(The beautiful words below are courtesy of my good friend, and subject of this storytelling session, Lacey Keigley. Lacey is a talented blogger (www.soeveryday.com) and has a gift for conveying ordinary life in a poetic, witty, heart-warming, tear-inducing, grammatically correct, and wonderfully simplistic way. In short, she does with words what I hope to do with pictures.)
Jane takes pictures.
She has this way of pointing her camera at the regular stuff of life and quietly doing the camera's bidding behind the screen. Later, when she shares her images, you find she has actually captured the really big stuff of life instead of the mundane you thought she was recording.
It's a kind of magic that happens there in that lens, through her eyes.
She arrived at our house on a regular Monday afternoon. I hadn't required cute clothes wearing by my children and I had told them we were just going to have a regular afternoon - school, chores, play time. Jane was going to be just around, taking a few pictures and living life.
After about six minutes of hugs and stories, they were unimpressed with the camera and back at their regular lives.
The most ordinary, kind of chaotic, sort of haphazard, life we are all living these days.
My first and second grader sat at the table with me and finished their math homework. My bigger girls were independently finishing their leftover school work. Berg was swinging high in a tree and the puppy was probably peeing on the hall floor.
We were by turns busy, polite, frustrated, joyful, quiet, loud.
You know - we were alive.
Piper and Otto and I decided to try our hand at a first - making apple galette from the beginning bounty of apples as fall creeps up on us.
Jane wandered inside and out and half the time I forgot she was in the room with us. (Which might account for what I think are my "serious" expressions in half of these photos.)
After our afternoon ended and Jane let me see the photos she had taken during our afternoon together, I found myself looking at my life a little bit like a stranger might.
My heart smiled as I saw pictures of Bergen climbing so high and so capable. I liked the light from the windows and the way, at a certain angle, my house had a little old fashioned charm right there with its old fashioned filth.
And when at first Jane and I talked about me writing my own description for her photos, I thought the idea sounded fine. Jane takes great pictures. I do alright with words.
But then I sat down to type. It was hard. Hard to wrap words around the pictures that both looked like my life - and didn't look like my life.
Jane and I texted back and forth. I told her, "I don't think I see my life like you see my life."
To which the only accurate response really is, "Exactly."
Our lives, to us, don't look like our lives to other people.
And that's alright.
But it's also precisely why lifestyle photography sessions like Jane is offering are so lovely and so meaningful.
In the throes of my writer's block, I asked Jane to share with me a little bit of what she saw - from her vantage point - behind the lens, during the editing process, from a safe distance.
Jane spoke about joy. About toads and Bergen's laughter and how his life looks like a beautiful boy's adventure. Jane mentioned the normalness of kids being kids - whines and slow obedience and dragging their feet during school tasks. She mentioned my seven-year-old being a polite hostess and serving Jane cookies and how she felt the presence of Jesus inside the walls of our home and I guess she could have stopped right there because it was enough for me to see me and my children and our lives from her perspective. It was gift right there on the screen of my iPhone and I couldn't possibly mistake it for anything else.
It's good - so good - to be present in our lives. To breathe in the smell of cinnamon and to taste the pie crust with your six-year-old and to laugh when laughing is what the time requests.
And it's a gift to have pictures, tangible photographic evidence, of a life that is full. Full of hard and full of grace and full of joy and full of your very favorite people living inside your shared space and untidy rooms. A life that begins and ends with Family.