This June marks our 5-year anniversary for our business. They say that the first five years are the hardest and I would have to agree. We never knew what our lives would look like when we decided to take what was once a hobby turn it into our full-time business venture. At the time, I was still in college and we were renting a house. We had two kids and pretty much lived off of our student loans. Can I get an amen! Before making the big leap, I had been working as a sales associate for an electronics store, which gave me an incredible three years of experience and forced me to face any fears I might have had surrounding sales and business. I am incredibly thankful for all the events, people, & experiences that led me/us to where we are today. It can only be explained by a sovereign God who is constantly using us to write His story. It truly is not about us. A lesson I have learned and will continue to learn through my journey here on earth. It took a great deal of faith and probably naivety to do what we did. “It will all work out,” I told Katie when I left my job and didn’t have much more than a few pennies to our name. Not kidding. We were poor and yet felt incredibly rich, we had each other and were moving in the direction of our dreams. We knew what we wanted, to spend our early years of marriage raising our children and trying our best to follow the direction we felt God was pushing us towards.
Growing up on a farm, I only knew having my parents around me and while they weren’t hovering over our every move, we felt safe and loved – often from a distance. This was healthy and it allowed me and my brothers the freedom to explore and create experiences for ourselves. Today, all of us are following our earliest passions, what I believe we were created for. For me, I wanted to replicate my childhood for my own children. How could I give them the life I had, or better, without buying a farm? I was not made for farming, ranching maybe. It was my prayer growing up as I would spend countless hours riding the lawnmower around the yard, one of the less strenuous jobs that come with living on a large dairy farm. It was during these talks with God that I would share with him the longings of my heart; the noise somehow made it easier to think. Through my ramblings, I believe the holy spirit interceded on my behalf and made sense of it all. I was a boy desperately trying to plan out my life – be in control. How foolish I was and yet, in His mercy, God has answered ALL of my prayers. If only I had written down my selfish requests. (This is something I have started doing and it remarkable how faithful God is in our prayers.) I truly don’t know how I could live a life without reflecting all the marvelous things he has done in my life and in the lives of those around me. My mustard seed faith as a child was all he needed, even that I cannot take credit for.
Over the course of the first few years, I finally graduated from college after seven years and several transfers. I was done! We were able to purchase a home, only by the grace of God which was also an answer to prayer. In 2012, my grandfather passed away. It was unexpected and it forever changed the course of our lives as he was my dad’s business partner, best friend, and confidant. Life on the farm changed and with it came blessings that we still don’t fully understand. He was able to meet our fourth child, Joren, whose name is an homage to his legacy; farmer. It is an absolute certainty that we will lose those we love, but our response to loss is what makes all the difference. I know that my grandfather loved Jesus and put his faith and trust in the Lord. Even when he was in pain he longed to be Home. I will never forget the moments spent when all our family held hands and prayed around his failing body. A final photograph of him holding his great grandson is a lasting reminder of how fragile and unexpected life can be and is a testament to our spiritual heritage. Through it all, God has used it for good.
“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:10
We have learned to wait on the Lord and put our trust in him, yet all the while working out what he has put before us. Often my perfectionism has gotten in the way of His Grace in my life and I have spent hours trying to learn everything I could about all the things necessary to run a business and be a profitable photographer. I have made so many mistakes and wasted so much time comparing myself to others and coveting their success – all the while missing the small blessings that God has put before me. He doesn’t call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful. It has little to do with Facebook likes, Instagram followers, publications, money in the bank, WPPI Awards or balance sheets and yet so much of the last five years has been consumed with these things. I have turned blessings into idols.
What is the point of having the life you always wanted and yet never quite being happy with where you’re at? Some of this is just me, my brokenness, and yet some is just the beast of living in our culture and being a small business owner. We always want to do better, performing SWOTs every quarter and wanting to perfect ourselves, our craft and our business into a well-oiled machine – all the while still having a life. Creating oneself into a brand can be all-consuming and yet as a Christ-follower we’re called to die to ourselves; this one of the many conflicts that come with living in a fallen world. It comes naturally to want to point to ourselves and say, “Look at how great we are!” But in all reality we feel like we’re not good enough, that at times we’re not worth it. Similarly, pride can rear its ugly head in the opposite direction and tell us that we are the greatest. Neither are true. This tension, this balance is where we try to live – reflecting the creator and not the created. We all worship something and often it is ourselves. Often our focus is to draw attention to us, either through self-pity or pride, but that was not why we were created. Our hearts were made for something so much more beautiful than all that we surround ourselves with. My hope and joy need to be in the glory of His son, not in the blessings he has given me. I rise to worship Him not to check my email. (A real struggle for my people-pleasing heart.) I yearn to please others, often neglecting whom God has called me to love first, Himself. It is sobering to utter those words and yet I am ashamed of it. I have been given a life that many people dream of and still a portion of my heart is never satisfied. I spend my days grumbling about how my office isn’t big enough or if only I had a bigger house & we didn’t have six children … it is ugly, sinful.
I digress is stating that I am forgiven and I am a HUGE work in progress. By God’s grace, I am grateful for a beautiful life surrounded by precious little people, a loving wife, gracious friends, a caring body of believers, and trusting clients who have granted us the privilege of capturing their precious memories. We are thankful and we wouldn’t be where we are today without all of you!
To anyone reading this, I encourage you to seek after the Lord and His will for your life. This world is not our home and all we have been given is a blessing. May our lives always point back to Him in all that we do, whether it be in cleaning toilets (a job I had in high school), mothering/fathering children, being an employee or running a small business. We are looking forward to what the next five years will bring, the trials, triumphs, and failures. May our faith remain steadfast in our Holy God who is sovereign over all things and continues to shape and mold us into the image of his son, Jesus.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28