By now I thought I would be married and living in Dallas Texas with a few kids and a mortgage. I thought I’d be volunteering at a church doing women’s ministry on the side. I thought it was a good plan.
But here I sit here on an overcast Friday morning in April single, in my grey yoga pants, typing away on my laptop in my Brooklyn apartment. The life I expected to be living was a good one. Yet here I am. Never did I ever think I’d be living in New York City as a full-time photographer and running my own women’s lifestyle and fashion blog. If I have learned anything about God it’s this: His plans for our lives are far more creative and imaginative than anything we could think up on our own.
How did I go from being a Bible Major at Dallas Baptist University to a woman in the fashion industry of New York City? Great question.
For two and a half years in college I played on a full ride tennis scholarship as a fashion major. But I finally got to a point where I was completely burnt out and my identity was wrapped up in who I was as an athlete. My whole life revolved around tennis for as long as I could remember. It was what I was known for; it was what I was good at. But I began to wonder who I was without the titles and accolades. When I walked away from tennis it was both liberating and terrifying. I transferred to a small baptist university in Dallas and declared a new major: Biblical Studies. I was one of the only women in my major, and man did I ruffle some feathers. I was ready to be the next Beth Moore. I inhaled my textbooks like they were oxygen. I sat on the front row of all my classes rapidly taking notes, and asking questions every thirty seconds.
Throughout my time at DBU my passion to invest into the lives of women grew. I led small groups, worked as a camp counselor in the summer, and mentored high school girls. And then another thing happened. My last year I college I realized that I replaced my identity as a tennis player as a leader in the church. I loved leading, teaching, speaking to girls. But it became an identity for me. My last semester of college was the first time since I had become a Christian 6 years earlier that I wasn’t involved in leadership at my church.
When I graduated college I accepted an internship in San Diego to work for a non-profit doing advocacy for a war-torn Northernw Uganda. I moved into a house with 50 other interns from all over the US. We traveled in vans with each other to share stories of child soldiers. We made less than $10 a day, slept on dorm room floors, our vans and even in fields. But it was some of the best memories of my life. I learned that our lives are our mission field. You don’t have to be on staff at a church to be doing ministry. That was incredibly powerful for me to experience. I also learned that we’re all creative beings. The first thing God does in Genesis is create. Since we are created in His image each of us to our core are pulsating with creativity. It’s just tapping into what is my vehicle of creativity, and then using it for His glory and purposes.
This rocked me because I never felt like I was a creative person. My whole life I was an athlete. Then I became Katherine the Christian. Realizing that I was also a creative turned my world from black and white to endless color. After my internship was over I made a commitment to myself and to God that I would start pursuing things that I never pursued out of fear of failure, or simply because I thought I wasn’t creative.
I was living in Newport Beach California taking vocal lessons, hip hop dance classes, and began to fall in love with photography. I had always loved photography, but never did anything about it. Somehow (God’s grace and favor in my life) I landed a full-time job with Mike Colón, one of the top wedding photographers in the nation. I could hardly turn on a camera let alone tell you anything technical or photography related. But I’m stubborn and a hard worker, and knew I’d never know if I was good at it if I didn’t give it a try. Mike saw something in me, and took a chance. Working for him opened up this whole new world to me. From editing to running a business, to shooting manual, to posing, to taking chances he taught me everything I know. He brought me to all his weddings, to shoot New York Bridal Market, and I got to sit in and produce all of his workshops. What I found over my almost 4 years of working for Mike was that I not only loved photography, but I was pretty good at it.
Even though I never had the desire to run my own business I couldn’t get past the nagging sense that I was supposed to. In May of 2012 I left a stable paycheck and a wonderful family to start my own business.
I’ll never forget being flown to New York to shoot my first big editorial campaign. At the end of a long day of shooting my model quietly came up to me and said “No photographer has ever treated me so kindly”. It stopped me in my tracks.
Next fall I was shooting New York Fashion Week and after editing through thousands of runway images I felt this nudge inside to start a fashion blog for women. It was the last thing I wanted to do. The last thing the world needs is another fashion blog. But it made me crazy that everything we see in magazines are women half my size, completely photoshopped and wearing clothes that I could never afford.
I started to dream. What if there was something out there for real women? A space that said yes fashion is fun but it’s not who I am? A place where we started being honest about our fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams? What if instead of comparing ourselves to each other and tearing one another down, we linked arms and impacted the world together? So in January 2013 I did something that I never thought I’d do. With my friend Emily I started The Refined Woman.
Then in the summer of 2013 I did another thing that I never thought I would do: I moved to New York City. Are you starting to see a theme here in my life? In between layovers, blog posts, editing, client meetings, picking up gear, tearing down sets, shooting weddings, interviewing women something started to become very clear to me: my heart to invest into the lives of women never changed. The vehicles for it just did.
Now it’s April of 2015 and I feel as though my life is coming full circle. My love for Jesus and my love for women is intersecting through what I do. I don’t work at a church and probably won’t ever (but who knows…my life has been full of saying yes to things I never thought I would do), but I believe what I do is my ministry. For some reason God keeps blessing The Refined Woman and expanding our platform. I’m honored that I get to be apart of a conversation to women that says ‘You matter because of whose you are’.
I believe God wants to redeem all things, and that includes the fashion industry. I believe that our culture is begging for a deeper sense of purpose. With a thousand messages being given to us each day screaming that you’re not enough, you’re too much, saving sex for marriage is a thing of the past, you are your own destiny, I invite you to stand with me offering our world and our women a different option. The option that there is hope, value, identity, worth and power in Jesus. He has a plan for our lives, and it may…no it will look different than what we think. But I can attest that it is far greater than any journey we’d go at alone.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know this: God has me here in New York City in the fashion and photography world for such a time as this. While my vehicle may change over time, my vision will remain the same: Love God. Love people.