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Tuesday
Apr222014

Why I Quit [Wedding Photography] : And 4 Lessons to Keep You In: PT II

Last year I quit wedding photography.

I didn’t quit because I wasn’t good at it, or because I was tired of it. I didn’t quit because I didn’t enjoy it, or because I was burned out. I quit wedding photography because I couldn’t bear to have another horrible, demeaning, and agonizing experience as the one I will finish telling today.

On my last blog post, I wrote about how I took a set of clients for someone I loved. Though I did not have a good feeling about them, I took them anyway. Two weeks before the wedding I received notification that the wedding was earlier than what I had on the contract. Rather than say “sorry Charlie”, I went ahead and did everything in my own power to get there and photograph the wedding.

On my long 17 hour drive home, I had the groom email me a statement, acknowledging that there would be no wedding for the contracted date. By that time I felt the need to cover my bases, and was relieved that the groom was considerate enough to accommodate. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is also a detail that I believe saved me from additional unpleasantness in the future.

With tickets already purchased on the original wedding date, I decided to go ahead and use the expense to take a vacation. With the previous fiasco, we did not do an after-wedding shoot as intended. Instead we would do the shoot when I returned to the area in two weeks for the originally contracted date.

I didn’t have many friends in the area so I mostly went around and saw sights, visited with family members. Sunday morning rolled around for our after shoot. It was a night and day difference being rested and ready to tackle this shoot - and I was ecstatic by the results. I had never been able to shoot a bride and groom in their own special photoshoot, so I was stoked to have this opportunity! The shoot started almost 2 hours late, but I wasn’t too bothered. I scouted out locations and napped a little bit before my clients arrived. The photos from this shoot were some of my most favorite shots of all time.

As in typical fashion, I went through my wedding processing and finalized all the edits in 4-6 weeks. That’s when I hit a little bump.

I found out that the individual who hired me for gifting the photography had recently lost their job. When I sent notification that the photos were ready, I was told that it would take some time for them to pay me the remaining 25%. I was left at a loss as to how to move forward. As an entrepreneur with ranging income from month to month, I completely understood when “the money just ain’t there.” But in the same token, I was also relying on that payment for my own bills. I did a l.o.t. of praying to try and figure out how to resolve the situation; If I wasn’t paid, I wasn’t going to give the clients the photos. It was as simple as that.

1. Don’t allow someone to give wedding photography as a “gift”. I know I may sound like a mean person by saying this, but there can be major complications with this. If the bride and groom aren’t paying for your services, they may not appreciate your value and worth. This is dangerous, because it may give them the feeling that they can walk all over you. Additionally, if the bride and groom aren’t the individuals paying, suddenly they have a binding contract with you when they actually aren’t the ones who are committed to paying you. I could go on but you should just take my word for it. Do. Not. Let. This. Happen. Unless you are paid up front entirely.

Weeks went by and I did not see payment. At this point I felt terrible about even asking for the remaining amount; but I also had to give my clients the photos someday. That was when I brought in the bride and groom.

I spoke with the bride and let her know the situation. She was so chagrined to hear that her close friend was in such a tough spot, but in her husbands words, he “knew something like this would happen.” They told me that they would confer and come to a solution to pay me promptly and receive their photos.

A minor detail to be mentioned here: As the wedding photography was a gift, purchased by someone I loved, I gave the clients my usual "Friends and Family” discount of 25%. So rather than paying $5200 for the selected package, this package was going to cost around $3900. Between the holiday weekend and the loss of two dates out of the wedding season, I should have had the client sign a new contract for the full amount. This would have been completely equitable and fair. But I was trying to be a “nice person” so at the end of the day, I simply had them pay for my expenses. By then I just wanted to have the experience over with and everyone happy.

It would take almost another year for this to happen.

When I was contacted again, they had a solution. They had split the remaining portion between the two individual parties. However, they also asked for an additional $300 cut from what they owed. Their reasoning: They did not have as many photos from the reception as they wanted. And since the wedding date, we had found where the date discrepancy came from.

It had taken these clients 7 months to actually “book”. When I had sent them the contract originally, it was for the date requested. When they decided to book me those 7 months later, I let them know the contract was still in their inbox and they could return it to me posthaste. What I did not realize was that in that 7 month time frame, they actually changed the date. And though these clients had the eye for detail enough to find policies in the contract that they wanted to change, they did not see that the original date was in the contract I had sent. It wasn’t until I dug through all my emails that I found a follow up email, just a few lines was all. It had been missed in the email thread. And it gave me a new date for their wedding.

The clients said I had responsibility for the date fiasco. That fired me up - I was livid. I had already lost around $1500 in my time and they wanted to blame shift. I really could not believe it - after the efforts I had made to fulfill my commitment to them, they still wanted more. I caved, hoping that soon enough I would be done with them. I received payment. They received their photos. Life went back to balance.

A couple of weeks later I heard from them again. They didn’t like some of the edits, and asked if I would be willing to adjust the photos. I took a deep breath, let them know that I charged for re-edits, but in good faith would make those adjustments without charge.

2. Have a minimum number of photos you will re-edit without charging, but hold firm to charge when that number is passed - it adds up. I will be entirely up front here when I say that I usually don’t mind making these adjustments at all. I want my clients to like their photos. But, when I offered to make the re-edits complimentary, I didn’t realize that they meant a good 10% of their wedding images. Needless to say, my hulu account and my irritation kept me company during that time.

In good time I created their little companion book and sent it off to them. I received word that they loved it. Some weeks later I also sent them the enlargements that came with their package. I received an email that they had been delivered, but that the prints had been damaged in route. I was suspicious. I have never had any enlargements damaged in the mail, and I had inspected them myself before shipment. I acknowledge it could happen, and let them know they could send me the photos back and I would get reprints for them. I will humbly say that I did forget about this incident.

In June I sent an email requesting their selections for the album. They were happy to oblige - or so I thought. But several months went by and I received no word. Finally I sent an email in November and December, asking for a time they would select the photos. We all know how the winter season goes: It’s album time because we actually have the time to create them. I had a ton of time then, and with my jobs and mentoring could afford to be full time in photography. That would change when I moved to downtown Denver in February.

Our rent was quite high, and between coaching and photography I wasn’t making enough to sustain breathing room. I took a job at a coffee shop not too far from where I lived. I wanted to put some money in savings and also meet people in Denver. Between photography, coaching, and the coffee shop I was working 60-70 hours per week. My time was gone.

And of course, you guessed it, February was the month that these clients finally gave me their wedding photos for the album. In no uncertain terms I let them know that I did not have the availability that I previously had, and it would be some time before I could finish their album. In my previous experience (thank God for my gracious and reasonable clients), people generally know that you will fulfill your word. That was when, 6 weeks later, I was shocked and appalled by an email I received from these clients. This email was my complete breaking point.

3. Do not let any client take advantage of you, bully you, or treat you with less respect than you are worth. For some reason, there are a number of individuals who feel that artists are the ones they can walk on - that we are the passive and generous individuals who will lay down and take whatever they give. We see this all the time from the lives of creatives. There is an epidemic within the industry to let people steal your photos, use them without permission, print them without rights, short you for less than you are worth. Unless we all take steps to protect ourselves, these will be common issues and they will continue to affect us all in a vicious cycle.

I would share with you the exact words that these clients used, but I have made it a point to not look back on those dialogues for the anger and anxiety it brings up in me still. But, the main idea was that, in the clients minds, it was almost a year to the day of their wedding. As the contract stated that the album would follow about a year after the wedding, they would be “reasonable” in giving me a deadline of 3 weeks to complete it and have it on their doorstep. If they did not have it, they would begin to pursue legal action.

Nevermind that it had taken them 9 months to simply select the photos. They expected me to compile, design, produce, and deliver a fully completed album in less than 9 weeks.

Truly I’m not sure if I can adequately describe in words how I felt by these people. Almost every single interaction with them had caused irritation or anxiety, but to come to this point was more than I could deal with. I did not respond to the email. I seethed for a week or so, trying to decide my course of action. In actuality, the client had no contract to work from. In my mind everything that I had done to appease them as clients had been out of my own good nature. But this bullying put a compete stop to that sense. I was done.

And then, if that is even possible, the situation got worse.

I received a phone call from my dad. He said that the person who had originally hired me felt freedom to contact him and tell him everything that was going on. Apparently, my clients had been on that individuals back as well, causing rifts in their friendship with my “lack of accommodating” their request. My dad asked for the details, and I was only happy to give him every detail of the agonizing experience from start to finish. That was when my dad made me an offer that I will remember for the rest of my life. He asked me if I wanted to hire him to be a mediator.

There are no words to tell you the relief I felt from that moment. I felt like someone had just given me the keys to my prison, so I could walk away free. I didn’t even have to think about it. My dad had been in business critical accounts for over 20 years. If there was someone I knew who would be fair, conscience, firm, and in my best interest, it was my dad. I know not everyone can say this, but God really sent my dad to be my advocate in this awful experience. You need someone like that too.

The days that followed that conversation, I sent my dad every piece of documentation I had with this client. Emails. Receipts. The old contract. He reached out to the clients and let them know that he would be handling the situation and was confident that we could come to a happy resolution for everyone involved. As you can imagine, the client was less than excited about this prospect: In fact, the groom had said that he would not speak with my dad at all; in his mind, since I was their service provider, he had a right to talk to me.

My dad is awesome. He can be tough on some things, but at the end of the day, he is someone I always will be grateful to have in my corner. In very kind and clear words, my dad told the groom that he was more than welcome to not speak directly to him, but it was in his best interest to do so. He then relayed the fact that they actually had no contract to base any of their demands from, and unless they spoke to him, they would not receive any album or service from me from that point forward. They were also welcome to take legal action; My dad and I both knew that after listing all the additional things I had done above and beyond the contract to service them, it was not likely that a judge would rule in their favor. By this time, I was almost hoping they would take me to court - I would not hesitate to counter sue for the full amount of what it cost me to service them.

It took some further dialogue, but my Dad finally was able to make arrangements. If I gave them the full image rights and resend the enlargements that were damaged, he believed our interactions would finally be included. But he also admonished me: If I could afford to send them the album, he would encourage me to do so. He advised this not out of obligation, but out of protecting my brand. A good name is truly hard to build, and that may be worth the cost of an album.

I already had the album almost entirely designed - in fact it had been almost done by the time they emailed me with the ultimatum. I took my dad’s advice and scheduled it for production coming from Italy; Most likely it would be ready in 6-8 weeks. I let my dad know this, and he conveyed that to the client. I will absolutely never forget their response: “We hope to conclude this in as quickly a time as possible, as we even have our church praying for all the pain and suffering this situation has caused us.”

I know. I could go on a looooongg time about that statement, but I will keep my thoughts to myself. You’ll probably agree with me.

In the meantime, I sent them the DVD of the full size images. The first DVD their computer couldn’t read. The second DVD did not burn correctly and had nothing on it. I know. These things happen from time to time, but n.e.v.e.r. could we imagine these happenings occurring for the same individual client. I speak from the bottom of my heart when I tell you that it was hands down the most awful experiences I’ve ever had in business.

I know this has been long, and if you are still reading your nerves are probably as frayed as mine were going through the situation. At the time of this writing the album has long since been delivered by UPS, but neither my dad nor myself received a thank you or acknowledgement of receipt. I know after speaking with other wedding photographers that this client circumstance was certainly not the norm - that even those 10 years in the business have not had such a harrowing experience as what I went through with those clients. The possibility remains there. And I will wrap up with one last point.

4. Always charge what you are worth. You see, charging what you are worth often weeds out the normal clients from the crazy ones. People who are willing to pay what you are worth will always treat you with respect. When you charge what you are worth, it’s ok to go through a little drama - you’re being paid for it. And if you really, really like a client who genuinely can’t find the money to afford you, serve those clients for yourself. There is joy that will come from working with those who admire you. These are the individuals who will always recommend and refer you, who will always rave about you to their friends. No, it can’t be you’re normal mode of operation; but those times that you can give this gift for someone, it will feel really special.

My goal with this post is not to make you feel sorry for me; Truth be told, I know I did not manage or handle the situation as best as I could have - and that is a very humbling admission. But it’s the Gods honest truth that I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know if I will ever formally return to wedding photography other than once a year for a dear friend. But I do know that the lessons I have learned, will hopefully protect other photographers from the same experiences. Trust me. Wedding photography is an incredible industry, and if you are willing to put in the work, you will want to stay in for a very long time.

I hope my story will help facilitate that for you.

[If you enjoyed this article, please share with a photographer friend who may need ta little push to protect themselves too!]

Tuesday
Apr152014

Why I Quit [Wedding Photography]: And 4 Lessons to Keep You In

Last year I said goodbye to wedding photography.

Many of my friends and family were chagrined. I had worked extremely hard to reach a certain level of success. I had made many difficult sacrifices along the way. I endured many early mornings, crazy situations, and unpleasant people among the way I also encountered beautiful love stories, kind hearted people, and considerate clients, for which I shall always be grateful. And to top all of that off, I had just become an international wedding photographer.

I look back on my 6 years as a wedding photographer and can genuinely say I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It was so fun. It was full of adventure. It was also lonely and demanding. It was very, very hard work, but I loved ever moment for a long time.

Two years ago, all that changed when I had the worst client experience of my career, or any other photographer I had heard of.

The story is long. I won’t elaborate on the details, but I genuinely hope that the lessons I learned in this painful and aggravating experience may guard other photographers from being taken advantage of and burned out as I was.

It started when I was contracted by someone close to me. I was to be hired as a gift to a bride and groom. I was really touched by the individual who wanted to hire me; As I understand the value of wedding photography, I also knew that it would be a wonderful and dynamic gift.

That was the only part of the experience that was positive. I promise you I am not being dramatic in any way, shape, or form.

The couple contacted me to elaborate on the details of their wedding. We dialogue back and forth in the usual fashion. They wanted my most comprehensive package - Forever Love, valued at $5500. This included just about everything I had to offer, plus travel expenses.

So I sent the contract.

After about two weeks of email exchanges, the responses went silent. Now, any wedding photographer can tell you that we aren’t surprised by this and to a degree can even expect it to happen. This scenario was rather strange though, because my services were to be a gift to them. It was at this point that I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was turning out different.

Ten days went by, and then they reached out again with a few random questions. I responded promptly with answers, and was again a bit ill at ease when weeks went by before hearing from them.

To be completely honest, by this point, I knew that I should not have worked with them. One advantageous part about being a business owner is the fact that you can chose who you work with and who you take on as clients. I knew in my heart I shouldn’t have chosen to work with them, but in my desire to bless the individual close to me, I did not turn them away.

That was the worst decision of my career.

Lesson One: Do not take any client who you feel does not value you or your work. We all have had the emails. We all have experienced those feelings in the pit of the stomach that makes you wonder if you are making the right choice. Do not ignore this intuition. Ever.

Two months after we started the conversations, I didn’t hear from them again for several months. By that point, I was somewhat relieved. I thought it was over. But in November, they contacted me again. They said they were so excited to choose me as their wedding photographer, and wondered if we could meet up again via Skype to talk details. I was hesitant, but felt obligated. I acquiesced to their request. I re-iterated that the contract should be in their inbox, and to let me know if they had questions.

I heard back from them a few days later. They were concerned with the contract. I required 50% deposit to hold the date, and then the remainder was to be sent 2 weeks before the wedding. Early on in my career, I had too many weddings where the clients forgot the check on the day of the wedding. I did not shoot a wedding unless that remainder was in hand. This client wanted my policy to be amended. Apparently a relative of the bride had hired a wedding photographer years prior, only to never receive any of her photos - they even went to church with the photographer. Once again, I felt uneasy, but I understood their distrust of photographers from the previous experiences. I amended the contract so that 50% was due upon signing. Another 25% would be due at the wedding, and the remaining when the images were received. We signed the contract, and went through the typical process of working out details and travel plans.

Lesson Two: Never amend your contract - unless it is out of a genuine trust to your client. I understand the hesitation. Contracts can be awkward. It is a legal piece of paper that each signer knows to be documentation that will protect both of them. In the career of an artist, this is critical - and we know it. But for some reason in the photographic community I hear all too often this spirit of "I'm sorry I have a contract for you". We are embarrassed of our contracts, as if we have something to apologize for. This is just silly and ridiculous. We have contracts to protect us. Why would we have a reason for protection unless there are individual out there who are willing and quick to take advantage of us?

Lesson Three: Triple check your contract. The drama and challenges of the entire situation would have been avoided had I done this. If you remember that the contract is your friend, you will embrace checking it for details and acknowledgements. One number, one word, can change everything. And you will be either legally responsible to or free from it.

After we booked, there was still 6 months until the wedding date. I went about my life as usual through the winter, thinking little more of this particular client situation. In March, 7 weeks before the contracted date, I travelled to Colombia for the first time. That trip, as I have written about previously, was incredible. I wished I could stay longer. I came home on a Monday. The moment I stepped off the plane, I was sick with a bad head cold. Combined with the travel wear and tear I was exhausted and had to dive into a full work week. Tuesday through Friday I had my usual work calls for mentoreers and my other job.

Friday early afternoon I was in my pajamas, getting ready to take my first recoup day of the week. I remember the exact moment. I had just finished with my other work and was so excited to rest. That was when I received the text message.

I looked at my phone and saw a message from the individual who contracted me for the wedding. It read, “I can’t wait to see you TOMORROW!!!!”

My heart literally stopped in my chest.

Quickly, I responded with a few words about how I was also excited to see them. Then I asked about the wedding.

My heart sank in my chest at the response. I stared at the text in complete disbelief:

The wedding was the next day.

I panicked. I had no idea what to do. I was appalled. The thoughts raced in my head. Was I wrong about the date? How did I make this mistake? The plane tickets were booked for 2 weeks away. Could I get there to photograph the wedding? It was a terrible minute of confusion and desperation.

The first thing I did was find their contract. I needed to know -  had I put down the wrong date? My heart was racing as I rapidly went through the contract. To my complete relief, my eyes found confirmation. The date on the contract was the date that I had booked my tickets for. But I was not entirely in the clear. So I went through every single email I had from the clients in the 7 months of our dialogue. The date they had given me was the date in the contract.

I breathed deeply for several minutes to try and calm myself. Then I made a few calls for advice. Should I try to make it there? I was in Denver. I was sick. I had just returned from an exhausting International trip and was far from recovered. The wedding was 17 hours away - less than 24 hours from when I received the text message. My options were extremely limited. Flights were $600 on such short notice. I didn’t have a car booked. And worse yet, it was Easter weekend. We hadn’t even finalized the wedding day details because according to my schedule we were to connect that week.

At that point I made a choice. I chose to fulfill my commitment to my client, come hell or high water. I chose to do everything in my power to make it to that wedding, and photograph to the best of my abilities. I had no idea if it was possible or if I could do it. But I was certainly going to try.

So, two hours after I got the text, I set out in my car to drive to my destination. I drove 17 hours through the night. I parked in the lot of a 24 hour fitness and napped for 2 hours before I showered and got ready for the long day. On little more than caffeine and the grace of God, I arrived on time and made no indication to my clients that anything had been wrong.

Lesson Four: If you are going to go out of your way for a client, make sure they will have your back. My intentions were to alleviate some crazy additional stress from the wedding by working everything out myself. I felt like it was my responsibility - and to a degree it was. However, if a client signs a contract for a given date, there really is no sacrificial obligation a photographer has to go. There may be a matter of moral conviction, as was in my case. But looking back, the results may have been different if I had brought in the other responsible party to resolve the situation, rather than taking it on completely myself.

I have never pushed myself as much as I did the day of that wedding. Any creativity I had was divine grace. I literally counted down the hours for the day to be over. I have never been that stretched as an artist. I had to focus so hard to stay awake or create anything of value. I gave it everything I had.

By the time the reception came, I was done. Emotionally. Physically. Creatively. I took some detail shots, some shots of the guests, and then I sat down. I felt like I was going to pass out. I couldn’t’ even eat the dinner because the food wash’ t in line with my allergies. My strategy was to photograph “one shot, one kill” for the reception events.

It wasn’t until the end of the day that I took my clients aside, and told them what happened. I told them that I was only there because of a text message, a drive through the night, and the grace of God. They were shocked. They were speechless. They had no idea how the date mix up had happened. But they said they were grateful. I genuinely believed them.

And then almost 12 hours later, I left.

The next day - Easter Sunday - I found myself on a long road home. Not with family or friends, but driving through the mountains back to Denver. Though I was proud of myself for making it happen, I was in pain and sick. I had no idea that the sacrifice I made for my clients, was the very sacrifice that would be my undoing.

Part II will follow next week!

[Are you a photographer? Have you had a similar experience in your career? Share your story below. Or do you know another photographer who could benefit from the lessons of this story? Use this link to share: http://tinyurl.com/luxy5s7 ]

Tuesday
Apr012014

One Year Ago Today [Lessons on A Year of Marriage]

I’ve thought about this blog post for a couple of months now. It’s taken me a while to know what I should write - probably because this topic seems so difficult to put into words.

It was one year ago today Phillip and I said yes to forever. It was one year ago today that we committed to doing life together. That we would always have each others backs. That we promised to be a safe place for one another. That we would be each others home. It was one year ago today that we made the covenant to love one another as Christ loves us, and put each other first.

Everyone says the first year of marriage is hard. I am sure we would agree, but the fact is, both Phillip and I very strongly believe that God used each of us to create a dramatic course-redirectionin our lives. Phillip said I was his “missing link”; that he has found his path because I was there to walk beside him. My friend Mish coined a term that I couldn’t agree with more - Phillip was the “Miracle Grow” for my soul; I came into healing because he loved me through it. Perhaps these things have always caused us to appreciate being married, even with the hard and challenging lessons that came.

Love is an extraordinary thing.

It’s true that we said yes in an extremely short amount of time. I’m sure there were a great many people who questioned our decision, who wondered how long we would last. It is also true that God is faithful, and His grace is enough to cover any and every challenge in life. We have seen that in our lives over and over again. After all, marriage is two sinners joining hands and promising to spend the rest of life with one another. Marriage is bound to be messy. And yet marriage is also bound to be glorious. After all, isn’t it incredible that the Bible begins with a wedding, and ends with a wedding?

Looking back, there are things I wish someone would have told me a year and a half ago about marriage and relationships - things I’ve not really heard before in the usual girl-to-girl or church conversations about marriage. Maybe if I knew these things before, I could have been a better wife, a better partner, a better woman of God. But life is it’s own teacher, and I imagine sometimes the lessons that life teaches us go the deepest way into our hearts.

So, today, as we look back on one year of marriage, here's what I have learned:

1. You are never “Ready” for marriage. I know people would disagree with me on this one, but hear me out: Marriage is about loving one another as Jesus Christ loves us. Well, last I read in the Epistles, Jesus came, lived a selfless life as He walked among us, never sinned, barely slept, was betrayed, beaten, tortured, and killed on a cross. I know it may seem extreme, but who in their right mind would sign up for that? We are sinners, we are selfish, and no one is ever ready to make every painful decision or step with only one person on their mind. This is marriage. The fact that we aren’t “Ready” is simply a testament to God’s power to grow us and sanctify us.


2. “God didn’t create marriage to make you happy, but to make you Holy”. I heard this quote from my friend Sarah years and years ago, but it always stuck. In our first year of marriage, I can attest that it is entirely true. Iron sharpens iron after all. Doing life with someone forever illuminates everything ugly and sinful and selfish about you. How? You let someone in. You give another person permission to see inside the deepest parts of you, to know your fears, the things that haunt you, the things that make you fall. They are the ones to get behind your walls of insecurity, protection, and facades. On one hand, this is probably the most beautiful part of life that I’ve experienced. On the other hand, it is also the most gruesome. I’ve learned all the more that I am extremely impatient, pushy (though my siblings could absolutely attest to this), opinionated, and goal oriented to the place that I don’t know how to rest. Being married to my husband stretches me in these ways because he is my exact opposite: Patient, laid back, flexible, open, and ready for relaxation. I have qualities he needs. He has qualities I need. And that is why we are perfect for one another; we are the tools of God to sanctify each other.


3. Caring for someone else’s heart is a terrifyingly weighty responsibility. One of my favorite books about marriage ever is one by John and Stasi Eldredge called Love and War. We started reading that book together last April, and our marriage is very much built on quite a number of the books’ premises. At the end of the day, we learned that as married people, we have a crazy responsibility to care for one another's hearts. We also have the very terrifying responsibility to allow one another the permission to care for each others hearts. Phillip never felt like there was anyone in life who really cared about him or his heart, so it actually took several months for him to let me “behind the walls”. From a young age I took on the choice to care for other people’s hearts quite intensely, but it took me a long time to believe that Phillip really wanted to care for mine that way too. As we were reading Love and War one day, we both were taken aback by the direct nature of this quote: “Without you, your spouse will not become the man or woman that God intends him or her to be, and the Kingdom of God will not advance as it is meant to advance. Your spouse place the most vital role in your life. You play the most critical role in your spouse’s life. No one will have a greater impact on your spouses soul than you. No one has greater access to your spouses heart than you. This is a tremendous honor…It is a sobering truth isn’t it. You are on holy ground. You matter more than you thought.”

4. It’s ok to admit you drive each other crazy. I drive aggressive. For me, reaching my destination is the goal. So I drive to get there. Phillip on the other hand, drives like a grandpa - ok maybe not a grandpa YET, but he is certainly the most law abiding driver on the road. For him, the journey is the destination. So he drives to enjoy the journey. This is why we are perfect for each other - on the road and in life. This is also one of the main reasons we drive each other crazy. I don’t remember the exact day we realized it. But the first time Phillip actually got mad at me was because he felt like I was endangering his life as I whipped out and made a u-turn on a street with traffic oncoming (in my defense I t.o.t.a.l.l.y. had plenty of room). I had to apologize and tell him that I do value his life very much and I would do my best to make him feel that way when I drove. It actually hasn’t been until recently that I realized how much anxiety I get when Phillip is driving. In my mind, I think, “why isn’t he in the right lane to turn yet?” or “if he would only move over from behind this bus we’d save some time” or “does he actually enjoy staying behind the slowest drivers on the road”. For my dear husband, he wasn’t in the right lane because he was admiring a sports car next to him and forgot that he had to turn; and yes the bus is in front of us but we are turning two streets down so there’s not enough time to pass it on the left; and we aren’t in any hurry so why stress about being behind a slow driver? Each of us has become comfortable vocalizing these moments of “you drive me crazy”. And while irritating on some days, on other days it’s also actually special. I know it sounds weird, but those are the times that I really feel that I’m loved - because though I drive Phillip crazy, he won’t stop loving me.


5. Marriage isn’t supposed to force you to give up your dreams; Your dreams simply become about “us” rather than “me”. Honestly, I didn’t actually know if I would ever get married. Most of my friends from back in the day know that I claimed I never would get married. There were two reasons I felt this way: I thought I would be forced to give up my dreams and relegated to kitchen duty for the rest of my life (I’ve never enjoyed cooking; was always sad we couldn’t live on bread alone!). I also thought that I would lose myself. That’s a weird one, I know. But my dreams were such an intrinsic part of me, I didn’t believe anyone would ever truly accept me for me, and be ok with those big dreams too. As it turns out, Phillip loves my “dream big” mentality. He says I have enough vision for the both of us. And it actually is a good thing too. Because Phillip enjoys the here and now. He doesn’t like getting bogged down by the possibilities, he just wants the best decision. So I’m the one who weighs, and ponders, and sometimes worries, and he’s the one who takes the top three and makes a choice. It actually is amazing. He sees my dreamer / visionary nature and loves me all the more for it.


6. The hardest part about marriage (for me): Suddenly, 1+ 1 = a TRILLION factors. I can’t stress this enough. Phillip and I both agree that this is one of the most difficult parts about being married. Single life is simple. It is so. so. so. simple. If I had $200 in my bank account before my next paycheck, and I wanted a purse, gosh darn it I would go out to Target and get a purse! If Phillip felt like going out to Red Robin every day of the week, there was no one there to say we should eat at home and save the money. Life is so simple when you are single; If you feel like doing something, you just go do it! Nothing could be further from that freedom than marriage. Now I am not saying that this is an awful and burdensome thing. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so darn complicated. Especially when you think about moving. It’s really hard for me to stay in one place for a good chunk of time. "I’m a hopeless wanderer” by Mumford is probably a theme song of my soul. I don’t like settling down. I’m sure there are issues there I simply haven’t surfaced, but I can honestly say I consider moving somewhere else probably once a year. As a single person, I could up and move at the drop of the hat. I could take the road for months and be no worse off. Being married - yeah that changes drastically. Now, I can’t just act on my gut intuition for myself -  I have to consciously think about how every single aspect of a move would affect Phillip. And then how the move affecting Phillip would affect me. That’s been stressful and really difficult for me. However, would I give up my adventure partner for the easy road? Not in a million years. “'We’re in this together' is one of the strongest cords that binds two hearts together.”

One year ago today, we eloped.

I can say with complete confidence that marrying Phillip is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have never been more grateful for anyone in my life.

We are both so grateful for the friends and family who were willing to love and accept us even in the midst of the shock, and disappointment that our rushed marriage caused. We have seen the grace of God showered on us through my parents, my siblings, and Phillips family as well. While we wish that we would have at least eloped with our families present (and would never in seriousness tell someone else to elope), starting our marriage with the mindset that we wanted to just do life together was as perfect as it got for us. Two really are better than one.

I am a different person today because Phillip married me one year ago. I am better. I am softer. I am stronger. I am more considerate. I am (becoming) more patient. I am more relaxed. I am more open.

Love changed me.

After so many lessons learned in just a year, I can only imagine the saint I am supposed to become after a lifetime of marriage.

Monday
Mar102014

Of Recovery [and Grace]

There's a lot of intense discussion going on right now; Discussion centered around the IBLP / Bill Gothard scandal. It has some people on the defense, some people jumping on the attack, and some people who feel like their whole world just came down tumbling around them. It's not easy to talk about. No matter who you are or what your affiliation and opinion previously, there is a lot of confusion, blame shifting, regret, and disappointment.
My brother and I just read a book called A Matter of Basic Principles, an expose on the incorrect theological foundations of IBLP / ATI. This book was fascinating, riveting, and frighteningly accurate (with a quarter of the book dedicated to sources and actual documentation). This book does not simply breed contempt for the organization and move on, but shines a light on why specific theologies are biblically incorrect. My brother and I were both so challenged and encouraged by the "why" such things were incorrect. We had often discussed why we may not have agreed with things, but it always seemed as though we could talk in circles with no solution or progress. This book was the first time we actually were able to realize what had been going on with the beliefs we were challenged by. I would highly recommend it. 
My parents joined ATI when I was 11. I could tell you stories about the things that came from that. There were some good things. I had a lot of opportunities and experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I met some really special people and made lifelong friends. I saw the world and went on adventures that shaped me in remarkable ways. 
To be completely honest, I look at my experiences and am fairly conflicted. There were things that happened between people, between leaders and followers that were not ok in my heart. The emphasis placed on authoritarianism was far from biblical. I saw a lot of people hurt by the pervasive legalism. That is honestly what made me distrusting of IBLP. How could an organization that was so "biblical" continuously hurt the people within it? If the two things that will last forever are the Word of God and souls, hurting followers didn't seem like the greatest kind of fruit that Jesus would be proud of.
I am thankful that The Lord led my life in a direction that drifted further and further away from IBLP. As I was able to interact with some truly incredible leaders and individuals who had hearts for nothing but giving The Lord glory through their lives, I also slowly began a journey of discovering what it was to truly be His follower. I had to relearn what it meant to be a Christian - someone who first and foremost above all things followed Jesus in every day life. I had to completely reframe my perspective: Loving Jesus meant fostering deep, committed, and passionate relationship with Him. That and that alone signified being His follower. 
From this place of authentic relationship comes a place of humility and gratitude - that the God of the universe had the boundless love, grace, mercy, and compassion to rescue us. He rescues us from our sin. He rescues us from our failures. He rescues us from our inability to keep the law. He rescues us from our incapacity to perfect ourselves. That is the gospel of grace. Jesus saves us. He sanctifies us. He starts the work in us and completes it until we see Him face to face. 
I wish I could say it was a fast lesson. It wasn't. There were so many "lessons" that I learned via the seminars or the booklets that took scriptures completely out of context. How do you combat inaccurate beliefs when those beliefs originate from the bible itself?
It's simple: Jesus. His truth reveals. His light shines. It's scary. There may be a few mistakes. But the amazing part is that He always leads us when we are willing to follow. When our life existence is all about HIM and not about us - our ministry, our performance, even our daily quiet times - that's when we see that being a believer is all about Him and His love for us. 
I think this situation also goes to show that emphasizing outward conformity never, ever confirms that we are really following Jesus.  It is more easy to pretend we are followers than to actually follow Jesus. 
I don't pretend to have all the answers to the situation. But I do hope that my testimony of God's grace and leading will give hope to others. There is recovery. There is truth. There is freedom. And it is wrapped up in one person alone: Jesus.
Follow Him. His grace is sufficient.

 

Tuesday
Mar042014

Of Consequences and a Broken Will

Ideas have consequences. 
It's a saying from Summit. It's the concept that the thoughts that we allow to grow in our heads have major impact upon our lives. At 2am, wide awake and tormented by nausea and a seriously unsettled stomach, I am in complete and full agreement.
My ideas from yesterday have major consequences for me today.
Yeah. I really blew it. Sigh.
Maybe the cloud hanging over me wouldn't be so bad if it was an isolated event. But I am just gonna be completely honest here. I really blew it all last week. It was a week full of in-the-moment-satisfaction; which was completely shadowed by the aftermath of several days worth of paying the price.
My life lately has been somewhat on the edge of a precipice the last couple of weeks. I feel as though I am coming to the complete edge of my willpower. For those who know me, I'm a girl of "where there's a will, there's a way." I am not sure if ever in my life I have felt my will hanging by a thread the way I have this month. It's discouraging. It's unnerving. I can't tell you how many times I have been reminded of books like "The Power of Habit" which describes a survery about willpower. As it turns out, each one of us only has a certain amount of willpower that, once used up, is gone. There's no "willing" the willpower to come back (no pun intended). When willpower is gone, it takes a lot to get it replaced.
I know. I am being cryptic. I'll explain.
The last year or so my health has spiraled completely and seemingly out of control. For the 4 years prior, I had been avoiding some severe allergens, which included gluten, dairy, corn, soy, potatoes, and nightshades. Yes, those ingredients seem to be in everything these days, but I'll be honest it wasn't too difficult to adhere to that diet with how many substitutes there are out there now. If I honored my dietary commitments, I felt pretty good. I certainly didn't feel deprived, considering I could make some delicious pizza (thank you Gluten Free Goddess!).
But this last year, all that changed.
It really started shortly after I got married. Life was so wonderful and perfect and I felt my soul and my body relax from the high intensity stress of the previous years verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. I suddenly could breathe again. I rediscovered myself.
I have read in many reputable health sources that the aftermath of stress can trigger some very serious issues. I truly believe that once my mind and body realized it did not have to fight any longer in survival mode, it fell apart.
It started with oatmeal. Even the gluten free kind caused severe bloating and discomfort. Soon after that Quinoa was problematic as well. Then vegetables I could previously eat made me agonizingly sick - the entire family of Cruciferous vegetables to name a few. It was annoying at that point, but I tried to focus on the things I could eat - I still had a lot of options.
And then it seemed to suddenly get much worse. Rice made my tummy so swollen I looked 3 months pregnant after I ate it. Nuts made me feel sluggish and tight. Little by little I felt the food world closing up on me. By Christmas I knew that I had to cut out most oils and all nuts and seeds as well. And by the first part of January I completely cut sugar and dried fruit out as well. I started seriously freaking out by then, and knew I had to do something for my sanity and health.
January I spent the month undergoing some GI Tract treatments. I went downtown 3x per week for the month, spending $800 and an hour each visit trying to clean out my system. It was exhausting emotionally and physically. I would sleep 10 hours a night and need a nap by 3pm the next day. It was discouraging but I was determined to tough it out until February.
Tough it out I did. And truth be told, once the treatments were finished, I felt my energy return a bit and I wasn't so emotional.
But the first weekend of February was destined to throw the rest of my month into chaos when I made some coconut flour bread. I had never had much coconut flour, and ever the "Bread girl", I gave into a craving. Unfortunately, the familiar bloating, tightness, discomfort and pain returned within the day and lasted through the rest of the week. I had the most disheartening revelation that coconut flour is made of 93% insoluble fiber - and I have a severe intolerance to fiber (unbelievable right?) Nothing seemed to make my body feel better, but a very strict and regimented routine of smoothies, fully cooked veggies, meat, and chicken broth. 
I know it doesn't sound that bad. Between smoothies, veggies, and meat, there are quite a few things you can whip together. But that was when I reached my complete limit. Every day of February I have felt myself on empty, hearing the words "I can't do it." I added cheese to a new "meatza" recipe, becase God knows we can't skip cheese with that. When Phil was out at school I indulged in a treat of banana, almond butter, and raisins. These little "cheats" certainly caused consequences I felt for the rest of the day. But I just didn't have the strength to say no anymore - especially when I was already saying no before and not feeling much better.
The good news was that I was referred by the owner of a Paleo cafe in Denver (mmm...coffee is incredible), to a specialist she had been seeing great results from. I got on the calendar to meet her in March. March 5th. It was two weeks away. I thought I could hold out.
And then came last week.
I cringe to even write this down and admit it outloud.
Last week I had Sushi.
Twice.
I am pretty sure I heard you gasp too. 
But it gets worse.
I also had soda. And more cheese on a dish. 
And today I went out with a bang! I ordered Noodles and Co Pesto Cavatappi with rice noodles and braised pork. And while I waited for my order, I devoured a rice crispy treat too.
"What did you expect" You probably are asking me in your head. "Grain, oil, cheese, and sugar in a poisonous elixer for your body?"
I know. I really can't defend myself. Except to say that I think my will is broken
I can't do this anymore. I can't keep saying no when I barely feel better - when I don't know the root issues of my body enough to be hopeful that I am making progress.
This Wednesday is March 5th. I get to see the Doctor. I can't tell you how excited I am. You know it's bad when the highlight of your month is seeing a doctor. I know she probably won't be able to give me all the answers and solutions in one visit. But that's ok. I need more direction than a hunch. I need someone else to see objectively into my circumstances and give me a hand.
I don't know all the reasons why God has me here. I'm not trying to spiritualize this, but be real. I have not been dealing with it well at all. That bothers me a lot. I feel like, if I trust God, I should be bearing this burden like a champ! And I'm not. My will is run out of willpower. I'm barely crawling right now - between my own poor dietary decisions of the week, and an exhaustion of continuing to fight so intensely for so long. 
I would truly covet your prayers. This has been a long and difficult road for me. I am blessed to have a honey who takes care of me and prioritizes spending money on my health and for that I am grateful. I have a family who prayers for me often as well. I know that without going deeper into the Grace of God, I could very easily fall into more unhealthy decisions. I'm working on surrender, on prioritizing cutting out the distractions and coping mechanisms that are simply band-aids to the real issue: Only Jesus can get me through.
That is fact.
This week I am going to start a new section of my blog. I am going to chronicle this journey to health. Between my protocols and emotional health and spiritual state, I am going to have a take-no-prisoners honesty that I haven't shown publicly before. It's been pressing on my heart that maybe someone else is really going through it too, and maybe my struggles can show that they are not alone. 
It's not fun to have your body broken. It's even more terrifying to have your will broken. Please pray for me as I take these steps. And if you could use some prayer too, please send me an email atBrideInspired@gmail.com
I hate leaving a post with a depressed feeling - but that's a fair assessment of where I am. So for now I will just leave off with the scripture that I have been clinging to. I hope it is a reminder for you, for today, with whatever you face as well:
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by sfire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." - I Pe. 1:6-7