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Some of you are going to be coming to this post wondering, 'what is the beloved woman series?' So before we dive in, let me tell you a little about it.
In an interview once, a woman asked me, "What do you wish you could tell childhood Ashley?" It was a question that really stumped me. I felt flustered and nervous and like I could probably tell little kid Ashley a million different helpful things, but spilling out of my mouth was this:
"I would tell her to live loved."
Not a very common phrase, it's one that I discovered in Lysa TerKeurst's book Uninvited a few months ago. Both her and Lara Casey have written about it, seeking to empower women to live their lives knowing and embracing that they are loved. WE, are loved. You. And me. By so many different souls--Our Creator, who knew the hairs on our heads before we were born, and beyond; to the husbands we are wives to, the children we are mothers to, the brothers and sisters, the parents we were born to, and the friends that we cling to. But knowing that we are loved, and actually believing it, are two separate things. I know that I am loved by my husband. I know that my kids adore me and beg each night for it to be my turn to put them each down. I know my parents love me, my brothers, my friends. But do I believe this to my core, to the point that I don't doubt my beloved strengths? I'm afraid not. And I am guessing you may need some help here too.
Sisters, you are beloved. And I long to help you believe this truth. I want to know you better, to encourage you, to wrap my arms around you, to challenge you to think deeper about yourselves; so that in turn, soon, YOU will feel the love. It is my great honor to introduce you to this month's beloved lady: Lisa Diederich. She is an artist, a creative, a photographer, traveler, daughter, fiance, and a beautiful friend to SO many. This lady dreams BIG, and I'm so excited for you to see a glimpse of her story.
I have been a big fan of Lisa through social media and really, her photography, for a long time. She has always been a woman that I thought, "Gosh I'd love to meet her!" as I scrolled through her gorgeous photos. When I learned that she didn't actually live far from me, I reached out to her. I'm incredibly thankful that she was willing to let me spend a morning with her, drinking two delicious cups of coffee, cuddling her dog Toby, and chatting on her crazy comfortable couch. It's always fun when you meet someone and instantly just feel at home.
I asked her to share a bit of her background with y'all, where she's from and what life looks like, and here's what she said:
Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for including me on your amazing blog. I'm so excited to follow along with you and other women on this platform! As for me, I'm a professional photographer and just moved to Nashville, TN. I grew up in Indiana and then moved to Sydney, Australia where I lived for 5 years with my fiancé, Sam. I also started my photography business there and I have been photographing weddings, families, brands and campaigns all over the world since then.
She told me about some of her travels and what living in Australia looked like and I just stood in awe. As a dreamer of photographing weddings in bad ass locations like the ones she has, I know that I have a lot to learn from women [and artists] like Lisa!
"If you could sit in an empty room, with 1 other chair, and have a cup of coffee with 18 year old Lisa, what is something you wish you could tell her?" I asked.
Anything worth doing is going to be difficult.
I couldn't agree with that more, friends. It hasn't been the easy things in my life that have been the most meaningful, the most valued. And something that I have realized personally as a photographer and woman period, is that we are so hard on ourselves. We are crazy talented, have so many unique strengths, we are beautiful, but yet, we struggle sometimes, don't we? So I proceeded...
"Sometimes loving ourselves as women can be difficult. Is there anything you struggle with that you wish you could help other women know and believe about themselves?
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with creative work. I feel so fulfilled by photography and I'm really proud of my business and work. But I know that I can't just settle there forever! I have to push myself to be better - to critique my work, challenge my own decisions and learn new things. Stepping out of that creative comfort zone and risking failure can be scary and sometimes disheartening. But in the end, that's what makes me grow as a person and a photographer.
These days, incredible talent and inspiring people surround us. It's an amazing motivator, but it can also be crippling when you compare yourself to others. I think it's something we all struggle with (especially in this world of social media) but I try to see comparison and competition as friendly fuel. Some days it's easier than others, but it's always the goal.
"Is there anything you'd want to share about a piece of childhood that shaped you into the woman you are today? As a photographer, what inspired this?"
I was a competitive gymnast from the age of six until I was 18 (and I also did four sports in High School). It was completely crazy, but I loved it! That was such a huge part of my life growing up and I can see so many ways it influenced me. I'm self-motivated; super goal-oriented and I love a challenge. But I'm also a perfectionist and fiercely competitive. It's a blessing and a curse J
I love hearing the things that excite others! The joys and dreams that make them bubble over with excitement. Lisa and I talked about this some and she shared that she feels most thrilled over change and challenge.
I feel excited and most alive when I’m dreaming of my next adventure. Whether that’s in my business, my travels or my personal life, it’s thrilling to think of what’s next! When I moved to Sydney, it was a scary, but exciting change. I left my friends and family and comforts behind and moved overseas with just two suitcases. For a moment, it felt like I was giving everything up, but I was really gaining so much more. I found a true partner in Sam, joined a second family, met some of my now closest friends and changed my life forever. I’ve carried that lesson with me and try to collect people, passions and experiences as I go through life.
"When do you feel the most loved and/or most beautiful?" I wanted to know. Because really, sisters, this is usually something we really have to think about. I don't mean surface beauty, but hey, if you really love your eyes or legs or arms, there's no shame in celebrating that! I want to know when you as women feel and really TRUST that you are both loved and beautiful. Lisa's response was really wonderful:
I feel so loved by my family and friends. They are endlessly supportive of me - whether I'm moving 9,000 miles away to another country or starting my own photography business, they have always had unwavering faith in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams every step of the way. I don't think I've ever thought about being 'beautiful'...it just doesn't cross my mind! But I often think about being happy and fulfilled. Sometimes it's during a shoot or a wedding; when the light is perfect and I'm completely in the zone - capturing those pure moments of joy & emotion. At other times, it's just being curled up on the couch with my fiancé, our dog and a movie.
If you haven't yet checked out Lisa via Instagram or her website, I really think you need to. Her sense of style and design completely inspires me, and she's a gal worth knowing for sure. If there was something inspirational in this post, comment below and give Lisa some love, would you?
And friends, I really want this series to spread. I mean REALLY spread. Empowering women is something I am so passionate about; celebrating the diverse and beautifully unique ladies around us. I wish I could feature hundreds of you! Feel free to nominate your own Beloved Woman by e-mailing me or through the contact here on my website. Who do you look up to? Whose story do you want the world to see and hear?
As always, thank you for reading! Whether you stopped by because you saw it on Instagram or other social media, or you just happened to land here, I'm so grateful! I hope you'll stay a while and know that YOU are BELOVED!
What is ONE thing you need to hear from someone today? I mean seriously. Stop what you're doing for a second (well, keep reading...) and just think. How would you feel if someone checked in with you like this:
I'm proud of you.
How are you doing today?
You are so beautiful.
Thanks for being so great.
Do you need a hug?
Hey, do you want to go see a movie?
Let's grab dinner.
You are so incredibly strong.
I just love you!
As I've gotten older, I can't believe what a 'words of affirmation' gal I've turned into. Yesterday I scaled a rock climbing wall.. When I entered that gymnasium and looked all the way to the top, I didn't think for a SECOND it would be me ringing the bell at the very TOP. But when I heard my husband cheering from below, I heard him say, "Reese is going to be SO proud of you, Ash! Ring the bell!" I looked to my right and saw the next rock. I took a slow and deep breath, and I reached so high for that glorious bell. DING, DING, DING!!!! High fives and hugs greeted me at the bottom, my friend Liz (aka BEST workout buddy) beamed with excitement. I mean encouragement, y'all--isn't it great?!
I think most days we just move through our routines. We go to school or work, put our kids on the bus or send them off to the sitter; some of us are homeschooling our preschoolers--making breakfasts and lunches and ordering toys and rooms to be cleaned up, and naps to be had. Our husbands come home and we are tired; hair untouched, teeth lucky to be brushed. The pets have been cared for, house is put together, kids are still alive, but it's now what we moms like to call witching hour; and we are TIRED. We check Instagram and scroll, scroll, scroll. Maybe we throw in a double tap for a 'like' if it's a photo that spoke to us. We check Facebook; scroll, scroll, scroll. Sometimes we comment when something is funny or there's a cute photo we like. We'll like each other's statuses all day long, but often we forget to text our husbands, "Hey Babe, I am proud of you. Thanks for loving me." We forget to call or message our family and ask, "How are you doing? Is there anything you need this week?" To check in with our friends, "Is there a time that would work in the next couple of weeks to get together? Let's get dinner and catch up. In the mean time, how can I pray for you?"
We are busy creatures, somewhat stir crazy in our souls. The days can be hectic and the nights long. We have babies and young children who don't yet know the importance of a GOOD nights sleep, and the thoughts that rattle through our minds when our feet need to hit the floor to start all over; well, they aren't always the most pleasant. I wrote a post a while back about finding God in the crazy--to seek Him first and to pray more often. To speak to HIM, more often. I think I've improved greatly with this, but Lordy how there's room to grow. And thinking outside of that, of the prayers that need to be had, the more scripture that YES, I do need to read...is ensuring that we as a community are caring for one another.
Who haven't you reached out to in a while? What face pops into your mind as your read this and you think, 'hey...I wonder how ______ is doing.' Don't just wonder, find out. I swear I probably have 10-15 women pop into my head all day long. Heck, as I sit here writing it's like boom, boom, boom!!! Name after name, just flying through my tired mind! My pregnant hair dresser, Michelle, seriously, so many prayers are said for you. Same for my preggo girlfriend Britney! My sister in laws, my brother, my DAD, women from our old church... I mean really, the list could go on! I don't think we are all destined to be best friends with one another and I don't think that's ever the expectation within friendships. But I think we could do better at staying in touch with the women and friends that we love. Stephanie who came to dinner, I loved you! I'm SO glad that you're 28 and we have that in common and that you love dogs and animals as much as I do. Chelcey who does my web design and helps me form emails and newsletters and is my soundboard for life in GENERAL. Peg, my childhood best friend who I dream about living closer to, with your two boys and husband; laughing with you is quite possibly the best thing EVER. Lisa who lives in Boston, who spent a season living in Kentucky WITH me. Jerrica, who is quite possibly my earthly angel, you're my everything!!
No, I won't list every single person that I love here in this space, because there's just too many of you and my mind is too fuzzy for that anyway. But I wanted to just throw this out there, that you, whoever you are and wherever you may be, I bet it really means a lot when you hear someone tell you that they are proud of you. It feels GOOD to feel strong and beautiful, radiant and loved.
Can I encourage you today to think about the top three people that keep popping into your head? Outside perhaps from the regular people you talk to on a consistent basis (aka my husband and my mom hear from me 300 times a day...) Who are those people? Ask them how they are. What about them makes you proud? What do they do well that they would love to hear from YOU? And then keep going about your day! The clothes to be washed, dishes to cleaned, tables to be wiped off, prayers to be said, books to be read, kids to be tucked in...it's all still waiting for you. I even bet that somewhere along the way, you'll feel more energized and recharged to DO those things, BECAUSE you took the time to brighten someone else's day. Those dishes can wait, for all of 2.1 seconds, am I right? Let's love the heck out of each other because frankly, we're worth it.