Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best of 2015: Engagements

It's time for an end of year round up and the engagements are first!! I had the chance to do engagements for all but one of my wedding couples this year and it was wonderful! I feel like I got to know my couples during these shoots and I showed up on the wedding day feeling more connected. The engagement sessions this year took me all over Virginia and North Carolina and I got to shoot at a lot of my favorite venues, like Veritas, Early Mountain, and Clifton Inn. It's been such a great year and I have many sweet memories from these shoots! So sad that this year is ending and that it flew by SO fast but I know there's a lot that 2016 will hold and I'm excited to see what it is!! Stay tuned for the weddings round up post coming soon!

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Day My Life Changed Forever

Today -- today is December 11th. Seven years ago today, my life drastically changed. This is not something I can easily put into words and although it still feels like a dream, it's an unfortunate reality. And the reality is that I have a story to share. Seven years ago today, I lost one of my best friends and my family's and Lindsay's family's lives took a turn down a very dark path.

It was a cold, rainy December day. I was in 9th grade. I had gotten involved in an awesome ministry called Young Life and every Thursday after school, our leader who went to JMU and volunteered her time, would come to Waynesboro to hang out with a group of teens. I was one of those girls. We always went to Kline's to get ice cream but because it was raining and there's only outdoor seating there, we went to Hardee's instead. 

A lot of this story is fuzzy and a lot of it is crystal clear. But what I very clearly remember is that one of my great friends Lindsay had been paired with me for an English project earlier that week. We had planned to get together at my house after our Young Life hangout to work on the project. Lindsay had dance that day and she was an incredible dancer who spent a lot of time at the studio (they were rehearsing for the Nutcracker) so I knew we had limited time. We were both too young to drive on our own so my mom knew to pick us up at a certain time. When she didn't arrive to Hardee's when she said she would, I called her to make sure she was coming. She answered and said she was on her way. I don't remember if I called her a second time but she pulled into the parking lot a little late and I was a bit frustrated.

This is where the story starts to get fuzzy but I remember my mom's car facing the building. I remember walking out the door ahead of Lindsay and I was about to open the car door when the unthinkable happened and my mom's foot slipped off the brake of the car and Lindsay was hit. 

The minutes that passed by after that felt like years. I remember my mom jumped out of the car, screaming, trying to run out in front of a car to commit suicide. I remember not being able to do anything but hold her as tight as I could. I remember not being able to help my friend. I remember hearing faint sirens as the world around me felt like it was ending. I remember thinking it was all a dream and that it would just go away when I opened my eyes.

I don't remember much after besides my Young Life leader praying in the car with me and my mom, being questioned by the police, and then being taken to the hospital only to find out in the parking lot that Lindsay didn't make it. In that moment, I have never felt so much pain. I doubt I ever will feel that type of pain again and I hope I never do. The next few weeks didn't even feel like reality. My mom did not get out of bed for weeks. I didn't eat for days. And no one quite knew how to deal with anything. My family mourned for Lindsay's family so greatly but the pain we were experiencing didn't allow us to grieve with everyone else. We had to grieve the pain of my mom taking the life of someone, not just grieve someone's life being taken. 

My entire body is shaking writing this because for seven years I have held back from sharing my story. I have never even tried to write what happened because I knew the emotions of so many people were involved and I didn't think I could accurately share without hurting someone. But something interesting happened last night. I took out my journal and I wrote out a prayer. I wrote, "I must trust God's beautiful, messy, imperfect plan for my life. I want God to reveal my unique purpose."

And after that, for absolutely no reason at all, I felt called to start writing this story. I've felt for so long that I was meant to share this but I was afraid. I was afraid the local media would say something, afraid people would be hurt, afraid I would say the wrong things... And I'm still afraid. But at the same time, I'm not because I know this timing is from God. 

The most beautiful part about this whole story is that I was doing what Young Life calls the "30-Day Challenge" with Lindsay before she passed. I believe we were on day 10 the day she died and we had been going through the book of John. I remember so vividly that day, sitting on the floor outside our English classroom during Advisory, talking about John 10. If you haven't read John 10, I encourage you to. One thing Lindsay and I spoke a lot about that day were verses 27-28. It says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." I remember us talking about never being plucked from God's hand once we commit our lives to him. If there was any verse applicable to that day, it was verse 28. 

I have no doubt that Lindsay is with the Lord right now and there's nothing that gives me more peace than that.

We absolutely live in a tragic, sinful world full of pain and suffering and I wish I could say things are completely better. But unfortunately my mom suffers from PTSD and her depression and anxiety are real and alive. But I serve a loving God and I don't believe he inflicts pain. What I do believe is that he uses pain to mold us and grow us and I can say that through this trial, I have learned to surrender and to trust God with every ounce of my being. I am His. 

I didn't think for one minute that today I would be sharing this but I think it was supposed to happen so I pray that through me sharing my story, someone would surrender to Jesus. Guys, life is HARD and some people just experience more pain than others. But I pray that you would allow trials to bring you closer to the Lord rather than separate you. God wants us when we're weak because we are forced to let go. He wants you as you are -- every imperfection and mistake. He wants to be a part of your life in big ways and he wants to use you and show you your purpose.

As I end this post, I cannot even begin to express my family's gratitude towards Lindsay's parents and the love they have shown my family. I cry every time I think about it but Kelly and Jim, you are two of the most precious souls I have ever met. Thank you for your grace, love, and kindness.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Daphne Rose

About ten months ago we had to put our sweet dachshund down at ten years old. It was one of the most excruciating things I've experienced, especially since he didn't just die on his own. We had to choose to put him down because his quality of life wasn't good anymore. Making the decision to put down an innocent, precious animal who had done nothing wrong was heart-wrenching and watching it happen was even worse. 

I moved out from home a few months ago and ever since then, my mom has been a little lonelier and started slowly warming up to the idea of a new dog, once the pain of losing Bentley had lessened. I took her into the pet store a couple times recently just for fun, not expecting her to be swayed to the point of actually giving in and she wasn't. But little by little, her heart softened and she felt it would be nice to have a companion again. We've always been huge dachshund lovers and my mom grew up with them all through her childhood. Once you have one breed, you tend to stick to it. 

We went into the pet store the other day, swearing we wouldn't ever purchase from a pet store, since it's hard to know if they're really full-blooded and you can never be sure of medical history, etc. They didn't have any dachshunds but the woman we talked to said they were getting some in the next day. Sooo... even though we said we wouldn't get a dog at the pet store, we went back the next day "just to play" and sure enough, they had a few dachshunds, one of which stood out immediately. She was a miniature longhaired, what I've always wanted. Honestly, I'm pretty picky when it comes to dogs but when we asked to get her out and she fell asleep in both our arms, I was in love. But I knew we couldn't get her. Dogs are a lot of work and a lot of money. I told mom we should probably head home and she said, "I have to get this dog." I thought she was joking and I laughed saying, "No mom, we can't get this dog." Well, a couple hours later we had her in our arms and were driving home with our new dachshund. 

We've only had her two days but she has the sweetest personality of ANY dog I've ever met. She loves nothing more than falling asleep in your arms, she has caught onto potty training really quickly, and her personality is full of spunk. I adore her.

It took us a whole two days to decide on a name but I think we have officially chosen Daphne Rose Sledge. :) Follow along on Instagram and I'm sure you'll see a lot more of her. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Charlottesville, Virginia Senior Portrait Photographer | Heather

My shoot with Heather was such a blast. This shoot happened back in the summer and looking at all the bright colors is making me miss warmer weather. Heather and I had such a fun time wandering UVA. She is one of the sweetest, most genuine girls I've ever met and her friends and family are so lucky to have her. I got to drive with her from the makeup artist's studio to the shoot and I enjoyed chatting with her about her dreams and passions. Heather, you're going to do great things next year!! Thanks for letting me photograph you! Thanks to First Look Artistry for doing the hair and makeup!