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Wednesday
Sep032014

Why You Should Celebrate Your Love Today

I have no doubt that one of the greatest mysteries of life is the story of Love when it doesn’t work out.

It bothers me. It makes me angry. It makes me cry.

Sometimes the flawed and broken and selfish parts of us keep us from being Brave. Sometimes the fear of losing parts of ourselves for the good of someone else keeps us from stepping up to the plate.

When I chose to marry my Honey, I did so because I knew the value of True Love. I knew this value because it is what I had given for 18 months continuously, hoping to prove myself to no avail. I know what it feels like to truly Love someone, and then to be discarded like yesterdays trash. That is the deepest pain I have ever known. Days when I laid on my face for hours at a time, crying out to God just to give me relief from my pain. Days when just breathing felt like more pain than I could bear. I had seen heart break from a distance, and you can empathize. But when you Love truly, and your heart is broken by unrequited Love, I think it is one of the darkest experiences anyone could ever face.

I experienced this pain for months. It was a time so intense, I didn’t know if I would be able to Love again.

Though it sounds tragic, I recognized Love when I saw it as a direct result from this pain. You can’t help recognizing it after giving for so long and never seeing that Love returned. At the end of the day, that was why I eloped: I wasn’t going to let this Love go to chance. I wasn’t going to let this Love go.

When someone will go to the ends of the earth for you, when they will do anything to keep your tears away, when they want to be your sunshine, when there really isn’t a mountain high enough to keep them from you…That is a Love that you don’t let go.

I am learning that this kind of Love is a reason to celebrate. This kind of Love is why we ought to have weddings: When you have been gifted with True Love, it is reason to rejoice, to exult, to share, to celebrate. True Love is a commodity. It is a rarity. It is not common.

Do you have this Love? Take the time today to embrace them. Take the time to hold them in your arms and whisper how wonderful you believe them to be. Take the time to show how much you value that Love.

But, don’t forget all those who’s hearts have been broken. Don’t abandon those who’s time for Love has not yet come. Don’t turn a distant stare to those who have lost their Love. Send a prayer their way. Remind them that Love has come for them in the name of a man-God.

His Love is Unstoppable. And it will never fail.

[Take the time to reach out to someone today who may need to know that they are truly loved. You may ouch their life more than you will ever know.]

Sunday
Aug312014

Born Rich: And Managing Rich-Guilt

I heard a statistic about poverty today at church that just blew my mind. The more I thought about it, the more convicted I became. In fact, it continues to shake my world; I just don’t know what to do with it.

If we live in America, we are among the top 5% richest population of the world. Before you jump in, telling me that American’s have poor also, hold up. This statistic is based on those who make just $20,000 per year.

Yes. $20,000 a year puts you in the top 5% richest population of the world.

There was a moment there that this struck my heart very strongly.

I am rich.

I am rich.

Right now. Where I am. With how much I make now. I am rich.

There’s a problem with this.

In my mind, more money is a great idea. I know everyone probably feels this way, but I think that I was caught off guard by the fact that I really don’t need more money. I’m in the top 5% of the world’s population.

That idea has been mulling around in my head all day: I don’t need more money. Compared to the rest of the world at least.

But here in America, money is a huge issue. Just living costs a minimum of $1500 a month - between $500 - $800 in rent, $150 insurance, $100 for phone, $150 for utilities, $200 for gas, plus money for food - and that’s all just the basics.

I don’t understand how it costs so much to live in America.

To be honest, I’ve always wanted to live abroad for this reason. You don’t have to spend so much on living. And somehow in this, I feel like it may be more possible to cherish the things in life that matter beyond moony - beyond image and status symbols and accessories.

Now I realize that if you were born in American, God has a reason for this. But I think I struggle with guilt that the rest of the world lives on so much less than we do.

Does anyone else feel this way? Do you battle guilt because of how blessed we are? Share your thoughts below and help me with some much needed perspective.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Every Photographer is Born Naked: And proof that you can make it in this business

So, I have a massive backlog of work to show you - and I’m soooo excited about it! After basically falling off the face of the earth for a year, I realize there actually was quite a bit of work that I accomplished under the cover of darkness. I know. that may be slightly dramatic, however its  also partially true. Once I had it in my mind to back off from my Passion (read that story here), I hardly featured anything of a professional nature on my blog. But don’t worry. I’m only too happy to have a years worth of content to write about. 

How’s that for convenient blogging? 
Last year one of the most enjoyable events I was honored to be a part of, happened to be a Lighting Workshop with my incredible friend Erin Wilson Staples. This woman is a dynamo! We met at a Olympia based photography workshop that I was teaching with IPS (basically the most amazing technical school for the photographic arts), and we have been fast friends ever since. 
Erin really sought me out in 2011 when she asked me to host her in Manitou Springs for my first intern intensive. For 3 days we worked together one-on-one, filling the time with hands on photoshoots for portrait lighting with flash, editing solutions, and critiques. It was such a blast! Last year everything came full circle when together we hosted a lighting workshop for her local photographic community. Since then, Erin has hosted several of her own workshops of different techniques and focuses, and is a constant source of inspiration to her students and colleagues.
In just a few years, Erin basically has become a business dynamite. Now, she is one of my favorite collaborative partners in crime, idea developer, and of course, a dear friend. 
When you’ve been an instructor for several years, it is a crazy proud moment when you begin to see your students making careers for themselves in this craft. I always feel like a proud Mama. I know I have little to do with their success - most of the time only a small piece of their development - but it is a very personal feeling of satisfaction. I couldn’t be more proud of Erin. She has taught me so many things as I’ve watched her journey from photographic novice to professional authority
It is important to pay attention to stories like Erin's, because this industry can be a professional landmine. It can be very challenging to stay mentally strong and encouraged as you move forward with your development. There is always something else to read, someone else to admire, more editing to complete, another client to find. Most of the time when you are growing your business, this massive mound of to-dos follows the end of a long "day job". Fact: Its really tough to keep perspective that you can "make it". 
But here's the truth: You can make it. 
How do I know? Because I've seen it. My friend Erin and countless others are proof. 
The next time you wonder if you really have what it takes to be a photographer, keep these perspectives in mind. 
1. Everyone starts at the same place: Square one. No one is a pro their first week of the journey. I know sometimes it can feel like it, but that is not the case. Some people were born with artistic sight, and the ability to find something beautiful no matter where they look. Others catch on to technique the way a mathematician does equations (trust me, I was not in this category). Others have the personality to make fast connections and woo people to giving them and their work a fast chance. And then, a few lucky individuals have a couple of these gifts. No matter where you fall, you will always be starting at square one, in at least one of those areas. This means you are in fantastic company. (Others have put this concept a little less delicately with the phrase “everyone was born naked”. It certainly accomplishes the same idea!)

2. No matter where you want to go, you have to work very hard, and very deliberately. Absolutely none of my former mentees or students developed full time photography businesses easily. Each and everyone of them, like all of us, put intense time, effort, energy, thought, and heart into their business development. Perhaps the one difference i see with the ones who really, really succeed, are the ones who nurture a passion for being a business person - not just a photographer. That is a very tall order for most artists, but I have seen this make the difference. (For those of you who struggle with falling in love with the business side, fear not. I am working on a solution. Take a sneak peek here!)
3. When you feel like you’ve invested more than you’ve seen back, that’s probably when you are about to see dynamite. Previous statistics documented that photographers who developed their businesses over a 3 year period saw results only after that 3rd year. How many photographers actually got to that 3rd year before dropping out? Only 15% of those who first started. Its a really horrifying and sad statistic, but I think it warrants a critical point. You have to keep going. You have to be in it for the long haul. You have to be committed to seeing results tomorrow, more than seeing results from today. It takes reliance and commitment. Artists are infamous for living in the moment. While it fuels our passion, it can also inhibit our long term track record. Bottom line: Don’t quit. And don’t quit until you know that you’ll never regret knowing what could have been. 
You will see more of Erin in upcoming content, but go on and send her some blog love by visiting her site and leaving a comment!
Have you struggled with the idea of giving up because the going is tough? You’re not alone. How have you overcome that in your journey? Share your story below! Or pass along this article to someone who may need encouragement in their business journey today!

 

Monday
Aug252014

Saying Yes to Humility: And How to ReDiscover Your Passion

Back in April - almost 6 months ago now -  I wrote a two part article series on Why I Quit Wedding Photography. I wrote this lesson from the depths of my heart, from a place that was really scared and wounded. I had contemplated writing this article for about a year, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go public. My husband implored me to just take a break. My family and friends said I should not throw away my expertise. I really can’t tell you why, but their words fell on deaf ears.

The truth was, in my heart, something changed. My passion - this previously burning energy and desire - was no longer on fire the way it had been. I couldn’t accept clients with that feeling. I knew it would influence my work, and I felt too much responsibility to my clients to allow that to happen. For a year I was torn about this, ripped apart by the decision to stay in, or leave.

I made my choice, but it was a naive one. I announced that I had quit photography and that I was only shooting for friends and family. I thought my choice was sure, but in the back of my mind I really didn’t know how long I would be able to stay out of the Craft.

Six months later, I’m eating some humble pie.

I’ve finally admitted to myself something that I was trying to push away previously: I can’t quit wedding photography. I can't walk away from this industry at all.

It’s a humbling thing to say. Over a dozen people told me that I shouldn’t quit. But I simply couldn’t believe it on faith. I had to experience it for myself.


So yesterday I watched the Gabby Douglass Movie (I’m a sucker for gymnastics and inspirational movies). Something very interesting took place in Gabby’s life about a year before the Olympics. She actually wanted to quit. In fact, she did quit, very similar to the way that I did. Quite suddenly, her passion became a haunting shadow of what it once was.

Everyone in her life was aghast - appalled even. She had invested everything into her passion. Thousands of hours. Immeasurable amounts of energy. Quite literally, blood, sweat, and tears. And she was prepared to lay it all down and walk away when her dream seemed so near to her grasp.

Now I am not saying that I am the Gabby Douglass of wedding photography because that would be completely absurd. But I will say this: I completely understand what Gabby felt in those months. I experienced it with my passion too. It’s hard to describe to people who are on the outside - to people who haven’t been in the arena the way you have. Sometimes, when you fight intensely for your passion, it becomes so much of your identity that a single failure affects you in more personally than it should.  

And like Gabby, I didn’t know how to discern that sometimes, you just need a break from your passion in order to rediscover it.

For six years I spent everything that I had to develop my passion. It was a long, slow, deliberate road. And in the process, I gave up more than I should have. I took on more than I should have. My passion simply couldn’t bear that burden.

This entire season has been a huge learning experience for me. And along the way, I’ve gained some knowledge about Passion that changes everything.

1. Never Give Up Your Passion: When something is your passion, it is a very special piece of you. I’m not saying your passions don’t change. But what I have seen is this: Passions have an ebb and flow. In my life, my passions haven’t died as much as they have expounded. There are certainly times when it has felt like my passions have died (as in this last year for photography), but you always come out of those seasons at just the right time. Be steady. Don’t abandon your passion, because passion is always what saves your love for life.

2. Protect Your Passion with Boundaries: Like so many other photographers, I built my passion into an 80+ hour workweek. Working on my passion was really fun; But I didn’t engage in proper boundaries to protect my passionate work from taking over my life. I have seen this time after time in we photographers. Send an email at a stop light. Edit while the family is watching a movie. Write a blog post instead of going on a run. Developing new marketing strategies instead of having quiet time. We have all been there, but I am here to tell you that after 5 years of this intensity, you just burn out. Your passion needs boundaries, or it will suffer.

3. It’s OK to Take a Break: I am not a vacation person. Let me clarify. I am a workaholic. I like work. I enjoy being productive. Taking a day of rest or two out of the week would find me in a coffee shop reading through blogs or the latest business book. Those things are not bad at all and maybe they give some people rest. My problem was that I never took the time to really invest in things that made me feel refreshed. I now know that coffee dates are life blood to me. Or browsing through paintings for a new artistic inspiration. Or writing in my journal for no ones eyes to ever see but mine. I’ve learned that taking a break from your passion to invest time into other things that make you refresh will only add to your passion in the long run.

4. Passion is Priceless: I truly believe now that passion drives us. For passion, we are willing to overcome the limits of our humanity and pursue things only others could dream of. It’s incredibly sad to me that not everyone lives a passionate life, but its’ true. When you know you have a passion for something - photography, people, quiet time, serving - allow yourself to live in those passions. Passion will change your life in the most dynamic of ways. Just think about this: Have you ever heard anyone say that they wished they had lived their life with less passion? That’s what I thought too.

5. Your Passion Can Be ReDiscovered: It’s true that sometimes you do need to walk away from your passion for a little while. During that time, you can focus on other things that you find enjoyment in. I found that closing the doors on “official business” and photographing only for friends allowed me to set the terms for my own involvement for a little while. Working with friends renewed my excitement. Whenever I picked up my camera, it was like coming home to a safe place that I found nowhere else. Taking this break allowed me to rediscover that photography and visual communication will always be a core part of my life. Of course, the passion may change shape a little bit and grow out from there. Nonetheless, when you are willing to push pause and take a risk, it may be that you find a lot more than you expected. I know that is very true for me.

6.Your passion is a part of you - but it is not all of you: To photographers, our job is, to a degree, a lifestyle. We can’t deny it. The life of an artist drives us, and the beauty that we can capture captivates us. There is a slight problem with this: When our passion becomes our identity - outside of our relationship with God - we can lose focus on the other really important things in life. Friendships. Family. Serving. Health. Passion makes the difference, but Passion isn’t everything.

Over the summer I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my life. I discovered some amazing things including the directions that I believe I need to go. A lot of these directions are influenced by my health limitations. But some are the direct result of me taking the time to walk way from photography for a little while - just long enough to see that it wasn’t my Passion that was the issue. The real issue was that I did not realize how much my Passion needed to grow and expand.

In the next two months there are huge projects in the works that will, quite literally, change everything. I am so thrilled about these things and I wish I could tell you what they are! But we both have to wait for that! I can promise they are big and very cool.

And just in case you think I’m bluffing, let me prove it to you: My new site Designer is the incredible Micah J Murray. My business coach is the fantastic Caitlin Anderson. My Graphic Designer is the sweet and lovely Samantha Egan. My book mentors are Jeff Walker via Product Launch Formula and Neil Rackham via Spin Selling. And two out of ten of my fellow collaborators include Sarah Bradshaw and Erin Wilson Staples. Just to mention a few of many others...

This is what it looks like for me to be back in the ring. It may look slightly different than before. But my Passion is about to boil over in brand new and worthwhile ways.

Oh. And if you want a really quick sneak peek, head over to Facebook and "Like" Business Craft BootCamp!

Have you recently struggled with Passion? How has Passion influenced your life direction?

Know someone in need of some encouragement? Share here!

Wednesday
Jun112014

[No] Fault In Our Stars

My sister Natalie's 14th birthday was last weekend, and what a celebration we had. This girl is a riot. She was not even 7 years old when we began discovering her unique humor and outlook on life. She cracks me up more than any other person I know. Her sarcasm matches that of any adult. She's one of the most sentimental and caring people I know - and the first who will tell you to go and get back into shape. Her tough love is strong and loyal. She is a gem and enormous blessing to everyone in her life. Especially me.

Natalie is my sister who is determined to find recipes that will result in things that I love. She sees my dietary restrictions as fascinating challenges to overcome. Grain less tortillas? She made them. Grain less and dairy free onion rings? She's brainstorming those too. She is determined to make something delicious no matter the obstacles. She's ambitious too - even considering going to culinary school to make a living out of making food for people like me. She's been a hero and encouragement of mine like none other - in some ways she leads the charge for the other girls of my family to find ways to support me. I am so happy she is my sister!

In hard times, a lot of things are boiled down to the most important. It's when other elects of life are stripped away that you hold tightly to the things that are true. For me that's been family. 

Last week my Honey and I went to a movie that reaffirmed all of that in a very deep and profound way. I had been warned that "The Fault In Our Stars" was a movie that will make you weep in your seat. I'm not accustomed to weeping in a movie, but this basically fit that bill. It's a movie about the realities of pain and sorrow. It's a story about how to live fully even when life seems to constrain and burden and limit you at every turn. 

"Fault In Our Stars" is about a girl with terminal cancer. As much as it sounds impossible that a movie with such a storyline could be uplifting, it very much is. In an unapologetic fashion, watching this movie forces you to confront the painful realities that you face - and the way in which you deal with those realities. 

My reality is this: I am by most accounts, a practically functioning person. My body is broken on the inside and inhibits my energy, my food freedoms, my flexibility, my focus, and the capacity of how much I can handle. But I can walk. I can see. I can hear. I can hug my sisters. I can talk to my Mom. I can work my job. I don't have a terminal disease. I don't have to live at the hospital because my body isn't functioning in vital organs. I saw a perspective that only this kind of a story could convey: That even in the most intense physical conditions you can still experience hope and joy by centering on what is most important to our souls.

I know this may sound lame, but managing my current physical issues has been incredibly challenging from a mental standpoint. I say "no" to more foods every day than I say "yes". Over and over again I see what normal people eat; I see what healthy people eat; I see good food that is healthful. And I simply can't put that in my own body. Food that God intended for humans to have, my body rejects. I watch propel go about their daily lives, racing from one thing to another, and I simply can't keep up. I don't have the energy or stamina to participate in half the daily things that normal people can. That is so discouraging - and oftentimes I go to bed early just because I'm tired from the daily challenges I am facing. 

I was so encouraged when I walked out of "Fault in Our Stars" because it proved something to me; that even in pain and burden and sorrow, life's relationships are worth holding on to.

This movie pushed me to begin something that I had been contemplating for a bit now. Life is all about relationships, and sometimes  those relationships are the only difference between making it out of a situation or not. As I have written about my struggles with allergies and SIBO and weight, I've discovered so many others with similar issues. We are a minority, but we are more than we think. I want to reach out to those who are in need of support and those who understand my story, and band together for strength.
So I started a FB Page called "Multiple Allergy Support Network". I am hoping that this can be a little piece of the internet that will allow people like us to share our struggles, recipes, and life. I won't belittle the support and relationships we have around us - people like my baby sister Natalie who want to help and encourage - but who will understand better than others in the midst of the fight? Then maybe it will be a little bit easier to find Joy in the midst of what we live through every day. 

If you or someone you know has a similar story, you are welcome to this Group. I hope the community will grow and become a blessing.

And if you haven't seen the movie, go. I promise that you will walk away deeply moved.

 

[Know someone who may need a dose of encouragement today? Pass along this article here! What ways do you stay encouraged in the midst of health battles? Share below!]