Living in Pursuit | Hope Anchors

I tossed my suitcase onto my bed and began looking through my outfits, unsure what to pack for the Georgia weather. Anxiety was filling my gut, like a rock in the pit of my stomach invading my body. I was checking off to-do lists, packing lists and feeling overwhelmed by everything I choose to procrastinate until this moment. As I my list became shorter the house became quieter, my entire family was sleeping peacefully while I counted the minutes that passed by. Finally around 1:30 a.m I laid down for a 2 hour nap before my alarm began buzzing at me, I stared at the clock once again cursing myself for my procrastination in preparation for this trip. I sat in the quiet eating my cheerios, the sound my chewing was deafening! As I continued to wait for Lauren to arrive, I thought of everything that led me to this conference. I went back to every moment and every choice and every single time I fell hard on my knees and every single time I lied and said “I am fine!”

I am going to be honest and share thoughts, experiences and moments of failure that most entrepreneurs wouldn’t want you to hear. I feel that to share this experience, I need to get very personal. I need to share my heartbreaks and sadness (professionally and personally) as well as my belief and faith in God.

I started my photography business officially in the fall of 2007 and in 2008-2010 my business grew exponentially. I felt so blessed by God  and finally felt I was living my dreams. We bought our first home and had the “perfect family of four” but my heart yearned for another baby and in July 2010 I found out we were expecting again! Within a couple days I began to experience symptoms that led me to the emergency room, I was miscarrying our baby. Jason comforted me and a few months later in early 2011, I became pregnant again! After a routine check-up at 8.5 weeks my midwife advised an ultrasound to determine my due date. It was in this appointment that I received the news we were pregnant not with one but with two little babies. At the end of my appointment the on-call doctor discussed some issues with one of our twins and explained it was possible I would miscarry it. I asked “but what will happen to it?” and he said “it will simply disappear, it is not uncommon in twin cases and often happens before the mother knows she would have been pregnant with twins…” my heart sank and the tears began to flow. I cried and prayed that God would protect both babies. After two long weeks of waiting, I went in for another ultrasound to check on the twins. Prayers were answered when we seen on the screen two babies healthy, growing and out of the woods. 

After experiencing so much with our miscarriage and possible miscarriage of my twins I made a hard choice as a business person but more importantly as a mother. I decided to cut my wedding season from 20 events to no more than 12 events. I knew I needed to care for my body and my health to protect my twins, I was in a higher risk pregnancy. I carried my twins past full-term to 38 weeks (full term for twins is 37 weeks). Eden and Lex were both healthy and thriving, my heart was doubly blessed.
When I started to book events for my 2012 wedding season, inquiries seemed slower and overall my inbox was a little emptier. I began to feel anxiety knowing we had two more members of our family and less income to live on. I began to feel depressed but choose to see this as an opportunity, thinking “God wants me home more for the twins first year!!”  & “God wants me to be an involved mother…”  I felt incredibly torn as a mother who was also an entrepreneur. I wanted to be very successful in both aspects of my life and I felt both were suffering.  As 2013 wedding inquiries started to slowly trickle in, I was hopeful and prayed but things barely improved from the previous year. I began to feel depressed and once again we were struggling because my business wasn’t producing the income it once was. What was making matters worse were the cancellations from wedding clients, at least 1-2 in each season from 2011-2014. I felt I was losing grip and I was failing at the one thing my heart wanted to do since I was just a child. I can’t tell you how many times I was ready to give it all up because facing failure was so painful. Those who were closest to me (Jason-hubby, Jenn-friend, Lauren-friend/fellow photographer) were my constant companions. I shared my depression. I cried. I prayed. I paced my floor begging the Lord to hear me to tell me what the answer was to my problem. 
 
And this is what brought me here, to the conference. To these beautiful women who are like me, creative professionals wanting to love Jesus and bless others and hopefully achieve success. In the middle of my struggles Lauren came home from P31 conference (2012) in love with her experience raving and BEGGED me to join her next year (2013). Soon after she emails me about the early bird sign up, she was persistently recruiting me. This went on for months and my response was always the same, “We can’t afford it!” “It’s too much…!” As time passed I prayed harder and with Lauren consistently sharing her mad love with P31, I took a leap of faith and signed up. 
I truly feel blessed and know that there are times I need to not let what I see as failure eat away at my happiness. While my wedding business has taken a detour compared to previous seasons what I didn’t care to see over the last two years was the increase in my boudoir/beauty clients. The increase in clientele has propelled to explore bringing my boudoir.beauty to the forefront of my business and take a handful of weddings per year.
I had no expectations for this conference, I just knew in my heart I needed change and prayed that I would find it here. Each morning we were greeted with a sunrise looked just like this, bright and bold, just to breathe deep and enjoy this beauty was special.

georgiaphotographer-074647georgiaphotographer-074820

The worship was overwhelming, I was surrounded by all of these women who were like me…creative professionals in love with God and searching for his purpose for them (me!). The music was soul consuming and it was amazing to feel his presence in that sanctuary, on that beautiful mountaintop!Throughout the next four days we were enriched with beautiful worship music and guest speakers sharing some profound wisdoms. Each speaker resonated deeply within me. Their words and wisdoms and openness was exactly what I needed, more than anything.Bob Goff taught me that instead of doing loving things for one another, we should become love. Love does. Promise Tangeman challenged me, “If we are doing art for art sake and business for business sake, then we are missing the point! What if this isn’t just business to get rich but a business to bless?” Mary Marantz taught me that striving for someone else’s dreams and checklist is like eating nothing but marshmallows, you never feel full, satisfied and nourished. They are empty pursuits. Katelyn James made me realize I need to ask God to be apart of my business and realize it is all his to begin with. She also reminded me not to be blindsided by success, hand it over and trust him, then let go.

Hannah Brencher was amazing and closed her session by asking: What are you so afraid of? Has He ever let you down before? What makes you think He will? Where are you getting your perceptions from? Who let you down that you can’t let go of yet? Who told you that you couldn’t be salt? Who told you should not be light, pouring through the cracks of darkness in this world? Who told you not to be the girl on fire?  And finally the lovely Jane Johnson shared one of the most intimate journeys in her life. Her story shared friendship, fatal illness and such deep loss that I know every single woman was leaking puddles by the time Jane closed. Jane also closed with three beautiful songs that night, this one was my favorite:

Lara Casey  (heard of Southern Weddings ya’ll?) was one of my favorite speakers, she led two sessions. The first she led with Emily Ley, together their words were encouraging, heartfelt and sincere. On the second day Lara was joined again with Emily and also with Gina Ziedler.  I was excited to attend their mini-Making Things Happen seminar that was filled with knowledge to empower and encouraged us to look within ourselves and find what really matters. Halfway though the session Lara, Emily and Gina split into three groups. Each group made a large circle on the lawn. Lara stood in front of each one of us and asked vital questions, questions that needed honest answers no matter how hard it would be to admit. Lara wanted us to reveal our ugly, she advised we strip down and be real. Each one of us stood with our feet firmly planted on the soft grass and our palms facing upward and outward. One by one, Lara would face us and ask…

Life is too short… to not live 100% in every moment I am given

My life is too short… to not enjoy every moment possible with my children. To cherish the small things because they are most important.

I’m saying no to… putting my business first. To not being the mother & wife my family deserves.

I’m saying yes to… this BIG beautiful family that God has blessed me with. 

Lastly, Lara asked us to see ourselves maybe 5 years in the future and tell us what we see—to share who we are—

I am… surrounded by my children, kisses and hugs. My husband holding my hand.

Many of us were crying by the end of this experience. I am certain every single one of us had been holding in all of this ugliness and feared what would happen if anyone else seen it. I thought this journey would help me as an entrepreneur but this experience has brought me closer to God and has made me realize how much I want to be an amazing mother.

I am so honestly grateful to my husband, my grandmother and my mother and step-father in law for pulling together and caring for our children while I was gone for a week on this adventure. I thank you Karen Stott for your vision, your mission and obeying God’s plan in your life to touch each and every woman who is involved with P31 (specifically this conference). If you are a Christian Creative Professional looking to connect with like minded ladies, please take a peek at Pursuit 31 and also Pursuits Facebook Page.

 

Lauren and I stayed here…
georgiaphotographer-081216

Another class I was able to attend was a styled wedding shoot with Mary Marantz. Mary instructed us on posing and shared some little secrets to getting those “natural” images that couple really love. georgiaphotographer-145610georgiaphotographer-145737georgiaphotographer-150114georgiaphotographer-150234georgiaphotographer-150255

Mary photographing the beautiful couple…

georgiaphotographer-150434georgiaphotographer-150727georgiaphotographer-150817

One of the last days I was able to walk around Winshape’s beautiful property. I admit, I fell in love with Georgia right then and there!

georgiaphotographer-170325georgiaphotographer-170346

Overlooking a small portion of Berry College…

georgiaphotographer-170413georgiaphotographer-170523georgiaphotographer-170640georgiaphotographer-170815georgiaphotographer-171006georgiaphotographer-171158georgiaphotographer-171254georgiaphotographer-171321georgiaphotographer-171412georgiaphotographer-171517georgiaphotographer-171556georgiaphotographer-171626georgiaphotographer-171718georgiaphotographer-171757georgiaphotographer-171828

Our Community Sanctuary, a place of love and worship…

georgiaphotographer-172035georgiaphotographer-172228georgiaphotographer-172327georgiaphotographer-172343georgiaphotographer-172459

 Just a little peek into the swag bags we were given…each day at our place setting we were greeted by these lovely cards with some great Bible verses.

georgiaphotographer-144826

One of the afternoons we were able to spend time with the wonderful Katelyn James, she photographs details in such a lovely way and very throughly I might add!!

georgiaphotographer-151222georgiaphotographer-150009georgiaphotographer-150141georgiaphotographer-150703georgiaphotographer-150758georgiaphotographer-150942

A hand-written note with beautiful calligraphy from the lovely Jordanne …

georgiaphotographer-151529georgiaphotographer-151419

 

 

 

 

Thank you to our lovely sponsers for a boatload of goodies:

Epiphanie | Think Tank | Kelly Moore Bags | JoTotes | LowePro | FotoStrap | Black Rapid | The Organic Bloom | ProPhoto Blog | Justin & Mary | Jeremy Cowart | Michelle Moore | Ashley Barnett Mitchell (Jen + Ashley) | Hannah Brencher | Jasmine Star |Galer.ee | Beautiful Photo Props | Kraft & Jute | MyPhotoApp | SiteHouse Design |Southern Wedding Magazine | Totally Rad Actions | Blogstomp | Fiducia | Bob Goff |Gina Zeidler | Katelyn James | Denim + Grace Magazine | Chic Critique Forum | L&S Lockets (Lukas & Suzy VanDyke) | The Mason Bar Company | PASS | Pixifi | Jordanne Marie Paper and Design Boutique | Mandipidy Art & Design | Daane Promotional Products

  • Kristin Ungerecht - Ahh, so so happy you went to the conference, Stephanie!! And so glad to read that the Lord spoke to your heart there. Your honesty is appreciated and I have no doubt that your story will bless people when you continue to share it! xoxo