Circa 2012: I shoot portraits, travel, events, and little bits of every day of life, in both film and digital, ever since I could afford to develop rolls of film at the 1 hr photo store.
It’s a wonder this photoshoot even happened, one day AFTER my friend’s due date, and in the middle of a quarantine period (ah, 2020). So, we shot them socially distanced in her backyard during the most beautiful Texas sunset.
This friend is a superhero mama. Her baby was almost 11 pounds y’all.
What a treasure to get to photograph this family over the years. Such a dreamy couple to shoot engagement photos for, which you can see here, and now what a joy to spend a day at the Dallas Arboretum with all our kids and put such a fun family photoshoot in the books.
Getting to walk down the aisle wearing a family heirloom was incredibly special.
In 2018, I was married to my love in the same dress that my grandmother first wore in 1948. Seventy years, thirteen children, and a myriad of grandchildren later, along comes little Ellie getting to follow in the legacy of a blessed woman.
My grandmother’s wedding dress had lain stored away in her house for many years. My Aunt Toni, the oldest of the daughters and the second of the thirteen Michnovicz’s, ended up with the dress after my grandmother (affectionately known as Mema to her twenty two grandkids) moved out of the family home to a smaller place.
From there, she gave the dress to one of her daughters, Mary of Mary Dougherty Photography, thinking she could perhaps use it in a styled photoshoot. (Shameless plug for my amazing photographer cousin! In endless awe and always inspired by you.)
Then one day, Mary contacted me and my sisters and asked for our address. I was curious, but I didn’t find out why until I opened the box. My cousin had been going through some things in her house, and decided to send us the dress. Most of us were single at the time, maybe she thought we could use it?
I still remember that day the box arrived, excitedly crowding around the box with Clara and lifting up the delicate lace with wonder. “This was Mema’s wedding dress?!?!”
It was time to play dress up, of course, I’m still a little girl at heart.
Friends, the dress fit me nearly perfectly. I just needed heels and to suck it in a little.
I found out from newspaper clippings that the dress was handmade with Chantilly lace and satin. Over the years, the lace had yellowed and the beading had discolored. The dress was still in pretty good shape for being nearly 70 years old.
Well, I thought, maybe someday when I get married I can wear this.
Fast forward to 2017, when I fell in love with a Jersey boy. Our relationship was long distance, and we were pretty serious and had started talking about marriage. So get this—before a ring was on my finger—I started looking into vintage or antique wedding dress restoration, and took the dress to Heritage Garment Preservation in Tyler, Texas. From what I had researched, the restoration process can be lengthy…
In the months leading up to my wedding, Chanda and her team did exceptional work restoring my grandmother’s wedding dress.
When I got the call that the dress was ready, made the drive out to Tyler, and first laid eyes on the dress… I was completely amazed. The yellowish lace was creamy white, the stains were gone, and the discoloration in the beading had disappeared. The seamstresses even replaced the dozens of buttons down the back (yes, I wore a dress with alllll those buttons) with new ones that matched.
(Here’s a fun fact I learned: vintage garments were often made with metal buttons. If they had put the dress through the restoration washing process WITH the buttons, it would have likely rusted and stained the dress further. The best restoration process in this case was to replace the originals with matching buttons. I couldn’t tell the difference once they were replaced.)
One of my aunts told me that several of Mema’s girlfriends wore the dress after her, too!
Here’s a little about my family:
Mary Lou Michnovicz married my grandfather, John James “Mike” Michnovicz, on November 13, 1948 after they met in Los Alamos, New Mexico during World War II. My grandfather was an Army photographer documenting the Manhattan Project. He continued his career as one of the founding members of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union, among many other accomplishments. They had thirteen children, twenty-two grandchildren, and my latest count is twenty great grandchildren?
I miss them and will always hold their memory with love.
Some photos of these special people, and some photos of my own wedding:
My wedding planner Sara helped me scour eBay to find a cake topper that was similar to Mema’s. It was so special to recreate the cake-cutting photo.
Shooting Brandon’s senior photos felt like a model shoot and we joked about submitting a portfolio to GQ. Proud of this young man—almost called him a kid since I’ve known him since he was 2! We found a bunch of fun locations in the Dallas Arts District and Klyde Warren Park. Thanks to big sister Sarah for her Pinterest boards and planning, this couldn’t have turned out so well without her.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! So many exciting things are happening; I have a lot to catch you up on!
On May 5, Joshua asked me to be his bride. I said, “yes, thank you!” Our wedding is drawing close on August 5. Joshua moved down from Pennsylvania to Texas in June, and we have been getting to know each other better in person as we prepare for marriage. Up to that move, our entire courtship and part of the engagement had been long distance. Seeing each other in person nearly every day is so different than being separated by 1,400 miles, but of course wonderful.
We see marriage as more about God and his purpose than it is about us. Joshua and I are united in our love of Jesus, and we desire everything in our lives to flow out of that first love. Joshua has a heart for evangelism and ministry, and right now senses that he is in a season of preparation and equipping. He fully supports me serving the Lord at GFA for this season, and right now our plan (as we submit it to God and earnestly seek His leading!) is that I’ll continue serving at GFA while he works as a personal trainer and pursues some further education. We’ll be living in the Dallas area following our marriage.
Our web team has been staying busy this summer too! We have had several part time employees or volunteers join us for different periods of time, and I am grateful to have had Clara, Elizabeth and Laura join us.
Almost everyone in the ministry has been involved in the launch of a big project called the Mission Support Team. This new sponsorship initiative now enables people all across the West to sponsor “behind-the-scenes missionaries” here at GFA. In other words, supporting the staff like me! Each of us working here at GFA facilitates the work of more than 100 national missionaries on the field, so we play a vital role in allowing the mission work to continue to function. Bringing the staff to full support enables us to do more to reach Asia with the Gospel!
Web has played a big part in this project, and you can check out the fruit of our labors at the new web area – www.gfa.org/mst!
I’m grateful for a chance to get to serve Jesus with this team and to utilize the webby world for God’s glory!
2017. What a year! It was challenging and stretching, yet full of joy.
I’m grateful for the lessons the Lord has graciously and patiently been teaching me through this last year. A song through which the Lord spoke to me last year was “Shadow Step” by Hillsong United – “I’m ready for the unexpected, ready for what You will do next.” That’s how much of last year felt, but God was there each shadow-step of the way.
And I don’t think I’ve ever done so much travelling—there was the 5-hour flight delay coming home from Florida, leaving on a road trip to Arkansas 10 hours after getting back from a week-long trip to Arizona, the July trip to Arizona/New Mexico/back to Texas, and then coming home and photographing two weddings three weeks apart. Many memories were made last year!
Here’s a glimpse of a few below.
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Throwback to a day with friends and sisters at the Tyler Rose Garden in Tyler, Texas, and The Foundry Coffeehouse (one of the best coffee shops in East Texas!)
This month I wanted to share a story from one of the street children’s homes we support. I got to visit this home for girls about a month after it opened in 2013. What an answer to prayer it was to see how God went before us to open this home!
At the time I was there, 6 girls had been rescued and were living there. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking. But seeing the hope and joy they had, now having a safe home to grow, heal and just be kids—how incredibly beautiful.
In a little while you’ll read the story of “Ashmita”, a young girl who was rescued from an abusive situation where she was forced to labor as a child.
Video by Elicia Christofferson
But first I want to share a special memory from my visit to this home. The girls loved having their photos taken (it seemed like every kid we met did!) The three youngest ones, including Ashmita, would crowd in front of my camera and say “Chapati!” each time I snapped a photo—just like American kids would say “Cheese!” for the camera. (Chapati is Indian flatbread similar to a tortilla.) I secretly got a video of those precious girls too. :)
Young Child Laborer Finds New Life
Reposted from Gospel for Asia
Photo from Gospel for Asia
It burned. Ashmita hurled her exhausted young body into the kitchen. Her eyes stung as she cried out in agony. Chili powder washed off her small cheeks in a red stream as she anxiously tried to recover from the new form of abuse. But the pain in her eyes couldn’t compare to the pain and confusion found in her young, tender heart.
A Living Nightmare
Ashmita doesn’t remember very much about her life before her father died. In fact, she hardly remembers her father at all. The only thing she remembers is he was ill and couldn’t eat spicy foods, and one day he was gone forever.
After his death, Ashmita and her mother moved into someone else’s house to do domestic housework. After a time, Ashmita’s mom sent her to live with another family as a servant. This became a living nightmare for Ashmita.
From morning to night she washed dishes, mopped floors and sometimes washed clothes. When she couldn’t do her work, they beat her legs with canes and slapped her.
“The house where I was staying . . . I was very much ill-treated,” Ashmita shared. “When everybody [went] to bed after food at night, the house owner used to watch television. While watching the television, she used to ask me to massage her legs. If I am tired, if my hands are hurting, she used to beat me and ask me to massage her properly. One night, when I was massaging her leg, I was very tired and sleepy, and while massaging, I slept off. She went to the kitchen and brought some pepper powder [chili] and put that pepper powder in my eyes.
“Once my mother called me,” Ashmita remembers. “She asked that [woman] whether [I was] around. Then she told lie to my mother, and she replied that ‘Ashmita is sleeping,’ while I was sitting with them. While she was talking to my mother, she motioned me not to speak and be quiet and continue the work I was doing.”
Photo by Elicia Christofferson
Ashmita’s mother was of no comfort to her daughter. When Ashmita was allowed to talk with her mom over the phone, the young girl cried and pleaded with her, asking her to take her out of the home she lived in. But her mom told her to do whatever they said. Even though her mom was not involved in her life very much, Ashmita missed her terribly and longed to escape the life she was living.
House of Refuge, House of Hope
When the local authorities found out about Ashmita’s situation, they rescued her from child labor and brought her to a GFA-supported home for abandoned and at-risk children. Now precious Ashmita is safe from abuse, pain and hopelessness. No longer forced to labor, she lives like a child should.
Photo by Elicia Christofferson
Ashmita plays with other children her age, bathes, receives daily meals, learns songs and dances with the other girls at the home. She attends school and likes it! She especially loves the staff who care for her, and the other girls who help her with her studies.
“I like this place so much; I like all these didis (older sisters). They work hard for me and for all of us,” Ashmita shared. “I like this place and I don’t [want] to leave this place and go to any other place or orphanage because of the love and care that we get here.”
Ashmita is thriving under the love she is receiving—love every child longs for.
Best of all, Ashmita has learned she is safe in the arms of Jesus. He saw her tears and knew the pain she felt in her heart. By His kindness and love, He brought her to this home. His love is found in the staff who daily look after and nurture the children who have been abused, abandoned, misplaced and forgotten, girls just like Ashmita.
“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow.”—Psalm 146:9
Photo by Elicia Christofferson
As I was thinking about the brokenness in the world during Gospel for Asia’s all-night prayer meeting, I wrote this, then we sang this song.
There are people with actual problems.
There are children enslaved in labor.
Men who break down ships for a living.
A toxic, dangerous, illegal task.
There are people groups hated by everyone.
Like the Rohingya, without a home.
They are pushed aside, abused.
Is there anyone who cares for them?
Innocent, scared children,
Lied to and forced to beg.
Literally maimed or blinded
For more profit, they said.
There’s the woman who thinks she’s worthless.
I’m a sex doll, is what she thought.
I’m no better than this, it’s what I deserve.
But of truth and hope she knows naught.
Jesus. Hope of the nations.
Jesus. Comfort for all who mourn.
You are the source of heaven’s hope in earth.
Jesus. Light in the darkness.
Jesus. Truth in each circumstance.
You are the source of heaven’s light on earth.
In history, you lived and died.
You broke the chain.
You rose to life!
You are the hope, living in us.
You are the rock in whom we trust.
You are the light, shining for all the world to see.
You rose from the dead,
Our prince of peace,
Drawing us near.
Jesus our hope, living for all who will receive.
Lord we believe.