The Steadfast

Safe to say life is a little crazy right now. People are wondering what the future looks like, whether or not they’ll have a job to come back to, how this will affect their kids, etc.

I don’t have any real words of wisdom other than hold on to your “constant.”

What I mean by that is the thing that gets you through the worst of times. For me, I happen to believe in God. I’m not a very stereotypical Christian anymore because there’s a lot of theology that I happen to disagree with. I won’t get into the details of that, but the one thing that has stayed constant for me is my relationship with God.

Perhaps you’re a spiritual person in a different sort of way. Perhaps you’re not spiritual at all and you find hope in logic. Whatever your constant may be, hold onto it.

I like to think of it the way I do my favorite mountains. I happen to live in beautiful Central Oregon, and because I was born and raised here, the mountains have been a part of my skyline for as long as I can remember. There are three in particular that are incredibly well known in this area, generally referred to as the Three Sisters.

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This is from my absolute favorite viewpoint. It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but you’re so close to the mountains that you can see the details of their ridge lines and the rocks and crags on them. It’s amazing.

Because I know this area so well, I always know where the Three Sisters are located. From my particular hometown, you can see their peaks from almost any part of the city. It doesn’t matter if they’re covered by clouds or fog, or if the sun has set. I know they’ll always be there.

That’s kind of how God is for me. It doesn’t matter if there are times when my own clouds of anxiety keep me from seeing Him in the moment. He’s still there for me.

So I repeat, whatever your “constant” is, hold onto it. This, too, shall pass, and we’ll come out the other side. But whatever you need to do in the moment to help get through it, be patient with yourself. It’s going to be okay.

Hugs to you all! (Digitally, of course, so we’re ten feet apart.) 😀

Happy New Year!

I’ve been a geek pretty much all my life. I was a geek when it was extremely uncool to be one, and I was a geek when they were fairly well accepted in everyday life. It’s simply a part of who I am and what I happen to be interested in. I have a Lord of the Rings collection. There is still fanart from The Legend of Zelda hanging in my room. I’m cool with this. 

And honestly, the older I get the more I realize that some of us were just meant to be kids forever. I missed out on a lot of the spontaneity of youth because I let fear rule my life. Now I’m in my mid-30’s, and I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks of me. Quite frankly, I like this version of me much better. 

One of the things that hasn’t changed about me over the years is my love of costumes. I went full-out the first time I ever went to a Comic Con and bought a really great Black Widow costume. It was pricey, but LEGIT. I loved the experience so much that I realized it brought back a little dream of mine. 

I had always thought it would be really fun to do costumed Christmas cards. I tried to get my ex-husband to get in on it with me, but he utterly refused. He told me it was a stupid idea, one of the many times his verbal abuse made me feel like a terrible person, and it was all I could to get him to pose for regular pictures. 

Here’s the thing. I adore photo Christmas cards. I love seeing smiling faces and happy families and watching my friend’s children grow each year. I like seeing what they’ve chosen to wear this time around, and what the backdrop is. So for me, I thought It would be so cool to have a theme each year. Dress in costume, go the whole nine yards. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be the one that everyone looks forward to each year, wondering, “What did she come up with this time?” 

Well, I left that abusive marriage about three years ago. Best decision I ever made. (Which only slightly makes up for the worst decision I ever made, but I digress.) I’m still a single gal, and for the first few years it seemed a little weird to just do Christmas cards of me by myself. Yeah, I know, I could have done whatever I wanted, but I ultimately chose not to go that route.

But then I got my beautiful Bailey last year. Suddenly, around the fall, I realized that I had the partner in crime I’d always wanted. She looks pretty “wolfie” in appearance, so I decided to do a last-minute themed Christmas card. My friend’s mom is a great photographer and agreed to take the photos for me, so I threw together a costume using materials that I found from Goodwill and St. Vincent’s. 

They turned out fabulous. Every bit of what I wanted them to be. I loved seeing them, and I sent a copy to every friend and family member that I could think of. The response was exactly what I knew it would be, and people thought they were great. 

So you know what? The next time someone tells you that you can’t do something, or that an idea is stupid, do it anyway. Maybe the response won’t be so positive, but gosh darn it, if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters anyway. 

Be fabulous, my dears. And have a blessed New Year, from Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. 

Before and After, and the Work In-Between

Can we take a minute and talk about a couple of words that most people don’t like to talk about? No, not those words, you dirty-minded person. 😉  I mean those OTHER words.

Hard. Work.

I confess that there are many times when I seek out instant gratification. I can be very patient when I want to be, but sometimes I just don’t give a flip and want it done NOW. As in, like, finished yesterday. But there’s something to be said for slow and steady progress. For the satisfaction of knowing the blood, sweat and tears that was put into your craft, whatever it may be. I’ve studied many things over the years, from singing to bellydance, and there’s always been a sense of pride from the work that I’ve done in those areas.

Most recently, I finally started pursuing my passion in photography, as previously mentioned in this blog. I’d always enjoyed it to an extent, but I didn’t really start seriously studying it until about three years ago.

One of my favorite places to go is Sahalie Falls. It’s only about an hour or so from where I live, which is amazing, and it’s just a beautiful area. The McKenzie river is green and lush, with several waterfalls and pretty areas all along it. Sahalie Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with a short three-mile loop that allows you to see the waterfalls from both sides of the river. A couple weeks ago, I went there with a good friend and completed the full loop for the first time in a couple of years. When we approached what was nearly the end of the trail, I just had to stop and take a photo of the tiny little waterfall cascading near the trail. It was much fuller than it had previously been, thanks to a large amount of recent snowfall, but it was so nostalgic to me.

That tiny little waterfall was my first ever attempt and capturing a long exposure image. Basically, long exposure means your shutter-speed is set for a longer period of time, so it creates a blurred effect for things that are in motion. That’s how you get that beautiful, flowing look for things like waterfalls or rivers. I had never tried it before, but I remember the sense of pride I had when I first took photos of this place. This was how it turned out:

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I tweaked it in Photoshop, because I hadn’t yet purchased a copy of Lightroom, and even printed out a copy to hang above my bed at our old house. This was it, I had found what I wanted to do forever. I was so happy with the results that I posted it everywhere, convinced it was going to be one of my best pieces ever.

Well, it’s not necessarily bad. But I can see where I over-exposed a lot of the image and didn’t set the shutter for the right speed. Not only that, but over the last two years my style of photography has gone from bright colors and exposure to more dark and moody. When I processed the most recent photo, I used some of the go-to presets that I almost always use now.

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Same place, same water. Completely different photography styles.

I’m still proud of both of these works. But I love seeing how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. When I look back at things like this, I see the hours of labor and studying that I put into it. I see the late nights and early mornings. I see the tears of frustration over a failed attempt or yet another rejection. But I always see progress.

I know it’s been credited to many different authors, but my mother always used to quote to me that when you find the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Oh trust me, you’ll still put in the work. But when it’s your passion, it’s worth every moment.

Bailey

For those of you who have followed me for several years, and THANK YOU, by the way, you will know that I used to have several pets. At one point, I owned two dogs and two cats. They were all amazing, but over time they all were either re-homed or sadly went over the rainbow bridge. (I still miss you like crazy, sweet Ludo.)

It was difficult to re-home the ones that we did, but I know that it was the best decision. They have loving families that spoil them rotten, and due to circumstances being what they were at the time, they weren’t always safe staying with me. I won’t go into details, but since I was in an abusive situation at the time, they were sometimes caught up in the crossfire. Now I know they’re all safe and happy, but it was a lonely two and a half years of no pets when Brother and I were living in the rental property.

We’re currently in a living situation where our temporary roommates have two cats, but I confess that I was feeling very lonely. Yes, I was in a houseful of people, but I didn’t always feel like I fit in. The pain of losing Mom last year and all of the incredible changes that we’ve gone through, including a completely new house and living space, meant that I was fighting depression quite a bit.

The funny thing about being an introvert is that you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. And while being alone is ultimately what helps recharge you, there’s also something about the steadfastness of a good friend/spouse/significant other that helps get you through those times. Add in depression, and you really come to rely on unconditional love to get through those low moments. It’s different for everyone, but personally speaking, I don’t know what I would do without my faith. It’s been my security and hope more times than I can count.

But I also believe that God gives us tangible things to help us through and remind us that He cares. That, I believe, includes the beauty of pets.

All that to say, meet Bailey!

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Honestly, I was ready to walk out of the shelter empty-handed. None of the other dogs that I met were anywhere near what I was looking for, and our personalities just didn’t mesh.

But this sweet girl came in on the same day that I happened to be there. One hour before I arrived, actually. I was delayed getting to the shelter, and if I had come in at the time that I originally planned, I would have missed seeing her altogether. Coincidence? I think not! 🙂 I fell in love immediately, and the next day, I took her home.

We’re still in the new stages of getting to know each other and getting used to the new normal, but she’s been amazing. She had a lot of changes in a very short amount of time, but she’s settling in just fine so far. She’s great on a leash, super affectionate, and she’s already starting to fill that void in my heart that had been empty for some time.

We’re not 100% sure of her breed, but I’m guessing her to be a German shepherd/Samoyed mix. And since she’s pretty big, I know I’m going to feel much safer hiking on my own now. I’ll try not to spam my blog with dog pics *too* much, but there’s no guarantees. I mean, just look at this face:

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No promises on the dog pics. No promises at all. 😉

Can’t wait for the next adventure!

The Selfie Trend (and Why I Joined)

I bought a selfie stick the other day. Truth be told, I used to be one of those people who laughed at the ones who had selfie sticks. I thought they were rather vain and unnecessary. I might have pointed and laughed a time or two when I saw people using them. I might have even made fun of my friend when she got one, never passing up a chance to give her a hard time about it.

Then I started hiking by myself. A LOT.

Suddenly, a selfie stick didn’t sound like such a bad idea. I bought a cheap one just to see how I liked it, and the next thing I knew, I was hooked. It was so much easier to get a photo of myself out and about. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always trust handing my phone to strangers. Maybe I’m just paranoid. (Though I certainly never mind when others ask me to take a photo of them. It’s actually one of my great delights to hand their phone back to them and see their surprise at how nice the photos turn out.)

Plus having someone take a photo of me meant that I never really knew how it was going to turn out. No one’s fault, of course; they’re not a photographer by trade. But fellow photogs can relate to what I’m saying, right?

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Can I get an amen?? (Don’t worry, Bey, we still love you.)

Even when I was out with friends, it was so much better to get the whole group in a picture with a selfie stick. I mean, some of my friends have pretty long arms, but they can still only reach so far.

Oh man, I super enjoyed it. It became a part of my usual pack. Then, just as I had grown accustomed to the joys of selfies, tragedy struck. Yes, my little cheapo selfie stick randomly died one day, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

I tell you, though, once you’ve discovered the joys of getting more backdrop in a photo, it’s really difficult to go back to your face filling up the whole phone screen. So I did a little research and looked up good ol’ Amazon to see what selfie sticks were compatible with my trusty iPhone 8 Plus. (The phone is HUGE, which I love, but sometimes it’s hard to find things that will fit it.)

Low and behold, they not only have selfie sticks but SELFIE TRIPODS.

Selfie tripods!!!

Suddenly, my life had new meaning. If there is one piece of equipment that I simply couldn’t live without as a photographer, it’s my tripod. I don’t need especially expensive brand-new lenses. I can make do with used. I don’t need the latest Nikon camera. My D5200 has been absolutely fantastic. What I DO need is a tripod to hold my camera still when I want to get a long exposure of a waterfall, or when my hands are simply too cold to keep from shaking.

So a tripod for my phone with a Bluetooth remote? Why, it just makes sense.

Honestly, I’m probably pretty late in the game when it comes to this. I follow a lot of great photographers on IG and the like, and while sometimes they’re able to have other photogs take a great shot of them out and about, more often than not I think they’re taking advantage of the exact same thing.

So late in the game or not, I am super excited to play around with my new toy. Who’s ready to head up to Smith Rock with me?

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This picture made possible by a super special awesome selfie tripod.

Learning a Craft

I’ve discovered that learning photography is not unlike studying writing. Everyone seems to think they can write a book, but it takes a lot more than just putting some words on paper to weave a good story together. There is an art form to it. The same goes for photography. Now that cameras are in plentiful supply, mostly on everyone’s phones, there is a huge surge of amateurs trying to be artistic without actually studying what makes a photo good.

Don’t get me wrong, I still consider myself to be an amateur in many ways because I’m still learning. Plus I have nothing against the average person wanting to take pictures. But there are many things that I’ve finally mastered and a lot of trial and error that has made me realize why photographers do what they do, and it’s given me a little more respect for the ones who go above and beyond.

Getting up at 4am to go for a hike so you can get to a particular location by 7am is not necessarily the most fun thing in the world when you’re not a morning person. (Which I’m not.) But I gotta tell you, that light makes for some pretty spectacular photos.

Case in point:

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That flowy water effect? Not possible unless you have softer light. Just after dawn or right before dusk is best. (There’s a reason they call it “Golden Hour.”)

So how much of a difference does the proper lighting really make? Well, I happened to come across one of my first photos the other day, after I visited the exact same spot nearly two years later. It’s not a bad photo, and to be perfectly honest I was quite proud of it when I first took it. I had just barely started taking photography seriously, and this was a completely new location to me. It happened to be at the lovely Green Lakes, located in my beautiful home state of Oregon. It’s a very popular hike, often used as training grounds for marathon runners. It’s a full four miles to get to the lakes themselves, but once you’re there, it’s spectacular.

The lakes are nestled in between two large mountains, the South Sister and Broken Top. As her name implies, the South Sister is furthest south of a trio of peaks known as the Three Sisters. They’re all roughly around 10,000 feet in elevation, with South Sister as the tallest of the three.

As I went through my current pictures, I remembered taking similar photos two years ago and decided to see how far my photography has come. Low and behold, I found my original:

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Again, it’s not a bad photo. The lakes really are that emerald color (hence their name) and the looming peak of South Sister is much more intimidating in person. I used this photo in my first ever calendar that I gave to friends and family as a Christmas present. However, this shot was taken mid-afternoon, probably at the peak of the day, which is the worst lighting one can ask for when it comes to photos.

When I hiked it again this year, I went much earlier in the day and got to the lakes while it was still morning. That meant we missed a lot of the crowds, and because the sun wasn’t directly overhead, the lake looked like this instead:

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Technically, a little bit earlier would have been even better, but I’m quite happy with how these turned out overall. Within the space of an hour, this reflection was no longer visible and there were several other people in the area, including several who decided to go for a swim. I don’t begrudge them wanting to swim, of course, but that would have put quite a crimp in my style if I had still been trying to capture images.

I still have a long ways to go, I know. But I’m really happy with how far I’ve come. There are lots of doors and opportunities opening for me, and I’m thrilled to take advantage of every single one that comes my way.

It’s About to Pick Up

Phew, had a little bit of a busy week. Honestly, I’m not really complaining. I like to stay productive, so it was actually good for me to have a full schedule.

I felt like I hit a little bit of a standstill during part of January and into February. I had done pretty much everything that I could to get the business up and running, was still staying active on social media and whatnot, but I was officially stuck in the waiting game. Basically, I realized that until I started selling some of my current designs, it didn’t make sense to really come up with a bunch of new ones. Problem was, I didn’t really know how to go about getting more sales apart from continual social media plugs and eventually getting into an actual store as a vendor.

Unfortunately, that was part of the waiting game. I was on two different wait lists for two different antique stores, but the lists were long and most of the people who were already established there didn’t want to leave. I can’t blame them for that – obviously something was working well there.

So I was stuck.

And I’ll be real with you guys, because that’s the sort of person that I am, it was hard not to feel just the *slightest* twinge of panic at the thought of having to go back to a regular 8-5 desk job. I didn’t have a problem getting part time work so that I could make ends meet while working on my business. But I spent so many years working in the medical field doing something that I absolutely HATED that I had a really hard time accepting that I might have to go back to that for a little bit. It was like, c’mon, life. I’ve done my time doing the crap stuff that I despise and living paycheck to paycheck. More than eight years of it, in fact. I just needed that little bone of hope, you know? It became tough enough that I really had to fight off those depressive thoughts that so often plague me.

Well, God is super gracious, as always. I had a very heartfelt cry that said, “Look, my heart knows that You’ll always take care of me, but my brain is getting in the way of that. I just need a little bit of a sign that says You hear me right now.”

Within a couple of weeks, I got connected to a different antique store, one that I had rather forgotten about but had a really good customer service experience with, and was offered a spot as a vendor there. While it’s not entirely set in stone just yet, because I have to wait for one of the other vendors to make a decision, it looks very good. The spot is perfect for what I’ve wanted, and they charge very reasonable fees for their vendors. Plus the woman who owns the shop is super nice and very laid back.

The other crazy thing that happened was I got offered a job interview for a part time position that I had applied for at a local company. I was hesitant at first, because again, I didn’t want to be stuck in a horrible receptionist position that I didn’t like. Turns out, the position that they really wanted to fill was basic organization, like making sure events were catered or reservations were made. Ordered office supplies. Some filing and possible letter writing.

In other words, it’s all the stuff that I actually ENJOY doing in an office with none of the stress. Sign me up.

The two people I interviewed with were fantastic and also very laid back. Again, the atmosphere of the office was very different from the medical field, which was so refreshing for me. The hours were slightly less than what I had been shooting for, but there was the possibility of things picking up soon, so more hours could be coming. I felt like the interview went really well, and they told me that I would hear from them the next week on what their decision was.

Well, less than two hours later I got a phone call that they were offering me the job.

I’m still just shaking my head at how quickly everything has progressed. Less than a month ago, I was really starting to feel the pressure of where I was going to get enough money to pay my basic bills. Dreading the thought that I might have to give up my business dream so soon. Wishing that I had just a little more time to be able to make things work.

Seriously, I feel so blessed.

I’m excited to get in with this store. I really feel like this is where I could make a decent paycheck and get my name out there. It’s where I can meet people and actually make some connections. Business is all about building relationships, so this is going to be awesome.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Don’t ever give up on your dreams. It’s going to take hard work and determination, but stick through the difficulties. I know this is going to be worth it in the end.

Okay, super long post, so here’s a random photo just for the heck of it. I finally visited Tumalo Falls State Park for the first time last year, and this beautiful river is truly a gem of Oregon. Tumalo Falls itself is gorgeous, but there are several other smaller falls as well that are just lovely. Plus the river and forest look like this as you’re walking along. I mean, how do you beat that?

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Be blessed!

A New Year Begins!

Well, unfortunately, part of that new year started with me finally fighting the crud that’s been making its way through all of my friends. I don’t get sick very often, which is a plus, but when I do get sick, it just completely zaps my energy. Honestly, I haven’t felt *too* horrible this time around – I mean, I’ve certainly had worse. But there have still been minor aches and chills, and a darn sore throat.

And the phlegm. UGH, the phlegm.

Again, I’ve had worse. It’s still dang annoying. Not to mention my voices cracks at any given moment, so I never know what to expect. Also, am I the only one who gets kind of loopy when they’re sick? I don’t know if the phlegm, like, prevents coherent thoughts from entering my brain or what, but it clearly blocks more oxygen than usual. Maybe it’s because I feel so tired. I do tend to get loopy when I’m tired. In fact, I probably won’t remember writing this post by the time tomorrow comes around. I can totally see myself wondering why people are liking a post that was published weeks ago.

But I digress.

What IS exciting about 2018 is that it’s a new year of hiking! I gotta tell you, I have become more and more outdoorsy the older that I’ve gotten. It was part of why working inside a building all day every day made me die inside a little. I live in this utterly gorgeous, amazing state, so to be unable to enjoy it except on the weekends is pretty much torture.

How beautiful is it, you ask? Well, let me show you!

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It’s primarily because of these beauties right here. See, there are two small cities about twenty minutes apart from one another (I live in the smaller of the two) that are nestled up to the edge of the forest that surrounds the Cascades. The larger city is more in the pine trees than my town, but both have fantastic views of the mountains from almost anywhere. This photo was taken on a back road that used to be the main highway between the two cities before Highway 97 was put in. There is still lush farmland and beautiful viewpoints, however, so a lot of us locals still tend to take this back road.

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Broken Top is on the far left, and the Three Sisters huddle next to it.

I mean, seriously. How do you not love these? What I’ve discovered most about my own personality is that I don’t ever want to live somewhere without mountains. Granted, it doesn’t necessarily have to be these mountains in particular, though I am rather partial to them, but I have to have them in my life. I have to be able to hike. The forest has become such an incredible therapy to me, that I can’t honestly picture living somewhere without that as an option.

I have access to hundreds of trails, some of which are available year-round. That means that more often than not, I can still keep training even in the dead of winter. Some of the trails have a very low elevation, meaning that the snow melts quickly. For someone like me, that’s huge.

Whatever makes you happy, please be sure to carve out some time for it. Maybe it’s not hiking or being outdoors. Maybe it’s painting, or decorating your house. Maybe it’s curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, make it more of a priority in your life. Too many people get through the drudge of everyday life in the hopes that someday they’ll be able to retire and finally have time for these things, but I encourage you to enjoy some of the small pleasures now. No, I’m not telling you to quit your job, or to spend lots of money on a hobby.

I’m talking about the simple pleasures. The things we don’t always make time for because we’re too busy thinking about what needs to be done. The dishes will still be there in the sink, so go ahead and play with your kids for a while. They won’t be kids forever, after all. Enjoy that morning outing with your friends. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings when you still have time left today.

When I’m out hiking, I try to take just a moment or two to simply enjoy my surroundings. Forget the camera, forget the perfect shot. Forget the business and the stress that comes with it. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

I’m excited for 2018, guys. There are a lot of great things just waiting to be snatched up, great moments to be lived, and great friends to be made. Make the best of it, and live life to the fullest.

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Here’s to a great new year!

Love Without Fear

Boy, the holidays are already here. That’s just crazy. This last year has been a little bit of a whirlwind for me. I mean, the divorce was finalized, I moved to a completely different city, and ended up starting my own business. If you had told that me that all those things were going to take place over a year, I probably would have laughed at you.

But it’s been so good. All of it, the whole process. I have received so much healing the past several months, and it’s partly in thanks to my wonderful support system. My family has been instrumental in helping me both financially and emotionally. Seriously. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their love and stability.

This is where I have to give a shout-out to Brother specifically.

He’s been the best. We’ve been roomies for a year now, and he’s totally helped me out with rent the last couple of months while I’ve been getting this business off the ground. He’s been my number one cheerleader and often times the reason that I didn’t just give up and go back to a regular day job.

My church family has been my other support system. I’m one of the lucky ones, guys. We’re small in number, but fierce in love. And the other night, as I had a conversation with my pastor and his wife about many different things, something awesome happened. I felt a healing in my soul that I didn’t even know I needed.

I processed this over the next few days, almost testing the feeling of such peace, but it hasn’t wavered. You see, one of the unfortunately side effects of being in an abusive situation is fear. When you leave that situation, you break off one part of the fear because that person can no longer control you through it. But there are other parts of you that still feel apprehensive.

One of those things is fear of rejection. It’s something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, even before living in abuse, and part of the reason I rushed into a marriage that shouldn’t have happened. As other parts of my heart were healed, the fear of rejection still reared its ugly head. Especially when you’ve been single for a while and haven’t had any real prospects for dating.

That was the amazing thing about the other weekend. For the first time in my life, I felt freedom to love without fear. It didn’t matter if I was rejected. Didn’t matter if things didn’t turn out the way I envisioned them. I could still choose to love and know that it’s all going to be okay.

Everyone has their moments of doubt, but you can’t let fear rule your life. Live without regret, and enjoy the journey. I’ve had a couple of design inspirations come from this revelation, and I’ll be sharing them as soon as they’re finished. In the meanwhile, I leave you with my hope for your lives:

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Photo c. Hawk’s Haven Photography & Design

Be blessed! And thanks for traveling on this journey with me.