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20 Minutes & Lasting A Lifetime

If there was ever a blog I would beg you to read of mine, it would be this one.

14 years ago (this May) my dad underwent experimental treatment for his cancer in Germany.

The treatment did not save his life but gave him a chance to center himself.

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At 4:45 am, the day after returning home from Germany, my father died in his home in Michigan. I can remember what I was wearing, where I was standing and the look on my mother’s face when she gave me the news.

Later that month, as things were being sorted out, this piece of paper with my dad’s handwriting on it was found amongst some German stamps and a bracelet he had brought back for me. On this piece of paper, under another quote he had written down, there lied “Adversity introduces us to ourselves.”. I do not know where he derived the sentence from since it can be found in many places and has an unknown original author.

Since I can remember, I have lived my life with this writing forever engraved on my heart. On occasion, after my good friend Matt began tattooing I spoke with him about having this profound statement tattooed but I needed all the dots to line up. I wanted to have the tattoo completed in the Spring, more specifically, in May since that is when he passed away. It just never worked to be in Michigan at the same time as Matt and during May. I started to think I should just ignore the urge to do this seemingly out-of-character act, especially since my fear of needles is so high.

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A year and a half ago, when I was working through the Bible I came across Proverbs 24:10. This verse which stated, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” immediately struck me and I began and cry. I felt my own dad’s words and love surround me as if he was giving me this fatherly advice for the first time. I KNEW I must have the tattoo I had always dreamt of.

Now, just to make the arrangements for it to happen.

Then came a hiccup. Matt moved 3500+ miles from Michigan to Germany. At the time I did not see the parallel between his move and where dad WROTE those words. It wasn’t until this past January, when I was planning the Euro trip and realizing I could visit this good friend at his new home, that I connected those dots. I was headed to Germany and there was no question what the biggest bucket list item was, the tattoo of a lifetime from a friend who I’d known and trusted for over a decade in a country where it all started.

As I began to contemplate where I wanted it, again I felt it must be symbolic.

These words of wisdom seemed to ground me in difficult moments, they seemed to be a firm foundation for my soul, there was no question it was a place I could set my faith in and rest my aching mind. In addition to all of these reasons, the fact that I was standing when I was told the news of dad’s passing lead me to choose my foot.

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The morning of the tattoo, I ran my 100th day of running (where I ran at least a mile or more each day for 100 days). It was completed just outside Cologne (Köln), Germany and tattoo-less. After getting cleaned up and putting on my dad’s high school class ring, we headed to the tattoo shop where we spent only 20 minutes doing something which will last a lifetime.

I know this is much more thought than any one person ever puts into a tattoo, but here I am writing this, choking back tears of happiness and pride.

I am so thankful to Matt for his friendship and to Zach for dealing with my sappiness. This was an experience which I will never forget. If you made it through this lengthy post, I commend you as well. 😉

**If you ever find yourself in Germany, look up Matt Roscoe’s Tattoo & Piercing Shop in Brühl, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany called “Art of the Needle”. You will NOT regret it.**

Love to all. May you each allow adversity to shape you.

Travel “Tog”: Aloha Japan

If there is one thing I love most about photography, it is its ability to transform YOU as a photographer. God seems to use the subjects you see through your lens and the experiences you encounter to prepare you for circumstances you never knew you’d be a part of. These past two years I have thoroughly enjoyed traveling and photographing while “mom-ing”.

Traveling from Hawaii to Japan (and then onward to Alaska–but I will save that fun for another blog), makes the Pacific seem a little smaller now. It was a really incredible experience and I am beyond thrilled I was able to have those memories with and of my, then two year old, daughter.

I was able to teach her things that only adventuring provides the opportunity for.

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Not to mention, only touring on our two feet allows for the kind of chats we had. The depth, the emotion, the understanding of one another’s minds; indescribable.

Living amongst history at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, I always found the stories intriguing. The longer I am somewhere, the more I want to peel back the cultural layers. Japan was the same way. We were able to talk about the way God molds us to be different and share those differences with one another to become a unit, His hands and feet.

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We traveled the island a lot by foot, averaging about 4.5 miles a day, with one day over 7 miles round trip. We met a lot of people on our travels, some who spoke minimal English, which Haisley found very amusing.

We also used a local service to take us longer distances as well as some wonderful friends when they had the time.

There was one aspect of Okinawa I found most surprising, the lack of flags I found. When I travel I have a few “bucket list” shots I always want to snap. One of those for Japan was a Japanese flag being flown. I felt that it would bring the stories of the attack of Pearl Harbor full circle for me. I was astonished when by day three on Okinawa I still had yet to find a flag, at all…anywhere. It wasn’t until the nineth day (after purposeful looking) I saw my first Japanese flag. I am sure there had to be more which I didn’t ever see, however this took me by surprise so much that I did a little research.

According to one source from 2015, The Stars and Stripes Newspaper in Okinawa, “In Japan, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, concerned about the national flag’s lack of prominence, this year issued a directive strongly encouraging the country’s universities to fly it. But the flag’s long-ago association with the country’s wartime imperialism leaves some uncomfortable.” After seeing this written in different ways by different credible sources across the internet it was made clear. America, especially myself, has a unique stance on the flag and often is viewed as overly flag-happy.

I still do and will always hold our American flag in the highest regard. However, as we travel to other countries, I have really come to understand that we cannot assume those same symbolic meanings are true for all. On the surface, I feel like we all know this but it took me to experience this one situation to really let it sink in. Okinawan’s are proud of their island, but their Japanese flag is not how they show that.

Moments of realization like this is why I travel. It grounds me and gives me the right tools to teach my daughter. It humbles me and allows me to see the full picture as I go about life.

Most of all, the worldly knowledge and friendships I gain make me a better ME.

Never. Stop. Exploring.

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Hernandez Family: A Peek Into A Family’s First Session

I am always so thankful when a family chooses Lifesong to capture their moments in time. However, when a family makes that leap to have their family portraits and lifestyle moments frozen through MY lens for the FIRST time ever, it is something very humbling.

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I look around and am aware that I am surrounded by some of the most incredibly gifted photographers. Having that knowledge can be intimidating but the support I have consistently given is really a breath of fresh air.

Thank you to the Hernandez family for your willingness to “take a chance” with me.

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THANK YOU FRIENDS!!

HELLO 2018! Happy New Year to all!

Thank you all for allowing me to be your storyteller. Whether you allowed me into your most exciting, most emotional, most vulnerable or even most private of moments I thank you! 2017 was really a wonderful year from start to finish.

In 2018 I have a plethora of new things added to my bucket lists…personal AND professional. All of them will be much more fun with some smiling faces!

I plan to travel to surrounding areas and states to fulfill some of these exciting challenges! Keep in touch on Facebook, Instagram or email me about some of the dates where I might be in YOUR area!

Do you have a session you’d like to book, but fear I am too far away? I NOW DO BLOCK BOOKING! One of the best parts about living in this area, the light stays perfect longer! Contact me at Chelsea@LifesongDesigns.com to ask about the perks of booking your session, your friend’s session, your neighbors session or your co workers session within the same day! Rates are discounted and travel fees are (often) waived!

Enjoy this short video in thanks to all who asked me to be a part of their Lifesong in 2017. (I apologize for it being a tad small and will work on that in the coming videos! View on a computer, in HD with sound for best enjoyment!)

The Stanchfield Homecoming: A Show Of Strength

While looking over this past year of homecomings and military sessions, one stands out to me. Partly because of the story of how often this particular sailor is away from his family but also because of the family strength which is shown by his wife, Sarah. Sarah is one of the strongest mamas I know. Watching her story as a Navy wife unfold into mama of two was incredible. I knew I was blessed to capture her story because of the way she handles anything thrown at her.

She is someone who rarely takes a breath for herself, but rather puts all her energy into making sure those around her, even strangers, get to be a part of the things that matter in life. From a leader in a women’s prayer group, to super mom, to a runner (now marathoner) and beyond, Sarah considers everyone she comes across “Ohana” and treats them as such. Handling a hectic schedule can be rough on some, for this woman, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Rain was in the forecast. An anxious toddler was asking a multitude of questions. The 72-day old baby needed to be fed and fed again. Then add in just walking to the pier; there was a stroller to be pushed, signs to be carried, the cake for the homecoming party also in hand. Cherry on top? Inclement weather rolled in. Homecoming day was here.

It had been 180 days without her sailor at home and the amount of time this mama was required to stand in the rain, with a toddler and a newborn, awaiting his departure from the vessel would be considered overwhelming… for some. Sarah put her excitement in the drivers seat and let the rest of the noise fade away. Her calm and cool character allowed me to capture the best of moments, even in a downpour, with her babies in her loving arms.

No duty went undone or poorly carried out. With a smile on her face and every detail done, Keegan, baby Ryleigh and Sarah were able to watch Ryan step off the ship with great pride.

Thank you for your service, Stanchfield Family! You all are a blessing to this country and also to the men and women who stand with you. May your 2018 bring many blessings.

 
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The De St Aubins: Keepin’ The Spirit

One of my favorite family sessions is a favorite not only because of the wonderful family who hired me, but because of the ideas they had to carry it out.

This family took “spirited” to a whole new level and I LOVED it.

Everything from playing football in a marsh to the expressions of love, happiness and joy on their faces made this session memorable. It is one to showcase also to give others an idea what a true lifestyle session can bring.

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We were amongst some of the most stunning mountains I have ever seen. However, I knew we nailed the session when we looked at the images and the family’s connection to one another stood out equally beautiful as the backdrop.

I would be honored to enjoy the last bit of the football season with you and your family in this way! Who says a family session has to take place before Christmas or even in certain attire? There are no rules in the game of photography! Book now and make your next session with me all about YOUR family’s style, traditions and influenced by your energy. Not sure what to do? I will gladly help you brainstorm. With my background in event planning and design, I am sure to help you land on a “theme” everyone in your family will enjoy!

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JaCorey + Maria: The Calhoun Couple

This couple’s session was one of those sessions which made photographing Hawaii special. They were up for the adventure of a new location, so I chose the stunning Spitting Caves on Oahu.

CalhounCouple_WEB-4382The beauty in the depth of the ocean can rarely be overshadowed. With this couple, the depth of their love shown for one another stole the show.

The stunning views continued to trail on forever, but my eye was consistently caught by the foreground with their seemingly perfect interactions.

Best of all? I was able to tell them to chat about anything and everything because the sound of the crashing waves below drowned out their chat. They were able to interact freely and have a private moment, even with my lens focusing on them.

This is a session I will always remember. Thank you again, Calhoun couple. You are a blessing! Best of wishes as you choose to journey around this wonderful world, hand in hand.

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Shout From The Tree Tops!

I am so blessed.

This sentence has become what some consider a cliché or “overused”. Since the statement adopted those labels in our society, it has been much more difficult to express my appreciation of God’s gifts in my life. I find that it offends some, is mocked by others and most of all seems to fall onto deaf ears. 

No more.

I am proud of the blessings God has given my little family. The ability to go into the Christmas week with nothing but excitement is truly a gift from above. I just want to state my appreciation for God’s love and grace to my family in a simplistic way.

All this came to mind as we walked around a local Christmas Tree Farm. As my daughter merrily pranced around the farm choosing the best tree for our new home, I just couldn’t think of a better way to put it than, “I am so blessed”. 

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She had not a care in the world and was eager to learn how to cut down a tree from her incredible daddy and more excited when he let her help!

I have a husband who allowed all of us to enjoy the spirit of the season in matching outfits. A man who, even though the decorating for Christmas isn’t his favorite, he drove where ever we asked to find the perfect tree we could cut down together. A guy who is providing for us in a way that we are able to enter into the holidays with little worry and a very low stress level. 

My want to express how precious I find this life is in great part because I am aware of the struggles some face and also the struggles I may someday endure. Do we have problems and hiccups along the way? OF COURSE WE DO! Those bumps along the way are what make us stronger together and more connected. However, those little potholes in the road are the moments we can learn from and often pale in comparison to what others are experiencing in life at the moment or what may hit us down the road. Most of all, those issues are the times which help the average days feel like we are truly conquering life together. Those problems should also be considered blessings. Some might even call them blessings in disguise.

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My prayers this season always go out to those who need that extra joy in their life, but something is pushing me to write this blog and go one step further. As I pray to God for those who are currently putting their life back together after damage from a wildfire, a flood, a death, a divorce, a sickness or something else, I urge you to help one another to find why you are blessed. What makes you get up each day? What prompts you to smile? Think of that moment, that daily reminder or that happy memory and make your Christmas season the best it can be. Pull those close to you even closer and find the sparkle in the season. Maybe if we all help one another to see the silver lining, instead of making good things into what they are not meant to be, we can pull together for even bigger issues. Find ONE thing you can say you are incredibly blessed with and shout it from the tree-tops!

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After all, isn’t the biggest blessing in each of our lives, the blessing of Jesus? Isn’t the reason for the season, the miracle who came to save us? I will leave you with Matthew 1:21, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” What a blessing, what an amazing blessing given to all of us. If nothing else, know YOU ARE SO BLESSED because you are a child of God.

Don’t let the mockers take away the love in your heart or the excitement in your body. Be PROUD to love the life you live and be LOUD. Be proud to be “so blessed” and say it over and over again.  Best of wishes to you and your family this CHRISTmas season. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

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(Hats created by Katie’s Creations)

Nicole & Finn: Southern Charm Comes To Hawaii

One thing I never expected to gain through Lifesong was all of the incredible friendship. Not just surface friendship where we are just comfortable enough to chat during the session, but a real, deep and ongoing friendship. A friendship where when I get to see them again, all business falls aside. A friendship where we can chat about “momming”, keeping a balanced life and most of all push one another to be the best self possible.

Nicole is one example of the those I have been privileged to have that connection with.

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The session I had with them was a unique one in the sense that Finn was less than interested in allowing me to snap even one image. As they say, when you can’t beat them…join them! That meant it was in the bushes for me! Through all the challenges came great joy in knowing that I was able to present images I was proud of and images I knew they’d cherish for years to come.

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As I look back on this session, it brings a smile to my face. It is where I gained an incredible friend, overcame challenges and created stunning art for someone to always hold close. A win all around.

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Aloha USAF: The Fewell Retirement

I consider each ceremony as a very special moment in history. Those who give their years to this nation and serving the needs of it deserve the upmost respect and thanks.

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During ceremonies you learn the impact which that person has had on lives. You learn the role that person played in the greater picture. You also learn the sacrifice which that person’s family has made for the greater good of the missions which went on. For all these reasons and more, each ceremony marks a moment in history which we can all choose to learn from.

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MSgt Fewell’s retirement ceremony wasn’t any different. It was really a great moment to capture. The stories which were told and the details of service which were read we beyond humbling. The fact that I was asked to be there is the cherry on top.

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Do you have an upcoming event or ceremony? Consider having it professionally photographed. You can sit back, relax and enjoy it without the worry of making sure each detail and facial expression is captured. Let me do the work for you!


 

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