2014 in Review

It's hard to believe yet another year is ending.  As I took my annual trip back through photos from the last year via my Lightroom Catalog, I was once again amazed at everything this year brought.  God has certainly given me a few years filled with adventures and lessons about what is important in life. Speaking of what's important, one of those important parts of life is the people you love and remembering the way things are.  Which is why this year I decided to launch my Photography Business and start capturing people's memories for them.  And right now, I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU!!  In 2014, I had over 20 photo sessions and I truly feel incredibly blessed that each and every one of these people allowed me to capture a part of their beautiful life.  Each photo session leaves me feeling incredibly lucky to be let into someone else's life and to have observed the love and joy of another family.

Southeastern Oklahoma Photographer

Whew!  That's a lot of beautiful people, right?!

So that's what Megan Schreurs Photography has been up to this year.

 

Personally, it's been quite a year.  Here's some of what I've been up to in 2014:

I started the year in a very cold Chicago.  I survived the "Polar Vortex" and what was literally the coldest winter ever on record in Chicago.  If you don't remember, I spent Sept 2013 - Aug 2014 in Chicago as a Young Adult Volunteer program through the Presbyterian Church (USA).  While there, I lived in community with Billy & Clarissa, other YAVs for the year, volunteered full-time at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly - where I provided friendship to lonely & isolated Seniors in Chicago, rode lots of buses and trains, learned so much the West Side of Chicago, and learned to trust God in so many new ways.  You can read about my many Chicago adventures here.

Chicago YAV

 

As Spring came, it was SO GOOD after such a long and bitter winter.  The warmer weather led to a flurry of activity as anxious Elderly Friends could finally get out again and my housemates and I got serious about crossing things off our Chicago Bucket List.

Little Brothers Chicago

As the weather continued to warm up, we were unfortunately realized that meant that the number of shootings in our neighborhood skyrocketed.  We participated in a Peace Walk through our neighborhood, encouraging peace and nonviolent ways of resolving conflict. My long commute to work each day became a wonderful time of enjoying the warmer fresh air.  And during my time in Chicago, I continued my practices of fine art photography, enjoying the many photographic subjects the city had to offer.

Megan Schreurs Photography

I took wonderful little road trip to Des Moines where I spend a much needed weekend with my bestest college friends.

Hugo OK Photographer

My mom came to visit me in Chicago.  I took some time off work and we got to experience some of the tourist-y parts of Chicago before I left.  We took a boat tour, ate Chicago style pizza, walked the Magnificent Mile, rode the ferris wheel on Navy Pier, took pictures in "The Bean" at Millennium Park, and watched the 4th of July fireworks from downtown.

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My little sister got married in May and I was so thankful to be able to help her with many preparations as well as taking on the big job of being Wedding Photographer and bridesmaid at the same time.  Parties and outings with my Old Friends continued at Little Brothers.  I took a trip to Central Illinois to where I grew up to share about my experiences in Chicago and got to see my old house, as well as many family friends.  Clarissa and I embarked on a journey to experience all of the best ice cream in Chicago.  I spent a week on "vacation" with Little Brothers, which turned out to be one of the most exhausting but rewarding experiences of my entire time in Chicago.  And my YAV community and I ended our year with a closing retreat of reflections and roller coasters.

YAV program

And then my year in Chicago was over.  I came back to Southeastern Oklahoma, moved in with my parents, and soon opened my Photography Business.  Oklahoma is entirely the opposite of Chicago.  Just totally different.  The hustle and bustle and noise were suddenly replaced with peace and quiet and wide open spaces.  But I am enormously thankful to be able to spend time with my family.  I don't know how long I'll be here, but I know it's right for me right now.

Megan Schreurs Photography

I got to fly back to Chicago for a few days to document Lawndale Christian Health Center's big 30th Anniversary.  LCHC is doing big things on the West Side and I was so grateful for the chance to help them celebrate such a milestone.

Lawndale Christian Health Center

I spent a perfect weekend at gorgeous Ghost Ranch in New Mexico reuniting with YAVs who had just finished a year all over the world to reflect, share, and learn.

Ghost Ranch

Christmas came and with it lots of time with family.  My brother came from Seattle for a week and my cousin Phil and his wife were here for Christmas.  Of course we spent time playing games, eating Pizza, and celebrating our Savior's birth.

Southeast Oklahoma Photographer

 

2014 was a year of adventures, changes, growth, and trusting God.  I have no idea what 2015 will bring, but I know it will be good because He is in control.  Here's to another year and whatever it brings.

 

Megan Schreurs is a Southeast Oklahoma Photographer specializing in authentic documentary and lifestyle family, senior, and couple photography. Serving Hugo, Antlers, Soper, Fort Towson, Sawyer, and Paris, TX.  Contact her to book your session today!

The Ending.

Well, I'm back in Oklahoma and my YAV year is officially over.  It still doesn't seem real, but it is!  I'm kind of slow at processing these kinds of things, so I expect that I'll be thinking and blogging about it for quite some time yet, but I wanted to update you a bit on the end of my time.  

Saying goodbye to all my elders was exhausting.  Many of the PA's at LBFE had goodbye parties, but that's not really my style, so I decided to simply go visit each of them one last time.  I brought each of them a framed photo of them with me - or just me if I didn't have one of us together - that I had decorated and written "Don't forget that you are loved" and I wrote each of them a note thanking for their friendship, listing my favorite memories of them, telling them they'll never be forgotten and that I will be praying for them.  We talked about the future, and I gave them a big hug.  A few of them offered me some sort of parting gift - a Butterfinger bar, a paper peace crane, several cards that I will cherish.  A few of them had tears in their eyes as they walked me to the door.  It was really beautiful, and I truly will never forget them.  Even now, as I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they're doing.

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Then I had a few days to pack.  Boy oh boy, I made a mess!  Trying to fit all that stuff back in those three suitcases that they came in...  But in the end it all fit - even if it took both of my housemates to zip the suitcases!  And funny story - the weight limit for the airline was 50 lbs and since we don't have a scale, I had no way of knowing how close or far I was from that limit.  So when I got to the airport I just held my breath as I lifted them onto the scale.  And one of them weighed 49 lbs and the other exactly 50!  Woah!

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Our last weekend, we (Krista, Billy, Clarissa, and I) had our closing retreat.  It was really the perfect end.  We went to this cute little tourist-y town in Indiana - Monticello, IN.  There is a lake there and lots of camping and stuff - and an amusement park.  We stayed in a wonderful cabin at one of the campgrounds - rustic enough that it still felt like camping, but with a roof and beds. :)  We alternated between silly, fun moments - at the amusement park and water park, mini golfing, swimming, playing cards, etc - and serious, reflective times.  It was truly wonderful.

And I LOVE amusement parks - especially these cute little ones.  We didn't have to wait in long lines and most of the employees were happy retired people.

 

For our reflection, we finished discussing the book we had been reading together this summer, An Alter in the World, and the final chapters were about Grieving, Prayer, and Blessings.  So we spent time mourning for the things that didn't go as we had hoped/planned this year, we spent time thinking about how we had experienced God this year, and then we each wrote a blessing for the others as we left.  Krista also incorporated my creative nature by planning an activity where we made "totem poles" with a section to represent different areas of our years, which of course helped me to process things.  And we wrote on stones to build an alter to remember what God had taught us this year.

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Audrey's House

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I just got home from four days at "Audrey's House," Little Brothers' vacation house just west of Chicago.

A bit about LBFE's Summer Vacation Program.  Some of our LBFE Elders are invited on vacation each summer; not all of them are invited - only those who are physically able and their coordinator thinks that they would enjoy the experience and be socially able are invited.  Each week a Coordinator, a bus driver, a volunteer, and two nursing students take a group of 12 elders out Monday through Thursday.  During the week, the coordinator plans activities.  Since our week happened to be all women, Lili planned a "Girlfriend's Getaway" themed week, with activities like thrift store shopping, a walk through a garden, a spa day, and t-shirt painting.

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Audrey's House is a beautiful and very large home in Batavia, IL - a far west suburb of Chicago. It has seven bedrooms, and (I think) eight bathrooms.  It is a beautiful facility, it is so perfect for our Elders, and we really enjoyed it!  It was so fun to hear the rooms filled with laughter and to see Elders enjoying the space!  We told them to make themselves at home and they did!  I loved hearing them exclaim "We're almost home!" after a day out.  Many of our Elders had never been in a home so large - or if they had, it was as someone who cleaned it!

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I was a little worried that this week was going to be kind of terrible, and I spent all weekend praying that God would give me unlimited patience and so much of His love to share - and He totally came through!  We had a great group of ladies - I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one of them, but still, waiting on twelve elderly ladies who need a lot of help with everyday activities and just trying to keep twelve people happy is exhausting.  I had to be "on" from before 7am until after 10pm each day - happy, ready to help, social, and making sure no one needs anything!  I never did get a chance to get past the table of contents of the magazine on the coffee table. And Jesus truly came through for me, as He always does - I enjoyed every moment, even though it was hard work and exhausting work.  I fell into bed every night so exhausted, but somehow woke up 6 hours later ready for another day.

I loved getting to know these ladies, hearing a bit of their stories, and watching their relationships with each other blossom!  I loved hearing their laughter and listening to their deep conversations.  I loved asking "Can I get you a cup of coffee?" and helping them down the elevator.

 

On Wednesday, almost twenty additional LBFE Elders - who were unable to come on a 4 day vacation because of health reasons or time constraints, but still wanted to experience Audrey's House - were brought by volunteers for the day.  We had lunch together and had a "Spa Day" complete with manicures and even massage therapists who did 15 minute chair massages for the elders!

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Our wonderful staff/volunteers for the week: Me, Traci, Liliana, Emma, and Jacquie - I loved serving alongside them!

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This lady down below, with Traci, is Elia.  Elia is 94 years old and never missed a beat.  As I was loading luggage into the car on Thursday morning she came over with her walker and asked "Can I help bring some luggage out to the car?"  No joke.  She moved to the U.S. from Russia in 1981 to be a translator for a scientist and her granddaughter was an olympic gold medalist gymnast in the late 80s.  Every once in a while she would walk over to me and say things like "Go sit down and rest - you are working too hard!"  Oh, and she liked to sunbathe on the back porch each morning - in her underwear. :)

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And this young lady is Lillian - our class clown.  Always joking and making us laugh, there was never a dull moment when Lillian was in the room!  She told me that she hadn't been so relaxed and had such fun in "at least seven years."lillian

This is Anne - with an "e" like in Anne of Green Gables.  She painted the most beautiful t-shirt, makes handmade cards, and speaks Spanish.   Anne is so kind and thoughtful - and as our most mobile elders (she went for a 45 minute walk each morning and ran up the stairs faster than I could!) was always willing to help get drinks when my hands were full and I had to say "I'll be right back!"  I'll never forget the shock I felt when she jumped out the back door of the bus to answer her cell phone while I was folding up walkers to put in the back of the bus on our way home from an outing!

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This is Lillian (Yes, we had two Lillian's and a Lili on our trip!).  She takes two creams in her coffee, has twelve children, loves wearing hats, and she insisted on buying me my favorite snacks when we went to Walmart.

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Now that I'm back home and there's no one to wait on, I don't know what to do with myself!

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I keep thinking about how fast the rest of my time in Chicago is going to go.  I know it's just going to fly. And I'm torn between being really excited to move on with life & get back to my family and being terribly sad to leave my elders and this city, which I have come to love even more now that the weather is nice!

Here's a quick rundown of the rest of my time - and you'll see why I'm convinced it's going to be over when I blink.  And I'm interspersing some random photos from the past few weeks.

First, this Friday for Community Day we are going to Indiana Dunes - a State Park with a beautiful beach that I've been to a couple of times before, when I worked at Camp Manitoqua.  Sand + sun sounds pretty fabulous right now and I'm really looking forward to spending time with my roomies + Krista too.

Then, immediately after that, I'm heading to Des Moines for the weekend to meet up with several of my wonderful college friends.  I'm seriously looking forward to that.  I'm gravely missing those close friendships, and I haven't seen these girls in way too long, so a wonderful weekend to catch up on each other's lives is very much needed.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it work out to go, especially without a car, but through the kindness of several people I am able to do it.  Yet another instance of God providing what I need through His people.

Then, on Tuesday, my mom is coming to visit me for a week.  I'm really looking forward to spending time with her, bringing her with me on visits to my elders, and just having her here.

In the meantime, I'm working hard on building my photography portfolio by taking photos of lots of people.  Family portraits, headshots, fashion shoots, and whatever I can get my hands (or camera) on - I love it all, but that means more time editing, looking for posing ideas, sharing photos.  You can check out some of my recent work here if you're interested. :) AND, if you are in the Chicago area and are interested in modeling for me in exchange for (FREE!) digital images, let me know! Really!

Summer and warm weather means lots of fun outings with my elders - we've been talking about doing fun stuff all year and putting in off until the weather gets nicer - and that's now! So that means busy, busy, busy-ness at work.  PLUS, lots of the other PA's have already finished their years and gone home and we don't have new ones yet, so that means that those of us that are left are having to pick up some of their previous work.  So even more busy-ness.

And then, the third week of July I'm going on vacation with some LBFE elders.  LBFE has a vacation home out in one of the farthest suburbs where elders get to go on "vacation" for four days at a time during the summer.  I volunteered to go one of the weeks, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the vacations which many of our elders say are the best thing about LBFE.

Amidst all of that, there's also the traditional "ending" things - wanting to have people over for dinner, crossing things off our bucket list, and somehow finding time to continue with regular life.

And of course, I'm still working hard to update my portfolio website, my resume, and working on job searching while all of this is going on.  I still need a job when this whole thing is over, and honestly I haven't gotten a chance to even think about that all that much because I've been so busy, and then when I do have a spare few hours I just need to rest more than anything.

So yeah, lots going on around here.  I'm looking forward to all the excitement, but it's just so weird to think about this coming to an end and moving on with life.  I feel like I need another year just to process all of my experiences from this year. Thanks for reading, thanks for your love and support all year, and as always I would appreciate prayers as I process the things I've been experiencing and as I continue to seek the next chapter in my life.

 

Much love,

Megan

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Realizing that my gifts MATTER.

Over the past week or so, I've gotten to see a few of my graphic design projects in real life. 
Somehow, seeing things printed in mass quantities instead of just on my computer screen in Adobe Illustrator makes it seem more "real."
I designed a postcard for National Volunteer Appreciation Week (this week! Go thank some volunteers!) for Little Brothers.  This week, almost 1,500 people around the city of Chicago will receive a postcard thanking them for their service with Little Brothers this year - with my photo and design on in!
 
And, I came home the other day to a postcard and bookmark waiting on my desk for me from my housemate, Clarissa.  I  designed a logo for the organization she's working with this year, Grace Seeds, and they "debuted" the logo at an event this weekend - complete with the logo on a cake!!
 
 
 
 
 
So I've been thinking (again) about Graphic Design and how important it is to me.
I really think that's one of the biggest things I've realized this year.
Our gifts have been given to us for a reason. My gifts have been given to me for a reason.
I've loved to create for as long as I can remember.  Some of my first memories are making things out of homemade play-doh and coloring "scribble drawings" with my mom.  As a little girl, I was constantly doing some sort of craft. Making something where there used to be nothing absolutely fascinates me.  I've been through phases of just about everything - cross stitch, polymer clay, scrapbooking, shrinky-dinks, painting, quilting, handmade cards, embroidery.  I could go on.
I started college with no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  None.  I actually started as an Elementary Education major, mostly because it was something I knew.  I understood school.  Thankfully, I went to a liberal arts college that required me to do some exploring anyways.  So I took the general Art101 class that everyone takes.  I loved every moment of it.  And thankfully, I went to a college where the professors care.  (Here's a secret: If you want to get me talking about my deepest thoughts, give me a paintbrush or some clay to stick my hands in and I'll spill it all.)  So I talked to my professor.  I told him how I loved art but I just wasn't sure that it was a practical thing for me to study since I really didn't want to be an art teacher.  He introduced me to the concept of graphic design.  I had never even heard of such a thing before.  He convinced me to take Graphic Design 101 the next semester to see if I liked it.  And I loved it.  I loved how it incorporated the creative with the practical.  I loved seeing my ideas come together on the computer screen. 
So I changed my major. 
I changed my dreams.
I started dreaming of a corporate, city lifestyle.  I was sure that I would move to Seattle, ride the train to work where I would design pretty things for clients, and go home to my cute little apartment.
And then I graduated.
I quickly discovered that finding a job in this industry is next to impossible.  I didn't have any real life experience.  I didn't have any contacts.  And so my little resume never made it to the top of the pile.  I applied for well over 200 positions and never even had an interview.  It was so sad, so depressing, so discouraging. 
So I got another job.  Ironically, it was in the Education field, the field that I decided wasn't for me.  Funny how God works, right?
And slowly, my Graphic Design dreams faded.
Gradually, I decided that I probably wouldn't ever get to work in Graphic Design.  It would just be something that I could do on the side, for fun.
I accepted that.
And then God led me to the YAV program.  I knew that I needed to step out in faith, and do something crazy for God.  I knew it was time to put my Faith into action instead of just talking about it.  And this work with Little Brothers is good work, really good.  It's just my gift.  I have to rely on God to give me what I need all day long.  And relying on God is an amazing thing.  And I hope that never stops.
But gradually, over the past 8 months, He's shown me that my gifts matter.
He's given me a love for details, for typography, a passion for color theory, and an enthusiasm for problem solving that are the perfect combination for designing.
He's taught me that my skills can help people by putting opportunities in front of me. 
He's made me realize that my skills are unique.  I know things about file formats, color spaces, and vectors that the average person doesn't have a clue about. 
And He's shown me that Design is something that is needed by small non-profits, churches, ministries, and organizations just as much - if not more - than large businesses.
So now I'm here, no longer dreaming of a corporate, career-driven life, but of a life helping people further the Kingdom of God through my skills of Graphic Design and photography.
Now I just have to figure out how to do that.
So keep your ears open, friends, for jobs like that - because in a few months my student loans are going to need to be paid again and I'm going to need a real job where they pay me.