Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Future Blogging Endeavors

I have been rather absent from here for a while and it all deserves a good explanation. Notice how I did not say excuse.... I will leave it up to you to determine that. ;)

When you ask for God to lead in your life, expect Him to do the unexpected. He will stretch you, grow you, ignite you. I always wanted to know what purpose my life had. When God impressed us that we should move away from our home and jump into the unknown, I experienced a surety that I never experienced before! I mean, what would you do if you knew you would only be living in a certain position for two and a half years at most? That is where we are chillin' these days. I have kept our packing boxes. We don't dare buy any more furniture because we know we will have to move it. I am constantly getting rid of stuff, still. I can't promise that I will be working for the church for a good long while. I know that I might have to say goodbye to a lot of new friends. How then do I feel good about all this?

At this point I am asking God the, "what's next?" question. I am on the edge of my seat knowing that He has something awesome planned. I have had to stop expecting my own wishes and start to anticipate the opportunities that God believes I can handle. While hanging out in this status, I have been really contemplating goals and motivations. What can I do now? What is there to accomplish while I am here and now? Who can I reach for Christ? What are my skill sets and how can my personality fully express His message? Who can I reach? How do I get to them? Who do I ask to join me in this process? Where is the community? Why sit here and wonder?

While God has been greatly cultivating my personality and character, He has been expanding my photography and writing opportunities. I have a lot to say and He has been helping me to find an outlet. I want to live to the fullest and forget the life I used to live, full of darkness. So to really embrace what God has done for me, I have decided to take on a project.

For a while, I called it my "secret project" because I found it hard not to talk about. Well, folks this project has turned into a reality and in the next couple of months I hope to share what God has helped me to start. I wanted to continue blogging, but I did not want to do it alone. So I created a website (a.k.a. blog) where I along with a few other women will come together to share what God is doing in our lives and how we will live it out for Him. We want to connect with others who want to or have been connecting with God on a personal level. We will share our struggles, successes, and passions. There will be times for reflection and our two cents. Other times we will share our interests and projects so that we can connect on that level as well. We will talk about family, work, and relationships. This just gives a little idea.

I know that for me, God has done so much. I can't keep silent. Honestly, for the past few months I have been storytelling instead of writing. So I am looking forward to connecting with all of you in this new space! I also am looking forward to the possibility of meeting new people. God has made it very evident that I go through with it and continues to show me that I will grow through the process.

So this is why I have been silent here. I have been mulling over in my mind how this project will pan out, creating a website, and praying for the Holy Spirit to lead. So far I am confident of his guiding and am excited to share with you. Stay tuned my friends!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Project That Revealed My Sin

In the last few weeks, God has been taking me on a journey. Actually I should say that in the past few weeks I have finally realized that He has been taking me on that journey. Even in moments of failure and darkness, He is preparing me for another step, another challenge. No, He doesn't cause me to fail. Hardly possible. God is using what He has to work with to cultivate His ultimate purpose and I am very much involved. 

I had this idea come up into my imagination, that's soul purpose was to glorify God and bring others to the Light I am passionate about. While on this trek to bring it into a reality I have come across several simple challenges that have brought me into a deeper understanding of who God is and what He wants from me. Might I add that God is so tender with my short comings. He knows that I crumble when I find out that I failed. He knows that it becomes a great monster in my closet that I cannot seem to shake. So He works like the master orchestrator that He is. Let me explain.

I was feeling inept to the task at hand. There was an understanding I had that made me realize the enormity of responsibility resting on my shoulders. If I wanted to take on this new venture, I was going to have to really weigh into God's truth and invite the Holy Spirit into my life like I never did before. This realization made me petrified. What am I doing? I am NOT qualified! I am no scholar in religion. Only took 4 religion courses in college because it was part of the requirements. I studied Anatomy, Chemistry, Cognitive Psychology, Neurobiology, and all those other generals. What right did I have to take on something for God that meant I had to share His Light?

While trying to grasp this, I could do nothing else but spend time claiming His promises. I started adding sitting on a park bench to my routine, during my walks/runs. I would sit there and just wait for 10 minutes. I know it is not long, but it was a start. I waited, wondered, and felt slightly confused as to why God was not saying much. I was sitting there waiting for Him to speak wasn't I?

Then I started to get bombarded. It was like a magnifying glass on all the little itty bitty sins that I had been carrying around. I found pride. Ya, I started to wonder if this whole project was for my own gain. I also felt jealousy. My husband, Chris, started His own project and was able to get it running rather quickly. He was stealing my thunder! My emotions became quite intense and I could not seem to figure out why I was so insane. Why in the world did I feel so mad and crazed when I had this project to attend to? 

Then it hit me. After I confirmed that I really needed to bring it all to God, I felt this desperation to make sure that this whole project was not under my own terms. While I was asking God to take away the pride and jealousy and also reading a book called "Daring to Ask for More" I discovered that God was answering my prayers.

He was not trying to convey that I had it all together and could now take on this project. He was not saying that I had all the knowledge in the world to spread His Light. He was simply showing me my real place. My real condition. In so doing, He was being glorified. By asking Him for help in my condition, His purpose was able to come through and make a difference in my life. I was able to see His goodness, direction, and power. It made me realize that the whole point of sharing the good news is to let others know that despite our faults, God can make a difference. 

God does not call the angels in His court to come down and tell the world how amazing and compassionate He is. It would not be very convincing. They have no idea what it feels like to sin. But we do. We know our condition. We know our need. The more that I am in His presence, the more I realize there is a hope for my situation. Through Him I can do a lot. 

And to think that He called me to take on a new project. It was not merely to stay busy or show Him off. He found a way to get me closer to Him. He found a way for me to discover my sin, confess, and move on in His Light in a very constructive and growing way. He does not point out sin just to call you a fool and a failure. He says "Come I have a solution. Be My disciple and call all men to Myself."

So here I am working on my project and hoping that what He has in mind for it, is grander than what I could ever imagine. Stay tuned my friends. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

That Journey Toward Rest

I have wanted to find rest for quite some time now. Each time that I try and connect with God, I feel the distractions coming in and making me fret. It is crazy how, the moment you desire to be with God, the stronger and more intentional you feel the devil gripping your thoughts with negativity and chaos. In the midst of trying to do a work for God I find myself still distracted. While immersing my whole body into nature, far from human creation, I still feel the pull.

While on this quest for rest, God has been giving me glimpses and strategies that I have been slowly implementing. Here are a few realizations that I came across while on my journey:

1. Distractions and LIFE will always be there. Despite how far I remove myself physically from the stressors of life, those thoughts of anxiety will still come. I have to be intentional, even in the midst of physical chaos, about spending time with God. Like an oasis in my mind, I will have to find peace. Only Heaven will provide me with the perfect serenity and utopia I am longing for.

2. Becoming as a little child is no joke. While sitting in the park the other day waiting for God to speak to me, it was my first try at this, I discovered that in order to really be in the presence of God I need to go back to the basics of my childhood. As I sat there taking in the scenery and wondering what God had to show me, I was reminded of how I used to think and feel as a child. I had no concerns, worries, or fears. Even the dark never overwhelmed me much. In that moment I realized that I had to be IN the MOMENT to feel God close. I needed to forget the past and let go of the future in order to gain what I DID have. The present.

3. Treasure those moments in the quiet. Yes, we may never get the opportunity on this earth to live out in the woods or forget what it is like to hear sirens and passing cars. What we can do is notice the moments of silence as we sit on a park bench in center city and see a bird flitting about. We can smell the beautiful flowers crawling over the graffitied walls as we walk through the crowds. Our hearts can feel glad when the sun warms our chest and wraps around our arms. In our souls we can find that oasis with God.

4. Making God our priority brings great peace. This is the hardest thing to implement for me. Strange, how the very thing that gives me life, is so hard to stay focused on. While I work, travel, and cultivate my skills God should be the center of my existence. When I claim His promises and rest on His word all those things that I want to do or places that I want to go will be done with effectiveness and purpose. The words that I say will have punch and meaning. My intentions will come into existence and my nights will bring sleep. I will eat better, exercise harder, and help others more.

What are some things that you have found to be helpful in gaining peace and rest while working for God? Where do you go to spend time with God? When do you experience rest? What are some things that you struggle with while trying to make time for Him? Where do you expect to find rest?

Here are some promises to claim:

- With God, all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)
- Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will have them. (Mark 11:24)
- God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those who have no might. (Isaiah 40)
- Those who wait on the Lord will have renewed strength. (Isaiah 40)
- God has done with the law, weakened by me, could not do. (Romans 8)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Perfectionist's Sin

When did I get like this?

I asked myself this as I confessed my perfectionism. There was a time when I finally realized that the only way that I could be rid of the guilt and sin was through Jesus Christ. But there was still something in me that wanted everything to be just right. As an artist, I take great pleasure in seeing something really come into full swing.

Listening to someone preach and getting right to the point and letting those words sink deep into my core, really gives me the chills. Watching a creative living out their dreams and looking so passionate as they use their minds or hands to glorify God, it gets me. My heart becomes so full as I embrace how efficiently God is working through others' lives. But what about those times when things aren't going the way I think they should go? What if I am only seeing chaos and confusion as I try to assemble something together, with my human effort?

I become angry and irritated. I cannot stand slack and half done work. Everything needs to be thought out and prepared. Even when I don't come through with these ideas I still feel that everyone else needs to get it together, as I beat myself up in the corner for not preparing. There begins this downward spiral of shame and feeling like I am not good enough. That God just won't get what He wants out of me. To cover up this shame that I feel, I pound out my feelings on others.

While I felt this anger inside, something just did not feel right. Despite the perfection that I was trying to attain, there was a small part of my heart that was whispering to me. There in the quiet, the Holy Spirit was still present despite my harsh heart. He kept trying to push in front of me that this anger wasn't belonging. That I really did not have a right to be mad. But I just could NOT for the life of me figure out how it got there? Don't I have a right to feel stuff? What part of this is all true?! I was practically yelling in my head.

Wow. Can I just say that God is a-maz-ing.

While I was working this all out and hoping for answers, He was in the background setting the ground work for setting His power inside of me. How does one bring up an issue to a perfectionist? Honestly, I think it is probably one of the hardest things to tactfully accomplish without loosing someone. But God is cool like that. He knows just the right thing to burn my heart and get me to finally flop on over into His promises, despite my pride. We don't give Him enough credit.

God put someone in my path that opened up my heart and made me see that He still felt that I was beautiful despite my inefficient thinking. I felt His arms around me as I cried and spoke about how I just did not feel I was wise in my ways and how I was dealing with this perfection. I kept repeating, "fail", "not good enough, "sorry", "if I just did this", "how come", etc. In trying to get over perfection I was trying to use IT! Not God. Not His power. Not His grace to wrap it all up. Not surrender. Just myself and my weak attempts.

I had forgotten the words of Christ repeated by Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." What did Paul have to say about this? " Therefore most gladly I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may REST upon me."

I know these words. I have heard them a million times over. Ya ya, when I am weak God is strong. I get it. NOT. It isn't when I am in a pit calling out for help that I need His strength. His power I need when I am getting in the way of myself, when I think I have this all under control. His grace I definitely need when I get angry and want things to go my way. It is not always when I feel paralyzed and fearful, it is also when I think that I AM STRONG. When I think I know how things should go. THAT is my weakness.

I have been given so many opportunities to taste this gift that God is offering. In little pieces He has shown me His love despite my interpretations of life. While unwrapping my pride and exposing the hurt inside, He has quickly wrapped me in His robe of purples and placed His ring upon my hand. He has shown me that I am a child of a King so great that no matter what I have done or how much I think I have it all together, He is still anxious for me to come home. Even when I am the one standing there telling Him that I have been with Him this whole time as I watch others come into the fold, He is reminding me to celebrate with Him. I am His.

How tactful is this?! How amazing is God's love that while I am exposed in my sin, He is revealing my royal status? Without this opportunity I would not know where I now belong. Without failing, I would not know triumph.

*referenced 2 Corinthians 12:9-10*

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gathering Together Under One Commonality

One thing that I have discovered about being a part of the Seventh-day Adventist faith is that is very community driven. Even as I have been traveling and moving over the past 14 years I am able to find new friends and become family with other believers very quickly. Here in Philly, a friend of one of our pastors said that he found it to be pretty awesome that he could feel like he knew us for years, even though we just met. We know hardly anything about each others lives, yet we know what we believe and that unites us. 

Every year across the globe and in different districts, groups of our faith get together for a week or so and attend meetings. Some only stay for a little while or just the day. I would have to say the majority of the people that attend these gatherings are there mostly for the socializing and seeing others they haven't seen since last year or even years. I think this is what helps keep us together in the faith and shows us what Christ really came to do on this earth. To be with us and save us. 

I didn't grow up going to camp meeting regularly (it is what we all call it) and we generally would hop between the one in Massachusetts and upstate New York. So I never really became attached to the whole idea. What I have come to enjoy, though, is just sitting all day outside on Sabbath being with others. The way I feel it should be.

This past weekend in the evening Chris and I met up with my grandmother's church family to sing and jam a bit in music. Most years this is what happens and I always find it relaxing. Despite the heat we sit there, without a care in the world. This year I enjoyed being with family and living in the moment. I actually got out my camera and took a few pictures!

I spent the last part of the evening taking pictures of this little guy. Every time I seem him I want one. He is such a sweety. Janice certainly didn't mind me oooing and awwing after her little one. It was good to catch up with friends and family this past weekend. 

I mean seriously, how can you deny this face?

What are some ways that you connect with community? Who are the people that you feel right at home with? What is it about being with people that makes you feel great? I certainly have been blessed to be a part of this faith, despite how crazy it all gets. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Battle of the Gifts

Exhortation. I was confronted with this word not too long ago and I remember yelling out to one of my pastors, "what does exhortation even mean?!?" We are all a little laid back at my church so it was completely appropriate to "yell out". When I found out what it really meant, I had chills run down into my soul. Why? Well, you see I really, REALLY like to encourage others to do something. It gives me purpose and lightens up my day. If my life can be an example of positivity we are all on the right track. It makes me higher than cloud nine!

Whoa... hold up! I had to take a double take on this whole encouraging notion. I remember a time when I was all about the negativity and couldn't stop the flow of anxiety, fear, and spiralling pessimism. I suddenly realized that I had come out of this weird funk and was now living what I was meant to be. And to think that I had NO IDEA that encouraging others was a SPIRITUAL GIFT. Ahhhh! I had such an epiphany about the whole thing that I could not contain it and had to share with you all.

I am a human. I do dumb stuff and then regret it BIG time later. I work out the logistics and plot how to avoid it all next time. Then I keep doing it. Ugh. Well, along the way these thoughts started creeping in. Ones of guilt and fear. I wallowed deep in this pit of despair like it was reality. The devil hung my shame over me like a dark cloud. Oh and when I finally realized that I could be forgiven, he was still there prodding me with "you are SO negative" and "just not worth it." Ya, so maybe I am not worth it without Christ, but the devil failed to tell me that I have a Savior. He failed to mention that I didn't have to be in this depressing state. 

Over time I have overcome this pack of lies. Every once in a while I definitely think "things are toooo good right now. Here comes trouble." I have to counteract that with "no. Just because I feel amazing right now, in my head, does NOT mean I am getting it later." Stupid really, but so true for me. Anyways, after I figured out that I had this spiritual gift called Exhortation and that my personality type thrives on its potential I realized one simple point. 


He took the very thing that makes me exhault my Father GOD and replaced it with this negative trash. He got me to thinking that I could help no one. He made me believe that I had nothing to offer. He used my personality to overly give idealistic advice to myself instead of encouragment to others. I was all flipped around and turned inside out. Noticing this made me realize the battle that I face. That we all face. 

Before you get all freaked out that the devil will overcome you or that he will keep you down, read this:


He knows the ins and outs of what makes you tick. He is the one that knows that the only way you can thrive is exhaulting Him in your own way. Despite the sin in this world and the devil's tries, He has a plan tucked away. Even when we get in the way He keeps trying and fiddling with a way to get to our hearts of stone and sheep like demeanors to hear His voice. Like a gentle whisper that ignites your spirit, He gives us life.

He has reminded me time and time again that He has my back. That all those lies that seemed so real and logical really have no roots. I am here today feeling more like myself than I ever did. All I had to do was look for Him and take notice that He was moving in my life. He showed me grace, flowers, kind gestures, beautiful sunsets, and patience. Everything that I show you, He showed me. His finger print is on every good thing in our lives. Ya, sometimes it looks like nothing is good. Again, looking to God will give us the ability to see the good. It gives us the ability to stand when we have no legs, see when we have no sight, and taste His blessings when the sin of this world is crumbling in.

So I urge you, ask God about your spiritual gifts. Maybe you will be like me and say "hey, what does ________________ mean?" Then walk away a survivor and a believer.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

What Grandma D Taught Me in 5 Minutes

I love the way God times everything. There are times I have no idea why He is carrying out a circumstance the way He is, or why He let's things happen. There are those that say "If God is so good why do bad things happen?" and I have a little testimony for that.

Yes, maybe I haven't had a really hard life or experienced something as a child that is hard to grasp. Maybe I seem a little too cheery for my own good. What you cannot do is judge that life has always been easy for me. You cannot look at a person and think, "they have it all" or "they have it good." In the same way you cannot tell God that He is not good because bad things happen.

What I have learned about God is that the closer I get to Him the easier it is to see the blessings in bad circumstances. The more I want to know His holiness and power the more prevalent are His acts to counteract what wrong is being done in this world. What example do I have?

For the last long while I have been trying to understand who I am. I know. It is like I am a teenager again dealing with the drama of my little life. Here me out. Somewhere along the way, I let negativity consume my heart and fear to paralyze my soul. I pretty much became THAT wall flower, yet felt like this was not where I was supposed to hang. I remembered how I used to be, but at the same time knew that if I were to fix this situation I would NOT be that same girl I used to be. So what now?

I was taking a self paced course and it just so happened that I needed to take a personality test. I always thought those things were so dumb. It is like I could predict what the score was going to be just by how I wanted to respond, but I took the thing anyways. I tried to be as honest as possible. It hurt and I felt like the worst person alive. I know. Drama.

Once I took it there came up the results and what flew across the page in huge letters was the word "DIPLOMAT." I was curious so I read on about my strengths and weaknesses. What at first seemed like it was going to be painful ended up being amazing. I learned where I needed to improve and where I could flourish. I was excited because I not only discovered new things about myself, I knew deep down that this was me all along. I was just clouded to the idea. 

One thing that I learned is that my personality tends to execute two types of people. One minute I am there in the middle of a group, having a good time and pretty much drawing attention to myself. Then I am out of there, like a scurrying cat. I used to become so troubled by the somewhat extraverted part of myself that I would think it was all a joke. Or a way to cover up the "real me." I often found myself thinking that I was THE joke when everyone laughed at something that I said or did. I hated it. I hated this wide open part of myself.

While keeping this in mind, let's move onto another story. 

I never really understood my grandmother. Especially as I grew older and really started to develop my own persona. She LOVED to be the center of attention and have a good time. It wasn't very often that you would find her in some deep conversation and to me she appeared shallow. How was I supposed to connect with this person that seemed so different than myself, or even my family? For a while it troubled me. Especially when I thought "what if her life is shortened and I never get to really know her or connect with her?"

A few months ago I decided I was going to be there when she got out of brain surgery. I hadn't really been around in the last few years with school and life. As I sat there all week with my mom and aunt I really began to think about who I was and who she was. I would stare at her as she was lying there on the bed coming in and out of a fog. I would feel sorry that I wasn't there sooner when she wasn't so groggy and having hallucinations. Sometimes she would wake and when I would come close she would get excited but then would fade off back to sleep. I had a LOT of time to reflect. 

My last night visiting her in the hospital I was sitting there next to my little cousin zoning out. I faintly heard my mom call to me and I looked to see my grandmother reaching out an arm, palm up. Once I realized that she wanted my attention, she pulled her fingers toward herself and I knew I was supposed to come over. She faintly, I believe, said "come dear." So I did and within that moment I felt like I was 6 years old again. Her home in Charlotte, NC flooded back and I could see the hydrendas and Magnolia tree in my mind. The way that the chimes would speak in the wind and how she would hug me. 

When I came to her side I fell into her arms and just rested my chin behind her head. I suddenly knew what brought us together. She whispered "I love you" and I just squeezed her tighter because I could not get the words out. For that little point in time I felt like everything I had questioned, everything that made me a part of her life, all made sense. I was hers and she was mine, no matter how different we were. 

Because the surgery was so serious and her health was not where it should have been, there was the chance that things could not turn out the way we all hoped. In that moment, though, I thought "I am ok with all of this. If I never get to hear her voice again, I will know that I have this moment cemented in my memory." From here I knew that she had given me a part of herself. Despite the fact that my grandmother likes to be the life of the party and despite thinking she wasn't much of a deep thinker, I finally knew her depth. 

There in her embrace I felt what made my grandmother come truly alive. All the times she ever made me feel special and loved by her embraces or words, came flooding back. For a moment in time two different people blended together to create something deeper than even my own thinking. Without that dimension and experience with her I would not fully understand God's purpose in making us all unique.

So when my grandmother did finally pass, I knew that within my heart I had a piece of her. Though this life is rugged and harsh, God still blessed me with the timing. If I had not spent the time trying to understand who I was, I would not have understood in a matter of 5 minutes who exactly my grandmother was. And now?

My photography has sky rocketed. I have no idea if it looks any better than before, but now I know who I am deep within and that a part of my grandmother is in my abilities. Understanding her outgoing personality now feels appropriate when I have the energy to tell a story with drama and intonation. I appreciate the part of me that isn't so deep and secretive, now. I always thought that to really connect with someone you had to have some philosophical conversation, but it won't always be like that. Sometimes it is just in making other people laugh till they cry. Or giving a hug.

Ya, my grandmother is sleeping now in Christ. She cannot give me hugs or come whispering "I love you." I understand that she really is gone, but I also know that who I am definitely includes her. Finally I am not ashamed of all the parts of me. When I go to take a picture I can think of her. When I laugh a really deep belly laugh with others, I know that she influenced me.

For me, God has perfect timing. Despite the sin that is in this life, God is making the harshness a little less of a blow. Yes, there are regrets. There will always be things we wish we had done or NOT done. What we can remember is that if we put our lives in God's hands, He can turn the last 31 years of misunderstanding into 5 minutes of an overwhelming eternal blessing!

I long for that day, where death is just a memory..... God is good.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Finding the Calm. In the Present.

Do you find it hard to let your mind just rest? I do. During the last few weeks I have felt inspired to find the time to put my spirit into a slower pace and really engulf my life in the present. In all my human efforts, I still find that I uncover a whole new package of worry and stress. 

I have been noticing how the stress of the last few years has really taken a toll on my body. I feel old, ragged, and tired. Ya, I still look 25 when really I am knee deep at 31. I didn't want to see this. I did not want to notice that my hair shows signs of weakness or how the area around my eyes seems all puffy and dark. I have become resentful and angry about how amazing I feel inside, yet my body seems to have taken the brunt of my battle. Before you get all ticked off at me for having a pity party on the internet and want to slap me on the face for having wacky expectations on my outward appearance, hear me out.

I am fully aware of my outrageous thinking. There are countless stories on the webs that talk about women becoming content with their bodies or OK with the fact that they do not fit media's representation. I get all that. I feel that. Like a good girl I do. What actually hit me from one of these many articles and videos, was one woman's story. Actually it wasn't the whole story. It was just one thing she said about how she felt after taking action to really get her body in shape. She was at the peak of health and strength, but STILL felt like her body was not enough. Her heart still had this expectation of what her body should be and she did not attain what she was looking for.

What I have been realizing is that there is always going to be something to stress over if I really want to spend my time there. Here I am at the peak of my mental health and I still find something to stress over. I have no reason to stress, because God has really been giving me the tools to handle hard times. So why get all crazy and decide to stress out about my outward appearance? Why not sit down and just enjoy life despite the imperfections that will ALWAYS present themselves?

So about that rest. Is that really attainable? Can I really come to terms with my body, state of mind, or life in general? Can God really put me in a place of complete solitude and tranquility? Will my mind just let my neck muscles loosen up and my body feel weightless? Despite being in a sinful world, there is a place that we can go to feel what Heaven has to offer. That "perfection" that we have been longing for.

This week I went for a walk to the park down the street. People were around in the park interacting with one another. There I was avoiding looking at my phone and trying to find a place to sit down and just be there. I overheard conversations that brought up my own personal sore spots. The sounds of the birds brought me back into the moment and I sat down at a picnic bench and just waited. I wasn't sure what I was waiting for other than what God might want to show me.

I sat there and just examined the trees and how the slight breeze gently moved the branches, I felt really there. It actually made me think of my childhood and how living in the moment was all I had. There were no worries to bog my brain or threats to ignite my adrenaline. I became thankful for that time in my life where, despite the terrible things still existing, I was engulfed in what I saw around me and what was created by it in my thoughts.

What I believe God was showing me is that worry and stress will  always just take me away from truly living. If I want to experience the calm that He has provided, I really do need to be here. NOT back there in some regret or panicking at what could happen in the future. He just wants me to LIVE. Forget that I have bags under my eyes. Ignore that the devil is poking at a past weakness. Or walk into a room full of senses versus hypothetical strategies.

So, lets meet in the present together and find out what REALLY is worth living.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

God. Family. His Goodness.

Despite the sin and sadness in this life, I have finally come to grips with the idea that God is sooo good. He shines through the darkness with so much power, that even the devil trembles. My mind, for so long, had been deceived into thinking that there was nothing good in this life. All the pain, anger, deceit, and black nights just seemed to be my focus. 

But right now? I am overwhelmed. Down right struck in the chest with how God has ignited this feeling inside of me that loves more, strives more, and ultimately sees the LIGHT. My photography has taken a turn for the extraordinary and what I see around me I cannot remain sad about. Even with the passing of my dear maternal grandmother, I have found the beauty in her death (I will talk more about that in another post). 

For right now I want to speak out about my cousins. I have a few sets and maybe not as many as some might have, but I love each one of them. Here, though, I want to mention the ones I grew up with. The ones that were seriously like siblings. We laughed, played, gained scars, cried tears, fought passionately, dreamed, and grew up together. Over the past few years we all kind of moved our separate ways, though. 

I was the first to take the plunge into adulthood and so I pretty much left the gang without much thought. I look back regretting the years where I could have danced in new experiences with them. How I wish I could have hashed out my mistakes with them and been the better for it. I wonder what it would have been like to be there when hearts were broken, challenges were conquered, or passions were discovered.

This past weekend I felt like I was given a second chance. Not at recovering those years, but of living in our 20s and 30s together as adults with puttering babies and careers. Love is amazing like that. It always comes back around full circle.

This above photos is of Alisha and her baby, Huck. We were all sitting together in the funeral home after the service for our "Grandma D.", when I was struck by this view. I immediate thought of my grandmother and how I knew she would have captured this moment. She was a photographer during our childhood. I felt so connected with her and this moment. But back to Alisha. She is a quiet spirit and very similar to my brother, Bobby. She loves down to earth stuff and living on her farm with Charles. Growing up she followed me around and could always be found smiling and laughing with that little giggle of hers.

When I think about looking like someone, who is not my mother, I think of my cousin Abby. I am almost freaked out just looking at this image of her. I see my mom, aunt, grandmother, and myself. Yet it is still Abby. Growing up she was the little one of the crew (she is 9 years my younger) and I can remember the day she first walked. It was a major event during Thanksgiving one year at Great Grandma Dorn's farm in PA. I found out this weekend we have a similar personality, but to make things different she love all things cow girl/boy. I have no desire to ride a horse, so I will leave that to her.

Now who could resist hanging with a person with this face? Tommy is only a month younger than my brother and they are pretty much more than brothers. If I want a GOOD laugh or to hear about a nostalgic story of our childhood with bouts of laughter, Tommy is the guy to see. He is determined and will do anything he puts his mind to. Sometimes our strong older sibling spirits clashed as kids, but I wouldn't trade him for anyone. He is the real deal and will speak his mind. This picture makes me think of my grandfather and his beard. It is so weird to see it on my kid cousin. He is also the father of two sweet little girls and a husband to an amazing lady, Julie.

As I get older and enjoy my 30s, I become more and more in need of family. It is very different than the safety I felt as a child among my crazy family. More like, we all are so different and yet the same, so it all seems familiar and inviting. It hasn't always been easy for all of us. We have been through a lot and I hope that it only ignites the light inside each of us and brings us all HOME. Yes, God is good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Journey: After Falling In The Muck

It is funny how God finally lets you in on His plan for your life. For me, He waits till I am knee deep in commitment and have gotten a scrape or two along the way. I think that if He were to tell me before everything got rolling, what He had in mind, I would most certainly scoff and say "NOPE." For now He is letting me get a peek at His blue prints and I am kind of excited. The journey to be able to even have a glimpse, has been a struggle and a climb, so don't get all jealous on me. Yours is developing as well, trust me.

I was wanting to get out of the muck after falling flat on my face. I wanted to see the potential that life had to offer. I wanted to find out who this Jesus was that I had heard about all my life. In order to see Him more clearly, I had to get rid of the junk in my life. I would ask Him for help and He would painfully yank the fears, worries, and pride that I had been holding onto. But, now amidst the stripping and pulling and poking God is showing me that I can achieve great things for His kingdom. If I just remain close by His side and try to emulate His walk and His talk, I will know what to do.

 This sounds all fluffy and nice, but let me TELL you. The devil will wisp by your ear and whisper words of accusation and negativity till it seeps in and catches you off guard. He will do what it takes to convince you that the life you are trying to lead is imaginary. He will try and convince you that the strengths you possess are NOT going to work. He will make you cry in the wee hours of night. Then leave you to fend for yourself in the dark with your own sinful, human habits. This happens in our state, but the hope? The drive to keep going toward what is more powerful and MORE true? Every single time that I find myself getting caught up in the half truths of life, God is there again pulling me out of the muck. He is there giving me even stronger evidence than before, that His plan for me is determined and destined to happen. He won't let me go. He won't leave me without the tools to keep the darkness away. Each time I am approached by the devil, the easier it gets to tell him to LEAVE. The less I am down and the faster I get up, is how it all has been developing.

So what are the plans that God has for me? It is my little secret for the time being. But what I want to leave with you is that the journey that I am on is one of discipleship. I aim to learn everything I can about this Jesus. I am determined to speak like Him, connect like Him, lead like Him, comfort like Him, share like Him, and LOOK exactly like Him. Why? I want others to see Him. I want others to see how strongly He can turn a falling apart life into a vibrant and purposeful adventure.

This morning I was out walking, thinking about this whole idea, when I got goosebumps. It might have been the David Crowder on Pandora that ignited the bodily response, but I was nonetheless driven. I sometimes fear that that drive will dissipate or be crushed, but like I said earlier, God makes a come back with a stronger force. I feel it more in my bones. I am just excited about this journey and wanted to share it with you. I hope that you, as well, find a journey you were meant to walk.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

That Time God Stretched My Heart

Oddly enough, I came up with a title for this post before I even had anything typed up. I was looking at these photos that I took this past weekend while roaming the streets of Philadelphia, when something occurred to me.

I am an introvert by nature. It is quite easy for me to get caught up in my own thoughts instead of letting the external senses take me to other places outside of myself. In some ways this is beneficial when I want to write out a thought that is hard to explain. But it leaves room for improvement in having empathy. I am an idealist and I find it complicated to really understand why others do things differently than me. It comes across as biased, judgmental, and ignorant. 

If I were to explain all the reasons why God moved Chris and I to this area, I think everyone would fall asleep from the eternal list. What has really gotten to my heart, though, is how much God has taken me from only having the courage to step into someone else's life through an autobiography from B&N, to real time. 

How has He done this? Let me explain. 

If I haven't said it already, living in the city has not been one of my goals in life. I grew up thinking that the ultimate destination was THE COUNTRY. Or the woods. Nature at its finest. Being closer to God through taking hikes, sitting on the mountain tops, and walking through the meadows was where my mind always traveled. I never thought that being closer to God would mean stepping outside of myself and into the chaos of the city.

As I look through these pictures, I sense a new feeling inside. I used to live an hour from the city and would take photos of Boston like a visitor. I did not connect with what I saw and mostly saw grime and depression. I did not understand why anyone would want to live in the city. It all seemed chaotic and lacking simplicity. I snubbed my nose at it without realizing. Now I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia where I am submerged in the culture of real city life. I work in the city where once I was afraid to walk alone and now take the mail to the dropbox. I walk center city, taking pictures, without feeling apprehension. As I look at each picture, it is not as a spectator but as a participant. It is not just a picture of a building with a tree, it is me looking up at the building with a budding tree. Does this make sense? I am a part of this city now.

Do not get me wrong, I still find it hard to live without nature at my finger tips. When I feel complete silence at 2 a.m. I soak it in like I am finally quenched. I am still a country girl at heart, but God plopped me down in the middle of the City of Brotherly Love to teach me something. He wanted me to understand that the hearts that live here are no different than mine. They too crave love, acceptance, friendship, and beauty. My home is not just in the country, it is this groaning Earth. Everyone on it is struggling, surviving, making it, fending for themselves, wishing and hoping, and ultimately craving the silence of a satisfied and complete heart. 

What I possess as a Christian is not just for country folk, it is for all humanity. The grace that I have been given is not just for me to understand. Living in the country does not make it any easier to understand God's power or compassion. It does not make it any easier to be closer to God. When we allow God to move us, change us, and ultimately strip us to the bare bone... He reveals the honesty that others have been wanting to see. It reveals the love we have been given and how it is accessible to the human race.

When we are completely vulnerable, in the arms of Christ, others see what we were made for. They see a spark of Heaven and wish for more. When they too find Christ, Heaven will reach within their hearts as well. Heaven will strip them to the bone and expose eternity. This is how God stretches the heart. This is how He stretched mine.

Remember: The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Monday, April 13, 2015

When My Life Is The Testimony

During the week we struggle to stay afloat sometimes. It is during the weekend of spiritual and physical rejuvenation, that I discover tools to get through the next week. I was in conversation with a friend and colleague of mine about our relationships with Christ. I ended up spilling my guts and explaining to her that my struggle is real. Despite wanting to be the best Christian that I can be and attempting to have an amazing relationship with Jesus, I sometimes just do not get it. I flounder in having the desire to talk with Him. Yet I still know that all I need is Him. All I have to do is say, "Help!", and He is there working with the character I am constructing. 

When I shared my feelings about this situation, I felt a sudden rush of vulnerability. I thought, "great I just exposed parts of me I didn't really want to. What will happen next?" I had to counter those thoughts with the realization that I had just helped out my friend. Thankfully she was so kind as to say I was helpful, but what about those times you share your horrors with those who do not seem to be listening?

Our lives are living testimonies of what God is capable of doing. Becoming more like Christ is not just for our benefit. It is not about succeeding and becoming more RIGHT. It is not about being acceptable in someone else's eyes. It is what Christ called the gospel. Our lives, once connected with Jesus, will portray His presence to the world that has no idea. When our lives tell others that we have been changed and that we resemble Him, they will want more.

It is encouraging to talk with one another and explain that we struggle as well. We are not alone. When I bare my soul and the darkness that exists without Christ, I won't feel cocky and proud when someone says to me, "thank you for the encouragement!" or "you have no idea how much you have helped me." All I can really feel is relief and appreciation for what I have been given. We can all make it, I promise. God is just around the corner waiting for you to be used for His purposes. He is just around the bend waiting to move your heart and change you. I know, because He changed me.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Breaking From The Earth: What I Think About Work

The whole idea of work has been really influencing my thinking lately. While I was home for a few months, I discovered that to really live I need to take life by the reigns and structure it myself. With no one else's help. That does not mean that others cannot help along the way with ideas, getting things done, and encouraging us. What it means is that we have to be the ones to push through to the goal on our own. Not until we start pushing, will we really understand what it feels like to own our lives. Keeping in mind that in the end God is the complete owner, of course.

As a women, it is my duty to develop a life completely dedicated to God's purposes. Every waking moment should be spent learning, pushing, fighting, treading, and plowing through the difficulties that we face. There are times I just want to sit and veg out. You know those moments when you just want to turn your brain off after a long cluttered day? Ya, I get that way as well. What I am learning though is that those times should be spent focusing my mind on what I cannot do through out the day.

Some areas that I am learning to pay attention to include:

- noticing when my pulse elevates when I think about something stressful and bringing it down by breathing deep
- concentrating on my time spent talking with God asking for His presence to push me forward
- making it an effort to get up and make the bed when I honestly don't have to
- hydrating my body when I wake so that my body can fully function throughout the day
- eliminating thoughts of "I can't" with "I will"

 Don't get me wrong, there are times I spend two hours watching a  movie instead of practicing mindfulness or reflecting with God. There are days when I just want to lay in bed a little bit longer. I believe it takes small steps to conquer big lifestyle changes, so don't feel that I have taken on something intangible. I only want to bring into focus this need that I have been discovering. It has honestly made me appreciate life at the end of the day when I am purposeful. It has also kept me from getting in an evil funk. That moody position that just can't seem to let go. You know what I mean right?

Living a life that is full is where I want to go and I am finding out that God created me to work. It does not matter if it is in a structured company or in my own home. I was designed to take the plunge into what I feel is the unknown and make something beautiful happen. You see how the plants grow in the spring. Looking at the ground in the winter, you would never imagine that something living would break through the earth. But what happens is breath taking. We see how the dull winter turns into green life and thank God for the strength of a leaf, a tree, or even a simple wild flower. We are blessed by the shade in summer, the rustling of the leaves on a windy day, or the perfume bursting from a lilac. 

Let us not forget that our lives should be like this. God created us to grow. What are you waiting for?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Not The Decorator, Just A Thinker

I had been toying with the idea of finally getting myself to decorate at least ONE room. "Why not?" I asked myself. I come from a family of many women who are steeped in creative endeavors. I grew up with a mother who went through a phase where everything was checker board or sponged. I lived with pins still left in my dresses because my mom just got done making the dress and missed a few. I watched her make everything. I also surrounded myself with extended family who's houses were filled with much time and energy making it a home. I admired my grandmother's picture arrangements as a kid and remember staring at how perfectly placed each frame was. I have cousins who are successful business women in the arts. 

I thought maybe I would be someone like that. A decorator or maybe an awesome wall collage designer. Nope. I am sure that I can do all of these things, but I know that I do not enjoy it the way that they do. It will be the last thing I do in my home, when I know it was their first. I clean more than dream of ribbons and lampshades. It used to make me question my creativity, the fact that I found it draining to think of DIY. Now I am realizing that my life is meant for something else.

Trying to fit expectations that I, only, have created really gets in the way. The other day I realized that I don't need to perfectly decorate a room. I can just leave it bare if I want to. I honestly like just having furniture and a rug in a room. I get overwhelmed by items sitting on the dresser. I am more satisfied by NOTHING being there. A lamp is enough. A few books on a shelf is enough. I like a minimal lifestyle or at least the idea of it.  So how does this fit with the creativity of my life?

My mind is continually working through stuff. I am constantly taking in information that is around me. When I want to relax, I want to see less. I sometimes wish I could just sit in a white walled room and unfold my thoughts. It would be like taking my words that have developed in my heart and painting the room with what I have found, what I have discovered. I don't need the environment to tell me that what exists is beautiful. What I perceive in simplicity ignites power and focus.

In the end the only thing that really is beautiful, is what is within us. It is not the things we have or the things that we make, it is the drive behind those actions that makes life beautiful and satisfying. I am slowly beginning to love that I have a simple home. Taking the time to enjoy the parts of ourselves that sets us apart or might not be expected, is what makes this life creative and ever changing.  What is it that drives you? What is it that makes YOUR house a home?