Craving a space to breathe [and unpack the boxes].

When May rolls around, I find myself buried in bed sheets and old journals, forcing myself to see what I’ve learned in the past year. It’s easy to close out another school year and feel like I’m in the same place, but that’s never really the case. This time, school has ended, but I’m actually back at home for about 2 weeks before heading straight into being a videographer for WinShape Girls Camp (SUPER exciting stuff!!!). That also means that this is the first time I’ve had to move all of my stuff home, which was quite scary because there was entirely too much stuff, but I also have to pack up my childhood bedroom because my parents are preparing to move. I also have to pack for camp, and it’s honestly like my bed is an island in a sea of boxes of dorm stuff and old stuff. It’s quite chaotic.

There’s a lot of stuff. A lot of memories. And honestly, I’m quite tempted to toss it all and start all over (I’m not going to do that, but some mornings I wake up and definitely want to). I’ve had to go ahead and start thinking about post grad, learning how to save a lot of money while still buying stuff for camp and summer fun things.

I also got the AWESOME opportunity to share what God has been up to in my life in the past year at Stonecreek Wake (the student ministry where I became a Christian), alongside some awesome people who have also shared time in the ministry. It looked like a lot of talking about restoration, the dreams God has put in my heart, and learning what it means to follow Him in new ways.

Life is really wild right now, but I’m a big fan of it.

I feel like God has surrounded me with people He intended to have take care of me. Thank you, Jesus, for your kindness and your attention to details in the way I receive and feel love the best. Thank you for your solidarity. Even when the ocean around me is in complete chaos, hurricane season, if you will, you have set me secure on the oil rig.” 5/28/2016

Reflecting used to be one of my most favorite things in the world, but now I’ve found it to be a very difficult thing. Finals have finished. I’ve got a few days at home under my belt, the perfect balance of creating a morning routine and doing things to still push myself. I’m learning how to get back in the habit of writing every day, cutting back on coffee, and drinking more water. Let me tell you, it’s a whole lot easier to eat healthy at home because there’s a kitchen where everything is conveniently located. It’s been a slow and beautiful past few days though. However, still difficult and painful to process because I’ve spent the last year and a half shoving difficult things to the back of my mind, half-heartedly promising to “deal with it” later.

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now, trying to undo the knots in my head and in my heart because anything else I gave to you would be inauthentic. I said, “This will be real or it will be nothing,” and that’s the way I’ve felt about God lately. He’s either real, or He’s not. (Spoiler alert: He is, it is just taking me a while to sink deep in that).

I opened my Bible the other morning for the first time in months, or at least the first time I was really ready to confront God and learn more about Him without complaining about not knowing Him while not being in His Word. I’m not really in that place I used to be at with God, where you’re mad at someone but you can still sit down to lunch with them. I’ve grown more stagnant because I wasn’t willing to unpack a lot of baggage I’ve shoved into the back of my closet.

I have never found myself so desperate for God from such a stagnant place. I have needed God in my deepest valleys, but I’ve looked up to find the person beside me and clung to them. Every time. But I have never really been in this place, not steeped in strong emotion, not wanting to cling to anyone, and needed so desperately to cry out to God. I don’t have anyone to latch onto, but that’s a very good thing, and I don’t feel alone either. It’s a strange place to be in, and to be quite honest, I haven’t had the words for that until now.

I am very aware of my deep need for God.

I need not retreat into a quiet space or my work or academia or even into another person, but to fall headfirst and backward into the deep love and mercy of Jesus. That will be my greatest treasure and my deepest freedom: to know Christ fully, wholly, and with abandon.

I keep asking God to just show me how wonderful He is. He already is awesome and wonderful, but I want to recognize that and be inspired by the ultimate Creator. It is much more difficult to become discouraged when our hearts are knit to His and we take the time to slow down and recognize that. He is so big, mighty, and we’ve already been risen in His Victory. We are victorious over all of our fears, doubts, and anxiety because of His Victory. That is such a sweet reminder that I have needed for so long.

So, basically it felt like I was learning nothing from God for a very long time, but now it’s this steady incline of realizing He has been slowly teaching me things the entire time. You know, I don’t want to view God as cryptic because He does not withhold good things from His children, but sometimes I do see Him as someone who holds an answer over my head and laughs while I jump. That is so not true. He is in the waiting. We don’t have to decipher Him; we have to be patient and quiet and wait for Him. In His strength will we find our stillness and victory.

I’m super excited about this summer, and I am expecting that God is going to do beautiful things. I’ve pushed myself from one thing to the next so quickly and haven’t taken the time to truly slow down and be still before God, so I am sure this will be a summer of healing and restoration.

I keep coming back to the idea that one day, we will get to be fully satisfied in beholding God and being in His presence while He heals ALL that has been broken.

I love new beginnings. And I hate endings. Long goodbyes are never enough. And I will never not have an entire well of tears. I also keep coming back to this piece of Scripture: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and He calls us to be the same. So I wake up some mornings and want to scream because I miss people so much or because bitterness takes chunks of my heart and makes it ache with resentment, but I remember that my God looks at me and loves me in my disgusting bitterness and hard heart. But He is merciful. He is gracious. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love. He is an overflowing well, and He will never cease to offer us a drink. Let’s receive it.

Here’s to learning how to receive mercy, but also start to show it again.

Get ready, there’s a lot more where this came from. Happy Fri-yayyy, and here’s to the weekend.

Creative Crack: #OscarsSoWhite

You may think, “#OscarsSoWhite happened so long ago. Why is this even a blog title right now?”

Have you ever seen a train wreck of a situation happen for a company and wonder who has to deal with it? Have you seen the issues with Pepsi, Sean Spicer, and United within the last couple weeks? Crisis Management is one of the most important facets of PR, and #OscarsSoWhite is a prime example of people who tried to deal with a crisis well.

Can anyone ever do anything perfectly? Of course not. Can we learn a thing or two about damage control when we work for companies that set themselves in the middle of the public eye? Absolutely.

#OscarsSoWhite helps us to see the steps a company, or in this case The Academy, take in order to come back from a situation that could have made people scoff at the idea of the Oscars for a long time to come. However, after a year of a mess, The Academy was able to put out a response after the 2016 Academy Awards, and they also were able to make a turn for the better during the 2017 Oscars.

So what did they do?

  • Confront the situation. Some companies decide not to say anything, and that may be the worst thing you could possibly do, aside from saying more terrible things. However, the Academy came out with a statement when they were under fire for having all-white nominees for two years in a row. They stated the facts and started a dialogue with the public. They released the following statement on Twitter (the best form of social media when in a crisis):
  • Actions speak louder than words. The president of the Academy announced in that message that the Academy would be seeking to diversify their membership, and while it hasn’t been a drastic change, it has been a slow and steady change that they have clearly worked on.
CNN
  • Time is of the essence. These were actions that took place within the week. The Academy had called together their Board of Governors for the association and released this statement. In it they said,

The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

  • Actions speak louder than words pt. 2. During the Oscars of 2017, actors who were not white were nominated for Oscars. Among those nominated were 3 black actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and a black actor and actress were in the running for Best Actress and Best Actor. However, the greatest accomplishment to note was Moonlight, with a predominantly black cast, won the Best Picture, and both Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor Oscars were taken home by Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali.
Business Insider
  • Perhaps the greatest thing we can learn though: Leave them talking…about something good. The night of the 2017 Oscars left people talking because the Best Picture was first, mistakenly, awarded to La La Land, and revoked to be handed to the cast of Moonlight. There is the smallest chance this was an accident, but there is a greater chance this was the Academy explicitly showing, “Look, we are taking this Oscar from an all-white cast and making a drastic change by handing the most prized Oscar to a cast of minorities.”

This may have been the most brilliant comeback I’ve ever experienced in terms of organizations with a voice in the arts making an actual difference and strides in diversity. What a moment. What a cast. What beautiful crisis management.

Creative Crack: What is vlogging?

Disclaimer: I’m not a vlogger. And I’ve never put out a vlog before. I’m a videographer. Not professionally, but I dabble in casual video, bought the GoPro, made some short videos, got a job as a videographer that could one day lead to something professional. Stay tuned for that, but anyway…

Let’s talk about:

[CASUAL VIDEO]

This is a newer form of promoting and using social media for the benefit of branding a company or a person. The videos are recorded using an iPhone (or a smart phone of your choice) and usually compiled using a basic movie-making software. These are not strict stipulations, but what’s important is that the video is easy to make and quick. The biggest benefit: it makes people feel a part of the story you’re telling, and to include may be one of your most powerful tools. Humans would much rather consume something quick, easy, and visually appealing than sit and read a long article because, let’s face it, our attention spans are only getting shorter.

So what is vlogging and why should you care about it?

Casual video has some similarities to vlogging. While casual video is usually used for the purposes of promoting quickly and inexpensively, vlogging is another quick way to share bits of your day or your story with people on the internet. A lot of videographers, celebrities, and even normal people like you and me do it. It gives people an inside look at other people’s lives.

A vlogger/YouTube star/videographer that has been taking the internet by storm is Casey Neistat. He is a filmmaker, YouTube personality, co-founder of the social media company Beme, and most recently, he sold Beme to CNN for $25 million, but he has also created daily vlogs to challenge himself in his video-creating abilities. This seems small in comparison to what else he does on a daily basis, but he’s able to capture bits of his day and share them with us. He emphasizes that it doesn’t take expensive equipment to be a talented videographer, it’s actually about learning the basics and learning how to be creative with what you have that makes you a talented videographer. He is a constant encourager to those trying to make it big on YouTube, proving anyone can do it with enough commitment and passion.

Why do I bring this up now?

Neistat took a break from his daily vlogs after doing them for almost two years. However, as those in the videography/vlog community have found out, Neistat has restarted the vlogs in the past few days.

And it all started with this:

He’s also made a how-to video for those who want to learn to vlog.

If you’re looking to be someone in the process of branding themselves, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Millennials, and humans in general, live by storytelling. Specifically, we live by the inside story. We love to feel close to the people we follow on social media, as if we could have been their friends all along.

Whether you’re a photographer or a writer or a videographer, it’s all about letting people in and having a sense of transparency in the way you brand yourself. Sometimes that means a series of social media posts sharing your story, and sometimes that means hopping in front of a video camera and testing out new shots, angles, ideas for the rest of the world to see.

Coming back to an abandoned house.

This space has been a bit of an abandoned house lately. Welcome back, let’s clear off the cobwebs and brew a fresh pot of coffee. I’m back and challenging myself to write now more than ever. I feel like I’ve got so much to learn (as we all do, all the time), but I’ve been pretty resistant to learning it. I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I used to, and it’s all just been piling up in my head. I think it’s healthy to take a break from the things we love sometimes, but this one is long overdue.

It’s been about 2 (almost 3, what) months since I’ve sat down and processed a lot of junk in my head and heart.

I used to be really angry with God, like for the past 6 months. And in the last few weeks, I’ve felt a shift in my heart. I guess I could qualify it as being a bit standoffish with God and also pushing Him back with locked elbows, for fear of Him entering into my dark places. And I didn’t realize my attitude had changed, but we were sitting in Bible study and my best friend said:

You know when you’re mad at someone, but you can still sit down over lunch with them? That’s where you’re at with God.


Because I had lived a lot of weeks where I just gave it up and was ready to walk. To put it blatantly, I didn’t want anything to do with God for a while, and some days are still like that. I didn’t want to know God. I didn’t want to feel His nearness. I wanted to convince myself He wasn’t real and that I had never experienced the incredible things He had done in my life. The only question I kept asking was: Is God real? But in the past few weeks, that question has shifted to: Who is God? And I didn’t realize that until it was pointed out to me. I had gone from, “I’m done with this. I don’t want any God in my life,” to, “Who is this God I’ve talked about for almost 4 years?” which I suppose is a better place to be. I’ve talked about Him like some sort of fairy tale character, but never as someone who lives so close and near to me. It’s always been an ideal I’ve set around God, but I expect Him to live inside of that.

Does it suck for me to write that? Absolutely. But I think there’s something to be said for the really grueling, difficult seasons of trying to know God that will make us come undone and put us back together. And disclaimer: I’m not on the other side of that. But I did find some reassurance in the people God has put around me, especially when I got to sit down with both of my bosses and try to qualify/articulate what the season has been like and what it’s meant for me. The best thing I was told was, “You’ll never completely figure Him out. You’ll always be asking questions.”

That was encouraging because honestly the past few months have felt like a National Treasure movie where I’m racing around trying to find clues that lead me back to God and one day there will be this marvelous answer that makes it all click. And one day there will be, when He comes back and we get to live with Him for eternity. But now, while I still live here, I have to cling to Him, the truths I know about Him, and the Love that will not let me go.

Some days I’m honeymooning with God and other days, I don’t want to look Him in the eyes. I want to talk about the idea of being chosen. “God chose you, and you’re waiting for Him to leave.”

Did this statement make me angry? Yes. Is it true? Absolutely.

There’s a line in a song we sang at church a few weeks ago actually, and it goes: “Oh Love, great Love, fear cannot be found in You. And there will never be a day, You’re uncertain of the ones You choose.” And it seems like such a big thing that I’ll never fully be able to understand, but I know there’s freedom buried deep in the middle of that, understanding you’re chosen by God. Do I still have a lot of questions surrounding that? Absolutely.

What does it mean that He chooses me? Does He actually choose me? How can I feel like He has chosen me? Are there people He doesn’t choose? What happens to them? If He doesn’t choose people, then is He not a good God? And the cycle of questions gets pretty vicious, and that word about hits exactly how I feel about God sometimes. I feel He can be a bit vicious, even though I don’t know that to be true. In my heart, it feels like He can be quite terrible, and I’m not even fully sure of why I think that. I see bad things happen to good people, and it makes me angry with Him, but I can only imagine it’s a childlike anger when a parent does something for their greater good that they don’t understand yet. It feels like my whole world though, thus the anger at misunderstandings.


I’m a huge movie person, and one of my favorites is a movie called About Time. Long story short, this awkward, ginger, Brit finds out the men in his family can time travel, but if he’s not careful, there’s a butterfly effect that could dramatically change specific events in his life. Great movie. Go watch it. Right now. Or when you finish reading. Anyway, there’s a quote at the end of the movie that put a new perspective on the way I look at my days. He says:

and-in-the-end-i-think-ive-learned-the-final-lesson-from-my-travels-in-time-and-ive-even-gone-one-step-further-than-my-father-did-the-truth-is-i-now-dont-travel-back-at-all-not-even-for-the-day

I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. Let that sink in. No, it’s not a piece of Scripture that we ought to meditate on, but I think it is worth thinking about and changing the attitude of our hearts. I know I struggle a lot with getting stuck in going through the motions and not really seeing people. I get stuck in routine, and don’t get me wrong, I love my routine, but I’ve got to wonder if we start to worship our routines and security when we get so fixed in our ways. We forget to fix our eyes on Jesus and everything becomes a mess.

And things have been busy (surprise, but when is life not busy?), and I’ve gotten entirely too comfortable in the busyness, but it’s been nice to have moments of discomfort in the midst of to-do lists and reading and working and organizing. I can feel God slowly beckoning me back into His presence where there is much more fulfillment than I could ever receive from good deeds and working nonstop. I know there is a satisfaction and completion in Christ, and I’ve stayed away from Him a lot lately. Being alone with God is super uncomfortable, like an awkward first date, but you can’t have a satisfying relationship with someone you never communicate with.

So I came off of a weekend where we had intentional time set aside to slow down and remember what it meant to be in God’s presence. And it was hard. You think it’ll be refreshing, and it is in a way, but when you leave some time with God thinking that all it would take is coming back to him and you still have a heaviness in your heart from shame and unforgiveness, it makes you not want to come back. But a relationship with Him is rewarding, so I will continue to cast my burdens on Him, as best I can, in the hopes that He will use this and me for His Kingdom. That is the most we can hope for: to be set free and used for His Kingdom.


So what am I leaving you with? A mess, but that’s where my head currently is, and I’m learning how to be honest about that and walk in it, not try to perfectly package up so I can explain it to people. I don’t know where I’m at, but I know I like parts of it. It’s a daily journey of learning to be satisfied with where God has me, even though I can’t qualify it and put it eloquently. It can be a bit confusing, but I suppose we wouldn’t behold the mystery of God with such awe if we knew exactly what it was He is doing. The waters are muddy, but I’m still wading around trying to find out exactly what’s going on. I’m not sitting still though, and I suppose that’s the thing that makes all the difference.

CURRENTLY I’M… #4

Loving: READING. I have spent more time with my head buried in a book than I have writing or on social media, so that’s been super rewarding. I became a total Harry Potter fangirl in the last 3 months and have finished all 7 books and (almost) all 8 movies. I dream of being a Weasley and could talk to you about Harry Potter all. day. long. Let’s get tea and talk if you also feel this way. #mischiefmanaged #isolemnlyswearimuptonogood #itsLeviOsa

Learning: Entirely too much about comm theory, but actually beginning to love it. I’m also learning more about sports from a sports comm class, which has been super interesting.

Reading: Finished the last HP book recently, and now I’ve been reading Garden City by John Mark Comer in the mornings and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at night. I’m also in a Utopias & Dystopias lit class right now, so that’s got me buried in a lot of books.

Eating: Food? There’s not anything I’ve been on a huge kick about lately. I have found a weakness for coconut milk lattes with toffee nut syrup from Starbucks lately though.

Excited about: SPRING BREAK. I will be sitting on the beach in less than 24 hours and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Also, I’ll be in Harry Potter World on Tuesday drinking Butterbeer and possibly crying from being so happy. Also, reading. I’ve been really excited about reading more.

Needing: Discipline to rest. It’s something I’ve become better about, slowing down and all, but it’s definitely still a struggle. I also got a cute greeting card from my mom in the mail this week, and I didn’t even realize I needed that, but I found myself tearing up in the post office, so here we are.

Thinking about: Future plans, which have me more excited than anxious, so that’s new. Stay tuned for more on that. Also, would love to be writing a lot more than I have been lately. Planning to write more poetry and fiction because I forgot how much I love both of those.

Thankful for: FRIENDSHIP!!!!!! People who know you and love you despite your brokenness, and even help you to heal and love your brokenness. That’s been such a beautiful thing that’s been so healing and freeing. Friendship is the greatest. Also, thankful for family who will drive all the way to Rome to visit me when I just need a taste of home at Berry.

Listening to: Ed Sheeran’s new album. On repeat. And singing “Perfect” and “Happier” and “Eraser” so loudly. And dancing to “Barcelona” and “Galway Girl” a lot. Big fan of this record.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-5-21-06-pm

Creative Crack: Let’s talk about branding.

Why is branding so important?

The better question: why would I pay $5 for a cup of coffee? Because the Starbucks Coffee brand is iconic. (Strap in because Starbucks is about to school you in incredible brand building and management). Because I’ll drink your decent coffee, pick up your beautifully printed handouts around your store, and stop my skimming of the NYTimes for your company. It’s a piece of our culture that we automatically associate with the word “coffee.”

How have they done it?

When we think brand, we initially just think of a logo, but the brand of a company is so much more than that. It’s how they are viewed in the eyes of the general public. The company’s pictures are eye-catching. The Starbucks logo has evolved in the most innovative way I have ever seen done by a company. People who have never touched a cup of coffee know this logo (all over the world). The graphics are sleek and appealing. They are very responsive on all of their social media. They participate in many community outreach events. They work their way into our early mornings, lunch breaks, and late evenings. And this is all the brand of Starbucks.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-11-49-59-am

SEO (search engine optimization) also helps. They may just be @Starbucks on all of their social media, but their brand name has the word “coffee” in it, and any post or article we find about them contains coffee multiple times.

They brand new products, like the Cascara Latte, in trendy ways that will get retweets and favorites, so the advertising is cheap and basically runs itself. All of their newest drinks, they automatically create a hashtag for, and this allows them to communicate easily with customers about specific topics. It’s brilliant, really.

They’ve even worked themselves into your daily workout. They run the gamut in terms of the audience they reach. Even the hipsters who only drink from local coffee shops probably have a special place for Starbucks Coffee in their hearts.

They even get themselves into the activist sphere of their buyers. Starbucks is a huge company for supporting veterans and the military, and they make sure to publicize about that (especially in their newsroom, which you can check out here). And coffee shops are generally seen as a space for community. Just because Starbucks is a multi-billion dollar corporation doesn’t mean they aren’t also that same community-based coffee shop we’ve all known and loved. They make sure to do good in the communities they are serving, whether that’s with a cup of coffee to get your day going or an event supporting veterans in your area.

These are a few, out of so many, of the things that contribute to Starbucks’ brand. What makes an even stronger brand is that they realize they are such an influential brand, not just in the States, but around the world, and they use that voice for good.

So I’ll always say, “Shop local,” when it’s an option, but in terms of huge companies that make the most dependable cup of black coffee when the mornings start early AND do some good in the world, I’d always choose Starbucks Coffee.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-5-21-06-pm

P.S. Creative Crack is a new series I’ve started to parallel with a Public Relations Writing class I’ve been taking. These posts will also carry out of this semester, especially when I find brands, graphics, etc. that set me on fire. Thanks for joining in on this journey.

restore.

In the past few years, whenever I’ve gotten closer to the new year, my thoughts and prayers have focused in on, What is God going to show me in this next year? It also offers up some time for reflection and remembering what God has done in the past year. I spent a year recognizing that I am operating in God’s strength, and the word “COURAGE” became something I clung to and learned about for most of 2016 (and still something I continue to learn about on the daily). In the importance of learning how to navigate seasons of intense emotion where it would have been easier to let emotions drive the bus, I learned so much about God’s nearness and the courage He has already equipped me with knowing that He is the one who numbers my days and directs my paths. And in seasons of doubt where I question His existence, let alone His nearness, there has been Light leading my way and the courage to keep on when answers remain hidden. I continually learned that all of our questions find their YES in Him.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” // 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV

This is a piece of Scripture that has kept coming into my mind, even in my lack of opening the Bible. And that’s even more where I feel that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. I walked away, and He persistently followed and continued to give me yeses, even when there was no need.

This brings me to the word that has been coming to my mind a lot lately. There is something so beautiful about learning how to be clothed in the strength and courage of God, but there is something much sweeter about understanding the freedom we have in Him to live out that courage and not become fearful or anxious when the courage doesn’t show up. The freedom is the good stuff, and I have spent a long time (read: a life time) not knowing how to be free of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and a smattering of other things. That’s why as this year comes to a close, I come back to the word “RESTORE.”

I will restore to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
    and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

JOEL 2:25-27 ESV

I read the Scripture and wept. This is Scripture I had probably heard once or twice out loud before, but I’d never really read it. I kept being reminded of the word “RESTORE” and I thought, God, I am not even worthy to use that word. I have never known great loss, how can this be what You have for me?

And I think the greatest loss has been not knowing Him more deeply. There has been so much baggage I continue to carry with me, whether it’s mine to carry or not. To carry my own unforgiveness toward other people, or to carry other people’s dissatisfaction, grief, anything that doesn’t belong to me, that’s all so exhausting. I’d like to say all that stuff is gone, but it’s not. When you cling to those memories and harbor those feelings, that unforgiveness is still very much there, and it weighs so heavily on the way we navigate everyday life, especially the hard days. That’s why we have to feel the hurt and let it work its way through us. I’m still working on this too the 100th degree in a bunch of different parts of my life, so please don’t read this and think I speak from the other side. I’m very much in the mess of it all right now. Forgiveness is the most difficult thing, but it’s the most worthwhile.

There are times when I really feel God softening my heart, even in these first few days of a new year. He has made His provisions in certain parts of my life so clear, so much so that I can see pictures and feel hurt instead of anger and physically feel Him restoring what is broken. That is such a gift and such a beautiful thing to be aware of.

That is such a rich piece of Scripture though. A God who SATISFIES us and deals WONDROUSLY with us and not being put the shame. Knowing that He is the Lord our God, and there is NO ONE ELSE. What a thing to cling to and try to understand. There is no one like our God.

As a photographer, you’re taught to always look for the light. That’s how you get the best photos, especially because photography is really just painting with light and finding the angles and moments that capture the stories.

That being said, freshman year I fell in love with photography, like really loved it, and over the past year I sort of lost that, but I found videography along the way. And the world needs more women videographers, I’ve been told. I’m a big fan of catching little glimpses of God’s story He’s painting around me. I love capturing moments of beauty, and it’s helped God be magnified in my life.

And then some days I wake up and want to spend all my money on nice cameras and lenses and never stop taking pictures. You can imagine that’s led me to the prayer, God, what in the world do you have for me? Why do I love things one moment and then not feel passionate about them the next? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?

And it’s almost painful how obvious the answer should be. The moment I asked that question, God whispered, rather loudly, “You are supposed to glorify Me.”

I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that this season has not been a waste. It has become a season of intense fear and wondering and doubt, but it has not been a waste. It’s such a beautiful thing that we get a new year with what feels like a blank slate. We get new mercies every morning, but a new year feels like God proclaiming, I am making all things new. See Me in all of this.

It’s those special moments where I see God magnify Himself in my life, even when my focus hasn’t solely been on Him. It’s kind of nice that God isn’t the way we so often envision Him or create Him to be based off what we think He should be based off what other people create Him to be. That would be messy. Just like that last run-on.

Life is so big and so beautiful and we will only get small glimpses of it if we don’t just stop to pay attention. And maybe that’s a lot like the ending from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but maybe God is just like John Cusack outside our window with a boombox begging us to come out in Say Anything. Maybe if we listen hard enough, we realize He is always near. And all this even feels a bit cheesy to write, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we have a God who is near, whether He’s whispering or shouting at us or holding up a boombox at us. He comes to restore and bind up what is broken, which is what is deep down in each of us: brokenness and an unexplainable, deeply-rooted need to be restored by our Creator.


For the first time in a long time, I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning with a deep fear for life. A fear of death and darkness and all the mess in the world. I hadn’t known that fear for a long time. I don’t know if it’s been covered or if it just shows up whenever it wishes, but today is also the first time in a long time that I recognized God’s nearness. And I don’t think that’s just a coincidence. He is making all things new, and we get to be a part of that. It’s not a distant thing where we stand by and watch Him make other people new. He is restoring us from the inside out. And what a thing to behold.

While reading through an advent book before Christmastime, I came across this Litany of Humility, and it was the most beautiful thing, so I’ll leave you with this.

litany-of-humility

I pray that God is molding your heart to be more like His in this coming years and that He will move in ways that are evident to you. God, be magnified and let me be aware of the process of You restoring what is broken, not just sitting idly by.

Signature

P.S. If you missed it, I documented every day of my 2016 life, so check out this 365 vid.

featured photo creds to Mary Claire Photo.

I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.

Be still and know that one day God is going to come and make all of the sad things come untrue.

I have never read Lord of the Rings, but when I hear those words (“Is everything sad going to come untrue?”) there’s something that wells up inside of me that gives me hope, even in this season of doubt. When you doubt and feel far from God, like continents away, you may be starkly aware of the brokenness in the world. The brokenness is a closer companion than God, and that hurts.

Man, it’s been almost 2 months. Hello, I’m sorry I’ve taken a long vacation from this corner of the internet (one day I’ll stop apologizing when it’s been too long, but today is not that day…sorry). Sometimes I forget that the doubt, or even just the exact place where I’m standing, is what qualifies me to be a follower of Christ. And I’m unsure of how I can continue to say that. I have not been following Him lately. I had this really awkward, feeble attempt at prayer a few mornings ago. It sort of felt like that moment in middle school when you dropped your tray and your lunch went flying, and that embarrassing, awkward moment is engrained in your mind so intensely. That was the awkwardness that was sitting down for prayer.

I came into the office early, started the coffee (that sacred moment I mentioned in the last post), and sat down on the couch, only the glow of Christmas lights illuminating the room, and I started to talk. Most of it felt like talking to air, but there were a couple moments when I felt it might matter.


“It’s either real or it’s nothing.”

Those are words that will make you question everything, but in the productive, good way, not just the downward spiral of wasted time and doubt and hurt. It makes you remember the times when you knew it was real. The moment you knew you believed in God and you knew that this was the realest thing you had ever known, and you could never believe in nothing ever again because of this very moment you stood in. And on the days I remember, I’ve felt myself asking the question: “Is this real or is this nothing?” And then I see a sunset or have a conversation that blows my mind. I think in the past week, my how are you‘s have been the most real and intentional question I’ve ever asked. I asked it and meant it and found God in the midst of it. The people who draw you nearer to Him are the people you need around.

I’ve turned a lot to poetry, and that’s a pretty new thing. I took a creative writing course this past semester, and I imagined I would have to drag myself through the poetry portion, and I’m not sure why. I love spoken word and poems. I don’t know where the distaste came from, but it went away rather quickly. I had a piece published in our school’s lit magazine, and it sort of refueled that deep need for creative outlets. And writing poetry was one thing I never imagined would draw me nearer to God. He taught me a lot about love this semester, and not my idea of love, but that love He wants us to know about. I have learned to fall in love with life again and with a bunch of different people in it, and that’s what this is about.

I’m learning how to fall
in love with people all over again.
Full hugs and day dreams
of your boots off at the end of the day,
the ones for hiking and house church
taken off by our front door or the foot
of our bed, and thank you
for getting my coffee and comedic relief.
Conversations about your habits and
routines, try showering backwards
or putting your shirt on last instead of
first, so we’re not standing in our underwear.
I’m in love with the space
you take up, the way you thumb through
pages and open books at the place
where the bookmark is tucked,
between pages I get to remember.
Warm feelings like only my feet tucked
beneath a blanket, and taste
the richness of God’s character
in the way you tuck love letters
between your promises and prayers.
The passion that drips from
every pep talk you sit me down for,
much like the golden hour floods
every part of a person’s design.
Your belly laughs and your swing
dancing over my clumsy feet.
And today I can’t wait
to grow old with someone and let them
call me honey every morning and separate
the newspaper just to share.
I’ll read the joys and the sorrows,
you’ll know I feel it all and hold my hand
on the down days and the in-betweens.
We’ll sip our tea with honey,
my coffee with no cream or sugar,
your buttoned up shirt kisses
my shoulders, my feet draped over.
Knowing that you are my best
friend and to know you is to love
you, and I can use that word
confidently because I finally know what it means.

There was a point this summer when I was the rawest emotionally I had ever been, and I also felt the closest to God I had ever felt before. There was a lot of honesty (a painful amount, actually) and I lot of peeling back layers of what was going on in my brain and in my heart. It’s the scariest and most liberating thing in the world to tell someone the feelings you actually feel and the thoughts that go through your mind, you never anticipated sharing. I think that’s why I felt so close. And in the last few months, I have managed to slowly pull the layers back on, like ginormous coats. I have made myself comfortable in hiding the dark parts of me so far below the surface. I am not undone. I am not vulnerable. I am not raw. But I have constructed it that way.

The beautiful thing about God though is that He intends to do beautiful things with us, even when we don’t want to realize it or recognize it. There are a lot of scary and messy things that have happened in the past year, or even few years. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that crap, but it’s hard to stop and see the beauty God provides on a daily basis. It’s sort of like you have to learn how to rewire your brain.


I sat in the car for a very long time yesterday, coming home from a funeral in South Georgia, and my heart just ached. We will never know why certain things happen. And even in doubt, I can understand that we find all of our yeses in Jesus. There is certainty in the character of Jesus. I know that there is supposed to be certainty in the character of Jesus. And how in the world do you navigate a season where the Savior of the world came to rescue and deliver us when you put on clothes of doubt every day? You might be under the impression that this sentence was supposed to answer that question, but that is a serious question I don’t have an answer to.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8

I think we tend to forget that we weren’t created for pain management and we were created to lay our pain down at the feet of God, knowing that He fully intends to make something beautiful out of us, including our pain. You’re not alone in that, I like to think through my plan of action as well. Something bad happens, I’ll cry, I’ll write about it, and speak a few words out loud, maybe listen to some sad music to speed up the grieving process. And it doesn’t work that way. Whether you’re grieving the loss of an idea, a relationship, or a person, there is room for you at the feet of God. He has brought His Kingdom here in the person of Jesus, something He has invited us into, beckoning us to Him. What better season to submit and receive that invitation.


Highlights of the semester: Developing a voice in my writing (or discovering that I had done that). NEEDTOBREATHE concert. Media Law (I came to love this subject more than I would’ve ever imagined).

Things I’m working on: Two words. 365 video. A few seconds of video every single day for the entirety of 2016. Oh yeah, be on the lookout.

Things I’m loving: Reading. SO much. I haven’t read this much since this summer. I’d pick a book over Grey’s Anatomy now, and that’s a big deal.

Things I’m reading: Harry Potter. Bird by Bird. (still skimming) A Million Little Ways. All the poetry I can get my hands on. The New York Times.

Things I’m learning: See people.

Beautiful words I found:

remember,
you were a writer
before
you ever
put
pen to paper.
just because you were not writing
externally.
does not mean you were not writing
internally.” Nayyirah Waheed.

she asked ‘you are in love, what does love look like’ to which i replied ‘like everything i’ve ever lost come back to me.” Nayyirah Waheed.

“And love grew, stretched like a trampoline. 
Love changed. Love disappeared, 
Slowly, like baby teeth, losing parts of me I thought I needed. 
Love vanished like an amateur magician, and everyone could see the trapdoor but me. 
Like a flat tire, there were other places I planned on going, but my plans didn’t matter. 
Love stayed away for years, and when love finally reappeared, I barely recognized him. 
Love smelt different now, had darker eyes, a broader back, love came with freckles I didn’t recognize. 
New birthmarks, a softer voice. 
Now there were new sleeping patterns, new favorite books. 
Love had songs that reminded him of someone else, songs love didn’t like to listen to. So did I.”  Sarah Kay.

img_7886

I grew up in a very crazy, loud, hectic, exciting household, and I remember growing up my parents would tell me, “One day you’re going to miss this.” And I always said no way, I love my quiet time, I will not miss this. Especially preparing to go to college, I thought, I cannot wait for peace and quiet. It took me 2 and a half years, but last night I was sitting at our packed kitchen table, the one we have to pull extra chairs around, and my heart was swelling. It had been an emotionally-draining day, and I just sat there, so satisfied and grateful and full of joy. I really did miss this. And my brothers probably would have found it strange for me to pull each of their faces into my hands and tell them I loved them, but I think that was the only thing that could have sufficed in the way my heart was exploding in those moments.

We were created to live in these moments of joy, fully understanding the beauty around us and experiencing the joy set before us. I do know that. I felt pieces of my heart loosen up tonight when I sat in a coffee shop I went to regularly in high school and listened to the words, I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven. I give it all to you God, trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me. I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open. There’s nothing I hold on to. 

I hope today you make the best cup of coffee you’ve ever made, and despite the pain and hurt and brokenness, you get to drink deep of the world. There’s a lot of pain and hurt and brokenness in the world, and you’ll drive yourself mad trying to make sense of it. Try to see people today. If you do nothing else, try to really see the people around you. It’s easy to be busy. It’s easy to make it to the end of the day. It’s the hardest thing in the world to really see people and keep your hands wide open. That’s the beauty.

Stay tuned for a 365 video and some more poetry.

Signature