I spent a good portion of last week prepping for our annual Christmas dinner party. I tied lots of bows, made lots of phone calls, delegated small tasks, bought gifts, and finalized head counts and catering.
I am an introvert to my core. I like to keep to myself and work hard at what I do but not make much of a fuss about myself. When I started a local community group for women small business owners over two years ago it was to get to know the women around me behind the businesses. In the past, I would network and have lunch with people here and there but not really know who they were and what their story was. Something always felt like it was missing. I only told my husband and my best friend that I was going to start this crazy thing and was completely out of my comfort zone in EVERY. SINGLE. WAY. I began this group before the whole community over competition movement started but it would never work for me to do online. I do not like spending much time on social media so for me to do this well it would have to be face to face and in real life. It seems pretty easy to “like” others posts and support them by commenting online but to truly invest in other peoples businesses, and lives, and show up, it had to be the real thing for me or nothing at all. I love that from an outside perspective we would be viewed as competition to each other but from the inside we gain so much more from each other than we would ever stand to if we decided to compete.
I lead this group of women but man do these women lead me in ways they will never know.
When I first began my photography career (over ten years ago!) some in the wedding industry were not very kind to me. I thought that was how this industry operated and for a year or two I went with it as well. My heart changed pretty quickly as I started to trust other photographers and build friendships so I decided to change and share information freely, have lunch with people who asked, let people shadow me, answer questions, etc. (Over the years I have also been deeply hurt and taken advantage of in doing so but in the end, love wins, and its a statement I will continue to believe even thru the heartaches.) For the past 3-4 years I have shared my studio with 4 other photography businesses, I lead a monthly community group of mostly wedding photographers, and a lot of my best friends are photographers in the same city. Looking back at how I started and how I thought the wedding industry operated, I was just so wrong.
Our group is just the best. I am SO unbelievably grateful for these honest, genuine, transparent women whom I now call dear friends. I KNOW these people. I know their struggles and their victories. They are mamas and wives all striving to do best for the people in their homes. They work hard too, and love Jesus, a lot. They are unbelievably talented with successful businesses that inspire me. I am so proud of each and every one of them. We answer our phones for each other. Teach each other new and different things. Refer clients to each other. Email the group when we arent sure how to handle a stressful work situation. Tell funny stories. Call each other in crises. Ask advice. Second shoot for each other. Give constructive criticism. Pray for each other. Have baby showers. Drink wine. Cry together. Support and encourage each other in all of the ways. We also know how to a throw a killer dinner party!
These women, the so-called “competition” … are irreplaceable in my life.
So the time spent bow tying and errand running is so much worth it. Last year my daughter and I wrapped up cute little gifts for each one of these ladies and prayed their names out loud. We pray that in the upcoming year that their families feel genuinely cared for, their marriages become stronger, their businesses are immensely blessed and that they feel truly known and loved by the Lord in all that they do. It is one of my favorite things actually for my daughter to be a very small part of each and every year. For her to see that building other women up is #goals. It is a rare and beautiful thing and we can all do it if we just step our of our comfort zones and try. We can call out the good in each other. Call women up to who they were made to be. To tell them that they are ENOUGH right where they are in life. That this life is their calling and to love it deeply no matter what their circumstances. To slow down, put away the phones, relish the tangible things right in front of us and resist the urge to hustle thru every moment of the day. That the number on the scale, the number of the bookings, the number in the bank accounts or the number of followers means nothing in the grand scheme of things. That our identity has nothing to do with what the world tells us it should be. This is something I have learned that I am very passionate about. Quietly and humbly, of course.
2016 Christmas dinner… party of 22… lets do this!
Big thanks to my friend Aubrey for taking these lovely photos of last years party!