Another Year, Really??? | Part One

I cannot believe that 2015 came and went as quickly as it did.  On one hand I’m really sad that it flew by so quickly, but on the other, I’m so incredibly relieved.  Today I’m writing part ONE of a blog to share with you what my 2015 has looked like.  Sometimes I find it hard to be vulnerable in a blog because it feels so impersonal, but I feel its crucial to know where I’m coming from before I can share what lies ahead for me, my family & my business in 2016.

2015 was a very full year…. here’s a month-by-month synopsis:
  • In January 2015, we moved my brother into his apartment in Fuquay Varina to begin his Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at Campbell University.  We spent intentional days snuggling with our sweet niece, Abella.  There’s nothing quite as cozy as a cold winter day with a squishy newborn swaddled tight & cuddled up on your chest.  I miss her being that tiny!  The remainder of the month I spent my free time making homemade vegetable broth, canning, visiting antique shops, and making more homemade products with our doTERRA essential oils.
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  • February is always one of my favorite months.  February started off with a superbowl party.  I tried dry-needling on my neck and shoulder area for the first time.  We attended a party to celebrate Lindley & Patrick’s engagement & got to meet the wedding party.  I turned 26 and celebrated by being surrounded with friends and family.  On this night I found out that our friends Gage & Megan were pregnant!  My sweet friend Majesty played a show at the Paramount on my actual birthday and I was lucky to get to be there for it…she even sang to me.  :) We celebrated Valentine’s Day with chocolate covered strawberries, glass bottle Cokes & dinner at our favorite restaurant, Los Fogones.  We got a little bit of “wintery mix” and then some snow later in the month.  My friend, Amy, her daughter Hayden & I made 30 freezer meals in one night – we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, we laughed, we sang Taylor Swift, we were delirious, we cut up what felt like 1,000 veggies — all in all, we made memories together.
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  • On March 1 we sat in a booth at Ed’s in downtown Goldsboro and talked with one of our dear friends, Scott.  Together we prayed and dreamed about what it would be like if he and his wife were to move back to Goldsboro.  We shared dreams for our future families and what it would be like to be in community together again on a daily basis.  Kevin led worship in Edenton & it was so nice to get away for a few days and relax with our friends, Gage, Megan (& Ollie, in her belly!).  We went to see Dance For Christ with our friends Amy & Josh & their daughter Hayden.  Kevin went to Romania for a week to teach & equip worship leaders there.  Gateway (our home church) always loves on our Pastors & their wives during Pastor Appreciation Week in March.  We are always so blessed by our congregation that week; they always remind us how genuinely amazing they are!  I can’t think of any other people I’d rather be vulnerable with, make memories with & grow close to!  Finally, as a church we wrapped up Matt Chandler’s “Recovering Redemption” series.

“God does some of His best work amid our worst pain. Our senses are never more awakened to our need for His love than when we’re most helplessly exposed. God isn’t the author of this evil and suffering, but His power is great enough to turn the darkest nights into something beautifully redemptive for His children.”
– Matt Chandler
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  • Easter was early this year.  Of course, like in year’s past, mom read to us “The Country Bunny & the Little Gold Shoes”.  We celebrated at our yearly Good Friday Service & Sunday morning worship service.  Of course we went to a few egg hunts around town; Kevin played at Bethel’s Eggstravaganza with Majesty and Abella wore her tiny pink converses….adorable!  We photographed our first wedding of the year in downtown Raleigh.  Our local community college experienced an active shooter.  Kevin, Kelley, Wanda & I went to see Bryan Adams at the Red Hat Amphitheater.  We (somewhat) attended the Pickle Festival….in the midst of a downpour.  Sadly, all the music shows were rained out.  We ended April with a trip to Atlanta to photograph an Indian wedding, an answered prayer!
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  • After our shopping around in Atlanta, May began with Patrick & Lindley’s first wedding shower.  We celebrated Mother’s Day with our moms, photographed Dana (my intern) & Zane’s wedding in New Bern & then headed back to Goldsboro for the Air Show!  Kevin played at the show with Majesty – it was SO hot outside!  We visited the State Farmer’s Market, spent some time in our ENO hammocks & spent lots of time with our friends.  I feel like this month was where a lot of the deep bonds in our friendships were strengthened. I wrapped up the month with a wedding in Richmond, VA; my mom & friend Abby tagged along with me.
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  • June….half way through the year!  I started out the month celebrating my dad’s birthday on June 1.  I took a walk on the trail behind the hospital with friends and then visited Mount Pleasant,NC with my friend Lauren to photograph a wedding.  We made homemade ice cream for our church’s Ice Cream Freeze Off.  Sadly, we didn’t win, but our friends’ Red Velvet Cheesecake (aka Jesus Wept) ice cream did win!  Somewhere around mid-June we realized we had officially developed this habit of playing cards and drinking coffee with our friends on Monday nights.  And then Tuesdays we would go eat Tacos for $1.  In June, I wanted to be intentional about cultivating meaningful friendships – see #fruitfulsummer.  We celebrated my parents anniversary & June 20, we celebrated Kevin’s birthday with a burger bar in the front yard with sweet friends!  We celebrated Fathers Day with our dads!  Kevin went to summer camp with our student ministry in Anderson, SC, then stopped by Charleston, SC to visit the AME church were 9 people lost their lives…..he also discovered ancestry.com & spent hours researching his family’s history.  When he returned we visited Simply Natural Creamery for the first time with my family.  Papa Sam was hospitalized this month, we all knew his health was deteriorating quickly.
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  • July 1 brought about a whirlwind of emotions…it kind of hurts to even remember it.  Papa Sam was moved from the hospital to Kitty Askins Hospice Center.  A good majority of our days were spent there – morning, afternoon & evening.  We decided not to keep our traditional July 4th plans of going to Emerald Isle & instead we stayed behind to be with Papa Sam and our entire family as we anticipated his last days were among us.  We were reminded of how loved we are – friends came to sit with us and bring us food during our long stay at Kitty.  In the midst of all this, my mom & I had planned a “tool shower” for my brother so we celebrated him & power tools together.  2 days later, on July 13, 2015, Papa Sam passed from earth into Eternity; The words of Jesus love me will never be the same to me.   I still remember standing on that balcony after he took his last breath, watching the sun set.  It was so peaceful, so beautiful.   We celebrated his life in a service on July 16 where Kevin delivered a beautiful eulogy and tribute to the life he lived & the Gospel message he so gracefully preached.  After the graveside service we all went to Cracker Barrel for dinner…all 30 of us.  Remember how we had brunch with our friend Scott in March and prayed he would come back to Goldsboro?  In July, Scott and his wife Blaire moved back to Goldsboro…another answered prayer.  Life continued with a friend’s retirement from the military, another wedding to photograph, and a trip/vacation to Florida to visit friends from college while Kevin led worship at a camp in Daytona Beach with the Matt Bartlett Band.  While we were there, early on Sunday morning we received news that our friend, Davey, our “sound guru” at church, had gone to be with Jesus after a short battle with stomach cancer.   We returned home for his funeral.  Kevin and our worship team led in a few songs & I had the incredible honor of capturing it all. Life…..is but a vapor.
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  • My brother got married in August!  Woohoo…Happy times!  And remember our friends, Scott & Blaire…..well….they’re pregnant!  Mom, Dana (intern-ish), Carla and I traveled to Elkin, NC to photograph another wedding.  It was nice to be away from home for a few days and to take in the scenery of vineyards & mountains.  Kayla turned 16…and that still blows my mind….she was 10 when I first met Kevin.  We attended a wheelchair hockey game, sat on the back porch, enjoyed time with family & celebrated my brothers birthday.  Kevin played a show with Majesty in Mount Olive, my friends & I planned a wedding shower for Kelley & we started weekly Wednesday night planning meetings for Kelley & Santi’s wedding.
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  • Its September, already!  The month started out with a wedding in Winston Salem, NC with Dana & Lindsey there to help!  Weekly planning for Kelley’s wedding continued.  Dana photographed another wedding with me – this one was in Saxapahaw, NC.  We tried Rabbit for the first time and I fell in love with that tiny little city.  On September 16 my mom had to have bi-lateral breast ultrasounds to follow up on a few suspicious areas they found on her mammogram.  That same day I began praying for my friend Andrea (our friend Davey’s daughter) who was undergoing some testing for her neck pain.  Kevin & I celebrated 3 years of marriage in Raleigh, NC.  We visited Joule’s Coffee shop & he played at Sparkcon with Majesty.  On our actual anniversary we started a new bible study at church & went out for dessert with Carla & Majesty afterwards.  I second shot a wedding, , I rekindled my love for doTERRA essential oils; a new product line launched & I scheduled an oil class at my house to share the oils with friends & family.  My mom had a breast biopsy to further test the areas they had found on her mammogram and our friend Andrea received news we were hoping she wouldn’t: breast cancer.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past five months, it’s that we are all called to be brave in unique ways. You are called to be brave.
But be warned, because when you declare it, it will be tried and tested.

I really do believe we all have bravery inside of us. And that when we own our stories, when we admit that the hard stuff exists and we choose to trudge through it, that’s when our bravery grows. That’s when we get stronger. And when your life feels like it’s crumbling, all because you took a chance on that brave—you took a chance on yourself—know that God doesn’t leave loose ends. He puts the pieces back together, in time. And your brave will be taller and stronger and more refined than it used to be. It’s not easy; it’s costly.  But that big, tall, strong kind of brave is so worth it.”
-Meg O’Connor
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  • On October 1, Blacklist started back….that’s pretty much the only time you will catch Kevin and I in front of the TV together!  Kevin and I visited an indian restaurant in Greenville for the first time & reminisced the indian wedding we photographed earlier in the year.  We attended the wedding of our friends Kristina & Tyler, had our first family dinner with “framily” (friends that feel like family) and I planned & successfully executed a huge event for work, a breast cancer awareness walk – “Think Pink.” Over 364 people from our community attended the walk (does not include staff members & some others who didn’t register), and 12 women scheduled screening mammograms!  My friend Andrea attended and was surrounded by her friends & our church family who all wore shirts I had designed as a fundraiser for her.  For the first time in my job at the hospital, as I was walking around the track I got teary eyed because I saw first hand that I was making a difference in my role.  My lucky brother won over $2,000 worth of apple products in a contest on HIS radio, my mom & I successfully pulled off Kelley & Santi’s wedding day, we attended the Wayne Pregnancy Center fundraising banquet, I photographed a wedding in Southport with Dana & Kevin played with Majesty at the Restore One Gala. I received gifts from that secret sister gift exchange, too!  At the end of the month, we found out that my mom needed to have the benign spot in her breast removed, so we went for a surgical consult.  We made memories at Trunk or Treat and ended the month photographing our sweet friend Andrea’s family photos before she started chemotherapy.
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  •  Daylight savings time ended, which for my signifies the start of things beginning to slow down in the photography realm…no more shoots during the week.  We attended the ribbon cutting for the downtown Goldsboro streetscape, Kevin played with Majesty at that, and the following day they played a showcase in Durham, NC.  I had my first appointment with my oncologist to take a look over my medical history & to look into my hormone imbalance.  We celebrated our friend Andrea’s 40th birthday, my mom had surgery and 2 breast lumps removed (they found an additional suspicious shaped one & decided to take it out also). We celebrated as our favorite restaurant, Los Fogones re-opened; it was especially special for us because we had the honor of helping to re-brand for them.  The hospital partnered to help build a playground in Goldsboro so I was able to participate in that alongside my brother, some of his classmates, and over 200 other volunteers.  The Monday that followed, November 16, we found out that the additional lump they found in my mom’s breast was breast cancer.  I really really really hate cancer.  The next day Kevin and I had to head to Asheville, NC for a conference for work.  While we were there he spent time songwriting while I attended classes.  I was asked to present to the attendees & on the last night we attended a dinner where the hospital was presented with 6 awards for excellence in healthcare public relations and marketing.  I was honored to have played a part in our winning of awards, but was also very ready to be home and be with my mom.  We returned home on Friday afternoon.  Saturday I photographed 8 families as part of my Christmas mini sessions & Kevin lead worship at Cardboard City to raise awareness for homelessness in our Community.  That Sunday was one of my favorite days in November – we stuffed over 140 bags full of Thanksgiving meals for families in need!  Majesty (& friends/band) had an online show in our living room, I had to have a breast MRI, we spent a LOT of time hanging cups in a line for a backdrop at church, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a deeper appreciation for our families & friends and then my mom, I went shopping at 3 AM on Black Friday & Kevin bough himself a gun!  We crossed an item off of Kevin’s bucket list by going to see Glen Hansard at the DPAC and afterwards we picked out our Christmas tree.  We ended the month by helping my mom decorate her Christmas tree – this year’s color is PINK!
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  • At last, December.  This month I held a Norwex party at my house and was excited to learn about all their natural cleaning products!  My mom had to have an additional surgery to remove more of her breast; we found out that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes & they were able to get clean margins.  I photographed a wedding in Downtown Raleigh with help from Shannen, we walked in the Pikeville Christmas parade & I surprised my mom with a trip to Raleigh to see “A Christmas Carol.”  I started a GoFundMe page to collect money for my mom’s breast cancer treatment & I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our friends & family.  A group of 28 of our closest family & friends went to Mikes Farm, Sweet Abella turned one year old and had a blast at her Minnie Mouse party, and we went to Bahama Breeze to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  We celebrated Christmas with the church staff at a lovely Christmas party full of cheesecake & gifted everyone with homemade rosemary bread & chocablocks!  We made Christmas Candy with Kevin’s family & somehow found the time to mail out Christmas cards in the midst of all of mom’s doctor’s appointments and testing (if we missed your house this year, I ask for forgiveness.  They were mailed in shifts, and the first shift check-off got lost….so I picked up where I thought I had left off….jello brain!)  On Christmas Eve we celebrated at our church’s annual Christmas Eve Service (one of my favorite services of the year) and then we went to grandmother’s house to play games, including PieFace!  So much fun.  We sang carols & remembered last Christmas where we gathered around Papa Sam’s hospital bed to sing to him.  Christmas day was a whirlwind.  We watched Abella open gifts with such joy, full of wonder & awe.  We took time to be grateful for the gifts, large & small that were given.  We gathered at Kevin’s parent’s house for lunch & then everyone came to our house for a Burrito bar dinner & gift exchange.  Kevin taught at church on Sunday morning, Tuesday we found out that mom will need chemotherapy for her cancer treatment & tonight we had dinner with our parents for New Year’s Eve & now we are going to bed (its only 10:30 pm!).
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And there you have it; my 2015 in review.

We are anxious for new year that awaits, new roads to travel down, new lessons to learn, hurdles to jump, tears to shed and unspeakable amounts of joy – of this I’m sure.  Until I sat down to write this blog I hadn’t really taken the time to process everything we went through this year.  The last half of the year, especially have been full of grief and sorrow.  Some days things just don’t feel right; navigating the holidays has been very different this year, but my goal has been to CHOOSE joy in all things and in that I’ve spent more time with my family and friends, holding them close and really treasuring their friendships and influence in my life.

I am extremely blessed, more than I deserve; next week I’ll reflect a little more on 2015 and I’ll continue to be even more vulnerable about a few things happening, personally & professionally, in 2016.  I hope you’ll come back and hear my heart.

Love,
Brittani

 

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