I sent this out via email today to all of my past students, but thought I should post it here as well in the off-chance that someone might still be checking in here on this ghost town of a blog every now and then (hugs to you if are - I've missed you):
As many of you know, I quit blogging just a little over a year ago.
Our little, blended family of six took a pretty devastating hit a few months prior to that. And since what happened was not my story to share publically, I decided to walk away from my blog because it would have been impossible for me to continue writing it honestly and authentically. And as much as I love how writing has allowed me to create friendships and connections with so many wonderful women, I'd rather write nothing at all than to write something that wasn't honest or authentic.
I gave up photography for over a year as well because looking through that viewfinder was too painful and reminded me too much of everything we had lost. In fact, it wasn't until very recently that I could even bear to look at old photos.
I received so much encouragement from so many of you after stepping away from my blog. And even now, more than a year later, I still get little notes in my inbox periodically from someone who just wants me to know that my family is still in their thoughts and prayers.
That's been humbling and healing for me - thank you.
Many of you were concerned that something had happened to my marriage, so I'm happy to report that the faithful and wonderful husband you saw on my blog is still the same faithful and wonderful husband - in fact, over the last 18 months, I think I've been able to witness the depths of his faithfulness and his wonderfulness.
Unfortunately, what happened, happened to my kids and since many of you are mothers, you know how that kind of hit is the most devastating of all.
But as I'm writing this, one of my favorite quotes keeps jumping to the forefront of my mind:
"In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on."
I don't think I could have fully understood this quote 18 months ago. But you know what? It DOES go on. You think your world is over, but life goes on. You couldn't stop it if you tried. You laugh again when you thought it wasn't possible. You experience joy again even when you thought you never would. You find purpose again even when you thought you had none. And you find meaning again even when you thought you had lost it all. Life goes on.
It's so damned beautiful and profound.
Everyone in my family has been permanently changed as a result of what happened and will continue to be changed by it.
But isn't that kind of the point of life?
Every relationship changes us. Every choice changes us. Every circumstance changes us.
But change isn't a choice - it's a given.
What IS a choice though, is HOW we will be changed.
Will we choose to become bitter or better?
Will we choose to give up or rise up?
Will we choose fear or faithfulness?
Will we choose to become more cynical or more vulnerable?
Will we choose to resist and avoid the inevitability of change or accept it and seize it?
Will we choose to set our focus, our words, and our beliefs on all that is painful, or will we set them on all that is possible?
Will we choose to tear down our homes with our own hands, or will we decide to strengthen, fortify, and build them back up?
I have learned the hard way that I can't choose those things for Josh, or for Ross, Cole, Courtney Lee, or Miss Annie. Those are their choices to make. I can only choose for myself, knowing that what I choose will impact and influence them greatly.
And if I'm being honest with myself, I have chosen all those things, multiple times over the last year and a half. And as a result, I have seen how my own bitterness spreads seeds of resentment through the lives of everyone I love. I have seen how my avoidance of pain promotes the very same tendency in every member of my family. And I have seen how my desire to give up spreads like a contagion. But I have also seen how my own vulnerability has given everyone else permission to be vulnerable too. I have seen how accepting and seizing change in my own life has made those same things feel promising and possible to the people I love. And I have seen firsthand that as soon as I pick up my tools and begin rebuilding, that everyone in my life takes notice, gathers their own tools, and begins working alongside me to create something even stronger - and somehow, more beautiful than anything I could have imagined.
But I have to choose.
Not one choice and not one time.
I have to choose over and over and over again - when it's hard to choose, when it's easy to choose, and especially when I feel like letting my circumstances choose for me.
And when I'm not willing to do it for myself, I will do it because of them...
I'm sorry it took me so long to send this email.
That was just me, choosing avoidance instead of acceptance.
That was just me, choosing fear over faithfulness.
That was just me, choosing to focus on all that is painful instead of all that is possible.
But I woke up this morning and decided to choose something better.
I know a lot of you have questions about the direction of my business, and while I still don't have all those answers, I'll share with you what I do foresee happening:
- A Year in the Making. This is a one year workshop and I am currently leading it for a second time. This workshop focuses on four main areas: Owning Less & Living More, Health & Wellness, Personal Growth, and Photo Taking. My current workshop wraps up in September, and right now, I haven't made any decisions about whether or not to teach a third round.
- Making the Shot. In the past, I have written advanced photography lessons and made them available at a discounted price to past students, and at full price to non-students. Past topics have included: shooting portraits, low-light shooting, and that big, huge, lesson I wrote about focus - all of which can be found in the shopping section on my site (log in using your email address and password to get the discounted price). I am currently working on Making the Shot 4: Tips from the Toolbox, which is 100 of the most helpful tips and tools I believe any photographer - but particularly photographers who want to become more successful at photographing their own families - needs to understand and implement. My hope (please cross your fingers with me) is to release this issue by the beginning of June. Additionally, though, I wrote a lengthy tutorial last year for A Year in the Making students who wanted to learn how I edit in Adobe Lightroom and supplied those students with the Lightroom presets I created and have been using on 100% of my images for years now, and my goal is to release this tutorial and my presets as Making the Shot 5: Editing, Snapshots of a Good Life Style ALONG WITH a 6 week online editing workshop towards the end of September. It will be a lot of work to meet those deadlines, but I'm feeling excited and up to the challenge!
- The Photographers' Workshop. Gosh, I miss this. During A Year in the Making, I've been rewriting all of the lessons (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure, etcetera) from The Photographers' Workshop. And if at some point in time, there are enough students to fill another round of The Photographers' Workshop, then I will most definitely teach it again, using these new lessons. My concern of course, is that without a blog, I have no way of marketing this class (or anything I write or teach for that matter) and therefore, I'm just not sure I could fill a class. That said, I don't think I've ever been in charge of filling a class - I think God has always been in charge of that, and therefore, if He wants me to teach another round of The Photographers' Workshop, I feel confident that He will fill the seats.
- Photography consultations. I am still offering 1-hour photography consultations. In fact, they are one of my favorite things to do. Historically, I have done these one-on-one via Skye and have critiqued 10-12 photos, covering everything from camera settings, to composition, to lighting. More recently though, I have been doing these consultations for both individuals and for groups via Zoom, which allows me to invite multiple people and to record the session for future viewing - still evaluating 10-12 images in a 1 hour consult. To purchase a consult, just log in on my site using your email address and password, select 'go shopping,' and then add a consult to your shopping cart before checking out. If you purchase a consultation or have purchased one in the past that you haven't used yet, just email me to set up a date (I'll look forward to it)!
- My blog. My blog was always about raising my kids the best way I knew how and documenting it the best way I knew how as well - and then using those words and those photos as a stepping stone to connect with women who were doing the same thing. And for 10 years, I was blessed enough to do just that. But as with many things in life, there is a season for everything, and now I'm in a new season. A season where Josh will likely leave his civilian job as an engineer and join the Air Force full-time (he's been in the Guard for 18 years now), where we will sell this old house that was once our dream house and much of what we own, and will move around a bit to see what this big world has in store for us. And while I believe that writing and photography will play a small role in this new season of our lives, I don't think it will ever play the same role it once did - I just don't see how it could. I have no clue what I'll do career-wise in the future, but every time I think about it, I feel confident that it involves working with women - maybe not in the large group settings I've grown accustomed to over the last 10 years - perhaps small groups or even one-on-one interactions. But I can't imagine living any season of my life without witnessing what happens when good women build up other good women - so I know I will always set my sights on something that allows me to be a part of that kind of goodness.
But alas, this is getting long so I will wrap it up.
I'd love to come up with some final, closing words that sound really poetic and wonderful, but I can't think of anything more valuable or honest than to simply and sincerely thank each and every one of you for playing a role in this story that is my life, for investing in these dreams that wouldn't have been possible without you, and for teaching me what it looks like when good women build up other good women.
I am forever grateful.