Sandcastles versus Marble Palaces

There is an undeniable scream inside all of us crying out for something more, a meaning beyond the world behind our eyelids. Like stormclouds gathering, we let the emotions roll in one after the other. Insecurity. Disappointment. Hurt. Bitterness. Perhaps they don’t always arrive in that order, but arrive they do. All are symptomatic of the same thing, what my brother calls “sandcastle pride.” We stop trusting entirely the Lord’s plan for us, and start searching out ways to make our dreams happen on our own. True, any dream worth anything at all requires work, but at what point does work transfer into idolatry?

In the words of one wise nine year old, “Start reading your Bible so you can learn how to get your life back on track!” We are desperate to be alive, yet terrified at what that would mean. Authors make millions off self-help books, either about gaining control or letting go, or doing one to achieve the other. We all dream of a higher existence of some sort, but only once we seek and pursue the Lord’s vision over our lives will we find any sort of the divine calling we crave.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

It’s not about the work itself. It can never be about the work or else we’ll fall into either a cycle of obsessive over-achievement or bitter resolve to press on. Neither can it become about whatever earthly outcome, money, or fame, for in the end, once it’s been realized, there will be an inevitable sense of “that’s all?”

I’m not saying we all need to jump up and become ministers; He did make some doctors, filmmakers, musicians, or writers, etc, but there must also be some eternal goal for our lives or else what’s the point?

We all have some daily burden; what’s yours? The daily awareness of what is, and screaming response of what should be? This is your battleground, so wage war! There we find our sense of purpose, of vitality- there we bring bits of His kingdom to earth. And it is in this process of fighting for the “should be,” of fighting for some necessary change weighing on us so heavily it seems that to not strive to bring it about would be a moral slight, that we being to trade the sandcastle for the marble palace.

 

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Where Muffled Voices Fade

The weeks escape me. I hear it’s the seventh, so let’s go with that, shall we?

As this week was for the most part more of the same, this post will contain an obscene amount of photos, and not many words, I’m expecting, but we’ll see what happens.

Thursday morning we set out believing a prayer walk was in store, and instead found ourselves at a fort. I guess our hosts thought we needed a break, or exercise, judging by the size of the place.

Half of me wishes I had brought my camera with me (these are all iPhone pictures), but the other half is grateful I was free to climb and explore and see, beyond the viewfinder. Everything was magnificent, from balancing on the divider of an auto as we race down, then up the mountain to the trees sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sunlight. Heights allowing hawks to fly below our eyes wide with wonder. The mountains calling my name, whispering His wondrous love. Tales of an age gone by. Temples still burning with incense to a god who will never hear them. Through it all, beauty like I’ve never imagined, and fragrant freedom.

The joy of adventures with souls I hold dear. Voices joined in illegal worship to the God who Sees. Citizens stop and stare, listen a while, never interrupting.  Soaking in the glory of His creation… And this is but a taste of earth, and earth but a shadow of heaven…

Finally, pictures from the slums. Throughout our past times there, I’ve abstained from bringing my camera. I didn’t want to give any room for the people there to think I care about them only for their stories, for their media values. However, on this our supposed last day (we’ll now be there tomorrow for church, as well), from the moment they spotted my camera the poses and “sister, my picture’s” began.

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This little guy’s legs were burned worse than anything I’ve ever seen a few weeks ago by a kitchen fire. The entire time we were there, he stayed on Rosie’s lap. When another child tried to come between them, he made his point clear by a quick smack, then nestled in to her even closer.

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I’ve fallen in love with each of these children, but is that any surprise? We leave tomorrow, and again I’m left wishing there were no language barrier between us. As these children are some of the leading Christian influences here, I worry not over what the world will do to them, but marvel over what they’ll do to the world.

Until next time

XOXO

On Cafe con Leche and Emotions.

I’ve officially reached that point in outreach everyone talks about where stuff has happened and we’ve witnessed things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with any of the outside world just yet… I think part of me thought this was a myth, this outreach climax, but here we are. And I find I’m most content in this state.
This state of sleep without rest, because my rest comes in the day, face buried in Bible, teammates voices lifted in worship around me. The love I have for these incredible humans is beyond what I can express. I only wish the beloved could be here. But until he and I can experience this sort of thing together, I’ll savor this continued honeymoon with Jesus.
We’ve arrived in Dharamshala, a beautiful mountain town. However, because it is a beautiful mountain town, my wifi and data usage has been massively restricted, which is why I’m a week late with this (sorry fam). Last week was a week of goodbyes to souls reminding me of how large and terrifying the world sometimes is, as well as how communal and lovely, and the power of redemption.
While I’ve been able to write about them before, today I’m too overwhelmed to process it all onto this digital paper. Each day, each thought, would require a post of its own. Of these boys’ lives before. Of who they are now. Of the secrets their eyes allude to. Of their joys, their hopes, their dreams, their talents, their possible futures. Hopefully within the coming weeks I’ll be able to get two or three of the stories down, but we’ll see. I’m still debating which of the stories I even have the right to share… My life was so privileged. I’ve always known this, always felt this, and seen the truth of it before. But today it’s hitting me freshly again as I re-read the lives of these boys I so deeply adore and will likely never see again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Sip the tea from an adventure-worn straw in a Hydroflask tattooed with their handwriting and imaginings, scarred with the remnants of paint battles.
Hop on another plane. Contemplate for how many years airports have felt like home. Exhale the tears into a secondhand Bible, my sanctuary held together by tape. Allow my heart to break into His, realizing He knows so much more than I, His heart is hurting beyond what I can imagine, and that through it all, He is gloriously faithful, that He has a plan for each boy.
Land in Dharamshala. Settle into an apartment cozier and homier than I remembered being possible. Use the last of the data to call the beloved. Break. Soak in his voice, his encouragement, his words reminding me of the Truths so easily forgotten in exhaustion. Regroup. Step back inside from the balcony where snow-topped peaks and fields of green are all that’s visible. Realize yet again that this is the life I’ve always craved and dreamed of, and through the disease, the sleep-deprived delirium, the insecurities of making art out of it all, the agonies of seeing all we can’t change, and backlashes of the enemy for all we do work to change, I could not be more content or fulfilled. Because through it all, He is faithful to remind me of His exquisite love and beauty.
With all the gentle tears and bittersweet farewells of Week Four, Week Five was equally filled with unadulterated joy. As eyes turned to waterfalls, I took my turn at sharing pieces of what makes my heart ache, face buried into the shoulder of friends close as family, sisters who inspire me to be everything I can be, to chase after everything I dream of becoming. Hold the same sisters as their turns came along. Legs folded on crimson rugs, chai in hand, we lift our voices in holy adoration of the One who brought us here, allowing the worship to drift like sunlight out the windows.
Soaking in their laughter, we played with village children on the side of the mountain as the fog rose below us and we marveled at the exquisite art of our Maker’s hands, and how somehow He still deems us as more beautiful even than this. As a friend of five minutes who reminds me of myself at ten years old slides her hand in mine, I watch as the Hindi praise unfolds to the God of Abraham in a little house church. Two days later we’re back at the same church, and I’m sharing bits of my testimony, eyes on the same girl. Precious Abigail. Who will she become? Will I come back one day and find her grown, with Kingdom passions of her own?
After driving further up the mountain, to a tourist town known as Mcleodganj, we visited our first Indian temple. Beauty filled with dark emptiness. We strolled up and down the marketplace, marveling at the skill so rampantly alive in this nation. Naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a nose ring and anklet, because India. As twilight began whispering hello, we slipped into a friend’s home for some of the best coffee I’ve had in months and some brownies. Needless to say, it was a good day. Since then we’ve been working on some stuff for the community center we’re teaming up with here, exploring the city, and going on various prayer walks. As I’ve been falling in love with the country, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper for my team. Our leaders are relentlessly faithful, working so much harder than any of us see. The five I get to call my teammates are all so encouraging and insanely talented, gifted with such unique skill sets. There are several instances proving that I literally would have died without them, especially during our time in Kolkata. In them I’ve found an extended family, and I’m dreading the day we have to say goodbye. So I just won’t think about that yet.
This is the gist of the past two weeks, majorly condensed. Thank you guys all so much for supporting me through everything; I can’t tell you what it means to me to read your sweet messages and prayers forwarded by my parents. When I was sick, had it not been for your prayers I very well might have gone home. You carried me through it, and I’m extremely grateful. Also, I tasted the closest thing to a cafe con leche that I’ve had in five months (Indian milk coffee), and I honestly cried a bit. It was pathetic, but so beautiful. God is good.
Until next time.
XOXO

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Break My Jaw, Give Me Life

Realizing the girls sipping coffee beside you are suddenly some of your dearest friends as gently as the sun slides into the Pacific’s blanket of blue. Giggling about the boys you secretly (or not so secretly) admire. Dreaming of weddings and shores yet to be kissed by our nation-worn feet. Writing letters. Discovering every flavor of Top Ramen. Waking up at 4:30 AM for morning yoga in Himalaya hiking prep. Phone calls to home. Redefining “home.” Realizing it’s a concept none of us will ever see the same again. Tears on staircases. Sins confessed over lunch. Broken stories and shattered hearts shared as the evening’s breeze drifting from the ocean chills our bones. Discovering our rythms have suddenly found us.

Faith being stretched in ways I could never have imagined. Miraculous healing that could never be faked. And over and over again Christ whispering in my ear “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Outreach is getting closer, and I feel the Holy Spirit working overdrive in all of our hearts. How is this already the end of week seven? While sometimes it feels like I’ve only arrived yesterday, others it seems like YWAM is eternal and home was only illusion. And yet the first quarter is already through. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Old, weary relationships rebuilt and restored. Shaking in my Birkenstocks one moment, the next utterly wrecked by God’s exquisite purpose for the lungs wrapped inside these ribs. He has expressed and confirmed to me several times now that I am to go home after outreach. Somewhere in my innermost heart, part of me had firmly believed that wasn’t going to be the case, at least not for about a decade or so; that first my ministry would be brought to some unknown nation where I would reside with only the one my heart loves, the people we are ministering to, a camera, and a Bible. But no. I am going home. And I am so stoked.

Until then, I am here, and there is no where else I would rather be. Discovering the reason I have such a hard time with regular photoshoots is because I am built a photojournalist, and that’s simply different. These thoughts are a tangled mess, and I’m having a hard time unraveling them. Through prayer, nineteen years of liver issues that had crippled me in so many areas were healed in five minutes. Insight was given through the Spirit as to why my jaw refuses to heal: it’s my broken hip, so to speak. I’ve used my mouth to speak so much death, and words are my main form of ministry. It’s time only life flows from these lips.

Thus was week seven. Sorry there are so few pictures; it was an insanely busy and beautiful seven days. Until next week.

XOXO

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Return to the Garden

Here You find meweek five (7 of 33)
Broken and restored
Here You hold m
Wholly abandoned to Your love

Fighting and tired
I lay in the mire
You rescue me, wash me clean
Till I am white as snow

Striving against gloryweek five (5 of 33)
Giving fear my soul
On silver plates of agony
Feeding deception’s monster

In righteous fury
On clouds of fire
You race in, a rushing wind
Of jealous adoration, pure and holy

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (2 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

Here You find me
Broken and restored
Here You hold me
Wholly abandoned to Your love

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (22 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

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week five (3 of 20)

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week five (12 of 20) week five (13 of 20) week five (14 of 20) week five (16 of 20)
week five (17 of 20)

Psalm 81

When we were wanderingweek five (18 of 33)
Alone and afraid
You rescued us
Kept us from shame

In pillars of smoke
In clouds of fire
You whispered Your name
You gave us hope
Daily, we sang Your praisesweek five (19 of 33)
Adoration was hourly upon our lips
Upon our lips
To the Unknown God who saves
New moon rises
Sound the horn
We were lost and lonely souls
Now we’re found in You, Lord
Then as a storm, fear roseweek five (20 of 33)
Thunderclouds swallowing hope
Stealing breath from our lungs, so from Your arms
We run, run, run
And You say
Darling, come home
Darling, come home
Taste My love once more
Remember when you were lost and lonelyweek five (24 of 33)
In My arms, I carried you to safety
We lived in harmony
My bride and I
I long to drench you
In My love, fill your cup
I long to hold you
In My holy embrace
Remember how I led you
Through the desertweek five (32 of 33)
Pillars of smoke, clouds of fire
Singing joy to you all the while
Why have you gone?
Let Me hold you again
You’re tired and afraid
Let me keep you safe from harm
I’ll keep you safe from harm
Darling, come homeweek five (28 of 33)
Darling, come home
Darling, come hom
Taste My love once more.

Proclamation

I honestly don’t know where to start with this one. So, let’s start with Jesus.

“Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7

YWAM is kinda known for being a vessel God uses to reveal to people things about themselves they didn’t know were there. For me, that meant anxiety shrouded in arrogance.

It meant that when I came before the throne of God, I believed He would only accept me if I felt I was behaving a certain way. However, my head knew this wasn’t a right way of thinking, so my heart in pride believed I wasn’t trying to be this certain way, it was simply the Holy Spirit working in me because I’m such a good Christian and I don’t believe those lies like all the other “believers” in the room trying to earn their salvation (ugh, fools).

When I entered a situation that made me uncomfortable, such as living in a dorm with twenty other girls, I would draw back and search for ways I felt excluded. The reality was that I was retreating myself while they were all being welcoming and loving.

It meant that when Jonny and I began to get more and more serious, I freaked out because of all the what-ifs and pushed him away while clinging to his embrace, putting him through confusing turmoil because of my selfishness. All the while, he never failed to be comforting, understanding, and forgiving.

But God is gracious. In tenderness, He revealed the lies and the disparities cluttering the sanctuary of my mind and soul, our meeting place. Daily, He helps me sweep out and restore it. I’ll never be perfect, but soon this will be one more battle conquered.

Instead of focusing on all the tiny possible negatives, all the tiny what-ifs, daily I’ll engage the small, sweet moments of joy. Instead of wondering if I measure up, I’ll rejoice in each instance of fellowship with the souls surrounding and my Almighty God. Instead of allowing fear to reign in the dark corners of my thoughts, I’ll open the door for Jesus’s love-light to flood.

Love-light that breaks down social barriers and raises shamed adulterers to their feet, because who of us has not sinned? Love-light that opens blind eyes and heals crippled legs, but then says “Go, and sin no more.” Love-light that would be tortured to the point of death, all the while thinking of your face and crying within Himself “She’s worth it.” Love-light that cares more about His bride knowing and trusting Him than about anything we have done or could do, because we are His aloneAnd that overrides anything fear could ever tell me.

Serenity_all rules

Each Friday I hope to post a little update like this, complete with photos capturing the past seven days. And if I forget, I invite you to please hold me accountable.

Serenity_light and shadows Serenity_break all the rulesSerenity_one element

Serenity_moment

Please excuse how out of focus this is; it was just too precious of a moment for me not to capture and share it.

See you next week!

XOXO

Out of the Dust

Last Friday we had our first media day, which also meant our first photo assignments! The assignments were to take two pictures capturing our dreams for this season, and two capturing our passions. Well, here you go!

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“Beloved.” “Intricate.” “Worthy.” All statements every Christian woman I know has a hard time believing, but is so true of all of us. My first passion: helping people see their intrinsic beauty because they are human.

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Society rushes around us so violently, telling us what to do and what to think, including Christian society. My first dream: learning to stand firm in my own self despite what others may say or think.

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It wasn’t until today that I realized the depth of truth in this statement, but I have always struggled with a mild social anxiety, fed by pride’s denial. My second dream for this season: learn to live without fear and starve the lion of egotism.

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So much of daily life is overlooked for its normalcy. My second passion: discovering and celebrating the beauty of the small things.

XOXO