Dan & Alissa and a love letter.

it seemed appropriate to post this session today, on valentine’s day, as it revolves around one very beautiful love letter written by dan for his wife, alissa.  he wrote:


dear lis,    i love you.  i don’t know if i say that enough.  you are the most driven, selfless, caring, creative, funny, beautiful, and honest person i’ve ever met.  you make me want to be a better person.  before i met you i was lost.  and over the last ten years you have shown me a world of love i didn’t know was possible.  thank you for loving me.  i hope i can make you feel as special as you have made me feel.  i love you.   dan.


alissa and dan are married.  i typically photograph engaged couples as they usually have more of an “excuse” for a photoshoot.   they are usually giddy and there is always an expectant and somewhat naive sweetness about them that is contagious.  but there is something about photographing a married couple that has such intentional depth.  that they are continuing to choose one another every day.  it is deep and raw and soul stirring.  they are taking the time to really see one another instead of just existing.  through the work of marriage, after the trials and pain of everyday life, even when things may not be perfect and pretty.  this kind of love is what honest photography is all about.

alissa and i talked a while in preparing for the session and she told me that one thing dan was known to do was leave little notes around their house in random places with reminders of his love for her.  in cabinets, on the bathroom mirror, on doors.  always unexpected with simple, honest, grateful and beautiful truths to encourage and warm her heart.  “i love how your eyes light up when you smile”  ”i love our life together”  ”i love that you take care of me and care about my happiness. thank you for also taking care of things around the house, i love you!”  what a gift those little words are to a wife’s soul!   i happened to be photographed these two in tennessee at moonshine hill during my workshop in december, and knowing that i wouldn’t arrive into town until just before the shoot i enlisted elizabeth at stockroom vintage in nashville to help me out with styling this session in advance to make it truly special for dan and alissa’s story.  she got in touch with dan and he wrote a beautiful secret letter for alissa that elizabeth then wrote in lovely script onto a giant fabric canvas that they could also keep after the photo shoot was over.  she styled the most elegant and lovely session at the treehouse (outside and inside of it!) there on the grounds of moonshine hill, all based around this love letter theme and it was all a surprise for alissa when she arrived!  we began the session at the treehouse and then worked our way around the property.

i love styled sessions but the simplicity of alissa wrapped up in that letter down in the stream in the middle of the woods just floors me.  those have to be some of my most favorite photographs i have ever taken (they are closer to the bottom in this set of images).  alissa is a friend of mine and while anyone can see that she is so very beautiful, she is also a bit timid and would never think that of herself.  but i saw her come alive beside dan as he told her how beautiful she was.  i saw her believe it.  his words truly nourished her soul and to witness that was nothing short of a privilege.

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Posted in * Themed Sessions, Engagement & Couples | 13 Comments

this current season…

so we’ve been living this new normal for three months now.  i wrote and erased that sentence five times there because while it is our life it still doesn’t exactly feel like home.  i think the newness has worn off and the reality has set in.  of being away from my mama.  of not having roots secured.  of feeling the beauty and the loneliness of living a country kind of life.  it is unfamiliar.  it is good.  but that doesn’t mean it is easy.  i’ve been talking to the kids here and there about “home” lately.  what it means.  how to define it to each of them.  it’s a strange thing to just pick a place for six people to put down roots, to create new memories, to grow as individuals and as a family.  and i think the best thing i have come up with is that viewing this life in seasons rather than an absolute beginning/middle/end is the best choice for my soul.  the kids are happy, there is no question.  they are so resilient and their imaginations are on fire, no matter what season i find that we are in.  but for me, inside my soul and outside our current walls, it is winter.

we arrived in this new place at the tail end of fall.  we drove into our new life so tired of transitioning and not having had a home for consistency and rest.  we arrived in a season of color and change and into a world we had never known was a possibility.  we ran free, we gathered walnuts and apples and soaked in the setting sun.  and then the leaves began to fall until the trees were bare and the apples were rotted.  instead of exploring we had to come inside and we have been hibernating in a sense.  enjoying having a house.  the possibility for naps.  the ability to cook healthy meals for my family and have a table to gather around and linger.  the baby took her first steps a few weeks back in this new house.  the roots are beginning to grow, to take hold.  but she hasn’t walked since and so we wait.  we hibernate, waiting for spring and something new that we know is coming but we aren’t quite sure what it will look like here or when it will arrive.  our wandering hearts are craving adventure again.  we went from one extreme to the other and  while we do not yearn to live on the road again, we have this thing inside of us that needs to breathe in nature to be calmed and inspired.  i am anxious for the apple and cherry blossoms to explode on our trees.  i’ve dreamed of seeing that my whole life.  but until then we make fires, we prioritize, we think and talk and create and hope that we are making the right choices every single day.

today i went and bought tulip bulbs for the first time.  i am going to plant them.  i am going to be intentional and put down roots, even tiny ones, with hope that those blooms will come up if i just do the work instead of standing still (which can be so very easy to do when things feel heavy).  no matter what life you choose, it is in the deciding every day not to let it all turn to rubble where is hope is found.

galatians 6:9 says, “and let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”    i know that even loneliness has purpose.  and if it is chasing me to His Word, i can imagine no better reason.  i am clinging to that promise  and i am clinging to my babies.  here are some pictures of life in our current season…

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Posted in our family adventures, Personal Stuff | 29 Comments

hello, i’m joy!  sunshine chaser, child of God, mama to four & wife to one good man.  we traveled all over looking for a place to call home and we found it.  we live a simple life out in the country with bare toes and happy hearts.


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