Audra Kate

December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

All fall long, I’ve been looking forward to taking a break from the camera.  Reading a real book on a comfy chair in the top of a cigar lounge for as long as I want to stay.  No computers.

And then, a friend advised me to keep it handy for my trip home to Charleston for the holidays.  I told myself I was going to take my time and stop where I wanted to stop and it was going to be great.  So, today, photos grace the personal blog instead of the work one because I decided to take pictures that I wanted to take.  No contracts and no fiscal obligations.
Enter: The Murphy’s.

This family came to North Carolina and I cannot tell you how thankful a lot of us are.  These beautiful folks are gracious & hilarious troopers.  I mean, troopers.  Kristen gave birth to baby #3 at home with no drugs.  Did I mention they have planted a church in Fayetteville, NC?
Y’all, these. folks. are. great.

And beautiful baby girl arrived on Sunday morning and, just like that, the Murphy’s are a family of five.  I decided to see if they would let me come for a visit (fully expecting a no, I mean, hello, new baby!) and they almost immediately said yes!
They also let me capture a few moments of little girl’s second day on the big wide earth.

For the first time ever, through a variety of happy coincidences, I got to be the first guest of a family’s newest addition. (Am I beaming?  Maybe.)
Murphy’s, thank you for letting me spend some time with you.  I’m so glad I got to come.
The rest of you, say hi to Audra Kate Murphy.  🙂

La Casita es making me loca.

November 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

This house situation is pushing me to drink.

Right out the gate, none of it is anyone’s fault & there’s pretty solid relationships still standing all around the board.  But, I need something to happen.  I don’t care about the result, because I believe Papa will work things out of both His & my good, I just need something to LAND.  And for the love, SOON.

We have a great casita.  It’s not perfect.  She’s got character (and her own Facebook page – wha whaaaa).  Here, say hi.

Here’s a quick review:
We changed roomies over the summer and I became the only name on the lease.
Then, a roomie needed to move out for completely legitimate reasons.
Then, the other.  Leaving me alone.
We thought we had found at least one replacement and then, they had to back out.  Again, for totally legitimate reasons.

I’ve shown this house nearly 20 times.  Answered emails and dealt with no shows all during the busiest months of the year.
I. am. SO. done.

Do I want to move?  Kind of.  What I really want is a break.  A for real vacation.  If you’re sitting there wondering what I did during my time in Italy, let me tell you that is was not a vacation and just leave it there.
I certainly don’t want to give up such a wonderful house with the fenced in backyard and the resonating hardwoods.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes walk through our giant foyer and dream of dancing with a boy there.  There’s been many cigars smoked and beers consumed on the front porch and I’m grateful for the extra office space on the lower floor.
This house has been so good to me.

But, y’all, I’m just….over it.  Subletters don’t just emerge from thin air and new roommates don’t either.  Unless a miracle falls from the sky, my gorgeous parents will be coming this weekend to pack up everything except the bed and my computer.  I’ll pay rent ’til someone takes it.  That’s where I’m at.
Should someone take it soon, I’d be a bit of a wanderer for awhile.  Which isn’t new, duh.

So, I’m sorry if my social media has been super confusing.  I haven’t really known how to take all that this situation has been and put it in concise terms.
Don’t worry, Raleigh, I’m still with you at least half the year.  But, don’t think for a hot minute that I’m not going to take advantage of the opportunity to go to my Momma’s and sleep and go sit on the beach with my toes in the freezing cold water.  That might be the only thing you have going against you, land of the pine – the beach is way WAY too far away.

To all who have sent words of kindness or encouragement or offered to let me have a place to sleep in the RDU area, you’re awesome.  Like, really really awesome.
And if you know of someone looking to live in one of the most homey residences in the great DTR, send ’em on ovah!  It’s $1195 to take the whole thing and the lease runs ’til August 15th of next year.  I’m willing to consider roommate situations, too, if you know of someone chill & responsible.
And if you’d just like to come share beer and cigars on the front porch, just holler first?  I’d love to see you. 🙂

xoxo,
amaris

A conversation I wish we could have.

October 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

I have no idea where to begin.

The blinking cursor and myself are bound to become BFF’s by the end of this, as this is something that’s been trying to find a voice for nearly three months, at least.

I guess with the Texican is a good a place to start as any.  It was that merry-go-round that sparked a hundred conversations and led me to here.  For the longest time, I muted my opinion on all the dysfunction wrapped up in that.  And now you are sitting there in astonishment – “Did she just say she muted her opinion?  I don’t believe it.”
F’real.  I didn’t vocalize so many things.  See, in the number of relationships I’ve had with the opposite sex, only one has been with someone that has the same faith system as me (until recently, that is).  And it was only a couple of months long and it was not meant for marriage.  It was certainly not a mistake & it was used to show both of us where we were in need of a heart check.  As a result, I no longer believe that all relationships are destined for marriage AND that fact is 100% okay.

The local church does not communicate that.  The local church communicates that if it’s not headed for marriage to cut it off at the pass.  Do not waste anyone’s time, let him find a better fit, do what’s good for your heart.  I’m sorry, what if what’s good for my heart is to spend hours with this other, so that I might receive healing, so that he might know what’s healthy, so that Jesus might show us what is good?

Before that pile of beauty, those thoughts had never run through my head.  If a guy left, it meant he rejected you.  It meant you weren’t worthy enough.  It was heartbreaking & took recovery.

And the reason I hadn’t thought about these things and the reason I muted my opinion within whatever-we-are-labeling-the-Texican-dealio are the same.
We, the local church, avoid the topic of healthy dating.
That, frankly, is the conversation I wish we could have.

Here I was, 30 years old, with virtually ZERO idea of what it meant to be a complimentarian and be in a relationship with someone who believed the same.  Want a book about marriage and that passage in Ephesians that everyone is so up in arms about (zomg don’tevengetmestarted)?
You got it.

But, somehow there aren’t a whole lot of guidelines for folks who maybe, kind of, think they might like each other?  He’s cute!  He claims to choose Love!  I see the way he looks at me from underneath the brim of his ballcap…hey ohhhhhh, hot stuff. 😉

Sadly, as I had to learn through experience, just because a man claims to choose Love does not mean he has any idea on how to treat women.  I honestly did not know this lesson.

And so, along comes this Mexican from Texas.  His name is Marco, by the way.  You see, I thought I should not give him a name as some sort of way to protect him or avoid finger pointing because I hate that shit.  But, his name is Marco and he earned his nickname because he is a Mexican from Texas and I thought it was hilarious.  Now, you’re all caught up.
(Ha, if only.)

Off & on for nearly a year, conversations with him consumed 2-5 hours of my day.  Yes, each day.
There was never a definition.  There were never terms.  There was never a “DTR”, as we Protestants so love to call it – you know, with awkward eye contact and a whole lot of “Like”‘s and ice cream.

I became one girl in a long line standing opposite a long line of boys in what seems to be the latest trend.  These seemingly never-ending nebulous relationships with no strict parameters or definitions.  All the while her heart is hanging out there on a string and he doesn’t even see it.  Or, if he does, he simply acts like it isn’t there.
For you women who walked that whole thing with me, (sigh) thank you.

While I pray daily for healing regarding whatever-that-was and I hope he is more considerate to the girl-who-will-love-him-better-than-me, the whole thing sparked this series of conversations that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Turns out I wasn’t alone.  Many women have no idea what a healthy dating relationship looks like because no one talks about it.  (Point me to the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book.  Do it.)

Frankly, who in the heyall decided this was okay?  And why aren’t we calling it out with each other?  And why can’t we talk about it within the church?  There’s tons of material in the realm of Mark Driscoll on how men can be more manly.  A couple of weeks ago, one of our pastors called men out on how to pursue a woman during his sermon.  From the back row,  I bellowed “Puh-reach!!!”
But, who will help the women?
Who will come alongside and remind them that they are incredible, opinionated and gifted?

Just four days ago, I got called a character.  Yesterday, a friend told me that she adores how independent I am.  How little shit I take off other people.  And I just laughed.  Because in the realm of what was the Texican, I became a shy and muted girl who kept all of her opinions and feelings to herself.
I am laughing out loud as I type this.
How absolutely unhealthy.

At the end of the day, though, I wish all those conversations I had afterwards were conversations that had come before.  I still have very little idea how to be a woman who believes in complimentarianism, and chooses Love, and also runs her own game and laughs loudly.  However, I’m no longer willing to compromise myself.  I’m no longer willing to try and put myself into some sort of mold just to be in a relationship.

I hope that we can reach a place where these sorts of conversations are ok.  Doubts are allowed and hugs are, too.  Yes, the sexes are quite different, but that certainly doesn’t make one better than the other and I sincerely don’t believe that it is supposed to be so hard.

Ladies, you are beautiful.  Walk proudly, but love much.  Respect the gentlemen, for they deserve it.  But, respect who you are, too.
There are far too few days in a life to treat someone poorly.
And that includes yourself.

Sending Love & Double Stufs,
amaris

25 things every woman needs to know.

October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Amen and amen.

HANNAH BRENCHER

1) Life is a steep, uphill battle but it’s fierce & it’s beautiful & you’ll be sad to see it go if you live it right.

2) New people won’t stop coming into your life and opportunities won’t stop knocking on the door but you need to have the space for them. In all you currently have– be them relationships or obligations– step back and ask yourself “why.” If you can find the answer, hold tighter. If the answer escapes you, it’s time to let something go.

3) You should resolve to be awesome for the rest of your life. Right now. Do it.

4) Leggings, no matter how much we wish, will never one day magically transform into pants. Wearing them with tops that don’t cover your bum is not cute. Please, please, please stock up on pants.

5) Goals are not a January 1st kind of thing. Set…

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A rare moment of banner-carrying.

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Did you know I used to carry the title missionary?

For some of you, this will be a bit of a surprise as it is not some sort of banner I go flailing about and beating others over the head with.  (I am pretty sure that sentence is somehow grammatically incorrect, but this is my blog so whatevz.)

Yep, right after high school, I knew I did not want to go to college immediately.  Instead, I traveled to west Africa with a team 9 days after our vice principal pronounced my name correctly for the first. time. ever. as I walked across a stage.  Of course, I went to Indiana for a few days with a great friend between graduation and Africa.  This is where the wandering took off and just hasn’t stopped.

After Africa, I decided to do a Discipleship Training School through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and flew up to Canada for the 7-month program.  Fun story sidebar: I flew to Toronto from Atlanta, though I was living with my folks in Charleston, SC.  Charleston to Atlanta is about 5 hours and I had a noon flight, so Momma, Renee’ and myself went a day early.  Got up, took me for some breakfast and at about 945am, right before the two hour check in they ask for when you fly international, Momma goes “Please double check you have everything?”
I eye roll.  (Remember: I have just turned 19.)
And just like that, I cannot find my ticket holder.  The black thing that has my passport, drivers license, visa paperwork, frequent flyer card, and immunization record.
We call Dad.  It is on the black office chair in Charleston.

My miracle-working Dad had me on a 4pm flight, my groggy brother loaded in our van, & was flying down the highway to Atlanta in under 15 minutes.  Let’s do the math on that.  It is 10am.  Flight is at 4pm.  Atlanta is a SOLID 5 hours.
Right.

We hang up and Momma goes “Welp, y’all wanna go shopping?”  Um, YES PLEASE!

Dad & David show up at like 318pm and we were waiting.  We practically throw my bag at the ticket agent (who reminds me that the bag might not make it – whatever why is this woman still talking???) and we run to the metal detectors.  Now, kids, before that big nasty 9-11 debacle, you could go with your passengers all the way to the gate.  Yep.  I know, CRAZY PANTS.
So, we each pick a metal detector and fly through.  Run to the escalator, run down the escalator, hop on the tram.  Four terminals later, we hop out, run up the escalator, and sprint down 28 gates of Terminal D.
It is 353pm.
They have been calling me over the speakers as I was the only passenger not on the plane.
I turn to my family and go “Well….bye!”  It wasn’t until I was somewhere over upstate New York that my brain kicked in with a “Holy crapsickle, WHAT are you thinking?!”

Missions is a hard gig.  So often, those who bear the title live in areas where sharing directly is not possible or welcome.  Showing Love becomes something you do with your everything and people matter so much that you are ok with this occupation that will leave you on your knees in the kitchen sobbing from the blackness you witness.  Missionaries raise their own funds and find ways to be light in that blackness in a variety of ways.  Often, they are from western cultures and go into societies that are less technologically advanced.  I went to Africa and the former Yugoslavia.  The McClure’s & Jason Vana go to the Czech Republic.  Brodie lives in Romania. Rachel went to Thailand.

It is in Thailand that a rather unusual thing came about.  A missionary emerged from Africa.  Emmanuel King Nyamageni is from Tanzania and is a talented artist.  Wanting to show Love with his gifts, he signed up for schools in the same organization I used to be a part of, YWAM.  He works with CREATE at their Chiang Mai location and has no desire to be anywhere else (CREATE is awesome & you can learn more about them by clicking here).  Thailand is where he feels pulled to live and in the midst of all of this, he meets Rachel.
They are engaged to be married in December.

Ema & Rachel releasing lanterns December, 2012.

Ema & Rachel releasing lanterns December, 2012.

Life is crazy, right?

Except after raising the funds for the school, he has very limited support to stay on in Thailand.  It is hard.   But, he feels like this is home.  He has met his future wife.  He will stay as long as he can.

The budget needs are small, compared to North American standards.  Overall, he must raise only $600 a month.  That is less than some of us pay in rent!  Except that is his entire budget.
Incredible.

But again, missionaries usually go to Africa.  Rarely do they come out of Africa.  Ema wants to change that and your $10-$50 per month can do so much.  Unbelievably much.

It is rare that I speak so boldly about Love, the work of the local church, or money.  May that illustrate how much I believe in the Chiang Mai base & in Ema.
If you would like to speak to him directly or find out more about him, you can do so via the contact form below.

May you know today how loved you are.

Ema in Thailand.

Ema in Thailand.

Hope lives in doubt.

July 22, 2013 § 4 Comments

There will be tension.

It’s not how do you avoid the tension.  Rather, it’s what do you do with the tension.  I feel like this is true of almost everything life sends along.

On Saturday night, I began a conversation that I almost immediately regretted.  Eric & I had spent the day capturing one of the greatest weddings we’ve been involved with, but weddings always exhaust my extrovert.  Add to it Day 6 of the first multi-day sickness I’ve had since Prague and I was completely exhausted.  But, my favorite Brodie is leaving.  That is a whole ‘nother blog post.  So, fresh face, chin up, let’s go salute our friend.
Hear me well, I’m glad I went.
But, in the conversation, my Instagram feed got called annoying.
Hit me like a brick through the front window.

And the voices in my head used it to yell at me that all my social media feeds are annoying.  That, frankly, all struggles with the business exist because I am worthless.  They took every single stress and threw it on top of my tired self.  When you are tired, the voices in your head speak truth at full volume.  It’s like someone gives them one of those terrible echoing microphones – you know, like in The Wizard of Oz – and a cloning machine.  You blink and there are 72 of them.  Where do they come from?
Seriously, if you can tell me where they come from I will pay you in my Kahlua Heath bar trifle.

Fast forward to this morning and I roll over still half asleep fully convinced that I should sell everything I own except the car, pack it full of whatever is left, and drive to California.  Call one of the many amazing Rachel’s in my life and find a winery to work for.  New phone.  New life.  I’d have a Mulligan by Christmas.
Amazing what a sleepy brain can convince you is totally rational.

As artists (and mothers and daughters and friends and roommates and employees), we critique ourselves like it’s our full-time job.  We will tear ourselves down until we are nothing, if we let the voices have their way.  By 10am this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much easier my life would be if I just hung up the camera.  Sold it.  Took a desk job for Target or somewhere else kind of fun, but still predictable.  I’d have health benefits and I would know my salary and I could even tell my roommates when I could pay the electric bill!
Then, an email.  And a google chat.  And a Facebook message.  All asking for quotes for jobs.
And at 11am, I got a phone call about a gig.  We wrapped up the conversation with her singing praises about my work and thanking me for my kindness.

I hope she couldn’t hear me tearing up on the other end of the line.

Dare I say that doubt is okay.  Questioning is perfectly acceptable.  If you don’t question, just take things at face value, you’ll just ride the wave of whatever is currently trendy and really won’t go anywhere.  The waves will die and you will be standing exactly where you were on the shore.

And so, to quote my grand friend Melissa:
you are loved. you have a good day. live the questions. ride the waves of tears. because it’s ok.

Her name is Alison.

June 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have a problem.

It’s a good problem, really.  The problem is that I need a clone.  There are virtually zero days off and dinner with another just for funsies happened yesterday (Beasley’s! Yum!) for the first time in gosh, WEEKS.  Maybe months.

My emails are running at a solid four days behind.  My processing time is hitting major lag time.  I hate it.  In my efforts to treat people the best I possibly can, it’s hard for them.  It’s hard for me.  And then, just like that (like everything amazing that ever happens in my life), here she comes.  The closest thing I’ve found to a clone of myself to date, except, wait for it….she’s better.

This radiant, joyful, extrovert can discuss social media marketing strategies and analysis of materials in circles around me while I munch on a Fudgesicle.  Your boss doesn’t have a stash of Fudgesicles?  Well, I’m sorry for you.

It all began with an idea.  She wanted new portraits and wanted me to do them.  I said for sure!  Which then developed into a really fantastical weekend in Charlotte with some of the most beautiful women gracing the whole gosh darn earth.  And this girl rocked it like a hurricane.  Nearly all I had to do was create and enjoy my time in the Queen City.  Paperwork, spreadsheets, all that non-creative stuff that bogs me down?  She handled it all and did so graciously & tied up in a pretty box with string.  There was also karaoke during one of these sessions for mere entertainment value.

And so, it is with incredibly great pleasure that I’d like to introduce you to Alison.
Say hi, Alison!

From our time in Charlotte.

From our time in Charlotte.

This.

This.

Her favorite.

Her favorite.

My favorite.

My favorite.

All the time.

All the time.

Going forward, chances are high that you’ll schedule your session or obtain your password or submit your payment through her.  While she’s on board part-time (for now…I have ideas), don’t hesitate to contact either of us with anything you need.  At the end of the day, our client’s experience is our top concern.  I want it to be the best it can possibly be and I am so grateful for an issue that’s required the addition of another.  You all share your lives and families and really special moments with me and it is not something I take lightly.  My job is one of my largest sources of joy.  Only appropriate, I think, to bring other joyful souls onto this ship.

If you see Alison, or contact her through email, don’t be afraid to joke around with her or be silly.  She, like me, loves to laugh and engage with others.  However, don’t be afraid to voice a concern, either.  She, like me, places a high value on people and making them feel loved and cared for.

Such an incredible journey.
Glad she’s on it.

Alison can be reached via email here: talktous@amarishames.com
Fun facts about her: She spent Christmas night 2012 sledding down a mountain in Austria, loves roller coasters, sings constantly (& pretty much knows the lyrics to every song ever – specializing in musicals and Disney numbers), and pineapple is her favorite food…followed closely by bacon. (<—Ed. note: Who doesn’t love bacon???)

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