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“I am so very sorry for your loss,” the woman told me. “I wish there were something I could do.”

I stood there in stunned silence, holding my phone in one hand and my four-year-old’s sticky paw in the other, attempting to process what she saying.


Can’t get them back.


All. Gone.

At this point in my story, you may be wondering who died. Thankfully, all the Renshaws are, to my knowledge, alive and kicking. But as I stood in the mall with my son and the patient employee informed me that there was nothing she or her fellow geniuses could do to save my photos, I fought tears. And the tears won. I felt like my motherhood had taken a swift and sustained kick to the gut.

You see, after an unfortunate incident wherein one of my beloved children, who shall remain nameless, locked my phone so that it could not be accessed, I mistakenly believed retrieving my photos would be easy-peasy. Especially for people who worked at a place with the word “genius” in the name.

Allow me to interject that, in the grand scheme of things, the problem I’m recounting is minor. Small. A mere blip, really. But, for me, at the time, it was a Really. Big. Deal. See, I’m relatively new to the smartphone game, obtaining my first device just over two years ago. In that time, I took about 7,000 pictures. Yes, you read that correctly: Seven with three zeroes. That seems like a lot of photos, and it is. But that total included more than just photos; it included screen captures of texts, work-related graphics, videos, memes, etc. etc. etc. You may be wondering, “Sooo … Why didn’t you back up your data?”

Why, indeed.

Maybe for the same reason that some kids don’t think helmets are necessary, or new drivers eschew seatbelts, or Moms of potty trainers go on play dates without a diaper bag. I don’t know. I guess I got cocky. I’d entered the magical time period of eligibility for a free upgraded mobile device, and I mistakenly believed that worrying about backing up my old device would soon be in my rearview mirror.

All I know is, I hadn’t backed up my data in ages, and now the customer service employee was showing me how this crucial misstep meant that I no longer had access to two years’ worth of family photos. Two years of memories. Two years of babies growing. Two years of school plays, concerts, get-togethers, silly faces, graduations, family trips …

As I let that sink in, the tears welled up. “There’s gotta be someone here who can hack my device to get the photos!” I lamented. The woman shook her head sadly. “Unfortunately, no. I’m so sorry. I’m a mom, too. This happened to me last year. I get it.”

“Please,” I stammered, beginning to accept reality. “Tell me what I need to do to make sure this never happens again.” The employee nodded and said, “Let me email you a link. Just follow the steps and data on your new device will be secure.”

In the hours that followed, I was frustrated—frustrated with my kid for locking my phone. Frustrated with my husband for talking me into allowing the kid to use the phone to begin with. But, most of all, I was frustrated with myself. Why hadn’t I backed up the photos or downloaded them or something? What kind of a mother allows her family’s memories to be ripped away like that??

Every parent has ups and downs in their vocation. Much is good, yet there are many, many challenging moments. At least, there are at my house. Having those pictures reminded me that everything wasn’t hard all the time. That sometimes we really like one another. That sometimes we can have fun together. That sometimes we are all pretty happy, even if we can’t look at the camera at the same time. They reminded me that I have good kids, a good husband, and I am a pretty good mom.

After some soul-searching, I realized that, as much as those photos were a consolation to me, perhaps they were also my way of attempting to convince the world that, “Hey! This is us! We are okay!” Maybe I expended more effort trying to prove to myself and others that everything was peachy than I had actually being present in those precious moments as they happened.

I wish I could say that I’ve completely detached from those lost pictures. I haven’t, but I’m on my way. I now realize that God was helping me detach from the much less important (memories of people, places, and things) and focus more intently on the subjects of those photos—the people with whom God has called me to love in the moment, every moment. Good or bad.