We are going to be totally honest and open today. We strive to be like that every day, but today especially. If you have followed us for any amount of time, you know that we are Christians. That is a big part of who we are!
This past week we went to a couples retreat for husbands and wives in business together. The Connect Retreat was started by Zach & Jody Gray, wedding photographers and educators in Nashville so we knew there would be a lot of other photographers there. In fact, all but about 5 couples were photographers (P.S. shoutout to the non-photography couples. You guys are amazing.)!
We were excited about this retreat for 2 reasons. First, it’s very rare for us to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and just enjoy time together. Most people think because we work together we get to spend tons of time together. Well, that’s true. But we spend about 90% of our time working or talking about our business. That’s just who we are! But we need to step away sometimes and just be together. Second, one of our goals at the beginning of this year was to find like-minded husband and wife photographers and build community with them. We want to build real relationships outside of just photography. And the Connect Retreat seemed like the perfect place to do that! So we stepped out in faith that the Lord would provide for us to go. And He did!
Fast forward to the morning of the retreat. We were all packed up, we had our orange juice and coffee in the console, and we were on our way to drop off our dog, Mia, with Alyssa’s parents for the week. We decided to get a quick car wash on the way…mistake #1 for those keeping score at home. Mia freaked out! Ryan held her but she was going crazy. Thankfully we survived the car wash and we thought we were through the worst…mistake #2. Ryan pulled around into one of the vacuum bays and put the car in park. Mia was still in his lap so he picked her up to hand her to Alyssa in the passenger seat…you got it…mistake #3. As Mia’s hind legs came of the seat she stretched them out trying to find solid ground. Instead, she found orange juice and coffee. Sploooosh!!!
Orange juice and coffee everywhere. And we mean everywhere. Except on Ryan. There was orange juice covering the inside of the windshield. There was orange juice in a legitimate puddle on the floor. You would have thought it was a gallon of juice instead of a cup. So we rushed home, got everything cleaned up, and an hour later we headed out to the Connect Retreat, battle scars and all.
We know Satan was trying to stop us from going because he knew we needed this more than we even knew at the time. But with the Lord’s strength we overcame the Great Orange Juice Crisis of 2015! And we would later find out that others overcame even bigger challenges to get to the retreat. Satan was at work. But his victories were very few.
Fast forward a few hours and we were there! The Winshape Retreat in Rome Georgia! As you can see, it’s a gorgeous place!
When we arrived, we immediately started connecting with amazing people! These are our new friends Reid and Brittany from Arkansas. On Tuesday night, they had the idea of getting up Wednesday morning and doing a sunrise session swap. Now, you need to know something about us, specifically Ryan. If there were a way to give some kind of “morning person” rating, Ryan would be in the 1st percentile. As in, the least morning person you could ever meet. So for him to agree to this was a miracle in and of itself! So we got up at the crack of dawn and did a quick session swap at sunrise. The fog was still hanging over the pond and it was like a dream (which Ryan wished he was still doing at the time!). But we both have to admit it was totally worth it. These two looked so adorable together! We are so glad that they were there and we are thankful for their new friendship! So thank you to Reid and Brittany for the idea and for taking some gorgeous images of us as well!
And these are some of the beautiful images the Reid and Brittany took of us! Not only was Ryan able to get up and get dressed, he was able to smile for the camera! He has come a long way! Also, we love the way that two couples can shoot the same spot at the same time and interpret it differently! Thank you Reid and Brittany!
The Lord knew we needed to find new friends that could support us and understand us. He also knew we needed to hear from people who have gone before us and have been through the fires. We are so thankful for the teaching that was presented all week. Each and every couple that spoke was a blessing to us in different ways. It was inspiring to see hearts so open to sharing personal struggles with us. One of our favorite sessions was Michael & Katelyn James Alsop’s session on Ministering in the Marketplace. We don’t push our faith on our couples in any way. We know they are paying us to do a job, and we are very aware of that fact. But sometimes the Lord opens doors of opportunity. We have often felt like we can’t make a difference because we are not pastors or teachers. But one quote from R.C. Sprouls touched us:
“The marketplace is where we belong. It is where needy people are found. It is not enough for the Church to hang a welcome sign on her door. We dare not wait for the world to come to us.”
Our eyes were truly opened last week. We have an opportunity make a difference in our couples lives. Not by pushing our beliefs on them, but by loving and serving them as they have never been loved or served. That is our calling. That is where we truly belong.
Wednesday afternoon was amazing. We did some team building, or in case, marriage building exercises. We had a blast! For one activity we had to guide our blindfolded spouse through a metal cube without using any language known to man. We both made it safely through, though Ryan let Alyssa bump into the metal bars a few times just for fun.
Next, we had to get our whole group to balance on this giant teeter-totter. Once we were all on (there were about 20 of us) we sang “Sweet Caroline” at the top of our lungs. We are not sure what’s happening here exactly but it looks like we were having a great time of it!
On Wednesday night we got dressed up for a date night which also included several more session swaps! First up was Tyler & Lindsey. This sweet couple was part of our small group. Every night we would break down into smaller groups to discuss what we had learned that day and to be an encouragement to each other. When they put the groups together, they try to put people together with similar interests. Our group was clearly the “couples without kids and with a dog” group! Which was perfect!
Later on, we got to take some with Mike & Brittany. These two are from Lancaster, PA, which is super close to where Alyssa is from so we got along with them right away! And they totally rocked this little 10 minute session we were able to do! How about that gorgeous light?! And they got some pictures of us too! Thanks Mike & Brittany!
After supper we got our small group together for a quick photo. As you can see, our group leaders, Danny & Laura Yang are always standing at the ready for a photo although no one else seems remotely close to ready. But we finally got a good one! We loved getting to know our small group!
We had such an amazing time at the Connect Retreat! We took away so much more than we ever imagined possible. We walked away with new friends, new mentors, new memories and a new-found belief that we have found a place where we belong. We have found a community.
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