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Pacific Northwest | The Mabi to West

In July, we traveled to Yakima, Washington with two of our closest friends, Cody and Amy, to film a documentary for one of our clients, Palmer Home for Children. We needed to have all of our gear, so we decided to drive the film van instead of flying. We made several stops along the way. The first leg included The Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. One of my favorite things about South Dakota is that the entire state smelled like honey. It was beautiful and amazing.

We detoured to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. I can’t imagine how people felt when they saw this monstrosity hundreds of years ago. We were in awe when we were  driving and saw it appear in the distance. We spent one day in Seattle and saw the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the filthy gum wall, ate some great seafood and fabulous ice cream. On the way to Yakima we saw great views of Mt. Rainier and got super close to a huge elk in Stevens Canyon.

When I think of Washington state, it never would have crossed my mind that 108 degrees is a normal summer temperature, but it is. We spent 3 days in the Yakima Valley surrounded in smothering temperatures. Dry heat vs. humid heat is irrelevant when you’re in triple digits — it’s still miserable. However, we were able to see some fabulous sites and wade in the Yakima river on my 31st birthday. The water temperature was a stark contrast to the air. The river flows off the mountain and was around 63 degrees. (For comparison, the water in Destin, FL is about 85 degrees during the same time of year.)

We made our way south to head home and traveled through Oregon and Idaho. We stayed in Twin Falls, ID and caught some fabulous views of the Snake River the next day. On our way to Yellowstone, I saw on Instagram where fellow photographers and Southerners, Tera and Wes Wages, were also headed to Yellowstone. We met at Old Faithful and chatted for a bit. It’s crazy how small the world can seem sometimes! Yellowstone was an awesome experience overall — the springs, the geysers, the wildlife, all of it! I was really holding out to see a moose, but alas, only elk and bison appeared.

We traveled to Santa Fe the next day. A little backstory: Josh and I camped our way to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon. At the end of our trip we stayed in Santa Fe. We ate at a lovely restaurant, The Pink Adobe, and just had to go back. It was just as glorious as we remembered it.

In nine days, we traveled 6,250 miles, covered 16 states and filmed one documentary. It was beautiful, breathtaking, incredible, marvelous and a little exhausting — and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We’re so blessed to have had this experience. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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Roxie & Claude | Wedding | Tupelo, Mississippi Wedding Photographer

Every wedding I’m a part of is magical and beautiful. I can honestly say that I have loved every one — even the ones in 100* heat I love in their own way! However, I can’t imagine a more perfect way to have ended the 2013 wedding season than with Roxie and Claude’s barn chic nuptials. It was a cold November day, but everyone was amazing. The energy throughout the day was full of love and light.

Guests arrived to a fun, modern bluegrass band from northeast Mississippi and were encouraged to grab a drink from the bar while they waited for the wedding to begin. Roxie’s dad had a medical condition that confined him to a wheelchair, so her brother gladly walked her down the aisle in his stead. Roxie and Claude were literally surrounded by friends and family under a beautiful tree on her family’s farm. It was one of the sweetest unions that I’ve witnessed that was many years in the making. Everyone danced the night away to a rocking band and took breaks to warm up at one of the many bonfires near the dance floor.

As I made my way through the images in the following weeks, I was so excited for the lovely photos I captured of Roxie with her dad as well as the ones with her paternal grandmother. I had no idea how cherished they truly were until I received the tragic news that Roxie’s father passed away three days before Christmas, and her grandmother passed three days later. There are no words sufficient during times like that. My heart ached for this beloved family and what they’ve grown to mean to me over the years as their photographer and friend.

During all the heartache and pain, it has been truly humbling and awe-inspiring to see how they’ve grown and continue to push forward and help others and make a their lives mean something. It’s been precious to see Roxie and Claude’s love grow even stronger as they hold each other and make more than the best out of this life together. They don’t settle for anything. They push to be the best they can be and make their families proud. I know Mr. Perry and Mrs. Edith couldn’t be more proud of the lives they’ve helped shape. The families of love and light.

Assistant photographer credit: Jennifer Hudson

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Roxie & Claude | Engagement | Tupelo, Mississippi Wedding Photographer

It’s been a wild two months in our sleepy little town. I had several blogs ready to post in April, but got sidetracked. On April 28, an EF3 tornado damaged and destroyed much of Tupelo. It basically began in my neighborhood (Bristow Acres), skipped over to historic Joyner and continued north from there. Our house had relatively minor damage, but we did lose 23 trees in our yard. We lost every tree in the back yard and several in the front.

The landscape has drastically changed, and it’s taking some getting used to. Some areas of town are still a huge shock to see, even 8 weeks later. One of those places is at Roxie’s grandmother’s house. That is where these engagement photos were taken. Many of these gorgeous, old trees are no longer standing.

Life has been unpredictable for these two precious newlyweds. But it’s been a pleasure to see their love grow in spite of life’s obstacles. It’s been a blessing to see God’s strength and grace through them. Roxie and Claude, your passion for life and love inspires me regularly. I’m lucky to know you and honored to have been a part of this special time in your lives.

Assistant photographer credit: Jennifer Hudson

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Nine years of recovery – nine years living in the light

9years

I posted a similar photo to this one on this day last year. The reason I post it again this year is because I find it so bizarre that it happened twice: two years in a row I just happened to purchase milk that expires on my sobriety date. We were out of milk, and I coincidentally purchased milk that expires on April 13? Yes, and I think it’s pretty cool.

When my parents took me to treatment on April 13, 2005, they had many questions and concerns regarding success rates and the likelihood of their baby getting better. It was far more common to see individuals with multiple relapses than those with several years of uninterrupted sobriety.

Luckily, however, I was able to find and surround myself with those with successful roads to recovery — and some unsuccessful people from whom I also learned much. This didn’t mean that every person had uninterrupted sobriety, but God provided me with several divine people that helped me stay sober. Some of these people I still know. Some were just passing through. Each made an impact on my life and where I am today.

The world of addiction and recovery is plagued with tales of heartache and devastation. Often, the road to recovery is paved with good intentions, relapse and death. From what I can tell, there are not any accurate statistics on the success of recovery. I know that around my 5 year mark, out of approximately 30 other patients, three of us were still sober, and sadly, one of the 30 died in a drug-related accident. I haven’t kept up with the three to know if they are still sober or not, but it’s pretty accurate insight for those of you unfamiliar with alcoholism and addiction.

I often say that I’m unable to drink responsibly, so I don’t do it at all. It doesn’t bother me if other people do it, but I’m not a social drinker — I am an alcoholic. I don’t read many blogs, but I try to keep up with Glennon Melton’s Momastery blog. She’s very open and honest about her road to recovery, and it’s inspiring.  If you’ve ever struggled with addiction in your life — whether for yourself or a family member — you can read one of Glennon’s most recent posts to have your eyes and heart opened to a raw, direct interpretation of it.

I know many people that aren’t vocal about that part of their lives, and I respect and honor that. But for me, being that I’m an open and honest person to a fault, I can’t help but share. Many times I think, regretfully, that I’ve officially shared too much information. Then someone contacts me to tell me about their struggle, or the struggle of a family member, and I think that maybe my struggle has helped someone. And that makes it worth it to me. That makes me thankful for my addiction and my recovery.

So, on this day — this day that marks NINE years of sobriety for me — I humbly thank God for saving me.

On this day — as we enter Holy Week on Palm Sunday, a time we reflect on resurrection and restoration — I humbly thank God for saving me.

Nine years ago life seemed very dark, bleak, and unforgiving. Today is full of light, love, and forgiveness. My cup runneth over.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Anne + Rusty | Married | Tupelo, Mississippi Wedding Photographers

Anne and Rusty were married on a warm, August day last year. The rain tried to hold us down, but, luckily, broke off early in the day. The sunny, clear skies provided a lovely backdrop for fun and dancing on the Park Heights rooftop. These two love to have fun together and truly enjoy life. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them in the future!

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