in which I learn to see: what a photograph taught me

July 28, 2014, Michaela Evanow, 28 Comments

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” Brene Brown.


At first glance, I see my round face, I see what I dislike, what makes me feel most vulnerable. I say: yuck and I won’t be showing this one off.

That angle is not my best. Anything but that. I’m 35 weeks pregnant, and each pregnancy I seem to carry this plush padding, that I otherwise don’t carry on my frame. It’s foreign and a wee bit scary to me.

I can also see the fatigue in my eyes, even though I’m trying hard. That day was a rough one, and nausea and aching back bones nearly had me collapsing in the grass. It was one of those days where I really didn’t want to capture the beauty of pregnancy.
You see, pregnancy and I often bonk heads, hard. I am one of those women that sheepishly admits that I do not like being pregnant. I know it’s awful to say, since many women struggle with infertility, but I have my own struggles in my physical body that just make pregnancy dang hard.

A wonderfully kind and caring reader, Stefany Alviar of Alviar Photography generously offered a family and maternity photo shoot for us. What an amazing blessing! She’s a natural, especially with Florence. She wasn’t fazed by what Florence could or couldn’t do, by our juggling of her 30 pound, floppy body over my huge pregnant belly. She really made us feel at ease.

So, this photo is not about her skills, rather it’s about me and my acceptance of myself in this season.

I flipped through the rest of the lovely photos and came back to this one. And then I felt that raw burning in my eyes, that emotion creeping up and into all of me. I saw what I failed to see at first, blinded by my own judgements towards myself.

Looking at this photo a second time, I see so much more.

First, I see Florence’s beautiful, precious feet.

I see feet that are crooked, because she hasn’t ever walked. I see feet that can cause her pain. I see feet that have been wept on, kissed a thousand times, bruised by IV’s, covered in plaster and casted. I see feet that bring good news, shod with grace and glory. I see tiny seashell pink toenails, and a milky brown beauty mark smack dab in the middle of her left foot.

I see legs I know so well, covered in luscious layers of fat, but lacking muscle tone. These legs have been caressed and cradled in our arms since day one.

I see a body, wholly dependant on me to carry her, near or far.

I see my precious child, unable to move but full of delight and joy and inner strength.

I see how my hands hold her, just so. Curved around all the vulnerable parts, careful to keep them tucked in so they don’t fall by her side and threaten another fracture.

I see my blonde curls and hers too. She has my curls.

I see just how breathtakingly beautiful she is, just as she is.

I see the smile on her face that says: This is so fun, don’t ever let me go Mama!

I see it in my face too: I will never let you go, my darling.

I see the wings of a protective mother enveloping her daughter, mirroring the actions of a faithful God.

Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers…” Psalm 91:4 (VOICE)

I see a very pregnant belly, hanging low. Inside, a baby feels the weight of his or her big sister against it’s bum.

I see a titanium and bone spine that bears the weight of a quickly growing baby and a 3 foot tall toddler.

And then I see it, and my eyes start to fill with tears. I’m thankful no one is around to watch me cry over a photo of my own self and my little girl.

But I see it, I finally see it. Strength.

I see the years…the years of hard labouring and weeping and groaning under the weight of all the brokenness in the world. Maybe that’s what’s lining my eyes, pooling there around the rims.

I see a woman that chose, hand in in with her husband, to carry another life in her womb, with the odds, statistics, fear and perhaps judgements lurking nearby.

I see a mother.

I see hope.

I see beauty.

I see beauty growing out of the ashes, watered by the strength and hope lavished upon me by God.

Too many woman don’t accept their bodies, failing to see the beauty in front of them: I need a face lift, I need to lose weight, I’m too skinny, I’m too fat, if I could just change this, if I could just lose that bit there, if only my hair looked less drab, if only my skin was clear, my teeth straighter.

But I choose to see beauty. In me. And in you. The most beautiful people I know declare beauty over their so called broken bits and misfit pieces—the typically unwelcome features and attributes in this perfectionist world.

There is a lot I would change about the photo if I could, and it wouldn’t be the angle. That photo is a slice of my life, it’s a moment on my timeline.

And this is what is looks like: weakness, strength, suffering, overcoming, hope, beauty.

Selah.

28 Comments

  • Reply Terri July 29, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    All I see is a woman in bloom of pregnancy, smiling because she holding her precious children close to her. The love she has for the beautiful girl with bouncy curls in her arms. I see a sweet girl smiling up at her mama, her eyes saying Mama I feel your love flowing into me. I see How many ways the Good Lord has blessed you.

  • Reply Saskia July 29, 2014 at 5:24 AM

    Oh Michaela, this post breathes speaks of something holy. It is beautiful, and (once again) your words touched my heart and my emotions! Thank you for this. “The most beautiful people I know declare beauty over their so called broken bits and misfit pieces—the typically unwelcome features and attributes in this perfectionist world.” Such wisdom in this post beautiful mama.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 29, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      Thanks Saskia love xo.

  • Reply Helen Burns July 29, 2014 at 4:26 AM

    I am a big, blubbering mess as I read through every word in here this early morning Michaela, There are so many things that speak to me from this page that you have so generously crafted from your gorgeous heart.
    ‘I see the wings of a protective mother enveloping her daughter, mirroring the actions of a faithful God.’ I see this too and feel so compelled by your fierce and protective heart to ‘notice’ more in life – to not let the moments laden with raw beauty to go unnoticed and uncelebrated. You inspire me so greatly.

    This photo is stunning and as I first looked at it I was captivated by Florence’s smile – how magnificent it is! You, too my lovely are so very, very beautiful. I see such breathtaking beauty in every aspect of who you are – you are physically stunning, and yet this picture does show so much more beauty- it exudes from every single detail of what was captured in this photo. I am blessed to know you.

    Have the best day. xoxo

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 29, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Oh Helen, this is so lovely to hear! Thank you for all your words, and for taking the time to speak them over me!
      xo

  • Reply Daniela July 28, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    God you are gorgeous. and Flo is no slouch herself…I want to nibble those toes.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 29, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      love this 😉

  • Reply Janet Person July 28, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    The first thing I see in that picture is Florence gazing with love and adoration and trust at her mama. Nothing can take away from that love bond between a mother and her child. Treasure and honour that bond. It is so incredibly special.

  • Reply Sue July 28, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Oh my gosh what a beautiful post! Whenever I read one i”m so grateful to somehow have crossed paths with you. You have no idea what your words do to me. Thank you dear one!!! Xo

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      Oh thank you! For such gorgeous words. They mean so much. xo

  • Reply Consuelo July 28, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    I appreciate your life and hope I’ve contributed to the positive. I often see your posts and pray. Bless you all! CY

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      It’s so nice to hear from you Consuelo. Thank you.

  • Reply Rebecca Funk July 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    I see a dear friend who radiates the love of Christ and who doesn’t make excuses, but is honest and open and real.

    I see a beautiful little girl who adores her mama and knows that she is safe in her arms and in the arms of her maker.

    Wishing I could give you both hugs right now.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      I miss you lovely! Thank you for your beautiful words. xoxo

  • Reply Ginny July 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Thanks for transparency and truth. When I look at you I see beauty marked by admirable strength, remarkable grace, powerful resilency, gratitude and acceptance, kindness, compassion, and authenticity. You write with such conviction and honesty and display such character. Blessings to you and your family. May God shine upon you more and more.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      Wow, those are some amazing words. Thank you Ginny. Kind of hard to receive…but I’m learning, learning to see those attributes in myself, and in all of us.

  • Reply Leah Kostmo July 28, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Hi Michaela,

    What a beautiful piece of writing and testimony to your love and perseverance and to your wonderful, winsome daughter. I’m glad to get to know you!!

    Peace,
    leah

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      Hi Leah. I’m glad to get to know you too! Thank you for your words. xo

  • Reply Donna-Jean Brown July 28, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Aaah – two beautiful, beloved daughters of God – such endurance, such delight.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      Thanks, Donna-Jean. I like that–endurance and delight.

  • Reply Amy Hunt July 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    This is beauty unfolding. The process you shared about is worship right here. So beautiful. Exquisitely beautiful in all its rawness and realness. Yes to this.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      And yes to your words Amy. Thank you for them. xo

  • Reply Dawn Scott July 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Michaela, once again you have me crying like a baby at my computer screen. You are beautiful – inside and out and your journey is a testament to God Almighty and His plan to use all things for good to those who love Him…. This song came to mind as I was reading your words….XXOO D.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzf1xQdcMNY

    KISS THE SON (Kevin Prosch)

    When you’ve been broken, broken to pieces.
    And Your heart begins to faint
    ’cause you don’t understand.
    And when there is nothing to rake from the ashes.
    And you can’t even walk
    onto the fields of praise.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Oh Dawn, sorry about the tears 😉 They are good for us, though. Thanks for the link!

  • Reply Debbie Tuit July 28, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Oh Micheala,
    Once again you have touch the very core of my being with your beautiful, and honest writing.
    I LOVE the one photograph I could find of you holding Florence. You look absolutely gorgeous as ever. Sorry, see no fatigue, just a glow and pride.
    Florence is gorgeous, like her mama! That smile is beyond all beyonds.
    Excited with you as you are almost there. almost time to meet your new little on! Miracle # 2!!
    Much love,

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Thank you Debbie!

  • Reply Bethany July 28, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    This picture of you is gorgeous, and I LOVE that you looked until you found strength and beauty and hope, because that’s what I see in that picture too, and in you every time I see you. <3 Thanks for being a voice of empowerment today towards all women and the way we see ourselves.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      Thank you Bethany. You too are a voice of empowerment for women. Keep fighting girl. I’m with you!

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