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I was raised in a home with the belief that God gives each of us different talents and strengths, and it’s our duty to put them to good use. My sister and I found school to come easy to us, so our parents always told us that it was our duty to use the gifts that God gave us to do well and to make a difference.
Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out how to make a difference when you are just trying to get the job done. Whatever that ‘job’ is; school, your desk job, trying to make your passion into a viable career – it sometimes seems like there’s not enough time, energy or wiggle room to concentrate on making a difference.
I believe that I’m making a difference in my client’s lives by performing my services of photography, but I’m being paid for it. It’s part of my job. It’s not something I’m doing out of the good of my heart, for the sole benefit of others. That’s the part that I felt like I was lacking, or that I couldn’t figure out how to achieve. That was, until one of my clients introduced me to the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation [NILMDTS].
NILMDTS’s mission statement is this: “To introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture. We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring their child’s legacy.”
When I first heard about NILMDTS, I didn’t know quite what to think. I think it’s an unbelievably important organization that provides probably the most important photography to grief stricken parents, for free. But I didn’t know if I could handle it. So I prayed. I waited a few days, prayed about it and tried to listen to what God was telling me. After a few days, I felt in my heart that God was telling me to move forward. To apply to be accepted as an affiliate photographer. Sure, it’s an emotionally charged situation and it’s beyond out of my comfort zone. But in all reality, when is my photography MORE important than in these situations? Every session on a daily basis I do is important in their own right. But every session, even parts of a wedding, can be reshot or recreated. There is only one opportunity for this type of portraiture, and once that moment passes, it’s gone forever. When these parents leave the hospital empty handed, all they can look forward to are the photos that will keep the memory of their baby alive forever.
So I applied, and after a few weeks I was accepted. I received my training materials and spent a couple of days reading the book from front to back. I tried to imagine myself going to a NILMDTS session and wondered when I would be called to do my first session. Because of the rural area I live in, most critically ill babies or moms who have any type of problems in pregnancy get transferred to a hospital in a larger city, with better equipped facilities. So sessions are few and far between here, usually.
In the last two weeks however, I was called on to photograph my first session. It was raw, it was emotional and it was draining. But I know deep down in my heart, that I am, for the first time in my photography career, providing a service and delivering images that cannot, in any way possible, be recreated. Ever. This is true service. This organization was founded out of heartache when one woman lost her baby son and another woman came to photograph him. This organization provides an incredible service to people, for free. THIS is what my parents were talking about when they told us to use our gifts for a purpose. To fulfill God’s will and His works.
I ask you to keep the family in your prayers as they grieve and find a way to move forward each day with the hole left in their hearts. Pray for the huge number of families who are in positions to receive this service. It’s far more common than we know. There are NILMDTS sessions occurring daily, all over the country and across the world. Lastly, pray for the photographers who perform these sessions. There are photographers in more metro areas that do several sessions a week. I hope they know what an impact their services are making.