It’s been almost a year, and yet the smells, feel of the air, taste of the rice and laughter and tears of children still feels so real to my skin as if it was this morning… I love my life in Los Angeles, but going back to Uganda, with it’s unpredictable electricity and no health codes for food preservation, sounds like a breath of fresh air. The children of the Chayah House, being the first faces I’d like to see… and first voices that my heart longs to hear.
I had the honor of photographing a dear friend of mine the other day. She is one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out. Her beauty is strengthened by her loyalty and fierceness, a true sister.
Celebrating life, beauty, authenticity, and perseverance… meet Ekaete.
A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.
While in Uganda last January (2013), my heart and eyes experienced things I will attempt to relay here. Upon arrival, dehydrated after the near 36 hour trip from Los Angeles to Kampala, I found myself immediately heartbroken as our van pulled to a stop light where a small boy stepped forward, he couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, holding a can of some kind waiting for the passersby to give him change. Had this been in the middle of the afternoon, the sadness would’ve been there but the fact that we arrived close to 2am this being my initial experience of Uganda, I began to unravel inside.
After a several hour drive to Jinja, where we would be staying for the next couple weeks, we arrived at a hotel, similar to what us living in Los Angeles would view a church retreat campground facility. The beds were glorified twin sized cots with mosquito nets above, because as rumor has it, the primary mosquitos carrying malara are out at night… creatures of the darkness. Since I’ve never had a mosquito bit in my life, and yes, I grew up in Oklahoma, this wasn’t a concern for me, but definitely something I saw the ill effects of first hand just hours later.
Meet Caroline, she and her sister Nevis are pictured below. As one of my traveling partners Nicole and I stepped from the gate of the soon to be opened Chayah Children’s home, we were greeted by a little girl standing in the middle of the road, beckoning us into her world. As we walked through the mud-dirt pathway, hedged about with tall green grass and made our way to a building similar to that of a storage space, Nevis called to her sister who came through a heavy metal door, with a deep cough. As we sat with the girls on the concrete porch, communicating with the little bit of English that they knew, we discovered Caroline had been sick for quite some time, as we sat together, the tears mixed with dirt to leaves marks of pain on Carolines face and we knew the cough was more than a cold.
The following morning as sat drinking my coffee, looking out over the Nile, the tears wouldn’t cease or let up, the pain of this little girl, the conditions she was living in, how uncomfortable her little body must be with no big soft bed to craw into and mosquitos and flies constantly making their presence known. Any Los Angeles child who was sick would surely know the comfort of a soft bed, or at least I imagined. Over the next couple days we met with the girls mom, we loaded Caroline in the van with us and took her to the nearby clinic, finding out that she not only had malaria but the worst level.
Not only was God’s intentionality in the location of the Chayah Home purposeful but our introduction to her friendly and joyful sister Nevis in the saving of sweet Caroline’s life. As I sat along with a couple others from our group, in the clinic treatment room with Nevis, the tenderness of the care that we had each received throughout our lifetimes seem to well up and overflow with each stroke, each prayer, each song… I have found yet again, that there is nothing more painful that not just watching someone in pain but watching a child in pain.
By the end of our trip, Caroline’s energy was restored, her strength regained, and her zest for life evident as we shared star princess crowns and tickles.
Thankful for the resources (finances) we as westerners, and especially those living in Los Angeles, have from which we can choose to share with the world. Again reminded of the beauty and power of using our privilege for good.
hugs + love,
los angeles photographer | world traveler | lover of love + justice
Recently I had the extreme privilege of photographing for Adam Housley & Tamera Mowry while being taped for Tamera’s Reality TV show with her sister that airs on Style Network. Meeting at a beautiful beach in Marina Del Rey, I met Tamera and Adam for the first time and was kindly greeted with their warmth and sincerity as the camera crew got the mics taped securely on each of us and cameras rolling we set out into the sand.
It was a beautiful and glorious couple hours at sunset in Marina Del Rey and while we were confined to stay between two lifeguard stands due to permits, the diversity of photographs was beautiful and remained. Not only were they incredibly sweet and warm, but their presence made the whole being on camera for TV thing really fun! I admit, I watched myself on repeat several times after recording the Style Network airing of Tia & Tamera.
Here’s a peak at the Housley’s wonderful session…
The scripture has come to mind often for a while now…
“do the works you did previously when first you knew the Lord… to your first love” (revelation 2:5)
I wasn’t quite sure what that meant as I recognize a lot of growth and intimacy with the Lord more solidly and fruitfully than I experienced when I first met Jesus. Then one Sunday, when I did my usual Sunday morning ritual of turning on my gospel music playlist and making coffee, a smoothie and getting ready for church, my heart experienced a calm. As I experienced this peace in the midst of a disappointment to my heart, I remembered the first time I took communion and how God had led me to this church that was a traditional Gospel church with no air conditioning, praying and preaching all through the worship service and how uncontrollably I cried as I experienced the love and cleansing of God. Music that speaks the cries of my heart and dump the love of God into my heart and mind with an ease in which I would loose track of time for hours at a time is one of the sweetest gifts. As I listened to one song in particular the other day, the woman sang these lyrics that gave voice to my heart “You weren’t there the night Jesus found me. You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped his loving arms around me and you don’t know the cost of the oil. Oh, you don’t know the cost of my praise.” As I listened to this song, the verse “do the things you did at first,” came back to my mind.
I don’t feel like I’m a big crier. I seem to go through seasons where I cry more than others, not so much just from simply being “emotional” but more because of heart (spiritual) experiences. I feel our emotions are a gift to connect with others and letting people into our emotional lives should only be given to those that treasure our hearts and respect our journey. As I chatted with my dear friend the other day, and we talked about my recent spurts of crying, she made the statement that it almost seems that crying in this season of my life is actually cleansing and opening my heart in ways that it’s been closed and neglected in the past. As she said this I felt the truth of her insight so true. I heard the following song a little while ago and despite my thoughts of rebellion and scheming my own plans of running from the people of God because I don’t like some of their views on things and approaches, I was humbled to respect the journey we are each on, humbled to realize how much I love Jesus despite my immaturity, selfishness, and in spite of my attempts to manipulate Him, He loves me wrecklessly and fully, and He delights and enjoys me in each season of my life. We have a lot of choices to make in life, and we get to choose to be grateful and love both God and those in our lives, God never forces us to do anything, that’s the beauty of it all, the choices.
Choosing to not let go of Jesus when I want to freak out and throw a fit (or throw stuff), is a choice and one that His love compels me to make if I let Him. Nobody can love us like Jesus… Not your best friend, your boyfriend, your mom, nobody.
“It took some time to get to this place… Jesus, I don’t want to let you go… In His presence forever…”
“The touch of a living soul that poured out pure love.. It’s that touch that defines connection.” Larry Crabb
I find it interesting how it doesn’t really matter what someone may say, how kind or wise, but if their eyes are not willing to truly see me and their heart not open to pour something from inside of them to me, then there is no real connection, nothing received or given, nothing really happens.
There’s a common phrase, “people may not remember what you said but they will remember how they felt when you said it.” While this is true, it seems to still be a bit empty in the reality of the importance of impacting one another with our words and actions.
As I recently experienced a disappointment, I can definitely feel when people actually see me and when they do, lately I can’t look at them very long because I just start crying. It’s a powerful thing to truly see one another, not a list of qualities or achievements of a person but to truly see one another. We can’t simply stay in our experiences and read other people’s lives, experiences, feelings, future and past merely through the scope of our understanding, because while being unproductive and uncaring in our unwillingness to step into their life, their experience, it is also unbiblical. The scriptures teach the danger of relying on the “mind of sense and reason without the Holy Spirit” and how it fails to lead to the abundant life the Christ died for us to experience. I get the sense that in relationships with others we can rely more on the mind of sense and reason apart of the Holy Spirit and thus never see the people standing in front of us and right beside us, we see them as mere shadows of their character traits, gifts or dreams but we miss them, we miss their heart.
I think of Hagar in the Old Testament, who by the instruction of both Abraham and his wife Sarai had sex with Abraham and become pregnant with his child but then Sarai became angry and sent Hagar outside of the city. It’s so irritating isn’t it, Hagar is already a servant, then she is put in this situation and agrees out of her service and loyalty and is then punished. But when Hagar is outside of the city it is the first time that the scriptures tell us of the quality of God for which he is called, El Roi, The God Who Sees. Alone in a desert, taken advantage of by the people whom she served, yet she experienced an encouter with the living God and she felt “seen.” I wonder if before we can truly see others we have to first experience something of the love of God and His intimacy that creates a foundation and security in our own spirit for us to know that we are seen, fully seen, and fully loved and accepted in those moments.
I like the phrase from Larry Crabb, modern Christian psychologist who explores what a safe spiritual community looks like and shares an encounter in a counseling session, “I wondered if she might be more afraid that I would speak to her head and ignore her heart, that I would remind her of what she already knew and expect her to somehow feel the impact of familiar truth simply because I repeated it.“
Really being with people, present in the moment, willing to see them and be affected by them, gives us a unique place to allow the life of God to come and cause the encounters and relationships to become life-giving and fruitful.
“I now realize that I had to be in touch with my own goodness to discover the unique goodness of Helen. As long as my self-doubts and fears guided me, I couldn’t create the space for Helen to reveal to me her beauty… It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-comparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters.” -Henri Nouwen
I had the wonderful privilege of photographing the 30th Anniversary Ceremony of Victor & Angie on the beach of Summerland, California. It was a beautiful sunset and absolutely magical evening with a quiet beach, their closest friends and family gathered together to celebrate the committment, love, journey and beautiful story of their relationship. As an event consultant and marriage counselor, the theme of the biblical truth of a “three cord strand is not easily broken,” is not only the name of Angie’s consultant business but also the main crux of the evening. The term stems from Christian thought which hangs on the truth that a marriage with Christ continually at the center will not be easily broken. A beautiful illustration was performed during Victor and Angie’s ceremony in which one of the officiants took ribbon, which represented the Spirit of God that bound Victor and Angie together. This ribbon was first wrapped around their hands as they held hands and then once it was secure began to wrap around their bodies, circling around them and with each circle around, a different instance was described from their lives that arose which could have destroyed not only them as individuals but as a couple and after this instance, trial, mountain was named, then the truth that because Christ is central to their relationship, they were not destroyed.
Witnessing the a glimpse into the beautiful journey that these two embarked on together 30 years ago was a privilege, joy and job that inspired deeper faith in God’s commitment to us when we allow Him in.
| the journey of life through the lens, thankful | xoxo, katee grace of katee grace photography | http://kateegrace.com | capturing + loving life |
It’s good to be able to share a glimpse of our heart with friends, but to really open up and share the deep things of our hearts is confined to only a small few.
There have been times where I’ve been torn as to whether I should share certain things with someone. I hate gossip and slander, with a passion! Not that I haven’t caught myself doing it, followed by the desire to shower repeatedly after and maybe be sick a little. If I find out someone has been talking about me or my life without me, I immediately loose trust. There is absolutely no reason to discuss the details of someone else’s life unless those details are directly impacting us. I want to be a safe person for my friends, I want to be a safe person in general because I need safe people who can be trusted around me. I’ll never forget a couple years ago when I was with my dear friend M and I had shared something with her and a few moments after finishing I followed up with “Oh… can you please not say anything to anyone about this,” to which she replied “oh my gosh, I am so sorry that you felt you even had to ask that. of course I would never say anything to anyone.”
At that moment I felt covered and protected, safe and free. A couple months ago I was talking with another friend specifically about learning where to draw boundaries when sharing things with guys because that is a different dynamic than girlfriends. Because of my own personal issues I had a great hesitance to open up though I felt a safety to. She said simply (rough paraphrase), “the minute you feel uncovered and not completely safe, don’t say any more.”
As I’ve been on this beautiful and hard, new and deep, enriching and challenging journey of learning to live from the heart and living fully in the present, I’ve found that sharing our lives and hearts is absolutely crucial but sharing them with the right people is also vital!
There have been times when I’ve shared things in my heart with girlfriends because I enjoy their company and I like who they are but not because I felt I was really supposed to, but more because I wanted to share something of my life with them. I’m still not quite sure how to navigate that, I’m definitely a work in progress. There are other times where I know I’m supposed to share with people certain things but it’s not easy and I tread carefully and prayerfully.
We only have one heart, and living from it is both life-giving and so enriching but also requires attention and energy and care and our hearts should be cared for as God sees them, precious and the source of life.
I was listening to this man earlier this week and his words have stuck with me continually “foundational to the Kingdom of God is receiving love and giving it away.” Being attentive not to our natural instincts but that quiet urge that we know is God, showing us who and when to open up to, I think we will find more of God’s workings in us and our relationships. Makes me think of the scripture where Jesus says that “love covers,” and we should be loving one another from pure hearts as God’s children and making one another feel covered with love.
Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19
I am absolutely thrilled to present Dakota and Annemarie’s engagement photographs on the blog today. Being a Santa Barbara Wedding photographer I have the wonderful gift of hearing the stories of some really amazing couples, each unique and special stories of their journey together. Sitting down with Dakota and Annemarie at the Montecito Café to hear about both their wedding plans as well as the details of how they had gotten to this point I felt like I was on the edge of my seat. He grew up in Oklahoma, she was raised a California girl, but they met in the mid-west while being camp counselors one summer. The friendship that turned love story, began to unfold even after he returned home to Oklahoma and she to California.
The bluffs just south of Santa Barbara not only have the most beautiful light right before sunset but often feel like my second home and I couldn’t think of a more fitting location for this Oklahoma-California duo.
This summer, on a sure to be beautiful July day, Dakota and Annamarie will begin a new chapter of their lives together as their stories join in marriage. I am honored and so excited to capture the photographs telling the story of their wedding day at Gainey Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley.
your moments + my camera = your unforgettable memories | xoxo, katee grace of katee grace photography | for wedding and portrait booking information email email@example.com or 805-637-7412 |
| capturing + loving life | http://kateegrace.com |