I will RESTORE to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. You'll know without question That I am your God, yes, your God, the one and only real God. - Joel 2:25-27
I was raised in foster care. Born to a mentally disabled mother - the day I was born, I was immediately placed in the foster care system and remained there until age 18.
As any child would, I struggled with my identity and I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that those same struggles still continue to come up as I search for validation and identity in places that don't deserve it. But, how could I not? It's a journey I was tasked with the moment I entered the world.
When I was 24 years old, right before I was about to marry Isaiah, in an unlikely course of events, I happened upon contact information for my eldest cousin. Having found Isaiah on Myspace, just a year and a half earlier (two strangers from opposite ends of the country committing to marrying one another and committing to a life together), I decided to use my resources and hopped on Facebook.
One of the most powerful and life changing conversations was with my cousin, Amanda, that day. I reached out to her and said " Hi, you don't know me, but I think we could be related and that maybe my mom is the sister to your father?"
Waiting on her response back was one of the most nerve-wrecking moments of my life. I remember my heart beating so hard in my chest, I couldn't get it to calm down.
When she finally replied - she said , "Oh my gosh! I had heard this could be true. I know who you are, but we thought you were much younger." That response changed my life forever. She will never truly know how much HER reply that day meant to me. Who I was and how I moved forward hinged on her ability to be compassionate with me while I was on my search for truth.
Lost, my whole enter life and for the first time in 24 years, I knew who I was. At least a part of me.
Over the last 10 years, I have been actively pursuing relationships with my family. A grandmother, who when was very young had to make a very heart-breaking decision to give my mom up at her birth. An act that would start a domino effect of 3 generations being impacted by that choice.
When I became pregnant, it was crucial to me that it was a girl - because, in my mind, it was the only that this generational curse would and could be broken. When we found out she was a girl - there was a piece of my heart that was healed, knowing that for the first time since my grandmother was born, this line I was on would shift into a new direction.
For the last couple years, as my mother has begun to get older and more fragile in her health, it has been a priority for me that Wisdom develop a pure and sweet relationship with her. She has disabilities, yes, but she is kind and thoughtful and fun and I never ever wanted to highlight, in Wisdom's eyes, anything that would make her feel her grandmother was worth anything other then an abundance of LOVE; an opportunity I wasn't given in my upbringing as I was constantly reminded of who she wasn't and the shame of that kept me from fully embracing her for who she was.
Watching the sweet relationship my mom and Wisdom have has made me yearn to know my grandmother. To know who I am and how things got to where they are. Sadly, after many attempts we haven't been able to get those answers and now my grandmother who I have been around so few times is suffering from Dementia, which makes really understanding the details of the separation even harder to attain.
There was an ache in my heart for not knowing where I came from and a disappointment for the time that had been lost.
We would be at family gatherings - and there were memories I didn't have and stories I couldn't tell and photo albums I wasn't in, that my mom wasn't in - and it made me feel like we didn't exist anywhere.
This is where being a photographer is so powerful. It's powerful because you get to give other people their memories - but its even more so because you get to shape yours.
I believe so strongly in the job I do. I believe in taking family pictures. I believe in telling people's stories and I believe in having mine told.
After going through heart failure in 2017 - there were some things on my list - that I could no longer allow to remain. One of those was taking Wisdom to meet my grandmother. There are four generations alive at this moment - and after my recent health scare, the gravity of life became so real to me.
Taking Wisdom to meet granny had been on my list of things "to do" since 2015.... I couldn't wait any longer.
As I was booking tickets for Wisdom and I to meet my aunt and my cousin in Charlotte for the weekend - my mom flashed across my mind. I couldn't take Wisdom to meet granny and not take my mom. Wisdom loves her grandma - and I thought of the power of my family seeing my mother as a grandmother and the respect they would have for her - and what it would mean in Heaven to take back ownership of this situation by restoring it with the 4 of us present in the same room.
Never in 35 years have I ever traveled anywhere with my mother - and only once in the last 60 have she and my grandmother and aunt been in the same place at the same time.
I shared my plan with a few more family members - and what was a trip for Wisdom turned into a mini family reunion of all of the lead women in my family.
My aunt and my mom were there (the only two girls my grandmother birthed - she had 5 children total, two girls and 3 boys - my mom and aunt are the oldest.)
The three eldest cousins and eldest grandchildren. My cousin Amanda, my cousin Portia and me. We were all born 6 months apart from one another. Could you imagine the childhood stories we would have told?
and the oldest female great- grandchild birthed by a female grandchild in our family, Aaliyah, Amanda's daughter - and the youngest female great-grandchild birthed by a female grandchild in our family, my sweet Wisdom.
The weekend was one of the most powerful I have ever had as I felt waves crash over my heart and peace and forgiveness rush over me.
Being with my family and seeing the smiles, laughing and getting to know each other put everything in the right perspective and after crying tears of frustration one evening over feeling so conflicted about how I should feel vs. how I feel and the unfairness of the situation, I was able to finally let go and just be, to just be in the moment and to look forward to the future.
The truth is that there's not a thing about my upbringing I would change because it's made me who I am, but I am so thankful for the healing restoration that finding them has brought into my life and I am so thankful the curse is NOW broken.
with strength, courage and wisdom,
Special thanks to Laura Fulmer of Laura Fulmer Photography for these beautiful portraits of such a precious time in my life.