How Heart Failure Saved MY LIFE. {Congestive Heart Failure Survivor, Tacoma, WA}

The Lord is gracious and righteous.  Our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simple hearted. 

When I was in great need, He saved me. 

Be at rest once more, oh my soul.  For the Lord has been good to me. 

You, oh Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

- Psalms 116

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For 365 days, I have attempted several times to sit down and share my story.  To wade through the feelings that 2017 brought me, but I always failed.   My story has been shared all over the internet but never written in my words, in a way that represents the true weight and pain that last year carried for me.  I would sit down to write several times over the last year and just couldn't.  Part of me wasn't ready.  Part of me didn't want to face the reality that this heavy storm I was walking through was real, and the part of me, like so many of us, only wanted to share the good stuff, the easy stuff, the inspiring stuff, and so much of what I experienced last year wasn't that. 

It's hard to think that just one year ago today, I was physically dying.   In the biggest distress situation of my life. 

If you haven't had the chance to hear my story or haven't followed me the last year,  you can get caught up by watching this feature that KCPQ Fox 13 did of me a couple weeks ago, in partnership with the South Puget Sound American Heart Association, that so beautifully recaps a very challenging time in my life.   

Take Me To The Feature

The heart failure diagnosis was a culmination of so many crazy things that were happening in my life at the time.  My physical heart was broken, yes, but so was my emotional & spiritual heart.   I was SO lost and hiding behind and disguising what felt like aimless wandering with striving.  Striving for relationships, success, validation, collecting physical things, anything that would make me feel LESS lost then I was. 

Heart failure was the diagnosis that forced me to face the reality of what had become a very empty life, and gave me the courage from that VERY broken physical heart, to start to put the pieces back together again. 

The day I was admitted to the hospital, doctors were uncertain what was wrong.   This admittance came after a long week of symptoms, like a loss of appetite, physical pain in my body, and visits in and out of urgent cares and emergency rooms - trying to figure out why I felt so weak and off. 

The morning of March 1, 2017, after a very long night in the hospital being re-hydrated with fluids and taking anti-inflammatory medicines, I was preparing to leave for a cross country flight to Indiana, with Ike, to teach at the Reset Conference, when I was stopped in my tracks by a pain I had never experienced. 

Ike walked in the door and asked me, "are you ready to go to the airport?" and with tears in my eyes, I looked at him and said in response "I don't know what is wrong, but I know I am not getting on an airplane."  After a visit to the chiropractor, we headed to the emergency room and after many hours of painfully trying to catch my breath, the on-call doctor said "We aren't sure what is going on with you, but we know there is something wrong with your heart and we are going to admit you."

I remember being so scared and calling my friends and family, one after another hoping someone would answer to pray with me.  I was so scared and I could feel in my stomach something was very wrong.   I was admitted to the hospital and within 24 hours started to quickly get worse.  My heart was beating 227 BPM resting and my blood pressure had dropped dangerously low.  I was barely lucid and moaning from extreme and unbearable pain.   My heart was barely able to gather enough blood to pump and was going so fast it was heading to burn out fast.  At one point, after a bad drug combination, I started experiencing internal bleeding and my blood levels started to quickly drop.  It had become a pretty critical situation overnight. 

After 4 days of being barely conscious, I was given two blood transfusions and miraculously, my heart slowed down and my body started to recover.    I spent six days in critical care and sixteen days in the hospital overall. My diagnosis was pneumonia and congestive heart failure caused by myocarditis and pericarditis brought on by a flu virus.  

For six days, I heard doctors tell my husband that they weren't sure I would make it.  That they couldn't find the bleeding to stop it.  I heard them ask if we had a plan in place in things turned even worse.  I was asked to make a last will and testament, which I declined.  Ike was informed that discussions had been made to airlift me to Harborview Medical Center and add me to the transplant list, if it came to that, and although I could barely speak, we were prepared for that and worse, even death.  

I have never experience anything scarier, but had a peace I couldn't explain all at the same time. 

I felt like God had prepared me leading up to all of it and had stirred up this desire in previous months to steep myself in worship, sermons and scriptures - and it was those same sermons, scriptures that kept me alive.    I played Steven Furtick's message "When God Shows Up" over and over for 16 days, it was all I could listen to, and it reminded me that God shows up in the middle of nowhere and that He was with me, like He was with Jacob, in that fight and that I wasn't alone.  That God was IN that place with me and that He would be with me wherever I went. 

Although I didn't experience a physical death, a part of me DID die in that hospital and even though I was discharged as "healthy enough," when I got home, my real battle beganm and for the last year I have been daily fighting forward and trying to find myself again.  

On Monday March 19th, I will have my fourth and final echocardiogram and will receive a diagnosis that will prayerfully finally close this chapter of my life.   Heart Failure diagnosis come in two forms, chronic and acute and generally one year after the episode occurs.

Chronic Heart Failure means that this was not an isolated situation and that I do indeed have a heart condition and will have to learn how to manage and live with it for the rest of my life. 

Acute Heart Failure means that this was a fluke, by chance, a "once in a lifetime" event that just kinda happened, but isn't likely to be a long-term issue.   

We, of course, are hoping for the latter.   I know that God is in this because He has already healed me of all of my other ailments brought on by heart failure and so we sit in expectation of more and believe He WILL do it.

In this, I learned so much about myself, my God and my life and I really wanted to take this time to share. 

Everything in my life at this point will be divided into before and after. 

Before heart failure and after it. 

Before 2017 and after it.

In Steven Furtick's latest series "Savage Jesus," he asked "Will you believe in the wilderness what God spoke in the waters?"  He went on to say that the " essence of faith, real faith, is to believe BEFORE what will only make sense AFTER."

I believe the lessons I learned walking through this last season of my life, the wilderness, the burdens that heart failure brought on made way for the greatest revelations and insights of my young life. 

The biggest lessons 2017 taught me were.....

1.) God is real & He does miracles. 

As I mentioned above, a year ago on this day, I was dying.  My heart was failing and barely working and my family was in the biggest financial bind of our life.   Every day that we stayed in the hospital cost us 100k.  16 days of hospital care is more then any self-employed person could begin to comprehend at that cost.  Even after I left the hospital there were weekly doctors appointments and blood test.  A team of 5 doctors all monitoring different parts of my recovery (hematologist, cardiologist, rheumatologist, orthopedic doctor, primary care physician)  all needing to be paid and with no insurance options. 

Over the course of 16 days, God healed my heart and over the course of the last year we have watched Him put my body and our finances back together again.   Every diagnoses, healed.  Every financial burden, solved.   

It is often hard to believe that God is in the miracle business, but our outlook was bleak and we are vibrantly living just one year later with absolutely no debt from my medical downfall.

2.) It taught me what I valued. 

When I was sitting in the hospital room fighting for my life, wondering what might happen next, no part of me thought about my social media followers, or what would happen to my clothes or my car or how pretty I was or how fat or skinny I was.   

I thought about Wisdom.  I thought about how she would be starting kindergarten in the fall and turning five and that I might miss it.  I thought about relationships I had that were fractured, and how I wanted them healed.   I thought about what a privilege it had been to do the job that God had given me and that I still had so much more I wanted to do and I thought about our girls.  The hundreds of girls who lives we had impacted, but who's lives had impacted me - and I wondered what it would be to never be able to see the fruit of the time invested in those relationships. 

I thought about what it would mean for Wisdom to grow up without a mother, a generational curse I had been working to break - you can read more about that here, and how much I really loved my family - and if I had really taken the time to show them through both word and deed. 

3.) My body should be honored. 

Our bodies are sacred.  They work so hard for us.  They carry us through life.  They do what we need them to do without much rebuttal.  Why do we wait until something is wrong to honor them? 

It wasn't until I couldn't walk and was being carried to the bathroom from Reactive Arthiritis that had flared up so strong I was on steroids for nine months, that I realized how much I valued the ability to use my legs. 

It wasn't until I couldn't write when they found a tumor in my right ring finger that needed to be removed, that I realized every single finger had a role to play - and that I couldn't even support my family or do my part without that one finger on my right hand, that holds my camera.

It wasn't until my heart wasn't pumping correctly, that I realized we only get one - and it's not as easy to fix as one would think.  Did you know the heart is the only organ in our body that once damaged can't be fixed?  There is always a scar, or a history there.   It doesn't regenerate itself, and can't be disregarded.  We don't even use 100% of our brain, but our heart, we need the whole thing.  It's a wonder that God constantly reminds us to guard it because it determines the course of your life - that isn't just a spiritual warning my friends. 

The reason why I "bounced back" so "quickly," is because I was mostly healthy before I got sick - and my body COULD handle the trauma that being sick had put on it.  I now honor my body and understand the privilege I have to feed it, to exercise it, to use it.   Stay fit and eating healthy aren't easy, but they certainly aren't hard - heart failure is hard.  Cancer is hard.  Living with an auto-immune disease is hard - and I want to give myself the chance of living my healthiest life. 

4.) It taught me that time is the most important currency. 

Money comes and goes, but the only thing as valuable as money is time - and once it is gone you CANNOT get it back.  There is no negotiating it.  There is no wishing for more and none of us know the amount we have so we have to invest it, spend it, steward it wisely. 

5.) My gifts and talents are not for me, but there are things that are. 

As talented and gifted as I may be told I am or that I may feel inside - my gifts mean nothing if they are not being used to bless the lives of others.  To uplift, build, encourage, exhort and make the world a better place.  It is my responsibility on this earth to invest my talents to glorify the God who gave them to me, that everything that I get to do with my gifts are in worship to the one who so blessed me with them. 

Although my gifts and talents are for the world, how I choose to share those things with the world - and the heart behind them are imperative.   There is a fine line between encouraging and boasting.    There's a fine line between sharing for encouragement and seeking validation - not everything needs to be shared and every blessing doesn't need to be broadcasted.   It's okay to enjoy my life for me, and me alone and to hold it close to my heart.  

6.) Prayer Changes Things. 

Prayer is real.  Prayer changes things.  Prayer collectively brings people together around the world and allows us to rally behind one cause and using prayer to wake up Heaven on behalf of those we love is one of the most powerful tools we have earth side.  It is because of the hundreds of people who prayed on my behalf that I am alive.   I firmly believe that.  So if you are reading this, and you prayed, thought about me and my family or sent up positive thought on our behalf - I am breathing today because of YOU!

7.) YOU are your greatest advocate.

No one can speak for you, the way YOU can.  No one can fight for what is best for YOU more then you can.   I was in the hospital with friends and family by my side, but none of them could communicate on my behalf, explain what I was feeling - and should I had died, I would have done that alone.  It is important that we listen to our bodies - that we pay attention when things feel off and that we speak up when things are not right.  We have to have courage.  We have to stand our ground.  We have to advocate for ourselves as though our lives depend on it.  It is then that we are doing the greatest service to ourselves.

8.) Sickness and disease doesn't have a "type."

You could not have told me that I would be laying in a hospital bed for half of a month, my entire life on hold and my world halted.  I was thriving.  Speaking all over the country, running a 6-figure business and living my dream - and then I caught the flu.  Something as simple as a cold, turned flu virus brought my world to a screeching halt.   You have to be mindful and always take care of yourself because NO ONE is immune to unexpected sickness.

9.) LIVING your best life isn't for later. 

All we have is NOW.  No future is promised to us.  All we have is today.  All of those things you have always dreamed of doing - those projects you pin on Pinterest, those cities you want to visit, those things you hoped to learn, those people you wanted to meet, those foods you wanted to try and taste - they are all waiting and the time is now.   Don't put off today what your heart is begging you to do.   You can read a little more about some of those things for me here

10.) Community matters. 

It is 100% because our community, all of you, that we were able to walk though that valley and survive.  The Caring Fund started by our dear friend Tiffany Burke, the meal trains, the prayers and so many other things and reasons are why we didn't crumble under the pressure of a challenging situation.  We are not meant to do life alone and it isn't until we are brought to our knees do we realize the value and power of a caring and genuinely loving community.   We have one of the greatest villages in the world - and we could not be more thankful!  The greatest way I know to honor the investment of those during that time is to LIVE my very best life, fully and free.  Every second - with the deepest gratitude.  So live I will. 

and if you have made it this far, my final lesson is....

11.)  Give FLOWERS to the living.  

When I came to on March 6th, and was able to finally share what I was going through online with the world and our community - I hopped online with hundreds of notifications and checked my phone to 367 text messages.   Logging onto Facebook and getting a glimpse of how people felt about me as they petitioned others for prayer - learning of the lives we had touched, I had touched and the impact I had made on my community that they were at a loss to even comprehend that I may not be well enough to survive was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.   

See, before that, I was so low.  I felt washed up and forgotten. I felt I wasn't making an impact and that all of the hard work I had put in was wasted and didn't matter.   When I logged into Instagram and Facebook and read through the notifications - it was like reading eulogies - all of the kindest things people would say about you after you were gone, that you would never know on earth.   It helped me to see myself differently.  My impact differently and my relationships and community differently.  It showed me just HOW valued I was and how important it was that I got better - because there is still so much work to do. 

Give your compliments - "your flowers" to the living.  You have no idea what people are going through, trying to fight forward toward and how your words might be the water their parched soul needs to keep going.     It was exactly what I needed. 


 It had to happen this way and because it did, I will never be the same. 

Heart Failure SAVED my life and I couldn't be more thankful. 


 For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!   Do you not see it?   I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the wastelands. -Isaiah 43:19

For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!   Do you not see it?   I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the wastelands. -Isaiah 43:19

RESTORATION: Tash's Story. {Tacoma Family Portrait Photographer, Tacoma, WA}

I will RESTORE to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.  You'll know without question That I am your God, yes, your God, the one and only real God. - Joel 2:25-27


I was raised in foster care.  Born to a mentally handicapped mother - the day I was born, I was immediately placed in the foster care system and remained there until I aged.    

As any child would, I struggled with my identity and I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that those same struggles still continue to come up as I search for validation and identity in places that don't deserve it.  But, how could I not?  It's a journey I was tasked with the moment I entered the world. 

When I was 24 years old, right before I was about to marry Isaiah, in an unlikely course of events, I happened upon contact information for my eldest cousin.  Having found Isaiah on Myspace, just a year and a half earlier (two strangers from opposite ends of the country committing to marrying one another and committing to a life together),  I decided to use my resources and hopped on Facebook.

One of the most powerful and life changing conversations was with my cousin, Amanda,  that day.   I reached out to her and said " Hi, you don't know me, but I think we could be related and that maybe my mom is the sister to your father?"   

Waiting on her response back was one of the most nerve-wrecking moments of my life.  I remember my heart beating so hard in my chest, I couldn't get it to calm down.

When she finally replied - she said , "Oh my gosh!  I had heard this could be true. I know who you are, but we thought you were much younger."  That response changed my life forever.  She will never truly know how much HER reply that day meant to me.  Who I was and how I moved forward hinged on her ability to be compassionate with me while I was on my search for truth.

Lost, my whole enter life and for the first time in 24 years, I knew who I was.  At least a part of me. 


Over the last 10 years, I have been actively pursuing relationships with my family.  A grandmother, who when was very young had to make a very heart-breaking decision to give my mom up at her birth.  An act that would start a domino effect of 3 generations being impacted by that choice.   

When I became pregnant, it was crucial to me that it was a girl - because, in my mind, it was the only that this generational curse would and could be broken.  When we found out she was a girl - there was a piece of my heart that was healed, knowing that for the first time since my grandmother was born, this line I was on would shift into a new direction.


For the last couple years, as my mother has begun to get older and more fragile in her health, it has been a priority for me that Wisdom develop a pure and sweet relationship with her.  She has disabilities, yes, but she is kind and thoughtful and fun and I never ever wanted to highlight, in Wisdom's eyes, anything that would make her feel her grandmother was worth anything other then an abundance of LOVE; an opportunity I wasn't given in my upbringing as I was constantly reminded of who she wasn't and the shame of that kept me from fully embracing her for who she was. 

Watching the sweet relationship my mom and Wisdom have has made me yearn to know my grandmother.  To know who I am and how things got to where they are.  Sadly, after many attempts we haven't been able to get those answers and now my grandmother who I have been around so few times is suffering from Dementia, which makes really understanding the details of the separation even harder to attain. 

There was an ache in my heart for not knowing where I came from and a disappointment for the time that had been lost. 

We would be at family gatherings - and there were memories I didn't have and stories I couldn't tell and photo albums I wasn't in, that my mom wasn't in - and it made me feel like we didn't exist anywhere.

This is where being a photographer is so powerful.  It's powerful because you get to give other people their memories - but its even more so because you get to shape yours.

I believe so strongly in the job we do.  I believe in taking family pictures.  I believe in telling people's stories and I believe in having mine told. 

After going through heart failure last year - there were some things on my list - that I could no longer allow to remain on it.  One of those was taking Wisdom to meet my grandmother.  There are four generations alive at this moment - and after my recent health scare, the gravity of life became so real to me.  

Taking Wisdom to meet granny had been on my list of things "to do" since 2015....   I couldn't wait any longer.  

As I was booking tickets for Wisdom and I to meet my aunt and my cousin in Charlotte for the weekend - my mom flashed across my mind.   I couldn't take Wisdom to meet granny and not take my mom.   Wisdom loves her grandma - and I thought of the power of my family seeing my mother as a grandmother and the respect they would have for her - and what it would mean in Heaven to take back ownership of this situation by restoring it with the 4 of us present in the same room.

Never in 35 years have I ever traveled anywhere with my mother - and only once in the last 60 have she and my grandmother and aunt been in the same place at the same time.

I shared my plan with a few more family members - and what was a trip for Wisdom turned into a mini family reunion of all of the lead women in my family.

My aunt and my mom were there (the only two girls my grandmother birthed - she had 5 children total, two girls and 3 boys - my mom and aunt are the oldest.)

The three eldest cousins and eldest grandchildren.  My cousin Amanda, my cousin Portia and me.  We were all born 6 months apart from one another.   Could you imagine the childhood stories we would have told?

and the oldest female great- grandchild birthed by a female grandchild in our family, Aaliyah, Amanda's daughter - and the youngest female great-grandchild birthed by a female grandchild in our family, my sweet Wisdom.


The weekend was one of the most powerful I have ever had as I felt waves crash over my heart and peace and forgiveness rush over me.  

Being with my family and seeing the smiles, laughing and getting to know eachother put everything in the right perspective and after crying tears of frustration one evening over feeling so conflicted about how I should feel vs. how I feel and the unfairness of the situation, I was able to finally let go and just be, to just be in the moment and to look forward to the future.

The truth is that there's not a thing about my upbringing I would change because it's made me who I am, but I am so thankful for the healing restoration that finding them has brought into my life and I am so thankful the curse is NOW broken.


Special thanks to Laura Fulmer of Laura Fulmer Photography for these beautiful portraits of such a precious time in my life. 

Class of 2018 Street Team Winter Snow Day, Mt. Rainier National Park {Tacoma Senior Portrait Photographer, Tacoma, WA}


It's so hard to believe that we are easily 6 months from another graduating class.  2017, was both long and so short.   It made the time we had with these guys fly and we are now just 5 short months from graduation season.

If you are familiar with our work, you know that Ike and I pick a new group of girls every year to represent our senior business and that we affectionately refer to this cohort of annual girls as our "street team."  Every year we are blessed with absolutely talented, beautiful, kind, gracious, intelligent and passionate girls who we get to come alongside and mentor, but who also keep us young, growing and constantly embracing new ways of doing things.  

This group has been no different - as they walked through a tough 2017 year with us, they were always gracious and patient and excited to get together every opportunity we had to connect.

We traveled to the desert with these girls in summer of 2017 and stayed in a beautiful home in Palm Desert and then they joined us for our last BLINK Conference in Seattle, where they modeled for several photographers from all over the country - and as we close out there time, we STILL have so much we are excited to do with them as we get to know them and ramp our business back up to full time.

We recently packed up three cars and headed into the mountain for a day of bonding and snow and below are the pictures that don't do nearly enough to capture all the fun we had!

I am always thankful for the girls we get to spend time with and get to know, as they invite us into their lives year after year.  This group is so special and I am cherishing our last months together before they head off to college!

As always, if you like what you see, show us some love!

Happy February!

Surprise Trip to Hawai'i 2017 {Tacoma Portrait Photographer, Tacoma, WA}

If you have had the opportunity to follow us the last year, you know that 2017 has been one of the most challenging years of my life.  

I unexpectedly got very sick and found myself in a pretty critical situation where I was fighting for my life.   Coming out of that experience I learned that the time is NOW.  It caused me to take a hard look at my life.  I wanted to do more living and less waiting and creating, making memories with people we love.

When there were just two girls, Lyric and Wisdom - we used to do these "mommy-daughter" adventures.  We have traveled all over this country doing these "mommy-daughter, sister-cousin" trips to Texas, Arizona, California, Washington.  The girls started school and somehow we got away from connecting collectively and there was a longing there to bring the crew back together.

After a year like mine, it was so important to get the girls together and to live.   

Of all the things Melinda and I have done together, the thing I am most proud of is the relationship our girls have with one another.  When Wisdom gets around Lyric and Honour-Smile, she is her happiest.   There's a "settling in" that happens - where she feels fully accepted and loved and with "her people."  It is so fun to watch them take to one another and look after each other and can you believe ANOTHER girl was just added to this?   Precious Freedom Song was born in February 2018 and adds to this girl squad so beautifully!  Lyric and Honour-Smile are going to make incredible big sisters for her.


When we told the girls separately we were going on a trip, we let them know it was going to be a fun mommy-daughter event, but what we didn't tell them is where we were going or who was coming with us.

On the day of departure, we "bumped" into each other at the airport and we were able to share the amazing news together.  You could imagine their faces and reactions as we ran into each other at the airport.   It made my mommy heart swell. 

Lyric was about to have a big birthday, and her only wish was to visit Hawaii - so it was the perfect birthday gift for her - and the two littlest travelers love "Moana," so it took very little convincing to get them fired up. 

We snorkeled Hanauma Bay, visited Sea Life Park, went to luau's, ate shaved ice, guava pancakes and the best ramen I have ever had.  Visited North Shore, swam in lagoons, watch dolphins play - we even got to remember Pearl Harbor.

The trip never lacked in excitement.  Even our down times were loaded with laughter, hugs and kisses, tears and dance parties.

When I reflect on my most fun moments of my adult life, this crew was always present.  Melinda is the perfect adventure partner because she is AS extra as me and totally joins me in going all out on adventures.  We drove all over Waikiki one morning so our girls could drink out of a coconut.

I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar. – Robert Brault

This is the type of sister Melinda has been to me and I am forever thankful.

This trip taught me a lot about being spontaneous while also keeping your options open.

Holding on with your hands open, if there is such a thing.   It taught me that I want to adventure through life on a daily, and make every day like Hawaii - because it can be if we want it to be - it's perspective.

It taught me how valuable sisterhood is and just how much I love this crew and how deeply knitted they are into my heart, even the newest Watts babe.

While we were there, we had the opportunity to have our portraits taken by Kayleen T. Photography - it was raining that day - but we pressed anyway and I absolutely love what she created, memories I will cherish and hold onto for the rest of my life. 


I am forever grateful for the memories we shared on that island and will always hold them so close to my heart - what a way to close out 2017!

You can check out the recap of our trip through Melinda's eyes by visiting her blog post here

National Go Red Day. #GoRedSeattle #GoREDSouthSound {Tacoma Heart Warrior, Tacoma, WA}

When we started working with the South Puget Sound branch of the American Heart Association, 4 years ago, I had no idea that I would end up with my own heart story.

Since 2014, there have been 4 Go Red Day's for women, of which I never participated until yesterday!

What a powerful opportunity to do something small to bring a voice to a BIG issue.   I am so thankful for my village who jumped on board and both passionately and fashionably made RED their commitment for the day!

What an inspiring movement that I am thrilled to be a part of!

Cheers to all of the beautiful women who have suffered through and become victorious over heart disease and stroke, but also the other crippling diseases that try to steal our lives, families, destinies, and dreams every year!  Let's continue to spread the word, education those we love and make the practical changes to live LONG and Healthy lives of abundance!