Secrets of the Lotus: One Dark Night



APRIL 1975:

A little girl with shiny black hair cascading down her back was awakened from her deep sleep.  She rubbed her eyes and obediently followed her parents into the courtyard.  Her easy and compliant nature harmonized with the meaning of her birth name. 

In the courtyard, she was motioned to remain seated with her siblings and cousins. The adults quietly gathered in one area and had a private conference to make some final plans. 

Little did she know that this was the Final night. There were speculations of their homeland about to be seized. A rampant spread of communism could be underway. This could be one of the final days of this decades-long civil war.  Were these just speculations or were they reality?  Should they stay to face their fate or should they flee?   These were the choices her young parents faced that one dark night. 

When the meeting adjourned, her father came over and disclosed the news to them. They were going on an incredible journey. This journey would take them to Afar. 

Into the night, the father shepherded his family down a narrow winding path.  The vision of the full moon reflecting on the still water caught the little girl’s  black almond-shaped eyes as she followed him. The floating orange moon kissed the  gentle water and whispered down a tune of tranquility.  As this moon-kissed water danced, its reflection illuminated their dark path. She felt safe with her father. She didn’t ask him too many questions.

Holding tightly onto his firm hand, she followed his steady paced. Slightly ahead, she saw her younger sister.  She caught a glimpse of her sister’s feistiness and her unwillingness to seize her mother’s soft petite hand. Her little sister inherited that fiery spirit from their paternal grandmother.  By only 10 months difference in age, her little sister was all fire.  If looked deeper into that heart, it revealed her soft and gentle soul. By now her little sister was too tired to wrestle,  so she decided to obey the gentle guidance of their mother. 

The father carried their little 5-year-old brother. His dimpled face was buried into the father’s shoulder. Being the baby of the family, his spirit was definitely carefree. They all took care of him. Like the wind, he swayed in different directions that he pleased never stayed firmly to the ground. He was not mature yet to realize the use of his force.   

The 3 siblings were very close in age. Only 21 months separated the oldest from the youngest.

They were the 3 chopsticks.  That was what their father referred to them. He often shared his wisdom by creating his words into images so that they could relate to his stories.  He would hold up 1 chopstick.  Broke it.  Yet, easily broken in half.  He took 2 chopsticks. Broke them.  Yet, can be done but a little more difficult.  He would then hold up 3 chopsticks.  Each long pieces of these wooden chopsticks, he pointed out, represented the 3 of them.  He held up  3 chopsticks. Together they were unbreakable.  United.We.Stand. Divided.We.Fall. These words somehow echoed in her mind as she travelled down this path to the unknown that night.

Off into the distance, she heard loud explosive sounds.  Her father quickly redirected her thoughts, fabricating his story that it was only firecrackers.   

The dancing orange moon she observed earlier was now invaded by this heavy mist hovering over the water. A different tune is now being whimpered in the air. The reflection of the placid moon was overcast with the turbulent fog now barely lighting their path.

She could barely see the end of the path.  Upon reaching the destination, she realized a small boat anticipated their export.

Her parents masked their sorrows as they guided their 3 young ones on that boat.  They didn’t want their children to see the despair and fear they felt that night.  They just abandoned everything they possessed: their beloved country, their parents, their culture, their home.

They put all their Faith on this journey to Afar. To this land that promised them freedom. They made this sacrifice because they loved their children. They gave their children this gift.

As the boat slowly pulled away to the distant, her mom stood there looking at her children.  Silent tears trickled down her mother’s face.

She was in disbelief.

She  felt emptiness.

She  felt estranged.

She prayed for her children.


 APRIL 2010:

Now on this April day, exactly 35 years have passed since that dark night. That little girl with shiny black hair cascading down her back has grown to a young woman. She has now 4 children of her own. On this dark night, as she put her own children to sleep, she told them the story of a Gift that was given to her.  She explained how this Gift is also for them. She hoped that they could understand.

 She hoped that they Believe.

She hoped that they feel Blessed.

She hoped that they feel Loved.

She said a prayer with them.


Perhaps, there was a reason for that one dark night 35 years ago.  Perhaps, it was the only way to make her realized the true meaning of her Father’s love. Perhaps, it was the only way she could understand His sacrifice.   She thanked Him for this Gift. She stood there looking at her children. Tears of joy trickled down her face.

She Believes.

She feels Blessed.

She is Loved.

She said a silent prayer.




From the Heart: Frozen Delight


Dessert Recipe

Our Family Favorite: Frozen Delight


  1 can- 20 oz crushed pineapple, drained

1 pkg- 10 oz frozen fruits, thawed

2 medium firm bananas, cut into 1/4 slices 

  1 pkg 8oz cream cheese, softened

2/3 c sugar

1 carton 12 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. 



Daughter said, “!”

 {gotta make sure the cream cheese is whipped correctly}

Brother #3 asked, ” Oh mom…can I lick this too?”

Stir in crushed pineapple (drained).

  … next stir in your favorite frozen fruits.

 ….and sliced bananas.


 Fold in whipped topping.

Mother said, “Dear, be careful don’t get it on your hair.”

Daughter responded, “Don’t worry, I will lick it off.”








“Oh, brother #3, please help us stir.”





Transfer to coated pan.

Freeze overnite.

{Can be frozen up to a month}


Remove from freezer approx 10-20 minutes before serving.




 Mother said, “It’s clean up time, oh wait where are my helpers ….”

I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips 

For delicious treats submitted  by other participants, click on the  link above.


With a  JoyfulHeart,



Here’s the full Recipe:

1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened

2/3 c sugar

1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, drained

1 pkg (1o oz) frozen sweetened sliced strawberries, thawed (we used frozen mixed berries and strawberries)

2 medium firm bananas, cut into 1/4 slices

1 carton (12 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar.

Stir in pineapple, berries and bananas.

Fold in whipped topping.

Transfer to 13×9-x2″ dish coated. Freeze overnite.

Can be frozen up to 1 month.

Remove from freezer 20 min before serving.


Receiving the Light


“People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in  their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross”         


     Photo challenge theme is : Dramatic B & W        


I am so excited about this week’s challenge. I just love black and white photos.         

There’s something so magical about black and white pictures. This is one of my favorite pictures of my youngest I took couple of years ago when she was 3 years old.  She was a flower girl for a dear friend of the family.           

As we roamed the hallway, my daughter insisted that we climbed up these set of stairs to explore. Trying to keep her occupied before the ceremony, I gave in to her plead.  It was an old church so I was a little hesitant as we climbed up these somber set of stairs.           

Something magically happened as we reached our destination.  We were captured by this beautiful stained glass window.  It illuminated the mysterious stairs.             

My daughter reached out her hands to touch it as if she was receiving the Light.  Even the sash on  her dress appeared as if it was floating in this still corner.          

        I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips  


Photo Challenge: Angles


I heart faces is doing a weekly challenge and the theme for this week is “Focusing on Angles”. Just for fun, I thought I submit a picture that fits the theme. If you get a chance, hop on over to their site and check out their other entries. There are alot of good ones!

I actually took this shot laying on the bed. The baby was nestled in her hands on the bed.  I wanted to show the love on this young  mommy’s face as she was adoring her new baby.

I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips


Photo Challenge Theme: Angles


Dreamy, Darling Baby D|Elkhart Baby Photographer


This is Baby D . Isn’t he so Delightful?!! He’s only 6 days old….and almost 10lbs already! I took these picture about 3 weeks ago.  

Can you feel the love in his mommy’s eyes she has for him?  He brings that to everyone in the room. I had to resist myself from grabbing those chubby cheeks!

I wanted to show the beauty in the little things that his parents may forget. Look at his feet and toes, so precious. His head is so small that his mommy can totally nest it in the palm of her hands.  Look at that head of hair and the swirl created on his crown. He was so Dreamy and Darling to photograph!

 Thank you so much to Baby D’s grandmother, his mommy and daddy! Thank you for your patience with me! Congrats to your new Darling!


With a JoyfulHeart,


Eye Catching, Baby S|Elkhart Baby Photographer


  ” A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.”
— Anonymous

This is baby S.  Look at her eyes. I’ve never seen anything so mesmerizing. She is such a doll.  Everything about her is just ‘licous! I am so thankful she is the first baby I get to practice my photography skills. She’s a baby of a good friend of my sister in law.

When I did this photo practice that day, I wanted to capture the beauty of her blue eyes.  I don’t think these pictures do them justice!




 These are just some of my favorite images from that session. She was about 5 weeks old when I took this about 1 1/2 month ago. I learned so much from this first session.

What a delightful family! You can feel the presence of their love for her.  Thanks for allowing me to take pictures of your beautiful daughter. Thanks for making my first experience such a fun one.


With a JoyfulHeart,



Somewhere Over the Rainbow


My youngest daughter, ML, woke up today and was a little disappointed that the trap she built yesterday for the Leprechaun showed no signs of him visiting. She was also disappointed that she never saw the rainbow.  I wasn’t sure what explanation to give her as to why she never saw that Leprechaun yesterday nor why that rainbow never came out that sunny day.  

She then wanted to know if anyone in our family ever saw this Leprechaun. In fact, we all concluded that no one has. After all this, she was still determined that he would still come today, a day later.  I still could not offer her an explanation as to why we he never showed up yesterday and exactly what we needed to do to catch him.  We know that the Easter Bunny visits us and Santa with his reindeers visit us…but now a Leprechaun?? My Vietnamese blood is not familiar with the protocols of this Irish Legend.

A few minutes later, running to me she exclaimed, “Mommy, mommy look! There’s the rainbow. There’s the rainbow. The Lep-a-cone didn’t come yesterday because there wasn’t a rainbow but look there’s one right now.”  She pointed her little finger to the ceiling and as I looked up… and she was right.

A beautiful splash of rainbow painted our kitchen ceiling. Magically, it appeared right above her trap. 

When she looked down, she discovered that there were 4 quarters waiting for her. Perhaps, the other 3 are for her older brothers. 

I love the fact that her heart is still so pure. She never gave up waiting for what she believes in. That rainbow came as she has wished. I don’t think I have ever seen one on our kitchen ceiling as brilliant as the one I saw today. Infact, I don’t think I have seen one there in a long time. 


This truly is the rainbow we saw casted on our ceiling today.  

“Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling through. No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”-Unknown

Do you ever wonder if we let our past experience take a little away from the purity of our heart? Do we stop believing? Do we stop believing in Him? Isn’t it nice to still have a child’s heart where believing still happens?  I sure hope that the experience today reminds me to keep my heart pure and to keep Believing.

With a JoyfulHeart,


Pot of Gold


Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  At  my daughter’s preschool today, her class attempted to catch a leprechaun.  They almost did! The teacher was able to get a picture of him but only got part of his foot.  When ML came home from school, she was determined to catch it. She gathered pillows and blankets to build 2 traps. One trap, she placed her “gold” ring in the middle. And the other trap, she placed a gold wrapper from a candy she ate.

She wanted to catch a glimpse of that leprechaun! ” According to legend, the leprechaun has a pot of gold hidden somewhere, and he must give up his treasure to the one who catches him. You’ll have to step lively and think quickly to capture a leprechaun’s gold though, because this sly little fellow will fool you into looking away an instant while he escapes into the forest.”

Being patience and determined, she waited, and waited…

This made me reflect. I wonder if I have taught my kids to be that determined to catch things like… God’s love? Have I put the desire in their heart to be that determined to go after something?  Have I done that myself?

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”-Unknown

I hope to start this blog to capture my journey in photography. In this process, I hope to that He opens my eyes to see all the joy scattered around me and that I am able to see these hidden treasures and  capture it.   I hope to share what I have learned and discovered along the process.

Stay tuned, I will be sharing with you 2 practice sessions I’ve done recently of newborns. 

With a Joyful Heart,


Hello World…



I am out of focus.

Last Fall, I brought my camera along to capture a day with my daughter.  I wanted to capture her true beauty.



I am in focus.

That day, I paused. Something I don’t do often. 

I noticed the radiant beauty of the autumn leaves.

I noticed the radiant beauty of being a child.

I noticed His radiant beauty.

I am immersed in it.

I began to crave this feeling.

Night after night, I stayed up late to read and learn everything I could about photography. 

The more I learned, the more I craved and desired to take meaningful photos.

Recently, I came across a workshop giveaway from Amy Wenzel on i heart faces:


It asked these questions that made me reflect.  What is my story? What am I hoping to inspire in this photography journey? And am I courageous enough share?

It seems appropriate to start a blog and share my story here.

I am a wife. I am married to a man who leads me by His side. Our lives now shared

one  journey.

I am a mother.  I have been blessed with 4 children: 3 sons (2 are identical twins) and a daughter.  Submersed in pure joyful noise, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning to balance being a wife, a-stay-at-home mom, and become the person He designs me to be is

my journey.

I am a daughter. Growing up, my Dad left us. Speaking very little English, my Mom raised us by herself. The world doesn’t understand her. Her mind doesn’t understand the world. She battles with bipolar disorder. This is  

her daily journey.

I am His child. My faith was tested. My Dad came back. We reunited. He introduced me to the world of photography. He encouraged me to look at life from a different perspective. Shortly, we discovered he had liver cancer. He was given 6 weeks,

he lost that journey.

I am a sister. I have 2 siblings. 35 years ago, our family escaped from communism. I was 7. We came as refugees. My parents risked and left everything behind so that we could experience freedom. They gave us that gift. Something I won’t ever take for granted,

we won that journey.


We all have our own journey. Sometimes our journey is dark and other times we see the light.  No matter where we are on this journey, we need to pause and remember that joy is scattered around us. We just need to stop and realize it.   

        Joy is everywhere!  


 Capture it!


It’s the child’s innocent eyes, their tears, their quirky laughs, their toothless grin, their favorite toys, their soft feet.

I love to capture the unscripted moments, capture things the way life truly is : natural, raw, and just imperfect!



I love it  when a photo warms my heart and tugs my soul. 

I hope to learn, grow, and become the photographer who sees the little things. I hope to capture the overlooked moments. It’s these little moments that make life big.

What a sweet moment that will be when I can bring joy to someone’s heart in the form of a photograph. You will actually see me jump up and down and shout to the tune of my kid’s favorite song:

 “I’ve got the joy,…down in my heart. Where? ….in my heart to stay!”



Joy is everywhere! Capture it!

This is my inspiration and what I hope to inspire.

Learning to embrace light and  dark,

My  journey is in His hands.

With a Joyful Heart,