Billelle

This past weekend one of my dearest friends got married to her best friend.  I cried all the tears and laughed all the laughs.  I also didn’t catch any of the sleeps.

Basically the weekend was like a forced friendship between eight girls.  But the beauty in it was that we were all linked to one amazing woman- Danielle- so we were pretty compliant.  Eager, actually.  And true to form, I found that Danielle has picked some amazing women to stand by her in life.

If I were to write about all the things Danielle means to me, I’d probably type until my fingers fall asleep so I’ll spare myself. I hate that painful prickly feeling.

Instead, I’d like to highlight a few things that come to mind.  First, something she has taught me is the beauty of imperfection.  This was monumental to me during college because I’ve always grown up with this ideal image of what I need to be.  What my life needs to look like.  Expectations not only put on myself by others, but mostly from myself.  I’ll never forget seeing her make mistakes during our time in school.  Each time she learned something valuable and crucial for her personal growth. I remember her talking about “embracing the messy” in our lives.  And it was in those moments where I realized I didn’t have to be perfect. I learned how to live life freely.  Free to be myself,  mess up sometimes, and take responsibility to clean up after.  If you know me, you’ll understand why this is such a big deal.  I’m kind of clumsy and crazy things happen to me all the time. I’m anything but perfect.

It’s actually what you do after you make a mistake that counts.  We all fail.  We all screw up. And that’s ok.

Something else I drew from Danielle was how she holds on to her values.  She doesn’t take them lightly. Time after time I have been in awe of how she lives out her faith and loyalty to the ones she loves. I’ve watched her waver over decisions and I’ve seen her hold fast to the things that she knows and believes. She chooses according to what makes her a better person. I’ve watched as she moved hundreds of miles away to cultivate her relationship with Bill. I’ve listened to her speak words of life over me during some of my lowest moments. She’s not afraid of doing difficult things. I love that about her.

So here’s a bit of the weekend. I hope it gives a glimpse of the camaraderie that unraveled.  It was so good to make new friends and travel with older ones.  Travel does my heart good.  billelle-95 billelle-96 billelle-98

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Billelle

Julie, Jason, and Lil’ Jubilee

This is a recent maternity shoot that I had with one of my best friends from church.  Julie is one of those friends who, despite my horrible communication skills, still seems to stay one of my closest friends.  She knows me through and through.  The times not spent together are often long gaps of time, but she still seems have the knack for looking me in the eye and calling me who I truly am. “You are my little Smelly Melly,” she’ll say.  She’ll recognize a sparkle in my eye while I’m telling her a story.  “Girl, I know that look- I haven’t seen you this passionate about something in a long time. You go for it!” Have you ever had a friend like that?  Who calls you to be who you truly are and holds you accountable?  Or someone who you don’t see in a very long time, and yet when you reconvene, it’s like there never had been a separation?

Julie and Jason are planning on meeting their sweet girl, Jubilee at the end of December.  I was able to capture some of their interactions together.  Their love is one of my favorite things to watch.  After getting married, they worked in their local town to help fight human and sex trafficking.  Soon after, they moved to Thailand to do the same, teach English, and establish relationships.  There, they received the greatest gift so far. Enter baby Jubilee.  Now they are back in North Carolina, nesting and awaiting the arrival of their sweet bundle.  And putting wool socks on, because it’s getting darn cold up there.

Check out the shoot.  The sky’s mood lighting is the best lighting, I’d say.

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Julie, Jason, and Lil’ Jubilee

Darrell and Bethany

When I got the chance to be a part of Darrell and Beth’s Story Shoot, I couldn’t say no. “I want it to be really authentic,” she explained as we chattered excitedly over the phone. What I appreciated most about Bethany was that she wanted to do her maternity shoot the week she was due. And she wanted me to document everything. Wait. Everything? Swollen ankles? Afternoon naps? Popping tummy?

“Yes, everything. I want our son to see what family was like right before he came!”

Refreshing, right? I mean, maternity shoots are always amazing. Glowing mother, swollen body parts carefully cropped out, perfectly “slimming” angles, and mothers clothed in sexy or very little garments. But what about every day life? What about aching feet, living in a trailer to save money, or all those times when you really feel about as sexy as a goat?

With all this in mind, I was perusing Facebook a few days before the trip when I came across a post a friend of mine had written.

“I’m kind of over the whole “sexy preggers” thing. It’s like, seriously, can’t a woman be 8 months pregnant and be given a break from being pretty/put-together/sexy? She’s growing a human! Does she really have to style her hair too? On that same note, I’m also sick of our cultural obsession with sexy female athletes. She’s sweaty and just busted butt, but don’t worry! She’s still physically attractive!!  Basically, I’m wondering, when is it ok for a woman to be ugly? Men get to be gross all the time. They get to fart and gain/lose weight, miss a few days of shaving, have stinky feet, whatever. We still think they’re wonderful…because they are. Because how great a man is has nothing to do with his physical appearance. He’s great because he’s a human. I’m into that. I’m ready to be like, ‘Yeah girl, you’ve got 10 extra pounds!’ And not have to follow it with a ‘But you’re still soooo pretty.’ it’s like, whatever, she’s got 10 extra pounds. Done. Do you have those pounds? It doesn’t mean anything about you. It’s just a bit boring to be always reminding girls how pretty they are, even when we mean well. ‘No matter what the world says about you, remember, you’re still beautiful.’ Ok, that’s nice. But she’s other things too. Right? Wouldn’t it be better to say, ‘It doesn’t matter what they say about you, remember, you have the power to lead people, to change minds, to be brave, to grow a human, to raise wonderful children, to crush it at a job you love, to be happy.’

A person, any person, matters because they’re a human. Pretty is…whatever.”  -J.L.

Challenged? I think so. I was so excited by this new perspective, I could hardly wait till it was time to go. I got to shoot the real things. And it’s the real things in life that matter, because we all are human and we share similar experiences. So this is me trying to inspire others out there who struggle with self image, especially when pregnant. Girls, you aren’t alone. Just embrace it.

Here are some from my few days I was up in Delaware. I couldn’t have been more inspired by Bethany’s attitude.

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Darrell and Bethany

The Philippines

I recently returned from a trip to the Philippines where I was blindsided by an affection that I hadn’t anticipated.  I fell in love with the country, its people, and some dear friends that I made there.  Now that I’m back, I can’t stop thinking of it.  After a scare where I thought I had lost all my photos, I cried. Then I recovered them. So here are some of my favorites. I’d love to explain everything, but I’m hoping that they tell enough of a story within themselves.  If you want to hear more about them and my heart, contact me and we can have some coffee or something.

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The Philippines

A Glance

I can’t believe it’s only been a little over a year since I picked up my camera in pursuit of something more serious than just haphazardly pointing and shooting.  Here is a recap of some of my favorites from the last while. It’s so important to look back from where you came.  And then to look forward.  I’m excited to see what’s to come.Image

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A Glance