You think the grass is always greener….

I keep pretty quiet about how difficult daily living is, how my skin & body hurt, how I pray my body out of bed daily, how I even envy those who work out, crazy~who’d a thought I’d ever be jealous of exercise, but I am!!  I am also jealous of the moms that seem to be super moms with an energizer-bunny-batteries powering them to do it all and then still go out for their nightly run and then meet up with a girl friend for a glass of wine.  Which, if you are a friend and you think I am talking about you, I probably am.  I am in awe of all my girlfriends~I love them and they amaze me!  But I also do realize we all have our own struggles and that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s just different landscaping, (insert cheesy analogy) all our yards have weeds, grass and flowers~they just look different; blooming at different seasons and then giving us burs in our kids’ feet in others. 

This week I had a Dr. appointment and no one could join me to make the quick trek out to Colorado.  Which since the Colorado law changed, I laugh at saying my Dr.s are in Colorado because I feel like it makes me look like a pot-seeker!~nothing against medicinal uses of marijuana, but it’s just not for me.  Anyhow, I was/am having a particularly hard Lyme week where even driving to school only blocks away exhausts me and I spent much of my mom duty time on the couch reading to the kids and snuggling, so driving 15 hours in 2 days seemed insurmountable.  On top of it, I was nervous about this expensive new treatment & this new Dr. I had never met. To sum it up I felt lonely and alone.  I was thinking “no one really knows what it’s like to be trapped inside this body, actually~ no one really even knows that I am trapped in a severely sick body & no one really cares.” I prayed myself thru my “pity-party of lies” and then sat down at my computer and there was an email from someone I had never had an email from with a link to her blog.  She has Lyme & I felt like copying and pasting everything she said in her blog post and then saying “this is me!” Here is her link, whether you suffer from Lyme or some other chronic disease or even chronic difficulty in your life I think what she says is poignant: http://conniestrasheim.blogspot.com/ 

I do know I am never alone and I love that I have an eternal Best Friend, Healer and Comforter with me at all times, but I think He knew I needed to be understood by another person.  In our chronic illness or chronic difficulties, loneliness can be the biggest enemy, but we are not alone~not only did God give Himself to us and fully understands us, He gave us each other and there is someone who understands where you are today, you are not alone-not ever!

I have been hesitant to talk much about how serious my health is because I really don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer.”  And I do think focusing on it gives it power, so I choose to focus on other better things, but it really is a defining part of my life.  So I chose to write today to offer camaraderie and because as I sat in the parking lot yesterday praying before my appointment,  I read this verse (I wish I could recall verses in my heart and mind like others…but Jesus uses the Bible app on my phone to bring me verses when my mind fails…it’s my “go-to” for quick encouragement, just type in the words you are looking for and voila, there is God’s word for what you need, the app also helps save time in finding that obscure book that you forgot where it was!) Anyhow, here is the verse:

 Jeremiah 33:6 & 9

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it;
I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.
Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor
before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it;
and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide.”

When I read this I realized that when people see me as “normal” they are missing the opportunity to praise God and SEE GOD at work because my normalcy IS MY MIRACLE, but you wouldn’t know my miracle if you didn’t know my condition.  To appear to you as normal and healthy, to be joyful & peaceful in my pain~these are miracles, this is God at work in my life and He should get the honor.  I may not be running a marathon to show my preservation in Christ (but good luck to all those running the Lincoln Marathon this weekend!!!) but when you see me at the grocery store then I hope it brings praise to God because that task is like a marathon on my body many days.  Side note for all the small town Superior folk who wonder why they only see Jim at the grocery store: this is why, he is SOOO GOOD TO ME; he serves me in such little practical ways that are SO BIG to me!  (And thank God for Amazon Prime; I can sit and rest and shop at the same time!! hallelujah for energy free shopping!!!)  People are missing the literal glory of God on me if they don’t know my brokenness, if I seem fine to you, it is only by the grace of God.  It is the Spirit of God that gives me hope, joy, light and NORMALCY and I praise Him that people don’t see my disease because that is ONLY GOD AT WORK in me.  My new Dr. yesterday commented to me “When you walked in I thought you looked so young, healthy and happy, but the numbers don’t lie, you are really sick.”  Just proof of what a little good make up and faith can’t cover up!  Another side note: I am also thankful that the Dr. “sees” how sick I feel, this makes me feel less alone.  Maybe we all need to share our chronic difficulties and diseases with each other more often so we don’t feel alone and so we don’t miss the profound healing and miracles in each others’ lives, so that we can comfort each and so that we may not only see the grass greener on the other side but come over and help pull some weeds and plant some flowers and help pull burs out of each others kids’ feet…we are never alone!  Actually the ordinary-nce of most of our lives is probably no small miracle for any one of us; with all that comes at us and threatens us and our families on a daily basis I think angels work overtime in so many ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.  May we all see the miracle of our status quo and praise God for that.

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all surpassing power is from God
and not from us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
 so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that HIS LIFE may also be REVEALED IN OUR MORTAL BODY.
So then, death is at work in us, BUT LIFE IS AT WORK IN YOU.

Photo from car window

Here is a photo from my car window last night as I drove home from Colorado…I kept my eyes on the road, I promise…I just held up my cell phone to capture how pretty Nebraska is.  The grass may not be greener in this photo but it is still just as beautiful!  I hope we all can remember to embrace the beauty of our own yards and fields…no matter how different the landscape!

Here is my health update, it’s boring so please no need to read, but some have asked so here it is:

I have had Lyme for 21 years, I started feeling sick after being on the East Coast when I was 16 and have been searching for answers to why I felt awful since then.  About 5 years ago I tested positive for Lyme (a test I had to argue for to get, one of the many things I have learned is you have to be your own advocate.) But that Dr was working on my hormones, convinced if we got those from being “out of whack” to stable I would feel better. I didn’t, so I went back to the Lyme test and started looking for Lyme literate Dr.s…Some crazy things about Lyme is that it is not covered under health insurance, many Dr.s don’t treat it, Lyme hides in the body when it feels under attack so it’s hard to kill, and the longer it is in your body (for me 21 years now) the more damage it does.  The most severe cases are death and nervous system damage that leads to limited mobility and paralysis, I am so thankful I have not experienced these!  So my treatment has been trying to kill the disease and repair the extensive damage done. Lyme is a cousin of syphilis (though not spread in the same way) but it is a spirochete that burrows into different tissues, cells and organs of the body (which completely grosses me out when I stop and think about this!)  When it feels threatened by anything it moves again and thus easily HIDES from treatment and makes it difficult for Dr.s to “take aim” and kill it.  Lyme also is similar to HIV (some of the immunity tests are the same for HIV patients as Lyme, my other Dr said my test was lowest he had ever seen in any of his aids or Lyme patients–again not comforting at all to hear this and yet it is because sometimes I feel guilty for not being able to work like I used to or keep up with other Moms…but this is why)  Lyme makes us sick, like HIV makes a person sick, but it is the co-infections and inability to fight off any virus or bacteria that makes a sick too.

I have been fighting Lyme and a co-infection of staph for 2 years now.  2 years ago I felt like just going to heaven; Dr. said when I arrived to him I was dying from the disease…now although I am exhausted from fighting the disease.  I am living & no longer dying!  So that is good!  But now I have plateaued at feeling cruddy & I fight to do normal things everyday. So, I am trying another Dr. with another crazy treatment. The one good thing about having 21 years to fight a disease is that time is in my favor and I can learn from my past and from others.  You can probably fight and beat a disease with normal medicine and treatments. For me after thousands of dollars in normal medicine, numerous visits to “normal” Dr.s around the country I truly believe that your odds are better at beating any disease if you feed your body raw healthy food…limiting all sugars and processed food (again not for the faint of heart or normal family life…but if you are fighting for your life-it’s worth a try!) and then supporting the body with supplements/vitamins/herbs that YOUR body needs~not even 2 Lyme patients should be on the exact same protocol because of how the disease affects us all is SO DIFFERENT!

At this last Dr. visit I tested positive for pneumonia in the lungs, staph in my sinuses, bronchitis and Lyme–which more specifically the Lyme is in my GI tract–so my Dr. can take aim and fire.  From all the meds over the years my Liver function is really low, there are a couple glands and my thyroid that are functioning really low too, one he had never seen so low so he wonders if the Lyme resided there for awhile and destroyed it.  I asked him about my heart and if it was functioning well, he replied “You are more likely to get hit by a asteroid than have heart problems!” What a relief, I was worried that all my worry (a symptom of Lyme is anxiety) would give me a heart attack…lol!  2 years ago my cells couldn’t retain water & this Dr. said the same…my cells are dehydrated…so weird because I drink water like crazy.  My Lymph function is really low as well as the “energy” of my body…so these are all things he is going to focus on with a treatment that is a combination of this new unorthodox & expensive treatment (if you want to know more about this treatment just contact me) “normal meds“, herbal/vitamin supplements, diet, detox, faith and more life style changes~ he tried to convince me to work even less and rest even more, (ugh and sigh).  So that’s that.

If you do suffer from a sickness that you don’t know what it is or haven’t been successful in treating…Don’t give up…I am lucky that I have time on my side and have learned to incorporate “all walks of medicine” into my healing journey (not all are this lucky to have this much time to fight and learn about their disease)…and not until I did so did I have any progressive results. I can honestly say I longed for heaven two years ago and now I can’t even fathom feeling that bad.  Healing hasn’t come easy…lots of different Dr.s, lots of research, lots of money (one of the reasons we sold our home in Lincoln and moved where cost of living was cheaper was to afford healthy food, my treatments and to slow down~healing has come at “big costs” for our family~ but as my husband says “you are worth it!” (and whomever you are reading this right now~so are you!)

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

“Out here in the middle” the kids can walk to the store on summer mornings to get a gravel top donut, go to a movie by themselves, walk to Jim’s office on main street just blocks away, and make the local paper almost weekly.

To quote one of Jim’s and my favorite shows “The Middle,” the Mom says “Sometimes things don’t end up how you expect, sometimes they end exactly how you expect, and sometimes you are not ready to see how they end, you just want to hold out hope a little longer”

This quote adequately sums up our last few years that we took a break from writing holiday cards, mostly because it was hard to put into words our lives after the boat explosion.  2011 was a very broken year for our family as we dealt with the shock of the accident, the grief of loosing one of Jim’s best friends, Cory Adams, coupled with the sorrow of letting go of our hopeful adoption in Uganda. Also, during this time the disease I have fought for 20 years worsened.  We never expected that God’s answer to prayer for rest and healing would be to move us to Superior, NE~a bustling town of 2000 on the border of Kansas, right smack dab in the middle (of no where)  Superior has a great Vineyard (Superior Estates,) a lake 15 minutes away (Lovewell,) a cute main street, beautiful fields and sunsets, a DQ, bowling alley, skating rink, Shopko, and one of the the largest public pools in the state of Nebraska….we are also the Victorian capital.

Jim moved here in August 2012 with Edward Jones and instantly loved the people and the company, so the kids and I joined him in July of 2013~in that year apart God drastically changed our hearts towards living in a small town, though it was hard to leave friends and family, our home and also close the doors to my photography studio.  We also love our new 1889 Victorian home.  The kids still get sad when we leave Lincoln after visiting, but by the time we pull into our garage they run in with smiles, excited to be home and begin to immediately plan play dates with Superior friends.

WHAT BETTER THAN TO HAVE FRIENDS IN MANY PLACES?!

I joke that last year it was Jim commuting and that this year it is our entire family living out of a suitcase.  We are on the road a lot to shoot weddings and portrait sessions, visit friends and family, play sports and we’ve been lucky to travel a bit. This summer we went to Hawaii and to Iowa where we had a great time kayaking, jet skiing and making new Edward Jones friends in the region.  This fall we also joined 20 other members of Jim’s family in Orlando.  With that many people we hardly saw each other!  Tatum and I had a sweet and fun day at Disney~she still believes in the magic!  We also took Teghan & Tatum and a few nephews to snorkel with the manatees; it literally was one of the best days of my life~I am in LOVE with these gentle giants of the sea that swim up to you then roll over to get their bellies rubbed and kiss your snorkel mask and look at you with these small black eyes that just melt your heart!

Needless to say, things have not turned out as expected or planned, but the one thing we did expect was for God to always “show up” (actually Jim does a great job keeping us all grounded in faith that it will all be okay, I don’t always have simple faith~but my questions in the end bring me closer to Him.  God showed us His love in Manatee kisses, snorkeling with sea turtles, a surprise going away party for Teghan that brought me to tears to see how much love she has in her life, meals/prayers/love from friends and family during times of grief and healing, a front porch that is perfect for drinking a Moscow Mule or coffee, new friends and a new addition to our family, a 7 year old Golden Doodle.  Stanley also became my analogy for illustrating that God knows what we need better than we do. When Cory’s family asked us to adopt Stanley, I did NOT want a dog, but he is PERFECT for our family and we could not imagine our lives without the love he brings~and it was perfect timing to provide a companion during our year apart from Jim.

Teghan (11)-Loves volleyball, basketball, reading hours every day, and playing teacher.  Her bedroom is always neat and organized, she was selected for the leadership team at school and earned an iPhone because she is so responsible.

Owen (10)-Loves to play basketball and football. Was one of the varsity football water boys, he loves reading books like “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” and “Guinness Book of World Records,” and can recite many random facts.  He likes to try magic tricks, play Mindcraft on the computer and listen to music on his I-pod.  He is our extrovert who will talk to anyone

Tatum (7)-She always has a messy room, loves horseback riding, crafts~she creates things daily-probably hourly~ (in the collage photo you can see her building with rocks on a beach in Hawaii, painting and being my photography assistant.) She loves planning parties, snuggling mom and is always writing sweet notes to those she loves.

Jim-Still catfishes, coaches basketball for the kids, loves his job and clients and makes great meals for our family!  & by the fact that he only gets one line in this letter you can tell he still likes to keep it simple!

Jamy~I still love shooting weddings & sessions, just not as many. I play in a bell choir which I would never have expected to do, but I am having fun making new friends and trying to keep up!  My health has improved greatly due to lots of rest, a husband that takes great care of me and lets me sleep in most mornings while he takes the kids to school and goes to work, a great Dr in colorado and by changing what our family eats.  On my journey of healing I have become passionate about food healing our bodies: this is much to our kids’ dismay, who long for gluten and sugar!

Our family highlights from the last 3 years: our zip line, rope swing, trampoline and campfire at our old Lincoln house, visiting Jim’s brother in Oregon, other trips to see friends and family, game nights, Jamy’s sister’s wedding in which we all had a role, new friends, and Tatum started school last year (I cried the whole summer leading up to it!)

We never expected this to be our story, but have learned that the unexpected is what God writes and that “the best stories are the ones that end with a kid.” (another quote from the Middle)

We wish you much LOVE, LAUGHTER and good health this year!

Love, the Sullivans

making winter our friend

With the winter storm I had some unexpected time off and was finally able to photograph our kids.

After our electricity resumed, the excitement and adventure of the power outage had faded, the driveway plowed (& plow fixed,) trees freed from the snow that weighed them down, photos of the damage taken, snow angels made, and a few naps taken we headed out for some photos-finally—the kids birthdays were only in September! But, better late than never!

My sister, who also hasn’t taken time to get her engagement photos also took advantage of the snow.

Grace, who I have photographed every season of the year made it in for her first snow portraits.

Get your photos done early this year and don’t stress about it during the busy fall and holiday season.

Here is our house after the storm with trees leaning against it

Here is our front yard winter wonderland.

Here is one of my favorite trees, thankfully after knocking the snow off of it’s branches it has somewhat “bounced back.” I am hoping for a full recovery!

Our “plow” died right in the middle of the lane, here is Jim holding the broken part. Our efforts to get to electricity were made a bit more difficult by this road block. lol

Tatum’s snow angel

[slideshow]

2011 Family Photos

Stallings Family Photos
Here is a glimpse into what my own family photos look like (Ok, so I haven’t officially taken my kid photos for 2011)
We always take a big Stallings family photo every year…I did manage to take a few snapshots of my 3 kids, but in the craziness of 10 kids & 8 adults to
photograph (including myself) I thought to myself, I just need to get everyone else photographed because I can just photograph my own kids at anytime….oops.
And to answer the question I always get: “Who takes pictures when you’re in the photo?”
Well, the great thing about being a photographer is I have lots of photographer friends; we take turns shooting each others’ families. This year, I took the photos, then Jim hopped out of the photo and I hopped in and smiled; with the magic of photoshop I appeared with the family. We’ve done this many years for Jim’s and my extended family photos…this year posed one big obstacle…a big POND between us and the group…lots of running!
After this session we all headed to Culvers for lunch together—ice cream cones is always a great treat after photos and I am not above bribing my nieces and nephews…well any one for that matter if that is what it takes to get people excited for photos.
STALLINGS GRANDKIDS-2011

Front of my Mom & Dad’s new year card…the whole Stallings crew!

Teghan-age 9


Her cousin Porter (Margaret’s middle) 5 weeks older than Teghan

Griffin-Margaret’s oldest

Margaret’s clan of boys

Brycin, John (my twin brother’s) oldest

Sometimes when I am just metering the camera and no one realizes I am shooting is when I get the truest most natural shots
This is John’s family

John’s youngest, Tripp. Out of all the Stallings grandkids, he is the funniest!—he keeps us all laughing!
& the little stinker has always preferred Jim over me–he can’t get enough of his Uncle Jim!

John’s family photos are out on our acreage where our studio is


Piper-2 days older than Tatum

Tatum & Piper in our studio—Tatum isn’t dressed for photos…Tatum just likes to assist me when I am photographing other kids…especially her cousins!

Of course, in true kid fashion…when it is cold out our kids dress for summer (& don’t wear shoes)—look at how dirty the bottom of her feet are!

The big announcement…

Kids may start out shy….but just give them a moment to warm up and they will start being themselves
Don’t pressure them and voila we will start having fun & dancing even!

And the big announcement! This family is a bebe collection family & now I am so lucky, I get to shoot another bebe collection!
CONGRATS! I can’t wait to capture another first year!!
Even if you don’t have a big announcement, there are so many props and things to do to incorporate your family’s personality into your portraits. I will help you think out of the box….call me to brainstorm your next session:O)

Beautiful weddings, even on cold days like today!

Katie & Tom’s Winter Wedding
Despite cold weather and snow, the day was nothing short of warm and spectacular

I am always looking for new ways to show off the bride’s dress–
Scoular Ballroom in Omaha, Nebraska had beautiful backdrops for the dress–I am not going to lie, hanging the dress from the chandelier made me a little nervous-I could just picture it all crashing to the floor…
Getting the dress up on all these locations was difficult too….good thing I had a tall basketball player groomsmen to hang the dress everywhere for me….I bet he was wishing he hadn’t shown up early…ha ha!

To show that this was a holiday wedding, I decided to shoot the garter on the Christmas tree, like a wedding ornament.

Cold weather did not keep us from venturing around downtown Omaha and the Old Market

Not the typical bridesmaids’ footwear, but who’s judging…it was COLD!

Old Market Fun….this was lots of fun for me because one of the groomsmen is my twin brother
and more fun…the groom, and 2 other groomsmen went to my high school and the flower girl for the day is my niece-(not in picture)

My twin brother, John Stallings and the Groom, Tom Jeffrey

Gene Leahy Mall, Omaha, NE

Downtown Omaha makes a great backdrop for a wedding day kiss!

We had to show off the holiday lights on Gene Leahy Mall

Stem Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska provided the flowers and decorations

I really loved the dramatic lighting of snow falling on the walls thru the ceremony and reception….it was absolutely beautfiul

After a day of I Do’s, traveling in a trolly, navigating snow in a wedding dress, mingling with friends and dancing…it’s time to call it a day.

Wedding Album design

We work with a fabulous designer that custom designs EVERY single wedding album to fit our clients design style…from simple & clean lines to flourishes and photos that fade out. Clients get to preview their album and make the changes they desire to get the high end heirloom album of their dreams!  These albums will be past down for generations as artwork that represents their family history.  Here are a few pages from one of our wedding albums- a spread is actually 12×24 inches…so it can’t fit in my blog….so some images are cut off–these are the images that spread across 2 pages in our flush mount album.  The first image is the actual cover of the album!–Wow digital has changed photography and what is available to clients-if you can dream it, we can make it happen!

Joyfulness in all situations-rain, sun and broken down limos!


Something all my clients have in common and one reason I just love my job is that they all have joyful spirits!  

Katie & Casey (who I have been blessed to photograph them from engagement pics thru wedding and thru their first year of parents of twins!-so fun)-

they even were jumping for joy in the rain in the Old Market in Omaha, NE!

 

Joyfulness in the Sun @ Holmes Park in Lincoln, NE

And even joy and humor when Kelly & Nancy’s Harley Limo broke down on their way to the reception and a caravan of wedding guests had to come to the rescue!