Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year of Quitting

It's the last day of 2016. It's been a hard year locally, nationally, and globally. It's also been a hard year for me personally: in parenting, in marriage, in personal struggles, and in painful grief. There were *some* good moments this year, and I'm tenaciously clinging to them so I don't throw out the entire year.

I started this blog post with a plan to rehash all the bad so I could also note the good and attempt to find praise in the pain. But I really don't want to drag myself back to January by way of fall then summer then spring, and I'm sure you don't want to go on that ride either.

I do want to view 2016 from a bird's eye rise-above-it perspective, so I am looking at the year with a focus on progress. More specifically, progress through quitting. In no special order, here are the things I quit in 2016 - some good and some bad.
*I quit saying yes to all proposals to hustle.
*I quit Christmas cards. (I may send Happy New Year cards instead, but I quit deciding that until next year.)
*I quit sending immediate text responses, opting to pause at least a few moments before most replies.
*I quit underselling myself and raised my photo session rates.
*I quit trying to please church leaders.
*I quit big holiday decorations and went with the minimal.
*I quit worrying about the cost of traveling and said yes to being with family when their milestone events called for a visit.
*I quit letting fear dictate and finally launched my website ( where I'm posting devotions weekly and housing my photography portfolio.
*I quit worrying what people would think if they read my personal blog ( and went public with it. [And it hasn't killed me... yet!]
*I quit nursing a cut from an old friend when loss stung deeper than the cut.
*I quit wondering WHAT IF about that tattoo and finally got it!
*I quit sitting in pain and fought for my marriage.
*I quit being a stand off and showed up for people I love even when their beliefs were a contrast to all my regimental Pharisee rules.
*I quit wondering what anyone else but Jesus would say when I spoke at my friends' wedding.
*I quit sitting on the sidelines and said yes to skin in the game.
*I took the bite out of a specific insult and turned it into a compliment, letting my raging mercy flag fly.
*I quit waiting to be invited and decided to do the inviting instead, forming a book study group of women who challenged me to Live Loved.
*I quit making excuses for a small group commitment and said yes to a Two/42 group with friends.
*I quit expecting forgiveness to appear magically and began the hard work of repairing wounds and getting help by starting counseling again.
And tomorrow, the first day of 2017, I am quitting one more thing: Facebook. I can't fully withdraw from it because of business usage, so I'm limiting it to one day a week. As much as I love the connections I make there and the opportunities it's given me (our annual pillow fight day or caroling for a cancer patient or making a friend in the airport), the Facebook negativity isn't worth those connections right now.

As best I can, I'm quitting the negative Republican/Democrat political posts. I'm quitting the hustle of more more MORE from acquaintances who want me to buy/sell/launch/promote in a type of relationship that isn't truly relating. I'm quitting the lie that I need a platform to become a writer, instead opting for a couch where I can become a friend.

I'm ready for the fresh and simple hope and encouragement that 2017 *might* bring. Of course, it might also bring pain and loss and fear again. If so, at least I know I can survive it. I've made it through 1993, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2013, and now - blessedly - 2016.

Happy new year (and happy quitting!) to all of you!
via Glennon Doyle Melton

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in Review

January started with the waters receding after major December floods in St. Louis.

Personally, January was marked by raging mercy and a promotion for Dan. That promotion set the tone for the year to come in more ways than one.

The highlight of February was the first weekend, when Katie and I went on our church's youth retreat called WinterBlast. It was a fun (tiring!) weekend.

My third Holy Yoga retreat started March off with a bang. I thoroughly enjoyed the photography sessions I had and the women (and one man!) who became more than clients to me: they are now my friends!

I also spent a glorious March day with my friend Cindy as we went on a photography hunt in a field of thousands of daffodils.

In March, the kids and I took a spring break road trip to my hometown Marietta, GA. It was my high school's 50th birthday party.

I also had a senior photo session with my niece Peyton.

April was a book launch team (Looking for Lovely), the annual International Pillow Fight Day, and an earthquake of a conference by author Dan Allender that Dan and I attended.

I also had 3 photo shoots in April, plus our own extended family photos in celebration of my mother-in-law's 70th birthday. (April also meant her big birthday party.)

May was a daytime Cardinals game with my friend, a visit to the Botanical Garden (and LOTS of beautiful photos for future devotions yet to be written), a senior portrait session, hail damage, a solo trip to Arlington Cemetery, a business trip with Dan to Las Vegas, the end of the school year, and a mother-daughter art retreat.

We started June with a trip to Asheville, NC on the way to my niece's high school graduation in Pinehurst, NC.

Almost as soon as we got home, Katie and I left for a five day church youth summer camp.

Right after that, Katie became a TEENAGER. Eeeek! That was followed by our church's baptism blowout party, and the start of a deep funk for me.

June further unraveled with me and the kids sick on the couch, followed by a mouse (or mice) invading our house. We clung desperately to happy by adventuring out to Knockerball as a family, just before our piano arrived.

This brings us to July and some summer adventures: fireworks on the 4th (this year at Innsbrook), our annual day at Six Flags, graduation parties, and camps. Dan's job had become even more high pressure with a larger time commitment. At the end of July, we traveled to Kansas City (on fumes) for the wedding of our friends Brad and Andy.

August started with one last summer adventure with friends to Anheuser Busch's Warm Springs Ranch.

The Olympics found us on the couch a lot, being inspired by the world's best athletes. School started back up, and I flew to New York City to help my sister move into her new home.

August ended with another trip: this time, Dan and I flew to North Carolina to celebrate my brother-in-law Wally's military retirement.

September marked the beginning of the Mizzou football season as Dan and I escaped on day trips to CoMo for the games.

September is also when I waved the white flag and started seeing a counselor again. Right after that, our friend Sean died and we're still struggling to grasp the loss.

In early October, Dan and I took another trip - this time to New York City to celebrate my sister's 50th birthday.

October included more photo sessions, fall break, more Mizzou games, camping, and having coffee with an author whose book deepened my faith and changed my perspective.

The end of October brought the 20th anniversary of my brother Jackson's death, and I marked the day by finally getting the tattoo I've been planning for years.

Jackson started wrestling at the end of October. We had another funeral to attend, another Mizzou game, and we sputtered into Halloween with hardly a fall decoration on display. (I felt drained, y'all.)

November's election just about did me in, as well as the rest of the country. Thankfully, I had some distractions to keep me moving: more photo sessions, lots of Katie event (a trip to MOYIG in Jefferson City...

...a smashed iTouch screen, science project, and Metro8 performance where she was selected first chair), a last Mizzou game, and a Blues game to celebrate Dan's sister's 40th birthday. Whew! We made it to Thanksgiving. Just barely.

Our family attended our first ever wrestling tournament at the start of December. Dan and I were in desperate need of connection with each other, so we had an adventure day with a St. Louis city scavenger hunt.

I made my last trip of the year, back to North Carolina to see our niece Hannah graduate from college.

Katie and I attended a Christmas concert, an ice storm hit St. Louis and wrecked lots of plans and property, and we finally had our siding repaired. (Remember that hail storm back in May? Yep. It took us THAT long to get the work done.)

Dan and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a lunch date and a visit to a new float spa in the area.

Christmas Eve services at church involved bell ringing, hearkening back to the 2010 services that will forever be our favorite.

And, there you have it: 2016 in a nutshell. I didn't describe the ick in extreme detail, because I do want to honor privacy. Plus, if I open that can of worms I'm not sure the lid will fit when it's time to shelve it. There are parts I want to forget, but I know forgetting only results in repeating the same patterns. So I'll remember 2016, but I'm hoping the good stuff outshines the pain that 2016 brought with it.

I'm praying 2017 brings rest and joy and hope to you and to my family, too.

Friday, December 23, 2016

21 Years and All Grown Up

Our marriage celebrates its 21st birthday today. It has finally come to legal fruition. It has all the rights and privileges of an American adult: the ability to vote, drink, and buy tobacco. (It will have to wait 4 more years for the privilege of renting a car.)

Like any living being I know aged 21 years, our marriage has gone through typical growing pains. It has experienced the first years of learning to talk and walk and feed itself. Like a toddler, it had to learn the boundaries of You and I, then the boundaries of We. It went from gross motor skills to fine-tuning the rhythm of life shared with someone else.

It assumed bogus autonomy around age 5, when it acted like all the things of life had already been lived and there was nothing new to learn. It got a little bossy-pants attitude that was quickly squelched in year 8 with the arrival of a child. Parenting stripped away the "ME" parts of marriage and replaced it with "WE" as both husband and wife realized the only way they'd make it out of parenting alive was by leaning on each other.

By age 9 almost all of the husband's immediate in-laws had been wiped out, leaving the wife shipwrecked. The marriage was the life preserver that kept her afloat during the worst Perfect Storm.

The wife learned true dependence in the marriage's early adolescent years, since year 10 marked the beginning of her stay-at-home career. Most 10-year-olds have learned and earned enough trust in ten years to spread their wings and test their flight just ever so slightly. This was true for the marriage, too. Both partners felt able and safe enough to entrust their futures to each other. He trusted her with the raising of their children and she trusted him as provider of their livelihood. The marriage nestled in safety as a second hatchling was added to their nest in the 12th year.

Most new teens experience a bit of upheaval when 13 hits, and the marriage was no exception. Year 13 marked a medical diagnosis and a spiritual awakening that continued into year 14 and beyond. That awakening kept blossoming in the 16th year and culminated in a father/daughter baptism.

The late teen years involved a new stage as the wife worked outside the home and the marriage had newly adjusted boundaries involving lots of solo parenting to accommodate weekend work shifts.

Balance was difficult and by the end of the second decade in the life of the marriage, changing job titles helped the marriage "find itself" as all early 20-somethings are wont to do.

You'd think by age 21, the marriage would have itself all figured out. It would know its likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, potholes and speed bumps to avoid and answers to pesky questions like "Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?"

Yes, some of those things are clarified in a way they've never been before. But some of them are murkier than ever before because the two people in custody of the marriage are living and breathing beings too.

But one thing is certain. There is only ONE answer to the question, "Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?"

TOGETHER. It's as simple as that.


Please raise a toast to 21 years of saying "I do" and "Yes" and "What do YOU think?" and "Can we..." and "What if..." and "I'm sorry" and a lifetime of "I love yous."

Dan, I love being your wife. During the triumphs and the tragedies, whether we're laughing or irritating the crap out of each other: I love you and I love us. Our marriage is worth fighting for, and I love having you by my side in the trenches.

Thank you for teaching me the value of going where the wind blows us and being open to adventures. You make every one of our adventures better! Happy 21st anniversary.


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