My story began over 50 years ago in Birmingham, AL. An early value that was instilled in me was the importance of church. My first outing after being born was going to church and being enrolled in the “Cradle Roll” at two weeks old. I grew up in a family that was at church just about every time the doors were open.
Though I was raised in an intact, lower-middle-class, Christian family, I had a lot going on. I had several medical conditions that were difficult to diagnose and I had to do a lot of things differently or apart from peers. I was considered gifted academically, which is a blessing, but that also made me different. Then as a teenager, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression which made it hard to navigate life during those transitioning-to-adulthood years.
I did experience success in my young adult years, graduating top of my class for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. But I also experienced a lot of failure – or at least times of major frustration and waiting.
I wanted children badly – a huge desire since I was about 8 years old – but couldn’t get pregnant. After I finally did get pregnant and had a healthy baby girl, my husband left us, eventually getting divorced. I had job challenges, some of them life changing. I was a single mom with very little financial support from my ex-husband. These issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
And my mental and physical health issues didn’t help.
However, one positive outcome from these difficulties has been developing empathy. I recognize that there is no way I can fully comprehend what another has been through and how those experiences have affected them, but I have experienced plenty of pain, heartache, and having things done to me that I didn’t deserve.
I understand what it means to not be understood. I understand what it means to have something or someone you love taken away from you. I understand what it means to be falsely accused. And though I’m a Christian and know in my heart that God is on my side, I understand feeling very alone, without hope, without a future - as there have been many periods of my life where I’ve felt just that way.
Fast-forward to a few years ago. The same God who I knew was on my side proved Himself in an incredible way. After losing a lot of parts of my life dear to me in the state where I lived for 25 years, I moved back home. I had to start over, and I wasn’t sure how and even if I would be able to make it.
You see, one of my dreams has always been to make a career out of photography, a passion of mine since I was a teenager. Another big dream I’ve had is to be a writer. Still another is to learn American Sign Language (ASL). And one more is to be an advocate for others with mental and physical health issues.
However, after that time of loss, I gained something – having the dreams I mentioned earlier happen.
I now do freelance work in photography and writing. I have had almost 150 paid photography sessions and have had published over 100 articles, not counting those in my two blogs, during the past few years. I am in the process of learning ASL and even though it’s slow going, I’m starting to become fluent and hope to be a licensed interpreter one day.
I created a blog called “Spotlight on Stigma” and have had many articles published in an online magazine called “The Mighty” – both of which address the advocacy part of what I hope to do. (You can go to www.NovelPhotos.com to learn more about my work in everything but ASL.)
I found out about Blanket Fort Hope (BFH) through an article I was writing for TAB Media (The Alabama Baptist newspaper and The Baptist Paper). Both Alexa and Justin are so passionate about this cause, it encouraged me to consider volunteering. I offered to BFH both the gifts God gave me for photography and writing and the empathy He provided through my struggles to further this effort.
My desire in being a part is to help spread awareness of what’s happening with trafficking as well as bring up some points that some might not think about concerning others’ problems and pain.
Possibly something I write or a photo I take will cause someone to pause and think about the article/image. Maybe those thoughts from that someone will also lead to supporting those who have never had that kind of care - the survivors of sex trafficking.
And hopefully, if we all work together, living the hope of Christ and showing it to these children and young adults will help these survivors heal.