Monday, December 30, 2013

Gotta love a man in uniform

When Alexa contacted me and said she wanted to do a session with her husband Charlie before he left for a 10 month deployment with the US ARMY, I was ecstatic! I have complete admiration for anyone who is in the military.  Their families endure so much and their spouses suffer greatly. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose my husband for several months. I think it would be the equivalent of losing my right arm. My husband is the air I breathe.

Alexa and Charlie were absolutely insanely adorable to photograph. It was very clear that their love could withstand the months to come. I think you will agree that you can feel the passionate and emotion between the two of them. This couple traveled all the way from Texas here to Florida to do this session with me. So it was definitely a must to do downtown Jax with style!

I am happy to report that Charlie  has already returned from his deployment to his beautiful wife! (That tells you how late I am blogging anything, but I definitely wanted to share this with you all!)

Jeremy and Brittany Pombier ::: WEDDING 11.17.13

When I was counting down the days to have Grayson, I was also counting down the days of recovery before I would shoot Brittany and Jeremy Pombier's wedding day. Literally 9 days after having him was their wedding day. Brittany and Jeremy planned the perfect intimate beach resort wedding. Unfortunately the wind and the rains pushed their ceremony to be held under their reception tent, but that didn't stop us from still getting some amazing images just for before sunset. We had such a great time playing in the photo booth and dancing to live music at the reception. Congratulations Brittany and Jeremy!  (Sneak Peek of their wedding day and what their engagement session was like too!)

On a side note-

I don't think second shooters and photography assistants get enough credit for their help and assistance. I feel that main photographers feel intimidated; therefore, they fail to give credit when it truly due. I am giving a huge shout out to my incredibly awesome second shooter and assistant for the day Julie Worthy with Julie Worthy Photography. I shot this wedding a week after having my 7th child as well as female surgery the day after. First I could not drive. I had stitches in my stomach and an episiotomy and was taking pain medication so I was not allowed to drive. This woman drove me to and from the wedding so I could work. Second, I was still breastfeeding, so I had to pump in my van and store it in the lunchbox I brought. Because of this she bought me and packed snacks and water bottles to make sure I was nourished and had strength for the day.  When I look back at these images, I am so thankful for the one who held my light stand when the wind was blowing insanely on the beach or when she loaded and unloaded our golf cart with gear and equipment a dozen times because I wasn't supposed to lift over 10 pounds and we had to rush quickly to get shots before the sun was gone. I am thankful for the one who went up and down the stairs a 100 times to run back to the hotel room to get a missing piece to our pictures. I am thankful she reminded me and encouraged me to take it easy because my body was still healing. Thank you Julie for being my rock on Jeremy and Brittany's wedding day!

Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast Florida
Florist/Decor: Connie Parrish
Live Music: Ben Carter
Wedding Cake: Simply Delicious
Hair/Make-Up Debra Dickinson

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Locks of Love for Laura


Just a little over two years ago I met one of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege to know. Out of the blue one day, I received a private Facebook message from Laura. She explained to me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going to be having a double mastectomy surgery and wanted to know if I would be willing to take family pictures for her before the big day. I felt completely honored because I knew I was going to be able to give this gift to her that would allow her to hang on to for a lifetime. We met at sunrise at Jacksonville Beach Pier. God blessed us with an absolutely beautiful day! It was perfect! Little did I know that this day was going to be the beginning of an enormous friendship.

Time has gone by and Laura has faced many challenges; both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. During this time, our friendship has grown into something much more.

We are family.


When I think of Laura I am immediately reminded of all the amazing things that we have done together in the short two years I have known her. I documented and watched her run in the 26.2 Run with Donna a breast cancer marathon. I walked beside her for the Making Strides walk in 2011. I photographed her strutting her stuff on the stage for the Pink Carpet Fashion Event at the Florida Theatre. Being her friend has reminded me to never take life for granted. I feel so blessed to be healthy. If God decided to take me tomorrow, I only pray that my heart is ready and that I have served and honored Him enough with the life He has given me. But just watching all that she has gone through just makes my heart break.

With Laura we have subliminal messages and things that only the two of us could possibly understand. Just like sisters would. Things like texting the words "I'm fine" or Wicked's "Elphaba and Glinda" and chocolate covered cake doughnuts with chocolate icing fresh from Dunkin Doughnuts or her obsession with Starbucks versus mine with Mountain Dew....OH and I can't forget "Nipples" and laughing so hard we puked at The Capital Grill! My world has been completely changed because I have a sister now.

About three weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to cut all my hair off for Laura. Ok, it wasn't exactly three weeks ago. I had been thinking about it long before then. I have watched Laura go through several rounds of chemo and radiation and have watched her lose her hair twice. I joked with her on many occasions that I was just going to buzz mine all off so she wouldn't feel alone. She would laugh at me and tell me that she didn't think I had the guts to do it. (She thinks she knows me so well! Hahaha!)

I prayed about it a lot and talked to my husband. If he didn't support it then that would be the end of the story, but he was the complete opposite. He said to me, "I think if this can be one act of love to show her just how much you care about her, than I say do it." Laura had a major surgery coming up on that Thursday, and because of the state of her illness, I felt like I wanted to act fast and do it before that surgery. So we totally planned it and we did it! On this day, three weeks ago, I had over 10 inches of hair flowing from my head and today it's roughly 1/8th of an inch. I asked one of my really good friends, Caroline Momberg, who is also a photographer, to come and document the sheering with pictures. The photographs in the video included in this blog are taken by her and edited by me. The song that the video is set to is called "Angel by your side" by Francesca Battistellli. The first time we heard this song was live at Winter Jam 2011. Both of us balled our eyes out and said this song reminded us of our friendship. (I included the lyrics here too)

I think Laura could have thrown up during the whole process! Her words were "Your nuts!" over and over again! We put my hair into about 10 pony tails because it's so thick. She made me cut the first one because she was too chicken. Then from there, she started snipping away. Stage one was complete in about 30 seconds. She was so fast that Caroline could hardly keep up with her. Stage two was buzzing the nasty stragglers and crazy frohawk. That was a little more difficult because my hair had a mind of its own. She did the best she could with the 4 guard. Later on I had to visit my hair dresser to correct some of the crazy insane issues and funky cowlicks.

I get asked all the time if I regret cutting it all off? My reply is NO WAY!!! If by doing this, Laura can see and know how much I love her and how much I support her and that she knows that she is not alone....then I would do it again in a heart beat. I could go on and on about the conversations I had with my children the night before we buzzed it all off and how they all reacted that day when they came home. Simply put, I think they learned a lesson about love and loving others the way Jesus intended on us to. My hair cut is also a reminder to myself to pray for Laura. Every time someone asks me or comments or says something, I am reminded of her and then I simply start praying.

Laura and I's friendship was brought together because of surgery and here I am today waiting to hear news if my best friend has made it through yet another surgery. I will share with you that the days before surgery are a rush. We try to get everything done that possibly can be and cram in as much fun in with our kids as it will allow. The night before surgery consists of late night texting and constant prayer because we never know if she is going to make it through the next day. The day of surgery is like torture on my soul...I sit at home and wait patiently on a text message that lets me know she has made it through. Makes my whole day numbing and pointless. But the moment that I know she is heart sighs gently and I can breathe again until the next surgery date. That's when I begin to pray...."Thank you Jesus for saving my friend again! Thank you for giving her back to her children and husband. Thank you for allowing us more days to laugh together and make more crazy memories. Please Lord, heal her body and give her the strength to push on."

Friendships are like marriages. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part.


Lyrics to Angel By Your Side:

I can't say that everything's okay
cause I can see the tears you're crying.
and I can't promise to take the pain away
but you can know that I won't stop trying.

I'll be the angel by your side
I will get you through the night
I'll be the strength you can't provide on your own
"Cause when you're down and out of time
And you think you've lost the fight
Let me be the angel, the angel by your side.

I know it feels like you are running out of faith
Cause it's so hard to keep believing
But if I can bring a smile back to your face
For a moment you will forget all about it

I'll be the angel by your side
I will get you through the night
I'll be the strength you can't provide on your own
"Cause when you're down and out of time
And you think you've lost the fight
Let me be the angel, the angel by your side.

Cause this won't be the last time
You'll need a little hope
But I want to be the first to let you know

I'll be the angel by your side
I will get you through the night
I'll be the strength you can't provide on your own
"Cause when you're down and out of time
And you think you've lost the fight
Let me be the angel, the angel by your side.

Sunday, February 17, 2013



Oh blogging. I should call you ‘Dear Diary’ because I tend to pour my heart and soul out and write a short novel every time we meet. It’s like cleansing to my soul to be able to just sit and write and get all the emotional junk I carry around off my chest. So please forgive me if I tend to ramble, but I promise I have reasoning to my madness.

 Most of you either have followed me on Facebook or have read my blog and are aware of my dear sweet friend Laura. If you are clueless to whom I speak about, please go to this blog entry ( and read about our friendship and watch our video. It would totally help this blog make so much more sense.

 The last time I wrote about my best friend, she had come to me with the sad news that her double mastectomy turned reconstruction surgery had failed. Her body was rejecting her implants and the skin literally was infected and not healing properly. At this point in time, Laura hit a wall of emotions. She had lost her hair again for the third time because of all the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Prior to that and also because of cancer, she had already experienced a full hysterectomy. And now the last bit of hope of still possibly being able to look or feel like a woman was slowly fading away from her. That’s when we had the celebration buzzin’ of my hair! It was the one thing I felt like I could do to help her to not feel like she was alone. However, I still couldn’t give her back any of the things she had lost.

After this Laura began to face more surgeries, more devastating news and even more heart ache and pain. Life just continued to weigh heavily on her. Like she was fighting a fight that could never be won. Each surgery she is warned that she may not wake up. And each surgery she continues to make it through. Recovery after recovery her body continues to try to survive.

At that point, I thought to couldn’t possibly get any worse for Laura.

I spoke too soon.

Laura lost a best friend breast cancer as well which spread to her bones.

Some one she felt was like a little sister. They had this incredible relationship and bond because they shared one thing in common that Laura and I could never have...cancer. And until the night she took her last breath, Laura was there by her side, holding her hand. Through her friend’s life and even her death she was able to show Laura God’s love for her in a whole new perspective. Laura’s life in Christ was reborn and made new.


 Laura is worn.

 Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.

Last November, Laura and I went to a Tenth Avenue North ( concert. As soon as we heard they were coming to Jacksonville, we knew we were getting tickets and we were going. We both had their new CD downloaded on our iTunes and ran it into the ground. I remember one night, I was up late editing a session and I get this text from Laura about this song. She told me that she felt like this song is speaking about her. I listened to it and was blown away at the power of the lyrics.

The night of the concert came. Many different songs were played and we waited patiently on just this one. The lead singer walks into the crowd of people and was preaching straight out of the book of James. I had goose bumps by the way God used him and how he just spoke God’s Word with such boldness. He stopped right in front of Laura and began to speak about trials and struggles. He prayed with her, returned to the stage and then began this song. She and I immediately began to hug and cry and worship.

It was one of the most incredible spiritual moments I have ever encountered in my entire life. To weep and beg and plead to God for a miracle, in the middle of this huge crowd, belting these worshipful song lyrics with my best friend laying in my arms. When two or more are gathered...Jesus says..THERE I AM!!!

A couple days later we decided that we were going to make this video to the song Worn to help Laura tell her story. We wanted to be able to reach out to those that may have cancer or even to anyone that might be going through a very hard time. Life circumstances are not always what we would chose. Cancer is not easy. It can be very hard, lonely, and painful. Not every moment is full of praise and healing.

For almost four years now I have watched my best friend be banged up and beaten by cancer. Yes, I know she is a super unique case to the entire cancer world. She has experienced so much more than one person should. I grieve for her when people come and go from her life, leaving her side when she needs it the most. I have heard her cries for relief and for healing and how she just wished this would all go away. Words can never explain the conversations we have had through text messages about finding joy and peace in this struggle.

Cancer has taken so much from her, but it has not taken our friendship. It has not taken her love for her children and her husband. And it will not take away her hope and faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Yesterday she texted me and wrote, “The true freedom of Christ comes from the moment you realize you have nothing to prove to anyone, because in Christ, God fully approves you.”

Laura is the strongest and most generous person I have ever met. Even in this time of suffering she wants others to know that they are not alone. She says to me all the time how she hopes and prays that no one ever has to endure anything like she has. Her love for her children amazes me. Her devotion to her marriage and family leaves me speechless.

My hope is that you will watch this video and say pray for my best friend and share it with someone who may need encouragement right now. I pray that you will understand that in Christ alone is the only place to put your hope and trust in. None of our time here on earth is guaranteed.

Our friendship has taught me to live my life to the fullest. To genuinely and passionately love my husband with every ounce of my being. To laugh and be silly and do all the small things in life with my children. Never leaving this world with a single regret. And to never forget to say I love you to my best sister that God gave me... every single time I text, talk, or see her.

Our friendship. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do we part.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

40 Days...Day 7...Hidden Idols

Please watch this video. It stars me and my family!

Joshua 24:15 “But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, you must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

We are seven days into this journey together and I feel like I am taking a huge jump back to the beginning with this post. I feel like I should have done this first, but yet, it fits perfectly now. I want to introduce you to my family and tell you a little about who we are. My family consists of my husband, Paul, and my 6 children: Rylan, Jaylen, Ethan, Addison, Brooklyn, and Lincoln. I am blessed with four wonderful boys and two adorable girls.

My husband and I have a love story that comes straight out of the movies. I should write Nicholas Sparks and see if he wants to buy our story and publish it, because I know it would sell out theatres. We met when we were in high school at a youth summer convention called Summer in the Son. I was only 13 years old. He was sitting on the ground with his friend Mike and was checking out girls as they walked passed. I just happened to be one of those girls that walked past him, but was completely unaware of what was going on. He pointed me out to his friend Mike and said, “That one!”

At this time, we were all heading into the main worship session for the evening. I was sitting with my youth group when a guy on crutches approached me. He explained to me that his friend had sent him to see if I would be interested in meeting him. He turned and pointed to the bleachers. All I could see was a short little boy waving his arms in the air like he was trying to flag down a Boeing 747. I kindly declined in my best good little Christian girl voice and said, “I am sorry, but I am not here to meet boys. I am here to grow closer to Jesus.”

After the session ended I was approached by another guy. He was wearing a charcoal grey sweater and a pair of jeans with brown Dock Martin shoes. He stood about 6’2” and had blonde hair that fell just below his ears and was wet like he had just taken a shower. He had the most piercing green eyes and sounded like he was from a different country. He said to me, “I am sorry my friend asked you to meet me.” My jaw hit the floor. I was stunned. Embarrassed. And had a complete change of purpose of why I was there.

See, I told you our story sounds like it belongs in a movie. Don’t worry. It gets better. He even proposed to me in New York City in the middle of Times Square.

I would love to tell you that my husband and I have been together since that very moment, but God had different plans. We did stay together for much longer than most long distance relationships do, but we were high school teenagers and having some one there every day seemed more important to both of us then continuing the relationship. So God sent both of us on separate paths. We always stayed in touch and wrote each other all the time. This was before the world of email and texting. (I am showing my age now.)

During our time apart, I experienced great heart ache and made some really poor choices. I fell away from the Lord and suffered the consequences. I dealt with family problems that led me to being kicked out of my home just before my 18th birthday. My relationship with God became a part of my distant past as I started partying and getting involved into things that I am not proud of. It wasn’t too long before I hit rock bottom. God brought me to the point that He knew I needed. I was at my knees pleading and begging for Him to take me back again and to love me and to forgive me.

Soon my life began to change, but for the good. It took time, but I slowly found myself again. The person I used to be. The person I wanted to be. The person I needed to be.

One day I received a call from my Mamaw….which reminds me that one day I need to blog about her because she is by far the most godly woman I have ever met and feel that I owe her my life. Mamaw says to me, “Jamie, you have to come over and listen to the answering machine. There’s a message on here for you.” I argued with her over why she couldn’t just put the phone down to the answering machine, so that I could just listen instead of driving over there in the cold, but she insisted that I needed to come over and listen.

I can still remember the feeling I had the moment the message was played. “Hello. This message is for Jamie Hiles. My name is Paul Halstead. I was a friend of hers in high school and this is the last number I have as a contact for her. If you could please give her the message, I would appreciate it.” At that very moment I began jumping up and down, screaming like a school girl. “DO YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS?” My Mamaw replies, “Yes, I just wanted to see your face when you heard the message.”

My knight in shining armor had called.

I called him and learned that he had moved to Lynchburg, Virginia to start working with a Christian filming company. He was waiting tables at Logan’s Roadhouse. We spent the next several months messaging each other through AOL’s instant messenger when it was still only available in dial-up. Geesh is this blog entry dating my age. It wasn’t too long after that I decided to pack everything I loved and owned and moved it all to my own little apartment in Virginia.

My husband and I will be celebrating 10 years married in October of this year. But when people ask, I tell them, “We’ve been married for 10 years, but I have loved him 19 years!”

My husband is the high school Bible teacher and campus minister of Seacoast Christian Academy in the Regency/Arlington area of Jacksonville. We serve together as the youth and children’s pastors for the church that is affiliated there, Sanctuary-House of the Lord. My husband also leads the worship on Sundays and Wednesdays. Our church is alive and on fire for the Lord. We are raising up several little warriors for God’s Kingdom.

We use our home to allow people to come and stay with us and find refuge and strength, but most of all hope and a future. We have live and serve by the motto, “Love Jesus, Love Others”. We love Jesus with everything with have first and love every one else second.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

40 Days....Day 6...Show me the money

Watch this clip from Jerry Maguire.... this scene...I totally feel like I am Cuba Gooding Jr. and I feel like I am shouting to God...."SHOW ME THE MONEY!" There are months that go by that I literally work my bootie off and then look at the bank account and want to cry. I beg and plead and ask God why? I work so hard God....why? My days are crammed from the moment I wake up until the moment I pass out. It irritates me when I don't accomplish everything that I wanted to on the to-do list before going to bed. I am the type of person that will lay and continually think about everything I didn't do and what I still have to work on tomorrow.

I have already blogged about my lack of trusting God with my businesses finances. Little did I know then that this chapter was going to be on tithing. Bottom line...I don't tithe from my company's finances. I've continually been honest when writing this blog, not because of anyone who is actually reading it, but because I need to be honest with God. I could make a thousand excuses why I don't; the money is inconsistent, I don't make enough, I don't keep track of the money well enough, but really none of those excuses are good enough.

I feel that there is a perception from the outside world of what a self-employed photographer like myself actually makes for an income. See there are seasons that are considered good "photography business" months. This would be the time leading up to Christmas and sometime in the spring. For those of us who do high school senior sessions and weddings, there are seasons when those types of sessions are flowing more abundantly too. I am blessed to be a photographer who shoots in just about any circumstance and even owns a studio with lighting equipment. I think that the outside world sees that we charge anywhere from $100-$200 for an hour session and think that is insane for one hour of service.

But what isn't taken into consideration is the time before and after that session. Your session fee is paying for that too! The time spent emailing a client back and forth and planning the perfect session. I am the type of photographer that puts a lot of thought and effort into my sessions. So I correspond with several emails, texts, and Facebook messages until we have the perfect location, the right outfits, the exact time, and everything planned out to get exactly what you want in your session. If that means shopping for new props or purchasing items to help myself be better equipped for your session, then I do it. This is also what your session fee covers. It also covers post-processing and production. The time I spend editing pictures and burning CDs or traveling to the post office to mail items or time spent placing picture orders and then going and picking them up. This is what all goes into making one session complete.

It's a me, book, correspond, plan, research, execute, meet, shoot, edit, and mail. (Rinse and repeat daily!)

Back to the tithing thing. When it comes to the end of the month I realize that I have spent all my extra few dollars on milk and bread and diapers and I want to grab all my remaining pennies and hold on to them like a kid who has just robbed the tooth fairy! I am stingy with my money when it comes to giving it to God. I am great about helping others with my time and giving myself as a servant, but when it comes to money, I am the first one to hold tightly to the photography bank account.

I will be completely honest...I cannot stand beggars who stand on the street corner and hold their signs asking for money. I find it highly irritating and I want to roll up my window and pretend they aren't even there. I have gone and gotten sandwiches or snacks and tried to give them to the ones that say "Will work for food". But have been declined or worse...accepted and then watched my food be thrown in the trash the moment I drove away. When ever I see someone like this, scripture haunts my soul... "Then the King replies, 'Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me. " Matthew 25:40. OH GOD WHY?! I have no money left! They aren't doing anything to earn my money!

He's not asking us to give to the poor man on the street holding the sign. He's asking us to give the firsts of our fruits from our income to Him, Him meaning the church and His Kingdom. He's not saying that when we get to the end of the month and have money left over that you should give ALL of that to Him. No, He is saying, to give in to the storehouse and He will provide. Trust Me with your finances and I will bless you. When you are trusting the Lord God, He will provide all you need. Do not worry about whether there will be enough in the end. He will always provide. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34.

That's my problem. It's not that I don't like to tithe, because I LOVE my church and I believe in investing and giving to them. It's that I don't like trusting God to provide when I see that the dollar signs do not add up. When I see that there's no possible way. And then I am smacked up side the head again with scripture from Matthew 19:26, where Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Why do I doubt you Lord? I have seen you show me over and over again that You are in control and that You always provide. And You are able to do the impossible!

I am not telling you readers to make financial decisions on blind faith or to think that God is going to bless your business enormously if you just step out and buy that brand new Canon Mark 3 that is about to take the market. I have learned that trusting God with my own business finances means that I need to pray about decisions before I make them. I need to research a little longer on equipment before I swipe my card. I need to invest in areas that will make my business grow. But I also I have learned that I need to give God the control and be honest with Him and give into the storehouse, so that I can in return be blessed by His goodness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

40 Days....Day 5....The Fame Game

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

A weakness is defined as the state or condition for lacking strength.

So here are my weaknesses unleashed….

I lack the strength to resist chocolate or an ice cold Mountain Dew. I think both will run through my veins for life.

Folding and putting the laundry away…it seems so simple, but with a family my size…you would think it cripples me to fold it and put it all away. I pray for the day when my ALL of my kids will put their own laundry away.

I have the hardest time telling my 5 year old daughter “No!” when she asks me to dance with her to praise music even though she knows that it’s way past her bed time.

My heart hurts when people stare or point at my oldest son’s birthmark instead of asking what it is. People’s ignorance and lack of self-control cease to amaze me and it makes me want to punch them in their teeth.

I struggle with giving God control over my business finances. I trust Him with our personal finances, but when it comes to the photography company, I don’t seek God’s wisdom and guidance as much as I should. I should seek His will before fully committing to a large purchase or pray about a new path.

I don’t set aside time daily to get into God’s Word. There’s no excuse that is great enough to defend why I don’t. Even before I had kids, I wasn’t good at this. I allow the busyness of my world overtake me and I need to learn how to disconnect and reconnect to God’s Word.

I haven’t had a relationship with my mother in over 10 years. There are many days that go by that I don’t even think twice about this absence in my life. However, there are days that I wish I could curl up in her lap, just like I did when I was a child, and hear her voice again or play with her long frail blonde hair.

Recently I learned about some personal medical issues. I went to the ER about a week or so ago and was told that I have to have a hysterectomy. I am only 31 years old; however, the children I have given birth to have taken a toll on my body. I am buying some time by trying some other medical options instead of having surgery, but right now I have to really rely on God to know what to do. I think the hardest thing I am dealing with is the idea that I may never be able to have more children. I can hear you now…”WHAT? You have six kids? Isn’t that enough?” I am content with all of the children God has given me, but the idea not being able to be pregnant again or to give birth one more time makes my heart ache.

I have major trust issues. I can be your best friend in the whole wide world. I would give you the shirt off my back and allow you to come live in my home for as long as you needed. However, I am guarded and protected. I am afraid to let you in because I have been hurt deeply, several times, by the people who are supposed to love me the most…my mom, my dad, my husband, past relationships, friends, and so instead of letting you in....I choose to keep you close enough to love you, but far enough away that I don’t get hurt again.

But remember scripture says, “My grace is sufficient enough” and that “His power is made perfect in our weaknesses” for when I am weak…I am really truly strong.

Friday, March 9, 2012

40 Days....Day 4....Dog spelled backwards

I am totally not a pet person. I am sorry to all you pet lovers out there who are reading this, but I have 6 children and I honestly know that I do not have time to take care of a pet too. Although I would enjoy the company on a walk or would love to have the resounding barking to scare off the crazy people who come knock on my door; I just know that a pet would probably send me into a meltdown. The author of our 40 Day Prosper Prayer Journey is Scarlett Lillian. She has the most adorable little puppy named Rhett. She tells of a story about how her dog sits at her feet and how their sole role in life is to serve their master. Man how I wished my kids would just sit at my feet like a dog sits at their master's feet. I can see them now. I would ask them to speak and give them a treat when they obeyed. Ok, a girl can dream!

In Luke we read about a set of sisters named Martha and Mary who later became friends to Jesus. Martha means 'lady of the house' and Mary means 'wise woman". Many churches refer to their character and actions when referring and teaching the role of a woman in the church.

Luke 10:38-42 "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."

If there is one thing I hope to pass along to my children is the gift of hospitality. If you have ever been to my home, I pray that you were welcomed with open arms, fed well, laughed until your sides hurt and were deeply loved. My husband and I decided long ago that if God blessed us with this home that we were going to use it to glorify Him. We've had people come and stay with us for various different reasons. Some have come for safety, others for shelter, but most all of them for hope.

After readin this scripture, I realize that I am a Martha. It's in my core to serve. I have service driven soul. It's who I am. I am the last one to sit down to eat and the first one to get back up to clean. I enjoy serving my family and anyone who lives in our home. It's almost like I am in this silent groove while I work in the kitchen. As odd as that all sounds, I also use cleaning to work out my frustrations. You can ask any of my friends or any one who has lived in my home and they would say, "You know when something is bothering Jamie because that is when she starts nesting." When I am working through something that has burdened my heart, I go on a huge cleaning spree. I don't know why, but for me, I find peace during those hours and I get a ton accomplished. I don't verbally speak out loud (because then everyone would really think I am crazier than I already am) but I pray and I speak to God about what ever it is that is troubling me. So I know that if Jesus came to my home, I would be a Martha. I would be cleaning and preparing and feeling this natural desire and need to serve Him.

But that being I long in my heart to be a Mary. I pray with everything that I have inside of me that if Jesus ever walked into my home that I would drop everything and just run to His feet and surrendor all and listen. I wished I was more diligent about getting into God's word for personal growth. I prepare weekly for teaching the Children's Church Sunday school lessons; however, I am not good about setting aside time to dig into scripture purely to gain wisdom and understanding for myself. I let the busy day and the personal obligations I have distract me from really putting God first. This 40 days of Prosper Prayer Journey was exactly what I needed. Every morning I get up. I read the chapter of the book that has been assigned for the day and then I research and read the scriptures provided and then I pray. Then I take the time to really think about all that I read and apply it to my life while I go about my life. After my day is over and my kids are in bed, I come back to my blog and write.

I know that I struggle with setting aside time each day to put God first. Day in and day out, I do everything I need to take care of my family and my business. I work hard at being a good multi-tasker and I balance well, but reading this about Martha and Mary makes me realize that I have let my priorities get out of whack! Sometimes even teachers of God's word need a good smack in the face with the truth. I realize and I pray that I become a better student of God's word. I pray that God helps me become more of a Mary in a Martha world.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

40 Days....Day 3....Fear of the Unknown

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."

I can hear the VBS song echo in my head as I recite this verse. For serveral years, I was the director of the summer VBS program at the church where my husband and I served as youth ministers. I would spend several months preparing and planning for one week of service. Let me rephrase that...15 hours of service! It seemed like so much work for such a little bit of time. It reminds me of preparing for a wedding day. You put so much planning and organizing into one day, only to see it gone and over in hours.

This verse, Proverbs 3:5-6, seems so simple to say, but so difficult to apply to my life.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart" Well heart is hurting and damaged and broken. How can I trust you with all my heart when my heart feels like it does? How am I supposed to trust You when I can't even trust the people around me?

"And lean not on your own understanding" Oh God...I know I have a problem with admitting that I need help. I am so quick to just do things on my own rather than seek Your will and Your plan for me. I pray that you will help me look to Your Word for guidance.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Straight God...really? Because right now, my path feels like an obstacle course full of potholes, road blocks, and dead ends.

I realize how sweet this scripture is to me when I put it all together and speak it over and over again. You can't have the second verse with out the first. You can't have a straight path unless you are trusting Him with your whole heart.

I never set out to do photography as a business. I never thought that people would hire me to come share and capture their precious moments. But God did. I remember praying with my husband and asking Him to open or close doors. There were times that I would literally scream and cry because I would work my butt off doing tons of sessions, only to see bills still go unpaid. My husband and I felt like we were treading water in the deep end, praying and hoping for God to send us a life preserver.

About 3 years ago, we began to pray together. I quit my full time job and went back to school to finish my degree. We didn't have a clue how we were going to pay for it or how we were going to even make it month to month. But I knew in my heart that it was time to do this. I walked into the admission's office at Florida State College of Jacksonville. Filled out an application and met with a guidance counselor. She went through my former training and employement. She read that I had been a high school journalism teacher and that I was a photographer. She then handed me a copy of The Campus Voice Newspaper, the college's school publication. She also gave me the contact information for the advisor and then explained to me that they were in need of photographers. She then goes on to tell me that their staff received talent grants for their work and that if I were to be a part full time, that I could get my school paid for.

My stomach felt like it flipped inside out. It was at that moment that God opened a huge door for me and said, "You have trusted me with your whole heart. This is the path that I have prepared for you." For the next two years I was not only the photographer for their newspaper, but was also their Editor-in-Chief. While I was there, I managed to also have two beautiful children and even graduated with academic high honors. Our newspaper flourished and I gained so many opportunities to grow and mold into a better photographer.

Had I not stepped out on faith and trusted my God then, I don't know where I would be today. Sometimes we have to be like Abraham. Abraham was told by God to go. He didn't know where he was going, because God hadn't told him yet. He didn't have a map, but he knew that God would lead him and show him the way. Sometimes we have to seek God's will in places that we wouldn't normally look. We have to allow Him to lead our path and make it straight, but we can't do that without trusting Him with our whole heart.

Now am I saying, quit your full time job and buy that brand new 5DMarkIII that is about to come out? No, but what I am saying is, place yourself in a position to grow and be moldable. Allow yourself to be used by Him. Allow Him to open doors for you and be willing to walk through them when they are opened. And when you are faced with a closed door, seek His will and guidance. He will make your path straight. If it's God's will that your photography hobby becomes a buisness, He will make it very clear. Because as much as it looks glamourous from the outside, there's a lot more that goes into actually owning a company. Owning a successful photography business is more than just taking pretty pictures.

I am still praying about my path. When I decided to go back to school to get my degree, I decided to get my masters in education, not a degree in photography. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about changing my major to graphic design or photography. I pray and I ask God, "Why would you bless me with so many photography related talents and opportunities if you want me to go a different path?" I wonder sometimes if maybe there's something coming in my future or my family's future that I must need to be ready and prepared for and this education degree will be the answer. I don't know and I don't have the answers right now, so I pray and I read God's word and it says in Psalms 27:14, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." So I wait.

Here is a link to one of my favorite articles I wrote and photographed for FSCJ's The Campus Voice Newspaper. I received 2nd place for this photo story! And the best part...I got to take pictures of Tim Tebow when he was still in college.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

40 Days.....Day 2......Ignore the haters

Since I was a little girl, I was told to always try and do my best. Whether I failed or succeeded at something, my dad would always ask, "Did you try your best?" and I would reply, "Yes!" and he would say, "Well that's all that matters." This attitude was instilled and driven into me to continually. I carried this mindset into my young adult years. I was given jobs or responsibilities and no matter what I was faced with, I always pushed through and became the best at what ever it was I was trying to do. It was like I was born to succeed and be a leader.

My first actual attempt at a career was when I worked in the restaurant business. I was hired as a waitress at a restaurant in my hometown. If you have ever worked in the service industry than you know that servers, bus boys, and dishwashers pretty much live at the bottom of the food chain. Day in and day out, I would come in and work my tail off, going above and beyond my job requirements. I felt like if I could prove my worth, than maybe they would promote me and move me up the ladder. Soon, my hard work paid off. I was promoted to assistant manager and then later on to hospitality manager over the whole restaurant. I was then selected amongst the best in the company franchise to travel and open up new store locations. After my first store opening, I was selected to be the lead trainer for our team of openers. I remember feeling so honored because at that time I was only 19-years-old and had only been with the company 6 months and had no formal education or training.

Blessings and promotions continued to pour out as I continued to work harder and harder. However, along the way, I was faced with so many haters and so many difficulties; some personal, some financial, and some spiritual. Satan knows how to attack us and reach our weakest areas. I believe that is how satan's evil plan works. He knows what will pull each one of us away from God. He knows what will cause us to question God's authority and His plan for our life. He knows what will tempt us and what will cause us to stumble; therefore, that is where he attacks us.

I am sure I am going to receive some hate mail after this blog, but I believe that the photography industry has way too much hating going on. So much that it sickens me and makes me not want to call myself a photographer at all. Seasoned photographers aren't open and welcoming to new photographers into the industry. They criticize and bash someone's personal work, not even taking into consideration that they are still learning and training. Remember that photography is an art and every one sees and expresses art differently. I can only speak about myself, but I feel that my photography is an expression of my heart. When you insult it, put it down, or negativity criticize it, you are ripping a piece of my heart away. It reminds of the concept from the movie Mean Girls. Some people are so willing to tear others down, just to make themselves feel better. That's not the way to gain success and in the end, both photographers will be hurt.

I cannot tell you how many times, I am emailed or Facebook messaged and asked about a photography related question. I reply with an answer. The photographer will then reply with, "Thank you so much! No other photographer would even help me or take the time to answer my questions." I want to scream to the experienced photographers out there who do this, "Don't you realize that this knowledge you have is available any where and every where on the Internet." It's public knowledge. With resources like CreativeLive and YouTube, photography skills can be acquired and gained so easily now. The power lies in whether the new photographer puts their newly found knowledge to practice and use it. Would it hurt to take just a couple minutes and befriend this person and answer their questions?

There are other photographers out there who are unwilling to share their locations. This is my own personal opinion, but I believe it's simply because they are too afraid that another photographer might shoot at the same location and do a better job. It's God's green earth for Petesake! Other photographers close their workshops to local photographers because they are worried about competing for clients. Have you seen the size of Jacksonville and its surrounding cities? No one should be hard up for finding clients. We only have so much time we can give to our clients. One photographer alone cannot be the soul wedding or newborn or family photographer and support every client there is in this area. Client loyalty remains no matter who rises in our industry. If we would focus more on fighting to keep the clients we have instead of fighting over the clients that may never come, we would be so much better off.

The mommy in me wants to protect the newbie photographer. I want to take them under my wing and teach them and shield them from all the haters in our industry. Isn't it every photographers goal to give their client breathtaking images? Why not help one another in the process? Our photographer's community goal should be giving all families timeless images that allow them to hang on to every wonderful moment both big and small, no matter who takes them.

To new photographers out there that might be reading this, this industry is about training and perfecting your skills to be the best photographer you can be. Photographers who have been in this industry for awhile are guarded and protective because they have gone through so much to get where they are today. They do not feel like they should just hand you their years of experience in a pretty little perfect Tiffany's Box. Growing a photography business is about investing. Not just investing financially into things like training, equipment, or props, but investing in time! You cannot rush your photography business experience. It takes time to build clients. It takes time to build relationships. It takes time to build trust. These things cannot happen overnight. Whether you have 100 fans or 10,000 fans, who you are and what you stand for as a company will go much further than the images you take or the numbers of people you reach on your fan page. What people say about the way you conduct your business, the manner in which you treat your clients, the process of handling unforeseen challenges or miscommunications....will speak volumes to the potential clients who are still to come.

As I have become a more seasoned and experienced photographer, I decided I would never be this way. If just one photographer would have helped me in the beginning, I would have saved thousands of dollars on wasted crap and equipment. If someone would answer my emails or my questions, it would have even helped my marriage simply because my husband and I wouldn't have struggled with making decisions about the business. If someone would have invested just a little time in showing me a new concept or allowing me to be an assistant, I would have been able to serve my clients better. I believe in the power of "Paying it Forward". There's a movie based on this concept. That instead of returning a favor to someone who has done something nice to you, that you pass it on and do something nice for someone else. This should be practiced in our industry!

Look at your photography business as if it were a piece of coal. The refining process is part of what makes it into a beautiful diamond. It's not to be imitated or look like someone else's. It's supposed to be unique and a reflection of you. God is working on you and your photography business right now. He is using things in your life to shape and mold you and it into His beautiful masterpiece. Try your hardest to rise above all in our industry. Rise above the negativity and seek all opportunities to grow.

*****This is an image from when I first began in photography and one from recent. I thought I would share and show you how much I have learned and grown. It shows in my images and in my heart.

Jess and Matt fun!

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