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I spent quite a bit of time tonight looking through my photo albums. It took awhile because, not counting the photos taken when I was a child or the ones others have taken of me, I have 10,096 pictures. I joined Facebook in September 2009. 10,096
pictures in less than 4 years. My sister says that is ridiculous. I say it’s wonderful. In order to have accomplished this feat, I had to have taken the equivalent of about 3 pictures every day for the last 3 1/2 years. People half joke that every day in girls’ lives is photographically documented. In my head, I can’t understand why it would be any other way.

Pictures reassure me that, should something happen to me, my girls will know how much I loved them because I took them places and played with them. Pictures remind me of memories that make me smile, even when I don’t want to. Pictures take me back in time to a space that felt so wonderful I wanted to freeze it. For instance, whenever I see pictures of me in high school, what I remember is the singular feeling of safety and friendship I felt at McGavock. When I see pictures of me as a young child, I’m reminded that, even it doesn’t feel like it, I really was once a beautiful and innocent little girl. When I see pictures of my daughters as infants, the same bubble of awe and wonder that filled me then swells my heart and I marvel for a minute over how much they have grown in the intervening years. When I see pictures of us at Beech Bend, or picking apples in the orchard, or painting ourselves purple, I’m reminded that that is the legacy I want to leave. It reminds me of the reasons I strive so hard and try so much with them–because I want their hearts to be full of memories like those in our photographs.

Pictures make me happy.

When I see beautiful pictures like this, my heart skips a beat. It makes me remember that the earth is God’s canvas and that it is a beautiful thing. It makes me smile, and deposits a well of hope into my weary soul.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m a writer and I deeply love the written word so my instinct is to refute that saying. But once, when I was a Senior in high school, I stood in front of the original Mona Lisa. Moments later, I stood face to face with Starry Night. And I remember how, in that space, there were no words big enough to express the feeling. The Mona Lisa truly does speak–it truly does seem to say more than any replication of it ever has. I’d never understood the big deal about that painting until I was in front of it. And as wonderful as it is, an actual photograph of real people I love provokes an even greater intense love because it also sparks my memories of that person. As beautiful as Starry Night is, an actual photograph of the Georgia mountains moves my heart even more because, when I see it, I am reminded of the pure peace I felt there.

Pictures capture details that often get overlooked in day to day life. My youngest daughter just turned six and still walks on her tippy toes. When I see a picture of her on her toes, my heart swells with tenderness at how sweet she is. When I see a picture of my oldest with a flower, my heart is again stirred as I recall with love how greatly she adores flowers.

When a camera is turned toward us, we smile. On the one hand, I regret this because it means we are captured in a less than natural way. But on the other hand, it is a beautiful thing because it means that we captured a time, even if only for a moment, when we were hopeful enough to put our best side forward.

I have 10,000+ pictures that I’ve taken since 2009; thousands more between 2004-2009. But when I look at them, I see stories in my head. Stories of the people I love, of the places we share and of the things that are dear in our lives. Stories, really, that matter.

I thought I’d share a few of the most special pictures here and give you a story with it. When you look at them, can you feel the joy and the hope? Can you sense the peace? Most of all, do they make you want to flip open an old family photo album and reminisce about the places, things and people that you loved enough to take a picture of or with?

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Grigg’s Photography

This is a picture from my first pregnancy. I took the pregnancy test five times. I was in a state of shock and also pure joy. I could not believe God had entrusted to me the care of a tiny baby. I was in love with her before she was ever born.

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Breathe Hayleyann. For months, I worried over a name. Breathe was perfect. It meant, in my head, life. It also was a way for her to remember to take a few minutes and just breathe–not to get so caught up in the race that she forgot to enjoy life. When she was born, the pieces of my heart began gluing themselves back together again. It’s been 9 years and I am still as awe-struck by her as I was then.

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A picture of my second pregnancy. I prayed for Alight. I wanted to be pregnant and was so happy when I discovered that I was carrying Alight.

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I remember thinking how beautiful Alight’s skin color was. Alight is my snuggle bunny, the one who wants to cuddle and sit on my lap. She’s also fearless—and yet very much a girly girl. I would not have been complete, or known such joy, without her.

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Dancing in the rain. When they were very little, I decided I wanted them to learn to love life. I did not want them to be as afraid of life as I was. Rain was just water and, every time it rained, I encouraged them to get out in it and dance. It has become a favorite past time. We don’t talk about getting sick. We talk about how lovely it is that we get to play in the puddles. We don’t talk about how cold it is. We talk about how many drops of it we can catch on our tongues. Life may throw balls at us that we can’t dodge but we can learn how to catch them. If they knock us down, we can stand back up.

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“There is no wrong way to do art.”. I’ve said that to my girls a billion times. They repeat it back now without prompting. I did not allow coloring books when they were little because I did not want them to think their picture wasn’t good if they got out of the lines. I wanted them to learn to express themselves through art. So we would move the easel outside, or to the park, and let them go at it. They now have strong artistic inklings — and they love the process of creating art as much as the final thing.

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Some people are comforted by the sea. The ocean fills their heads with visions of peace. I love the ocean. But, for me, even the ocean cannot compare to the majesty of mountains. Their size makes me feel protected, their beauty inspires me to a state of awe and reverence. Georgia and Tennessee mountains bring me solace like few places can. I could have stayed in Cade’s Cove forever, and never have tired of the view.

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When I look at a picture, I don’t just see an image. I see history, tangible proof that I won’t be forgotten and that I have helped build a worthwhile legacy for my daughters. It reminds me that there are people who love me, and places that can soothe me. I have well over 10,000 pictures and when I look through them, I laugh, I fade into sentimental thoughts and I feel great compassion, peace, joy and love. Anything that can inspire such emotion is great. And perhaps, just perhaps, that is why they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

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