Tuesday, July 24, 2018
By Nancy Center
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Dear Friend, 

I know how you feel. 

Although you're never supposed to say that when someone's hurting, in this case? I've been there, too. I've walked a mile in your fair trade, poppy-embellished slippers, so all those bumps in the road you're feeling? I'm hurting with you. 

When you set down roots in that new, fertile soil you found years ago, you dug in deep. You drank from the wisdom and blessings you found there. You flourished and blossomed and became a version of yourself you never knew possible. You grew in the sunshine and stretched out your arms and gathered others into the light you found. You found nourishment and, in turn, nourished others. This version of you? It's stunning. Amazing. God has blessed and healed you far beyond what you could have asked, or even imagined. 

So now? When it's time to be transplanted, you willingly accept the assignment. How could you not, knowing God has a plan?

And hurts. 

Had you never set down roots, had you not dug deep and bloomed where you were planted, this would be easy. Had you chosen to stay safe in your shell, never dying to the old life, never allowing your environment to pierce your husk and crack you open, you could move on and feel no pain. Had you chosen to hide in the dark, unmoved and unchanged, you could be transplanted with no trauma whatsoever. 

But you chose life. You chose to pry out of that hard exterior, to send out tender shoots and gentle roots, feeling your way through this dark place. You sought light and found warmth. You dug deep and were nurtured. Your roots intertwined with those of your community and together, you became a solid foundation, holding one another up.

And now, you're being uprooted. It's a painful process, ripping at those roots you worked so hard to grow. Tearing through connections with neighbors who reached out, too, is excruciating and seems a bit unfair..."God, you put me here, and I did my part. I dug in. I grew. I changed..." 

It's so true. You did all those things. And had you not grown, this season would have been meaningless.

But look at all you've done. It's painful because you've done so much. It's been beautiful and so worth it. You grew and blossomed and you've reached the time of incredible harvest. 

You will be back to this home and you will keep in touch. I know- It won't be the same. It can't. That world will go on spinning without you, and that hurts, too. 

When I made my painful move, a friend told me, "People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime." Somehow, that helped. It helped discern the lessons to be learned. It helped to know when to let go of treasured friends, who were only mine for a season and to find gratitude for that season. 

This may hurt for a while. Even a long while - mine did, even though I always believed it to be directed by God. Even when I could see all the good reasons to make the move. 

With some time and distance, I can accept that it was always meant for a season. It was a really great season, and I will always cherish the growth, the lessons, and the community that welcomed us. And finally, I've made a new home, where I feel like I belong. 

You'll get there, too. One day, you'll find you've dug down deep once more...that you've truly found a new home that allows for new growth and more beauty. 

You will get there, friend. Bring all that love you've gathered along with you and take the next step in your little poppy slippers. 

God's got you, and you've got this. I promise, you will find warmth and love and grace, and you will bloom wildly in your new terrain, too. 

Love you, friend. 


Thursday, July 05, 2018
By Nancy Center
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"Treat your family like friends, and your friends like family."

It was a simple idea, really, that Ina Garten shared in an interview years ago, but it was revolutionary for me. In the middle of a cooking magazine that makes you fat just reading it, Ina shared her way of life that has changed mine.  

Her philosophy was exactly opposite from my understanding of relationships, and I was intrigued. As an adult, I could already see the pieces of this coming together. People tend to mirror your response to them: If you smile at strangers, they typically smile back, and when you flip them off...well. let's not find out how that one goes. 

She went on to say, when guests come over, don't shoo them out of the kitchen, give them a job. Let them help! Put them to work and make them feel like they're part of your team. Letting guests pitch in? Allowing guests to peek behind the veil? Coming from a background where family relations were pretty on the outside but strained within, this was a radical idea to me. 

But over the years, I've found she's so right, and her philosophy seems to work pretty much every time. People are thankful to find folks who are real and relatable, and when that's what you give, people relax and give the same thing back. 

The photo above is from a recent dinner party, which I couldn't have pulled off without Ina's advice and my friend, Karen's, willingness to help. Guests arrived to a sink still full of dirty dishes and dined on the porch, overlooking my junk-filled barn. But Karen joined in just like family, making the appetizers, setting the table, and talking me down off all my ledges. Thanks to Ina, I was able to accept some help and realize how thankful I was to have Karen on my team. And my friends bonded next to the dish-filled sink, (much to my horror), but they didn't bat an eye. 

And you know why? Because they knew they were being loved like family and cherished as friends. And being valued beats getting hung up on a sink full of dishes any day.  


Family, friends, and Ina Garten

Thursday, July 05, 2018
By Nancy Center Photography
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Wanna know some secrets? pretty much every guy who’s ever had portraits made was dragged there by a girl. ok - maybe not every guy, just 98% of them. Or maybe 99. The smart ones, like Will, are super cooperative so they can get outta there super fast. But I have some secrets, too: First off? I know they don’t wanna be there, even though they’re too nice to say it out loud. Also? I get it. Having your picture made can be tough. But you know what they find out really quickly? we're making this up as we go, there’s really no pressure, it’s very casual, and their input matters. Just ask Will, who was overheard saying before we were even finished, “This is fun!” That’s the other secret and the reason I’m willing to hang in there - even when you don’t want to: I know you’re going to feel valued and confident and recognized for all the good things you are…I know you’re going to love the process and the pictures in the end.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
By Nancy Center
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Some rarified folks arrive in adulthood with the belief intact that interior design/dolphin training/product photography is a viable career choice. But most of us along the way, decide we need to be practical. So, we squeeze behind a cubical desk and daydream from 9:00-5:00 of stringing paperclips into a noose and wondering if a sprinkler head could support our weight. Or maybe that's just me. 

A year ago last spring we were building a house, and my husband and i were each commuting 90 minutes a day, on different schedules, to and from the same paperclip noose place. Since there was no time for anything extraneous, such as caring for our children or speaking to each other, i decided something had to give. The only thing i could see to cut was the photography business i ran on the weekends. So, i began to prayerfully consider closing my doors and fully committing to the soul-crushing, paperclip place. My decision was pretty much made since too much was slipping through the cracks: doctors appointments were being missed, family believed me to be dead or missing. i've always believed you really can do it all, you just sleep less or play less or contribute less. It's shameful, now, to see that in print. 

Fortunately, i finally realized there was no amount of "less" to give. So i spent a few weeks of focused prayer, expecting in the end to shut the doors of my photography business. And in the meantime, we continued to build this house, making changes where we saw fit, changing the Amityville Horror windows to squares, trading a closet for the world's smallest bathroom, and modifying the back porch into a sunroom. It was here, in the sunroom, amidst the sawdust and drywall, that my eyes and mind were opened to the realization: I had unwittingly built the perfect lightbox. It was a soul-stirring moment, and i felt as if God were turning me 180 degrees from the path where my own wisdom was leading me. 

It was such a moment of clarity amidst the noise that i spent the next year following the path as it emerged, one step at a time. It was an awe-inspiring moment, which thankfully, caused me to remember and obey, although more dutifully than joyfully. i believed God would reward the response, but also considered Him to be rather slow,  according to my fast-food American-style timeline. i thought in the end i may get fries with that, but wasn't sure i'd have any teeth left to chew them. 

In January, in the spirit of All Things New and Improved, business goals were added to the calendar. If God wants me to do this, then i should DO THIS. Dates were predicted that high school seniors should start knocking on my door and Friday, June 2, was determined to be the day i'd begin running this business full time. Then using my mad math skills, i counted backwards 14 days and circled May 19 on my calendar as the day i'd give my 2-week notice to the paperclip noose place. These were all very lofty goals - and they all came directly from me. 

As Winter warmed into Spring, my feet began getting cold. The pressure of a looming goal and the thought of giving up a steady salary caused me to think twice about my too-big goal...God didn't actually tell me to quit the cube farm...He just guided me to keep taking, i scratched out the goals on my calendar and decided the timing wasn't right. Who knows how long God will take to do...whatever it is He's doing here. 

As it turns out, His timing was a week faster than mine, and i think the roadblock was me. Morale had gotten bad all around at the paperclip noose place and the employees were, and still are, feeling the strain. So much so that i stopped my car 2 days in a row on the way to work and pulled over to pray. i called my boss both days and told him to mark me absent, something that's frowned upon everywhere, but is grounds for termination at the paperclip place. 

And then i just prayed. All day, both days. i called my husband, asked him to pray and give his opinion of me quitting the day job and running this photography business for real. And he gave me his blessing. 

I asked my friends to pray and texted every prayer warrior i knew and asked them to do the same. 

And finally, i asked my parents to pray. For once i didn't consider myself too busy to spend time with them and went to their house for advice. I've always been a headstrong, know-it-all brat and independent with my parents to a fault. Why it took me 46-years to humbly seek their counsel is inexplicable to me now. My dad looked me right in the eye and said, "I know you can do this. We believe in you, baby. You're braver than i am, but i think you can do it." My strong mother, who is being robbed by dementia, was remarkably present and clear that day: "We're so proud of you, darling, and if you're not happy with what you're doing, then yeah! Change it. Life's too short." This was not the advice i grew up hearing, and maybe it was because i'd never really listened before...I kept waiting for someone to say NO. For my supportive husband to say, we can't give up half of our salary, for friends to say, WHAT. THE HECK. For my parents to say we could lose the house we just built. 

Everyone prayed. Everyone supported. Everyone received peace, including me. 

And so, i turned in my notice to the paperclip place, a week and a half ahead of my schedule. And i realized maybe, it's not God who was slow in this after all. Thankfully He showed more patience and faith with me than i did with Him. I'm trying to listen more now, trying desperately to keep the seeking posture that got me here, although it's so contrary to my instinct to be contrary. i'm starting to dream again, too, and realizing that it's enough for some of our dream jobs as kids to be lifelong hobbies. i'll probably always be decorating my space for fun, and it looks like i'll be taking pictures for food. And secretly...dolphin training is going back onto the list just in case...