When I lift my eyes up...

...I know where my help comes from. I find myself praying this prayer a lot lately. I'm blessed with work and living the dream. I have my own business and I'm home with my kids. Is it happily ever after? Yes, but it's mixed with blood, sweat, and tears. I'm willing to work hard for something I love and something I know is what I'm called to do. Lately, I've been inspired to look around me at a couple of friends of mine who are living their dream too. Not that living you're dream is easy...but, when it's right and it gives incredible joy. Ready to be inspired? Get out the tissues. Meet my friend Jen. She has an incredible story and this year she decided to share it with the world. In her own words,

"This year I am taking the plunge and training to run the Twin Cities Marathon on October 7th. I've decided that if I am going to pour myself into hours and hours of training, I wanted it to count for something more than a check mark off my bucket list! So I have decided to run to benefit New Life Family Services, a non-profit organization who compassionately opens their doors and hearts to women and men who believe abortion is the "only" solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

I know all too well the confusion and emotions of an unplanned pregnancy. Like many can likely relate, my life was rocky growing up. As my teenage years set in I started down the wrong path and, at 15 years old, I found myself pregnant. I felt scared, alone, hopeless and like a failure. What was my mom going to say? What would my friends think? What in the world was I going to do? I didn't want to have an abortion, but I couldn't possibly take care of a baby either, I was a wreck. Thankfully within a few weeks, I walked through the doors of New Life Family Services. They were amazing. I began meeting with a counselor there regularly. Without judgment, Michelle listened to me, loved on me and supported me, and it didn't cost me a dime. She talked to me about all my choices and without pressuring me in any direction, waited patiently for months for me to make the decision I felt was best. As I learned more about the possibility of adoption, I felt like it was the most loving decision I could make, but I didn't know if I could do it. I was falling in love with this little baby growing inside me, could I really just let her go? At the very least, I knew this baby deserved life. I began looking through profiles of prospective parents. I looked into the eyes of couples who, unlike me, were ready and longing to have a child they could not conceive. My heart was changing and I knew the most selfless, loving thing I could do for this baby was not only to give her life, but to give her the life she deserved. I met and ended up picking the most amazing family to adopt my daughter. They were kind, loving, and had an adorable 4 year old boy just waiting for a sibling. We agreed to what was a fairly new concept at the time; an open adoption. We would send pictures and letters back and forth once a year. On March 2nd, 1995 Sarah Ann was born. She was the most beautiful baby you have ever seen. Big blue eyes, a head full of dark hair... I still remember her fresh baby scent. I am not going to lie to you... placing her in her adoptive parents arms was one of the hardest, most painful things I have ever done. But I knew it was right, I was giving her life.

Fast forward 17 years to 2012. In June I had the opportunity to reunite with Sarah and her family... a day I will treasure into eternity. I think back to those early weeks of that unplanned pregnancy and I am beyond grateful that New Life was there when I needed them. I want to give back by raising $50 for each of the 26 miles I am running. No matter where you stand on the subject, I believe it is the heart of humanity to value the sanctity of life. NLFS makes life possible in the face of utter hopelessness. Thanks for joining me."

Jen's friends and family ending up raising over double what Jen set out to do! Incredible. On top of that she finished the 26.2 mile marathon! Did I mention she did it in just over 4 hours? YUP. She ran her race and she ran it well. I am so proud of my friend. Here a few pictures from the race. I was so happy to be there to capture it!

Be inspired. What are you called to do? What's the race you are running? Dare to dream and dream big...because incredible dreams do come true. Ask Jen!

I'm going to share another inspiring story soon...keep the tissues out!

Noemi Hedrick

Noemi Hedrick is a passionate wedding and portrait photographer based in Minneapolis. Noemi loves capturing the beauty inside every person. Her vibrant energy for life, love and family are grounded in her own values and loved ones. Noemi has been proudly serving as a wedding photographer for over 15 years and also offers a wide range of photography workshops for professional and amateur photographers.