This time last week, my hand was scurrying to keep up with all the note-taking I was trying to do. My brain was also trying to process all the amazing words coming from industry-leading wedding photographers Mary Marantz, Katelyn James, and Amy & Jordan Demos. I went into the ShowIt United Conference not entirely sure what I would get out of it, unsure of what to expect or hope for. Signing up for it was a leap of faith, a hoped-for confidence that it would boost my business, my networking capabilities, and my morale. And while the conference DID do all that for me, it inspired a lot more than that. It inspired a change of heart, a strengthened friendship, a renewed desire to be the type of person – wife, mother, photographer – that I was created by my Heavenly Father to be! I know that sounds a little lofty, but trust me…that’s exactly what happened.
From the delightful Mary Marantz, I was reminded that stories matter. My story, your story….the telling of stories. It all matters. She advised us to “lean in,” ask the tough questions, and allow others’ stories to change me. I recommitted myself to telling authentic stories of myself and my clients on my blog through both the photographs I take and the words I use.
From Lukas and Suzy, I learned that being an introvert shouldn’t be an excuse for establishing relationships with other people, and that the way I build authentic friendships – in the industry and out – is by loving and serving others.
Kristy Dickerson provided super helpful tips for organizing my day and my life to make sure I maintain a healthy mental, physical, financial, and spiritual balance.
Philip and Eileen Blume asked this question that really made me stop in my tracks:
What would Jesus do if he were a photographer?
I know – it sounds cheesy at first. But what a beautiful world it would be if we all asked ourselves that question, replacing “photographer” with whatever word we identify ourselves with?
What would Jesus do if He were a lawyer?
What would Jesus do if He were a doctor?
What would Jesus do if He were a high school teacher?
What would Jesus do if He were a mom….a spouse……etc…
Asking that question in the context of being a photographer made me realize I don’t have to be anyone but myself in order to be like Jesus!
Stephanie Cisko gave me the courage to set up my very first Styled Shoot (more details on this to come!!!)
However, I’ve been asked by several people what I gained from this conference and every single time the first answer I”ve given is:
I need to be more intentional in my marriage.
Most people have been surprised that this was the number one take-away I gained from a photography conference, but when Katelyn James stands up in front of a room full of mostly strangers and embraces them as friends and pours her heart out to us all, and testifies that, when it is all said and done, at the end of the day she is a daughter of The King, the spirit confirms truth. The spirit whispers to everyone what they need to hear, even if that’s not exactly the words being spoken. And last week, the Spirit told me I need to be just as purposeful in my relationship with Adam as I do with my clients, my friends, and my children.
Besides strengthening my marriage, I wrote out a list of 14 other things I need to do with my business and my life!! And instead of feeling overwhelmed, I came home feeling empowered, uplifted, encouraged and excited for the changes!
On Wednesday before I left Arizona, I had one more workshop on a much smaller scale with Justin and Mary. A group of about 20 photographers sat in the room with them for over 6 hours talking about using Off Camera Flash to create authentic photos on a wedding day. It was super intense and I loved every minute of it. But before they began the instruction, they did what almost every presenter had done for the previous 3 days: They started with asking a big question:
What is your Why?
In other words, Why am I photographer? What is my driving force? They reiterated that if we don’t have a passionate reason behind our business, we will end up very far from the type of photographer we hope to be. “Let’s do it for a reason that matters!” they told us. And then Mary did what she always does. She asked the hard question…and then asked us to share with everyone in the room. My heart started pounding hard and fear ceased in my chest, but still I raised my hand. And out spilled words I didn’t know were in my heart!
They seemed to be telling me that marriage didn’t matter…and I just want to prove them wrong!
Then Mary turned to me and with raised eyebrows asked, “Is that on your website? ‘Cuzzzz it should be!”
All of this – all the soul-searching and asking “Why?” and inspirational talks and life-changing stories….it all welled up within me and I knew I needed to write it out. I knew I needed to write down My Why, but nothing I was coming up with felt right.
Until last night. I was sleeping out on the couch because I was super sick and couldn’t breathe lying down in my bed. At 3:17am Rhenner woke me up with a cry. I stumbled down the hallway, through the darkness, and just as I got to Rhenner, Adam came into the room, not knowing I had also gotten up. We looked at each other, sleepy and groggy and yet still on the same team. Always on the same team.
“I was just going to rock him. Do you want me to?”
“No, I’ve got him.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
After I crawled back onto the couch, I couldn’t fall asleep. After tossing and turning for a half hour, I finally opened up my laptop, squinted at the light and began to type. Here’s my story.
When I was 2 years old, my parents divorced. Six years later, and they were remarried. Again. To each other. Within 4 years, the cycle had repeated, and once again I was watching my own parents’ marriage dissolve. By 12 years old, I had witnessed my parents divorce not just once, but twice. I could have walked away from that with bitter feelings toward the idea of marriage. A disbelief in its value, its worth.And I think, for a time, I may have tried that thought out. May have went through a phase of pretending not to care…..But it didn’t last. Because I always knew, deep down in the core of my soul, there welled a burning, soaring need to fight – and fight hard – for keeping marriages alive.
At just 19 years old, I found the one I knew I needed; I knew God had written him into my plans, and I didn’t hesitate. We met, he proposed, and we married – all within 6 months. I sometimes wondered if this – being so young, marrying so quickly – made me needy, if it meant I was unable or unstable to stand on my own. But I know now, and I grab onto this knowledge with open arms and a beating heart, that it wasn’t that at all. Simply put: I believe I was made for marriage. That our souls are meant to find mates, and cling to them not only for our time on this earth, but for the rest of time in the heavens above, as well. And because photography is my tool, well-crafted and hard-earned, I now have the duty to use it for a greater good: to helping marriages find sanctity and promise in their vows.
So, without further ado, I present my mission statement:
These are couples I have photographed in just the past few weeks that say “I do” day in and day out, through the good days and bad, through the hard and the nitty-gritty, the late nights, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. But also through the happy tears, the baby’s first steps, the middle-of-the-night hand-holding, and gentle touch and the all-knowing glance across the room. They say “I do” when it matters – every. single. day.
(Don’t be fooled by their wedding attire…they’ve been married for years, too! They were models for us at the United Conference)
And finally, my grandparents. Who have been saying “I do” for almost 55 years now.