There are a lot of things I could say about this year, but to sum it up, I’d say it was bitter-sweet. Mack and I went through things that were really great, but there were also lots of struggles that we only got through by God’s grace and through the support and encouragement from our friends and families.
After I graduated in May of 2017, I started working for Harding University as a photographer under Jeff Montgomery. I learned so much in just a year in the Marketing and Communications Department, and I had many opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten to experience otherwise. Working in this department also pushed me to really dive into my photography, also energized by Jeff’s constant encouragement and constructive criticism, along with other photographers like Ashel Parsons and Jon Yoder. I also got to be the assistant teacher for the photography class and that was SO much fun; I originally graduated with a degree in education, so it was cool to be able to practice what I’d learned without actually being a teacher haha. On the side, I also worked with Zion Climbing Center, a non-profit organization in Searcy, helping with social media management, event organization, route setting, and things of the like. When I wasn’t rock climbing or working at Harding, I was reaching out to people on campus and in the city for photoshoots, and that is how I spent the first half of 2018.
Mack worked very hard in his last year at Harding. He graduated in May with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Outdoor Recreational Leadership. Some days, he worked for hours and hours on his senior projects while also making time for me, his friends, his hobbies, our church, his other homework, his job, and somehow managed to graduated Summa Cum Laude and got several awards for his outstanding accomplishments. You guys. I married a genius. But of course, he would never admit that. He just really liked school and is also good at time management. We couldn’t be more opposite.
We had no idea what would happen after Mack’s graduation. Beginning in January, we talked about moving to Tennessee; we looked for jobs and places to live, but no bites. Then, later into the spring, we started looking at places out west - in Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona - we just really wanted to get out of Arkansas. We had planned to leave right after graduation, which was the first weekend of May. But the more we looked at places outside of Arkansas, the more uneasy we got about our timeline. We were technically supposed to be out of our living space by the end of May, but we didn’t have a single lead anywhere. All the jobs we applied to, all the places we looked into, all led to a dead end. We were getting anxious. But finally in June, Mack got two job offers in the Northwest Arkansas area. So we were like, “Ok…guess we’re staying in Arkansas…” We were less than thrilled. BUT, God is faithful, and we trusted that if that is where we were being called to be, there we would go. Within a WEEK, at the very end of June, Mack accepted one of the job offers, we found a place to live, and we moved out of Searcy and in to an apartment in Springdale. One week. After months of looking and worrying and stressing, God booped us on our noses and said, “Chill out.” I cannot accurately express exactly how worried and stressed we were about not knowing where we were going in life. Our friends can vouch for us - I’m pretty sure I started tearing up as soon as someone would ask, “So what’s next for you guys??” And while we weren’t thrilled about staying in Arkansas, and our dreams of the west burned to a pile of ashes in front of our eyes, by the time we moved, we were just grateful we had a plan at all. It also ended up being way harder to leave our friends and church family in Searcy than either of us thought. It was my home for six years and Mack’s for four; it’s where we met and fell in love, and we will always consider it our first home.
As it turns out (and how it will always turn out), everythings is fine. We love the place we live now, the friends we’ve made, the community we’ve found, our jobs, our city, and moving out west is still an option. Just not yet.
I didn’t have a job coming into NWA (which was another huge stressor, but anyways), so I worked part time as a photo assistant at a studio in Bentonville, took family portraits, substitute taught, and at the climbing gym as a class instructor and a desk worker. But now, as of this month, I have taken on the role as assistant coach for the competitive climbing team and I am still teaching the recreational kids class at the Ozark Climbing Gym. I love it - I am having so much fun working with these kids who love climbing. I of course still take pictures (and always will), and every once in a while, I’ll substitute teach because it’s fun. There were several months that I really stressed out over not having a full time job, but I have since then accepted that it’s ok. My value and worth is not found by what job I have, how many hours I work, or how much I make - I used to be self-concious when people would ask what Mack was doing for a living and then ask me what I do, having to give the answer, “Ummmmm, I don’t know…” or “I’m in between jobs right now,” or “I have four part-time jobs,” knowing that I wasn’t doing any of them “for a living.” But I’ve basically gotten over that and am now enjoying the lack of busyness in my life, the freedom to go rock climbing when I want to, have photoshoots when I want to, and having a husband who works so hard so that I can attain my dream of becoming of trophy wife (just kidding).
Mack is working at a company that creates training programs for several corporations. He does app development and coding, and thinking in ways I don’t understand. The company he works for is awesome and is very good to us. Mack also has the blessing of working alongside a good friend, and we are so grateful that Sean is the shining, bubbly light that he is. I legitimately believe that he helps Mack get through the day sometimes. Mack is learning so much and growing exponentially in this company, and I cannot wait to see where it takes him. When Mack isn’t working at the office, he is playing video games at home, skateboarding, climbing, listening to music, reading books, working out and hanging out with friends. He thinks eventually he would like to use his minor degree in outdoor recreational leadership somehow in the future, which is another possibility we are excited for.
We found a wonderful church family at the New Heights Church in Fayetteville, where we made friends and connections, as well as a tight knit group that meets every week. New Heights does amazing work in the community as well as globally, and we are really excited to be a part of this body of believers and to get involved in ministries some time soon.
Charlie and Mira are great - they took the move to NWA very well. Mira is still a diva and a queen and spends most of her time sleeping, eating, and sleeping. And eating. Charlie, on the other hand, is a ball of energy and is constantly wanting to be outside and playing. We have been taking him on more walks outside, and he is getting better at being on a leash. We are celebrating two years of having them in our lives.
We have gone on a few trips this year as well; out west with friends from school to California, Nevada, and Arizona, to British Columbia to see Mack’s family, and on shorter excursions to Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. And we hope to travel even more next year!
Time and again, God has proven himself trustworthy and faithful, both in the big and small areas of our lives. He has shown himself to us through people and events, in the whispers and quiet times, and in big and awesome ways. He has answered our prayers with a lot of yes’s but also a ton of no’s, and we are so grateful for that. Another huge way he has shown himself faithful this year was through the immigration process. For those of you who don’t know, Mack is from British Columbia, Canada. We knew that us getting married would cause a lot of complications as far as residency and citizenship issues go, but for some reason we decided to get married anyways (jk, love you, Mack). In the summer of 2017, we applied for his permanent residency, filling out many a paper work and paying many monies. We hit a couple road bumps and because of some complications, we were scared that our application wouldn’t go through and we’d have to figure out life from there. It caused a lot of stress in general, but also difficulties between us both. The worry and the unknowing really wore away at our relationship, and the two months of this year that followed us getting the letter saying that our immigration interview date had been set were the most difficult months we have gone through as a couple. It took a full YEAR for our paperwork to be processed, and our interview was a five hour drive away. We didn’t know whether Mack would be allowed to stay, or if we had moved to Springdale just to pack up and move to Canada. But we had SO many people praying for us and over us, and I was convinced that even if we had to drop everything and move, that it would be ok. Sometimes. I only sometimes believed that. But our interview went fine and Mack got his green card within a month. So we will be living in the US for at least ten years haha.
To everyone we got to see and spend time with this year, you have made this year great; we are so glad we got to spend it with you. And to those of you who live far away and who we’ve lost contact with, we still appreciate and love you, and we are thankful for social media that makes you feel close. I know it’s cliche, but we are unbelievably excited to see where 2019 takes us.
These photos and the cover photo were shot by Ashel Parsons in our first home together.
Happy New Year!