When Christy reached out to me requesting to book her graduation photos, I was literally three weeks away from giving birth to my son. Everything in me told me to say no to her request. I was trying to get ready for the arrival of Ethan, it was summertime in Florida [being pregnant and outside in Florida summer weather, just nooooooooo] and because I was already on maternity leave from work. However, I felt prompted to say yes, without knowing ANYTHING about Christy or her story. Little did I know that the Lord had so much MORE in store for this than just another graduation photo session…including what would blossom into a sweet friendship! [one that has included weeknight sleepovers!]
It is my hope that you are encouraged as you read her story. This girl was not only celebrating her graduation from UF, she was fighting cancer, all while trusting the Lord and choosing to see beauty in the midst of the ashes. God REALLY IS bigger than the highs and lows!
Tell me the story behind these pictures?
My Poppy Brandon passed away from Parkinson’s when I was in undergrad. I promised him that I would go to UF and graduate for him, it had always been a dream to have a grandchild graduate from UF. These pictures were a way to honor him and the promise I made him, but they also turned into a celebration of sorts for me and my family. My family was such a huge part of my cancer journey, especially my parents. They supported me every step of the way, and never hesitated to move their schedules around to be in Gainesville whenever I needed them. They were there for every teary phone call and tough moment. This was just as much a victory and celebration for them as it was for me. These pictures were the sealing of a chapter, celebrating the new season and beginnings to come.
Did you want to have these photos taken?
I had always wanted to find a way to honor my Poppy Brandon and our promise, but I was a bit hesitant to take these pictures to be honest! I struggled to “feel beautiful” on the outside after I felt like my body had taken a beating the past year. My sweet momma reminded me repeatedly that I was the daughter of the most high King, beautifully made inside and out by Him, and this was a moment to celebrate and document!
Ingrid was also AMAZING to work with! I instantly felt at peace and she made the whole experience so fun and relaxing. She made me feel beautiful after a year where I had not felt that way. I was not a cancer patient. I was simply celebrating an accomplishment, and it was FUN! Ingrid reminded me that no matter what you look like on the outside it is the beauty within you that truly shines through.
What did grad school look like for you? How did you see the Lord move?
Grad school, while an amazing experience looked far different than I had anticipated. I was so excited to come to UF and begin my program, but I never could have imagined that the Lord placing me at this school was for a bigger reason. A year into my program I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, living here in Gainesville I was automatically surrounded by the best doctors, surgeons and oncologist. Here I was studying to become a healthcare administrator all the while entrenched in the healthcare system. It opened my eyes to so many struggles that patients and myself faced on a daily basis and reshaped my goals for after graduation. Looking back, the Lord was at every touch point. He led me to Gainesville not just for an education, but he knew I would need UF Health and the doctors there to help me fight cancer. I could share so many times about how He showed up in the smallest details, constantly reminding me that I was loved and there was a plan even on the days I felt most hopeless.
What is your favorite part about being a Gator?
My favorite part about being a Gator is the legacy it holds. I love that I share something special with my poppy and dad as a third generation Gator. My parents joke and say I grew up in the Swamp, there are pictures of my mom pregnant with me and then throughout my entire life. It only makes sense that I live here now!
What’s next for you?
I now work for UF Health, it only seemed fitting to join the organization who gave me so much. It was my turn to give back to all the other patients like me facing their own health battles. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord would use my career for Him and Him alone. That I would be able to speak hope, joy and love into patients and families that are hurting and broken. That I could sit with them and say “me too” and that they would never feel alone. I want to make a mark, however small that changes healthcare for the better. I have no idea what this new journey will look like, but I have no doubt the Lord will far exceed any dream or plan I could ever conjure up!
Christy, thank you for reaching out to me to take your pictures. When everything pointed to saying no and when there was hesitation on both ends, the Lord MADE it happen and proved something more to me… a simple yes can really be “the best yes” when He is behind it. For you, the pictures meant celebrating what the Lord had done in your life. For me, it meant the beginning of what the Lord was doing in my life with you in it. Love you my friend. It was an honor to celebrate this with you. This really was the Lord’s workmanship.