One year ago I announced my retirement from travelling for weddings.
Ultimately, it meant retirement from photography as a whole. I took a handful of weddings this year because I knew the couples & they were all local events, but other than that I was serious about closing up shop.
At the time it was the next right thing for me. I was relieved when I stepped off the plane and hit publish on the post the Lord had inspired on my way home from my last wedding of 2017. I know I can only be committed to one big thing at a time, and while I’d committed to my new job in March, I’d been double-committing with photography, too.
It wasn’t a good pace of life.
“When God invites you to plant roots…,”
I wrote, as my fb memories kindly reminded me this past weekend.
“You need to stop moving in order for them to grow deep.”
This last year has been exactly that. The invitation to be firmly planted in the Lord was met with the commitment to stay, my word for both 2017 & 2018.
Stay still, stay here, stay committed.
It helped me remember that the Lord was at work in my life when things began to get real hard. For a number of reasons, chronic stress became a big thing. Depression became part of my story.
I’ve spoken about it before online, but the reality was that I started wearing waterproof mascara because I was crying all the time. Huge projects and important deadlines at work were stressing me out, causing me to consider whether or not I was cut out for agency life.
For a while all I wanted to do was leave my job, but it was so muddied in my mind because it meant finding a way out from the thing I had closed my business for. The thing that led me back to Langley, that had a hand in helping me meet my husband.
I didn’t want to be seen as a typical millennial – giving up when the going gets tough – but even before I knew about my depression, I knew I couldn’t keep my life going like it was. The fog, the darkness, the constant frustration. Something had to change.
It started by taking a medical leave, as per my doctor’s orders. I saw improvement in my depression during my two months away from work. Even though I got married in that time, the release of work stress made all the difference. Every two weeks I checked in with my doctor and my counsellor, doing the work to train my brain to think differently.
By the time the wedding rolled around the fog had lifted enough that I actually got to enjoy and be present to this day I’d looked forward to for so long. What a gift.
My return to work was just a few weeks after we got married. To sum it up, I didn’t do very well.
I was crying into my husband’s chest every night after only four hour work days. My energy was drained, leaving no margin for the things I knew I needed to do to help my mental health. I felt physically ill while at work and it took hours to shake that feeling every day.
“It’s like food poisoning,”
my counsellor told me, a couple weeks into my return.
“You got sick from it and it’s too soon to stomach it again. It doesn’t mean the work is bad, but your body is trying to protect you from this illness happening again.”
So I did what I could. I learned to use more tools to help my mental health. I started waking up earlier to ensure a slow start to my day. I cooked even when I was tired. I started writing a bit more.
My role had changed upon return, so there was less stress in my workload, but the burden was still there. The walls I’d worked to take down during my time off went straight back up, hardening my heart. I couldn’t keep going like that, but what else would I do? Where else would I go?
The commitment I’d made to stay weighed heavy on me.
Around that time I was gifted a book I’d heard of but not yet read called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I started relearning how to practice thankfulness in specific, detailed, poignant ways. I cried at the beauty of this book, the heart song of desires from years past sung over me as I turned each page.
I was desperate for the transformation in myself that I saw happen in Ann. I wanted – needed – a miracle to get me through each day. Jesus was close by but the fog obscured everything. I couldn’t see. I didn’t know how to get to the “other side” of this depression.
The lesson learned, the line that had me openly weeping, the beginning of my heart softening?
“Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.”
I remembered a friend who seemed to be showing her world how to do what Ann does – expressing thanks in the small things – and told her she reminded me of Ann. I asked if she’d read this book.
“Firstly, that is such a high compliment. I’m so grateful,” she wrote back. “And yes – I owe her the beginning of this journey of mine from summer 2012. I also love that she’s Canadian!”
That response led to a furiously fast texting conversation with this friend across the country about how to navigate this club for depression I hadn’t asked for membership in. We talked about waiting for the miracle. Receiving the little things. Staying soft.
She offered pieces of advice, words of encouragement, and then – a podcast.
Episode 48: Receive the Waiting Time.
In it Emily draws from a piece of scripture, the same scripture the Lord had given to me during our company’s team quarterly meeting just a few weeks earlier. At our quarterlies everyone asks God what’s next for the company & then we come together to share what we heard. It’s amazing how aligned everyone’s piece of the story is.
I’d read 1 Corinthians 3 and applied it to our team and what God was saying was next for us, but this podcast reference honed in on a part I’d seemingly brushed past with all the other good things that chapter held:
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants not the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
1 Corinthians 3:5-7
I was in the bathroom getting ready for work when I listened to it. I could tell this nine minute podcast had just spoken something from the Lord into my heart. I put my makeup down and picked up my coffee to take a long, slow, thoughtful sip.
I felt like God was saying,
“It doesn’t matter what you do for work. All that matters is remembering who you’re doing it for.”
I’d already been talking to Brandon about going back to photography, but how?
How do I re-enter the world I’d left?
How do I justify leaving this job that helps build God’s kingdom on earth?
How could I build the Kingdom with just my business again?
How could it be better than what I was currently doing?
In the midst of my heart torn between two good places, not knowing how my health could keep handling one of them but not knowing how I’d actually do the other, it felt like God was saying I should choose the one I want.
It felt like the invitation to my next right thing.
But more questions came just as quickly as the invitation had arrived in my heart.
How could I leave the agency?
Wasn’t this supposed to be my lifetime career?
Would it look like giving up?
Wasn’t I supposed to stay?
The next week my manager checked in with me as a follow up to a previous conversation about setting goals. I wasn’t ready to set any goals because I honestly couldn’t think that far ahead, but he was pressing for more.
He needed to know I was committed, one way or the other. At the end of our conversation he paused and said,
“I have this feeling that God wants you to know He sees how hard you tried all those times before. It’s not giving up if you leave now.”
His words had me in tears.
It felt like permission straight from the Lord himself to leave.
It felt like the invitation.
The last time the Lord invited me to leave a salaried job – well, it led to this.
This journey of becoming gold.
The recording of history, of days that can never be repeated. The sharing of small moments that make the ordinary days feel full, big moments we use as a stake in the ground to mark time as “before” or “after” in our lives, & the in-between moments we don’t know what to do with just yet.
So here I am, not picking up where I left off but embracing this as the next right thing.
A new, old thing.
I’m coming out of retirement.
Yes, I will travel for your wedding.
I will travel for you.
Plus a whole slew of other things the Lord & I are dreaming up! What a time to be alive, I tell ya!
Thanks for your support. Thanks for reading all this.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
PS. If you’re ready to inquire about your wedding… well, now’s the time.
Contact me here. I can’t wait to meet you.