I am BEYOND excited to have a special guest contribution from the magnificent Danielle Paxton. Having been married for over 19 wonderful years, this amazing couple has been making history and raising three beautiful daughters. Cory shared some powerful thoughts of his own which I captured in a prior blog. Here is Danielle’s answer the following question when we took these family portraits: If I could travel back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self before I was married?
I actually sat down to write this same article about 6 months ago, but in that time my answer has changed dramatically. No doubt that change has come as a result of the many unexpected twists and turns this year has brought, as well as from the time we have spent in counseling this year. We’ve been married almost 16 years now and have learned a lot of helpful skills, but the underlying issues that pressed in on me have corrupted all of these wonderful skills.
My story is not one of needing to simply communicate better, or make intentional time together, or use appropriate “I” statements. It’s a story of the bigger issues, the deeper ones that bubble up into everything. In my 39 years I’ve come to the bottom of my barrel and looked up, unable to save myself and ready to face all the truth I’ve never wanted to.
Josiah asked me to write an article on marriage, and I secretly wish I had some nice, well-packaged advice. But I just don’t. For me, making marriage successful has been learning to trust, learning to stop pretending, and learning to speak the truth in love.
If I could go back and tell my sweet, scared-to-death, about-to-be-married 23-year-old self, I would say this: Let go of all the perfect you think you have to be and trust God to give you all the things you really need.
You think you have to always be pretty. But you don’t. It’s okay that you look really different without your makeup on. You can still go to the store clean-faced. God will teach you that people don’t like you for your mascara and eyeliner – they like you for you.
You think you have to make gourmet meals for your husband every single night. Except you don’t actually know how to cook a gourmet meal and that’s okay. You guys will figure out how to get food even if it means you have to go to Wendy’s. Or worse – your husband can cook the food! God will teach you to enjoy how your husband takes care of you even if it involves a Foreman Grill.
You think you have to have it all together – and have all of HIS stuff together, too. You think you have to be the All-Stuff-Haver and make sure it’s all in order and everyone is happy with how together you have all the stuff. Except you don’t. Your husband can keep his own stuff together. He’s a big boy now. God will help you enjoy your husband’s flaws and, eventually, your own.
You think people will find you disgusting if they get to know you, so you hang on the fringes of life. Let go of that lie and go towards people when you feel that sick panic rise up in you. God will cover you in His grace and He will use His people to speak life over these dark places in you. You really can trust Him; He made you to be a wonderful part of His world.
Younger Me, pretending begets more pretending until you run out of space. Trust is scary but pretending is even worse. Trust God, trust your husband, and you will say true things with love because you’re not full of resentful pretending. Trust me, the future You – it’s the better way.
I am BEYOND excited to have a special guest contribution from the magnificent Corey Paxton. Having been married for over 19 wonderful years and partnering with his amazing wife Danielle, they have been making history and raising three beautiful daughters over the last couple of decades. I asked him if he would be willing to answer the following question: If I could travel back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self before I was married?
Since Josiah asked us to reflect on what we’ve learned in our 16 years of marriage and what we would say to our 23 year-old selves, I think I could write a book about everything I’ve learned! Some things you can only learn by experience, but I hope some of our experiences can help others in their journeys to learn how to love each other. I believe the mysterious process of two people becoming one is the greatest gift and greatest challenge in my life….and totally worth it! I wouldn’t trade the hard lessons I’ve learned and life I share with Danielle for anything. Here are a few things I wish I could talk to my 23 year old self about (although I’m not sure he would have listened”.
Make sure to take the plank out of your eye before you help with her specks…
‘Corey, you trust Jesus, but you need to trust Jesus with your wife’s journey with Jesus. You will fight the temptation to think, ‘if she would change, our relationship would be better.’ This thinking will get you no where. Yes, your wife has specks in her eye that keep her from seeing clearly, but don’t’ forget your job is to take the plank out of your own eye. Look at yourself first. Let Jesus’ love and grace into your mistakes. Take down your defenses. Be quick to admit your mistakes rather than trying to prove to her why you are good. The more you try to fix, change, or sermonize yourself or your wife, the farther you get away from the love and intimacy with God and your wife you really want.
Make sure she is with you before you run ahead…
You need to laugh at yourself here. You actually moved so fast after you said “I do” that you pulled your wife down the aisle. Don’t believe. Look at the pictures. This is something that you will continue to do and I want to urge you to SLOW DOWN. Enjoy walking with your wife rather than trying to pull her ahead of where she is. Ask good questions. Listen. Get to know her perspective and validate it even when you don’t agree. Make sure you are really together on big decisions and that she feels the freedom to be completely honest. It will be way better if you slow down and enjoy the journey together, even when it feels uncomfortably slow.
Be more honest about your vulnerabilities….you will like you more and so will she…
You grew up thinking you needed to be a hero. You like to care for other people’s problems. I mean, you became a pastor. Being honest about your own problems, needs, and vulnerabilities is hard for you, but is really important. You will be tempted to think that she won’t like (or love) you if she really knows the real you. You need to face the fear that you will be rejected and unwanted if you are really human. It’s a lie from the pit of hell and on the other side of this lie is the truth of love that only vulnerable humans can share together. Give her the freedom to be who she really is and trust that she will love you as you stop trying to be her hero. I mean, there is only one Hero that can meet our deepest needs, and you aren’t Him.
Ohhhh!!! This session was fun for so many reasons!! Mostly just because I love this family. I got to photograph Gabi’s wedding after meeting her in Young Life several years ago. This is the third time I have gotten the family behind my camera and so much has changed!! Gabi was pregnant with her second child in this shoot and all her little siblings are growing up and starting to become adults. (AJ is wearing a stunning uniform before deployment in this shoot). One thing has not changed, however. Dana and Amir have raised a family that is full of personality, loves to have fun and is a blast to be around!! Love these guys and gals!!
Here is one of my earliest family photos.
And here is my latest session with them!!
What a delight!! I was just looking through a few of my senior portrait sessions from the last few years. While focusing mostly on weddings I would sneak away every once in a while to grab some senior portraits for a friend or a friend of a friend. What a privilege. I love looking at these photographs because they represent some pretty wonderful memories!!
It’s so exciting – looking back while I look forward!! I am currently designing a system to make family portraits easy and fun. Preparing for launch has given me the unique opportunity to review some of my prior work!! I have traditionally only done weddings but would often sneak off to do family portraits for friends or prior clients. What a joy it is to look through these memories!! WOW!! I have gotten to photograph some fabulous humans!! Take a look at just a few of my favorites from the last few years 🙂
The behind-the-scenes, lovey-dovey, eyes-and-smiles looks that a new wife and husband give each other!! Hands down – this is one of the best things about being a wedding photographer. Especially for me, because I always end up with the SWEETEST couples!! Being behind the camera gives me an up-close look at these beautiful expressions. When we got to kidnap Jessie and Josh for their glorious sunset portraits (the golf course let me drive our very own golf cart to chauffer the newly wed couple!), it was such a joy to watch them simply be together. From the moment they hopped into their limousine golf cart, they longingly looked into each other’s eyes with the deepest of affection. They snuggled and cuddled. They laughed, smiled and giggled! An incredible joy filled their faces! Just being around their forever-lover made them alive and happy. What a privilege and an honor to capture these memories on this incredibly special day!
Everything about this day was beautiful. The flower arrangements (which the fabulous Kathy Lynch put together) captured the perfect hues to represent the romance and joy of the day. The stunning wedding dress, the perfectly coordinated bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen suits, the most delightful weather and, most importantly, the glowing faces of all the loving family and friends made this day absolutely wonderful, memorable and glorious! Did I mention how much I loved the smiles on these two after they were married?! It was literally the best!
Jessie and Josh, the officiant at one of my best friend’s wedding wisely shared that he of course loved to celebrate wedding days, but he especially loved celebrating anniversaries. This is because anniversaries reflect the lasting strength, love and beauty of a marriage. May these wonderful and beautiful wedding-day memories bless you and your family year-after-year for all the wonderful anniversaries that are out to come!! You are an amazing couple and I know the very best lies straight ahead for you both!! Congratulations you two!!
Venue – Foothills Golf Course
Dress – Brilliant Bridal
Food – Texas Roadhouse
Engagement Ring – Shane Company
What a delight!! Michaela and Josiah had just shared their first kiss as they were pronounced husband and wife, their friends and family gave a loud cheer and non-stop applause. The world seemed to stop for just a split second. Their outrageously fun, kind and servant-hearted bridal party was just steps behind them. They were the first to reach the side of Hope Barn and Garden. They took advantage of this private moment to steal another kiss! And then laughed in pure delight as they each peered into the eyes of their forever best friend!
This was the beauty of the entire day!! Each moment was filled with delight and joy!! There were so many beautiful expressions to capture – proud moms, a joyful ring bearer and flower girl, glowing family, supportive friends and of course a stunning bride and groom!
Michaela and Josiah, your wedding was an absolute wonder to capture. Every moment and detail was filled with love and intentionality. I hope that these photos bring you wondrous memories of this most joyful, special day for decades to come!! What pure delight this special occasion was!!
Lexi and Taco,
What a special occasion to commemorate!! I am beyond honored to help document the beginning of your first child’s life! WOW!
I tried to not listen while you whispered the things you were looking forward to during one of my posing prompts but you I could definitely see that you two definitely shared the most beautiful, joyful grins and excited smiles. Your happiness is contagious; I can only describe it as… absolutely glowing. (Plus I became educated on the incredible world of Johnny Cupcake – it was a great day!) It was a joy to get to know you a little bit. You are both incredibly kind and caring. Caspian is lucky to have you both as his parents. May these photos become priceless memories for years to come!
Michaela and Josiah,
Thank you for being so super in-love that every time I turned around, you were already in the cutest snuggly poses!! Thank you for being creative and adventurous, braving giant boulders in a single bound (even in heels!) Thank you for teaching me the very fun completely original “Michaela & Josiah Woohoo!” pose. Also….Josiah, thank you for having the best name ever 😉 Seriously though, this was such a fun and beautiful session!! Your combined sense of adventure, fun, love and intentionality shines through your relationship. I CAN’T WAIT for your beautiful marriage. (Weddings are beautiful milestones. Marriages last a lifetime!!)
Much love to you both! Happy one year anniversary and almost wedding day!! May these engagement photos bring you joy for years to come!!