Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Monday, February 29, 2016

Buckle Up!

I wrote my last post on New Year's Eve. It helped settle my thoughts and refocus them on my Savior and Provider as I looked over the last disappointing year toward the possibility of more of the same. I published it, and promptly forgot about it as I went to sleep that night, relieved.

Once published, I quickly decided after two very disappointing attempts to find work in November and December that my time of searching for gainful, grown-up employment in the greater Atlanta area was done. The dead end job of a front office coordinator at a physical therapy practice I had applied for that went to a recent graduate with a Master's degree in Public Health was the final nail in the coffin of local job searches.

Photography business had tanked in recent years, and save for 2014's last gasp, we came to the crushing realization that it would not sustain us. We had to have another source of income.

The handwriting is on the wall. Something has to change. We can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. 

My gut was, shall we say, speaking quite loudly. So I did something different. I submitted an application and resume to a company in North Carolina.

I'll be honest, it felt scary and wonderfully adventurous all at once; feelings that used to be familiar but had long been dormant. And it made me grin.

I don't think either Leland or I expected anything to come of it, but I was holding onto a thread of hope because THIS company was exactly the type of business I wanted to be a part of. A company that wants to change the corporate culture in America? A company that values its employees and has a foundation for the express purpose of giving assistance to their own who find themselves in need? A company that gives to the community? That provides a physical space for charities that give to the community, allowing them to do their work more efficiently? A faith-based company that has experienced phenomenal, exponential growth since its beginning in 2007? What is this magical place, and can I sign up?

Movement Mortgage. A place I can work, feel a part of, contribute to, grow and develop in, and receive not just a paycheck, but a sense of purpose and meaning.

So, shocker, I got an email, then a phone screening, then a request for a face-to-face interview with Talent Acquisition for the next 6-week Mortgage Loan Processing training class, Movement University. Would I be interested?

Let me think about it. Right, just kidding. Leland and I jumped in the car, drove to Charlotte, spent a few lovely hours with family, got up the next morning and had my interview. We grabbed lunch with youngest daughter, Laurie, who also works for Movement (providentially), and were on the road back to Roswell.

I felt like I had been nominated for an Academy Award. Someone actually thought enough of what was on a piece of paper to give me a shot. I was beyond grateful, especially after so. much. rejection.

I spent the next 4 days replaying the interview in my head. (Please, my lovelies, do not ever do that.) After that exercise in futility, on February 23rd at 4:00, I got a call with an offer of employment.

I accepted. 

I'm holding the golden statue. The one that says I'm a child of the God of the amazing plan, inscribed with Trust me, I am for you.

Julie & Mike, the party people.

Fast forward a few days, and after my neighbor, Julie, called to ask about job news, she had organized a few of the closest neighbors for a quick happy hour/goodbye celebration in The Oak Room. At 4:00 yesterday, 3 of my neighbors showed up with snacks and drinks for what was supposed to be an hour--that turned into more like two and a half. Everyone gathered around to give us hugs and wish us the best. These people will be missed. 

l-r: Ivana, Igor, Mia, Julie, Mike, me, and Danka
Leland and I will pack up the car with all my necessities and head to Charlotte, this Friday. I will head straight for the office to meet with HR for new hire paperwork, then on to Laurie and Ross's house where I will be their grateful guest until Leland sells the house and joins me. 

Leland and I would very much appreciate prayers for the swift sale of our house. We hate being apart, but we know there is a plan and God's timing is perfect. 

Leland will keep his choice clients in Georgia, traveling as he needs to, while developing a new clientele in the greater Charlotte area. Please join us in praying for new business growth, as well as the best place for us to land in terms of new housing (it looks like the Fort Mill, SC area right now).

The pages of the Holder's Book of 2016 will not be blank from here on out. It won't be easy, but what is? Our only certainty is the steadfastness of God, because He is love and He never changes. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. --James 1:17

Bye, Mia!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

365 Blank Pages

The calendar says December 31, but while people are preparing for New Year celebrations, we wonder what is going to be new about 2016. While others go out to parties or celebrate with happy anticipation at home, posting their pictures to social media, Leland and I find ourselves with no money, and from a strictly financial perspective, struggling to find anything to celebrate after another difficult year in business. 

The videos we've all seen of a person standing stationary while the world around them speeds by in hyper motion is how we feel. Everywhere we go it seems we are in some parallel universe watching as people load their late model cars with new furniture, TVs, Kitchen Aid mixers, cases of wine--and we walk slowly by; detached, observing.

Stuff, I remind myself. There is no material thing here on Earth that is of eternal value

Then why does my heart hurt? Why does my whole body feel this burning question, 

If not this, then what else? 

That famous quote by C. S. Lewis comes to mind, If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

But I am here, in the physical, not there. For now, I continue my journey as a soul walking about in a flesh and blood vessel. I search once again for purpose and doing things in the years that I continue on Earth that have meaning, as those years of raising my family had. 

Family. My heart continues to live in two at home, and 275 miles away in a lovely city in North Carolina. Every time I visit, that feeling of detachment disappears. 

How the littles have already changed, just since my 59th birthday celebration in August!

Yes, I always go off onto this rabbit trail and have to talk about my people. That's a good thing because it reminds me of the things I DO celebrate. This crew!

The difficult part of moving into a new year for us is facing the great unknown. So many "ifs" that my head spins. There aren't any details right now, but when I see the image below, it awakens a sense of adventure in me that I thought was long gone. 

I visualize 365 blank pages and I pray for God to be the Author of an amazing new story. Send us somewhere, keep us here, revive our business, shut it down and give us other means of making a living, give us to missions and let us journal in photographs. Head spinning stuff, for sure.

Detachment from the shiny distractions of this life was the only way I could have come to this mindset. As I look back over the losses, life-changing events, and waiting that have led to surrender in my 60th year, I think of the song, Nothing Is Wasted, by Jason Gray.

We are your servants, Lord. You write our 2016 story on those blank pages--all for your honor and glory.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Surprise #3: Grace

On Monday of this week, my phone rang and a number showed up on the caller ID that I didn't recognize, which always makes me nervous given our history.

Hello?, I said, quietly and cautiously.

The pleasant voice at the other end announced herself as Lisa, the assistant to the Stewardship Director at our church, Fellowship Bible Church. She said she was calling to follow up on our previous conversation.

A little back story here: I had called several months ago asking if the church had any recently donated cars that they might consider letting me have. I had applied for a job about 20 miles north of home and I knew transportation was an issue since public transportation does not extend that far and the fact that Leland's photography bookings took priority over any job I might have. Since our bankruptcy, obtaining a car was problematic, and I had zero dollars for a downpayment. Lisa told me that they hadn't received any donations lately, but she would keep me in mind if one came up. I thanked her, and that was the end of the story.

So I thought.

Back to the phone call, slightly embarrassed, I asked her to refresh my memory, which resembles something like Swiss cheese of late. She reminded me of the car request and said she was curious as to how it worked out.

Letting a little laugh escape, I told her that her call was timely, and very considerate. I launched into the sad story of how my "great job" had turned into the biggest nightmare in recent months. I couldn't help the tears that flowed, and the shaky voice.

When I told her the part of how I was told to leave my job, she gasped a little, then suggested taking advantage of the counseling services the church offers. Having logged many hours pre- and post-divorce sitting in a counselor's office, and knowing in my heart where my help comes from (it comes from the Lord, as the Pslamist said), I told her I would consider it, but I wasn't really interested in just sitting and talking. I wanted to DO something--like WORK--so we could continue eating and living indoors!

Lisa asked me if she could make an appointment for us with Kevin Cross, the Stewardship Director, and I agreed that Leland and I would come Wednesday at 3:00. I had heard Kevin speak at church and I knew a tiny bit of his story, but was anxious to meet him and get to talk to him face-to-face.

Wednesday, around noon, my phone rang with another number on caller ID that I didn't recognize. Since the sky hadn't fallen on me the last time, I wasn't nervous about answering this time. It was Kevin. He told me that he needed to leave unexpectedly on account of a family emergency, but wanted to speak with me first.

Lisa had already told him about our conversation. He offered that it sounded like we were having a rough time and he wanted to know what our financial situation was; what bills we were behind on, what we needed. I gave him the rundown, and told him our car needed about $1,000 worth of repairs.

What I heard Kevin say next took my breath away.

Here's what I'm gonna do. I want you to bring your mortgage statement, and other bills to Lisa at the church. I'm paying next month's mortgage and catching you up on healthcare coverage fees. I'm going to call Carl at Roswell Auto and tell him you're going to drop your car off. I'm going to pay for him to fix your car.

GASP, was all I could manage. More tears, more quaking voice, and a muffled thank you!  

At the appointed time we met Lisa and handed over our documents while Leland and I were spending a ton of mental and emotional energy trying to process what was happening to us. It felt surreal, to be honest. To that point, our lives were largely a string of disappointment, save for the grace of sweet respite in time with family, and joy when we had work on the calendar.

To our surprise, Kevin suddenly breezed around the corner. He's tall. He's full of energy, magnetic even, and met us with warm greetings. We talked for about an hour, during which I was taken aback by the vision he had for the 2 people sitting in front of him that he didn't really know, but instantly started forming a future story about.

I remember him saying something about dreaming, to which I replied, I don't dream anymore. I felt instantly sad to hear myself say it, having once been a big dreamer, but in my heart I knew my dreams were selfish; dreams of personal achievements, a better house, replacing our old car, and my favorite dream--my horse farm and a pasture full of horses.

The death of dreams can be very painful, but even though I have been very sad, deep down I have hope that the loss will be redeemed by God, replacing the dreams I've surrendered with HIS dreams for me. Way better, I suspect.

The short time we spent with Kevin was such an encouragement, I can't even begin to communicate it. As we said our goodbyes, Kevin blurted out, Oh, I almost forgot! He ran to his desk and handed me a $100 VISA gift card, on which he had written, "Enjoy your trip!" This will get you to Charlotte for Christmas, he said. Another hug, another thank you. I think I had run out of tears.

We left him to prepare for his flight to see family, with 3 books he handed to us, hearts with hope instead of despair, renewed faith in God and His timing and ways of working in our lives, and still with that surreal feeling of, Is this actually happening?

I devoured one of the new books, Kevin's own story, Embezzlement--A True Crime Story. I can't recommend it enough. It was crime drama and suspense, a story of brokenness and renewal, a life transformed, and many examples of what living and leveraging our money for God's glory looks like. I was stunned when I closed it. I will never look at money the same way again.

As I finished the book, Leland got a call from the mechanic's shop, saying the car was ready for pick-up (a relief, since it had been there 2 days and we were hoping to depart on time for Charlotte). Without hesitation, Leland was out the door, fleece hat snugly over his South Florida-born head, for the walk to Roswell Auto.

As simple as thank-you sounds, it comes from a heart overflowing with gratitude to Kevin, Lisa, and the church at FBC Roswell. We are grateful for your giving hearts, and for that, I am hoping this little blog will bring glory to God in the telling of the story. God bless you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Surprise #2: Grief

Sunday, was the 4th day since being rudely dismissed from the office where I was working under a contract agreement. I thought I had been doing fine since then, albeit disappointed it didn't work out. At least I felt safe and able to detox from the hostile environment I was in for 5 weeks.

And then......

Getting ready for bed that night, I found myself suddenly feeling alternately very sad, confused, and wanting answers I couldn't have.

  • For 2 weeks I was so excited and happy to have work again. I was contributing and I could see Leland's stress ease and attitude improve. I can't believe we're back where we started.
  • We had lost a friend. Never easy. Rather a heartbreak. 
  • Every day we watch our checking account balance get lower. My faith is again tested.
I laid in bed, wide-eyed, unable to sleep. I sat up and told Leland, with tears welling,

I'm so sad.

Over. It.

Why has our situation not found a remedy? After a relatively good business year in 2014, must we repeat the previous 3 years?

How long Lord?, King David said all those millennia ago. His words echo through the ages, right into my heart.

Then, I began the slide down the slippery slope of comparison. I started to think of all the people I know who have been mean, hurtful, manipulative, lied--someone I called friend, someone I called husband, a brother, a sister, an employer--and in every case, these people continue to not just survive, they thrive and live well. I don't get it.

Answers, please.

I wanted to know how and why life works this way. I watch Leland work so hard and give away so much of his time and talent, from a true heart of generosity and love for people. I've prayed for God to bring him a 10-fold reward for all he does. Still waiting, while the scales tip in favor of those who don't ever seem to suffer for the pain they've caused.

Once again I am drawn back to the story of Job; the last few chapters.

Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? (40:2)
Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (40:8) 

If I know what's good for me, I'll repeat Job's answer to God, in chapter 42.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 

And then what did Job do? He "repented in dust and ashes," then he prayed for his friends (who had been anything but a help, by the way).

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. (42:10)

So I go back to David's psalm, the 13th. And I read it all the way through.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me? 
 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
          and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
 But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Surprises Are Not Always Good

For the first time in a very long time, I find myself sitting in front of this blog and actually find it's time to write again.


In the recent past I have thought about writing--*should I? I shouldn't* thoughts going back and forth like ping pong balls bouncing off the walls of my skull. I would decide I should, come sit at the laptop, look at the blinking cursor, shut it, and walk away.

Nope, not time. 

So, why now, you (and I) ask? Especially after all the silent months, save for the happy wedding shoot blog I posted over a year ago. Because life is a shocker sometimes, and the only way to deal is to skip talking and go straight to writing. The latter has always been easier for me anyway. And it's the only form of therapy I can afford.

A lot has been bouncing around in my mind lately. It started a long time ago, with the end of my job at the pharmaceutical company I worked for for a year and a half. To a degree, I let the company owner run over me, out of fear. So when that ended and I moved into a consultant role, I thought everything was awesome. When the consulting evaporated, well, all you have to do is go through the blog archives to see how that turned out. 

I asked God over and over, What do you want me to do? Anything. Just tell me.

Silence. But years of job searching and coming up empty-handed seemed to have ended this year. I had a 3-hour interview with a small business about 20 miles away from home, and after waiting weeks for them to come to a decision on filling the position of Office Manager, an offer from a friend of ours dropped into my inbox. Part-time, perfect hours, independent contractor agreement, flexible, the potential for development, someone I knew. 


I know nothing is perfect, but I had very high hopes. Silly me. The person I thought I knew was actually 2 different people: the social, kind-hearted friend and the angst-ridden, bully, disrespectful work person.

People have baggage. They stuff their bags full of hurts, wrongs done, and unmet expectations. Some people carry their heavy load around with them through life, wearing their victimhood like a badge, allowing it to become their identity. 

The brain seeks what is familiar before it seeks what is good for the person, I read once.

Maybe this is one reason why the Bible instructs us to renew our mind (Romans 12:2)--so that we may not conform to the pattern of this world and know what the will of God is. The world excuses anger, bitterness--even murder--on the basis of past wrong done to a person. Jesus transforms the heart and that healing results in fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). [Preaching Gospel to myself!]

So, everyone has a choice to make. 

My father's life story is the perfect example of someone who was badly hurt, yet chose a better path than to be angry, bitter, and hurtful. His parents divorced when he was about 10 years old, which would make the time period 1935. He told me that his parents took the advice of a psychiatrist who had evaluated the family and told his parents it would be best to split the family so that his sister went with his mother and he went with his father, since all they did was fight. His sister went to live with their mother; however, his father wasn't on board with single parenting his son, so he abandoned my father, who then became a ward of the state of New Jersey. Placed in foster care at age 10, my father suffered through, and survived, pneumonia. Understand that this was miraculous, since there were no antibiotics to treat infections at that time. Eventually, his aunt and uncle took custody of him and he lived with them, and his 2 cousins, in deservedly grand style.

I asked my father, "How did you survive all this? What happened to you was horrible!" 

His answer: "I had a choice to either sink or swim. I chose to swim."

My father was not a man of faith until his 40s, but I remember him in the years prior to that as a kind, thoughtful man who believed everyone should strive to be good; a good person, and a good citizen. He served America as a young man in the U.S. Navy during WWII, as a Lieutenant. I never heard him ever speak an evil word about a neighbor or a co-worker, or show anyone any disrespect. And he raised me to always be respectful of elders and never question authority.

Sorry, Dad, I believe in respect but not the never-questioning-authority thing.

So, after all of my life experiences, I took my lessons from my father and added them to the basket full of other lessons from the tough things I have been through. A big lesson I learned after a potentially life-threatening situation and a failed marriage is that NO ONE should ever be allowed to exert the power to make another person feel threatened, fearful, less than, or disrespected. This week, someone tried it. I stood up for myself. It was met with a very ugly demand to vacate the premises. I have peacefully and rightfully ended the contract work agreement.

Remember this lesson, friends: Christian ≠ doormat, scapegoat, or whipping boy.

So now I have come to the same conclusion as my good friend, Lea, which is, I don't want to just make a paycheck. I want to do something meaningful. Something to change the world a little for the better. I will find that elusive thing, one day. And I will be sure to share what that is. 

Meanwhile, Leland and I are once again looking at a diminishing bank balance and happily preparing for Christmas festivities with the kids and grandkids. And there is a certain peace that passes understanding; the kind only Jesus gives.

For now, I have laid down my sword, but it is never far away. There will always be dragons to slay in this world.

P.S. Don't click away until you read these final thoughts. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to love our enemies and pray for them. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-45
I ended my work agreement with a fellow believer, and in the process of that email exchange, I blessed her and I have prayed for her. This is very counter-intuitive when someone hurts your heart and doesn't care, but it is not optional and it is not easy. We forgive because we have been forgiven by our Father in heaven.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Did Someone Say Wedding?

Happy Labor Day and all that. Entrepreneurs know it as "Monday."

Leland and I have spent our day tutoring and on post-production of the wedding we shot on Saturday. 

Wedding. The word makes Leland cringe (and me too, a little bit). After about 350 of them, he had burnt out on all the drama and closed the door on that aspect of photography.

Enter our friends, Lea and Joe. We first met them as clients, then became friends when they graciously invited us to their home for a holiday celebration around a table full of fabulous food and friends. Long story short, when a wedding date was set and planning began, they asked us to photograph their event, which we politely declined, referring them to wedding photographers. They came back to us later, asking us if we'd reconsider. We said yes, and are so glad we did. We love this couple and wanted to not only celebrate their marriage with them, but give them great photographic memories of their day.

I'll post a few sneak peeks of this gorgeous event--don't want to give too much away just yet.

We arrived at the Volpe residence at 11:30 to photograph Joe and the guys. Since we were early, we shot exterior photos of the front decorations, moving on to the back where we were met with the most beautiful reception setting. It was something straight out of a magazine.

Photo credit: Lynne Holder
Photo credit: Lynne Holder

Photo credit: Lynne Holder

Photo credit: Lynne Holder

On to the house where the ladies were preparing, we were met by the smiling bride, her best friend and maid of honor, two junior bridesmaids and three flower girls--all such beauties. It was so easy to shoot such photogenic subjects. Our only regret was not having more time, and much too quickly, the cars arrived to whisk them away to St. Benedict's Church.

It was a small, intimate wedding, followed by the most fabulous reception I think I've ever been witness to. The food came, one course at a time; a seemingly endless extravaganza for the taste buds. Dessert was not wedding cake, by the way; rather, a 2-tiered display of fabulous cannoli, a piece of which the bride and groom smashed into eachother's faces with great joy and abandon.

Everything about this wedding was memorable--the mass, the church building, the reception--but it was the people that made this day. It was the most fun and love-filled, drama-free wedding day we could have hoped for as photographers, but also for our friends.

Photo credit: Lynne Holder

Photo credit: Leland Holder

Lea and Joe: Salute! Cento di questi giorni! Thank you for the privilege of journaling your day in photographs. 


On a personal note: I wish that rogue, horse thieving piece of exiled-to-America, Italian nobility on the crooked branch of my family tree actually made me able to claim being Italian. Boy, do they know how to live, play, and best of all, eat!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Well, Nuts

I've known for years that I have MVPS--Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome/Dysautonomia. It's no picnic, but it's not going to kill me, even if sometimes it feels as though it might. The feeling that it might is what happened this week. 

Sunday, I woke from one of those glorious afternoon naps that only seem to happen on that particular day of the week, and very shortly felt the familiar chest pain. It quickly elevated in intensity and the pain spread down my shoulder and left arm. I sat with this set of on again-off again symptoms for about 24 hours, trying to relax, talking myself out of it being anything serious, but the hideous thing about this syndrome is that it feeds itself in a cycle of pain-anxiety-fear-pain.

Don't judge. It is something that can't be spiritualized. Trust me, I've had years of experience believing that this was simply my lack of faith. The discipline of gratitude journal writing definitely makes a dent in anxiety and fear, but it is not a silver bullet. It won't make the chest pain, palpitations, anxiety, and that vicious cycle stop. 

By the next evening, I'd had enough. You can't believe what was swirling through my head.

Is this a heart attack? I don't want to leave here right now, but then again, that wouldn't be so bad for me to be in Paradise. The people I love that I would, I would never want them to have that kind of grief. My grandchildren. I want to know them and I want them to know me. 

For cryin' out loud, get a grip. It's not that serious. 

This is so painful. Not since 2004 and the months leading up to my divorce have I felt this awful. I should have it checked out. But I don't have insurance. Will this be another unbearable financial burden? I can't do this to Leland. Good gravy. Somebody should just shoot me up with some pharmaceutical knockout cocktail and come check on me in the morning.  

But with that being out of the realm of possibility, I got Leland to drive me to St. Joseph's emergency department to see if this despicable mitral valve prolapse had actually progressed into something threatening. Obviously, they also thought that was a distinct possibility because the PA came in to tell me, "You're not going home," followed by multitudinous blood draws, next to no sleep that night, no food or water, and hours in nuclear cardiology and the echo lab. 

All my labs were normal, I aced my stress test and the despicable MVP has not progressed. Thank God, a healthy heart.

So, I asked the cardiologist standing before me, So where is the pain coming from?

I don't know, was her answer. 

My head checked in with my tired, for-the-most-part healthy body, running over the events of the previous many hours, and a weary little voice said, holy shit, you've got to be kidding me. 

The dead serious (no pun intended) look on her face told me she was not. I'm looking forward to her exorbitant bill to come in the mail. She handed me her card and told me to make an appointment for a follow-up visit. I won't tell you what the weary little voice in my head had to say to that.

What have I learned?
  • I need to offer my services as a consultant to nursing staff everywhere on proper phlebotomy technique. Yes, I am qualified. Over qualified. And certified.
  • MVPS/Dysautonomia is still, 10 years after my last evaluation, largely misunderstood.
  • I will be more conscientious than ever with my healthcare, taking extra special care of the temple.
  • I can stop asking forgiveness when I experience the laundry list of symptoms associated with this syndrome. It's not my fault.
  • It is highly likely that the majority of people on your Facebook friend list are not actually friends in the truest sense of the word. If the people who are on that list, including family, have nothing to say about you being in a hospital situation, you might want to get out into the real world of flesh and blood people and make some real friends (she says to that person in the mirror).

Well, that was no fun, but you know what? I'm very happy to be home, to have learned a few things, to have had a good cleansing cry, and to know I'm okay. I'm loved and I'm going to be around a while.

What does a girl do after a night and day of hospital trauma? Get a pedicure. Oh yes, shiny happy toes. Pampering for a bit was definitely in order.