HE HAS MADE EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN ITS TIME | AN ADOPTION STORY
I struggle with writing our story because I’m afraid my words will never do justice to what God put into place for you, me, your daddy, and your brother AJ. He took situations that were ugly and difficult and replaced them with something beautiful and overflowing with joy. I want us to remember the details of our story, and I know keeping it to myself doesn’t do it justice either, and so I will try…
January 2013- June 2013
I met you when you were just a few months old. I remember looking at that sweet face of yours and commenting on how beautiful you were! You gave me the biggest smiles and melted my heart. Of course, I had no idea what was to come. You see, I am a speech and language pathologist and you, my sweet girl, were placed in a foster home where I worked with another child. Oh, how your foster parents loved you! I always enjoyed hearing them talk of you and seeing how their faces lit up. You were adored and quickly nicknamed the “Princess” of the house. When you were eight months old, your foster mama asked if I would see you for therapy, and that was the start of our weekly visits.
A year and a half before….
I had been experiencing extreme fatigue and joint pain intermittently for about a year and finally consulted with a doctor. I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. In short, lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks normal, healthy tissue. The course of the disease can be unpredictable, alternating between periods of illness and periods of remission. I have had a range of symptoms, and at my worst, there were days when I couldn’t walk due to the pain. Although many women diagnosed with lupus can successfully go on to conceive and give birth, the hormone changes and stress on the mind and body can cause flare-ups. I was advised not to get pregnant at least until my blood work showed major improvement. At this time, AJ was two years old, and we were planning to grow our family. However, we decided to follow the doctor’s advice and wait.
One month after my diagnosis, you were born. Babies go into foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Those details I will share with you in time, but know that God held you in the palm of His hand. You went home from the hospital with your loving foster parents who took the BEST care of you. I’ll forever be grateful to them for the love they showered on you that first year and a half.
One year after my diagnosis, I was making good progress towards going into remission. My blood work had improved from the severe range to mild, and I had given myself a six month timeline. I wanted to be well enough to start trying to have a second baby in May. It seems silly, of course. I knew I couldn’t just give my body a deadline; nevertheless, my focus was on May.
You were a little over one year old, and we were six months into our weekly therapy sessions. I delighted in seeing you grow and learn new things. Around this time, your foster mama commented that it looked like you might be in need of a forever family….and the seed was planted.
Your foster mama continued to keep me posted on some of the details of your case and repeated that it looked like you would be in need of a forever family. It was at the end of this month that I told your daddy about you. I simply told him a few details and for the next four days, he brought you up in conversation. You were on your daddy’s heart and mind from the moment he heard of you! Just a week later, he was able to meet you. I can still see his beaming face as he held you in his arms. Your daddy and I prayed that if it was God’s will that you be our daughter, it would happen quickly. Adopting from foster care is typically quite a long, unpredictable process. Not only did we want you home with us, we knew that you were at a young enough age where the transition from your foster home to ours would be a whole lot less difficult for you. We began to visit you as much as we could without annoying your foster parents! Of course, they were wonderful and agreed to visits pretty much every time we asked!
Your foster care goal was now officially adoption, and we were named as your adoptive resource! Finally, we were able to go to court and let the judge know how much we loved you and wanted you to be our daughter. Again, our prayer was that you would be able to come home quickly. The atmosphere in a courtroom is quite formal and intimidating. However, the wonderful judge came out of his seat, walked over to us, and kindly said to me, “She’s beautiful.” I immediately teared up and could barely whisper a grateful, “Thank you.” He then looked at your daddy and asked, “What can I do for you?” Your daddy didn’t hesitate, “Make it happen quickly!” The judge chuckled and nodded his head. He then ordered background checks and an expedited home study to be completed in 10 days. The social worker pleaded with the judge to extend the time frame as she would not be able to do it that quickly. I’ll never forget this- the judge looked her right in the eye and said, “You can and you will complete it in 10 days. I have faith in you.” I remember trying my best to keep it together, but the tears of joy spilled over.
As we prepared our home for you, we continued to visit with you and babysit you during this time. I enjoyed bringing you to our home and seeing your relationship with your brother, AJ, blossom. AJ, who was three years old at this time, had decided that as long as I could still be his mommy too, he was ok with having you join our family. His love for you grew quickly, and he proudly introduced you to his friends as “my sister.” He affectionately called you “my Emma girl” and you two shared lots of laughs. He became every bit the big brother, both protecting you from harm and asserting his older sibling status by helping you “toughen up.”
We all looked forward to having you home with us permanently!
May 23, 2014
We went back to the courthouse to see the judge and review our status. The home study was completed and we were still waiting on federal background checks to come back. We figured we were at the very least several weeks away from having you come home. Well, much to our surprise the judge asked the social worker if the local background checks had cleared. After she said, “yes,” he stated, “In that case, she goes home TODAY.” And so it was, just three short months from the time we hoped for you (and in the same month we had hoped and prayed that I would be ready to try for a second baby), God gave us the most precious gift. He gave us YOU.
June 2014- November 2014.
In addition to adjusting to becoming a family of four, we spent time fulfilling a few more requirements that needed to be met before we could finalize your adoption. These were finished with relative ease, and we couldn’t wait to make it officially official! During this time, my mother (your Nini!) shared that she had been praying for quite a while that your daddy and I would experience God in a very real way. You can imagine our awe at the way He chose to answer that one! Surprisingly, we discovered that your birth mother has a history of lupus, which puts you at an increased risk for developing it since it does have a genetic component. I was dismayed at this information, but your daddy pointed out that if you do face that trial down the road, we would be well-equipped. Perhaps, this information is just another way the Lord chose to reveal His sovereignty to us. His hand over our lives has never been clearer and that truth brings great peace!
November 25, 2014- Adoption day!!
We headed back to the courthouse one final time. Surrounded by our family, we vowed to be yours forever, and the judge signed into law what God had already placed in our hearts. You, my precious daughter, are the greatest blessing- a gift far greater than what we could have even imagined for ourselves! It truly feels like you were always a part of us. You’ve taught your daddy and I even more about both our capacities for love, and also our Creator’s love for us. I pray you always know just how dearly loved you are, my beautiful Emma Kate Brawley.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “ Ecclesiastes 3:11
Thank you Brawley family for allowing me to document such a great testament of God’s faithfulness and special thank you mom for sharing your letter to your daughter and to whom ever is reading.
As a visual story teller, I strive to organically capture the true essence of a person’s craft in a hands off approach. For this shoot, I featured Winter Park floral designer Mary Stonecypher Maslow. One sunny, late summer morning, I captured her work, from gathering in the woods through pruning and crafting, all the way to the finished arrangement. I joined Mary as she foraged wild muscadine grape vine and maple tree foliage from a patch of swampy, Florida woods surrounding a near by lake. To craft her arrangements, she brought her foraged bounty to one of Winter Park’s oldest landmarks, the Winter Park Country Club. There she combined her bounty with vibrant colors of locally grown roses and wildflowers. In her work, Mary strives to showcase the beauty and bounty of Florida flowers. Noting especially, the amazing growing capabilities of the state, and its unique opportunity to grow an array of floral varieties year round. Brides, I think she offers something really unique for florals! Check out Mary here , & more of her awesome florals from The B Project here.
FLORIDA FLORAL FORAGING | MARY MASLOW DESIGN | WINTER PARK, FL.
FAVORITE FRAMES OF 2014
Disclaimer: what you are about to read will be full of grammatical errors so if you are the grammar/writing nazis please keep on browsing the net and don’t stop here ;). I tend to write like I talk 😉 I’m about to get real honest and raw here in hopes of letting others know they are not alone in the hustle-struggle of being a creative. This could be a proverbial career suicide for writing this but “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.” It’s been SOOOOOO-heavy on my heart I feel the need to lay it all out there to move forward to 2015. What!? Did I just type 2015??!! Wasn’t it just Y2K!??? 2014 has been tough…like super tough guys…you know the living off Ramen noodles kinda tough…following? It’s been humbling leaving my job as a RN to pursue this career. Yeah, you can say it: “what in the hell was she thinking?!” It wasn’t easy to take that blind leap of faith but I did. I did it because I am REALLY PASSIONATE about telling stories. Your story. Never in a million years did I think I would be making pennies compared to what I was 2 years ago. That has been so humbling…not having the luxury of going to the grocery store when we REALLY NEED FOOD. It’s scary not knowing when your next paycheck is coming. Photography is my ONLY source of income. It isn’t a hobby for me. It’s what pays bills, clothes our kiddos, and puts food on our table. I’ve been working myself to the bone…you know in the way where you neglect things in your own life/your own business needs etc just trying to make ends meet. I’ll be completely transparent, the selling-myself-game of this business is starting to wear on me a bit because I know my work is solid…no, it’s damn solid and I’ll stand by that statement. I’m not saying that with a haughty spirit because anyone who truly knows me can vouch that is not me. I know there are TONS of better artists than I but my vision is a bit different. What I mean is you won’t find a more emotionally vested person in telling your story. My heart and mind are totally connected to it. I’ve never had a clearer vision of how I like to shoot and document your story. I know exactly what your daddy is thinking when he’s wiping his tears during your father/daughter dance…”you said you’d never leave me…that you wanted to marry me when you grew up…how can that little girl with the toothless grin and pigtails already be grown?” I see things you won’t think about as a 20 something…like the importance of capturing the essence of the people at your wedding…specifically ones that will not be on this earth in just a few short years. Reality is hard people!!! Baaaa-lieve me I’ve had my fair share of reality pies thrown in my face but it is what it is: important people who molded who you are will die. It’s life. You see, life has a way of throwing curve balls at you…those special people at your wedding slowly dwindle from your life and in hindsight you start to realize what was really important about that day. No, it’s not all the gorgeous details or the hideous Pinterest picture poses (yeah, you know which ones I’m taking about) it’s the people-THE RELATIONSHIPS. When I started on this journey, of being a wedding photographer, that’s what I wanted to convey in my imagery…people matter not things. Life is fleeting…these moments are fleeting…that’s why I took that giant leap of faith to chase a dream. You can’t put a price tag on the people at your wedding and you can’t put a price tag on a photographer that will pour herself into your story. That’s what makes me Tiffani and not the other photographers you’ve price shopped. I realize my style & pricing doesn’t suit every bride and I am completely ok with that…but I need you to invest in me not as a photographer within your budget but as a story-teller of those fleeting moments of your life . If you are a person that gets my vision, I’d love to tell your story in a very laid back, non-intrusive, artistic-candid, and honest way. I promise I’ll be worth the investment :). So here’s to a promising 2015 and not eating Ramen noodles! Here are my favorite moments from 2014. A very special thank you to my dear friends Shipra and Jason. Your friendships have been the highlight of my year. You guys are so supportive and encouraging and push me to be a better artist and person and I love you both for that. Last but not least, I need to give a REALLY HUGE SHOUT OUT to my husband. He’s been selflessly supportive of my entire career change and I am forever grateful that he encourages me to follow my passion