GIVEAWAY! — This is the Day Beginner Photography Workshop Seat Giveaway

GIVEAWAY! That's right This is the Day Beginner Photography Workshop is coming up in just over a week and we are GIVING AWAY a seat for the fun filled day (complete with loads of knowledge, hands on learning, creative inspiration, yummy food, never-ending coffee, a goodie bag full of delightfulness and super fun giveaways). Nominate a friend by commenting on this post with their name and why you think they'd love to be there before Monday, April 21st at noon and a winner will randomly be chosen and announced that afternoon (one entry per person). To see more details about the day including a schedule of events visit our site by clicking here.

This is the Day Beginner Photography Workshop Seat Giveaway!

This is the Day Beginner Photography Workshop Seat Giveaway!

Emily + Josh — St. Armands Circle Sarasota, FL Engagement Photography

Happy Friday! I just wrapped up my busiest wedding month EVER. With three weddings spanning from a glamorous southern Central Florida backyard affair, to downtown Raleigh, NC romantic stunner, to the sweetest union right here at my home church of Bible Fellowship last month was filled to the brim with love. And the good news for this hopeless romantic is that Caroline Maxcy Photography has many, many more to come this year! So pumped. So excited. And so honored to have been invited in to capture so many sweet love stories in 2014. It should go without saying that adore love, especially that sweetness between an engaged pair. The engagement session is simply one of my favorites. I love getting to know the pair, learning more about their story and getting them in front of my camera for the first time. I especially love it when the setting is as gorgeous and unique as Emily and Josh's recent Sarasota, FL session on the buzzing and beautiful St. Armands Circle. This duo braved the crowds on a Friday afternoon for this romantic engagement session that wound it's way around the circle, down the streets and ended up with a Sangria toast at their favorite restaurant, Colombia. 

Thanks for being so awesome in front of the camera and so totally in love, Emily and Josh. I loved capturing such sweetness and can't wait for your Sarasota nuptials this coming fall!

xoxo,
Caroline

This is the Day Workshops — Beginners Photography Workshop

Three years ago when I found myself settling in Central Florida and planting a photography business my friends kept mentioning to me this little lady named Sarah Sandel who I "just had to meet". The word was, we were just alike and we would more than likely become fast friends. Sarah had an established and growing photography business in the area doing, well, just what I was doing. And in the spirit of camaraderie and creative collaboration as opposed to competitiveness we decided to meet each other. Our friends were right. Sarah and I became fast friends and began creatively challenging one another while encouraging each of our own strengths and talents, and well, solving the worlds problems too at our coffee shop meetings with one another. One thing we were good at was ideas and it wasn't too long before we heard a common theme in our chats. People wanted to know more about their cameras, how to use them, how to understand their language and ultimately how to better capture their everyday lives. We got questions constantly from clients, from wedding guests, from people in the grocery store. "I just got this nice camera and I was wondering how to (insert technical question of choice here)". And thus, This is the Day Photography Workshops were born. We spent a few months developing content, pulling things together, collecting cool giveaways and creating easy to understand hands on learning tools to help a handful folks with "fancy" and not so fancy cameras alike better capture their own stories. It was a heavenly day and… we are finally doing it all over again. But this time even better. And before things even begin this time around we wanted to give you a little glimpse into the heart behind it all. There is no better place to start than with our original Beginners Workshop.

Now that we are comfortably two days into the month of April this little day of photography fantasticalness is less than one month away and with the seats over half full already (Yay, for our Early Bird Registrants!) we want to make sure you get a spot. But we also want you to be able to wrap your head around what to expect for the day. In a nutshell our Beginner's Workshop is designed to better acquaint folks with their "fancy" camera and the power it holds in order to better capture their everyday lives. You see not everyday is a "sit on a vintage quilt in a field of tall wispy grass at sunset and giggle at each other occasionally drawing your attention and grins in the direction of a lady with a camera" kind of day. Everyday is baseball games, impromptu tea parties and lazy days at the beach. They are dance recitals, steer shows and sitting on the back porch at sunset. They are orange blossoms in bloom, babies first grins and sunrises over the lake. Everyday is that gloriousness that God has granted each and everyone of us called this life, your life, that only you get to live and see and experience and remember.


Fancy cameras aren't meant to pull you away from all that, fiddling with foreign settings and innumerable combinations of f-stop shutterspeed and ISO. They should be pulling you into it. What we hope to do is enable you to be more comfortable, more natural, with your camera in your hands, capture the moment by taking a better picture up front and then set the camera down and get out there and live it! So take a day with us. Come on. Let's hang out together, learn a bit, laugh a bit too and then head back to our lives and start celebrating that everyday that has been uniquely entrusted to us.

Visit our workshop website by clicking here to get even more info, learn more about your instructors and register for the big day coming up on April 26th!

The below images our from one of our near and dear to the heart 2011 This is the Day Photography workshop participant, Heidi! And here too are her thoughts on the experience...

"I first started to take an interest in photography because I simply wanted to take "good" pictures of my kids...ones that went beyond a basic snapshot. I took a few basic photography courses - one, an adult education class at the local community college and the other online; but, when I heard about the "This Is the Day" workshop offered by Caroline and Sarah, I jumped at the chance! Not only were they local Sebring girls I was familiar with, but they were talented too!

I always admired Sarah's ability to create images that were vivid and bright and, I felt, she had a particular strength for highlighting the eyes of her subjects. Oh, the eyes...always so striking! Caroline's style was a favorite too as she had such a way of expressing the details...as if she were the invisible photographer standing off in the distance seeing beyond what the average onlooker would see. Then, at just the right moment capturing it.

The "This is the Day" workshop was such a fun and interactive day full of information and then hands-on application. From the basics to editing and everything in between, it was a wonderful reinforcement of the few things I had already learned about photography and having Caroline and Sarah in the room, answering questions and sharing their knowledge and skills was the icing on the cake. I would recommend the workshop in an instant to any beginner or even someone with a little bit of a knowledge base who wants to expand and go deeper in their understanding and practical use of photography. You'll enjoy every minute!" - Heidi Stephens, 2011 This is the Day Photography Workshop Attendee

Heidi lovingly shared with us some images she has captured—since attending our This is the Day Beginners Workshop—while "celebrating the everyday" in her life as a mom of three precious little ones...

Below you get to hear from (as well as see the breathtaking images of) another 2011 workshop attendee, Staci Braswell! Already a skilled amateur photographer, Staci joined us at our 2011 This is the Day Photography workshop to develop her craft and to really expand and grow her knowledge. Now-a-days Staci enjoys utilizing her stellar photographic skills professionally from time to time not only capturing her own life experiences but also instilling timeless memories in the hearts of others around her.

"This is the Day workshop was an excellent opportunity to learn from two of the best in the business in a small group setting! Caroline and Sarah are willing to share their expertise with anyone willing to learn. I appreciated the introduction to camera settings and editing programs. But the most valuable part of the workshop was the opportunity to put the information into action with an afternoon shooting a family. I would encourage anyone interested in photography to sign up for the workshop. I have seen many improvements in my work, thanks to the inspiration and encouragement from Caroline and Sarah! These two ladies have a gift and talent that they are willing to share - don't miss the opportunity!" - Stacy Braswell / 2011 This is the Day Photography Workshop Attendee

Thank you to these two amazing past participants for sharing a little peek into your world! And I can't wait to spend a day with a new group of "fancy" camera toting friends and to watch as our new "alumni" grow.

xoxo,
Caroline

Elic + Amanda Sneak Peek — Sebring, FL Wedding Photography

I spent this past Saturday not just photographing a truly sweet and beautiful wedding with some of the most precious and thoughtful details but I also spent the day celebrating two of my dear friends. And while I am still pouring over all the images I couldn't help but share a sneak peek into their day.

Congrats Elic and Amanda! I have loved being a part of your journey towards marriage and look forward to a friendship for many years to come!

xoxo,
Caroline

Elic and Amanda's Sebring, FL wedding with Caroline Maxcy Photography.

Elic and Amanda's Sebring, FL wedding with Caroline Maxcy Photography.

Savannah's Maternity — Central Florida Maternity Photography

There is just something about a sweet spirit that radiants through photos sometimes. Miss Savannah in all her pregnant glory had just that. And my afternoon with her and her family of three (soon to be four) at Lake Istokpoga Park (just days before daddy was deployed to Korea for a year) was simply beautiful, relaxed and the perfect celebration of the miracle of a life in the making! So honored and blessed to capture this sweet time for you all!

xoxo,
Caroline

Lauren's Bridal Session — Raleigh, NC Wedding Photography

This past weekend in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina feels like anything but a blur. From the moment I stepped off the plane and into my rental car for Lauren and Trent's wedding weekend I tried to embrace the reprieve from my day-to-day and vowed to take it all in, one moment at a time. Right off the bat I knew it was going to be good. To my joy, Raleigh was in bloom, my favorite season. I breathed it in. I just so happened to still have my alpaca mittens in my purse to keep me perfectly warm on my surprisingly chilly leisure walk location scouting through Pullen Park. And I pulled up to Hayes Barton Cafe and Dessertery at the exact moment it was opening for the day (I seriously dropped $30 on cake slices that were worth every-lovin'-cent!). By that point I was only 2 hours into my trip and on the road to a dear friend's house with my favorite pizza and delicious cake in tow. The rest of the weekend couldn't have played out any better. Unexpectedly beautiful wedding day weather, celebrating with the sweetest of families, a tear-jerking ceremony, and stunningly gorgeous details filling The Stockroom in downtown Raleigh rounded out the wedding weekend. I really can't wait to share this one with you all. But while I am still pouring over the images from the weekend I've decided to give you all a peak into one of my top two bridal sessions with the lovely Lauren in downtown Raleigh last fall (okay, okay, I have only done two bridal sessions in my existence, both were stunning. Seriously, why don't more brides opt for this??).

Lauren and Trent's were set to get married at The Stockroom on Fayetteville Street in the heart of the city (to give you an idea of the gorgeousness that is coming with their wedding day photos). So what better location could we find for Lauren's bridal session? We stepped into the gorgeous historic building mid afternoon on a Monday and spent the next few hours following the light across the room, stepping out into the street and taking a meandering stroll around Raleigh's capitol building in the height of fall. The results were breathtaking in my book...

xoxo,
Caroline

Daveigh's 5th Birthday Featured on 100 Layer Cake-let!

To God be the Glory!

100 Layer Cake has been one of my favorite most "drool-worthy" blogs since I can remember following blogs. Their posts are always filled with beautiful, bright and unique details and ideas. So when they said they would like to feature Daveigh's Tea Party 5th Birthday on their family blog last fall I just may have squealed. And then we waited… for just the right time… when things were in bloom and fragrant spring days were in sight. That time was last week when the images of the light and laughter filled day graced the 100 Layer Cake-let blog. In case you missed my Facebook announcement, head on over to 100 Layer Cake-let to revisit Daveigh's Birthday from coming up on one year ago and gush over all the precious details again. Thanks for the featured 100 Layer Cake!

xoxo, Caroline

Caroline Maxcy Photography and Daveigh's springtime tea party birthday featured on 100 Layer Cake-let.

Caroline Maxcy Photography and Daveigh's springtime tea party birthday featured on 100 Layer Cake-let.

Emma + Eric — Lake Placid, FL Engagement Photography

This weekend marks it… the beginning of my 2014 weddings! I am soooo looking forward to this year and the couples I get to join with on their "BEST DAY EVER" experiences to capture all the love. So far 2014 is taking me all the way from a restored historic landmark in the heart of North Carolina's capitol to a Ringling Brother's mansion on the southwest coast of Florida but we start off right here in the hometown warmth of central Florida with Emma and Eric's home grown celebration. Can't wait! We just so happened to get around to their engagement photos at Emma's family's home (and the reception location) just a few weeks ago and I am dying over what we captured. These two were so super sweet together and totally ate up the camera (even with Eric just a little under the weather, you never would have know. What a trooper!). Well, now that the two of you have the "being awesome in front of the camera" thing down let's get you married. :)

xoxo,
Caroline

This is the Day Photography Workshops are Back!

In case you missed this announcement tucked into my Valentine's Day post last week, or perhaps it could had been the haze of hearts floating above all of our heads, either way I am excited to share with you all that This is the Day Photography Workshops are returning this Spring! And this time we are doubling it up with a Beginners Workshop designed to acquaint avid shutterbugs with their fancy-pants camera and the power it holds plus the brand new Mentoring Workshop geared to the photographer entrepreneur looking to  develop their craft and hone their skills in the process of growing a photography business. Please head on over to our This is the Day Workshops site by clicking the image below to get all the details, dates and registering information including an early bird discount through the end of February. And you might want to step-to-it with limited seating available and registrations already rolling in these workshops will fill up fast! It's going to be a blast, y'all!

Bonus: To get a little peek into what the day will be like you can check out these images from our 2011 Workshop (yes, that was three whole years ago when we were on the cutting edge of kiss-y lips and mustaches on a stick!)...

Double Bonus: Sarah and I took turns in front of the camera to get some headshots for you all, and to let you know that we aren't all that scary, most of the time. Yes, it might actually be enjoyable to hang out with us all day. Here you have your This is the Day Instructors: Sarah Sandel and Caroline Maxcy...

2014_02_19_ThisIsTheDay_Announce_blog_headshot2.jpg

Kim + Richard — Sebring, FL Wedding Photography

In case you hadn't noticed today is February 14th folks. The day of love. And one year ago I was launching a love of my own. Yep, on February 14, 2013 I launch Caroline Maxcy Photography as you see it today. New branding, new website, new blog, new life behind it all. We had a party complete with heart shaped cookies and a pink ombre cake (there were giant balloons too, which were a big hit with the kiddos, but most of those didn't last through the evening). It was fantastic! And after a year of refining that business, collecting Facebook likes and telling beautiful stories I can say that I am more than ever excited about what the future holds.

I have brought on Sarah Sandel, whom I simply adore, as a sort of "Studio Manager." She is a fantastic person to bounce creative ideas off of, to collaborate with on fun projects and shoots and to help me better run my business (she keeps me organized and on track too. Bonus!). We even just announced today our This is the Day Workshops dates for this year. Yay! If you are looking to learn more about your "fancy" camera to better capture your everyday life or if you are looking to grow a photography business (like myself) you can check out all the details here about what it is all about and what to expect. And you should come on along. Serious both workshops are going to be at the most adorable artist's studio/log cabin on a lake that is oh-so-inspiring, there will be yummy food, lots of coffee and even better conversation and opportunities to grow in a creative community all. day. long.

And lastly February 14th this year has my heart all a flutter because it is the first year I have had a "Valentine" in… well… a long time. The Lord has taken me through a journey and a process of brokenness and healing that landed me in the path of a pretty incredible guy. And I think that is kinda cool. Seriously though, my love for Valentines Day has grown more in the years when I was single than any other year. It was a time to focus on other loves, like friends and family and even my clients (I love you all!). But ultimately it allowed me to focus on the best of all kind of love, the love that comes from our Savior and I never want to loose that. So as I head out to pick up a V-day gift for my hunny (yes, I waited to the 14th to get this) as promised, I leave you all with one last celebration of love from 2013. The wedding of Kim & Richard...

When I meet with Kim and Richard earlier last year I was invited to their beautiful lakeside Sebring vacation home to sit down at their dinning room table and chat details. And from the moment Kim opened the door to her warm home, smile beaming I knew this was going to be a good one. Kim is the definition of sweetness. She seriously glows, y'all, and the glow can't helped to be contagious. After any amount of time in her presence you kinda feel like you are glowing too. We chatted details and logistics, talked about flowers and timelines and albums and on and on through all their exciting details (you know I love this part.) Then it came time for me to ask them about "their story" the love story that brought the two of them together. Richard, who had been quietly sitting on the couch for the length of this meeting, leapt to his feet spread his arms wide and with the biggest grin on his face headed over to the dining room table with Kim and I. "Let me begin…" he said, smiling through the entire story starting at their meeting at The 12 Hours of Sebring and ending with their plans to marry at one of Sebring's most beloved restored historic sites, The Circle Theater. My heart skipped a few beats I am sure. What delight these two have been since moment one and I was simply thrilled to be their on their wedding day to capture all the joy, all the love and all the fantastic celebration of their future together as husband and wife.

xoxo,
Caroline

A few more thanks goes all to all the other folks that helped make this day so special for Kim & Richard…

Second Shooter - Sarah Sandel 
Wedding Coordinator - Callie Maddox
Florist - Hobby Hill Florist
Venue - The Circle Theater (built in 1923)
Cake - Lisa Thomas of Cakes 'n More in Sebring
The Band - FunkMonster (found through GigMasters.com)

Chelsey + Kyle — Sebring, FL Wedding Photography

Get ready for your heart to melt over this gorgeous wedding celebration I have for you all today. Chelsey and Kyle A-D-O-R-E each other. There is no doubting that. And their wedding day was nothing less than a celebration of that adoration in ever detail, ever blessed moment all. day. long. Thanks Chelsey and Kyle for having me there to capture your day!

xoxo,
Caroline

Rose + Johnny — Boca Bay Pass Club Wedding Photography

I simply adore love, so it is no question that when February rolls around on the calendar I am looking towards it's 14th day and all the ways to spread the love between now and then. Last year I was invited into a handful of some of the most precious expressions of love ever invented, the wedding day and ultimately the marriage celebration (Thank you Jesus!). And throughout the year I have shared with you glimpses into some of those glorious celebrations I was blessed to be a part of but there are still a few precious days left to share with you all. So for the next three days leading up to the beloved February 14th I will be sharing with you my final three weddings from 2013 in all their breathtaking glory.

We start things off today with Rose and Johnny's sunny seaside celebration at the Boca Bay Pass Club in Boca Grande, FL. Rose and Johnny chose to get married on the quaint and gorgeous Boca Grande Island, a special place in each of their hearts, giving their guests a chance for retreat and the space for relaxation amidst genuine celebration. From the tearful moments between a mom and daughter, to a gorgeous "first look" and a walk down a banyan tree lined lane, to a perfectly placed cloud over the seaside ceremony and a spectacular surprise fireworks display send off for the bride and groom, the day was a truly breathtaking celebration between a gorgeous pair inside and out, and I loved being their to capture it all.

xoxo,
Caroline

A few more thanks are in store for helping create such a gorgeous celebration...

Photo Assistant - Rebekah Ritchie Adams

Venue - Boca Bay Pass Club

Wedding Planner - Julianne Greenberg

Florist - Native Gardens Florist

Cake - Publix Bakery

Band - The Boca Band

Bride's Dress and Flower Girl Dresses - David’s Bridal Mall of Millenia

Bridesmaids Dresses - Nordstrom  

Suits - Maxcy's Menswear

 

Courtney + Dusitn — Honey Lake Plantation Wedding Photography

Just in case you didn't get to see Courtney and Dustin's summer time wedding on Style Me Pretty Florida (and The Southeast!) last week I thought I would share even more with you here today. Courtney and Dustin’s day and entire weekend was joyous and sweet and love-filled through and through. You couldn’t have asked for a more naturally gorgeous location nestled in the North Florida richness of Honey Lake Plantation Resort and Spa in Greenville, FL. And you certainly couldn't have asked for a more genuine, laid-back and charming pair at the center of it all. Thanks Courtney and Dusty for inviting me in to capture your beautiful celebration!

xoxo,
Caroline

Hunter's 6 Month B-Day — Central Florida Children's Photography

Guess who turned 6 months old today?! (And guess who gave me a serious complex over my singing voice when he bursted into tears after I sang a dramatic rendition of the birthday song??) Happy 6 Month B-Day anyways, Hunter! At least you recovered and we got these super adorable 6 month pics.  

xoxo,
Auntie Caroline

 

Central Florida Children's Photography with Caroline Maxcy Photography

Central Florida Children's Photography with Caroline Maxcy Photography

Where Joy and Heartbreak Collide. God knows.

I am a firm believer in the Lord being present in all things. Even our calendars, our schedules, where things butt up against one another, where stories are told in the intertwining of the two. He is at once personal and profound. He is present in the single story that is being told in my life and in the lives of everyone, everywhere for all creation in all of time. God knows. God knows it all. And this past weekend for me, where joy and heartbreak collided, was no different. Plans were changed, things shifted and rescheduled and I found myself with my camera in hand going from session to joyous and heartbreaking session one right after another all weekend long. It was one long continuous prayer, an on-going conversation with God. And on a weekend that seemed a little too heavy the Lord handed out just enough time, just enough grace and just enough strength to make it through.

Last Thursday I received a Facebook message that was geotagged as coming all the way from Uganda. A young woman, a brand new mom was asking if I could come over to the Tampa airport on Saturday night for their family's homecoming celebration. Jamie and Paul had just adopted Elijah Namanya Samuels and after six weeks in Uganda in the process of things they were now heading home. I was there. Of course, I was there. So after a breathtakingly beautiful family photo session on Saturday afternoon I hit the road with just enough time to make it to the airport as their plane was about to touch down. I joined a a group of about 30 other folks all there to welcome Eli with glittered signs and balloons and stuffed animals galore all donning their matching t-shirts with the emblem of a tree and Eli's given name "Namanya" meaning "God knows." You see just 9 months ago, last March, 1 month old Eli was found abandoned in a forest, beneath the trees. Malnourished, tiny and frail Eli made his way from an orphanage to a hospital to a foster home. By 5 months old he weighed less than 10 lbs. In steps Jamie and Paul when they are matched with him in July and they have tracked his growth and made their plans to make him their own. And on Saturday they stepped off the plane in Tampa greeted by their closest family and friends (and me and my camera) and they brought Eli home for the very first time. 

God knows.

I left that joyous shoot, late on Saturday night and crashed at my best friend's place in Tampa, setting my alarm for 6:30 for the next day. I collected my things, hugged goodbye and hit the road again back to Sebring arriving just in time for the graveside ceremony for a six year old boy, Branson, gone too soon. 

We talked about God's goodness, we rejoiced for the gift of our saviour Jesus, we lifted our voices in song and then we stood there in the open field, a group of no more than 50 of Branson's closest friends and family, clutching bundles of colorful balloons. To each his own. A sea of red, blue, orange and yellow hovering above our heads. Contained. Then at the cue we simultaneously loosened our grips to release the delicate ribbons from our fingers. We opened our hands and let go… 

The breeze of the day caught them and as they gently lifted into the heavens above so did our eyes. So did our hearts. We followed them with our gaze (some comically getting stuck in a nearby tree). A sea of color dispersed in the morning sky, fading into tiny specks in the white of the storybook clouds. Joy and heartbreak intertwined. Released. Branson was at last home.

And while we all rejoice with knowing that Branson too was lifted home into the heavens to experience eternal joy with Jesus, there is a sadness that is found in the vast emptiness that is left behind. When the specks of color could no longer be seen our eyes fell again. The space once filled with one hundred colorful balloons now stood quiet and still. Where we could seemingly still feel the ribbon between our fingers we all knew that we had to let go.

God knows this too.

In two vastly different stories, where joy and heartbreak collide, where homecomings and home-goings are bittersweet, we find the ever swelling presence of God. And for a little boy, Elijah Namanya, he will know a life that his biological family probably never could have imagined. He will be introduced to Jesus and to a God that was there with him all along, from beneath those trees in the forest to the place in central Florida he now calls home. God knows. And for precious Branson, well, he is dancing with that very same Jesus today. God knows.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 19:14

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 19:14

And as for me… I am absolutely astonished everyday that the Lord has entrusted to me so much joy, so much heartbreak, so much raw and beautiful life to step into, to document, to memorialize day-in and day-out. On a weekend that felt a little too heavy the Lord was more than enough. God knows.

Learning to Receive — Central Florida Birth Videography

The house is still. You know, the kind of still and quiet and empty that is heavy with the weight of fullness. Just a few hours ago my home buzzed with the sounds of a family Christmas gathering. There was turkey eating, gift giving, bike riding, board game playing, bed jumping, pot scrubbing and baby holding and it was another glorious December 25th. With all the hustle and bustle of things I haven't been able to sit back and take it all in until just now.

I have been meaning to write this Christmas post for over a week now, the words swirling around in my head taking place one right after the other in line.  I have been taking notes here and there, recording audio paragraphs on long car rides on my thoughts on this year's holiday season. I learned a lot this year upon a revisiting of the Christmas story in Luke and Matthew. I've had "ah-ha" moments amidst giving planning mania. I've pondered for long sentimental periods of time over the notion of "giving" and "receiving". Oh, it was going to be good. But now that I sit down just 30 minutes shy of December 25th leaving us in its dust once again none of those words I composed in my head seem to matter anymore. At the end of today, this day of giving and receiving madness, I have come to feel as if I have nothing left to offer.

Nothing.

But maybe that is the best place to be. Maybe I get so caught up in the giving sometimes that my open arms—heavy with the weight of all the things I think I have to offer—have no room left to receive.

It didn't dawn on me, this self-proclaimed "giver" until midway through this holiday season that Christmas, true Christmas, has absolutely nothing to do with giving. Christ was born, just a baby in a barn over 2000 years ago. A miracle. Our Messiah. Our Savior humbled himself and came to earth asking us to give nothing, to bring nothing to Him but a heart ready to receive. 

Christmas. True Christmas.

Just a little over five months ago I found myself in a scene somewhat different than that Bethlehem barn, yet in both places we were waiting for a baby. And though his momma labored, his dad nervously paced and I scurried about snapping pictures and video galore we all knew at the end of the day that we weren't there to give a thing. Much like Christmas this life, this baby and even the images all along the way were a gift that we were all simply there to receive.

Rachel's Senior Sesh — Sebring, FL Senior Photography

Rachel Patterson. This girl. <3

When I moved back to Florida just over 3 years ago I dropped my things off in Sebring and the next day hopped on a plane to Mexico with about 40 folks from my home church, Bible Fellowship Church. And in that crew was, you guessed it, the little miss Rachel Patterson. Who knew that this complete stranger, the pastor's daughter, would become one of my absolute favorite people. The girl still tells the story to this day, "You know Carrie, I really didn't like you when I first met you…" "Yes, Rachel we have gone over this. I know." I am not quite sure what she didn't like about me. I mean, what's not to like?!? 

Ok, so you should probably know if we ever do have a conversation, I am a rather sarcastic person; my whole family is (except for maybe my mom, she tries…). My sarcasm is especially heightened when you pair me up with the Queen of All Sarcasm my dear cousin, Bianca. And you guessed it again, Bianca and I were in full force on this trip. That maaaaybe could have rubbed that little lady the wrong way. Although I am sure she could share with you the "real story" in full detail as to her disdain. All that to say, she totally LOVES me now. I eventually won her over with my wit and charm and especially great advice. This is an extra good thing considering I have been her youth group leader for coming up on 3 years now. 

We have studied the word of God on quilts on the church lawn for two solid years. We have worshiped together side by side lifting our voices with our ukuleles in hand all the way from the BFC sanctuary to a dormitory for special needs children at an orphanage in Mexico. We have journeyed to women's bible conferences, nursing homes, to Mexico and back… twice. I have prayed for her daily. I have walked by her side. I have heard her heart. I have watched her grow. I have watched her lead. This girl is the real deal. Rachel is the rock of our youth group and the core of our worship team at BFC. She is a leader through and through and does it all with a genuine openness, a contagious smile and a gentle heart. And this isn't even saying anything about this girl's undeniable musical gifting. She is blessed beyond imagining.

The more and more I talk about this young lady the more and more I realize how big the hole in my heart will be when she is gone. Even though I may not have "disliked" Rachel when I first met her, we did just start out as mere acquaintances. I can now say I have grown to love the girl too. Which makes this particular senior session a little bittersweet. 

She is going… soon.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…" (Matthew 28:19)

While I have been here pouring into Rachel's life, along with a handful of other extraordinary folks, I have been learning first hand what it means to make disciples. Who knew that "go" for me would mean coming home? 

And while as a leader Rachel too has been pouring into lives at home now she is planning to go, just as His word has instructed. She is going to do extraordinary things. I am so sure of this because out of all the things this little lady is gifted in (music, leadership, friendliness, incredible hair and on and on) the most amazing thing I have watched happen in her life over the past 3 years is that that she has allowed the hand of God to shape it. She has studied His word with fervency and has allowed it to change her life. She has remained obedient even when it was hard. She has made tough decisions in the face of adversity. She has honored her God. And I have no doubt that she will continue to do that for the years to come no matter what this world may bring her.

Rachel is an idea person. She's creative, a dreamer and determined all wrapped up into one, and I absolutely adore these things about her. About a year ago when Rachel and I started talking about her senior photos she had an idea, a painted piano in a field. Most people just thought it was a crazy idea, especially her dad who would more than likely be moving the piano. (Have you ever tried to move a piano? Those suckers are h-e-a-v-y.) But you can only imagine the visions of photo-session-lovliness that were already taking shape in my head. This was totally going to happen. Come November 25th we arrived out in the most gorgeous field with the most magical breeze and a team of strong fellas (including Rachel's dear dad and brother too) to move the blush pink painted piano to just the right spot amidst the tall grass. Voila. Senior Session Dreaminess in full effect!

Thank you Rachel for allowing me to be a part of your life, a part of your growing and a part of your super amazing senior photo session! I can't wait to see what the Lord does with your life and in all that the "going" brings!

xoxo,
Caroline

P.S. Thanks go out to Michelle Trinder Cathey for your makeup and styling magic, to Stella & Dot Stylist Lindsey Lovett for loaning us some of your gorgeous Stella & Dot jewelry for the shoot. And we can't forget a special thanks to our "muscle" Todd, Seth and Conner for helping our vision of a piano in a field come together (without too much complaining over delayed fishing adventures.)

Talk about a sweet dad...

2013_12_13_RachelsSeniorSesh38.jpg

And we even snuck in a mini-family session while we were at it. I mean, why not take advantage of a beautiful day, a magical breeze and a happy, handsome family all in one place. I <3 those Pattersons!

Credits:
Makeup and Styling
- Michelle Trinder Cathey
Jewlery - Stella & Dot (stylist, Lindsey Lovett) (http://www.stelladot.com/sites/lindseyalovett)
Lovely Photo Assistant and Rachel's BFF - Lyndsey Reck