One week ago at this moment, I was on a hillside in Georgia, surrounded by some of the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever been blessed to know.
We sat together on sunny lawns and wandered around the lake, just soaking in the first warm, tip-toeing hints of autumn. We sipped tea and coffee late into the night as we mustered up the courage to whisper-share our big dreams. And we sang with abandon inside the dim chapel, and later asked each other what it was we felt God calling us to do with our lives, with our gifts and talents, our time and our passions.
For the third year, I went to the Pursuit 31 Conference at WinShape Retreat, and for the third year, I felt as if I were surrounded by long-lost soul mates. Over the past three years, and again last week, these women have hugely impacted the course of my life, and the way I want to live my life.
Here’s just a little peek into it all, thanks to the incredible TréCreative Film & Photo.
Does anyone else have the same feeling I have — that it was April, you blinked, and now you’re staring down the last days of summer?!
Some people dread the end of summer, but here in Florida, as soon as the calendar says spring is officially over, I pretty much start counting down the days until it’s cool enough I can wear jeans again. I started wearing jeans again a few weeks ago, in spite of the weather. I found the absolute perfect pair that fit like a glove and look exactly the way I think comfy, stylish denim is supposed to. Fabulous with flip flops, with heels, with boots. It’s been hard to convince myself to wear anything else. So if I show up to shoot our next wedding in jeans . . . just kidding.
Something else that’s been nearly nonstop for me lately is jazz music. John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis. It’s been kind of a continuous loop in our house, at least when I’m in charge of the stereo remote. I feel like jazz gets my brain up to cruising speed, but it doesn’t distract me from my work the way pop and rock can. And let’s admit it: It makes me feel like I’m in a fancy martini bar even if I’m just sitting at my own dining room table.
Being at my own dining room table isn’t something I want to avoid though — in fact, it’s been pretty great just being at home and not traveling for about the past six weeks. Danny and I have been able to settle back into a real routine after a somewhat hectic summer, and it’s been just what I needed. But I’m about to do a little traveling again at the end of the month, and I can’t wait, because I’m headed to a place that, when you arrive, feels like you’ve come home. This will be the third Pursuit 31 Conference at WinShape Retreat, and I just have to pinch myself when I think about going up to the mountains of Georgia, to one of my favorite places, to spend several days with some of my favorite women in the world. It’s been a life-shaping experience each of the two previous years, and I cannot wait to see wonderful new growth comes out of this year’s conference.
Being a part of a couple’s life as they begin their marriage is incredible, and it’s such an honor when we’re invited back as they transition from couple to family.
Taylor reached out to me a few months ago, right around the time of their second wedding anniversary, and said she’d like to set up maternity portraits shortly before little Harlan arrives in October, so last week we got together at Southwind Farm, which Taylor’s family owns and where she’s a horse trainer. It couldn’t have been a more perfect way to prepare for Taylor and Jerry’s little cowboy.
I love the way they’re looking at each other here — in one of the rare moments when they weren’t cracking jokes or goofing off together. Harlan’s parents are going to teach him how to have a good time right from the start!
And of course we had to include Taylor’s horses — Silky, the mare she got when she was only nine, and Beep.
Of course, the horses weren’t the only animals keeping us company. Kimber and Mickey hung around for the photo shoot, and made sure even the people who weren’t in front of the camera felt completely loved and included.
What I like so much about this picture is thinking about all the time Harlan is going to spend here — learning to ride, helping with the horses, playing with the dogs, AKA his big brother and sister.
And two of my favorites to end off:
Taylor and Jerry, Danny and I are so excited for you, for your family, and to meet Harlan when he arrives! He’s going to be one lucky little boy with such a loving family — and such a loving extended barn family — to take care of him. And, Jerry, it sounds like you’ve gotten a head start on not getting enough sleep. You two are going to be great parents, and we couldn’t be happier for you all!
Steph and James are one of those couples we met thanks to friends — and we found out we shared a lot of friends, but our paths never crossed until they got engaged late in the spring and set out on the hunt for a wedding photographer. They had met each other at a Bible study, the same place they had gotten to know Erena and Jesse, and that’s how I wound up talking with Steph and James last June. December wedding at The Estate on the Halifax? Let’s do it! End of summer engagement session along The Loop, where Steph lived when she and James met, and on the beach where they’d gotten engaged? Yes, please!
These two are a blast, and we had a great time hanging out with them during their engagement session at the end of August. Oh, and they absolutely rocked their shoot! See for yourself.
They call it golden hour for a reason, and Steph and James had an incredible one that evening.
We headed farther along The Loop, to shoot in the backyard of the home where Steph lived when she and James first met. Right in the middle of the Halifax River, it was a private island, and it couldn’t have been more spectacular as we watched the sky light up orange and peach and the sun poured down on these two . . .
. . . and this magic happened!
It never fails: The best part of an engagement session is seeing how much a couple loves each other. Steph was really into James. And James was really into Steph.
Before we lost the last of the daylight, we headed to the beach where these two love to surf — to the very spot where they got engaged this summer.
Seriously, you guys — this was supposed to be just an engagement session, not a fashion spread!
And let’s end off with one of my favorites: Steph and James snuggled up on the lifeguard tower where James asked her to marry him.
Steph and James, we had so much fun with you two! Your wedding later this year can’t get here soon enough!