Sunday, August 16, 2015

out with the old

These are my LAST sessions I'll ever post from my little ole' Canon Rebel. That baby lasted me 3 1/2 years and took me far. By the end it wasn't focusing correctly and it was really slowing me down. I'm all heart eyes and praise hands* over my new EOS 6D (story of how I got it here) and can't flippin wait to really start shooting with it. I've just had a couple of quick test runs so far.

*I don't know how to express emotion without emojis anymore. Emojis are stunting my writing skills. It's a sad demise. 

A couple of family shoots (both single mamas who are beautiful souls, making a way for their little families with strength and grace) and my very first wedding.

What the camera doesn't show on this first shoot was that we were all sweating bullets in the 90 degrees and swatting mosquitos in between every click of the camera. It was kinda brutal but we got it done.

This boy kept me moving but I didn't mind a bit. I sort of love a challenge. Mamas are twice as pleased to get gorgeous photos back when the shoots are hard! 

But oh my gosh, look at this little lump of sugar! She evened things out by posing like a full-time model. A really squishy model.

And a few shots from the (very) small wedding I shot. It was an old highschool friend of mine who contacted me out of the blue. I can't say I'm eager to do more weddings anytime soon (so much pressure! And so. much. editing.) but it was great experience and I was pleased with the results.

And last but not least, my new favorite picture of Dawson. His new Kindergarten teacher doesn't even know what's about to hit her. I swear my heart grows in size every time I look at this picture. He is a force of love and light. His intensity can still wear me out but that light is so much more beautiful in contrast to the dark. (You can read more about my spirited child here.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

a new leaf

Where does one begin when walking through something of this magnitude? I've avoided blogging for the sheer fact that I don't know what to write anymore. (Well, that, and Instagram kinda took over the world.) For a year and a half I was clinging, fighting, clawing, scraping at any shred of hope for reconciliation. My prayers were cries to God to restore and redeem. But what do you do when those prayers you spent so many tear-filled nights praying aren't answered? The only thing I know to do is cling to hope that the restoration and redemption is still to come. It just might look entirely different than the picture I had in my mind. I choose to believe God can do more work in me and through me as a divorced woman. I heard someone say, "sometimes God allows what He hates, in order to accomplish what He loves." I honestly don't know if that is biblically sound. Maybe the bottom line is this world is full of sin and we're all taking detour after detour off the path He originally called us to walk. But I do know God uses the most painful parts of our stories to open our eyes and make us more like Him. And the closer our heart beats to the heart of Christ, the more we will accomplish for His kingdom. So ultimately I do think He'll be able to use me more now that I'm somewhat of a cast-off. An outsider.

I read a Jen Hatmaker quote back in March that gave me permission to open my hands and let go.
"That broken thing you keep trying to put back together can't even compare to that beautiful thing waiting to be built. Doesn't hindsight tell us this is true? Sometimes we go back to the same well and try again, but sometimes we lay it down, acknowledge our lessons, grieve what is just not going to be, and move on to something new and healthy and beautiful. No matter what we've lost, we can still build anew." 
Please hear me on this--this quote is not an excuse to give up. I never gave up. I was in it 100% until the bitter end. I never stopped doubting we'd be restored until that door was firmly closed. But there comes a point where no amount of praying, pleading, and apologizing will change another human's heart. I believe God is sovereign and I'm trusting that if there was still something to fight for, He would have given me at least an inkling of hope. I'm thankful my boys have two parents who are committed to put their well-being first, which often means laying hurt and frustration aside and making room for peace. And that extends out to both sides of the family because we are not the only five people affected by this.

Starting next week my life will look very different than it did a few years ago. I'm moving again, into a smaller house. This will be the third move for me in a little over a year. I'm not excited about the process of moving again (that's putting it politely. I have lots of curse words in my head.) but I'm excited about the new little house I'll be in with a beautiful kitchen and screened-in porch. This house in the woods has been a beautiful retreat and has so much potential but it's too much for me. This house was initially supposed to be ours to work on and grow in together as a family of five. It's completely impractical for a single mom. I will miss my porch swing and the beautiful views out every window and the cozy cabin feel. I will not miss all the bugs and mice inside my house or the appliances from the 1980's. Thankfully it will still be a part of the boys' life since their dad will live in it for the foreseeable future.

I'll also be starting a full-time job on Monday. And because I know some of you will ask, I'll be the executive assistant to the general manager of a golf and country club. I had a couple interviews that didn't work out when I was first searching. It was mildly defeating and very overwhelming to have to find something I could support myself on. I answered several Craigslist postings and this was one of them. It checked every single box I had in my head for my ideal job. None of the others I was applying for even came close. And just to heap on some extra blessings and reassurance that God's got my back, I'll get to eat lunch and dinner at the country club with the staff every single day. 1/3 of my meals completely covered every week. I obviously have very mixed emotions about leaving my role as stay-at-mom and being away from my kids so much but I'm mostly excited. I haven't been a good mama to them. As the stress in my life has built up around me and affected my mental, emotional and physical health, I haven't been able to handle the stress of parenthood. And I know they're suffering for it. I'm looking forward to quality time with them, rather than quantity.

I have not handled all of this separation and divorce stuff perfectly. I've said things to the kids that I've regretted. I've acted selfish and entitled about my time alone. I've often turned my back on God and instead distracted myself with anything and everything to fill the void of loneliness. I've doubted God's ability to satisfy my aching and parched soul. The list is endless and ugly.

And yet. 

And yet time and time again He has extended his hand and waited for me to grasp it. And even when I've refused to hang on, He says, "No matter. I love you all the same. And I'll show you just how much you matter to me and just how trustworthy I am." I received a brand new professional camera as a gift from a dear friend just a couple weeks ago. This was something that would have taken me months to save for but that I've desperately needed to push my business to the next level. And I know it wasn't a gift that was easy for them to pay for. It cost them something. I know they had to give something up in order for me to receive it. But all I had to do was accept it for what it was. Love. I pulled it out of the box and I felt the weight of it in my hand. And then the tears just started streaming down my face and didn't stop for a long time. It was such a physical reminder of all that God has done and will continue to do for me. I felt the weight of his love for me in that moment.

I will forever wear the title, 'divorced'. It's not some shiny badge people admire. There is so much judgment that goes along with that. I know because I used to be one of those people, judging away and making assumptions about those people's lives and kids and walks with God. And as things have gotten more public, I've had to accept the fact that people are going to assume a lot of things about me that aren't true and people are going to talk. People are going to blame and choose sides and it often hurts. But in those moments I've learned to tune out the lies. And tune in to God's voice about who I am in and through Him. I am beautiful in His eyes and fully loved and fully forgiven. I'll just mentally stick that badge right over top of the big D-word. I'm going to keep making mistakes. Every day, every hour. I will never live a perfect day in my life. But that sin doesn't separate me from God. It makes me aware of how closely in step I need to walk with Him. He's fully aware of our humanity and He's not mad about it.

I'm not out of this winter season. I won't be for some time. These days are still extraordinarily heavy and hard. Every day of my life has felt like a struggle for nearly two years now. But they've been sprinkled through with just enough blessings to keep my head above water and filled with people who have loved and supported me so well. I love Colossians 1:11 and I want it to radiate from every fiber of my being but I'm not quite there yet.
We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul--not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory strength God gives. It is the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. 
Angela Thomas' book, My Single Mom Life, was one big gulp of fresh air. I couldn't get enough. Every single mom needs to read it. If you know one, send it to her. 'Cause she probably can't afford it. ;) I'll end with her words that lift my spirit in an instant:
Hey, you with the heavy load. Lay it down. Just put it all right here in front of Me. All your dreams and your insecurities and your pain. Everything those kids want you to be. All your worry and the responsibilities that are too much for one woman to bear. The disappointment over how life turned out. Your weakness and your weariness and your aching body. The constant needs that never go away and the little battles that just rip out your joy. Lay it down and come to Me. Come in your ordinary. It's OK. I do extraordinary work with ordinary women like you. These circumstances will not win. Love has the final say. 
Yeah. That.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wanted to post some of my recent work. My first experience shooting a band, first headshots and first engagement session. Phew. It was all harder than I expected but I loved the challenge and stretching myself. I'm dying for a new camera because mine isn't keeping up with me anymore so I'll be saving up for one this year. And I've got a web site and branding on my radar too. It's high time I take the leap and become official (whatever the heck that means. I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable calling myself a photographer). My brain tells me to research and work on this stuff in my limited spare time but my body says, "Nah, we're good. Let's go watch Netflix." It's a losing battle.

This was a collaborative worship night and CD release with a few different local bands. I had to borrow a camera for this because I didn't trust mine in that unpredictable lighting. It was really hard to give that thing back at the end of the night. It was an honor to be asked to capture this evening and the music was fantastic.

I've known Allison for a long time and it was fun working with her. She's such a sweet, smart girl who's done far more traveling than I have in her life. She's always fascinating to listen to. I loved coaching her and helping her relax in front of the camera during the hour we shot.

How adorable is this couple? And the camera doesn't even show his charming British accent. Gosh, they were cute, but it was far more of a challenge than I expected. It's one thing to capture families having fun together. It's another thing to try to get people to act completely in love in front of a stranger holding a camera. And posing two people was harder than posing a group. I loved it but I'll be more prepared next time. Took a while to find a groove but I was happy with the results for my first try. I'm really starting to think about having a glass of wine with my clients before we start shooting. ;)