I have been dreading this post.
10 years of blogging, 6,730,925 lifetime page views, 1864 posts, and 55,968 comments.
Those numbers don't mean anything to me though.
10 years spent writing, 10 years spent sharing what is dearest to me in photos, 10 years of growth, 10 years of change, 10 years of memories, 10 years worth of friendship and encouragement gifted to me by all of you.
Those are the numbers that matter to me.
My family is going through something that is really painful and humbling right now.
If you and I were ever to sit down over coffee (or better yet, a stiff drink), I'd tell you about all of it. I wouldn't hold back anything. I'd tell you about the day everything changed and how I sat in the passenger seat of a dear friend's car, with the window rolled down because I needed air, how sweet her prayer and comfort was, and how I just sat there for an hour and a half without speaking a word before she took me home. I'd tell you how broken my husband looked waiting by the front door for me, and how we sat on the floor of our bathroom together for hours that evening with very few words and what felt like endless tears, wondering how our family could recover. I'd tell you about how it felt to keep drifting off to sleep that first night (and many nights since) only to be stirred awake time and time again by the weight of our new reality. I'd tell you about Ross driving home from Seattle the next day to help us wade through all of the pain and decisions. I'd tell you about a five hour hike Josh and I went on in the snow just because we couldn't bear to be in our own home and how I fell asleep with his arm around me while sitting on a rock on top of the mountain. I'd tell you about the time I spent in the car with Ross driving through the long and windy roads of the Applegate Valley for no other reason than to talk. I'd tell you about the phone call I got telling me that a sweet friend of mind had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and how all I could do was run (literally) to try to find a brief escape from what felt like pain heaping up on top of pain. I'd tell you all the ways in which my husband has amazed me. I'd tell you about how it has felt to watch my kids wade through the depths of this. I'd tell you about how hard it felt to face people I love. I'd tell you about fear. I'd tell you about painful conversations. I'd tell you about the hurt and confusion my kids are feeling. I'd tell you about the first time I caught myself laughing after everything changed and how it made me feel simultaneously guilty and hopeful. I'd tell you about how it felt to write the details of what happened in an email to all 64 of the women in the current workshop I'm teaching (A Year in the Making) and how much they blessed me with support, encouragement, and love. I'd tell you about how I couldn't bring myself to take a single photo during the holidays. I'd tell you what it feels like to experience the judgment of others. I'd tell you about all the individual worries I've felt for each of my kids. I'd tell you about some hard decisions we had to make. I'd tell you about how much I have longed for God's perfect justice to be exercised rather than the faulty justice of humans, which could prove to be too harsh or too lenient. I'd tell you how many times I sat across from my husband, watching him try to hide his tears. I'd tell you about how exposed and vulnerable I felt. I'd tell you about how I refused to talk to God for three days. And I'd tell you about all the people who poured into my life when I had nothing to give them back in return.
I'd tell you the verse I posted (Isaiah 43:18-21) on my bathroom mirror just days before everything changed without knowing how God was trying to prepare my heart for what was to come:
Do not call upon the former things or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new.
Now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
I'd tell you about the night I sat in my car for two hours, reading a book that had been sent to me by a friend (a student who was chosen to receive a free spot in the current workshop I'm teaching), called Shattered Dreams, God's Unexpected Pathway to Joy by Larry Crab and feeling real hope for the first time since everything changed. And how when I emailed her to tell her how much I appreciated the book, she helped me to see how for eight years (possibly longer), God had been making plans to comfort me and provide me with hope during this time. She said:
"I am aware that there is a reality that my friend, Penny, told me about you in 2007, so that I could tell my friend, Rachel, about you, so that she could take your photography workshop and become your friend, so that she would nominate me to be gifted with a spot in A Year in the Making, so that you would prayerfully choose me, so that during this important moment of shattered dreams in your heart and family, that God would invite me to send you this book. He. is. that. big."
I'd tell you about how I'm learning that if I want deep, unshakable joy in my life, that my hope has got to be built on nothing other than the Lord. My husband is the best man I know, but my hope cannot be built on him because he could leave me, he could get cancer, or he could let me down in 100 lesser ways. My kids are wonderful, but my hope cannot be built on them because there's no guarantee about how they'll turn out, there's no guarantee that they won't become estranged from me one day, and there's no guarantee that they won't break my heart 100 different times. My hope cannot be built on my friends because sometimes, friends are only for a season. My hope can't be built on my career, because I'm on my third career right now, and not one of them has lasted. My hope cannot be built on my health because I'm destined to die one day, just like everyone else. My hope cannot be built on my retirement plan because plans are not promises. And my hope cannot be built on my appearance (good thing I've never been pretty enough to base any sort of hope on what I look like) because the wrinkles and the grey hair, they are a'comin. Jesus is the only thing in this ever-changing world that is unchangeable, and because of that, He is the only safe place to build our identities, our homes, and our hopes.
I'd tell you how I'm beginning to see that I don't need certain outcomes, or a life that looks a certain way, because I've got a certain God.
I'd tell you about how many times I've cried recently, listening to the simple words of this song.
I'd also tell you how confident I am that five years from now (perhaps sooner) I will be able to look back on this painful season of my family's life, and I will be able to see all of the fruit that came from it and will be able to use it to help, comfort, and love people better because of it.
I just know it.
But here on this blog, I can't tell the full story because it's not my story to share.
And (for the time being at least) everything just feels too raw and too broken for me to continue blogging.
I could choose to feel really sad about saying goodbye to this blog (because it does feel really sad to me), and I could choose to feel resentful about the circumstances that have brought me to this point (because they are really crappy circumstances), but I'm not going to. The 10 years I spent on this blog and the friends I've made along the way have been beautiful, so with the wise words of Dr. Suess in mind, I'm not going to cry because it's over, I'm going to smile because it happened.
I'll plan to hop on one more time in the coming weeks to let you all know what I'll be doing business-wise (with The Photographers' Workshop, Making the Shot, future tutorials, and A Year in the Making).
And know that if I could somehow bottle up 10 years worth of love and thanks to send to each one of you, I would.
But if you ever find yourself driving on Interstate-5, past Central Point, Oregon, feel free to hit me up for that drink.