Community Over Competition

The Rising Tide Society is “a network of creative entrepreneurs who believe in community over competition.” Such a simple and beautiful thing, huh? After I wrote the post In A World Full of Girl Bosses, I have been thinking a lot about the blogging/creative industry. For one, it has definitely fired me up again about my blog, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking of creative content, ways to improve my image quality, and trying to be as real and personable with y’all as possible. When I’m looking at a new blog or even an instagram account I only follow them if I feel like I can “get to know them.” If they are inviting me into their life, I want in. But if they are just posting outfit picture after outfit picture with nothing personal, I’m not as inclined to want to engage with them.

I want to invite y’all into my life, and I also want to welcome other bloggers, photographers, graphic designers,  etc on Lysse on Life. In thinking about being in this world with some many people already killing the game, the start can be the hardest part. I’m still starting and truly getting my feet wet in this community and I want to do all I can to work with others in order to make this a win win situation. 










This past week I had the opportunity to shoot with Emma, a friend of mine from school. I met Emma this year through Athletes in Action Christian Ministry and specifically through our Rowing Bible Study. From the beginning I could tell what a heart Emma has for the Lord and the people around her, but only later did I find out that she had such an eye for photography!

Taking pictures is awkward, okay? Especially in the middle of downtown, but Emma and Kate, our Creative Director (lol) made it so much fun. All laughs were genuine, thanks to Kate.  We ran through the streets playing Madonna, stopping at cool brick walls or points in the street with good lighting. We turned a basic Tuesday afternoon into an adventurous spring day (especially because we had free Ben & Jerry’s afterwards).

If you live in the Charlottesville area and want to work with Emma, contact her at and while you’re at it follow her on instragram at Emma Grace Photography!







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Sun’s Shining: Jontell, Photography & The Sun

Hey friends, ‘Lysse here! With the creation of the new Sun’s Shining category on my blog I started to think about all the women in my life who are doing incredible things and my friend, Jontell Parham, immediately came to mind. While photography can simply be picking up a camera and taking a shot, there is a lot of skill and talent that differentiates one person from another, and let me tell you, Jontell has the “it” factor. Not only does she have “it” when it comes to taking pictures, but she is also business savy enough to take things to the next level and make her business official #impressive. You can read Jontell’s post below to learn a little more about what she does and her take on “Shine Theory.”

When she sent me an email of her draft I started reading it and was like wait, this sounds so much like me, did I write this?! No, but honestly I am in love with all she has to say and I am so glad to have her on the blog for the first official Sun’s Shining post. Enjoy!

P.S I promise I didn’t tell her to include anything about “the Sun,” but I think it is fantastic that she did 🙂

Hey everyone! I’m Jontell Parham and I’m the owner of Jontell Vanessa Photography, a wedding and portrait business based in Virginia. I “unofficially” started my business two years ago when I created a Facebook page for my Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.43.07 PMphotography work. In my opinion, creating a space where I could finally showcase my work meant more to me than all of the work that would eventually make my business legal. I wanted the chance to take my passion for photography to the next level, but I was afraid being “another amateur with an expensive camera.”

Alysse introduced me to Ann Friedman’s Shine Theory article and I absolutely love it! Every woman needs to read it, understand it, and live by it. My business wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the amazing women in the industry who operate on the idea of creating a community rather than competition. Natalie Franke, a photographer I admire, said it best: “another woman’s prosperity does not make me inferior.” By building friendships instead of war zones, I’m able to work with other photographers to help us both build better businesses and give more to our clients.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph gorgeous weddings and cherish memories for dozens of people over the short course of my photography business. In the middle of writing this post, I took a quick phone call from a bride’s mom and she ended the call by saying that she knew God led her to the perfect photographer for her daughter’s wedding. That’s something I could have only dreamed of hearing two years ago!

If I’m being honest – between the countless miles of driving to locations, late-night editing, and figuring out how to own a business in college – there are plenty of days when I want to quit. Then, clients come along, just like that bride’s mom, and say just the thing I need to hear to remember that this business is bigger than all of the little bumps in the road. I give my fears and plans for my business to God, and in return, he allows me to use this passion of mine to serve and glorify His Kingdom.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, fight the fears and go after it. Go start a business, run the marathon, choose the missions trip, get the PhD. You’re capable of remarkable things, but you have to be brave enough to take the first step towards something a little bit bigger than you. I promise you, along the way, you’ll find your people. The ones who will push you forward because they see your potential and love you enough to help you reach it. You’ll find your Cristina Yang to remind you that you are the Sun and you are strong enough to keep fighting and pushing forward.

Jontell Parham


New Feature on the Blog: Shine Theory

I know for a fact that I have talked about Shine Theory before, and if you don’t know what it is please stop now to  to read all about it. The “theory” was created by, Ann Friedman, one of my fav ladies from the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. Anyways, in the name of Shine Theory, I have created a new category on my blog that will highlight women in my life who are doing really rad things! The category will be titled “Sun’s Shining” because y’all know the deal, you are the Sun and you are a shining in life! lols

“Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” -Ann Friedman

There are already a few posts up there, but keep your eyes open for a lot more to come!

Also, if you are interested in writing a featured piece please email me at!



All You Have To Do is Slay

Untitled 1Oh hey guys! My name is Aubree Surrency and Lysse finally convinced me to create a post
as a guest blogger. I’ve never done this before so hang in there with me, it’ll be short and sweet…maybe. First of all, I would just like to mention that Lysse is a wonderful, God- fearing woman that I am blessed to call my friend. So the slogan of this post “All you have to do is Slay,” is dedicated to her. If you’re wondering how we came up with this slogan, it is actually an interesting story. One day we were in the car, traveling to McDonald’s, (the place you can always find Alysse) and she was playing Taylor Swift’s song “All you had to do was Stay.” I glanced over to look at the song and because I attempt to relate anything to the Queen Bey (Yes I am a Beyonce fan), I saw “All you have to do is slay.” I guess you can say it’s been our slogan ever since. So I hope y’all enjoy this post about ways to slay in your daily life, just like the Queen Bey herself.

  • In order to slay you first have to pray

Slaying and praying is extremely important, it is a daily activity. In order to slay you must first pray because praying is one of the most powerful acts you can partake in. Whether you wish to slay in your academics, social activities, relationships, or just life in general, praying is imperative to your success. God has a plan for you, one that you may not know at this moment. However, I want to tell you today that God has a plan for all of us and that plan is for us to slay, all day-every day. At times it seems as if no one is listening to our plans and aspirations for the future, but it is important to remember that God is always listening. So, just remember that when you are not slaying as much as you wish to, in whatever aspect of your life, just pray and God will hear you.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


  • In order to slay you must be confident in yourself

Queen Bey’s confidence in herself radiates through her performances, and is one of the reasons why she is such a powerful Black woman. Despite the criticism about her Formation video, she continued to stay true to herself and her beliefs. I believe she taught us the lesson that you must have confidence and love for yourself despite what others think of you. Of course everyone goes through hardships, but overall you must believe in yourself and then slaying becomes a lot easier. Therefore, you must conqueror life with an “I ain’t sorry” attitude (reference to “Sorry”-Beyonce). Now, this does not mean to partake in harmful activities. Instead, it suggests that we should stop consuming ourselves with what others think about us or who is going where and doing what because honestly, will it matter in 5 years? We should use this valuable time to think about what we are slaying at in our own lives and are proud of, instead comparing ourselves to the standards of society. Love yourself, what you do, and continue to slay at the amazing things you are awesome at.

  • Slay with your friends

Lastly, it is important to slay with your friends! This tip is a shout out to my lovely friends in S.A.A.A. Shontell (read her guest post here), Alysse, and Alexis; I had no idea how wonderful our friendship would be when we met first year. However, their love and support has gotten me through these three years and I am excited for our last year together at the University of Virginia. Slaying on the daily with them has made school less stressful, hardships more bearable and life tons of fun. So guys, slay with the friends of yours that encourage you, challenge you and love you. Slay with the friends who will support you in all your decisions, correct you when you are wrong and love you through it all. Slay with the friends that have the same passions as you, for example a love for the Lord. Slay with the friends that you can trust and lean on at any hour of the day. In order to slay you need a support system, what better support system is one with your friends?

Well, that’s all I have for you guys, but I hope you’ve enjoyed slaying 101. Eat, pray, slay and do it with friends! Also always remember, as Beyonce stated, “Always stay gracious best revenge is your paper.”



Shontell in the City

Hi guys! My name is Shontell White and I am one of the women who is blessed enough to call Alysse Dowdy my best friend. She is such an empowering woman and she inspires me to reach new heights daily. I’m grateful that she has given me the opportunity to post as a guest contributor today! Last week I visited a close friend of Alysse and I in New York and on the train ride home I ceased the opportunity to log my entire journey. I hope you enjoy this quick glimpse into my life. Hopefully, this won’t be the last that you hear from me! I plan to drop some love on this blog regularly!

2:41 PM                                                                                                                                          5/23/15

Penn Station, New York City

On Wednesday morning, May 20, 2015, I awakened around 3:30 am to catch the 4:30 am train to Penn Station, New York City. Being that this was my first trip traveling more than a couple of hours alone – my emotions were a blend of pure excitement and utter fear and nervousness. A few months back, one of my closest friends, Aubree Surrency invited me to visit her home during the summer. Although I eagerly agreed and ensured her that our plans would one day come to fruition, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical myself. I didn’t believe I could pull this one off. Not only is traveling extremely expensive (I’m a broke college student that seeks financial support from her parents), but I didn’t think that I could sell my parents on the idea that I was finally mature enough to make such a big journey alone. Somehow, someway and by the grace of God, I was on that 4:30 train from Danville, Virginia to New York City on Wednesday morning. The trip from the south to the north was definitely a long journey, but I rode in complete awe and amazement that I was able to journey through six states in the matter of about 9 hours. Not to mention, the sight was absolutely beautiful! About three hours into the journey, I was able to slide over to occupy the window seat on the train. The East coast is absolutely breathtaking! I sat beside a black middle-aged woman who de-boarded in Culpepper, Virginia and in Manassas, Virginia a middle-aged white woman headed for New York took over her seat. I snacked on banana chips, granola, barely read the books that I intended to read, strolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, prayed a little, chatted with the women beside me and partook in an occasional nap until I arrived at Penn Station at about 1:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon.

Upon arriving to the station, I thought to myself, “Wow, I really made it. I did what I thought was impossible and by the grace of God I successfully completed my first “big girl” journey. I made it to the big city!”. I squeezed through crowds of people from diverse ethnicities and unique backgrounds and I followed the masses up a cramped escalator to the Amtrak station. Through all of the hustling and bustling excitement, I managed to get a hold of myself to call up the reason why I had been blessed enough to make this journey in the second place. Before I could say 1,2,3… I spotted Aubree at the top of the escalator patiently awaiting my arrival – talk about southern hospitality in the north! Little did I know, this would not be the last time the Surrency family would express such authentic and passionate acts of love, selflessness, and grace to their southern guest. Luckily, the night before journeying to NYC, Aubree texted me suggesting that it might be a good idea to pack my belongings in a suitcase with wheels because we would be spending the entire afternoon and evening in the city. That evening we tallied over 20,000 steps and we managed to walk about 10 miles around the city! We visited Times Square, Central Park, Columbus Circle and other popular tourists attractions. For lunch, we ate at a Greek food truck near Central Park called Tony Dragon’s Grille. I proceeded to reach inside my purse to grab my wallet, but Aubree quickly stopped me and informed me that I was not allowed to spend a penny of my money on activities and food (second piece of evidence that these people are angels!). I stood there in complete disbelief because my parents had generously calculated the cost of food into the money they had given me for the trip. As our stomachs growled in hunger, we journeyed the extra mile and a half to Central Park to devour our lunches amongst the trees, birds and all of the beautiful people. After lunch, Aubree and I climbed to the top of a rock in the park and I decided to practice a few yoga poses! Never in my life have a felt so free! After an evening of sightseeing and walking that resulted in sore and tired feet, we took the Long Island transit back to West Babylon where Aubree resides. Although I was excited about the entire experience, I was most eager to learn more about Long Island and about the area that Aubree was raised in. We ate at a local diner called The Post Office and at about 11:30 pm, Aubree’s mother, Stacey and brother, Jaylin, greeted us. Though sleepy eyed, we somehow managed to shower before calling it a night.

On Thursday morning, we had breakfast with two of Aubree’s friend, Meagan and Jamarie at a locally owned diner called Brownstone Coffee and Tea. There most be something contagious in the Long Island water because Aubree’s friend decided to buy both her and my food. More importantly, they were genuine and welcomed me to the island with their arms wide open. Later we rode past Aubree’s high school, dance school, current job, and even her favorite place to have her eyebrow’s waxed. I definitely feel like I know a lot more about Aubree’s upbringing and what better way to do that then to be totally immersed into her environment. Such a blessing! We also visited one of my favorite shopping malls, Tanger Outlets. I had the opportunity to meet one of Aubree’s oldest friends of 16 years, Ashley, who worked at the outlet. Afterwards, we headed home to rest before our evening festivities began. That evening Aubree arranged for me to attend a zumba class held in the gym of a local church. The workout was intense and the instructor was a vibrant, middle-aged black woman with the body of a 25-year-old and the spunky attitude of a teenager. I learned that she is also a professor at Stony Brook University. I also met one of Aubree’s mom’s long-term friends, Ms. Carol. She was extremely excited to finally be able to meet me. Needless to say, I was showered with love during this entire trip. After zumba class, Aubree’s mother continued to stand by her motto that “what is mines is yours” and she treated us all to dinner at a local diner. After dinner, we commenced a night full of fun, laughter and bowling! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy and smiling faces. Ms. Stacey, Jaylin, Aubree and Caiya – the entire family wore authentic smiles as we witnessed the underdog, Aubree, as she rose to the occasion and dominated the first game. In the beginning, Aubree claimed that she was a bad bowler. I don’t know if I believe her! Jaylin was not impressed by Aubree’s skills and he managed to steal the show during the second game. There’s no need to discuss my scores! What a full and fun evening!

I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for what was to come on Friday morning. I woke up to the smell of giant New York bagels and authentic cream cheese. Jaylin is such a young gentleman and he prepared our bagels while his mother drove Caiya to a friend’s home. Jaylin met me at the top of the stairs with a big, bright smile and said, “The food is ready downstairs whenever you are”. There is no doubt in my mind that he will make his wife a very happy woman someday! While eating my bagel and fresh fruit, Ms. Stacey arrived with freshly brewed coffee in hand. Let’s keep in mind that I only mentioned to her once that I liked coffee in the morning. I didn’t expect for her to go out of her way each morning to ensure that I had a fresh cup. After breakfast, we piled into the van to travel to what would be one of the most beautiful places that I have ever traveled to, the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Man, have you ever been so blown away in a moment by God’s beautiful creations that you simply could not fathom what was occurring right before your eyes? The lighthouse, the beach, and the endless rock formations were all simply breathtaking. I have plans on traveling back there in the near future. After the lighthouse adventure, we dropped Aubree off at work and I spent sometime with Ms. Stacey and Jaylin. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Babylon Village called Del Fuego. I ordered one of the best burritos that I have ever eaten in my life! I spent the rest of the evening playing board games and watching a scary movie with the family and Caiya’s best friend Kaitlyn. At around 10: 30, I rode with Ms. Stacey to pick Aubree up from work. Before heading to bed, Aubree and I celebrated my last night in Babylon by watching the movie “Enough” staring Jennifer Lopez until three in the morning!

This morning, I rose to the smell of fresh blueberry muffins. Ms. Stacey had done it again, she prepared a full breakfast for the family, Kaitlyn and I complete with fresh fruit, muffins, turkey bacon, sausage, eggs, and of course a special cup of coffee for me. Before my departure, we all sat at the table laughing at baby photos of Aubree, Jaylin and Caiya. I truly felt like I was a part of their family. Never in my life have I ever experienced the sincere warmth of love, protection and affection by a family that were complete strangers to me only a year and a half ago. I am still completely overwhelmed by their selfless acts and there is absolutely no way to articulate my appreciation to them or to even begin to thank them enough for what they have done for me. God’s love is literally ricocheting off the walls of their home and I count it as a blessing that I was able to spend merely three days with that family of angels. One thing is for sure — home is definitely where the heart is.