Hey Summer + Where I've been for the Past Two Months...

Hey sweet friends! Wow oh wow it's summer time! Okay, I know it's still May, but in Florida that means summer is in full swing, and that makes my heart oh so happy.  This is going to be a little bit of a life update because so many things have happened since my last post in March. I'm sitting here writing this, and I'm just the most excited and happy person because I have so many sweet gifts to share with you. So, here are 5 major things that happened in my life over the past 2 months!

1. I started a photography business: Yay! This one is so exciting to me because it wasn't planned at all! I absolutely love photography, and I've been taking pictures as a hobby for a little over a year. In February, I felt like it was something I wanted to pursue further, so without any real jobs or a solid idea of what I was going to do I decided to upgrade my 7 year old Nikon D3200 (still a great beginner option) to a Canon 80D. I know, it was a huge leap of faith. But,  Jesus is so sweet because it was only a week or two later that I had my very first client who contacted me because they saw photos taken with my new camera. How great is that? And, if that wasn't enough of a blessing, a couple that I knew from home contacted me about shooting their wedding and engagement photos in April. I am so unbelievably happy about this because it wasn't something I really spent time seeking out. It was one of those rare gifts that God sits in front of you when you least expect it, and I am so grateful. Because of this, I created a Facebook Page and added a new Photography section to my website, so check it out when you have a chance because I would love to take your photos, too!

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"Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling—all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace."-Lysa TerKeurst

2. I finished my junior year of college: And, this is the reason I haven't blogged in ages. April was probably the most stressful month I've encountered in college. Between final projects, making room to catch up with all the wonderful people I won't see until the Fall, diving into my photography business, and working hard at several internships, my schedule was absolutely more than I could handle. I would love to say that I slowed down, spent time with Jesus, and relied completely on Him instead of trying to control a schedule that was far from being tamed, but that's not exactly how it went. The busy pace of my life kept me distracted and constantly attempting to cling to my own endurance instead of God's peace and rest. I think that through this season, God transformed my heart to see how debilitating a schedule filled to the brim can be and to understand that He calls us to slow down our pace and our gaze to rest in Him alone. It's in these moments that we can truly reorient our hearts to depend on a God who fills our weak hearts and tired muscles with His overwhelming strength.

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3. I turned 21 in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: Well, it wasn't really the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but it definitely felt like it. The week after I finished the semester, I went on a cruise with my family which happened to be during my birthday. So, I did turn 21 while cruising through the wild sea. If you know me, you know I love the ocean, so it was the most refreshing thing to look outside and see deep indigo waters and smell the salt air every morning. I really focused on resting and spending time with Jesus because the weeks before took so much energy. One way I did this was by reading this book called Redeeming Love. It's a novel by Francine Rivers, and it's based on the book of Hosea. Okay, I can't begin to describe to you how beautiful or impactful this book has been in my life. It was a refreshment to read a story of the relentless love of God. Although different from my story in so many ways, there it was so much a part of it as well. I never have time to read things like this, and it was so refreshing. We also visited Cozumel, Mexico, so I got to speak and read in Spanish a lot, and I really enjoyed that, too. I have so many pictures from this trip, so stay tuned for more!

4. I started my summer job: Last summer, I interned with Costa Sunglasses based out of sunny Daytona Beach, FL. I'm not sure if I can adequately express how great the brand and company culture really is, but I'll definitely try to share more about it because I'll be back again this summer as a Community Coordinator.  Built for adventure and tied to the water, Costa embraces the salt air on your skin and the wind at your back, which is why they make their lenses the clearest on the planet and built for any adventure. I'm so excited and inspired by everything I've learned so far, and I can't wait to see what this summer will bring.

5. I started a Youtube Channel: Ahhhh okay! I've been going back and forth with this idea for so long, but after praying about it and considering all kinds of options, I finally decided to do it. I think it's going to be an adventure for sure, but I want to share with you a little bit of my vision for this channel. You can watch my very first post for more details, but my main goal is to use this channel to share life and community with people. I love building relationships, exploring new places, and seeing creativity, beauty and goodness in the world. I think a Youtube Channel will give me the opportunity to capture all the adventures of life and things I'm passionate about while sharing how Jesus takes every piece of our lives and turns it into something beautiful. I hope you lovely people will subscribe and follow along because I love y'all more than you know. 

Thanks for sticking with me through this crazy long update. I hope you all are doing well, and if you wanna hang out this summer and talk about life just let me know!

Rest. Wait. Gaze. Hope.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
— Psalm 37:3-6

I haven't been able to write for a little while now. Not about the things I am most passionate about at least. I've written creative briefs, marketing plans, business articles, Spanish essays and everything in between, but those things have deadlines and due dates. They take work. Lots of work and research and studying. They push me (sometimes past my limits). They aren't the restful kind of work, though. And, I think that's the kind of work that the world demands from us all too often. Work that is taxing and drives us to dig deeper and try harder. 

I can't help but think that the success driven culture all around me has been slowly slipping into my relationship with Jesus, too. It pops up in those unexpectedly defeating moments where no matter how much I do, there's an uneasy feeling that I'm not doing quite enough. 

I should know this is not part of my purpose. I should know that if I lose sight of the Gospel and the reality that the standard of holiness has already been met at the cross, I'll naturally start trying to meet that standard myself.  And, it never really goes according to plan.

Most of the time, it sneaks in as the tiniest questions. They're subtle, passing through my mind in the busiest moments where it's much easier to brush them aside than to confront them head on with the truth. Questions about pure motives, direction, dependence and whether or not I could truly be living a life worthy of the call that Jesus has placed on it.

I know the Gospel. It's knit into my core, and imprinted on my life. The same parts of me that held so much deadness, sin, damage, and deep brokenness, now hold a whole goodness and the beauty of a God-loved soul.  And, it's not because I worked to get there either. You can't work off something like that, so really I shouldn't be able to forget. But sometimes, the allure of self-made success tugs at me with its insincere promises and its empty demands. For just a moment, when those questions sneak in, I forget who I am, and I think that working to please God is actually an option.

On the outside, it kind of seems like this might be a possibility or even a noble course of action. Adding a little of our own determination, will power, and focus should make us into "better" followers of Jesus, right?  But, we aren't wired that way - to bear the weight of perfection on our own. Our attempts at pleasing God are less about serving Him and more about building a spiritual resume, and this will destroy our joy. We miss all the purpose, passion, pure living, freedom, and restfulness that God has set us apart to enjoy when we are abiding in Him.

Jesus does not need anything added to His death on the cross to create forgiveness, faith, and unbridled love for Him in our hearts. He knows how to create beauty out of the brokeness of our lives, and He just calls us to abide. We keep our eyes forward and fixed on Him - that's it. A restful gaze on our King. Because He created us for more than the messy web that a works-based faith gets us tangled in, and that's why I love this verse in Psalm 37. I can't stop thinking about it. It's mesmerizing to think that  "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday." Reliance on Him only bring out the good that He has placed in our souls through His spirit. And really, that's how it all began.

When darkness was ingrained into our souls and our hearts were heavy with the suffocating lies and shattered promises of the world, Jesus saw us. Not for a beauty within us or will power or determination or perseverance. He saw us because He is love, and He wanted our souls to be restored to their true purpose and passion and intention, so that His glory would be greater. So, it's okay to rest, wait, gaze, hope, be still, abide. Because when we do, He will bring out the blazing beauty of His glory and an unmatched love from within. The fullness and hope of this truth swells through the core of who and I am and who I've always wanted to be. And for me, words spilled across the page and a filled heart are just the tiniest reminders that the work of Jesus is a restful kind. One that brings a shimmering life to everything it touches. That's something I never want to forget.

Salty Eyelashes & the Endless Ocean

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I kind of love the ocean. The stillness of the shore, the breathless salt air whipping along the coast. It's almost as if that little strip of land knows the relentless ferocity of the waves pounding  just feet from its unbrushed sand, and its only response is to create a whole world of serene beauty to fill the gap. That's where I like to be. Somewhere between land and sea. Because it feels safe, and I feel small. A captivating beauty and an untamed power restrained by laws I have no words to explain. There's a goodness to it all, the not knowing, the stillness, a soul overwhelmed with awe. It's in this place, the in between, that I sit and do the very thing I was created to do. Worship. Draw Near.

In my restless working and carrying on and moving up and doing more and trying harder and becoming something wholly new, I forget that I am known by God. I am known by God. And shouldn't that change everything? Arresting my heart and soul and life to follow a rhythm that is altogether closer, slower, and more love filled than the one my schedule demands. Because when I look at the ocean, I see something that is unpredictable and untamed, but it is also restrained. It has limits and boundaries and borders, and even though it has a weight that my mind can't contain, it is controlled. It knows its place. The ocean itself stands in awe of the One who holds it together, and His beauty commands our attention and obedience on a deeper level than the seas. 

I forget that. I forget that those stinging, salty winds tearing through towns and creating waves that swell and roar with intensity know the voice of God. They exist to worship Him, and bring all of creation to do the same. The God who carved the mountains and painted the majesty of the sea, who brings redeeming light to the darkest and most broken places in the world.  This is their King. More often than not, I find myself working and trying and existing to prove my worth and my value and my identity while shoving the whole idea of God's greatness into a box of to-dos on a long list of other things that I desperately want to give more attention.

See, this is not what I was made to be. I wasn't made to find hope in a career path, or a test, or any relationship, or praise, or all the things I stack higher and higher on the crumbling pile of my own accomplishments. Because, if we miss God, if we don't live for the purpose that He gives, if we miss the awe and the intensity of His love for us, then we miss everything. Because He's everything. 
 

All the trying and working and doing, is worthless and unnecessary because if we have God we have proven worth in Him, and we can rest in a steady awe that we are doing what we were  created to do. God doesn't call us to throw away the talents and beauty and individuality and passion He has given us, but His beauty demands an attentive focus to His heart for our lives and for the world. So, here's my prayer. Let me remember the heaviness of my sin, how I have wronged God in soul and heart, how I deserve to look at God and see danger and judgement, but instead I see something different. Because He sent His son to die and pay for the weight of all the times I fought with every part of my being against a God who only desired to bring me near.  His death for my life. Let my heart feel that kind of relentless love. Let me remember that His death was the sacrifice that paved the way for my forgiveness, and His resurrection gives me an unshaken promise of the love of God. Because this is the way that God looks at me. Not with cold expectations, but with an incomparable love-filled nearness. 

And then that safe, small place on the shore becomes all the more safe and all the more comfortable and all the more beautiful. But, our souls ache deeply to be swept up in the beauty of the ocean and feel the salty water on our skin. Sitting on the shores of something overwhelmingly beautiful fills our hearts to the brim, but we can't stay on the shore when we long to be immersed in a purpose that is greater than I. Because there in the stillness and worship of the shore, we feel the call of the ocean. There is danger and power and uncertainty, but when were made for the water, nothing will keep us from it. The purest worship of God pulls us into step with His heart for transforming a broken world into something beautiful and bringing a glimmering hope to people living in deep darkness. This is the ocean of purpose placed in our shaky hands. But we are not alone. The God of the ocean knows us. He knows us. And even more, He loves us. I think that's why I love the ocean. 

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” -Luke 8:25