the Mount family

I loved photographing this beautiful family that began with mom and dad being high school sweethearts.

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Dad has just returned home from deployment in the US Army long enough to pack his family up and move to their next destination in North Carolina.

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The grandparents were sad to see them go, but I was honored to capture these priceless moments of their precious family.

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Thank you Mount and Palacios family!

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the doughty family

Photographing the Doughty Family for the second year in a row made me happy.

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They are a his and hers blended family, but five minutes with them and you know, they prefer to just call it “ours”. From actions to language, Deek and Nikki promote a team unit.

Whether it’s kissing…

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Or listening to Nikki speak affectionately about their kids..

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Or discussing the positive relationship they work to maintain with the other parents involved. As Nikki describes it, “I’m a bonus mom, and I’m grateful to their mom for sharing them with me.”

And then, when a teenage girl still wants to hold hands with her daddy, well, I just die. That’s all.

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Thanks for letting me take part in your family year after year!

but you’re not allowed to mentor someone unless you’re perfect.

I used to believe that. I used to believe that role models and mentors were these perfect Godly people, because who would look up to an imperfect person? We can be imperfect and flawed and messy on our own, right? We don’t need someone teaching us how to be THAT. And who has time to be a mentor? It sounds so time-consuming and adulty and soul-stealing and exhausting.

Early on in my time at MTC, I met a dynamic young woman and learned that a coworker’s step-daughter had been her mentor for several years. My coworker explained that the two of them met at church, the younger girl never leaving the older girl’s side. And one day, my coworker told her step-daughter, “That’s your baby. God is calling you to share your experience with her.”

Then one day a high school junior named Daniela appeared, and I felt as though I already knew her somehow.

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Angels didn’t sing. She wasn’t parent-less or lost or a problem child. In fact, she was probably more loved, balanced and self-actualized than most adults I encounter. I truly believe that all young people are special with unique gifts, and Daniela was no exception. She told me early on that she would be the first person in her family to graduate high school and I halted.

Ever? Like, ever? Your dad, your mom, their family? Really?

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She nodded.

A short time later, I asked her to deliver a short but powerful speech in front of business leaders and legislators for an event hosted at our school. She had no public speaking experience and like most people, it frightened her. But because we often view ourselves differently than the people looking at us, I knew she could do it. I knew she could do it well. The day of the event, I placed her outside the door to greet every person who arrived. I told her it was to build rapport with them prior to her speech. The part of my master plan I didn’t share is a component of human connection that Pastor Craig Groeschel talks about in his new book #struggles.

“We actually connect with people through our weaknesses. We may impress them with our strengths, but we connect through our weakness.”

And no, I’m not on Pastor Craig’s payroll, but I do love his book.

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Almost every person, after I introduced Daniela and explained this would be her first public-speaking engagement; they encouraged her and shared their own discomfort with public speaking. And many of them do a lot of public speaking and make it look easy.

She impressed everyone. But most important, she impressed herself, which gave her the confidence to pursue even more opportunities. Later that year, she won High School Student of the Year and walked away with $1,500.

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Daniela accomplished all these things on her own, with her own merits. But because of her work ethic, positive attitude, and determination to succeed, she has collected supporters along the way. Building what therapists call, a support system.

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The only thing I, and many others I am proud to call coworkers have done for Daniela is support her efforts and encourage her in a direction she might not have gone otherwise. Listened as she worked through high school struggles. Shared stories and experiences with her when she needed guidance.

It’s that simple.

The call to action here is this: we live in a world where so many young people are depressed, lost, struggling, parent-less, self-harming, addicted, committing suicide. We cannot save them all, but we can certainly respond and act when we feel that tug in our soul.

To Daniela: THANK YOU for being everything I hope my girls grow up to be. Thank you for being so selfless and grateful, no matter the circumstances, because you remind me to practice gratitude. I’m going to ugly cry when you walk that stage in May, because I know what an incredible accomplishment you’ve achieved. You’re a bonafide rockstar.