Hello there, friend.
Although we don’t know each other, we have a few minutes in this borrowed space to share with you a bit of our story, and hope that you walk away with the gift of perspective. We so frequently lose it ourselves, we can’t help but thinking that we aren’t the only ones. So… if you will oblige us, take a deep breath (no, really… do it), clear your mind, and follow us on this little adventure.
We recently got an email from a woman inquiring about one of our next workshops. We love how open some people are in these emails- they will pour out their story simply because they were asked the question, “why?” This dear soul said something to the effect that she had “wasted” many years of her life being a wife to her husband and a mother to her children, and that she was ready to stop focusing on them and start focusing on her one passion: wedding photography.
We sat there stunned, not quite knowing how to respond. Our first comment to each other was, “Well, if she thinks marriage and children make a wasted life, she’s going to hate our workshop!” We couldn’t help but chuckle remembering that our kids were at our last workshop. Micah, our 9-year-old son, taught a section on the first night, and much of our workshop is devoted to the importance of telling a good story with your personal life.
She had wasted her life on her husband and children? We are a husband and wife, raising three children. We are parents. We have spent days and months and years laughing, dreaming, making babies, watching those babies grow and learn what the sky is and what ice cream is and what love is. Each day for the past 12 years we have been fighting the good fight of marriage, screaming at each other in the moments where the other one has destroyed us- saying the words you don’t include in your vows, like “f**k you!” or “this is over,” or “I can’t forgive you for that,” apologizing, doing the costly work of forgiving, weeping, burying those we loved most, giving our infant CPR as his heart stops in the back of our car and we race to the hospital.
We have lived gloriously on mountaintops and the darkest of valleys, and we still go to sleep at night side-by-side, one being the big spoon and the other one being the little. We are giving our lives to our marriage and our children, and those efforts are anything but a waste in our minds. To love without expecting anything in return. To forgive even when you feel like you have the right to hold a grudge forever. To stay. To build something real and big and powerful with roots growing deep down into the soil of the heart. That is an expression of God himself, of heaven breaking through to earth.
So we want to pose a question to you.
Friend, what are you wasting your life on? What are you giving your time, energy, thought, affection, money, body, soul, and strength to that doesn’t deserve it? Have you embraced this wedding photography industry and its popularity contest as the “end-all”, and lost sight of the importance of family, in-person relationships, and living a good story?
A few years ago we came face to face with death. And in losing one of our dearest loved ones, we had the realization of something… the staggering statistic you may also find shocking. Did you know 10 out of 10 people die?!? Well. We didn’t. Or at least we weren’t living like it. Without any perspective of the meaning of our lives or our own expiration dates, we went about wasting our life on the hamster wheel of the wedding photography industry. No, the images weren’t a waste. The couples were not a waste, they were the redeeming part. But we had taken this gift of being self-employed wedding photographers, added to it a dash of pride, a pinch of self-loathing, a quarter cup of blog-stalking, and a half teaspoon of fame, and we had the recipe for a life without perspective and purpose. Just as junk food makes you fat while not satisfied, so it was with our search- we wanted more. More blog comments, more people thinking we were awesome, more facebook likes on our business page, more weddings being published on wedding blogs or in wedding magazines, more workshop attendees, more gear, more money, more attention, more weddings, more, more, more. So that suddenly, the kids and the marriage were a bit of a pain because sometimes they interfered with the “more” agenda. We were too busy submitting to wedding blogs to help the kids with homework, too busy Instagram-ing them to push them on the swings, and too busy trying to book everyone who came to us we forgot to ask each other, “Hey, how are you?”
Don’t get us wrong. None of these things are inherently “bad” in their own right, and neither is wedding photography. We write this to you as wedding photographers who are on social media, and have received attention in the industry. But we watched a loved one gasping for breath on his death bed, and in that moment he didn’t stop to say, “Hey, do I have any new facebook messages??” And when our baby’s heart stopped and he wasn’t breathing and was limp in our arms, we didn’t ask each other, “How many comments did we get on that last blog post?” American Photo magazine recently named us one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world for 2013. But you can sure as hell bet that the next time our baby has to take an ambulance ride, we aren’t going to bring the copy of that issue to the hospital to keep us safe. The next time we have a rip-roaring fight in our marriage and roll away from each other that night as we sleep, we won’t go grab the issue to hold us tight and keep us warm. If we are living for that, we are wasting our life on something that just won’t be worth it in the end.
For now, we will gladly “waste” our lives loving well, spending our lives on the pursuit of perspective, of meaning, of the supernatural and the messy, of the beauty in the broken, of the stories that are honest and right and true where love wins in the end. We invite you to join us on the journey of not wasting your life on the small, empty things… in order to waste it on the big, forever things.
– Jeremy and Ashley
Our “What I Have to Say” Wednesday series features established photographers and artists with messages they just can’t keep inside. Authentically and honestly, our writers share words of wisdom to challenge, encourage, and inspire.