full table | new year

Twenty years old.

I think I spent a lot of high school growing up fast, but the last year I’ve felt my true age more than ever. I’m not an old soul in a young body. I never have been. More so a young soul with a big job to do. I’ve been putting off writing a blog post for my newsletter like this, but yesterday was the perfect push to make it happen.

The truth is I have no idea where I’ll be in 10 years, 5 years, or next year. My goals have swayed, my vision has shifted into guidelines, and my concept of the future has been altered by my faith. The Lord has taken me to places I couldn’t have dreamed. He has given and taken. He never ceases to surprise me by gifts and mercies. love I don’t deserve. joys he never promised I would have, but simply gives. I don’t want to come up with a detailed plan. I’m done trying to plan my biggest dream, because his is beyond what I could muster up.

Ephesians 3 is clear,

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I know his glory isn’t my fleshly desires. By accepting christ, laying my sins at the cross, and pursuing his plans, happiness is not promised, joy and gifts are not my reward on earth. But we are in it for the long run. for his mighty plan and his victory. his glory, for the kingdom. All I dream is that this year, next year, in five years, in 10 years, I want my table full. full of friends, family, and strangers.

Reading apostle Paul’s letters to the churches makes me nostalgic over memories that aren’t mine. There was fierce struggle, the good fight was daily just like it is now. There were hidden churches, there were joyful believers celebrating in low voices around tables. They leaned on each other as family and community. They had abandoned all. He wrote to encourage and challenge.

I think about the good fight I’m fighting with my brothers and sisters. The tearful phone calls, the hours of prayer, the long travels to just be with each other, the challenging conversations, the times of worship, the times of communion and fellowship. I love when I glance around and we are together and laughing. “We” is vague because I experience this “together” in different homes, states, and countries. As my birthday has passed and this new year is around the corner, all I’m praying for is that in 2018 my table is full. Even if it’s full in a different way than I imagine, may it be full.

God blessed last night, as the table was full.

At 11:00am, my best friend Ginny arrived to my new home. We greeted each other with squeals and hugs because we’ve become accustomed to not seeing each other for months due to distance. She is joining MTR (Memphis Teacher Residency) next year, and I’m proud of her. At about 12:30pm, my friend El arrived with “hazelnut spread” and a container of parsnips with carrots. She brought stories and updates from her first semester at school in New York City. We laughed over subway experiences and conversed about art, work, and community. Quickly our little group grew as Tiana, my friend who is studying dance in university, arrived; then Olivia Grace, a music major; Kelly and Vincent, friends I’ve known through Avenue Coffee; and more and more. The day continued with grinding loads of coffee. I had mentioned that you could bring your presents to wrap so we could all be together, and many of them did. So out came boxes and bows. My mom and her best friend Megan, my art and science teacher from HS, stopped by. My sister arrived with 18 boxes to stuff and package for my clients. It was a full experience.

As dinner grew near, food was arriving with each person. It was two sets of incredible mac + cheese, blt bites of some sort, bananas, fried chicken, parsnips + carrots, and veggie chili. We slayed that mac + cheese. Nothing left.

I was in the kitchen for maybe 20 minutes when I rounded the corner into my room, and dear Lord, there were so many people all together sitting on the floor, chairs, and bed. It was a full room, barely room to walk. People I didn’t recognize came and introduced themselves, new friends brought other friends. My heart swelled. This is what I’m about. I’m about the sharing food and having conversations. I love when I hear people learning about another lifestyle and culture. I’m all about hearing a friend from one part of my life introduce themselves to a friend from another part of life. Even baby Liam made a showing with Jo and Peter, my freakin’ people. I didn’t want this to end. As every bit of mac + cheese was scraped from the casserole dishes, it was time for music.

Mary Mad, as her friends lovingly call her, brought out her guitar to start us off. She is a student at MS State and a dear friend to one of my dear friends. So of course, we are tight. <3 She played and we all joined in as she finished off with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”. Next, Jackie, my Zimbabwe queen. She brought her drums and spontaneously (under much squealing on my part) started hyping up the room with her beats. We even morphed a beat into jingle bells and it was so fun. Wyly began setting up his piano, and swept us away. My favorite of his last night was an original called Memphis Nights. SHAMELESS PLUG: https://open.spotify.com/track/22l9CHlqXrDL0zp8J985Gx . Olivia Grace brought out some Mariah Carey with Wyly killin’ it on the keys. After many a request, out came ice cream and cookies. We gathered together in my room again to grow quiet for John Black to play a “rough draft” of his music. He drove home to get his amp and guitar just for it, and everyone had no complaints as he kept playing.

Gosh, so much joy that night. This friend family I had left nothing for me to do, as they gathered plates, cups, moved furniture back into place, cleaned mugs. The house was back to normal in a few short bustling minutes! I was driven to Gibson’s by Sara Beth to finish off the night.

I came home, heart full, room empty. I won’t ever forget how full it was. And I hope it will always finds its way back to that state.

Little More About Me | Not In College

Well, here I am. I just got up at 12 in the afternoon (12:30 if I’m honest), and I’ve managed to stumble downstairs. My fridge has been freezing my food, so frozen strawberries over a english muffin was my breakfast. I really can’t complain… its just last night, at 2 a.m I was so mad that my carrots were frozen.

Technically I have an hour till I have to head out, and meet a friend for coffee, and I really should be working, but I really want to write.

fam-4When I decided to not go to college, I can’t explain the weight that fell off my shoulders. I could finally see myself getting older.. before the future was just blank, and I couldn’t think of anything to come after graduation. Looking back the decision was clear all along, but the process it took to get there seemed unsteady and unpredictable at the time.

My professional career started in 2014. My best friend handed me a $5o bill after I took her “senior photos.” Little did I know that feeling of utter shock of going home having made money while having the time of my life, wouldn’t fade AND would become my normal. By fall of 2014, a dear couple at my church literally handed me the opportunity to shoot their wedding. I like to say I worked hard to get there, but reality is the Lord dropped it in my lap. That brisk October day was one of the most stressful days of my life. There was much sweat, lots of tears, but no blood (shockingly).

I’m not sure what really drew me to weddings since tears had been streaming down my cheeks during that first ceremony in the dark (to be clear, stress tears). But once again, a wonderful couple from my church spotted me that day, and booked for the following May. Before I could even shoot their engagement pictures, one of her friends from work had booked me for June. AND so began the snowball of what has become my vocation. I like to think I’ve come really far from that year… Judging that I don’t have braces, I don’t meet clients in Nike shorts anymore, and my income has changed from a $50 bill.

I guess the purpose of this post is to share a little of my story, and where I am today. Last year was incredible. As I normally do, I overbooked everything. There was a point that I was having meltdown on my parents bed with a full page checklist of shoots I had to edit, hand in hand with a checklist of the shoots for the next three weeks. To be honest, its beyond me how I survived. But that feeling of rush during a bride and groom portraits, the build up as I parked for the senior session, and the text I got after delivering family photos, now that. THAT. was how I survived. It became very clear I was within my giftings. The problem? I was a Senior in High-school, who was SUPPOSE to be applying for college and scholarships. SUPPOSE to be studying for final exams, and reading lit books. Lord knows that is where most of the tears came from. There were days I should have quit, but my parents encouraged and pushed me. I remember my mom over years telling me “You are all about people, you get people. And this small portion of life is about books and tests, but the rest? Its going to be people. Just get through this, and you will thrive for the rest of your life because you are good with p.e.o.p.l.e.” So the finish line was throwing my cap in the air on a May afternoon.

I’m probably an undiagnosed workaholic, but it started with using my free time from school with work. Last summer I had a 40+ hour job as well as shooting weddings and seniors. Midnight became my editing time. I remember I would actually used my lunch break to go meet brides. When I would come in Monday from the weekend I asked off my boss would ask me “how was your time off?” Reality, I had worked an 11 hour wedding day that Saturday, and could barely get out of bed to go to church the next day cause my body was so sore from carrying my camera and bag.  BUT you know what? I was so insanely happy for most of that summer. I enjoyed working my day job, and I loved taking photos. Truth, I was just tired A LOT.

Which leads me to July of 2015, where you can find me sobbing at a little table in Whole Foods. I was sitting across from my best friend/ coworker/boss / roommate 4 days a week. We were talking about how crazy life was and how I was so tired, and I had started to not enjoy my job. It was causing me to give 50% to my clients and 50% to my summer-job. No one was getting my full energy and care. I started sleeping past alarms, missing phone calls from clients, and avoiding my boss. And out of no where, I just blurted our “Oh my gosh. I’m suppose to quite my job….” Then began the flood of tears. It was so overwhelming to have to make a choice that made me sick at my stomach. I had never been faced with having to quit something that wasn’t wrong and I loved SO much. That job had been my life and my family for two years. I was there off hours, I was there over-time… It was my second home. A weepy conversation later, some poor Whole Foods worker informed us that they were actually already closed. I whipped up a “I’m so sorry” and sniffled out to my friend’s car.

That Monday, after seeking consul from my parents, friends, and mentors), I quit my job. On the way I had pulled over thinking I was going to throw up, and stepping into the office, I went lightheaded. It was an extreme experience for me, though I know many have done that same thing before me. It just felt so right, yet so wrong at the same time.

I came into 2016 with only one wedding booked. In fact, I was standing in an arena full of 16,000 believers shouting praises and prayers to the Lord when the clock hit 00:00 | 01.01.16. That moment shook me physically (the whole place was jumping and dancing), but it shook me on a deeper level. I KNEW where I was suppose to be. My dream daily was to work full time as a photographer. I had quit my steady job, and the finish line was 5 months away.

So I decided not to pursue further education through college. My parents were fully on board, which honestly, I’m not sure I could have done it without their love and excitement for me. When I look back, scratch that, even know, I know some people think my parents are crazy for letting me not go, but they saw two years ago a passion, and through my Jr and Sr year they watched me give up my free time to build that passion into a growing business. It wasn’t just a hobby. It wasn’t just a phase. I know the Lord gave them peace, and they have stood next to me and helped me every step. 

I never publicly announced that I wasn’t going to college, and on a weekly basis people ask me where I am attending and what my major is. So I guess this is my first time saying out into the world. And as far as I know right now, I won’t be going to college. I’m not going to say never, because the Lord can change everything. However I would like to say it isn’t encouraging when people side stab me with “Oh.. well you will probably go to college anyway”, “that’s so nice, once your finished I’m sure you will go to college.” “Are you sure???…… I suppose GAP years are normal.” “You really should reconsider, a business degree would be best.” Though you mean it or not, most of those comments imply that you believe I’m in a phase, or will probably fail and fall back on college. If I go to college, it will not be an escape or a back up plan, it will be the Lord’s plan A for my life.  I’ve never been an academic. Of all people, my mother knows it best. She walked through every step of my learning disabilities. I remember the first in class test I ever took, I had to leave half way through to throw up. My first time being handed a pretend ACT I ended up sobbing for more than an hour questioning God why He had allowed such a terrible system. AND I know I’m not the only one. I have met countless people who have fought through it like I did, if not harder. My favorite Art Teacher talks about the day she danced out of chemistry because she had given everything to become nurse, and she d.i.d.

College isn’t for me. And May 20nd of 2016 I walked on stage, and received a piece of paper that was my ticket. My ticket to the rest of my life. I won’t be looking back. As I pray over my business, I can see the fruit of my labors. The Lord has blessed me with more then I ever asked. Currently I have a whole page list of shoots to edit, hand in hand with a checklist of shoots for the next three weeks, but THIS TIME, it’s my job. That’s my normal. It’s what I do. And I’m starting to learn to give myself free time, because work isn’t after school any more. Work is how I spend my week, and I’m allowed to have time off.

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I live with my best friend now, in a cute little apartment in one my favorite parts of town. We have the best tile in our kitchen, plants everywhere, and my favorite photos hanging all along my bedroom walls. My goal is to start booking internationally; It may never happen, but I’m so thankful my goal isn’t a diploma anymore. In truth, I struggle daily. I struggle to work hard and I struggle to give myself some slack. I eat frozen strawberries at 12pm because I stayed up till 4a.m finishing up one of my October wedding’s gallery. When you have your own business, there is not check out. Emotions pour into everything. You take work home because… that’s where you work. I can’t not talk about my couples to my friends. I’ve missed a lot of friend’s parties and events because I work Saturdays. BUT I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m learning and struggling, but I’m LIVING. 

I hope if you have read this far, you have been able to know me better.. at least you’ve learned if you didn’t know I’m pretty emotional and throwing up isn’t rare.

I am thankful for the love, encouragement, challenges, and support my friends and family give me. Above all else I cannot boast of my own works, but of the One who gave me life.

 

 

Germany | The Simple Life

germany 2-16I’ve been thinking about Germany a lot this week. How much the Lord used that time to calm my spirit. There was a lot of quiet moments. My days were made of simple things like grocery store visits, little bakeries, and mini road-trips to castles. I miss more then those mountains, I miss my little family there. Alice and Garret took me in, and Brooklyn learned (slowly buts surely) that I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Within the first day of arriving, I was sick in their guest bathroom for hours. Sweet Alice took care of me, got me ginger ale, called doctors for help. I couldn’t have arrived in a better place. Still thankful neither Brooklyn nor Alice got sick. Honestly I huge part of that time was just relaxing. Traveling alone for the first time, I didn’t feel pressure to go see all the tourist spots. I didn’t need to leave the house every day. I felt such a peace to just sit at home, looking out the window, sippin and chillin. I watched Friends for days; it was wonderful. I went over for tea with Alice to her best friends house. We planned a little roadtrip to Holland I’ll be posting a little about soon. But really, I just lived life next to them.

Today I am feeling so thankful for my in that little village. The Lord provided a beautiful home, family, and world to enter in on for a short few weeks. Love and miss you, Alice & Garret. Cannot wait to be in your home again. <3 You’ve always been family, but even more now, you are dear dear dear to my heart. Praying for you always, and missing another home of mine.

Wanted to share a couple of my favorites from my first week in Germany:

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Home Is Where the Coffee Brews | Apartment Living

Was welcomed into my sister and now brother-in-law’s home.  The evening was one of those evenings you wont’ ever remember all the things talked about but you won’t ever forget it. I cherish memories like these. Watching early marriage blossom in an apartment. After moving into my own, I now am so in awe of walking into other’s apartments. Seeing how their personalities, their stories, and their favorite things about the world make each room alive. I wouldn’t need a second guess on whose this apartment was walking in Josh and Lizi’s. Plants line the windows and each decoration is placed with purpose. I see bit of Turkey, bits of Europe, and lots of art. Heart is full sharing a few photos from this little home.

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Travel Photographer | Whitby, England

jay-72Through the last 5 weeks I’ve been spending time exploring and visiting good friends and family around Europe. The tail end of my overseas adventure was England. My time, though stereotypically rainy, was incredible. I will forever look back on these days as the highlight of my highschool career – probably because I wasn’t actually doing school.. but I still need to show up to graduation so technically I’m still a senior. All this to say, Northern England, even with the small dose I got, is a place now dear to my heart. I hope my feet will touch the beaches, cobble roads, and dirt paths again. I cannot wait to embrace my dear friends who hosted, fed, and taught me to be English, Kevin & Jay, again. You guys are such a blessing, and that guest room will stand on its own forever; nothing shall compare to its natural light and bed to room ratio.

In the blueberry, we drove through the moors of Northern England, and I saw more sheep then I have my entire life combined. My mission was to experience England, and the drizzle came as we explored the town in our hats and coats. Whitby was filled with color; this collection of doors I will cherish forever. I may take this culture home with me and make sure my door is unique to all my neighbors. We stopped for my first ever fish and chips (it’s deep fried, how could someone not like it!) I also discovered I enjoy English tea, and have been making it every day ever since Whitby. <3

I love the color, the water, and just the feel of this sea side town. Thankful for my friends that chose the perfect spot for our adventure of the day. We wandered streets, popped in shops, and laughed our way through Whitby.

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