Struggling to Forgive Yourself – Dallas Frisco Photographer-Me Ra Koh
Tiffany’s story is not the kind you hear every day. The pain she has walked through may be hard to fathom. But she holds out her story to you as an offering of light and hope that you might find hope and support in the struggle to forgive yourself. Regardless of what you’ve done, Tiffany’s life shows us all how self forgiveness is the anchor to living free from shame and guilt. May all these Rising Phoenix portraits and words, especially Tiffany’s powerful words, speak to your spirit in unexpected, beautiful ways.
Downward Spiral of Rejection
Tiffany felt rejected by her parents all growing up. She was given up for adoption and eventually became a resident at Cal Farley’s when she was fifteen. In her late teens and early twenties she became a victim of human trafficking. Desperate to be loved and accepted, she spiraled into drugs and suicidal attempts.
That last paragraph was so short, but there is a lot of life, pain, and trauma all through it.
Fast forward sixteen years, she is married to a wonderful man and has two beautiful daughters. “I have come to learn that God chose me before the foundations of the earth. There wasn’t a minute I wasn’t loved.” But struggling to forgive yourself is still something she faces. It creeps in when she is discouraged or overwhelmed.
Tiffany told me over the phone she needed this Rising Phoenix Experience because she needs to see her true self with CLARITY. “I feel a full on breakthrough is on the other side of this experience,” she said.
Meaning of Her Purple Dress
Tiffany wrote, “Struggling to forgive myself bound me to situations, people, places, and things I was actively fighting to outgrow and conquer. I hated myself for not escaping sooner, not standing up for myself sooner, not fighting for my life. I lived a life surrendered…to defeat. And I blamed myself for everything that happened and played the “if only” game. “If only I would have _____ then I wouldn’t have been ______ (beaten, trafficked, raped…). I made excuses for every abuser I had fallen victim to. They received my grace while I reserved shame for myself.“
Those last two sentences are so powerful.
How many of us play the “if only” game too? We don’t have to experience Tiffany’s story first hand to know how defeating that mental game can be.
Her Rising Phoenix Experience is about being able to see every day that she has had VICTORY over that “if only” game. And it started with the color purple.
Tiffany never wears purple, but as she was looking and praying about what to wear for her Rising Phoenix Experience the color purple kept coming to her. She decided to dig into the meaning of purple and was in tears when she realized the color is symbolic of DIGNITY. With tears streaming down her face, she told me her dignity had been beat, drugged and trafficked out of her, but God is restoring it. He wants her to see herself clothed in dignity.
With her hand on her heart, with the joy set before her, she leads the way for her two daughters and other women to follow her to a land of freedom, restoration and wholeness.
What Her 14yr Old Daughter Said
I did calls with both of Tiffany’s daughters before her Rising Phoenix day. They both adore their mom! Her 14 yr old daughter said, “My mom is a really kind and loving person. She puts others before herself. And she has a very funny sense of humor–it’s cheesier than dad jokes!”
I asked her what she hopes her mom’s Rising Phoenix portraits will remind her everyday, and her answer is so powerful. “Any bad things that have happened in the past only make you stronger for the future All my mom’s struggles made her stronger. And she is such a fun person.”
What Her 9yr Old Daughter Said
“My mom is loving. She loves us a lot and tells us all the time. My mom is kind. If I’m struggling with writing a story or math, she helps me a lot. She helps me with things that are hard. And she makes up a lot of mom jokes. Her laughter is pretty loud and a little high pitched than her natural voice. When I hear her laughing, it makes me feel happy because she’s happy.”
Since Tiffany’s youngest is only 9yrs old, I wasn’t sure if she’d understand my next question. But WOW, I’m so glad I still asked!
“What do you hope these Rising Phoenix portraits will remind your mom every day?” I asked.
Without hesitation her 9yr old answered, ““Who she truly is on the inside. My mom is never rude in any way, she’s always helpful.”
I know that over the years, I’ve worried if my kids were asked what they think of when they think of mom, they might talk about the broken parts of mom. How my trauma has affected me. Sometimes it can be hard for us to see anything beyond our own pain. We can assume our kids see the same. That’s why these calls can be so POWERFUL. Tiffany got to hear first hand what her daughters see and love most about their resilient mom.
Waves of Healing, Fragrance of Beauty Restored
There is so much to share about this powerful Rising Phoenix Experience. It was such a sacred day. We would take a few photos and then both sit, pause, take a deep breath and let tears fall. It was like waves of healing kept rolling through the studio, waves washing away her struggle to forgive herself.
The night before, she saw beautiful magnolias blooming and decided spontaneously to bring them to her photo shoot. Tiffany had no idea magnolias are the floral symbol of Dignity. There is a verse in Song of Solomon that says “Awake, north wind! Rise up, south wind! Blow on my garden and spread its fragrance all around.” I kept seeing the fragrance of Tiffany’s healing story blowing in every direction, reaching countless hearts. It is the fragrance of beauty restored.
“When you don’t forgive yourself you rob yourself of the space, time, and permission to heal,” Tiffany shares.
“It has taken me several years of wielding a sword and fighting against every lying accusation, every self doubt, every insecurity, every ounce of unforgiveness that was sent to destroy me. There were days I was so tired of fighting I asked the Lord to take me – I didn’t want to kill myself but some days the load was still so heavy, the fight was so hard, and I just wanted to be in Heaven. I was wounded, I was weary, yet somehow I found the strength to continue to fight.
When I asked Tiffany to describe her resilience her first word was WARRIOR. “God put a warrior in me.”
“This woman is a warrior, a Joan of Arc. She has defeated the enemy and seized the stolen treasures, restoring what was once lost. Her beauty is timeless and flawless. There is a stillness about her that exudes a strength beyond measure, a resolve that cannot be broken, a spirit that cannot be tamed.
She doesn’t worry and she isn’t afraid. When the time comes, she wars with a fierce love from the place of victory. She embodies Proverbs 31… “Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure…”
“This woman is me,” she said.
I’ll never forget this moment in our studio. Tiffany took the sword, and I felt like she needed to sit with it. I kept thinking about how her husband said her resilience has such beautiful poise. With all the battles she has fought, she has also learned how to rest. And yet, her hand still grips that sword ready to wield it at a moment’s notice.
Her Powerful Words
“Don’t ever mistake my peace with passivity, though, deep inside there is a Lion’s Roar that speaks out against injustice and calls out the greatness in others. It breaks barriers, shackles and shame, and leads to freedom,” Tiffany shares.
“Truth is the key to unlocking that struggle to forgive yourself. I had to accept the truth of what has happened to me, the depths of depravity. I had to find the girl in me who just wanted to be seen and loved.
When I found her, I saw her raw innocence. She was worthy of more, and if she is a part of me that means I am worthy of more. I asked her to forgive me for not being her protector, for not standing up for her.
The weight of the abuse lifted.”
How could I not love something so pure and innocent?
“I no longer surrender to defeat, I surrender to my King. All that I carried, I laid down at His feet and He has crowned me with dignity, grace, and resilience. The innocence I thought I lost, I suddenly found. I found self worth in Him. My wholeness and healing came.”
Tiffany’s beauty transcends anything physical or tangible. It is the beauty of a deep healing and restoration that she has fought for day after day. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled up this Warrior portrait and cried. Part of me sees myself in this warrior. I see the many broken hearts I’ve met the last thirty years since I first published Beauty Restored. And I am overwhelmed at how God can take the most shattered soul, struggling to forgive herself, and set her free to rise higher than she could ever fathom.
She is working on her first book about all the gold she has mined from going deep into the caverns of her soul to find healing. Can you imagine how powerful this book is going to be with all the words she’s shared so far! I got to do a Discovery Call with her counselor, Brenda, and I love how she described Tiffany’s resilience as “contemplative about what’s happening around her, how she reflects, takes it to God. She has a gracious style about communicating…I know Tiffany has a voice for many who can’t speak.”
The Purpose of Her Artwork Placement
A few days after Tiffany’s Rising Phoenix Collection was installed, I asked her how it felt to see it every morning when she wakes up. I was in tears reading what she shared.
“The location of my Rising Phoenix Collection is very intentional. I wanted my pictures somewhere I could see them first thing in the morning, last thing at night, AND while I sat in my chair to read and write.
I have NEEDED a constant reminder of who I really am.
The things this woman has said to me already in just a couple of days has blown my mind. And, in due time, you’ll be able to read all the wisdom she’d like to lovingly impart to others.
This woman stands on the other side of every battle, gently leading me through. There is a peace and a gentleness about her that envelopes me, wrapped up in genuine joy.
This woman captivates me with an innocence, purity, and child-like wonder. She’s in a place of complete trust and contentment. She reminds me it is well with my soul.
This woman is me.”
16 Year Anniversary of Overdosing
We timed her Rising Phoenix Collection to arrive from Italy and be installed on the 16 year anniversary of when she overdosed. The doctors announced her dead, but God wasn’t done with her. He gave Tiffany a second chance. Several minutes later, she started breathing again. Her heart started beating. She had hit rock bottom, but she grabbed hold of life that night in the hospital.
Her friends that knew her then and are still beside her today came for her Reveal Party. It was this beautiful celebration of how far Tiffany has come–all that God has redeemed and restored–and with her family and friends as witnesses, her Rising Phoenix took flight like never before!
Becky, who was at the hospital 16 years ago when Tiffany died is still by her side today. She described Tiffany today as strong, courageous and bold. “If there is anyone who has been burnt down to the bottom of the bottom and has come back, and is only getting stronger as she goes, it’s Tiffany.” When Tiffany looks at her Rising Phoenix portraits, Becky hopes she remembers that “Even though her day may feel hard, she sees it and remembers how she rose from the ashes–from her past and THIS is where she is going.”
Jen Sulak (with the pink hair 🙂 described Tiffany’s superpower as the Lion’s Roar! “Her voice is amplified and pushes back the powers of darkness.” Jen was recently featured in an episode with my Sony sister, Brooke Shaden, on Alpha Universe called Facing Fear in creativity. These three friends are POWERHOUSES, OUT OF THE BOX, and LOYAL through it all!
Her Husband’s Confession
Tiffany met her husband shortly after that life changing overdose experience. To say they have been through a lot is an understatement. I’m in awe of how much God has healed, the JOY on their faces, and their love for each other.
Her husband confessed to me and Brian at her Reveal Party that he didn’t think this experience would be that meaningful. He didn’t understand why she wanted to do it and the investment she was willing to make. Then with the biggest smile, he looked at her Rising Phoenix Portraits and said, “That is how I’ve always seen my wife. Now she gets to see every day how beautiful she really is.”
What an awesome husband! These two would be the first to say this life has been far from easy. But they have also experienced the overwhelming love of God that makes ALL things new. Their family is the living testimony.
Tiffany holds out her story, light filling her hands, and hopes you will feel a little less alone in the struggle to forgive yourself. That regardless of what choices you’ve made, you will give yourself space, time, and permission to heal because you are worthy of these very things.
A Recent Interview with Sony
I did a recent interview with SONY for their Alpha Universe podcast. We have been partners since 2007, and they have seen my photography evolve many times. There is so much I could say about the importance of giving yourself and your work permission to evolve. They asked me to talk about this last year’s focus on resilience and the Rising Phoenix.
It’s such an uncommon business focus. To say we solely focus on capturing and celebrating the Rising Phoenix within others is pretty narrow. It’s not a seasonal campaign or promotion. This is what we do. But in almost 20 yrs of being a professional photographer, I have never felt more honored and heart-satisfied to do what we do. I told the interviewer I feel like God has been preparing, training and teaching me and Brian for the last 20 years to do this very thing. It pulls on all our strengths, passions, and skills. This transformational experience we give people is our purpose.
Tiffany, thank you for stepping into a sacred space with me where we together created a reflection of your resilience, your Rising Phoenix. My life is deeply impacted knowing you and your story.
What is a Rising Phoenix Experience?
This is about you finally seeing the truth of who you are. Seeing your resilience on the wall every day, reminding you of who you are, transforms you from the inside out. If you are overwhelmed with all the reasons why you shouldn’t invest time or money in yourself, I want you to pause and think of all the obstacles you have overcome in your life whether it’s a weight loss journey, depression, anxiety, cancer, the seasons changing with kids leaving the nest, the list goes on and on.
You’ve most likely given to everyone else. The time has come to give something transformational and lasting to you. Just read the following stories.
Have you achieved a weight goal (read Jamie’s inspiring story of never going back after significant weight loss). Maybe you’ve overcome a serious illness, been promoted in your career, pivoted with resilience in your career, or found healing from something painful in your past? Like Tiffany, you need a deeper healing from childhood trauma. You’ve done the counseling but still struggle to see the truth about who you are. Or maybe you’re turning 40, 50, 60 or 70+ and feel the need to reflect and celebrate who you are and the possibilities of what this next season of life holds?
The first step is to fill out our Phoenix inquiry; CLICK HERE.
Michelle Found Courage to Step Beyond Grief
Meet Michelle. She is definitely someone who has known great courage. At one time, she was an interrogator for the US military in the Middle East. This 5’4 woman knows confidence. But two years ago, the loss of her mom changed her life.
There are some seasons in life when we feel unshakeable courage and other seasons that leave us feeling lost. After great loss, it takes great courage to step forward.
Kristina Overcame Cancer
Meet beautiful Kristina who overcame cancer! Even though she was thankful to have defeated this enemy, she struggled with seeing the scar that remained. Once she stopped to think about all of the incredible obstacles she has overcome, she realized that now was the time to celebrate the strong woman she is today. The Phoenix Portrait Experience allowed her to celebrate not only the healing but also embrace this scar. Now every morning Kristina wakes up to see that brave, powerful woman on her bedroom wall. Nothing will ever stand in her way again.
Click Here to see her Phoenix Portrait Experience!
Crystal drove to us from Las Vegas.
A single woman who has always been known for being responsible and quiet, yet there is another side of her that wants to come out. A side that is brave and takes risks—that believes she is worthy of doing something special not just for others but for herself too. Every time Crystal looks up from her computer in her home office, she wants to be reminded of that part of her who is beautiful and brave.
All these women have something in common, they were ready to …
Rise above the ashes of what other people have said
Rising above their fear and doubts
Embracing their beautiful Rising Phoenix within.
Through our Portrait of a Phoenix Experience, they not only did something special but transformational.
I want to invite you to experience it too!
The Portrait of a Phoenix Experience includes:
- Signature Phone Calls with You and Loved Ones
- Professional Hair & Makeup
- Wardrobe Consultation & Vision
- Phoenix Photo Shoot with Me Ra Koh (Sony Artisan, Disney Host, and Live with Kelly & Ryan Guest Expert—You’re in good hands. I will pose you, drop shadows and light on you in the most flattering way that radiates your Phoenix Rising.)
- Same Day Cinematic Reveal & Custom Design Session with our In-House Design Specialist
- Beautiful Artwork of Your Rising Phoenix, Custom Designed for the Best Place where it will Speak Truth to You Every Day.
CLICK HERE to fill out the inquiry and begin your Rising Phoenix Experience!
I can’t wait to speak soon!
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