Falling In Love Again // PASSION 2018 Photo Journal

It’s becoming one of my favorite traditions.  To pack up the thickest clothes I own, borrow the ones I don’t own because I’m a Floridian, pack them as lightly as possible and road trip with my bunch of crazies, lots of coffee, & little sleep.  It’s always astounding how much love, disagreement, and worship we can cram into four days.

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This year finally felt like we got a groove.  Things ran smoothly and the challenges that remained were mostly internal.  I found even the painful things were given the attention they needed to provide growth & clarity so that the rest was truly fun.  We acted like a team, or better yet, a family, helping each other fight those battles and praying over each other fervently.

This trip reminded me that my biggest issue, the thing that gets in my way, and the thing that I find conflict with the most, is me.

I am my own biggest obstacle between me and God.

Even as I write this I’m condemned by “I don’t have the words”, “I can’t figure out where to take this”,  & “I can’t write what I want to” when all along I know it’s God’s words I want written through me.

In everything I feel opposition, the common factor is me.  Friends & family are my support & protection far more than they are my conflict.  I am my conflict.

  Every commitment I make, every time I fail, every emotion that is too overwhelming to bear, comes back to the fact that I am unable, on my own strength, to do anything well.  I’m learning all over to rely on God, but there was another realization before this one, that made admitting my own failure significantly easier.

Jesus loves me.  Yes this I know.  But have I let the Bible tell me so?  Have I allowed Him to wrap His arms around me?  Have I embraced Him as a being that cares for me and love Him back?  Have I declared in my actions that I belong to Him and let Him take my weakness & make it strong?

God is not something I can set aside and expect to pick up where I left off.  Our relationship needs work just like any other face-to-face relationship does, both ways.  I need to be in the Word.  I need to be praying.  I need to vocalize my love for my Lord.

His name alone is blessed!  (Psalm 113:2)  Who am I to go to Him with constant requests without even acknowledging how deeply He loves me and reciprocating that to Him?

I have fallen in love with my Lord, again.  And I’m astounded by how much He loves me!  Beyond what He did for my salvation and my 21 years of life on earth, last week alone He used 20 hours & 1,200 miles roundtrip on the road to listen to His praise, 25 people that I treasure to wipe my tears, and 6 sessions of speakers screaming His word, all to simply tell me,

“I love you.”

I am overwhelmed by God’s love; unending, unrelenting, unconditional.  I am re-learning to delight in Him, to keep His commands, to see Him in the characteristics He has hidden in the people around me, and to speak to Him as to a friend.

John Piper said it best, “We were reconciled to God the person, not reconciled simply to get into Heaven or out of hell.  We take joy in God the person, not only things He does or makes for us; we use those things to get to know HIM.”

If you truly love God more than His gifts to you, you’ll be satisfied in His will no matter how it aligns or doesn’t align with yours.  “In every act & thing of creation the love of God is made manifest for us to taste Him & lead us further into Him so we can love Him directly.” – John Piper

0230faec-47d0-444f-b572-9a8dffb8823b“The 7th piece of armor in Ephesians 6: is prayer.  God’s house is a house of prayer, not great preaching, great singing, lights, fog or cafés.  We need to take up the weapon of prayer.” – Priscilla Shirer

“Salvation is not based on you, it’s placed on you.” – Levi Lusko

I’m getting out of the way.  I’m letting Jesus love me, speak through me, and work in me because I can’t do it myself.  I’m allowing myself to delight in Him!  & I’m letting love open the gates for His strength to flood me to accomplish His will because my strength is drained.  I am falling in love all over again, and I’m finally out of the way.

“But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”
Psalm 71:14-16

1.9.2018

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Our Love Story // The Proposal Photo Journal

Tuesday, August 15, 2017. On a pallet platform, under string lights and baby’s breath, and beside our family, I said yes to the proposal that outdid the proposals of my dreams.

I’m engaged to my best friend!

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With the ring on and wedding date in the works, I felt it was time to document the dating chapter of our love story and share it in more depth with those who have loved and supported us so dearly.

it all started with chipotle…
hahaha, you think I’m kidding.

God’s absolutely divine plan for Michael & I to meet, build a relationship, and love each other actually started long before either of us were born, and I’m so calmed to know God is 100% in control and I am not, because I nearly let the good one get away.

Michael and I both grew up homeschooled in South Florida, attended a homeschool P.E group called S.A.I.N.T.S and had many mutual friends but didn’t meet until Fall of 2015. Our paths came so close, but were not yet ready to cross.

The first time I met Michael he visited Wednesday evening service, invited by some of said mutual friends, and went to our traditional post-church gathering at Chick-fil-A.  I already knew the friend he came with so we caught up and he introduced me to Michael so over milkshakes and waffle fries I got to know him.

Nothing crossed my mind. Yet.

As we left Chick-fil-A he complimented the curls in my hair. Blurting it out like he had been wanting to say it all night. I was caught off guard and desperately shy, but thanked him, and now I realize the roots had started to take place.

Michael started coming to the Sunday evening bible study I’ve been a part of for the last few years. He joined the worship team, that I shortly thereafter took over, and we bonded over worship practices and talks about our mutual love for chipotle.  He had me at chipotle, or something romantic & cheesy like that…

We “talked”. We updated each other when chipotle coupons were released.  We rubbed in a photo when one got chipotle to make the other crave it.  And then we were talking about work and passions and school and emotions and worship songs and and sharing scriptures and testimonies and the weather and anything that could continue conversation.

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And then we went to chipotle.

I was planning a night of worship, so Michael offered to help choose songs and layout the set, at chipotle.  By now I knew what was coming and I was intrigued, so I agreed.  This was our first ice breaker, hours of talking and planning the worship set until the guacamole was gone.

If you’ve spent any time with us you’ve probably heard our joke, “Third time’s a charm.”  He asked me out that evening at chipotle, but we didn’t actually begin dating until roughly five months later.  We talked and prayed but twice we discussed the desire and both times there was just no peace about it.  After the second no I thought God was making himself clear, but I had the feeling I let the good one get away, and I never ‘got over him.’  But God’s plan prevailed, and after building a stronger friendship and enduring a lot more growth as individuals, the pieces finally settled into peace.

On September 19th, 2016, I became his girlfriend.

Since then we’ve enjoyed countless adventures and had our disagreements along the way.  We’ve learned to communicate, to pursue, study, & learn each other, to be patient and to reflect the other constantly back to Christ.

Then, on the pallet platform, under string lights and baby’s breath, and beside our family, I said yes to the proposal that outdid the proposals of my dreams.  He pulled off the greatest surprise, had our family there to celebrate, captured it in photos, and now we are embarking on the new adventure of marriage!

I’ve often heard it said that life is full of struggles, no matter how much you’ve struggled up to now, still more struggles are ahead, and one of the biggest decisions in this life is choosing who you are going to struggle with.  I have found the one my soul loves; the one who cherishes me, the one I want to struggle with & smile with.  This is the man I am going to spend my life with, do ministry with, and raise a family with.

This is the man I’m going to marry!
Michael, I love you!

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Thank you to our parents, siblings, & grandparents who not only helped pull off a beautiful proposal but have loved, supported, and encouraged us in our entire relationship and to our dear friend Pam for capturing these photos!

Colossians 3:14 (ESV)
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

8.26.2017

Kindling the Soul // Peace River // Photo Journal

“to shine on the outside you have to BURN on the inside”
– Pastor Doug Sauder

Sunday in church that sentence rang in my ears while the muscles in my arms reminded me how sore they were & my heavy eye lids reminded me how tired I was.  But every bit of soreness made me smile.

Saturday’s canoe trip may have taken a toll on my achy muscles and energy levels, but it fueled the fire in my soul.  A little laughter, exploration, and a few deep breaths of fresh air with people you love can be absolutely medicinal.  & I absolutely love the people of Koinonia.

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From fear of spending too much time on myself and missing opportunities to fuel others, I find I don’t kindle my soul enough.  But I’m learning the balance.  I was so refreshed by this exhausting trip.  Crazy, I know!  I nearly didn’t go at all due to exhaustion and injury, but it was definitely the reset button I needed.

Peace river was my kindling.  To get through the last 46 days of school.  To keep serving with a smile.  To keep burning for Christ.

I can do nothing of my own strength.  I have to remind myself of this every. single. day.  The Lord is my sole source of strength, that’s my reset button.

Thank you to my dear friends of Koinonia for reminding me of that, and for supporting me by always pointing me back to Jesus.

I am constantly surrending control back to God, stubbornly trying to take over, and surrending to Him again.  He never fails to take my pieces & need for control and give me peace.

This peace kindled my soul.

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Proverbs 3:5  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (ESV)

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (ESV)

Psalm 28:7  “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (ESV)

41 people.  20 canoes.  15 miles of river.  5 hours of driving.  1 sweet memory.
3.25.2017

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Disney World // Photo Journal Slideshow

This semester I took my first photography class with Liberty University Online.  This was a dream!  Not only did it strengthen my basic knowledge of photography and heighten the quality of my photos, it gave me a deeper level of joy and gratitude in each photo I take.

My final assignment was to do a slideshow of original photos, and this past trip to Disney proved to be the perfect opportunity to collect some memories!  Photographs are my favorite medium, and I hope that through these photos (which were extremely difficult to narrow down) you get to experience not only the joy I get in taking these photos, but some Disney magic!

Thank you to Michael, John-Marc, Matt, Elliot, & Mitchel for their patience in enduring my endless shooting this weekend!

Liberty University
ARTS 361

the truth about writing

Lately I’ve been desperate to write.  To update this site.  To update you all on some adventurous part of my life.  But it’s been a struggle.  I long for some poetic and profound words to flow and inspire you.  Truth be told, I haven’t felt inspired.

I want to encourage you in some way.  Inspire you to be creative, bold, productive, or unique.  I want to bring you words of comfort.  But I haven’t known what to say.  Truth is, writing is not always writing.

Lately, the blank paper has begun to taunt me.  Without words to put down the white expanse stares me down, tantalizingly challenging me.  It tells me to try, but my words won’t be good enough.  It tells me to try, but I’ll be disappointed in myself.  It tells me to try, but no one will read it anyway.  
I tried switching from paper to digital hoping for a disconnect from the dreadful voice.  Digital seemed easier, faster, more productive by 21st century standards.  No longer having to run my fingers across paper’s sensitive pores, I could simply type away.  Without the emotional connection, detest at my own handwriting, or smudged ink slowing me down.   But the blank screen shouts the same threats.
Even faster than I can get the words down, I stretch my smallest and most fearful finger to the back space key, tapping it repeatedly like a fearful case of OCD locks the door 17 times for assured safety.
Just like that it’s all gone.
It was terrible anyway, so I try again.  This time it flows a little longer and I get an entire stream of thought out and breathe to re-read it.  It’s terrible.  It’s not complete.  What else could I say?  It’s too obvious.  A child could write this.  It’s not original, everyone knows this anyway.  I have better things to do with my time.  The timid tapping begins, each pixel is deleted and the door is locked for the 34th time.
I think back to the times I stared paper down before and conquered it.  How it magically turned into a tool, how I wrote the sweetest poem or blog post or letter that I’m still so proud of to this day.
But I’ll never live up to again.  
I don’t remember what inspired me.  How I got past the blank paper.  How I was content with the words.  These days I listen to and read other words so much that I’m filled up with ideas, stories, and truths.  I get inspired but find myself paraphrasing someone else’s idea and sadly realize I have nothing to add.  It’s not mine to share.  It’s cool, but it’s not me, it’s not new, and it’s not who I want to be.  So I sheepishly stretch out my pinky, tap, and the door is locked for the 51st time.
Truth is, writing is painful.  It’s pouring yourself out and exposing parts of yourself you may not want to.  It’s not all the artistic sweet posts, best selling books, or top charting song lyrics.  It’s exercise, stretching you constantly and making you sore.  It often takes turning off all the other voices and distractions, asking yourself a hard question, and following through with the answer.
Inspiration doesn’t always fall in your lap, you have to work for it.
If you want to be a writer, that’s the truth.  Anything fruitful is going to come after planting, watering, and struggling.  I want to be a writer.  So I’ll keep staring, battling, watering, growing, typing, erasing, re-typing, and struggling, until I get to the writing.  I’ll tame that timid finger, and leave the door unlocked.
2.21.2017

PASSION 2017 // Photo Journal

“Adventure is out there”

This week was one of the most challenging and fruitful adventures I think I’ve ever ventured on.  21 people, traveling and living together, encountering God together, & battling spiritual warfare together.

Day 1: Three packed cars caravanned from Davie, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.  We ran late due to traffic, arrived nearly freezing rain, and finally joined 55,000 other college students to worship in the Georgia Dome.  Later, we had our own devotional as a community group in the house we were renting.

Day 2: Four PASSION sessions in one day is like drinking from a fire hose.  Add in navigating an unfamiliar city and temperatures in the forties, and it’s exhausting.  But God’s Word never returns to Him void, and it overwhelmed my soul like a wildfire.

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Day 3:  We sat closer for the last session and looking up from the floor at the vast amount of people all singing to one Lord and Savior blew my mind!  Having another devotional time at the house refreshed me immensely.  Exploring downtown from a horse drawn carriage and breaking bread together (okay it was pizza) definitely revived my energy.

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Day 4: With a final devotional and meal in the house, we re-packed our caravan and headed home.  A long car ride provided a sweet time for me to rest my body & mind, and process all that God did and taught me this week.

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We faced massive spiritual warfare throughout these four days.  There were disagreements, delays, and unintentional emotional daggers.  But God, oh that is truly my favorite phrase.  But God, crushed us intentionally.  He allowed us to struggle in order to bear greater fruit and the fruit still blooming now that we are home is oh so sweet.

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He taught me to breathe.  He taught me to love at all times.  (Proverbs 17:17)  He taught me to forgive.  He brought me to know the grace and love He pours out on me and broke down the dam in my heart to let that continue flowing through me and into the hearts of others & to instead build a dam of humility, patience, and love blockading the rivers of strife that flow in every human heart.

“If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.  The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  Proverbs 17:13-14

Despite the challenges we faced I’m so glad we made this trip.  I’m glad we got to know each other more intimately.  Our pain will not be wasted.  I’m grateful we were seen worthy enough to embrace a challenge.  I learned so much about keeping my eyes on other people and caring for them more carefully and vocalizing how I love them.  I also learned to keep myself accountable to my own advice and practice everything I preach.

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“When you know Jesus, nothing in this world can satisfy.” – Beth Moore

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 4:12-14

“Train for the trial you are not yet in.” – Levi Lusko

2017-01-05-05.22.44-1.jpg.jpg21 strangers did not embark on this trip, 21 family members united in Christ did.  We survived this trial because we have trained for it before we knew what it was and we have a common hope in Christ.  Nothing can shake that hope and like natural elements are crushed to produce the sweet fragrance of essential oils, we were crushed to produce a sweet fragrance to our Father.

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This week I learned to be passionate for others through my passion for Christ, to prefer God above all else, and choose to actively love His people every day as He loves me.  If you haven’t faced spiritual warfare yet, you will.  Please train for that trial!  Dig into the Word and be sure you are perceiving life through the lens of the gospel and your hope will endure.  I will not waste my pain because Christ did not waste His and I will love because He loves me.

My dear koinonia family, I love you all so deeply!  Thank you for suffering with me and loving me even during trials.

1.6.2017

4J Ranch // Kenansville Photo Journal

​For a second consecutive year I spent December 31st ringing in a new year camping on a friends’ land (lovingly dubbed 4J Ranch) beyond the reach of cellular data service and social media’s grasp.  I must admit, I found a spot where I could connect enough for a brief post/update every now & then, but during family meals, outings to the shooting range, or truck photoshoots by the lake, my phone did not have the power to blare distracting notifications interrupting time with my family.  This made all the difference in clearing my mind from constant clouds of thought. 

Where the cell service fades, nature revives.  Where the street lights cease to exist, the stars shine brighter.  Where car horns & screeching brakes are no longer audible, laughter grows louder.

In the gentler sounds of nature and family banter I began to reflect on 2016 as I imagine everyone has been doing lately, and I felt freshly washed in peace.  Peace in reflecting on the year and peace in saying goodbye to it.  I’m typically fearful of reflecting like this because I don’t want to get stuck dwelling on the past or open past wouds in recalling past hurts I’ve moved on from.  But now I’ve found myself content in learning from the past and then leaving it behind. (Hakuna Matata)  There is a delicate balance for each individual heart to manage this, there is no formula for it and it’s an overwhelming relief when you find yours. 

In 2016 I learned to embrace opportunities.  With God’s peace, I found fear far less effective against the joys of the unknown.  In 2016 I learned to say goodbyes, and I learned peace in them too.  Peace has definitely been my lesson.  This year I sought the Lord for peace over & over again.  When you take the time and humble yourself in such a way as to pursue God.  The more you begin to know Him, the more you see He provides for your needs and fulfills your hearts desires above and beyond expectations.

Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 (ESV) “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

It’s a beautiful thing to me, that many of our most precious moments and best memories haven’t even happened yet. There are so many adventures at hand and waiting in the future and while I cherish the memories of the past, I’m excited to take what they taught me onward and at peace with God being my captain in this ever raging sea we call life.

Dear 2017, don’t take me back, push me forward.  Propel me to growth.  To new adventures.  To deeper knowledge.  To new adventures, new challenges, and new trials.

To everyone who propelled me to growth and made memories with me in 2016, thank you.  Without you my writing would be dry and empty as would my heart and I cherish you all. 
2016 // 2017

4J Ranch // Kenansville Photo Journal

1.2.2017