On this Resurrection Day for many, I wanted to share a writing I originally posted on N&N in 2018. I have since added to it in order to share here with you now.
We went to freakin’ ISRAEL y’all.
I know some people are like, “Israel…what’s the big deal? It’s a country everyone wants take over or throw missiles at.”
Not making light of that, because while at dinner one evening with locals, they got alerts to have their bomb shelters ready on standby. And they casually shrugged their shoulders and said, “What are we going to do? Stop living? If that’s the case, they’ve already won.”
Israel may be small, but the people there sure are mighty.
Because of the tradition in which I was raised, this sacred place has always been on my heart. Even though my perspective has slightly shifted + expanded, I do not discount the amazing teachings, stories and lessons that originated there.
I’ve never been one who cared much for labels. They seem so finite. Determined. Set. Permanent.
I believe the constructs in which we build around ourselves sometimes end up keeping us from growing. We become stagnant. Stinky. #stankstank
During college, one of my professors for my Spiritual Formation class said something I’ll never forget:
“We often think that the spiritual life is like a circle of highs and lows. A cyclical routine of connection + disconnection. When in fact, our spiritual nature is not to be confined to the finite shape of a circle. It is in fact, a spiral, still containing those familiar highs + lows, but ever moving forward.”
Yeah, you might need to take a second to chew on that one! And for those of you wondering, WTF kind of college class is that!?! I studied Religion and the Arts at Belmont University. There were 10 of us sitting in leather back chairs in round-table discussion over spirituality, poetry, politics, dream interpretation and our Enneagram results. Random? Maybe. Life-changing? YES.
Anyway, back to labels. We are gonna use the C and the F word here in a second. Brace yourselves.
For some reason, deep down I never really liked to call myself a Christian. It felt icky and sticky and judge-y and put out all those “holier-than-thou” kinda vibes. Yet in high school I carried my Bible to school at times, created a political party called the “Dove Party” for an economics class project, sang in the youth praise band every week, went on mission trips, led Bible studies, and even returned after college to work as an intern and then Assistant Youth Director.
Even still, amongst all of that, I didn’t like to blatantly call myself anything.
Our human thinking minds like categories and labels to decipher between and differentiate what is this or that. Identifying with labels make us feel safe because we know where we belong. Psst I have a secret for you. You have always belonged. Regardless of what you’ve been taught to believe. YOU BELONG.
After dropping labels, I still had Faith in something. Something bigger than me. Some Thing that created this place, these people, this world, this life. My life.
As Rob Bell puts it, “There’s More going on here…” More beneath the surface, waiting to be unearthed.
Now, THAT is something I could bodly claim and spread to the ends of the Earth.
Now hear me out, I don’t discount my upbringing and the tradition I was raised. Not one bit. I don’t discount my teachers or friends or family or anyone who claim that title and proudly wear it on their sleeves.
But for me, over time when I felt confined, I noticed I wasn’t growing. I felt comfortable. Going through the motions.
And comfortable isn’t something I want for myself.
Comfortable = complacent in my book.
It means routine, structure, methods, rules, should’s and should not’s.
Comfortable = unconscious living. I wanted to feel ALIVE. I wanted to live a conscious life.
I remember having several conversations with my youth kids and even an old college boyfriend who were struggling with their Faith. They had doubts. Questions. Uncertainty. And they were afraid.
All I could tell them was that “At least you are consciously aware and are questioning things, rather than blatantly or blindly accepting it all.”
You might ask, Isn’t that what “faith” means, Madison?
For some, sure. I don’t want to tell you what’s the perceived “right” or “wrong” for you. That’s not my place or authority. That’s between you and the Divine.
All I do know is that you are sacred + sovereign. Right here, right now.
I believe the questions are asked by the seekers. The awakened. The conscious.
So I guess I am sharing all of this REALLY personal spiritual stuff (because that’s something we aren’t allowed to talk about apparently) to let you know that if you have questions + doubts, those things you don’t have the answers to, but know there is something More…where ever you are on your journey, that it is OK.
I believe everyone has a spiritual path on this Earth that we must learn to discover, and if decided, we choose to walk it open-hearted. Have you ever stopped to consider, we are the Divine literally experiencing itself? Have you ever stopped to consider that “to bear witness” meant to witness the Divine that exists within our very own being?
Ask the questions. Wrestle with the Why. Follow your curiosity. Listen to your Intuition. (aka God, Spirit, Gut, Inner Knowing, Divine Presence, whatever-you-call-IT.
Allow yourself to be open to discovering the Divine Presence in places you never imagined. And you just might be surprised where you end up.
Wow. What I thought was just going to be a short intro turned into a bit of a spiritual testimony. Not gonna lie, I am a little afraid to put this out there, but it’s something I can no longer keep to myself.
The Divine Who created this universe we call home, created you and me of the same materials. When you get elemental about it, we are made of literal magic and stardust. Each human being who walks this Earth, is The Universe embodied. How freakin’ cool is that?
It’s a land of history + mystery. A land of poets + prophets. A land of mysticism and tradition. A land of conflict and resolution. A land of Wonder + Awe.
Now I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
This post is a writing from a workshop in 2017. Essentially, we were directed to write a love letter to oneself. Reflecting back on it all these years later, it amazes me how 2017 Madison knew exactly what 2023 Madison needed to hear. In her own voice, nonetheless. I encourage you to swap out names and pronouns to make it applicable to you. Or even better, it inspires you to write a love letter to yourself.—You are loved.
Madison my dear love,
you are powerful beyond measure.
You are strong and beautiful
tough and empathetic
adventurous and reserved
You are an amazing woman.
An amazing woman who has lived a lot of years in her young life
a lot of feelings, emotions and experiences that make you uniquely you.
Your perserverance and compassion rise above all else.
your heart is so big and so full
you can’t help but want to connect, share and love.
You see the good in people. You see their story. You see what binds them, and what lights them up
Your adventurous spirit has so much more to teach you as long as you are open and willing to listen and follow its lead.
Madison my dear you found yourself in unsuspecting circumstances. Ones that you aren’t proud of but if it weren’t for them happening, you wouldn’t be the awakened and beautiful soul you’ve become.
Your biggest lesson in this life is to learn to let go of shame and expectation, and fully embrace your humanness.
Trust is your biggest teacher and speaking your personal truth is all that matters.
Grace and forgiveness are necessary in your life—two things you are good at offering to others, but not to yourself.
You deserve grace and forgiveness from yourself, too.
Your old soul allows you to see and understand more than most will come to know in their lifetime.
That is a gift.
Fear is your biggest rival but it is through the building of your own backbone and the discovery of your own voice you will overcome it.
You are beautiful.
Sing it. Say it. Pray it. Chant it. Dance it. Write it. Dream it. Embody it.
You are stronger than you give yourself credit for, and capable and deserving of all that you dream of and connected to the Loving Divine that so many seek.
my dear love,
you can do hard things.
Hey stranger—you might be a returning visitor, or a fresh face to this space. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around for a bit and swing by every so often to see what we’re up to.
Hi, I’m Madison. If you want to hop over to the about page to get a sense of who I am and where things started, but as life is ever evolving, this post is about where we’re at now. There’s been a lot of changes over here, both internally and externally, physically and metaphysically, and more. If you’ve been around here for awhile, then you know what’s up.
Here’s a short synopsis to bring you up to speed:
it’s been a journey to say the least.
Since I can’t quite be behind the camera these days due to my poor vision and unsteadiness on foot, I am reviving this blog as a way to share and connect further via long form writing than the glimpses we see on social media. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and rather than give platforms like Instagram my best work, I wanted a to have it all live in one place that is solely mine.
So, what can you expect?
Poetry and ponderings mostly. Probably paired with images I’ve captured over the years.
Why poetry? It’s my favorite form of expression and my most sacred form of prayer. I’ll be sharing some work that you may have already experienced, and a lot more that has lived in the notes app of my phone or scribbled on the pages of half-filled journals. The audio portion of my blog will resurface as well. You can listen to previous posts here.
There is no agenda or goal with this, other than a creative outlet for me as I heal. While writing a year’s worth of medical updates on Caring Bridge, I realized how much I missed the blogosphere. So here we are, taking a leap, regardless of who shows up to read it or not. Because honestly, it’s for me. And if you decide to stick around, I look forward to connecting with you.
The topics you can expect to find here: musings on love, life, trauma, faith/spirituality, family, growth, gardening, my favorite things, who knows! There’s no set agenda or schedule, just heart-led and honest. What you encounter here might be different from your perspective, but that’s the cool thing about art. It’s the process of working out a perspective or interpretation on paper, canvas, song, dance, etc. This space is not here to convince you to think one way or another, but a container for the exploration of ideas and lived experience, and possibly find comfort, too.
So with that, take what resonates, and leave the rest.
If something hits, let me know. If you want me to write on something in particular, let me know on that, too. But before I start opening the floodgates, I’m going to speak my truths first.
As with the phases of the moon, if you’ve been around enough, you’ve seen all iterations of Madison, from youth director, to photographer, to crossfit coach, to nutritionist, so thank you for being here as I evolve into the next iteration of me. All those versions are still within me, as I navigate what comes of this chrysalis I currently find myself in. I hope you stick around long enough to find out. And if not, you’ll know where to find me.
Welcome back to MADISONCARY
Well hey there! It’s been a minute since we’ve greeted one another on this version of the internet. I don’t really know where to begin, other than to say thank you.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for evolving with me, seeing me through the growing pains, the awkward stages, the seemingly-never-ending sabbatical, and so much more.
If you are new here, welcome. My name is Madison and I am a portrait photographer based in good ol’ West Texas.
My journey as an artist + entrepreneur (who’s full of #allthefeels) has been quite a rollercoaster to say the least. It’s been my hardest endeavor + my greatest joy, and even though I’ve pivoted more times than I can count, I wouldn’t change my journey one bit.
In order to move forward into this new horizon, I believe it’s important to reflect back on the steps I’ve taken so far that led me here. So, grab your favorite cuppa somethin’, sit back, and let’s take a look in the rearview mirror and get a little sentimental, shall we?
I could tell you the same story every photographer starts with, how I was a kid fascinated by family albums, cameras + self-expression, writing poetry in my journal, dreaming up my artist name, obsessed with Real Simple magazine spreads, and the anticipation of sending off your film to see what weird artful masterpiece, accidental butt-triggered shutter capture, or sentimental photo of your favorite pet might come back.
I could tell you about my time in the dark room in High School, fumbling through understanding manual camera settings, navigating InDesign as the yearbook sports editor, and creating random photojournalism projects deemed as #art. (Zach, remember that “Where’s Waldo” series we did? LOL)
I could tell you all these things in detail, but they are only the strike of the match that lit the flame of my artist’s journey into the fire.
You may think the camera was my entry point into this world, but experiencing world travel was actually my kryptonite. Something about plucking yourself out of the mundane, routine + familiar, and plopping down into a new culture thousands of miles away suddenly adds an eyes-wide-open type of vibrancy to everything around you.
During travel, you are acting as an observer, constantly taking in your new surroundings: the sights, the smells, the way the light falls on centuries-old brick, the smiles of the locals, and the energy humming beneath it all.
I had the privilege to experience a variety of cultures during college and document it all with my camera as it unfolded, merely as a passerby, a witness.
I switched my major to have a more spiritual and art focus - not photography though LOL - and continued to experiment + understand the ins and outs of my camera.
Out of college, I worked one year at my first job as a youth director, and eventually left it to become a second shooter for the photographer who shot our wedding in 2010. (love you Helen!) I’m a visual learner (no duh, Madison) and after assisting her on so many weddings I lost count, SO.MANY. I ventured out into building my own portfolio, signed up for a ridiculous amount of online classes, and even took a semester-long Photoshop class at our local college. #GoChaps!
Which now brings us to May 8th, 2012. An insignificant day to most, but a day I’ll never forget.
You’d think that some earth shattering event took place, but au contraire, it was MADISONCARY’s birthday. (still earth shattering IMO) I purchased the domain, opened a business account, and filed the proper paperwork to make sure I was legit. Hooray Taxes!
Sometime in October of that year, after a photography workshop in Dallas, I launched the first iteration of madisoncary.com and primarily focused on High School Senior portraits. Coming from my youth director background, I loved empowering young girls to feel confident + beautiful, and I figured out that working 1-1 was more my jam than the high stress of weddings or corralling a bunch of wild toddlers for a Christmas card photo.
(Or maybe it was because I still felt relatable to that age, and wanted to come across as the “fun aunt” and be kept relevant via their influence. You tell me! IDK.)
I ran my little photo business out of my home “studio” - a fancier word for office - and quickly became the go-to senior portrait photographer in Midland, photographing hundreds of seniors! #humblebrag #iloveyall
Beyond my seniors, I photographed a local cheer team every year, various charity events, and helped launch a local magazine as one of their contract staff photographers.
Throughout 2016, I began to experience some major creative burnout. I didn’t feel inspired, and the motions of running a sole-subject business took a toll on me. At that time, I was also heavily into my wellness world by coaching at a gym, working on a farm, and building a wellness blog - shoutout to Nourish & Namasté! - and could feel the candle that was burning at both ends quickly approaching a white hot center that would just leave us with a pile of weird melted wax and some burnt string. To say I was worn out is an understatement.
Thankfully, the perfect shift began to happen in 2017, as my hubby Zach accepted an opportunity to work in Austin, a place I always wanted to live but never thought possible, and I accepted some contract work with the fabulous designer + dear friend, Sarah Wilson of Sarah Briggs Jewelry. It was a match made in heaven, and a chance for me to grow as an artist, without having to hustle for new clients in a new city.
I laugh because Sarah always wonders what she did for me during those years, (she is the best hype girl BTW) but I gained so much experience in doing commercial/editorial/branding work for her. Traveling at least once a month (sometime more!) to Dallas and getting to step into a more high fashion work setting - or in Sarah’s case, LAID BACK LUXE - really pushed me as a photographer, artist, and business owner. My passion for branding + design really began to bloom, as I loved diving into the creative process of matching feeling with a mission through imagery.
Around mid-to-late 2019, old burnout came to knocking once again, but thankfully I was able to catch it before it kicked the door down and causing me to fall flat on my face. I recognized the constant travel began to wear me thin (#homebody anyone?) and as Sarah Briggs grew, they needed an in-house photographer to take over and grow with them.
And then I got quiet. REALLLLLLLLLL quiet.
Like, quieter than crickets kinda quiet.
A wise old guy named Albert once said…
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In life, and art, we all experience something called Resistance. That road block, that negative voice, that self-doubt, that crippling fear, that “I’ll get to it later” type of mindset. (Two great books to read on this topic are: The War of Art and Art & Fear, if you haven’t already.)
I’ve learned over the years that these types of things will constantly resurface, especially if you don’t address them head on. So, that’s just what I did. I stared at myself in the proverbial mirror, and did a deep soul swan dive into the murky waters of every corner of my heart. (My middle-school diving teacher would be so proud.)
I rested. I read. I reflected.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I had the privilege to take time for me, and lots of it.
I practiced the art of giving myself permission:
It’s an interesting combination to have to balance, being the artist + the entrepreneur.
As the artist, you want to follow the flow and explore everything without limitation. You want to create masterful works that mean something. You want to see and be seen (but not criticized, LOL).
As the entrepreneur, you want to create systems and schedules. You want to innovate and try new things. You want to be profitable. You want to provide a service or product that is highly sought after.
It’s a delicate dance between these two, lemme tell ya. Especially as a highly sensitive person, it’s hard to navigate when to follow the feeling, and when to follow the formula. But that’s just the way it goes, I suppose. We learn the fluidity of the process, of when to follow, and when to lead, occasionally missing counts or stepping on toes along the way, but learning to assess, shake it off, and practice once more. Or maybe just straight up freestyle it in your living room solo, if that’s your vibe, too. 😉
Which now brings to me this present moment.
MADISONCARY has evolved just as much as I have. The lines are blurred where I end and MADISONCARY begins, because we are one in the same. There is no separateness, no matter how much I try to compartmentalize my life. It oozes from my very being. It’s the heartbeat, the rhythm from which I dance, the fullness of who I AM, with all of the beautiful + messy parts.
I’m in the business of co-creating honest + love-hazed moments that are full of real connection and soul. I love telling stories the way I see them, and helping you tell yours. And you better believe we’re gonna have fun while doing it.
I can’t wait to share this next iteration with you, for what I believe to be my greatest chapter yet.
*Cue the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield + drives off into the sunset with LC*