ALLEEJ is not just a photography business. It’s more than a business.. it’s a story created to tell your stories.
You and I.. we all have stories. We all have moments of defining. Moments that are life changing and heart molding.
You may have wondered, what’s the purpose behind the bee? If I can take a moment of your time, this is a story that I believe will bless you as it has me.
I love symbolism and the mystery it holds. Here is a story filled with the intentionality of Christ . A story where the evidence of Jesus’ love is unmistakable. So sit back, grab a snack, and enjoy a read that I believe will truly touch you, as it continues to touch lives around the world.
I attended Lubbock-Cooper ISD all of my childhood. My mother was (and still is) a kindergarten teacher at the school. Her career provided me with some of my favorite memories. Playing with friends who’s parents also taught at the school was sometimes better than recess. We had the whole school to ourselves. The whole playground to do whatever we wanted. As a fourth grader, my friend and I had a ritual of going to a specific teacher’s classroom. We would go to this classroom for my friend to exchange letters with our teacher’s daughter. It was a sweet pen pal friendship between a high school girl, and her greatest 4th grade admirer, who happened to share the same name. The young high school girl always had lady bugs on her letters to my friend. My friend’s signature back.. a bee.
Fast forward 7 years.
Kelsey and I are about to enter into our senior year of High School. Out of all of my friends, Kelsey was the most sensitive, compassionate, goofy, and child-like. She was your go-to if you needed someone to understand, to listen, to make you laugh, give you a positive outlook, or to make you feel like $100 bucks. She loved photography, and took her camera everywhere. You could always count on Kelsey to capture the fun at baseball games, shear ridiculousness at the pool, and the memories you know you’ll want to hang onto. She lived a life building up others. She also lived a life of searching.. searching for the greater purpose.. for the greater love.. for the greater meaning. Growing up, she often asked me questions, needing me to provide wisdom or an answer. Summer of senior year, I realized it all clicked for her. She would ask questions, and be able to answer them with hope and faith in the Lords plan for her life. She had discovered the well that never runs dry. The source of wisdom that you could trust without having to understand.
Throughout the summer, Kelsey prayed every night for her dad to experience the love that she had experienced in Jesus. For a lot of Kelsey’s childhood, her father was not a believer. In 2006 the Lord met him, but there was still much he did not understand and areas he struggled with doubt. That summer, Kelsey also prayed for our High School. She believed the Lord had big things in store for the Cooper community.
Little did she know.
She was right.
September 1st, Kelsey discovered a verse in the bible that she really favored. She shared it with excitement to her boyfriend, a man that always pointed her to Jesus.
“Do not be afraid; just believe” – Mark 5:36
These would be words for her family and loved ones. The passage is about a family who loses their daughter. These would be words to cling to and “Just believe”.
September 2nd, 2008, Kelsey came to school with a brand new outfit (that, of course, she offered for me to borrow), a camera, and a smile that never left her face. In student council that morning, Kelsey asked me to take a picture with her to remember our senior year. Little did I know, that would be our last picture together.
That afternoon, in our senior seminar class, Kelsey was the “first five leader”. She lead the class in roll call, and finished with a quote for the day. She had picked a bible verse in preparation for this day, and shared it with the class.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.”
– Matthew 6:35.
This would be the words of Christ that we, as a school, would cling to for hope in the days to come.
On her way home from school, Kelsey and her twin sister, Kayla were struck by a dump truck in oncoming traffic. Kelsey was killed on impact, and Kayla walked away with a hurt foot and some scratches.
This heart-wrenching reality absolutely shook the Lubbock-Cooper community. When the Lord had put a stirring in Kelsey’s heart that big things were going to happen at Cooper that year, she had no idea that it would be through her life and her death.
Through the course of the year, Thom, her father, sought out the Lord in a way he never had before. He grieved. He questioned. He doubted. & He discovered. What he found was hope. What he found was truth, healing, love. He found the love & faith she prayed he would experience.
“Oh death, where is your sting!!”
The truth & love of Christ, even in the midst of terrible pain & hopelessness, has the power to spring hope and life back into what was lost.
Thom began writing a book in 2007 about his spiritual journey. To my understanding, Thom always wanted to write and dreamed of publishing a book. He planned to have Kelsey read it one day to understand his past doubts. Her life, even in her death, encouraged the destiny and purpose the Lord created within Thom. The way I see it, her life lead him to his destiny.
In 2011, Thom published his first book: “Tragedy and Trust: Can you still TRUST God after losing a child?”
“This story is the journey of a family and a boyfriend – how they struggled with the issue of trust; how they individually and collectively resolved it. The answer did not come easily, nor did it come quickly. But with faith in God, come it did.”
Since then, Thom has released two more books, one in 2012, and the most recent in 2013.
Tragedy & Trust is being re-released through Tate Publishing in June! Thom is going to have a signing at Barns & Noble in Lubbock, TX on May 10th if you’d like a personalized copy! 🙂
Thom now lives a life full of joy regardless of the circumstance. It’s evident in the new smile he wears. It’s a smile of hope.. a hope that only Jesus can give.. and the truth that his earth is temporary. The truth that there will be a joyous reunion one day, and we will all see Kelsey again.
Kelsey’s life was lived simply.
Kelsey didn’t live exalting herself. She truly lived out her days for the good of others. She always made sure you felt loved, and you knew you were loved.
Which made me think… “To live for yourself is to not live at all. However, to live with a heart set for others, is a life lived to the full.”
Kelsey was my biggest cheerleader. She taught me the richness in being a bigger cheerleader for others than for yourself.
She taught me the sweetness in friendship that had no selfish ambitions. The richness and sweetness of a simple mind. Simple faith. Complete trust.
The message version of Matthew 6:34 says “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Life is about people. It’s about loving. It’s so easy to get caught up with the stresses, anxiety, and worries of the future that sometimes we miss out on the present day.
The last picture we took together was on September 2nd, the morning of the day she passed away. This picture is priceless to me, and is a constant reminder to live in the moment. This picture instills the powerful reminder of what I have the opportunity to do on a daily basis. Why is photography so important? Because it captures life in a frame. It preserves a memory, takes you back to loved ones, celebrates life, and so much more… I approach photography with the legacy Kelsey left in mind. She is my inspiration, and a big part of “my why.” I believe in photography because of the treasure I have in that last picture of us together. I believe in photography, because I believe life is worth celebrating, and your story is worth capturing.
FEBRUARY 22nd, 2012
As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, I was on a plane when the Lord gave me the idea of ALLEEJ. I was asking the Lord “why”… “why do I do photography… what’s the point.. what’s the purpose?” and what I saw was a bee. A hand drawn bee on a letter addressed to a pen-pal. Within the bee is an incredible story. A story of love, grief, hope, purpose, and restoration. A story that has defined me, molded me, and encouraged me to seek Christ and know Him more. A story that lead me to my destiny, that made me pick up a camera, and created a passion in me to preserve moments. Most of all, the bee is a story that has consistently shown me faithfulness of God, and the beauty of living for HIM & not for myself.
PEN-PALS & JESUS
7 years before our Senior year, Kelsi Cook passed away due to a single vehicle car accident. 7 years after Kelsi’s passing, Kelsey Vines met Jesus just a few feet on the other side of the road. I like to picture the bee & the lady bug having a sweet reunion in the company of the one who loves them most.
To me, the bee is symbolic of preserving the sweetness of life through photographs. It is symbolic of the Lords promises, love, and faithfulness.
If you took the time to read through this, thank you. Thank you for letting me share with you. I hope you benefited in some way from Kelsey’s story. I know it has forever changed me.
To Honor Kelsey’s legacy, and all of our after school math tutorial frustrations, I will be donating $15.00 to the KRV scholarship in the name of every Lubbock-Cooper High School Senior who has their pictures taken with me. Live a life that leaves a legacy in your schools. Love people, work hard, and be your classmates biggest cheerleader. I promise, it’s worth it.