My business journey has not been one that is neat and tidy and planned out in advance. I started this photography business 16 years ago, largely unprepared and uneducated, but with a faith in God's call on my life to use my gifts and follow him -- one step at a time. I didn't know the 10th step, but I knew the next one, so I took it. And as my journey began, so has it continued -- one foot in front of the other -- into something I never dreamed it could be when I first started out. And in the same way that it started -- with God revealing one next step -- so has it come to its end.

Man, I have loved every second. In truth there have been some hot minutes where I struggled and felt stretched beyond my capacity. But this journey has been SO rich and fulfilling. And I'm changed and better for it.

I recently did a podcast with Davey Jones on Brands that Book where I recounted my journey. And it was cool to look back and realize that I've (without planning it) basically started a new venture every other year since I started out:

2003 -- Started Photography Business (back in the stone ages of having to convince clients that digital was just as good as film, and building my own website from scratch. In Flash!) More about how I got started in photography here!

2004 -- Went full-time. (More on that journey here.)

2006 -- Started blogging. Which means I've been blogging for 14 years. Click here to read 5 things I've learned from blogging for this long.

2008 -- Started teaching workshops. I hosted 2-3 in person workshops per year for 6 years. I had the honor of teaching over 200 photographers all over the country during this time.

2010 -- Started my Associate Program. It has been so amazing to have a team of photographers join me, allowing us to serve even more clients! And today we still have Michelle -- the very first photographer who joined our team back in 2010 working with us! How incredible is that!?

2012 -- Started Align Album Design -- my album design company.

2014 -- Rebranded and started shooting film. More about my journey into film here.

2016 -- Started Rendezbooth -- my photo booth company.

2018 -- Got married.

2019 -- Had a baby.


And 2020 will be the year that we close the doors on Melissa Jill Photography. It's surreal to even type this and there are SO MANY EMOTIONS. But just as God has revealed each next step to me just when I've needed to know it, he has revealed that it's time.

It's a bit of a long story to share what has brought me to this place, but for those of you who want to read it, I want to share it. So forgive me for the long post, but here goes:

I'm not quitting photography because I became a mom. But having Beau has changed me. Adding "wife" and "mom" to "owner of 3 businesses" means something has to give. I just can't do all the things with excellence. And starting last spring, I started to long for simplicity and a more narrow focus. I long to do the things God has given me to do WELL. I've always known I wouldn't be able to do photography forever. It's a very physically demanding job. And our industry is such that in order to compete at the level where you make a full-time income from photography, you have to hustle HARD. Having done that for a decade and a half, I'm a bit tired. Tired of the hustle. Longing for a change of pace.

At the same time that I was feeling these things, my husband started feeling a stirring in his heart to return to vocational ministry. He used to work in church ministry, but life took some unexpected turns and most recently he has been running Rendezbooth. He has picked up being an entrepreneur really well and we've enjoyed working together from home for the first year of our marriage, but this business is not his true passion.

So as we processed all of this, we sensed in our hearts that God was preparing us for a transition. He was leading us to simplify the businesses and turn our focus to some type of ministry.

In June, we went to Deep Camp -- a camp we go to yearly in the Colorado mountains with a ministry that I serve on the Board of Directors for called Forge. We love the people who are a part of this ministry like they are extended family, and we always feel renewed and restored spiritually after this week spent in the mountains. But another thing God consistently does during this week every year is call me again to surrender everything to him. He is my everything. My God and my King. I have nothing without him. My businesses are his. Although they have been the means by which he has chosen to provide for me for so many years, HE is my Provider. I know this. I long to be on mission for my Lord above all else. To build HIS kingdom and not my own.

At Deep Camp in this sacred space of surrender and seeking God for what is next, some friends of ours asked us to consider moving to Alabama to plant a church with them. They were in the process of uprooting their family of 5 from Illinois and moving to Huntsville, Alabama, where they felt God calling them to plant Rocket City Church.

Since June we have been praying about this opportunity and seeking God's face. We visited Huntsville. I have struggled with the idea of leaving my home and family and businesses that I've built here In Phoenix. Not to mention 20+ years of friends. I prayed that God would change my heart if he wanted us to go. And there's no other way to explain this than HE DID. And from there, things moved FAST.

Guys, I would never be able to move away from Phoenix unless God asked me to. And I couldn't stay in Phoenix knowing that he wanted us to go. There's a lot more to this story that I can share at some point, but God made it clear that he wanted us to move to Alabama to plant a church. Crazy! Scary. And EXCITING! Allllll the emotions! haha!

So....this is where things stand now:

- We've already moved to Alabama. I wish I could have shared more throughout this process, but there were some variables that made it wiser for me to keep some of the details off the internet. But I can share everything now. It was hard to leave our home in Phoenix. We had just finished 9 months of renovations on our home thinking we were staying there forever. But we realized that God was having us get it ready to sell -- to another family who will appreciate all the love we put into remodeling it for ourselves. I was sad to leave the home that I've lived in for 9 years and that was Beau's first home. But we came to Huntsville in early October to house hunt and found a house that we fell in love with. It is a craftsmen bungalow with a front porch that sits across the street from a pond. We were able to pick all the finishes as it was a new build and...we just moved in last week! I realized that as much as I loved our house in Phoenix, all of the things that truly made it a home were coming with us. And we could make memories here in the same way that we made them there.
- We are closing the doors of MJP effective immediately. I have two more weddings this spring that I will finish out and fly back to Phoenix for, but we are not taking on any additional bookings in 2020.

- We sold Rendezbooth. Annalise Marie -- one of my associate photographers who also runs her own wedding photography business in Phoenix -- purchased it! Rendezbooth remains open in Phoenix to serve you! And the even more amazing thing is that our full-time office manager of 5 years -- Alaine -- now works for her!

- I am running Align Album Design from Alabama. I am SO excited to continue to put all of my years of experience and knowledge in growing businesses into ONE BUSINESS. Align is something I am SO proud of. Our team of designers serves hundreds of photographers around the world helping them SUCCEED AT ALBUMS. We are an outsourcing company, but we also do a ton of education in the album sales and workflow space. I am excited to give this business, my family, and our church all of my energy. There will still be a lot on my plate, but this is my answer to my longing for focus. The other blessing in all of this is that I will be able to continue to work in the industry I love with the people I have forged some of my deepest bonds with -- other photographers. If you are a photographer reading this, please follow us on Instagram. I run that account (and regularly show my face on stories) and would love to continue to connect with you there!

Phew! That was a lot! And I know I didn't even cover it all. I have been sitting on this news for so long -- sharing it personally but not publicly on the internet -- and it's hard to know how to say it without just ripping the bandaid off. Please know that I have complete peace with all of these changes and God has held us in the palm of his hand through it all. There is SO MUCH change, but also so much peace. We are very excited for what is next! And we will definitely be back in Phoenix quite a bit since my family is still there.

Thank you all so much for your years of support and love! I am not sure what I am going to do with this website and blog, but for now, I will just leave them up. If I have time, I may share more here in the coming months and years from our personal life. We'll see! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below.

If you'd like to continue following our adventures, I will primarily be sharing on these two instagram accounts:

Melissa Jill
Align Album Design

Thank you to all of my amazing clients, vendor friends, and fellow photographers who have made the last 16 years in this business so incredibly rewarding! I am so excited to see what God has in store for my next chapter!
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