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I eagerly ran out to the mailbox to check if today was the day it finally arrived. There it was. My first copy of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine. I glanced down at the cover and gasped. I couldn’t believe it!
My two favorite artists were on the cover at the same time! It was better than I could’ve imagined. I excitedly ran inside and read the whole magazine from front to back on that winter day in 2004.
I knew what I wanted to do with my life right then. It was one of those lightening bolt moments. I would combine my passions for writing, photography and music as a photographer and writer for CCM Magazine.
That discovery came at the end of junior high, and it’s a plan I stuck to in high school as the photo editor of my high school newspaper and yearbook photographer. They were small steps towards achieving my dream.
Making it happen
When it came time to look at colleges, I knew I wanted a school with a good journalism program. My mom took me to check out Northwestern College for a visitation day. I nervously walked into the large room of unfamiliar people (an introvert’s nightmare) organized by possible majors, and we found our way to the journalism table.
I sat down next to a man with a quietly commanding presence, and he introduced himself in a deep, calm voice as the journalism professor Doug Trouten. Yup, you read that right. The journalism professor. It was a very small program at an already small school.
He asked what I wanted to do after college. I confidently told him about my dream of being a writer and photographer for CCM Magazine. “I’ve actually written some cover stories for them,” he said offhandedly.
My jaw was on the ground. I couldn’t believe he had actually done what I dreamed of doing for so long. And he could teach me!
I looked at other colleges, but compared everything to Northwestern and Doug’s journalism program. One school I looked at had their newspaper office in an actual closet that was equipped with computers from the mid-80s. A third college was nice, but I didn’t feel like I fit in.
Less than 10 of us were in the journalism program together at Northwestern, and Doug taught all of the classes for our major. Every Friday, his sweet wife Lis would bring us the most delicious, homemade baked goods I’ve ever had in my life. Doug and Lis often invited us over for a home-cooked meal and lively discussions.
I clearly made the right decision by going to Northwestern.
Spoiler alert- It’s 7 years after graduation, and I’m not a writer or photographer for CCM Magazine. It hasn’t even existed as a printed publication since my sophomore year of college.
The thought never crossed my mind in college that I would run my own business. When I decided to pursue a photography career, I worried that I’d have to leave writing aside. That hasn’t proved true though. I love getting to know my Lumos Couples and creatively telling their stories through words and photos alike.
Dreams change, but it turns out skills transfer. Designing marketing materials, communicating effectively with clients, thinking critically, writing and editing sales copy, blog posts and captions are all based on skills I learned from Doug, even though I didn’t realize at the time how I’d be using them.
A small world
A couple years after graduation, I met a really awesome guy named Tony. The sister of my college roommate referred me to a job after college where my coworker introduced me to Tony. We wouldn’t have met if I had gone to a different school.
I took Tony on a tour of my college and explained that I chose the school because of the amazing journalism professor, Doug Trouten.
He looked at me like I was crazy and started laughing. And didn’t stop. For at least 5 minutes. I was so confused. I had no idea what brought on this fit of giggles. When he could finally speak again, he asked if my professor had a wife named Lis, 3 kids and lived in Crystal. Yes, yes and yes.
Tony grew up next door to the Trouten’s where Doug’s daughter Tracey was one of his first childhood friends. Lis and Tony’s mom were good friends, even after Tony’s family moved to Buffalo.
Doug passed away this week, and like many other people, I will never forget his patient and direct style of teaching, sarcastic humor, and the way he could calmly and kindly make me realize just how wrong I was about something.
I’m certain that if I would have held onto my dream of working for CCM, he would have ensured I got there. When I wanted to study abroad in Australia and there was a journalism class that I’d miss that I needed to graduate during that semester, Doug made sure that class didn’t get in the way of my plans. He arranged an independent study for me to do one one one with him after I got back from abroad on the material I missed from the class.
I tend to get cranky when making my student loan payments, grumbling about the many other things I could be doing if I had that money for something else. But today I make that payment with a grateful heart as I remember Doug and the value of my education.