life lessons almost a decade later

Wow, you guys- what a wonderful weekend we have had! Our church hosted a bunch of teenagers for a Disciple Now weekend and our youth pastor and friend, Brandon, booked Shawn's old band, A Road Less Traveled (I guess they still have a FB page!), to play worship, as well as another great friend, Jason Bishop to speak. It was especially neat for me because it had been a few years since all of us had been able to get together like that. 

This photo is missing mark morgan (and his wife liz), who played guitar with arlt in the later years, and several volunteer roadies and crew who we get to call friends. :) i was just thankful we got one iphone photo with all these faces in it!

This photo is missing mark morgan (and his wife liz), who played guitar with arlt in the later years, and several volunteer roadies and crew who we get to call friends. :) i was just thankful we got one iphone photo with all these faces in it!

It's hitting me now that sometimes you don't realize how sweet a season is until it is over. For over 10 years, Shawn pursued music with a few friends, and none of us would have guessed what God would do that little pocket of time. I'm not sure I'm the right one to write about this, really- because I was never actually in the band, but since Shawn and I started dating in high school, I sort of just stuck around, getting to watch from the sidelines- and I'm thankful for that unique vantage point.

It's not often that you get to live life with the same few people (who you aren't already related to) for almost a decade. And when I say "live life", I mean waking up next to your husband on a rumbling RV at 2 am to the sound of metal music blaring...because it's Kuhrt's turn to drive. I'll also never forget washing my hair at midnight in a Wal-Mart bathroom somewhere in Tennessee with one of my best friends and another "band wife", Shanna. :) I'll admit, there were times when it didn't feel like a "get to", but more like a "had to". Collectively, we went through college, silly part-time jobs, the rise and fall of MySpace, breakups, late-night practices where nothing really gets accomplished, music videos, band managers, tours, many, many miles and even each other's weddings. It didn't ever hit me that "big" life things were happening in the midst of the gigs, weekends away, and frivolous arguments about how the merch table looked. There were many years where the guys wondered if they were ever going to "make it". Now I think we all realize that they were already there. 

Looking at everyone today- the guys, their wives and kids, other special friends who have influenced our faith in the past decade- I almost couldn't handle it. It was too overwhelming. I cried, because seeing their faces made me realize just what God has done for me- someone on the sidelines- through them all...it's still too amazing for me to grasp.  I could never fully express what these people mean to me- because it has almost taken 5 or 6 years for me to really understand the role that each of them have played in my life. Because of them, my worship is deeper, my thankfulness is greater, and my gumption is stronger. I've seen prayer at work, forgiveness happen, and God show up when you least expect Him.

I am so proud of my friends. I hate that we aren't all huddled together in one physical location anymore. But as much as I would love that comfort, I am glad we are not. Because amazingly- and this is just simply Jesus and how He works- we are all doing new things. Things that God has planned for us. Life has definitely become more complicated. A large part of me just misses those simpler times- and I know I've got on my rose-colored glasses today- but our problems seem so much bigger now. We are no longer 19 and 20 year olds who enjoy going out for dinner at 11:30 (because now that hour of night is reserved for sleep or Netflix binges).

But in my heart, I know and can trust that where we are (albeit not together) is good. Why? Because God has proven Himself in every season of my life. Jason Bishop, the speaker for the weekend, and his wife, Caryn, started our first small group about 10 years ago when he realized we were a bunch of 20-somethings without much focus. The message that Jason spoke today was on facing our giants and preparing a way for those who will come after us. I know he had probably tailored it for the teenagers who had been at Disciple Now- but how fitting for someone like me to hear it today. (You can watch the whole message here, including worship by the band.)

This weekend I have felt a sense of displacement. It has been wonderful to spend time with people who have known me so well for so long- but constantly realizing we are all in a new place with different circumstances was heartbreaking. Truthfully, I didn't like all the life change we brought with us- the weight of careers, family, doing actual "adulting"- ugh. Can't we just go to IHOP after the show?

When I spoke to God about this- He reminded me to look for the good. Just as I am now able to see all the good He gave us in the ARLT years- there is a wealth of good NOW. There are wonderful careers blossoming, new relationships formed, several beautiful baby faces and more to come. By God's grace, we are all happily married, still pursing the Kingdom- and THAT is what matters- beyond our physical distance and new circumstances. God has clearly given us a new opportunity to have a sweet season of life- one where He does so much more than we realize. 

I think that's what really hit me today- that I wasn't, in fact, ever on the sidelines. God was much more creative than I made Him out to be- orchestrating something completely amazing in each of us- through the music and the miles- at the same exact time. We were getting to live life together, and as God was using each of us for one focused purpose for that season, He was also preparing us individually for the next. I got all of the benefit- the life lessons, the deepening of my faith- without ever having any of the musical ability. :) 

Thank you, friends, old and new- for being willing to go through it all with us. The stories that God weaves are truly the most beautiful. I see and appreciate all the good God is doing in you and how it blesses my life. Let's press on!

And if you're feeling really sentimental, or have no idea what I have been talking about, go watch their old videos. There is a lot more hair in that footage than there is now :).

kindahl + bogdan • wedding • the legacy

Shawn and I had a wonderful time photographing the graceful and elegant Kindahl and her witty and handsome groom, Bogdan. These two were married at the Legacy Event Center, which was the perfect setting for their candlelit Christmastime wedding.

I could not get enough of the rich cranberry colors mixed with the evergreens! Bogdan is from Romania, and so there were a few fun nods to his heritage- including an amazing Translyvania cake (with a smoking moat!) by Jennifer Cisneros. This wedding was expertly planned and coordinated by Jill Leven of Eat, Drink, and Be Marry. These guys had the BEST wedding band from Caldwell Entertainment- who even escorted the couple to their getaway car in a New-Orleans style grand exit.

Congratulations, you two! Thank you for the honor of photographing your wedding day!

Stationery: Little White Invite

Planning: Eat, Drink, and be Marry

Hair: Ashley Williams, Roxi's Hair Studio

Makeup: Brenda Becknell

Wedding Dress: Bella's

Cakes: Jennifer Cisneros and Simply Decadent Bakery

Catering: Heart and Soul Cuisine

Entertainment: Caldwell Entertainment Players

Floral: Dayspring Designs

it's about time! advent + an adoption update

This owl is our china baby's first ornament on our tree. I pick one out for the kids each year. no- we don't have a name for her yet, so we just call her "our china baby" for now! :)

This owl is our china baby's first ornament on our tree. I pick one out for the kids each year. no- we don't have a name for her yet, so we just call her "our china baby" for now! :)

Today is a day I should be doing so many other things. There are kids' Christmas parties, emails, last-minute Christmas gifts (thank God for those sweet teachers who wipe my kids' noses every day and love them so so well!)...

I've been needing to write an adoption update- and if I'm being honest- I've just been putting it off. I've made myself too busy with other things. But for some reason, in the middle of this chaotic day, I've decided to sit down and write. Why? Because as a counselor once told me, "Lissa, you have to start giving yourself time to FEEL your feelings". Ugh. It would be so much more convenient right now to just keep doing all the things and not really think about all those silly emotions. (sarcasm- can you tell I am a DOER by nature?)

However, I am excited to share where we are at in our adoption process right now. We have been logged in to China for 4 months now. Liv will turn 1 in just a couple of months, and that is a special date, not just because it will be her 2nd birthday (which is a miracle in and of itself), or that we will be welcoming a new niece into the world (my little sister, Layne, is pregnant!), but for another reason. When we sent in our paperwork to China, part of our request was that there be at least a 12 month age gap between Liv and our adopted daughter. It is very rare to see a referral of a child under 12 months in China. Because of the systems and processes there, most of the youngest children are around 18 months- 2 years when they are referred for adoption. So, because of our request, the older Liv gets, the more likely it will be that we get a referral. 

Can I just pause for a minute and tell you how psycho I feel right now?!? Right now a 12 month gap between my two youngest girls seems like crazytown. Like an all-out circus with bits of popcorn kernels shoved all in the cracks. To be honest, this has been one of the biggest areas of attack for me. I know that Satan knows my love for control, and I am aware that I constantly fall into the delusion that I am in control at all. So in those moments of weakness- when I already feel totally unprepared to even parent the two kids that are at home- I panic. How will I ever parent 3 kids? I can't even get them to school on time, much less doctor's appointments! (I know you moms of 3+ are just chuckling to yourselves right now- go ahead, you deserve it!)

But then there is also all that ugly pride that hangs out in the background, like it should get free rent just because it's been there so long, taking up space in my heart. The illusion that all this blessing was all ME. That EVERYONE expects us to be this or that- that I CAN DO and MUST DO it all. Gross. Just makes me want to spit it out.

When you couple the I-can't-do-it panic with the but-I-have-to-be-the-best pride, you get a mom, wife, and child of God with a serious identity crisis. 

And that has been me for the past few months. Mostly holding it together on the outside, while I wonder if we are just straight up insane on the inside. (Bless my sweet friends and family who are consistently patient with me!)

After we got our paperwork to China, I started working on a few grant applications. We have been amazed and in shock at how generous people have been so far. Friends, relatives, and even people we don't know have contributed to our fund. It has been one of the humbling ways God has not only proven Himself and His provision to me, but I know He is working on that old tenant, Pride, as well. 

We totaled up the upcoming costs we have left- and I kid you not- it was still over $13,000.00. This is what it will take to get us to China and back. Some of the fees are simply incredible, and you would be amazed at what little portion of that our agency actually gets. Much of it is travel and other fees that we will be paying to the orphanage, government, etc.

Most recently, we got work that we were awarded a matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans. They are going to MATCH up to $3500.00! As soon as we got word, I immediately started brainstorming ideas for fun ways we could raise the $3500.00. We tossed around a few ideas, but after speaking with Lifesong, we found out that we were not to offer any services or products in return for the donations. To be honest, that was hard for me to deal with. As a DOER, I couldn't imagine asking people AGAIN to just straight up contribute to our adoption fund. It would be so much easier to just make something or give my services in exchange. Easier on my pride, that is. The longer I let it settle in, the longer I realized this was a pride issue! So, again, I got to have that I-trust-you conversation with God. And of course, He has been providing just like He said he would! 

If you would like to contribute to the matching grant, just click on the "Donate" button! It is tax-deductible!

 

 

Additionally, we have decided to put all the income from my How To Work It workshop toward our adoption until enough funds are raised! This has been a dream project of mine for a while and it has been so cool to start working with the very first attendees this month! Check out more on the workshop HERE.


The truth is, He is good. He is faithful. He's made a way. I'm not supposed to be good enough, organized enough, strong enough. He knows our daughter in China. (It's very likely that she is alive and waiting for us NOW!) He knows our future struggles. BUT, I know what He's taken us through to get to this point, and have no choice (logistically or emotionally) but to trust Him with this.

So- for a short synopsis or what is to come:

Within the next few months (anywhere from March-October, we are estimating) we will get a call with a referral from our agency. 

They will give us a file to review, and we will have an allotted amount of time to pray over the file, consult doctors and medical professionals, etc. 

If we say YES, the paperwork will start back up! Hopefully, we will travel 10-12 weeks later. 

It is crazy to think that this time next year our daughter could be home with us- and we could be a family of 5!

There is a large part of me that is ready to not be waiting. I can't wait to know that peace when my heart is not longing for something literally around the world and wondering in expectation if I should be more prepared, what that day will look like when we meet her, what the transition will look like, etc. 

But isn't that what this season of Advent teaches us? Shouldn't I ponder all of these things in my heart, just as Mary did? I'm thankful that I don't have to know all the answers. Thankful for my Savior who has allowed us to be here, on this adoption journey. Thankful for Knox and Liv and the way they bless and refine us daily. 

Thankful for all of you who have taken the time to listen to my crazy and pray for us, give to our fund and truly impact our family's legacy forever. Merry Christmas! 

Do you guys have any questions about our adoption? I would love to answer them and am a pretty open book! Post them in the comments!

brigham • newborn

Some of my favorite clients and friends got their best Christmas present ever this year- sweet Mr. Brigham Wesley. I shot Travis + Kinsey's wedding a few years ago and had a sentimental moment when I realized I was photographing their son's toes with the same lens I shot their wedding rings! I loved getting to see his perfect nursery and these two as parents. Little Brigham was quite the charmer and smiled at us several times. Thank you for letting me capture his littleness and this sweet time for you guys!

trey + katie • engagement

We all knew when Trey brought Katie to Christmas last year that it was the real deal. :) Sure enough, (and lucky for us) they are engaged this December! 

It was so much fun shooting my cousin's engagement session- and I could not be more excited for him and Katie. It is always extra special when I get to photograph my own family's big life events. These two went on their first real date at Yellow House Coffee, so we started out there. I was soaking up every bit of the gorgeous golden sunset for their shoot. Thank you guys for enduring that cold wind for a little while with me!

carson + mary • wedding • eberley brooks

Ever since I met Carson and Mary a few years back, I totally wanted to shoot their wedding They were both so easygoing and fun- didn't take themselves too seriously and consistently made each other laugh. I've known Carson's family for a while- and just love all of them so much! So, Shawn and I were super excited to get to capture their big day. 

It was a gorgeous, perfect autumn day. Carson and Mary said "I do" at Lakeridge Methodist and then had their reception at Eberley Brooks- which is such a beautiful venue! True to their style, the reception was laid back, full of good things to eat, and dancing, of course. We loved getting to photograph it all. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. McCabe!

 

The new How To Work It Workshop! (Pre-Registration now LIVE)

So, I finally just went for it. Here's a quick video about it:

Ya'll- I am about to BURST with overwhelmed excitement (and truthfully some holy-moly-is-this-really-happening-anxiety) right now! This has been something I have been dreaming of and working on for so long now and I can't believe we are just about to DO THIS THING. But, it's time! So here goes!

For several years now, I've been teaching in-person workshops for beginners who want to learn to really harness their DSLR camera and shoot in manual mode. In other words, I LOVE teaching people how to work their fancy cameras! Time and distance have made it difficult for me to put more workshops together and for a long time I've dreamed about putting the whole workshop online.

 

This camera course is for the beginner- people who were given a nice camera or chose to invest in one and just have not had the time to learn to shoot it. I've designed this course to be flexible, easily understood, and interactive

How To Workshop Attendees will receive:

• Access for 1 month to a private website where you'll be able to watch 5 video teaching lessons. Each lesson covers one or more important functions of your camera you'll need to understand in order to make a perfect exposure. 

• Printable PDF notes for each lesson.

• Access to our private Facebook group where we will share our photo assignments, give/get feedback, and have a couple of Live group sessions.

One of the best things about the new online format is that you will be able to do it at your own pace. You could potentially finish the entire course in 1 weekend, or you could do 1 or 2 lessons a week and draw it out a bit. If you feel you'd like to go over a lesson again, you can! 

It's important to me that all attendees are able to really harness the camera and equipment they already have and make the best use of it. 


Pre-registration is NOW OPEN until November 9th!


Our first workshop will begin in just a couple of weeks- November 15, 2016. If you pre-register between now and that date, you will receive $25 OFF!

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about the workshop- feel free to leave a comment here on this blog post. 

Can't wait to see you there!

 

josh + hannah • wedding at spirit ranch

Josh and Hannah had the most beautiful autumn wedding at Spirit Ranch. I could not get enough of the rich plum and bright orange colors and how they complimented Hannah's lace dress. These two are high school sweethearts, and so it was extra special to photograph it with my high school sweetheart. :)

As always, I love shooting at Spirit Ranch and Market Street killed it with the florals! Congrats Josh and Hannah!

marisa • lcu grad

Marisa is very special to our family- she worked for Culture Clothing for two years and when she wasn't working at the store, she was babysitting for us. We had no idea when we hired her just how much gumption she had. Marisa is incredibly hard-working, full of integrity and loves Jesus. I love seeing the excitement in her eyes when she talks about her new future as a teacher. 

Thank you for giving us so much of your time and talents over the past couple years, Marisa! Here's to many wonderful adventures!

elizabeth • newborn

I got to photograph sweet Elizabeth a couple of weeks ago and I could not stop gushing at how precious she was, how much her big brother loved her, and all the beautiful details in her room. Just wait until you see!

I also loved that she already has her own copy of Pride & Prejudice and will know the story of another special Lizzy who had a playful heart, a sharp mind, and a great love story. :)