Fearless + Unashamed
Everyone, say hello to Chastin! Chastin's requests of me and her session were entirely different than the usual. I hope you read this blog all the way to the end and that you're as inspired as I have been by her story. Trust me, it's worth your time.
Chastin messaged me and said, "I think you are the only one that can help me achieve the vision I have in mind for this session. It's just for me." She laid her vision out in front of me and when she asked if I would do it I said, "Absolutely, yes!"
That being said, you should know that what she requested was a cardboard testimonial session. You've all seen them on the news media, in church skits, or Pinterest. Basically, it's where individuals take what they've conquered - drug addition, homosexuality, pornography, shopping, gluttony (you name it) - and write who they are now, and what they identify with after overcoming their fears and shame.
Chastin's session meant a great deal to me and her trusting me with capturing her past and present meant even more. I hope you're inspired by her honesty, genuineness, and vulnerability.
"Through my childhood and portions of my adult life, I have experienced abuse and trauma mainly by the hands of men. Because of this, I made the choice in high school to date girls. I was determined to never let a man hurt or control me. My senior year of high school I started popping pills pretty frequently. It began with over-the-counter drugs that I would just overuse. I only did this because I loved to escape my problems and pain. This continued after high school graduation and into college. When I had surgery on my foot in college, I got used to having pain pills. And that became a whole new addiction or 'game.' I especially liked drinking with the pills."
"During my last semester of college, I did an internship at Freedom Hill, a faith-based recovery home for women in the North Georgia Mountains. During my time there, God slowly began to start chipping away at the rough edges of my heart. I ended up accepting a job at the recovery home after I graduated from college. Of course, God just kept moving in big ways, not that I really noticed it at the time. I started going to church in January 2016 at River Point Community Church. On Feb. 22nd, 2016, I became a Christian and I started meeting with a mentor shortly after. My mentor has been so great to me during this journey towards total healing and freedom in Christ, and it has really changed my life."
"On May 28th, 2016, God revealed to me that he has a husband for me. And it was definitely a revelation that was hard to come to terms with, due to my fear of men. God has been so sweet in this process of healing and restoration."
"Even after all of these revelations though, my family went through some pretty intense problems in December 2016 with addiction, and that woke me up to my own addictions to alcohol and pills. Although I was highly functional and thought I had it all together, I still had an issue and I was using substances to mask or sleep away pain and hurt."
On January 5th, 2017, I started living sober. And I've been sober ever since. Some days have been harder than others, but God has been incredible and always there during the process. He reminds me every single day that I am clean, beautiful, worthy, and His princess."
Planning and creating this session was no easy feat and I did not want to take it lightly. I wanted the locations and editing to fit Chastin's personal style and story, and at the same time convey a very important message. We had work to do. She created the cardboard signs and phrases that had meaning to her. Copperwire Weddings + Events partnered with me and taught me how to make a flower crown for Chastin because we didn't feel like a tiara was what we wanted. In addition to all the planning, we had to reschedule several times due to conflicts and bipolar Georgia weather.
But it was so, so worth it. As we were shooting, all I kept thinking was, "This is why I do what I do. This is the why I love photography and why it is so important to this world."
Thank you, Chastin, for allowing me to be a part of something so unique and a significant milestone in your life. To say that you are an inspiration to all of us would be an understatement. We should all take notes from your willingness to be a part of the solution instead of the problem. Thank you for caring about this community so deeply that you're willing to share your story in a an intimate way. We love you!
Chastin's next plans are to enroll in the Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education program at Piedmont College this fall. "I am super excited," she says, "It definitely is my passion. I go to River Point and I help out with student ministry, and I'm on the worship team. I'm preparing for a mission trip to Haiti this summer, too! It's truly great to sit back and think of all the cool things God is doing in my life right now."