Iwas blessed to be raised by parents who were Christians and taught me that God is a loving God and the most amazing father who loved me. At the sweet age of 6, I woke up early and knew I wanted to be saved so I quietly tiptoed into my parent’s room and asked my mom to pray with me so that I could accept Jesus as my Savior. It was in the early morning hours and I can still feel the cool, blue light of the winter sun peeking in through the lace-curtained windows. The house smelled of a fresh fire stoked in the fireplace that my dad started before he left for work and my siblings were both downstairs still tucked away under their warm, cozy blankets in bed. My mom looked sleepy, but she smiled easily and quietly pulled me in close to her and led me in prayer, using words that could be easily said by a child, accepting Jesus and my Lord and Savior. It was a sweet moment and memory, one I’ve never forgotten and still hold close to this day as it shaped my life forever.

You see, through a series of events, my life ended up going down the path of the Prodigal Daughter. After many painful experiences, failed relationships, and surviving domestic violence, I finally found myself laying in a hospital bed in the emergency room, guarded by a nurse dressed in white. I believe she was really an angel watching over me as after a few hours she brought in the hospital chaplain to pray for my healing. The chaplain was a woman and I remember feeling so safe and protected by her, and this amazing spirit that poured from her soul was for me and I knew God was calling me back. Right then and there, I told her that everything that had brought me to this horrible, humble, situation, was really God’s way of showing me the path home. He was always there, waiting for me, arms stretched wide with open arms, waiting to pour His many blessings over me and my life. The chaplain asked if she could pray with me. Tears streamed from my eyes, flowing down my cheeks, over my lips, down my chin and neck. I sobbed 38 years of painful tears while she and the nurse held their hands on my arms and forehead, helping me find the words of welcoming Christ back into my life as the leader of my soul once again. After my prayer was said, she continued in prayer lifting me up to Jesus asking for Him to keep me close for the rest of my life.

The week after my second salvation, in 2014, I began receiving counseling at Caring for Miami at Christ Fellowship. My experience there was the beginning of a long journey of healing. It was by the staffs’ examples in this safe space that I learned how to receive care from my fellow brothers and sisters, and how loved and valued I am to the body of Christ. Months later, I decided to join a small group that was scheduled to meet at the church on the second story of the building, and upon arriving discovered from two staff members that the date and place had been changed. As I turned around to go, one of them said, “Don’t go! We have something great going on today and you’ve got to meet Gigi!” A few minutes later I was sitting at a table eating with Pastor Rick and Rhonda on my right, and Pastor Sammy on my left. Within moments of telling them my short story of how I arrived at their table that day, Pastor Rick said “You’ve got to meet Gigi!” and personally took me over to an amazing woman who immediately welcomed me into her Caring for Miami team. From that day forward, I began learning from Gigi how true healing comes from helping others in service for Christ.

Give everything wholeheartedly. Give until you can’t give any more. And when you can’t give anything more, dig deeper and give some more. That’s the moment you grow. The moment you find your true strength. There is fulfillment in that inner strength and it allows you to continue giving.

Later in the fall of 2015, I was a passenger in an accident and was in a hospital for two weeks. Every single day I was sent messages and visited by different members and volunteers of Christ Fellowship. My body’s healing was directly contributed from the positive prayers that continued to lift my spirit up to God in positivity and gratefulness for being alive. Four months later – and four days after my fiancé (the driver of the accident) left our relationship – I discovered I was pregnant and began my journey of single motherhood. Throughout the pregnancy, I continued to volunteer at CF Miami and moved into the Kid’s Ministries with Roxy leading children in song and scripture every Sunday. After my daughter, Emerson was born I dedicated her to Christ on Mother’s Day 2017 at a special Christ Fellowship service. Again, I felt surrounded by God’s love as the many volunteers and staff surrounded us while on – and off – stage. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

“Standing Alone in Parenthood”

“Kisses from Church Friend”

That summer I made the difficult decision to move back home to the Pacific Northwest with my family as I needed help raising my baby while working full time. For the last two years, I’ve continued to think about my church knowing someday I’ll be back and connected with the team there. In searching for a job these last few months, I’ve been praying for a position that utilizes my skills and talents while allowing me to grow closer and more connected to God, and also provide opportunities to be working with, and giving back to, the community. Because that is where true healing comes from, giving back.

Portrait Photographer, Writer, and Consultant LaRae Lobdell is an environmental portrait photographer, host, and instructor with over 20 years of experience photographing, directing, producing exhibits, and speaking in the photography industry. She focuses on providing artists, actors, models, and companies with lifestyle and conceptual imagery for promotional use and branding. Her approach is very contemporary, her work has a timeless elegance, and she represents the grace, distinction, and style that is possible in photography. Her curriculum vitae includes 21 photography exhibits of her own work, the curation of 15 exhibits for other artists’ and museums, the production of 13 private and community events, and two year’s experience as director of one of Seattle’s largest art walks. Her images have been published in The Huffington Post, Broadway World, Yale University Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, and even aired on the Colbert Report. LaRae’s position as a lead host for online educational giants such as CreativeLive and Polaroid University gave her the unique opportunity as one of an elite group of professionals to connect a live global audience to top renowned professionals in photography, video, design, business, audio, music, software design, productivity, and lifestyle. She brought her network to BLACKRAPID as their Culture Liaison, facilitating close working relationships between influencers and organizations for promotional sales and marketing. Grateful to be a stay-at-home mom while balancing a rewarding career in the photography industry, this proud single mom enjoys a nomadic traveling lifestyle between Seattle and the Florida Keys with her daughter, Emerson.