Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lili | Senior

Meet Lili!!! Lili is about to graduate from Mary Baldwin College and wanted some portraits to remember and celebrate her success! I was so excited to meet her because usually I am doing seniors in high school, not in college! So this was something a little different. I absolutely love Mary Baldwin's campus and in the spring it's especially gorgeous. Lili braved the intense wind on her shoot but thankfully it didn't rain and it wasn't cold! It's been SO nice to not have to wear a jacket to my shoots lately. One less thing to bring along. Haha. But anyway, Lili, congrats on almost graduating and I wish you all the best as you step out into the real world! Hope you love your pictures! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Keep On Keeping On

Do you need some encouragement? If so, I hope this does the trick and encourages you to keep on keeping on. This is for the photographer who doesn't feel successful, who feels like they have more bad days than good days, who constantly compares their work to others, who doesn't believe they'll ever be as good as "so-and-so", who tries but fails to imitate exactly what the industry leaders are doing, who doesn't have enough money for "the best equipment," who isn't booking anything... This is for the photographer who is about to give up. I feel you. I really do. Despite trying to keep a positive vibe online, I have bad days too. I have emotional days and I have days where I am not happy with my shots. I have days where I feel uncreative and where I feel like I would be much better behind a desk... The truth will set you free. Haha! This is the stuff no one admits online so I felt I needed to be completely honest and put it all out there.

I learned a whole lot at the retreat I just went to but a huge thing for me was that I released a lot of the jealousy I had of other photographers. There's no need to be jealous when we all have our strong points and low points. EVERYONE fails but EVERYONE also succeeds at some point or another. You can't give up because you had a bad shoot but everything you see online is beautiful. You have to remember what you see online is picturesque. Literally. No one posts the bad stuff!!! Haha.

This is the exact reason I was SO excited to take a break from social media. For some reason, I struggle with comparisons more than a lot of other people and I needed to decompress and let go. I needed to start believing in what I was doing. I needed to believe that God was using me but first I needed to let him. God wants to use whatever gift he's given you and he wants you to know it's unique. He wants you to be YOU, not your neighbor or the kid you sit across from in class, not your favorite photographer or your best friend. One of the leaders at the retreat said her pastor once told her, "If you're always trying to be someone else, who is ever going to be YOU?"

We were created the way we are for a reason and how it must break God's heart to know we aren't happy with who he made us to be. So this is me. I have insecurities, I fail a lot, I often lie to myself and say I'm not good enough, I'm not as bold as I'd like to be, I wish I were an extrovert... The list goes on. I hope this makes you realize that no one is perfect and everyone is hiding behind the internet, making it appear they are. So have a little faith in what you're doing, whatever it might be, and allow yourself to enjoy it, rather than always wishing for something more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Delight Retreat 2014

I just spent seven consecutive days without social media (and I only got on the internet to check email and look up a few things). It was so FREEING not to bother with it. That's the only word I know to describe it. I knew social media would continue on but I chose to ignore it for a bit and it was so healthy. I felt more in tune with myself and I actually sat down to read a book for more than ten minutes without looking at my phone. I get so overwhelmed by the photos and posts and inbox messages and birthdays and notifications. I love keeping up with people but it's exhausting seeing so much in such a short amount of time. We were made to live life outside of the internet and although it has its perks (I wouldn't own a business without the internet), it's also good to limit how much time we spend on it. But anyway, you're probably wondering why I decided to go on a social media fast in the first place. Kind of random, huh? I've wrestled all week with whether I should share this online because it's really personal but I'm going to step out on faith and just do it because I feel like I should. So here goes.

I went to a Delight retreat in Charlottesville a couple weeks ago with twenty some other sixteen to twenty-one-year-old girls I met online. Yep, Delight is an online group for photographers and other creatives and we don't meet until the actual retreat! So at the end of the week, we were challenged to take a break from social media to soak in what God had done at the retreat and to stop comparing ourselves to everything online! But I'm getting ahead of myself... Let me back up.

I paid to go to this retreat almost immediately after registration opened because it was the first east coast retreat ever and it was only thirty minutes from me!! I knew it would be amazing and that I wanted to go but I wasn't sure at first if God wanted me there. Well, by the end of the week, I walked away with more than I could have ever hoped for and God definitely had me there for reason. I attended a nonofficial Delight retreat back in the fall which was outstanding but just when I thought it couldn't get any better.... At this particular retreat I just came back from, I saw God work more powerfully than I ever have in my entire life. I always knew God was powerful but I watched him work in all our hearts and I am forever changed because of it. It's really tough to put experiences like this into words but I'm going to try.

On Thursday night we all arrived at the old, creaky, 200-year-old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and got to know one another. That night as we all got together in the same room, God was already at work. It's hard to remember details of each day because so much happened but I remember there were tears and I think we all realized we were in for something big; we just didn't know HOW big. On Friday, we worked on creating some artistic backdrops for a photo shoot that was supposed to represent who we are to God. Then we worshiped again that night. But Saturday is when it all began. It's what I was waiting for. I had journaled that I wanted to walk away from the retreat changed and I knew after this day that it had begun. The leaders had us all write down what we were ashamed of in our journals and afterwards, we huddled around in a tight circle, arms around one another and one by one, we said out loud what we were ashamed of and what we were saying no to (fear, selfishness, insecurity, etc.). We cried, we prayed, we uplifted girls who needed encouragement, and we were moved by God's presence. Eventually, after we felt burdens lifted from admitting our shames and faults, we went around and said what we finally wanted to say yes to. I said, "I say yes to believing I have a purpose and that God will use me." 

After Saturday was over, we had planned to celebrate on Sunday all of the victories from the weekend by having a photo shoot in front of our backdrops. So that's what we did. A lot of us thought God's work was done at the retreat at that point but it most definitely wasn't. Haha. That night, after a full, happy day of shooting, we had our normal worship, we recorded a couple songs, and then we started sharing about our canvases that we had created the night before. One of the first girls to share told her story and how it linked to what she painted on her canvas. Her story was really deep and she shared a lot of things about her past that not many people knew. I was listening closely to her and at the same time, I kept thinking to myself, "I want to share my story. I need to share my story." I'm not going to tell my story online because sometimes words get misrepresented and things come across differently than they should but if you're interested, I'd love to sit down and share it with you!!

But anyway, I was sitting there in my chair, feeling like God was telling me to share my story but I wasn't 100% sure if it was God telling me that and I didn't want to take away time from anyone who really had something heavy on their heart so I quietly ignored the loud voice in my head, thinking it would go away. But then, the craziest thing I've ever experienced happened. Jordan, one of the leaders at the retreat, got up out of her chair, came to me, and said, "I feel like God's telling us we need to pray for Meredith." I burst out crying. I can't even put into words how it felt. It was like Jordan had read my mind and knew something was going on, which isn't possible because I hadn't said anything. It was all God. After everyone wrapped their arms around me and prayed for me, I finally got to tell my story for the first time to a group of people who didn't know. Apparently God wanted me to tell it because clearly since he couldn't get through to me, he got through to Jordan. Haha! 

Afterwards we asked Jordan about what had happened and how she knew and she said she felt a hot rush over her and God spoke to her and said, "He sees you." I should first explain that Jordan is one of the wisest, Godliest, most incredible women I've ever met. She listens so intently to God that she hears his voice and speaks his words when he tells her to, which happened numerous times at the retreat. This probably sounds insane to most of you and like I said, you can't really understand it unless you were there. But when Jordan said what she said, I was overwhelmed and I really felt God in that moment, more than ever before. And the fact that God said to her, "He sees you" is unbelievable because that's exactly what I needed. I needed conformation that God saw me and wanted me to speak. So after I shared my story, God continued to work in our lives. There was victory after victory and we prayed and prayed. We prayed until 4:30 AM for every girl who needed prayer, which was practically everyone. I have never in my life been a part of something like this. It was unreal. Well, it was real but it felt otherworldly. God is good. He is real and he is powerful. I can't imagine a life without the joy I have because of living for Him.

So that's the Delight East Coast Retreat 2014 in so many words. Haha!! And because photos help people connect, here are some of the beautiful, inspiring, Godly ladies I had the pleasure of getting to know! And to the girls I didn't get to photograph, I'm SO sorry!! Now I am just going to have to come visit you so we can have a photoshoot!! :)