I wasn't going to talk about any of this as I am a person who feels like when you do something nice, you don't mention it again. I believe God sees and the people for whom I have done the nice thing know or don't know but they feel it, you know? I changed my mind at about 2:30am on Friday morning. It came to me as I woke up from sleep, that this wasn't my story. I was a bit character in a story much larger and way more plot driven than just my little part. So here it is, Dreams.
A couple of weeks ago I opened an email which stopped my heart and made me catch my breath. It made my eyes sting from unshed tears and even my nose began to sting. It stirred something in me that I can't explain. The email was from Sara, who owns my gym, Prime Fitness in Clarksville, Tennessee. Getting emails isn't in itself a shocking thing. They email us information about promotions etc. but this one was just more than that.
In the email, Sara described her dream that she had been working on making a reality. She was training her body and mind for the last three years for climbing the first, for her, of the world's 7 summits, Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. She saved her money and held her dreams close to her while she trained so hard. I don't know if you all have ever dreamed of climbing a mountain but I haven't. Anyway, she actually really really was excited about sleeping on the ice at 23,000 ft and was so thrilled about the idea of this adventure. I will never forget this quote from Sara in our email, "However, as excited as I have been for this trip I recently heard Love INVITE me to lay it down." She went on to explain how she met a new friend named Kennedy. She is a 19 year old woman who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) while she was a junior at West Creek High. Sara met Kennedy through a Prime member who is on Kennedy's hospice team. Sara wanted to see that Kennedy's dream, no matter how crazy, came true in life. They talked about river rafting and sky diving -- and that is what made the tears fall. Y'all I have a beautiful child who is about to be seventeen and she dreams of a lifetime of adventures that are too crazy to even think about for me. Last year for her birthday she begged us to let her sky dive. This could be my baby talking of dreams instead of being allowed to live them. I am so thankful that Kennedy had that time at that kitchen table to laugh and dream with Sara. Sara was determined to find Kennedy's real dream but Kennedy could only talk about her family and how to help them find joy, she couldn't say or probably even allow herself to dream her own BIG dreams. I can imagine when she finally did speak the words, they probably came out in an uncertain whisper, unsure if she was even really supposed to utter them outloud to the universe. Finally it came. She loves the beach and dreams to see Fiji and swim with the dolphins. She wants to see a waterfall. Let that soak in. This young woman who two years ago was full of passion and adventure just wants to see a foreign beach, dolphins and a waterfall. Lord, I didn't even know such a place existed so she must have poured over images on the internet etc, to even find out about such a place.
The Make A Wish Foundation only sponsors kids younger than 18 and the Dream Foundation only supports dreams inside the Untied States. Sara doesn't believe in conditions or limitations when it comes to love or dreams. Right then Sara PROMISED her that she would get to go to Fiji with her mom and dad. She promised Kennedy in full faith so Sara traded her dream of climbing her own mountain for a dream of helping Kennedy climb hers. She wanted to offer Kennedy something that her family and the doctors couldn't, she offered Kennedy HOPE in the form of a dream. Here is the part of the email that spoke literal words to me. Sara said, " I want to INVITE you to join me in this love story." Love story is my phrase of the year. Y'all this IS a love story and how could I help? Where do I fit in? Where do you, the reader fit in? They had a day where they closed the gym and opened it up to visitors from gyms from all over who paid $10 to work out on one day. It was called Mayhem - Workout for a Reason. Now I could do that with my husband and give $20. We could even add a little more with it or I could invite YOU to help me dream BIGGER.
She said my phrase in her email as though she were talking to me. She was talking to me. She was inviting me to help. I knew I could donate a session or more than one but y'all mini sessions are hard and tiring. I couldn't go spend the day at some random park waiting in the cold for people who could be late or not show up. What could I do? I have a friend named Tyler who shared the land near him, with me. He always told me to just go and it was fine. Without that land 5 minutes from me I would not be able to do this. This was a beautiful spot and an enormous part of this story for without it there would be no story. I set out feelers of who would want to join me in this. The very first person within minutes of me posting was Melissa. I have known her family for many many years and they are the best people. Melissa and her sister, Suzanne are nearly perfect humans. Seriously if I didn't love them I could hate them. They are beautiful and funny and athletic and have the best children. No matter how much time has passed since I have seen those children they hug me and treat me like family! So Melissa signed up and then so did Suzanne. Then my friend Amy signed up. I met her this year and knew we would be friends. Then one of Suzanne's friends, Jessica signed up and lastly a local, extremely talented photographer signed up. (And she complimented MY work, and hers is gorgeous!! It was such a blessing to my heart!). I had a few others who signed up but were unable to come due to weather or obligations but they prayed about the work being done.
I woke up that morning to a freezing cold and windy day. My friend Alison messaged to tell me how she was praying for it to go well. That was so amazing, I thought. The first family came and they had littles in that cold wind but there was no crying - only smiling and joy. It warmed my heart, I can tell you that. When I finished with their session I went home to eat and warm up. My friend, Christina, with Saved By Grace Photography called and wanted to come help! The day warmed up and the sun was out. Y'all it was a blessed day.
Monday morning I gave the envelope of cash and checks to Sara. I tried to just hand it to her and run but she chased me down and thanked me sincerely. She said someone told her their photographer was doing some thing special and Sara said with pride, "I KNOW HER!!!" lol. Several from the gym thanked me but I felt like I did so little. It was the families who gave and the individuals who prayed who blessed this family and I felt like I just turned in the money. Yesterday, at the gym Sara said she called Kennedy's family to meet at the bank. She had already told them what the amount to deposit was and when she got there she handed them the last envelope, the one from us, and the family asked why? Why would someone (us) give an entire day of work, just for them when we didn't even know this family. Sara told them that no matter what they were going through, no matter how bad it got, God loved them. The community loved them and we all wanted them to once again feel love and hope. That is why I wanted to share this love story with you all. They are going to Fiji. I wish I could be there when Kennedy touches the sleek skin of the dolphin. I wish I could capture her face in the final pink and orange light of the sunset that evening. I wish I could see her awe and hear her laugh when she not only sees a waterfall but maybe feels the foam as it tickles her nose. I wish I could capture, on film, the joy that family will have as they relish time together doing something that they didn't dream they would be able to do a month ago. I want to thank beautiful Sara, who's face always shines with love and joy and who's heart is sweet and kind. Without her stepping out in faith, without her giving of her time to actually learn about Kennedy, there would be a different story and it wouldn't be so rich with love. Thank you Sara for showing me and countless others, your heart and how to love and dream in full faith. Any story can be a love story. Thank you Kennedy for allowing Sara in, I pray your time in Fiji is better than your endless dreams and the joy you feel will fill you an fuel you. Thank you Tyler and Madison for loving me and trusting me, without you, this day would not have been possible for me. I will treasure the time I was able to photograph on land that was more beautiful in the sunset, than any other land could be. Thank you Christina for running around feeding candy to two year old triplets until you were so tired you wanted to go to bed. Thank you to Amy, Suzanne, Jessica, Melissa, and Pam for driving all this way and letting me capture your families on film and helping to show love to Kennedy. Thank you for answering the call and being so generous. Thank you to the friends and family who prayed for a successful day. Please continue to pray for Kennedy and her journey.