Sarah Carter Studio » artist | photographer | writer | advocate


Tomorrow we are boarding a plane that will take us to Arizona so we can say goodbye to a very dear friend. He lost his life in a motorcycle accident while on an epic trip to Utah with his dad. It is tragic, because he had so much life left to live. It is tragic because no one expected it. There was no time to prepare. No opportunity to slow time and savor that last moment with him – the one that would become the memory we’d hold onto for years to come.

Hal came into my husband’s life when Steve was just a scrawny seventh grader and he was lucky enough to have Hal as his substitute teacher. Pretty much instantly Hal became an icon for Steve, someone he knew was “cool” and also good. Good to his core. Hal was a safe person. He cared, and he committed, and he never ever forgot someone’s story.

During a time that was unstable and confusing, Hal was the rock that pointed true north for Steve. He served as a guide, not just someone who talked at him, but someone who was willing to slow down, take a step back, and walk with him. Over the years, they became less teacher/student and more mentor/mentee. Then friends. Then pastor to pastor. And somewhere in there they became family. Steve would say no one has been more influential in his life than Hal. And to that end, I must say…


Dearest Hal,

Thank you. Thank you for living a life that demanded explanation. You were gifted with more insight and wisdom and intelligence than most of us could ever hope for, and yet you were one of the most humble, eager to learn people on the planet. Everything was a curious mystery to you, and your genuine interest in creation and God and people seemed to captivate your imagination and opened you up to possibilities most of us couldn’t even dream of. You lived a life so compelling, so authentic, so very much like Jesus – that those who knew you wanted to know more. You were a beautiful testament to the divine nature of God – curious, listening, learning, delighting, wondering .. the way you lived showed my husband that goodness and consistency existed in a world that said otherwise. You won him over, you cracked his code, broke down his walls, and made a way for the light to get in.

You were the first to speak the words over him that he was made for ministry. You said it so casually, so simply, so easily. No one would ever have guessed how very much your words would affect the coming history. Your words became influence because you not only lived a beautiful, compelling life – but you were consistent and brave. You showed up. You stayed. Year after year, trial after trial, Steve always knew he had you to call on. You flew across the country when his world fell apart. You were there. You have always been there for him.

Thank you for living so beautifully and also for paying attention. You noticed the stories God put before you. You asked questions. You became invested. You showed Steve what that kind of present life could look like. Because of you, he is someone who can show up, who can sit with and bear witness to the ups and downs of another’s life. You taught him that. You shaped him in so many ways.

Thank you for never leaving him. Up until the last text (and beyond that I believe) you remained loyal and present. You were there for him always, he felt your love always. 

When I see Steve and how he loves, when I watch him question and push and let God be big enough to lean into – when I see how brave he is with his belief – I thank God for you and for all that you have given him. You have loved him up. Never has a second passed that he doubted your love and support of him. Always he knew he had you in his corner. What. A. Gift. 

Of course there are a million stories I could share about your wild and well-lived life – I believe you have made God cheer as you’ve jumped both feet into the one precious and wild life you were given. But the ways you have shaped my husband and the ways I’ve seen that passed onto our community, our children, and our marriage will be an eternal source of gratitude for me. Thank you for living well, for showing up, for investing in a life-long relationship with Steve, and for all the ways you’ve shown him how to love well and be brave. My life – his life – the lives of our children and countless others – have all been forever touched because of you.

You are greatly missed and the ache and absence will be felt for many years to come, but the sorrow is our own to walk through. It is because you have been so very much like the love of God to us that we grieve the loss of you so deeply. 

Gratitude is all I have to offer back, a small and incomparable whisper to God at how very good He is to have shared such a spark of light with us. 

And so, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We miss you.


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  • October 29, 2015 - 5:05 am

    Dean Kuest - Sarah, Nailed it! You have captured Hal so well. Such an incredible and beautifully crafted tribute.ReplyCancel

  • October 29, 2015 - 12:08 pm

    Kitty Keese - What an absolutely beautiful tribute to an amazing man! You captured the pure essence of Hal. Hal touched so many lives in so many ways. He will be greatly missed but his legacy lives on!ReplyCancel

  • October 29, 2015 - 2:19 pm

    Curtis Holtzen - Very nicely said.ReplyCancel

  • October 30, 2015 - 1:27 pm

    Natalie Sum - Sarah- thanks for capturing a life well lived. I did not know Hal, I’ve never met you, and only know Steve from teaching at Willow. But, you’ve made me remember the importance of words and speaking them as a supreme gift. I’m motivated to write to a mentor of mine for their influence. Thanks for bringing a taste of heaven to earth.ReplyCancel

In addition to my trusty chelsea boots and this JCrew coat, here are a few items that will be making fall feel all the more beautiful:





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  • October 7, 2015 - 8:12 pm

    Meredith - EEEK love all of this! Thanks for adding the golden bar necklace to your fall capsule <3ReplyCancel

I had such a great time shooting for ten families last Saturday. It was a perrrrfect fall day, sunny but cool, no bugs, yellow flowers everywhere. I love this season. It was especially sweet to be shooting for a family I met last year. I can’t believe how much these boys have grown! Here’s a peek into the first fall mini sesh of the season…


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  • September 20, 2015 - 10:15 pm

    Joy Stengel - You really captured the personality of these two adorable boys. Grandma JoyReplyCancel

I should be sleeping right now.. my home is quiet, really for the first time since early morning when we were up brewing coffee and packing lunches, scrambling to load backpacks and send everyone off to their various places to be, hopefully on time. Now its dark and precious sleep is drifting from each bedroom. Dreams and little snores have replaced wide-eyed silliness and gushing laughter. Yet here I am. Because I cannot. I just cannot close my eyes. Every time I do, I see Aylan. I see his father. My mind spins as I consider that the world is in the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Syria’s civil war and the rising of ISIS is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time, leaving us with more than 11 million people displaced – half of them under the age of 18.

I feel an unrest from deep in my bones to do something. Anything. I feel helpless, and that makes me sad. But – BUT – that is the illusion. That helpless feeling is what keeps us from responding to our initial gut reaction upon seeing an image like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.36.24 PM

Those could be my kids. They could. I didn’t wake up on American soil one cool day in November all those years ago because I was more deserving or better than or more worthy than them. I was lucky. Plain lucky that I was born into a society not currently engaged in civil war. That fortuitous fact in no way determines my worthiness as a person or theirs. Look at these children. They could be mine. They could be Emerson and Mercy if we’d been born into different circumstances. I can’t stop thinking about it.

I don’t want to be inhibited from action. I don’t want the fact that the problem seems too large to overcome my ability to do something. Anything. The only way anything ever changes is if we begin to care enough to act.

So. I am starting by learning. I am reading. I am thinking. I am praying. I am asking questions and engaging. I am pushing through the thoughts and voices that tell me I don’t know enough to talk about/feel about/do about this issue. I have the resources to educate myself and it is my responsibility to do so, because we belong to one another. We do. That isn’t rhetoric to make us feel better at the end of a hard day. These are our people, our global family.

I am learning and I am engaging in sharing what I’m learning. I am using my voice, and my platform, to share the information and to invite you all to join me in this effort. Come with me. Let yourself feel the injustice of it. I know its hard and uncomfortable. I know its awful not to have an anecdote to offer to make it all seem less bad. It is bad. It is so so bad. Let it be okay that that is true.

What can we do? Now that we are learning and open and feeling – what can we do with all that energy? Start here. See what sticks out, what gets you excited. See what your heart beats faster at, where you mind starts to connect dots and arrange networks of those paths, people, connections  you may already have access to in your life. Rally your people. Give. Pray. Advocate. Petition. Let yourself be part of the effort.

We belong to each other. If I were on the other end of this story, I know how very desperately I would hope you’d believe that were true. Stay in the story because it is real life. Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Tomorrow the kids and I will wake up and drive to Target and we will take this list with us:

Sneakers, gym shoes for men, women and children (all sizes) are a HIGH PRIORITY
Sweatpants of all sizes.
Briefs/underwear for men, women and children (all sizes)
Men’s trousers (small, medium and large) and shoes
Baby powder milk
Any non-perishables like nut butters or other long-lasting foods.
Feminine products
Sleeping bags
Plastic to cover the floor/for shade
Mats (camping or yoga mats)
Hats and caps for sunshade (adults and children/light colours because of the sun)
Electric Plug for multiple devices (european voltage)

We will walk the aisles and fill our cart with items to help a family half a world away. We will talk about this family and we will probably cry a little (or a lot.) We will wrap these things up and we will put them in a box, then we’ll drive to our post office and send them, along with cards and a lot of love, to an unnamed family waiting on a island, homeless, placeless, without identity or certainty. But my prayer is that when they open this box, they will know that they exist and they are seen and that they matter.

Thank God we have the chance to wake up in the middle of this crisis. It is not too late for us! We still have time to be a part of a beautiful story of hope and redemption and turing the story on its head – this isn’t a tragedy. YET. But we have to do something. Anything.

** If you would like to mail items from this list as well, here is the official mailing address:

Hellenic Postal Office of Mythymna
℅ The Captain’s Table
Molyvos 81108, Lesvos, Greece


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  • September 5, 2015 - 5:06 am

    Stephanie Matheny - We will do that too! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • September 7, 2015 - 12:02 am

    Talar - Your words explain exactly how I feel too. My family and I will be sending supplies as well!ReplyCancel

  • September 9, 2015 - 4:55 am

    Kathryn - This has been on my heart the past few days as well. You described my own thoughts and feelings so accurately!!ReplyCancel

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