"Anything, if offered to God, can and will become your gateway to joy."
That's a quote that our guest today, Hillary Smiley, uses as a touchstone. She is a photographer based in Los Angeles and has been married for 15 years. She and her husband, a television writer, have four children. The oldest is thirteen and the youngest, aged four. Their third child, ten-year old Luke, was born with chromosomal and brain abnormalities and the rarest form of a rare syndrome. Despite the challenges that come with being a special needs parent, Hillary regularly looks for and counts the gifts that God has given her, especially in the often missed, everyday moments of life.
Jason and I very much appreciated the unique way that Hillary's faith shapes her parenting, and it was when we touched on the ever-popular topic of self-care and the balancing act that special needs parenting takes that Hillary shared one of her "secrets" -- a journal that sits on her kitchen counter, sometimes obscured by piles of to-do papers and often reluctantly retrieved when Hillary is having a particularly bad day or stressful moment. During the hardest moments or on the most tearful days, Hillary pulls out that journal and writes every single thing that comes to mind for which she is grateful. "Sometimes at the end of the day, if I'm nearing tears, and I've got to start dinner, and the old bedtime routine and I just don't have it in me, I force myself or allow myself to pause for a couple minutes and write things down. And it completely changes my heart," Hillary states.
We also discussed the power of Hillary's photography, an art that she has parlayed into a cottage business. The birth of her son Luke and a gift of a new camera lens on the same day (her birthday, as well!) is a metaphor for the different way Hillary herself would begin to see her son. "And so it was really special and really life changing in that period of time to see Luke through a different lens, literally, than what the world was seeing." Hillary uses her own experience, her different "lens" to take portraits of other special needs children and their families, capturing moments and expressions and instances in these children that others might not as they are more inclined to seeing limitations and disability.
I think Jason and I had one of the deepest and most profound conversations we've ever had in this week's podcast with Hillary. We talked about our own vulnerabilities as parents and caregivers, and we talked about our unique children's abiding strengths. Hillary gets strength from her faith and is inspired daily by the Elisabeth Elliot quote above. She looks for joy in every day, even the hardest.
Favorite Purchase < $100
Gallon-size freezer Ziploc bags to wrap the iPad in and protect it from drool
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully, Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Most Inspirational Person or Group
Elisabeth Eliot, Christian missionary