Big Sis, Lil Sis: To Kiersten / by Amanda Liew

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The story goes that back in the day when I was quite young, my mom gained a little bit of weight and joked to my brother and I that she was having another baby. I started jumping up and down ecstatically, so thrilled to finally have a baby brother or sister. My brother, on the other hand, started bawling and said in exasperation, "AGAIN?!???" When my parents let us in on the joke, the roles reversed: my brother started jumping up and down with joy and I started bawling at the loss. Well, over two decades later, I can say that that feeling has never fully gone away. Despite my love for my older brother, I've always felt a little hole in my heart that's meant to be filled by a younger sibling. I never prayed for it because people generally grow out of that by the time they reach 7, but God clearly knew the depths of my heart better than I did. When I was 17, He answered my unspoken prayers. I honestly can't even remember exactly how I met Kiersten, but as the most bubbly and outgoing sophomore in the world, she somehow managed to infiltrate a group of us seniors that all went to La Jolla High and La Jolla Presbyterian's youth group. Only one or two months after we met, I felt a random little nudge in my heart that God wanted me to "disciple" her. I had only heard the phrase from Christian college fellowships where a younger student was guided by an older one. I really had no idea what it was supposed to look like, but somehow one night, I managed to muster up enough courage and say to Kiersten, "This is kind of random, but can I disciple you?" In typical Kiersten fashion, she excitedly said yes!... and then said she had no idea what that meant. So together for the rest of my senior year, we made our own rules and did what worked best for us. We met once a week at Don Carlos (only the best restaurant in the world) after school for endless Mexican food, and made ourselves little devotional schedules where we would read one bible passage one day, listen to worship music another day, journal another day, etc. It was so effective for the both of us to have someone keep us accountable, and we were able to talk about everything from what God was teaching us in our every day lives to the standard teenage things like boys...and more boys.

Throughout the years, Kiersten has become the sister that I was meant to have in this world. I think what's most amazing is that back when I first approached Kiersten, I thought God was calling me to be a mentor and a big sister to someone younger. And while I've been lucky enough to play that role for the past 5 years, Kiersten has been an endless blessing in my own life in ways I never even knew I needed. Even though she's my "lil sis", she's been one of the strongest support systems for me in times of pain, confusion, heartbreak, and just growing up in general. She's my life cheerleader: always encouraging me in anything I want to accomplish and always believing in me when nobody else does. She's grown so much in the past few years and though I used to make a silly attempt to "shield" her from my own problems, her amazing depth, compassion, and understanding has made her one of the few people I can truly be honest with and never face judgment. I'm beyond blessed to have been blessed with my Lil Sis, and I couldn't be happier to be her Big Sis.

In terms of photography, this shoot was a particular challenge because La Jolla was just. too. sunny. I know, our lives our really rough. But the brightness caused a lot of difficulty with squinty eyes, shadows, overexposure, etc. The editing process took a lot of toggling with the highlights/shadows and whites/blacks functions. Additionally, as cute as her dress is, the neon pink was a difficult color to accurately portray and often cast an orangey-pink hue on her face. All in all, though, being able to shoot at La Jolla Cove with someone as beautiful as Kiersten was such a fun experience! Even after 22 years, I can't believe we're lucky enough to live here.

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