“How are you?”
“We’re good! Busy!” I grinned and rattled off a list of our recent travels and work accomplishments, tousling my toddler’s blond curls as she wriggled free from my grip to run freely around the room.
My friend, whom I hadn’t seen in months, asked me to catch her up on my life.
Yes, we photographed 25 weddings and over 100 portrait sessions!
Yes, we’re both working full-time in our business now! Can you believe it?
Our trips to San Francisco and Disney World? Definitely magical!
I know, the girls are getting so big! They definitely keep us on our toes.
As a child, I watched my matriarchs do it all. From the ashes of broken homes, they became hostesses extraordinaire, family breadwinners, and generational curse-breakers. Every yes to a new opportunity was one step further from the life of poverty and lack they left behind.
Work full-time and be a room mom? Check.
Volunteer at church and host a small group? Check, check.
Girl Scout troop leader, extravagant birthday party planner, every event’s biggest cheerleader? Check, check, check.
Naturally, I followed suit. Two bands, two choirs, honors classes. Hold a steady job, lead worship four times a week, start an after-school Bible study. Get voted most talented, snag a full ride to college, follow your dreams, graduate a year early, get married young, dive deep into ministry, have babies, and on and on and on.
The rhythm of persistence was all I’d ever known, and I excelled at it.
When my oldest daughter came crashing into the world, eight pounds of strong will and screams, I found myself thrust into an unsettling cadence. For the first time in my life, my days were not determined by my ability to check things off a to-do list but instead relied on my very novice child survival skillset. Changing the world morphed into changing diapers, crafting setlists shifted to crafting homemade baby food, and the only live concert I was playing was filled with late-night lullabies in a feeble attempt to soothe my anxious newborn.
For the first time in my life, I felt lost.
Hours drifted into days and days into years; a pendulum of tedium, swinging from duty to duty, seeming to signal my inability to make a real impact. Whatever that means.
Of course, I was making an impact raising a daughter, but when busyness has been a marker by which you measure success for most of your life, the simple act of slowing down can make one feel painfully inept.
As my innocuous photography hobby bloomed into a full-blown business, I could feel the undercurrent of my identity shift again. My evenings and weekends were brimming with young love and beautiful families. I donned my #bossbabe persona and, like my matriarchs before me, became the primary breadwinner for our home. Bookings rolled in, bank accounts swelled, color-coded calendars called my name. I was grateful and exhausted all at once, taking pride in building a creative life, but also running headlong toward burnout. Behind the glowing illusion of social media, I was anxious, overwhelmed, and ill.
And then, in the height of the hustle, when our business was bursting with growth, a quiet conviction came in the night.
Busyness is not a badge of honor.
The words cut straight through my chest where I’d worn that invisible emblem for years.
Every time someone asked me, “How are you doing?,” I’d spout the same response: “Good! Busy!”
It was honest, but it was also quietly haunting me.
This badge I’d proudly pinned to every interaction was like kryptonite, sucking life from me.
Hustle couldn’t heal my heart. Hurry couldn’t prevent my panic attacks. Success couldn’t stall the years my children were racing through.
There was no honor in building a life that left little room for living.
Pandemic living forced a societal slowness upon us that many found unfamiliar. Our family had just welcomed baby number four into our home as the world slowed to a fearful halt. The wedding industry, our sole source of income, teetered on collapse as couples postponed celebrations over and over again. Seventeen of our weddings rescheduled into the years that followed and, for the first time in nearly a decade, we found ourselves with empty agendas.
What would have been a crippling crisis of identity before – who are we if we cannot create? – became a call toward cultivating intentionality in ways we never had before. The unknown became an unexpected gift of time, connection, and exploration.
We homeschooled, learned new hobbies, dreamed fresh dreams. We found more joy in mundane moments and sought out slower paces. We thanked Jesus for his provision and discovered he delights in our stillness. There were countless hard days, but I think deep down, we knew this strange opportunity to quiet our lives would quickly pass us by if we weren’t intentional about it. So we took stock and found ourselves shifting standards and laying down the badge of busy we’d borne for a lifetime.
And when the lockdowns lifted, there was a temptation to slip the status quo back on like a little black dress, walking into the party like I still belonged. But I knew I didn’t. Busyness was unbecoming on me.
“How are you guys doing?”
“We’re good! We’re trying to scale the business back a bit and focus on new dreams while making space for all the things a big family demands. We’re slowly learning to leave room for the little things along the way.”
I don’t answer that question the same way anymore. Of course, there are days when the to-do list takes over, but busyness need not define me. It is not the banner I bear in every room or the badge I boast over all I do. I am most me when I have space to be. My impact and honor are not found in a flurry of things that will never fill, but in finding fascination in the One who freely gives this abundant life I’m living.