We came into the year limping.  It’s a common occurrence when happen when your child has a learning disability.

So when the new school year began, we walked through the doors of my daughter’s 3rd grade classroom with trembling hearts.  And there we were greeted by Mrs. Southerland.

When the world didn’t know what to do with my daughter’s hand-writing, Mrs. Southerland saw past the mechanics and told Hannah the truth: she was a WRITER.  And dysgraphia was NOT going to keep her from sharing her gift.

In her classroom, Hannah learned that we CAN do hard things.  She learned to make mistakes and to fall in love with learning.  And above all, she learned that she was SEEN and LOVED.

Hannah’s story is one of many.  Students still come back from their middle schools and high schools JUST to hug Mrs. Southerland.  Because she taught us the sacred truth: we MATTER.  We can do hard things.  And we are LOVED.

For three years now, I’ve documented her precious family.  I’ve watched their love grow.  And I’ll be honest, when her daughter ran up to me at their session and hugged me, I almost cried.  Because these people mean the world to me.

To see more from our time together, CLICK HERE to view their slide-show.

The best days include musical chairs, surprise snuggles and jumping on the bed.  In those moments, we touch joy, laughter, connection and the best of what life has to offer.  So you can imagine how overjoyed I was to do all of the above with this amazing family…

Sweet Rulewicz family, thank you SO much for sharing your joy with me.  From dancing to musical chairs to everything in between, I’ll treasure every last moment…

To see more from our time together, CLICK HERE to view their slide-show.

Sometimes we are vulnerable enough to be seen.  To open our arms a little wider and say, “You are welcome here.  Here is US.  The real, perfectly imperfect US.”

And I smile every time because I see the glory.  The grace and the beauty mingled together in the most exquisite display: LOVE.

Sweet Huff Family, I love you all.  So much.  Thank you for opening your arms and hearts to me.  What a beautiful family you’re making…

PS: Thank you for helping me do my first ever studio session!  I may survive in MI after all!!!

(I cannot share this post without also sharing this mama’s beautiful work and business.  Katie is a wonderful photographer here in the area and meeting her has been such a JOY.  You can check out her work and cheer her along HERE.)

 

To view more from our time together, CLICK HERE to view their slide-show.

We first met in middle school.  I was a new student in a sea of well-adjusted 8th graders.  (This was now my 3rd middle school after multiple moves.)

The truth be told, I don’t remember exactly how we met.  But I can tell you exactly what I felt.

Gratitude.  Welcome.  Home.

Emily was a gift.  She was brimming with joy and wit and she had a way of making all of you feel welcome.  We could talk a little too loudly, laugh even louder and whenever I was around her, I knew I was home.

Emily met Matt and they fell in love.  I knew he was the luckiest.  And ask anyone who knows them…together – they help you know gratitude…welcome…and home.

And now – they hold Miss M…the little girl that grew in their hearts until the day she was FINALLY in their arms.

Matt, Emily and Miss M – I am forever grateful that I got to see you all together.  I look through these images and I could cry.  Prayers ANSWERED.  Hearts open and full.  And joy beyond measure.  Thank you for sharing all that you are with me.

 

To see more from our time together, just CLICK HERE to view their slide-show.

Frozen.

It’s how I’ve spent a large portion of my life.
For years I lived for everyone else’s approval.  And most deeply – for God’s.
I was never enough and I knew it.
God whispered in many ways that it wasn’t true.  But sometimes, a Voice is so good and so kind, and your heart is so callous, that you can’t believe it’s true.
But God isn’t One to give up on us.  And He kept sending me friends and words and moments seeking to help me know the most basic of truths: that I am loved.  As I am.  Fully.  And completely.  No change required.
As you can imagine, years of living under beliefs of “less than” is not always easily undone.  And it has a way of sinking it’s teeth into every portion of our lives.
So when I fell in love with photography – it was more than happy to pop up like a never-ending game of “whack-a-mole”.
Every session I’d wait for approval from my client – chained to their validation – and unable to give this gift AS A GIFT.
So I emailed my sweet friends.  Because I’m learning – most of the time – we’re not the only ones.  And I asked them – have you ever dealt with this? How do I move past the fear?  How do I share my work as a gift?  How do I release myself to create when I’m too scared that I’m not enough?  How do I share this project I love when I’m scared not everyone will love it and when it takes sharing to find what it is meant to be???
A few months later we gathered around the table.  I was aching as I knew this was our goodbye.  These ladies who had helped form me were soon going to be 12 hours away.  We hugged and laughed and shared tears.  And then….
Rachel looked me in the eyes and pulled out a folded piece of paper.  She told me that she had never forgotten my fear-paralyzed email.  She had ached with me over it all.  And she had written me something…my new fear Manifesto.  Here is a glimpse into the words that Rachel wrote for me…that happen to be for ALL OF US.

I believe anything is possible.
I am not tied to any outcome.

My vow is to show up bravely, boldly, flawed, and full of hope,
Not when I receive approval
Not when I look a certain way
Not when I have a grand plan
Not when I get more courage
Not when I’ve gotten therapy for my issues
Not after I’ve done some research.

I choose to believe I am ready now
Because time doesn’t wait.
And I’ve let the chains of ‘someday’ hold me back.
I’ve let the opinions of others dictate my dreams.
I’ve let fear boss me around.
Well, no more.

I will no longer wait to LIVE my life,
to love others and myself,
to make my unique contribution to the world
To shine as only I can shine.

I am ready now
To LIVE the life I’ve been yearning to live.

I choose to believe good things will happen
When I step out in courage and love.

My vow is to show up bravely, boldly, flawed, and full of hope.

I see light ahead.
I see light within.

So today – on this first day of 2018, I introduce to you the beginnings of my women’s project. I’m a little/LOT nervous.  There is a lot to learn as I share these images and stories.  More will come from my time with Rachel and many other amazing women, but for today – here are Rachel’s words for us all. 
F a c e b o o k
T w i t t e r