a blog, Perfectly Unbalanced Supermom, in 2010, but never published a post on it. I was more than ready to write publicly, but that particular blog just wasn’t quite right.
I launched this blog, Divine in the Daily, in July 2012, and have been writing here faithfully for 4 1/2 years. 439 published posts. 91 unpublished posts in the draft box. Four children’s books in the works. A heavy, but hopeful adult nonfiction is somewhere on the horizon. FOUR additional nonfiction books and TWO ebook ideas sit in Evernote as very real and viable possibilities, but they’re somewhere out there in the distance I can’t yet see. Yes, this dream is for an older and wiser woman who’s not that much interested in retirement.
I just wrapped up my second season of professional photography, and it’s been gangbusters, friends. Beyond anything I ever imagined.
This space, Divine in the Daily, has always been sacred to me. But today, I’m here to say it’s time to go. It’s time to close this space down and begin again.
For the past seven months, I’ve felt more and more clear that I need to merge my writing, photography and my passion for missions. I’ve told a few people (quite literally, a few) one of my specific and ultimate long-term visions. If, by the grace of God, I were to ever reach that vision, it would require me to have a complete MERGE of my writing and photography work with my passion for missions. In that ultimate vision, ALL THREE are working together in harmony. I can no longer pretend that my writing operates separate from my photography which operates separate from my interest in missions. As far as I can see, as far as I can perceive, the three are ONE.
Recently, I attended a writing workshop and wrote a seven-year vision. That seven-year vision ALSO requires a merge of all three, writing, photography and missions.
So. Here we are.
This is the LAST blog post I’m writing on Divine in the Daily under the domain name, www.divineinthedaily.com. Soon, Divine in the Daily will no longer exist.
I have a few more photo shoots to share on my photography Facebook page, and after that, my photography business will no longer be named Knit Woven Made Photography.
EVERYTHING – writing, photography and missions – will be merged into ONE NEW WEBSITE that will provide a foundation which will support the integrated, long-term vision God has given me.
Honestly, I might be crazy. Call me crazy way back to 9 years old when I received that camera for Christmas, or 12 years old when I began writing in the diary I received for my birthday, or crazy watching Marcia and Laura while eating chips and cupcakes on the couch while watching children walk barefoot through slums in faraway lands. I’ve spent a lifetime caring what people think and doing all the “right” things. But I kind of don’t care what everyone thinks anymore. Call me crazy. All the signs keep adding up in the land of crazy. I’ll follow these crazy dreams wherever they lead.
For now, I’m signing off Divine in the Daily. Goodbye. You’ve been good. So good. Thank you to my dear and faithful readers. You are marvelous and faithful and oh so strong.
It’s your story I’m concerned about. What I’ve learned most through this space is that it’s really not about me anyway. The story I’ve shared today? It’s mine. But it’s meant for greater good. So goodbye, farewell, Divine in the Daily. There are greater stories to tell. There’s a better, more integrated vision for the gifts God’s granted me, and that will be best served in another space, another place.
I can’t promise when I’ll launch the new site. I’ve already been working hard behind the scenes, and have much work to do ahead. I need time and space to do everything required to get another site up and ready. It might be a couple weeks, it might be a month. Who’s to say? I’ll do my part. I’ll work as hard and as often as I’m able. Yes, I might be turtle slow, but this turtle’s story goes way, way back. Turtle it will be.
God bless, goodbye and I’ll see you around the other side.
P.S. Stay with me. NO need to unfollow. NO need for you to leave. I’ll be back and will be sure to let you know when everything new is ready to go. So excited for you to join me as I journey to the next chapter of this story.
My name is Erica. I am a 38-year-old public school art teacher. I have been teaching for over 10 years and love my job. Unlike many mothers with children with disabilities, I have managed to maintain my career. I feel very blessed to work with over 500 students in our town in Minnesota.
I have been married since 2006. My husband, Scott, is an outside sales person for a title company. He is the most amazing father. He has stepped up, when he could have run away. I admire his strength for completely doing this with me day-to-day.
Our only son, Grant, was about 6 when his first serious round of self injury began. He has some level of intellectual disability, autism, and Avoidant Restrictive Feeding Intake Disorder (ArFID) which resulted in a g-tube getting surgically placed in August. Below is just a small piece of my life story. I am writing regularly at erica873.wixsite.com/grant and share updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/deargrant if you would like to read more.
I was cleaning up my art room, like I always do. Pandora was playing “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. I know this song really well. I might be able to sing along without the lyrics without them in front of me. Can you hear it now?
” Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus…”
This song triggers a variety of emotions. I sing along. Just in my head. I don’t need someone to walk in my classroom and hear me.
Taylor sings …
“You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
I won’t make it any other way”
I push the tears back. I want to let them flow at this moment, but I don’t and I won’t. I have let them flow before. I have had deep, ugly cries in the last six months. I have done this in front of my son. I have done it alone. But, I have never let myself cry like this in front of anyone else. This song is triggering this feeling, but I push it down.
I feel regret and anger when I have cried like this in front of Grant. It makes me cry more. My anger builds with every piece of this of this journey. The tears flow easily if he hurts me and I am not talking about emotional pain. I have never had a verbal argument with him. He is not considered “non-verbal,” but he is not functionally conversational either.
He has attacked my hair so many times I can’t count all of the incidences. Even in one day, he has come at me over 20 times. It’s like he is trying to remove chunks of my hair. I am trained in something called “CPI” so I know how to release his hands from head. I have to press on his knuckles. My scalp hurts after he comes after me. After a summer of hair pulls, I eventually sacrifice my long strands for a chin length “do.” I resent him in that moment at the hair salon. I tell myself it’s just hair. It is not me or who I am as a woman. It’s just hair. I eventually purchase hair turbans off of Amazon to protect my poor scalp. Cutting my hair doesn’t prove to be enough to keep him from hurting me.
He has tried to hurt my eyes. This is how it all started. He would push his fingers into my tear ducts. It happened so quickly. It’s hard to explain how anyone can get to your eyes so quickly.
Today he mostly kicks me. He hits me. He has bruised my eye area. He has scratched my skin and, more recently, he has learned how to head butt. This might be the worst new behavior. It comes out of nowhere. I can be putting on his diaper or he can be sitting on my lap. I might lean over to fix something and his head, with a helmet on, comes at my face so quickly. I can’t get out of the way. I bawl.
There was a day where he hit me so hard, I question if there is blood running down my face. I luck out, it’s only mucus. My nose feels broken regardless. It’s hard to hide my emotions. Tears flow easily. I want to hide. I can’t show him how upset I am in these moments.
This head butting issue really irritates me. On Halloween, his head hits my mouth. I thought he had loosened a tooth. I am not sure if he just caused me serious dental issues. I am hysterical. I grasp my face in horror. WHAT DID HE JUST DO!? How can a 9 year old be this violent? He stares at me as tears make my mascara drip black lines down my face. I am flushed. My lip is busted open this time. I have not overreacted. I might have my teeth still, but that was truly painful. I fall to the floor sobbing. He just stares at me. He might have said something like “mommy sad.” Yes, Grant. Sad is only the beginning of the emotions I feel in this moment.
Deep anger fills me. I don’t lash back. But, every cell in my body wants to fight. But, I can’t. There is no point. He doesn’t understand what he is doing. He just sees his mother crying. To him, this is interesting. So he will do it again. I have sealed that destiny with my outward emotions. But, I can’t stop in these times. I am getting hurt. I am hurt. I cry. I am so unbelievably tired of this.
Attacking me…this only a piece of what is happening in my home on a daily basis. Some days are worse. Some are better. I ask myself constantly “What is worse than this?” I mean, I quite literally in my head run through a game called “What is worse than this situation?” We have to find answers. We have to move forward. I remind myself that we are lucky he is alive. We wait patiently for his turn at the hospital. I’ll do the best I can with each day as it comes. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe. I will hold on to the hope I must keep in my heart for the three of us for a better and easier life.
Recently, I received an email from a photography client who loved the photos I took of her family, but…ummm…herself? Not so much. She went on to describe WHY she didn’t like herself in the photos and what specific action she needed to take to remediate that problem next time they take family photos. The funny thing is, I thought she looked STUNNING in REAL LIFE and STUNNING in the PHOTOS. I never thought once that something was off with her look, her style or anything about her. In fact, I thought she was beautiful, poised and TOTALLY put together from head to toe.
I sat and started at the email, wondering if there was something I could have done differently to make this mama feel more beautiful when we took the photos, something I could have done differently with posing to make her feel more at ease, something I could have done differently in editing to make her beautiful self pop from the picture even more.
As I sat staring at that email, I realized this wasn’t about me.
Memories came flooding back. This territory was all too familiar. You see, three years ago, I was the one emailing our photographer, saying I liked our family photos, but I didn’t really like any of the head shots we took of me during the photo shoot. I felt uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera. I shopped for myself last and bought a shirt that worked with everyone else’s clothes, but I didn’t ever really love it. I felt fat in the jeans I was wearing. The bags under my eyes were too big. I didn’t look like myself. I don’t know. I just didn’t like myself in the photos.
We used the family photo for our Christmas card that year, we printed a family 5×7 for our living room, and I put one of the family photos up on my blog’s “Meet Amy” page. But I NEVER used ANY of the head shots of myself from that photo shoot. Never updated the photo on my blog. Never updated my social media photos. Never used them in blog posts. Never used them anywhere.
When I was going through family photos this fall, I ran across the CD from that photo shoot from three years ago. I took time to look through all the photos on that CD because I hadn’t looked at them in three years and I wanted to know if they were really that bad or if I’d simply fabricated a story in my mind.
Three years later, here’s what I saw…
While the photos of me weren’t awesome, they were also very pretty.
Yes, I said it.
They were also very pretty.
The truth is, there was something INSIDE of ME during and after that particular photo shoot that wasn’t well, something ugly that told me I wasn’t beautiful enough, thin enough, perfect enough in my face. (Okay, I know that sounds weird, but it’s kind of true. Right ladies?) Instead of seeing my beauty, I beat myself up, picking apart every flaw in the photos.
Bags under my eyes.
Ugly, not-quite-right shirt.
Don’t like the way I look.
Three years later and a fresh set of eyes, I could see that I looked pretty in the photos. Totally acceptable. Just right for where and who I was at that time. There was NOTHING wrong with those pictures. Maybe they weren’t perfect, but they were beautiful.
Ladies, for the sake of our own well being, we must figure out how to distinguish between PERFECT and PRETTY.
Okay, so maybe you’re not going for PRETTY. Maybe you prefer to look beautiful, stunning, ravishing, radical, rogue, hip, cool, casual, fun, friendly, feminine, astute or simply put together.
However you are, WHOEVER you are, here’s what I want you to know if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures.
First and foremost, the likelihood is that you DO look pretty, you DO look beautiful.
Even if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures, go ahead and use the photo for your family Christmas card anyway. Go ahead and print the photo and put it on your end table anyway. Go ahead and make the 8×10 canvas and put it up in your bedroom. Go ahead and make a few copies to give your children when they get bigger because YOU are important, YOU are beautiful and YOU are needed in your family and this world JUST AS YOU ARE.
Save the CD. Save the flash drive. Save the proofs. Save the memory card. Just save the photos, wherever they are. Then take another look at them three years later, five years later, ten years later and beyond. You’ll realize you were so pretty, so beautiful, so lovely. And you’ll most definitely wonder WHY in the world you thought anything different.
Give yourself a chance. Give yourself a little grace.
Keep yourself in the picture and call yourself beautiful because you are.
One year ago today, I boarded a plane to Kenya, Africa.
I always dreamed of serving in Africa. I always knew I’d go someday. But I never, ever dreamed it would be so soon. You see, it wasn’t my choosing as to when, how, where, or with whom I’d travel to Africa. One random weekday in early June, I looked at a poster on our pastor’s office wall and casually shared that I always dreamed of serving in Africa. He promptly invited me to join a 10-day mission trip to Kenya that was scheduled for November.
I wasn’t planning on going to Africa. Okay, let me clarify a bit, pastor. I wasn’t planning on going RIGHT NOW. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me. Give me a couple years, okay? Give me some space and time to think on this, yes? Give me a few years for my kids to get older. Give me a moment to make every detail right. Let me get the timing just perfect for my husband, my friends, my family and pretty much everyone around me. Then, and only then, I’ll most definitely say yes to your invitation. Can’t we all just agree that five or six months is not nearly enough time to prepare for a life-changing trip to Africa?
Needless to say, I spent nearly three months thinking and overthinking that trip, and finally said yes less than three months before our group was scheduled to depart.
Given my reluctancy to accept God’s invitation to go and serve in Africa, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I found myself on the outside, watching a group of orphaned and abandoned children worship in the most authentic and abandoned way I’d witnessed in 39 years of life on earth.
I was there. Fully present. Fully immersed in their worship.
But I was sitting on the outside.
Wishing I could be one of them.
Wishing I could live and linger in a place of wild, worshipful abandon for the rest of my life.
Yes, this was without a doubt, a glimpse of heaven on earth.
This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.
Being grateful can improve one’s health. As I reflect on the past year, I have so much to be thankful for! I have two kids who I would do anything for, a great support system of professionals, family and friends, the ability to help myself and seeing gains for my efforts. I have found more peace in myself now than I ever have before. To me, Thanksgiving has a new meaning this year. The good, the bad and the rest that doesn’t always make sense. These are all the pieces of my life that I’m thankful for.
My parents were out of town for over three months due to my dad’s lung transplant, but have been back now for a little over two weeks. My dad is home this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my parents get to spend the holiday with us. My dad had some lung rejection issues, and he ended up in the hospital for ten days right before they came back home. His team of doctors will be checking his antibodies soon to see if the lung rejection is still happening. If his antibodies are bad, he will have to go back to the hospital for further procedures. The transition to them being back home has not necessarily been easy, but we are working on adjusting to accommodations that work for everyone. We are moving forward with my dad’s health with optimism. We are planning for a great future with him around.
I’m thankful that Raegan, my six-year-old daughter, is starting to understand my mental health issues. She likes to show her friends and people who stop by clips from when I was in movies, television shows and commercials in my 20s. I was in the movie Four Christmases. Raegan laughs pretty hard when she sees my hands up in the air in the background. She often asks me what happens when I don’t take my pills. I forgot them one morning, and she asked if I could drive alright without them. I told her that I would be fine, as long as I took them soon. Raegan is reading very well and with great expression. She loves math, her class and her teacher. She is very wise and kind as well. She has her temper tantrum moments. Xander, my two-year-old son, is loving life. He is pretty rambunctious and is an explorer. He is full of questions, loves school (Early Childhood Family Education) and is an extremely kind and loving son. He loves exploring so much that it’s difficult for him to sit still during ECFE reading time. During gym time, he’s been running around pretending he’s a dinosaur. The other kids don’t seem to know what to think. He is proud to call the other kids in the class his friends. My experience with Xander at school has been different because I feel more chill and comfortable about everything. I am thankful for my two children. They keep me going, even when I’d rather isolate myself from the world.
I need a support system to help me discipline and work with my kids. My parents, friends and a team of professionals help me with these issues. I take advice from each and every one of these people to help improve my situation. I am trying to help myself so I can be more independent of some of this help, as I have been over the past few months. I’m working with what I’ve been told, and am starting to figure out a parenting plan that I can do more independently. Now that my parents are home, it’s east to revert to dependence again. But I have gained confidence over the last three months as a parent. I am a parent who can prepare meals, stay organized and help with homework. I am thankful for all that I have been taught about parenting, and I plan on utilizing those skills throughout life.
Overall, I am very satisfied with how far I have come as a single parent. I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, and am happy my mom and dad are now home, at least for now. My kids, support system, my ability to help myself and peoples’ responses to my gains have guided me towards more independence in life and with my children. I hope that over the years I become more confident in my myself and my skills. Every day is a new journey!