On Valentine’s Day several years ago Mark and I got each other the exact same gift. That’s the only time I can ever remember that happening. We are often finishing each other’s thoughts and on the same wave length per se, but our gifting waves don’t cross very often. That year, however we knew what each other needed. It just happened to be a book. When we were dating and first married we read books together often. Instead of watching tv in the evenings we would sit in bed and read out loud. Before we were married we traded favorite books and enjoyed long conversations about them after finishing reading them.
Then we had kids.
Reading more than a quick news article or blog post became hard to come by.
So, gifting a book, especially the same book was so surprising. We had heard about The Five Love Languages in church and agreed that it sounded like something we would enjoy learning more about together. Well, in true Mark and Danielle fashion we started reading it and were quickly distracted by life and never returned.
Some time later I stumbled across an online test to identify your love language. I took the test and encouraged Mark to do the same. I learned that my strongest love language was acts of service. I show people my love and appreciation by serving them. And in return I feel loved when people use their time to show me they care. This isn't really surprising because I have always gone out of my way to volunteer for this cause or that one, but it did reveal to me how much I truly appreciate it when others care for me in this way too.
The more kids I have and the busier life gets, the more difficult it is for me to volunteer. It breaks my heart a little when I have to tell people that I can't fill a position, or help with this event or the other. My first ministry is to my family, the more I am away from them serving others, the harder it is for me to serve them! However, I still look for opportunities to fit volunteering into my busy schedule. About 4 years ago my Sister-in-law shared with me about The Tiny Footprints Project. She is also a photographer, and since one of her babies spent some time in the NICU she was intrigued with what TTFP was doing. In the fall of 2015 I applied to become a volunteer photographer for The Tiny Footprints Project. In October of that year I was approved to start volunteering. Since then I have had the privilege of photographing about a dozen families in the past two years for this wonderful organization and I have enjoyed every one of them. It is so special to be able to bless a family with special photos of their newest baby where they lived before they were healthy enough to go home from the hospital.
My desire to serve and love others with my gifts is not the only reason I was drawn to volunteering with this organization. I have had 2 nephews and 1 niece spend their first days in the NICU and I know second hand how difficult and trying those times are, but also how triumphant it is to look back when that baby is grown and see how far they have come. Most families do not have great photos of their babies when they are tiny and then regret not documenting those days a little better. They grow and change so stinking fast, you guys! It's hard to imagine when you are in the thick of it, but they really do change before your eyes.
If those are not enough reasons for me to want to volunteer for this cool organization, I have another, more personal reason. When I was growing up we had boxes of photos, and one of my favorite things to do was sort through these photos and spend hours looking at them. I was always drawn to, and amazed with, the photos my dad took of my older sister when she was young.
Our parents made an extra effort to document her life as much as possible because every single day was a gift, and also could have potentially been her last. (Rebekah will be 35 this week and you can read a little more about her story here.) Even though Rebekah is 2.5 years older than me I came home from the hospital before she did. She lived at Children's Hospital until she was three years old! I have learned a lot about her and the struggles my family went through by going through those photos. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about how much God has used Rebekah to teach me about Him. Rebekah now lives with my family and I hope that my sons will also look back fondly on the different ways that she teaches them to love people who are different and how God uses everything for His glory.
If you or someone you know has a baby staying in the NICU, I would love to offer a complementary photo session in the hospital. If you aren't local to San Diego have no fear! The Tiny Footprints Project is a national organization that can pair families with photographers all around the state. You can submit a session request here and one of our wonderful volunteers will respond with a few days.
As always, I am happy to serve your family's photography needs. Shoot me and e-mail or message me on Facebook to discuss your next photo session.