Over the past 6 1/2 years, I have been employed by Wal-Mart Distribution Center #6064. It has been a very steady and consistent job, and has provided my wife and I with many benefits that we are very grateful for having. About 5 years ago, my wife, Stephania, decided she wanted to start exploring the field of professional photography. My first thought was, “Is this going to be like the tutu’s and the other little entrepreneurial ideas that haven’t fared so well?” She had tried a couple of different avenues of self-employment that ended up not being so sustainable, but her persistence was unending. One of the things I admire most about my wife, is her ambition and relentless pursuit to succeed. I told her that I would support her in this new direction if it looked like it was going to be something that was going to be sustainable. So, she did some research and found her first DSLR, and so began the adventure.
The first camera body we started out with was an Olympus E-410, which was actually a pretty decent little camera. We started there, mainly because it was what we could purchase that had the most for the money. It ended up being a very good, entry level DSLR, and Steph used it for the first year or two she was starting out. The unfortunate thing about the Olympus, was that the peripherals were limited or more expensive than their Nikon and Canon counterparts. So we made the decision to take a risk, and sell the Olympus and purchase a used Nikon D70 from our good friends at Jonathan Ivy Photography. From that point on, Steph was able to start expanding her capabilities as a photographer, and honing her skills and own personal style. At that point, I started realizing that this could really end up being a big deal. She started booking weddings, and needed an assistant. Obviously, I was the clear choice to be that person, mainly because I was cheap/free labor. So, I decided I needed to learn some of the craft. Shooting with the setting on the camera on “A” wasn’t an option, so I was quickly educated on how to shoot on the setting “M.” I still lack some of the skills in this to even be considered an expert or a professional, but I did grasp enough to be a functional part of what had become Stephania Whitfield Photography.
In the next year or two, the bookings went from being wedding based (bridal, engagement, etc.), to being family and newborn photography. After another year, high school seniors started becoming another market that we were entering into as a business. During this time of the growth of the business, I was still working for Wal-Mart, and Steph was having to schedule according to my work schedule. This meant that her shooting days were limited to Saturday and Monday mornings and evenings, and occasional weeknights. As her workload increased, I really felt like the Lord may have been preparing us for something bigger than we had even imagined. As we grew more involved in the ministry of our church here in Walnut Springs, my job with Wal-Mart made things more and more difficult to plan and organize shoots as well as ministry activities. The problem we were running into, was my schedule time of clocking in at 4:30am Tuesdays through Fridays, and not getting off at a consistent time. That schedule let to some serious exhaustion and organizational issues for our ministry involvement.
About 4 or 5 months ago, we really felt the Lord leading us to pray about what direction He wanted us to go with regards to my job and the business. We have always felt that we were called to be ministry first as a couple and individually. As we were seeking the Lord’s will, I really felt that He placed on my heart that I needed to leave my stable, consistent, and beneficial job and become employed by my wife…scary huh? As the head of the household, I’ve been the breadwinner for the last several years, and my natural need as a husband is to feel as though I am providing for my family. One of the big questions that my dear friend and former youth pastor asked us during our premarital counseling was if I would be okay with not being the breadwinner in our family. I literally didn’t know how to answer his question, as I had never thought about that being a possibility. I now know the answer to that question, and it is a resounding YES! It still goes against my natural instinct to be that provider, but I’m called to provide for my wife and family in more than just a financial way. I am still learning and growing in that area as well, but who isn’t? As the business has grown, it has grown to the point that we can almost count on a certain amount of income from it each month, and that much is sustainable for us as a family to function, and more importantly survive. Now, most people ask me “Why don’t you just keep working at Wal-Mart and schedule more time off?” or “Why don’t you just keep on working and make a ton of money and buy some cooler stuff?” My answer to them is this, “I am called to full-time ministry, and I miss my wife and kids.” In the town we serve in, even a volunteer ministry position is a full-time position. The youth in this town are fighting an uphill battle everyday searching for fulfillment and satisfaction that the world is just not giving them. They need Christ, and the youth pastor job at our church is a heavenly-reward-paid-full-time position. I consider it to be more important than my hourly and benefit paying job, and the Lord had put on my heart that something drastic needed to happen. This call, on top of us homeschooling the kids, was where the Lord opened my eyes to what needed to happen.
So, as of September 7th, 2012 I will be ending my employment with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and beginning my employment with Stephania Whitfield Photography. I am extremely excited, for many reasons. The main is that I will be getting to work from home, and that means tons of time with my amazing wife and crazy, beautiful kids. I’ll be getting to be a part of our financial income more directly, as well as being home during the education of my kids. The opportunities to minister more freely and fully will be an amazing change from the past 3 years I’ve worked with our youth at the church. Attending sporting events and other functions, as well as hosting functions will become less hectically thrown together. The ability to do more discipleship and community outreach is something that I’ve needed to be able to do. Getting up at 2:45am during the week for work leaves one very tired and feeble at the end of the day, and I will not miss that. At all. Please be in prayer for our family as these changes are becoming reality, and for our faith in Him to provide as He has already done for so many years.