August 18, 2017

My Vows to Lisa Joy Cartee – Wedding Ceremony, May 2017

Lisa and I married on October 22, 2016 with a small gathering of close family and friends in Birmingham, Alabama. We also hosted a wedding celebration and exchange-of-vows ceremony, where we could invite a larger group of friends and extended family, on May 20, 2017. Some asked me to post my vows to Lisa online. Here they are for your viewing….

To those of you attending today, thank you for coming. Thank you for supporting and believing in this marriage.

For as long as my affections for Lisa have existed, she never, and I mean never gave up on me. Her persistence is one of her most captivating qualities. It was I, James L. Cartee, III, who wanted to let go. Lisa would not have it. She would not let go of who she called “her best friend.”

While one might say the boy wins over the girl, here in this story, the girl won over the boy. And that devotion would be the reason that my life changed forever!

In life, I often talk of things I should have done before my present age, such as obtaining a doctorate degree, which is definitely a self-destructive and negatively critical exercise. However recently these thoughts seem less and less. If anything in the timeline of my life had shifted a different direction, I would not have met the best part of my life – Lisa Joy Cartee. Things do indeed happen in God’s good timing.

That sometimes feels like where my real story began, the day I knew Lisa was the one. Of course, do remember how hard she fought for me. Any woman that fights that long and hard is one worth having.

Therefore I will thank God daily for His Grace, His Mercy, and His Willingness to bless me with Lisa. I have walked through the darkest of mental valleys where no light seemed present in a cave that never ended. As uncertain temptations clouded my mind, Lisa shined, sometimes as a lightning bug, sometimes as an oncoming train. She pulled me out of the darkness where eventually I embraced the light once again. One step, one day at a time, Lisa was the constant reminder of God’s eternal love. In the dimness of a perfect night storm at sea, Lisa was the lighthouse that brought my sinking sailboat back to shore.

Like my Cartee clan of support, Lisa serves as an example and driving force of why I continue on those down days. She gives me hope that everything will be okay. Lisa remains calm and courageous. She cares for the welfare of those suffering with compassion and never-ending patience. With both a beautiful spirit and figure, Lisa is my wife, my prayer partner, my best friend, and my teammate. With God by our side, we are unstoppable! We are champions destined for greatness and abundant blessings! Like Lisa fought for me in my most desperate hour, I love her, and I am here with her until the end of the line.

These were some of the photographs taken during the ceremony when we exchanged our vows. (***Special thanks to Brendon Pinola for his professional photography services.***)

Jamie Grace and Morgan Harper Nichols – As Light Shines….

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(original photography by Cat Harper)

At the beginning of May, Jamie Grace and her sister, Morgan Harper Nichols, recently played their music at The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit hosted at Brentwood Baptist Church, a world conference meant to advocate for orphans and foster care children.

While their performance touched the hearts of those who feel called to adopt, their personal journey captivates any child in distress or any parent who faces the challenges of a traumatized war-torn orphan from another country, recently brought home to the United States.

Over a lifetime, their father and mother, James and Mona Harper, have taken in approximately thirty-six children into their home – street kids, children of families who suffered from addiction, or really anyone lacking the love of parents who were absent, an environment that many take for granted. Bills were often tight with so many under one roof, but love resounded for those without anywhere to go, who otherwise might be homeless. Known as “Papa J” and “Mama Mona,” they are the founders and leaders of Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Beginning at just nineteen years of age, Jamie experienced many successes with her music career, including nominations for a Grammy, Billboard Award, and multiple Dove Awards, including her winning the Dove Award’s New Artist of the Year. No one will deny that Jamie is known and talented with millions of Youtube views and four number one singles, however a deeper story of adversity lies behind the scenes of this picturesque career.

At a young age, Jamie was diagnosed with Torette Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, among other mental hardships. Upon meeting Jamie face-to-face, one could not observe any such severe behaviors behind a beautiful face. With the loving home before mentioned, Jamie overcame what some considered uncontrollable behaviors to become a breakthrough artist, inspiring many and bringing awareness to mental illness on a national scale, especially in Christian communities. She was able to control her involuntary words and body movements that Torettes is often known for. Of course, Morgan served as part of her support system as sisters presently combine talents in joint performances.

Jamie formed an organization known as the I’m a Fighter campaign, which provides stable support and reassurance to those facing negative health complications and misfortunes, among other rendered services. Christian music was just what the sisters “listened to,” described as “music that was meant to uplift those who could relate to real life worldly problems.” Their soulful tunes were often influenced by the likes of Third Day, Switchfoot, Superchick, and ZOEgirl.  Both Jamie and Morgan were raised by their family to help others through inspirational words of original songs and poetry, meant to liven the distressed spirit.

Many fans and observers see the fame and television glamour of artists without knowing the true backdrop of a musician’s journey. Reality often reveals that the rise to success is rarely an easy road. Perils plague various artists around the world; however it is in those valleys where individuals transform into forces that change the lives of fans everywhere. Along with Morgan, Papa J., and Mama Mona, Jamie’s light shines to give hope to those in bleak circumstances where a song reaches beyond the soul.

One may find more information about these artists, their tour dates, discography, storytelling, and other interests at jamiegrace.com and morganharpernichols.com.

-James L. Cartee, III

Where did James Cartee go? An update on life….

But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Matthew 24:13 (NKJV)

I have not officially written a text for this blog since January 18, 2017. That is quite a long time. Many things have changed since then. This entry is my gallant effort to write again, perhaps rebirthing back into life.

Lisa, my wife, and I are still settling into Nashville as our home and maybe even the future city where we will raise our children. We both have jobs that pay the bills but by no means satisfy desires of the soul. As some Christians often say, God has a larger mission for both Lisa and I in mind. One might say that I feel brighter days ahead in my bones at the core of my soul.

Writers rise out of the darkest places one word at a time. My story encountered a silent place where sickness encompassed my body and mind. I was definitely not feeling like myself, and nearly after one year later, I showed signs of my own discovery and with no intentions to rhyme, my own recovery.

We rise from the ashes when our minds come into the presence of the Lord in the form of resurrection. I start again.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have accepted within myself is to lower my expectations while heightening my hopes. If you saw my list for one day’s activities to complete, it would overwhelm almost any person. I separate myself from those very lists. I celebrate what I have accomplished in a day’s time, rather than beat myself up for what I could not do, which leads to my second greatest lesson coming to life in the past year….

I will not and cannot beat myself up. The shame, inner blame, and guilt that results becomes self-destructive to the point of no return. Negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts where depression looms, keeping one from moving forward to enjoy the moment of now as a newly-wed, as a new man, and as the new beginning awaits me.

I strive for more because I believe I am more than I previously accepted myself to be. While circumstances buried me, I survived once again to tell of my journey once more and to write another day for many more years to come.

James L. Cartee, III, returns as a better person for the valley I have leaped across. I will be back more often as I hope to complete at least one blog entry a week. For the betterment of my own existence, I am back!

BLESSINGS – My One Word for The New Year – 2017

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

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My sister, Allison, asked me in 2016 to choose one word that would be constant throughout the year, as an important life reminder, kind of like a New Year’s resolution. While many resolve to lose weight, I would choose to remind myself of a personal theme. For example, one might choose strength, courage, perseverance, education, kindness, service, or any other area of sought after reminders for one’s own betterment. One might choose one of these listed words as their intended purpose.

I did not choose a word in 2016, however after a long year of hardship and trials, I am reminded of the blessings in my life of what is good, even when circumstances around seem bad. My chosen word and therefore focused theme for 2017 is BLESSINGS.

I will do my utmost best to remember what is good in my life….to remember the blessings God has given me….not to forgot the obvious ways God continues to demonstrate His continual love and divine grace.

2016 did not go exactly according to plan or the way I expected it to go, but on a positive note, the year brought me closer to family in a new hometown city of Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville, Tennessee. I married the love of my life, Lisa, with a wonderful small ceremony with family and close friends.

I experienced good in the midst of hardship. One must not forget there is still good to be had in the middle of adversity. Someone probably has it worse than what we are experiencing, even if we fail to recognize it.

The world is not ending. Perhaps it is just beginning. Perhaps change is not happening to us but rather for us. What we see as negative changes are, in fact, the positive factors changing us to be better people and even stronger followers of Christ.

We are beginning to be blessed rather than being burdened. Rather than seeing all the negatives in my own existence, I will rather focus on the positive….the good….the evident BLESSINGS before my very own eyes. I am blessed by the love, support, and kindness of others….sometimes more than I know. I am blessed rather than transgressed by awful moments. There is still good to be seen. In hardship, I must choose to recognize that good. Perhaps it is as simple as a choice on the matter.

Oh, I am blessed. Yes, I am very blessed. Happy New Year to you and your family! I sincerely desire that your one chosen word brings hope to you as my word, BLESSINGS, brings hope to me in 2017.

The Journey of James and Lisa Cartee (….the story that will go down in the history books!)

Believe it or not, Lisa and I met through an online dating website, known as OKCupid. Perhaps online matches do work for some couples, despite the debates that continue forward about internet-based relationships. It worked for me!

I married this hidden gem on Saturday, October 22, 2016, at The Tannehill Ironworks State Park country chapel, located just outside Birmingham, Alabama. We were engaged in May of 2016, where I proposed at The Vulcan Statue Memorial Park in Birmingham, hence our fondness for the city and these southern geographic areas.

In addition to my own mother and sister, Allison Mills, Lisa might just be the most compassionate and servant-like individual I have ever met. Of course, in addition to her righteous hot fox figure, her most attractive quality is her relationship with Christ.

I can honestly admit that when I wanted to give up on our relationship, Lisa persisted. She pursued me. She never gave up on us, stating with confidence that I was her “best friend.” And eventually, her persistence paid off, a persistence that I had never before experienced with any girl, won my heart! Lisa finished the race and got her man. Perhaps this is again a lesson to remember for all of us – to never give up – as Lisa so warmly and kindly reminds us to do.

When I felt that my life had ended in the midst of clinical depression, I realized it really had just began, with my own love and better half in the form of a wife.

The included photos are compliments of Brendon Pinola Photography – a friend and great man of talent. The photography session took place on the Friday before our wedding in a personal meeting that reminds all of our mutual story, a journey that I will continue to write and publish my own memoirs about.

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MAKE YOUR MARK TODAY! – not later, right now!

 

Are you bringing the passion?

Are you pursuing the matters of your heart?

Your parents provided for you. Your family goes to great lengths, so that you can be better than fifty percent.

Three things you have got to do to LEAVE your MARK on this EARTH –

  • Accept what you cannot change. Some things are just the way they are because they are. Stressing over what you cannot control becomes wasted energy.
  • Understand your time frame and realize the goal will take longer than you ever expect. Be patient, however long it takes. Do not live in your time frame. Live in God’s time frame.
  • The process requires commitment. Through the pain, through the suffering, through the clinical depression, trust the process. This third step is the most important of the listed three, because if you rush the process of your own character development, then you will fall short of your goals every time. Let the process take its course!

With these three steps are actively in your life, you will SUCCEED! You will leave your MARK! You will follow through until you CROSS THE FINISH LINE!

Make the choice. Make the decision. Live to appreciate the moment. Accept what is. Do not worry about the time frame. Learn from the process.

Lisa – My Only True Companion – Like A Cold Beer, Baby!

www.brendonpinolaphotography.com

www.brendonpinolaphotography.com

In the previous three blog entries, I have dedicated those pieces to my father, mother, and sister, Allison.

Perhaps most significant of events in my life, I am getting married to Lisa Ciuffetelli in October of this year, and at this point in my life, she will become my best friend and closest companion.

Lisa and I talk at least twice a day, as we continue to carry forward a long distance relationship, for just a few more months. She lives in Texas and I in Nashville, Tennessee. Our communication methods also include Skype calls and of course, plenty of texting throughout the entire day.

This morning Lisa texted me something about a sarcastic comment with seasonal employment, something about working. Honestly, it was one of those long, late night conversations. I did not even remember her comment, seeing that I no longer hold onto little things I cannot control. It simply speaks of her character – she was fearful she had hurt my feelings. She cared enough to make a point of it this morning.

I am convinced Lisa is the most compassionate person I have ever met in my life, which is such an amazing quality to have. For better or worse, this personality trait also makes her a sincerely sensitive individual as well, someone who tries to empathize with those hurting from hard circumstances.

I recently wrote this poem about Lisa. She is my family’s new sibling. She is sweet. She is tasty. She is like a cold beer on a hot day, baby!

Like a Cold Beer, Baby

I like my women
Like a cold beer.
Whether a blonde, brown pilsner,
Pale, or IPA,
I am good with clear hops.
Smoothe, tasty, and tall to drink
Like anything that doesn’t think too hard,
Doesn’t go too fast,
Doesn’t chill too quick,
A beautiful sight makes me thirsty.
While quenching my need,
I drink another to rest,
To watch a good game,
And to relax after a day’s work.
The pretty refreshment makes me smirk.
Like my baby girl, it is pure enjoyment.
A good woman is like a good beer.
It is something to savor
And something to appreciate.
The love of a woman is to be a blessing
Like any moment with a beer.
Memories of community are irreplaceable.
Beer provides excuses for social enjoyment
As my lady lover stands in my corner.
The simple things are the best things.
I grab my beer. I grab my lady’s hand.
We remember a shared bliss.
I receive a sweet kiss.
For a brief minute,
It is my beer I no longer miss.
It is her touch.
It is her smile.
With a beer in my hand
And my lady on my shoulder,
I am as happy as a Georgia Peach.
I am the luckiest man in the world.

4/1/16

My Sister, Allison – If given a superhero identity, her name would be “The Courageous Encourager!”

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Sisters possess this amazing rockstar steady encouragement factor! When I have been clinically depressed many times in my past life, Allison, my sister, has been there to listen, there to encourage, and there to hold my hand in efforts to comfort me, even if just over the phone, because distance would not allow us to be together.

For this attribute and many other honorable traits she exemplifies, I dedicated my third major poetry and photography book, Eighteen Blessed Detours, to her.

Recently I have not been myself. That is the curse of an ailment I cannot often control, an illness that sucks the life out of me, sometimes on a daily occurrence. The remembrance of my sister laughing, playing, and even cheerleading makes me feel a little bit better these days. Like Peter Pan, she is part of my happy thoughts as a steady encourager.

It is not as though I do not count my blessings. It just feels like a cloud hangs over my head that never lets daylight in, until of course, I talk to Allison, and even more recently, Lisa, my fiancé. As my top two personal fans, they both have a way with words to make me feel a little less down.

In the fight against what sometimes feels like constant drag of stagnancy, Allison reminds me that God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. She is like Joel Osteen with a white shiny smile and hairdo that constantly looks great on camera and video.

Allison is an amazing mother. She is a rising star in her business as an entrepreneur. She is additionally an awesome sibling and constant foothold of strength for those who need a reminder that when we think we no longer can, God can! And sisters serve as the guardian angels to show that God absolutely can!

Better than a Joel Osteen glimmering example of excellent dental hygiene, Allison is also like a Granger Smith “Backroad Song” that we sing at the top of our lungs in a Voltswagon Jetta as the smell of sand and South Carolina beaches surround us in scenery and sight. With a cooler filled in blue iced cans, sisters just cheer brothers up with cold beer drinking in savored marshmellow meadows and classic country playing in the backdrop on scratchy old car speakers.

Sisters are courageous, masterful encouragers in hard times. Somehow, in tears or in smiles, they hold brothers together. They try their best to empathize. They support. They reassure. And perhaps most importantly, they restore faith when all seems lost.

Yes, if I could give Allison a superhero identity, I would name her “The Courageous Encourager,” because for me, she really is my constant courageous encourager.

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My Mom – if given a superhero identity, her name would be “CiCi, the Defender!”

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“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” -George Washington

Moms have a special place in the hearts of those they protect and defend, a son, more specifically.

For example, in my own life story, when attending a home Auburn game, my second year as a graduate student in 2009, my favorite team played West Virginia (WV) in a tsunami Saturday night game. Before the game, a drunk WV fan advanced towards me in a harmful stance after some exchanged innocent smack-talking. At five foot even, my mother, Diana Cartee, stood in front of me with a pointed finger towards the assailant, like a student suddenly in trouble in an elementary school classroom. That index finger waved in front of the drunk fan’s face with the tenacity of a tiger, and for some reason, he ran away in fear of my mother’s wrath.

It downpoured the entire first half of the game, with a given rain delay. My Mom stood the entire time in the student section, drenched in water, to spend time with her son, in an ever so stylish navy blue poncho. Now that is expressed love beyond measure….to cheer the Auburn Tigers onto victory with a historic win of historic memorable proportions.

To the displeasure of my relatives, including immediate family, I have seen my Mom get into fights with family when wronging her son and possibly even verbally taunting me. It is almost like a common emotion shared….when hurting, my Mom hurts for me and with me. When happy, my Mom is the first to celebrate with me when sad, the first to cry with me. When I am angry, my Mom’s mutual anger intensifies beyond the reaches of the famous Avenger superhero, the Hulk. Her green madness expands beyond superhuman strength. Her fight to avenge the weak, in my defense, is a powerful force! Like protecting her own children, she will do the same for her own grandchildren, Ayden and Brogan, to whom she is better known as CiCi. Yes, moms defend the weak when the weak, in our vulnerable state, are unable to defend ourselves.

Moms rescue those who need rescuing in vulnerable mental states. At one point, in my life, when suffering from a down spell, I wanted a dog more than anything in the world to distract me from the hate of those who prejudicially judged my mental illness, including my own family members. Thus, I bought a purebred Boston Terrier who I just so happened to name King David. He was never given away. Because Mom loved me and noticed the heartache of her son (something other dumb family members could not recognize in their own ignorance), King David stayed with us for the majority of his lifetime, eight years in all.

Moms sacrifice. Moms give. Moms defend. Mother’s Day, as a single twenty-four-hour period, does not necessarily suffice to recognize the daily blessings a Mom brings to a son’s life. Sometimes you have to stop, like smelling roses, to see the impact made in continual service.

Nothing brings Moms more happiness than seeing their children and the spouses of their children enjoy life, and my Mom will do whatever it takes to assist her son and daughter with the challenges that come forward. She defends her children, no matter what the circumstances. That is just what my Mom does. It is natural to her. It is what makes her CiCi. It is what makes her Diana Cartee. It is what makes her a great Mom that other female counterparts could emulate and learn from….someone who loves and gives unconditionally.

Thank you, Mom, for your continual acts of kindness, especially for those who really need such acts in times of desperation.

Your son,

James L. Cartee III

My Dad – If given a superhero identity, his name would be “Captain Invincible!”

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I have been subject to witness several lame father figures in my lifetime, not my Dad. No, not my Dad! Simply said, and bragging about it, my Dad is my hero and the absolute best Dad in the world. In fact, some have often mentioned how they envied that I had a Dad, who continually played a part in my life, whereas their father took off on a permanent vacation where no one has any recollection of his presence, long to be forgotten.

Please know I also feel similar sentiments towards my Grandfather Cartee. He is a man of honor who often made his presence known at important life events and sometimes just showing up to spend time with me, for no specific reason at all, other than to see me.

Here are some reasons why I proclaim such a dignified title in honor of the man who has changed my life for the better in so many ways. He simply is, meaning my Dad shows up to the simple events. He attended my graduations from high school and the colleges I attended and sporting events when I was younger. In addition to my mother, he is the first to buy one of my books when I publish “yet one more.”

I do not consider fatherhood to be easy; however I do not think it is rocket science either. My father takes care of those he loves. When you love someone, one might argue it comes instinctively natural and easy to just do what a Dad does. With a family and wife in mind, you want to be a better person. You want to strive for greater, because you have someone depending on you as if your life depended on it, and more often than not, those lives do depend on your efforts for income.

Sometimes our greatest strengths are in our greatest efforts to fight for those we love. We try because we love. Dad loves me and my sister. He tries, He shows up. He is present. Sometimes that approach to simply be is the best way to be a great Dad and person of strength. I must admit that my father has done so in extraordinary ways, in ways that many other lacking fathers could learn from.

Sometimes all you have to do is watch the person you aspire to be like and follow their example. At least, as I am about to marry Lisa in October, that is what I am doing, while the thought of children is not in the so distant future.

My philosophy is simple here: I want to be an awesome father! I watch my Dad and do what he does. And if perplexed, I just ask him a thousand questions and follow his lead on what to do. In regards to his track record, he has rarely led me astray.

As we say in a southern manner of respect, if I had my Bud Light in hand, I would say, “Dad, this Bud’s for you! I love you, man, and thank you for everything you have done for our family, especially for me!”

If I could give my father a superhero title, it would be “Captain Invincible!” He is one of the most resilient men I have ever known. He rarely lets me down. And when needed, he is almost always there to support me, especially in regards to my mental illness. While no one is perfect, my father, as a Christian leader and servant, is about as close as any man I know can get!