Back in September I received an email asking if I cover private events. This backyard dinner party was for a family, celebrating and paying thanks to their family and friends that had stood by them and helped them walk through some of the most difficult days they’d ever faced in their lives. A year of learning to live without mom and wife and keeping their new “life” moving one day at a time.
I was excited and quite honored when things were official and the date was booked. I’d suggested that we take a few minutes before dinner to do some family pictures of the father and his girls. He kindly obliged. Schedules aligned and I’d travel to their home after leaving the Pursuit 31 conference I’d be attending earlier in the week. Little did I know how impactful being a part of this conference and being present that evening would be.
I’m also going to be 100% transparent and say from a business perspective I was excited to be there as this would be a great opportunity to step into a new network of professional families and also work alongside the other professionals that would bring this night to life. I knew the father was quite successful and worked for a nationally recognized company- so on this night it was both an honor and opportunity and I hoped I’d be able to deliver my very best for him and his girls.
I’m the first to tell you that when you’re commissioned to work an event as a professional you should dress and act in a professional manner. Since I don’t do events like these often I went in a little bit nervous not knowing exactly what to expect. I arrived and was welcomed through the gate by the lady I’d been corresponding with via email. She was just as sweet in person as she’d been in our previous correspondence. I also met two gorgeous little girls (we’ll call them Alice and Savannah). The home was beautiful and the backyard was absolutely divine. Like a setting right from the pages of Martha Stewart magazine- I was over the moon with the gorgeous details and the time I had to capture them all! (a luxury rarely seen on a wedding day).
So I jumped into “work mode”. Starting to cover the details of the table setting, the home, menu cards, food, etc. It wasn’t until I walked through their home (accompanied by two super cute little tour guides) that the impact of the afternoons “family pictures” I’d be taking truly hit my heart. All over their home were beautiful pictures of their family and these sweet girls would pick them up and so proudly show off their mommy. In each room there were pictures of this precious woman they’d lost. She was stunning and the love for her family was evident in every picture in their home. It was then I realized this may be the first time they’d be taking pictures… without her.
I have to imagine it wasn’t an easy night for dad. He was preparing for a dinner in honor of his late wife. It wasn’t easy for the girls- they knew they were hosting guests tonight and they knew she would only be there in spirit. So into the pictures of the three we went. There were nerves and their was emotion in the air that I can’t quite describe. Part tension, nervousness and pain. It was evident from the start these girls cherish their daddy though and he loves them so but it was equally tough to be together as only three. We quickly got what we needed and moved on. Savannah was having the hardest time and on the verge of a breakdown.. so I decided to give her sometime and continue working in the back for a bit before I returned.
I found them playing on the front yard with their nanny whom they absolutely adore. Laughing and giggling as they played- they were their authentic smiles that they hadn’t shared earlier. So I jumped in. Without even thinking about it I joined their party. Their party quickly became a game of tag, then leap frog and of course they insisted that once I took their pictures they would take a turn “leaping” over me.
I could have turned them down. Professionally I thought to myself, “How am I suppose to play leapfrog in this dress?” I’d for sure be covered in grass and it wasn’t very lady like nor professional of me to be roughing it on the lawn with them.. but then I thought “Love Does”. And in the next moment, seemingly without another thought, I was laughing, loving and playing with these sweet girls who had pretty quickly won my heart.
It was on the lawn covered in grass and playing tag their daddy would come and see this “pro” he’d hired. Before I would have been quite mortified but I set aside my ego, my ideals and my own expectations and even expectations of those around me.. for a few minutes on that front yard I became LOVE in the form of a friend to these two girls.
The result? In the midst of their giggles and smiles I don’t remember what we talked about or what was said but I do remember one saying, “I love you” and then “you’re it”. At the end of the night a big hug, and an open invitation to see me at the next party. Worth the risk? Absolutely.
The opening speaker just days before this night was one that would be, can I say, “Life Changing”? He’s the author of a book I’d read a year ago but seeing and hearing the heart of the guy of a book that had impacted my life then, put his words into motion in my heart. Bob Goff encourages others to start “doing” life. To break down doors, push the boundaries, shatter expectations and meet others where they are. To simply Love others. Love isn’t a noun but a verb and it takes action… Love DOES. Simply- become Love.
Make yourself available in the moments that can otherwise be easily overlooked. Serving others before yourself. Facing your fears and pushing through- for the sake of those around you. Suddenly that evening the last thing on my mind was everything I had previously been excited about. That night I was there to serve this family. To meet them where they were. To jump at the opportunities to spread love into these sweet girls lives and make this a a happy night for them to remember.
At the end of the day, the pictures that were taken while I remained in my “professional” element didn’t even make the cut. They won’t be on the Christmas card and quite possibly won’t make it to the walls of their home. It was in the authentic moments that I choose to become love and be their friend; when I joined them in their fully belly laughter, giggles, smiles and games- that’s where those authentic, beautiful and soul reflecting moments happened. The “cheese” faces vanished and their personalities and smiles arrived to join the party that night.
As I was going back through the images to share the beautiful details of this party, the emotions and love that filled the air that night hit me like a freight train. They took me right back to where I was that evening and how I’ll forever be grateful for hearing Bob speak that week and allowing it to change the way I engaged with this family that night.
To think what I would have missed out on had I simply showed up as simply as a “professional”. Needless to say God’s plan for that night was SO much bigger than I could have ever imagined. It was suddenly no longer about the “status” of the party but about loving and serving this family and in return I walked away with two new little friends.
While I would absolutely love to share pictures of this family I decided to to simply share the details of the event out of respect for their privacy. I’m filled with gratitude that I shared in this evening with them and it will be a night that isn’t quickly forgotten.