Friday, October 9, 2015

Studio 6:33 & a BIG announcement

Sometimes in life, we are asked to step out of our comfort zone and serve. In our lives, we can serve in a multitude of ways. We serve in our homes, out of our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches, and in our communities.

About two years ago, Allen had a vision of starting Studio 6:33. I've always loved photography. In high school, I was in photo journalism and even was the editor of my senior yearbook.  But believe it or not, I am an introvert and too many voicemails in my "mailbox" makes me sweaty and nervous. 

I had already been a small business owner and it was tough managing between home life and work life. Yet, Allen wasn't convinced that I/we should say no to this endeavor. After much thought and prayer, we decided to pursue a photography gig.

So why Studio 6:33?

As a family, we firmly believe in whatever we do in this life, we are to seek His Kingdom first. In searching for a name Allen found Matthew 6:33 and said, that's it. 

And just like that Studio 6:33 was born.

Last year, we hit the ground running and then life took an expected turn and we kind of put photography on hold. In August 2014, my mom was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. This past year I have spent the majority of my time traveling back and forth to Houston and spending time with family. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God and now that she's stable, we decided to start taking on sessions again. 

But that's not all of the story...we started this for a purpose. Yes, to capture beautiful moments and families make our hearts smile. We love being able to meet others and give them a treasure that will last a lifetime.

We also want to use this as a way to give back. To bring the Kingdom of God to earth, in a tangible way. A way that extends beyond us, while allowing you to journey beside us.

With that said, we have a BIG announcement!  We are expanding our family through adoption!! And this photography gig will help us fund our international adoption.

More than your business, we'd ask that you cover us with your prayers as we begin this process. We can't thank our past clients for planting this seed for us! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Runaway Bride

You know what I absolutely love? I love this God which I serve. And here's why...He can take the most screwed up of person and turn that person into something beautiful. He can take burnt ashes and turn them into beauty.

I am not sure about you, but most things that are ugly I disregard, throw out, or think they are useless. But our God...He does none of those things.

Instead of turns our mourning into gladness, our mourning into praise, and offers us a crown - a crown, not just any crown but one of beauty!

He even says He will rejoice over us (Isaiah 62:5) just as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.  We are His brides.

My wedding day was one of the most magical days of my life. I loved everything about being a bride! My mom would joke about how I cared about nothing more than being a bride. The marriage was just an added bonus :) If I could relive my wedding day, I would everyday. I never felt more beautiful than on my wedding day!  As wonderful as my wedding day was, to know God sees me as his bride makes me almost want to run. Yet, makes tears well up in my eyes to know He sees me as his bride.

Pure, perfect, radiant, wonderful, loved, beautiful...with a crown.

So why run?....

Because I know the mess that I am. How could He ever love me with all the mess?

And that's what I absolutely love about the God whom I serve.

Because He does love me, despite my shortcomings. Lord, knows I don't deserve that kind of love - but you see He is not about giving us what WE deserve! If that was the case, we'd be sinking ships weighted down by our messes.

He is about giving us his grace and mercy. He is about making our hearts whole where this world has tattered them. He is about making our lives whole so we can live the life in which He has called us, according to His purpose.

Oh and how sweet it is!

On Mondays, I have the absolute privilege of serving alongside a group of beautiful women. We meet for an hour and half and we lean into Him, learning about Him, while learning about ourselves. Mondays are now full for me. Brady goes to school, I facilitate a bible study, then I have class from 7-9 every Monday and normally a test with a 45 min drive there & back. I normally don't get home until after everyone is asleep. But last night, as much as I was tired...I couldn't help but be so filled. Filled with His goodness. This is a new and busy season for me/us but if yesterday was any indication of what is to heart almost can't contain itself.

Five years ago, if you would have told me I'd be leading a woman's bible study, I would have laughed in your face. Even if you would have told me 3 year ago, I'd probably laugh.

But here's the thing I absolutely love?

While I am leading, they are the ones blessing me. They are the ones who make me want to dig a little deeper. They make me want to shout from the valley or mountaintop (because some days I'm on top and some days I'm buried in my own insecurities) that this God we serve is nothing short of amazing!

I am just like them...wanting, searching, & seeking. I am just like you. We all want to belong, we all want to be apart of something bigger than this life. We all want to make a difference. We want community. We want someone to get us. 

We all want to know that no matter how screwed up or messy our lives that we matter.

I am just your average 30 something girl, who has many faults, but knows she serves a God that created me for great things. For purpose. And those great things can only be done in and through Him. Through living in His spirit.

Great things might just mean I didn't lose my temper today. Or it may mean I prayed about something rather than texting a friend my frustration. Great things don't have to be grand, extravagant ideas.

I think it's sometimes the smallest of things that He wants from us. The things we think don't matter or He doesn't have time for. 

Well, I got news for ya sister - He already knows! He knows your need before it's ever even a need. He created you. He knows you better than you know yourself.

He already knows the areas where I stumble. The prayers that I laid at his feet, yet only to pick up - again, and again. He knows my fears. He knows where I think I'm not good enough. He knows it all. But yet He is my someone. He is my hiding place. He is my strength when I am weak. He is why I do matter. Why you matter.

When we learn to empty ourselves of this world and fill ourselves with Him...He can do amazing things through us. Regardless of our status, relationships, how much we know, or whatever it is we cling too.

So running would be pointless. At least in the opposite direction it would.

I am not runner. I have running shoes, but they are more for show than running. Just being real :) 

But what I do have is His word and His word is what I do run too, daily. I lace up my heart and run. I run and I run. I run until He fills the empty places of my heart and life. I run to Him. I chase Him.

While I run, it's easy to be distracted. To fill myself with things that slow me down. But when I run with Him, towards Him, and chase Him...that is where great thing happen.

That's where He takes our messes, our insecurities, our thoughts and instead places crowns of splendor - straight upon our disheveled hair and lives.

Where we exchange our yoga pants and t-shirts for garments of salvation and robes of righteousness.

Where He says, "as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." John 15:9

He loves us more than we could ever know. And I think because we tend to not love ourselves, it's hard for us to comprehend how He even could love us.  But oh how He loves us. Loves you. How easy and often we forget to remain in His love.

And everything that He is, you are also.

You do matter. You are making a difference. You are a warrior. You are wonderful and fearfully made. You are love. You are loved. You were designed by a Creator who creates only the best. You are beautiful. You are holy. You are...enough.

You are His. You are His. He is yours.

Regardless of your past, your future, your insecurities, or what anyone else tells you. Or what you tell yourself. Let His voice and truth be heard over anything else. Let Him tell you who you running to Him and his Word. By allowing the Spirit to fall upon you.

Chasing Him. Making Him the center of your alter. After all, He is the one standing at the end of the aisle, finish line.

Because He wants nothing more than to make you His bride. Bringing beauty from ashes.

So lace up your running shoes and run! Run to the only One who can take your heart, your failures, your fears, and messes and turn them into something beautiful.

This is what I absolutely love...even if I run and fail...He will never fail. That through the running He shows me who I really am. Who He knows I am. Not what the world says I am.

He has chosen and called each of us. Calling us into His presence, calling us into rooms of greatness, calling us into a place so heavenly our minds can't even comprehend.

And when I used to think I was not even worth running for...He showed me that running to and with Him is the only way to run. 

Wedding dress and all...

Because this, right worth all the running. All the pit-stops, all the hills, all the valleys, and all the roads which has brought me to this point in my life. 

To know that He has called me and I said yes...whatever the cost.

I may have running shoes "just for show" but the running isn't just for show. It's for a King that is coming for His bride. For I know He will be greeting me at the end of that long church aisle...and what a glorious day it will be.

I don't want to be caught as the runaway bride who is running the other way, but yet running as if my life depends on it. Because He is the only one in which I can depend I run.

And I pray for my sweet friends running this race. As I prayed this morning over my Monday girls and named them each by name...I couldn't help but cry knowing God has set each of them, us apart for great things. That when we open ourselves up for Him to work, He (his spirit) will catch us...equipping us to run the greatest race we'll ever run. Lavishing His love on His in ways we never could imagine. Filling us with perfect and blameless love. Taking what we seem is all lost and using it and us. Using you and me- simple, everyday moms and girls/woman for a Kingdom that last forever. Giving us purpose and meaning. Living a life of to run wherever He calls us.

And that's what I absolutely love this God whom I serve.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1

So to my sweet sisters...lace up & run. He is cheering you on, we are cheering you on and if He is for one can be against you. I pray His spirit chases you until you are able to run - free in who He created you to be.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cross the aisle

Written late June after the devastating Charleston shooting where we lost nine brother & sisters.

Last night as I sat with a friend at a local restaurant I noticed an older, black couple sitting across the aisle. As I watched them eat dinner, my heart wept for them. My heart wept for all black people. My heart wept for this fallen, sinful world.

Awareness. Draw us in.

You see I grew up in a very small town, just south of Houston/Sugar Land area where black people were just the norm as white people. Where some of my best friends were black. Where I learned that while skin color shouldn't matter, it does matter to some.

Attending a sporting event as a young, white girl in jr. high with a black boy would almost guarantee a stare or quiet whisper. As if I had no business with having a black friend or we had a bulls-eye on us for judgement based on nothing else other than the difference of our skin color.

How dare we cross over the aisle of race?

To be completely honest, some of the most genuine and kind friends I had during my childhood were black. They never teased me about the way I looked, they never made fun of the hideous station wagon we had, they never cared if I had the latest & greatest Starter jacket because they came from a place where money wasn't what was important. They simply were my friends because I was a friend to them. And their families were always kind and generous whenever I saw them, unlike those who I encountered in public.

But regardless of my upbringing, how many black friends I had or have today and how many times I might reach across the aisle of race, the reality is as a white person I have no idea what social inequality looks like. And pretending that it doesn't exist is just as wrong saying nothing at all.

As I drifted off to sleep last night thinking about the nine lives that were lost due to the color of their skin, I wept. The faces of the nine flashed before my eyes as reminders of the pain that our brothers and sisters still have to endure, even in the 21st century.

Then I thought of all the hate flying over social media. Pure hate. Where people are quick to comment on an issue they have no experience with. On an issue that is more than politics, gun control, religion, and the bubble in which you exist. Because it's easy to throw your two cents out there when you have never been discriminated against simply for the color of your skin. Social media has allowed us to say & share things without even considering the cost it has on others. It's as if we've lost all touch of reality because who even knows what reality is anymore.

Let's face it - white people, including myself have no idea what our brother & sisters of the African-American community must feel after the events that took place in South Carolina and the unraveling of events over the last 10-12 months.

Yes, I can try to relate or try to understand but what happened in South Carolina hits a deep wound in the black culture that I simply can't grasp from my perspective.

I can chose to walk away from the madness of racism really anytime I want to since I don't directly live it. I'm not directly affected by it so therefore, I am quiet. Or maybe it's fear of saying the wrong thing?

We must listen in order to understand. And we must address the madness from outside the storm. Which starts with people that look like me.

As a race, we have failed our fellow man. We have tolerated hate by saying nothing at all. We have allowed ourselves to dismiss race issues by buying into the media hype, by trying to reason or argue a valid point behind a racial hate crime, or by simply acting like it doesn't affect us.

Hate exist because evil exist. And evil exist because we live in a sinful, fallen world.

A world where the theft comes in the night to kill, steal, and destroy.

Where darkness looms around each corner, lurking for lost souls to take up residence.

How dare we reach across the aisle and extend love?

Some of the most thoughtful, kind, humble, and God-fearing people I have ever known are black. They love with an intensity that could set this world on fire. Their passion for their kids, their extended family, and their community is one you can't deny. And their love for the Lord IS fierce. We could all use more of their kind of reverence when it comes to church and loving Christ. And most certainly, in the way we live our lives.

Even now as family members speak on behalf of their loved ones, they offer and extend grace, forgiveness, and a chance to share the gospel to the lost soul who selfishly took away their loved ones.

Imagine that - a world where we offered the same to those who have wronged us? To those who so freely throw out hate?

We can't change that evil or hate exist in this world. It will exist until Christ returns and sadly so will probably social inequality. But that doesn't mean that we sit around and do nothing - or should I say, say nothing.

Nine people attending a Wednesday night Bible study were shot. Even if color wasn't an issue here, us as Christians should not sit in silence. Those were our brothers & sisters in Christ. They died at the hand of evil, now thankfully in the presence of the King.

What was intended for evil, will be used for good.

As a white Christian, I am even more horrified at such evil. More than ever I want to reach across the aisle and sit at the dinner table with those who God created with a slightly different skin tone than me & offer a shoulder to cry on, a prayer in the midst of tragedy, and apologize for the anguish my race has caused them. Not just this week, but for years.

If anything, we should reach across the aisle and take time to listen to our brothers & sisters who are hurting. We should turn off our televisions and turn on our hearts. Then ask how you can help? I think acknowledgment is the first step.

I may not understand the depth of this tragic event from the color of my skin, but my heart cries out for those families and their community. 

It cries for peace and mutual edification. And it starts with us - speaking up and standing up.

Love will always triumph over evil as we are seeing now as the families speak. Stories of forgiveness that take your breath away. Church vigils where those who are hurting are still lifting their hands to the One who saved us.

So while I can't relate on that part of their history, I can relate on the part of the body of Christ.

One church, one body.

It is simply not enough to just talk about, we must actively find ways to reach across the aisle. 

But how? 

By caring. When we start caring about the issue of racism then we can work on changing. God cares and so must we as God's people. This should be a wake-up call for others and for our churches. No, it's not the most comfortable topic of discussion but God never called us to be comfortable.

If anything, He would want us to use this time to bring His people together. To do the exact opposite of what evil intended. He would want us to stand up, even if it means standing alone. To head straight into the storm where deep waters rise, but where grace is met when our feet hit the water.

The storm is raging and our black friends are standing firm, clinging to Jesus - the One who reaches across the aisle time and time again with love.

I pray you would do the same.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Chase

I am a fan of the movie Edward Scissorhands. It's cheesy and just makes me laugh. I mean what normal, suburban lady would go to this place where no one would go to sell Mary Kay? She went to the unlikely of places and befriended an unlikely person. Someone who was seen as unacceptable in the neighborhood. Beyond different, just straight strange. I mean scissors for hands?! What?! Was she that desperate to sell some skincare products? Or was it a divine moment? Clearly, I am reading way too much into a cheesy 90's movie.

As I scrolled through Facebook tonight then laid my head down to sleep, I thought what happened to the good ol' days of Facebook? Are these people so desperate to sell something they are willing to go/do anything?! The days where feeds were filled with real status updates, real pictures, where & what you were eating. Fun, light-hearted feeds.

I am currently listening to a sermon series called "Thumb Wars" and I can't help but think how brilliant. Yet, how sad.

Let me be clear - I love social media and often find myself spending way too much time on there. I love being able to keep up with friends and my family with just a click away. But it can also be a place where the "Thumb Wars" overwhelm me. And not overwhelm as in I can't take it, but overwhelms my heart.

Because just like in Edwards Scissorhand, people will and are going to great lengths to sell Mary Kay. Or whatever else they sell. To sell, to sell, to sell, to sell.

Facebook might as well change it's name to Marketbook because my feed is flooded, I mean flooded with multi-tiered marketing scheme/pyramid ads/businesses or things of the like. I've even had friends get off Facebook because they are tired of it being all about what others can sell/offer them.

I mean if someone started selling groceries on there, I'd never have to leave my house.ever.again. From eyelashes to healthcare to face care. I can find it all on Facebook...all day long.

To be perfect honest, I have nothing against these pyramid deals. I actually happen to sell a multi-tiered product myself. Okay, sell is a loose term for me since I make a few sales here & there. I think there are some really great products out there & I think it's great some are able to supplement their income, get inspired, etc.

So why would this overwhelm my heart?

I've heard it say...whatever consumes you, is whom you serve. I feel like we are so consumed with ways of trying to better ourselves and don't even realize when we have become a slave to the very thing we think is bettering us.  

I've stayed home for over three years now. We live on a single family income.

Yet, God has always provided. Always.

I even had a successful business that I closed due to this exact thing I'm about to blog about. The chase. The money consumed me. The idea to be the next best monogrammer. To keep doing more, making more. I was a slave to my Honey B. business. It was my life. I worked hours upon hours to build it up to what it was and I still had a void in my life.

I fell into the horrible lie of the enemy- that I could have it all and do it all. And do it all well. My marriage suffered, my parenting suffered, and I suffered.

I was a slave in a wilderness. Searching, chasing.

In Exodus 16, the Isrealites were unhappy in their circumstances, yet God kept His promise and manna rained down from heaven. Manna was a food that was miraculously supplied to the Israelites while during the wilderness.

God provided when there was no way.

I could have easily gone back to work in these last 2 years. I miss working. A lot. I look forward to when I can return to work. But my work is here, in my home.

This is where God has called me.

He also called the Israelites into the wilderness. For 40 years.

Forty years.

I've only been home just a little over 3 and half years so I can't fathom forty. We have made huge adjustments for me to be able to stay home. Sold my brand new car, learned to budget, cut out added expenses, yet we are better off now than we have ever been since we've been married.

God didn't call me to be the best monogrammer in South TX or anywhere for that matter. He called me to serve Him and I couldn't do that with money as my focus or by selling, selling, selling. And boy was I selling!

When He called them into the wilderness, He also tested them.

Believe me when I say I had my share of testing. The testing is where He refines, creating me into what He intended me to be.

Yet, He has always been faithful.

The thing is I had been searching and searching. In the wilderness.

I wanted manna. I wanted that everlasting taste of something good. The land of milk and honey. I wanted the career, the baby, the new house, a new SUV (I still want a new SUV if I'm being 100% real), and I wanted a clean house with a plush bank account. Don't worry I gave up on the clean house a long time ago...

As my mama tells me - none of those things will make you happy. 

It took me struggling through a dark wilderness plus some to realize she was right.

There is only one thing on this earth that will quench that thirst. That will satisfy. That gives us freedom. True freedom in life. And it is not more money, another level up, or whatever else you gain by selling x,y,z.

Thankfully, I already have the ultimate title: Daughter of the King.

So why is my feed filled with non-stop selling and promoting? Because we are all daughters searching, looking for manna. We all want to feel loved, adored, have that new car, look our best, whatever it may be. God designed us to crave. Crave Him. Unfortunately, this world has taught us to crave the things of it. Money, a good body, a perfect home & kids, the finer things in life.

And my heart cries out for it to stop!

Our freedom is not found in these things, yet in Him.

We can't have financial freedom until we give him our finances. Yes, He blesses us but not to build multi-level marketing pyramids.

Again, I am not saying they are wrong - but what are the reasons behind the chase?

What are we chasing?

Who are we chasing?

Each other? More money? More promotions? The approval of others? 

I believe in taking care of yourself and being responsible for your body and your finances. I do. But I can't help but think it almost becomes an obsession.

We can chase rainbows and feel good moments all day, but in the end - will it matter? I am exhausted just by chasing the Facebook post. I can't keep up between all the deals, products, or your promotions. We can go to the ends of the earth selling something, but it will never satisfy us like Jesus. It will never bring us peace when we're called into the wilderness. There is no amount of money, residual income, car, or promotion that would make living with my mom's diagnosis any easier. The only way to walk through a wilderness such as this one is with the manna He provides. And because I allow myself to be consumed with Him walking in His truth has become like my job. Sharing with others, encouraging them - that no matter what may come He is good. It's through the wilderness that I find my calling. 

He will provide. So I chase Him. 

And traded my business of 5 years for trust. Trusting Him in the unknown of the wilderness. I needed that money after all or so I thought.

So I ask myself why does it overwhelm my heart to see my feed flooded with these things?

Maybe because I feel so many are searching and looking into something which will never satisfy and frankly it breaks my heart.

He is near to the brokenhearted.

So what if our hearts were broken for what breaks much different would our chase be?

Would we worry with how much money we were making or instead of how much we could give. 

Or would we spend our time offering to help others in ways that truly encourage - instead of offering them something that benefits us?

Would we host a party just for those who are hurting or those who are struggling? To those walking this road alone, even if they live in a house full of children and their husband or maybe our friend who is truly alone because she's single. Or the friend who is too ashamed to share her fears and doubts about her marriage or struggles with motherhood?

What if we went to the most of unlikely of places to win that one who may perish?

The search. The chase.

For belong, to love.

We all belong and are loved in His Kingdom. We are all leaders, producers, and executives...without having to do or sell anything.

He simply just want us. Our hearts, minds, and our souls.

He wants us to chase Him. To search Him.

Not search our bank account, the scale, waist, a perfect home, or wrinkles...

But simply Him.

Knowing He is the one who provides all our needs according to the riches of His glory.

May we search and chase in ways that bring Him glory. May our hearts break in ways that we turn our hearts towards others rather than our own.

May you know that He adores you and loves you. That with Him, you can be free. Freedom which has has already been paid for you, for me.

May He flood your heart in ways that only He can satisfy.

So while my heart cries out for it to stop, it won't until everyone is free. Free to be what Christ has called us to be. His servant. His beloved. Hemmed beautifully into His garments.

If only you could see yourself, the way He does.

We exist for Him. Yet, the enemy wants us to think we exist for all these other things - that simply do not matter. I toil at home, but my work is etched in the next life. I search Him here on this earth in the the things of this life, such as Facebook feeds and while I hope to find Him there...instead I find remnants of lives. Tattered, hanging on by threads. Lives lived searching and chasing.

What if we chased our personal relationship with Christ in the same fashion as we do the things we promote or sell?

You see it's not that searching and chasing is wrong  - but it is merely what we are searching and chasing.

It leaves only wanting more because of what it is lacking. Lacking the security we need in order to be content. We will never be content with selling, selling, selling. We'll only be content when we learn to trust in the wilderness. No matter how long or how tough it gets.
When we are able to scoop up manna from the morning dew and know 
When we're able to catch a glimpse of His glory and the cries our hearts are hushed by the gentleness of His touch. When we stop searching and chasing and resting in His embrace.

May He search us, know us, and try us. And may we respond with open hearts. Busted open for what only He can bind back together. Bind our wandering hearts to thee. For we are exhausted from the chase.

We're full, but not satisfied. We are willing to sell out for so many things expect for the ONE that truly will matter.

Our relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Knees to the Earth

I used to blare Kirk Franklin throughout our apartment when we lived in San Antonio. I had suffered a miscarriage, couldn't find a job and I hated life! I thought of ending my life almost on a daily basis. It was such a dark time in my life & I thought I'd never have real joy in my life. It would be almost 3 years before I would be set free from depression. 

I spent many hours on my knees, crying out in our walk-in closet.

Knees to the earth.

Other than Allen, my mom was my biggest cheerleader. She encouraged me, lifted me up, and prayed over me time & time again. She knew that God had great things in store for me, if only I could see what she saw & what Christ saw in me. She knew I'd overcome and pushed me to get help time & time again. Honestly, I just thought "it was just who I was" (oh the lies I believed), but mom knew that was NOT who I was. She has poured Christ into me since I was a little girl. She always told me I'd do great things for the Kingdom.

Now the tables have turned and I have the honor & privilege of encouraging, uplifting, and praying over my mom. It's tough watching your mom suffer, but more than anything it's tough watching her spirit suffer. Because I know that is NOT who she is. And I know she IS and will continue to do great things for the Kingdom.

This, her diagnosis, her cancer journey is just the beginning. I often joke with her about being her booking agent or when will start speaking about the miracles God is doing.

Cancer is physically tough, but mentally & emotionally I can't even imagine. Basically, it's a death sentence [IF you choose to see it that way]. But as believers we know Christ already conquered death & we are ALL dying little by little every single day. It's how we chose to live each day that matters. Not next month, next year, five years from now, etc. So I choose not to see it as a death sentence, but yet a spring board for God's goodness & grace.

Perspective is everything.

Our minds are programmed to think towards the future, but I'm starting to believe that's not at all how Jesus intended it to be for us. Always chasing the next best thing, the next vacation, the next promotion, the next, the next...

Isn't today enough? Isn't HE enough?

I bow my knees to now. Today. This day whatever it may bring. Thanking Him for today. Even thanking Him for the hard- this hard, cancer. I look for opportunities I can seize today. I also threw out the expectations of THIS world. I want to be in this world, but not of it. 

I want the lens of grace.

The grace that transfigures all. After all, isn't that why Christ suffered the ugliness of the Cross? To transfigure us, through grace. To prove there is beauty in the suffering.

When we lay it down, knees to the earth we empty ourselves. Emptiness is then filled with His grace. Maybe that's why His grace abounds in deepest waters...

Our vantage point changed. Transfigured.

We must change our lens in order to see the God of Transfiguration. To experience fullness. Grace. Beauty.

I remember once mom told me while sitting at the kitchen table...that isn't it sweet to be in the valley. I cried. All I wanted was to be on the mountaintop (or dead) because the valley was hard. But she was right.

Life is full of valleys & it seems we're in the valley more than we are on the mountaintop, but maybe it's not the valley that's hard but our perspective that makes it hard. Satan wants nothing more than to keep us in chains & play with our emotions. Our perspective gets blocked & we feel hopeless. 

But our knees are our vantage point in the hard. 

Where we bend the knee and meet Christ face to face. 

Where darkness transfigures into light, sufferings transfigures into grace, bad turns to good, and pain births new life.

It IS a sweet, sweet spot. 

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that closet with Kirk Franklin blaring & tell myself THIS is where your pain will be used for good. For the Kingdom. He picked me & you mom for Him. For His Kingdom. For His good.

He picked you for this. Like Esther, "and who knows you have not come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) 

So Mom it's sweet to be in the valley. The valley is where sweet surrender happens, where we're transformed by His grace and love. Consider it ALL joy - the valley & the mountaintop. Consider this time just a resting spot but not a destination. 

God wastes nothing.

So bend the knee, give thanks for the pain, and transform your perspective.

May you have eyes to see the mountaintop God has before you. The beauty in the pain.

But meanwhile knees to the earth. Emptying out yourself where grace transfigures all.

Even cancer.

"Proudly refusing to accept this moment (including the HARD moments), dismissing it as no gift at all, I refuse God. I reject God." 

"Thy will be done," - not just in heaven, or down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at this very moment." 

This very moment...

Mom- i love you madly! Lift up your face for mercy remembers your name!!

Tomorrow is a new day but tonight blare some Kirk Franklin & lay down your fears at the feet of Jesus & yes buy that gift & dye your hair & do all the things you normally do because you are STILL living!!! & according to AB you will be for a while ;) we're still in the fight! It's time to get back in the ring & show the enemy just WHO you really are!

And I'd gladly walk through my darkness 100x over it means that I'm able to face this with my mom. I'm thinking knees to the earth with thanksgiving is the only way to live.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Costa Rica: Day 8 {Departure: Home}


Our time in Costa Rica has come to an end.  It felt like in one aspect the week went by really fast, yet also really slow.  I think we were all ready to return home to our families.  I can't speak for everyone but I know while I couldn't wait to get home, I also knew I would miss Costa Rica.

In a mere seven days, my life was completely changed.  My heart and mind opened in ways I never thought possible.  My perspective changed.

Saturday morning, we got up and had one last meal cooked by Muraja.  We ate, cleaned up, and then got the rest of our stuff packed.  Most had packed the night before, but there were still last minute things to pack.  We said goodbye to where we had called "home" for the last 7 days.

Javier arrived a little before 8 to load up our bags and take us to the airport.  We were loaded and ready to go by 8:15.

Our flight was set to leave at 11:10AM.  We safely made it to the airport and it was time to say goodbye to our lovely driver, Javier.  We thanked him, gave him a gift, and gave hugs all around.  We had grown fond of Javier.  He made us laughed, was a great singer, told us so much about things we saw, and happily answered any and all our questions.  

We were very thankful for him to be our driver.

Once we said our goodbyes, we all filed into the airport.  Costa Rica requires an exit tax so we took care of that first.  Each person paid their $29, filled out some paperwork, then got in line to check in with United Airlines.

For whatever reason, this took particularly a long time.  I think we were relieved to finally get all checked in.  We then made our way to security, which moved rather quickly but behind us was a line of people - not sure where all the people came from.  Security was a breeze & we had about 10 minutes to spare once we made it to our gate.

A few bought last minute souvenirs, while I made sure to get ONE last cup of Costa Rican cafe!  That I happened to spill all over my backpack and then had to throw away before boarding the plane.

Not a happy camper!  They searched our bags before getting on the plane for any and all liquids.  It was crazy & the ladies searching were relentless.  Becky was NOT happy they made her throw away her brand new $3.50 bottle of water.

One lady insisted I drink ALL the coffee before getting on the plane.  Clearly, that was not going to happen but she wouldn't let me throw it away.  Which made NO sense to me!  Thankfully, one of the other security guards agreed to let me just throw it away. 

The plane coming home was full.  Not a single empty seat.  Everyone except Michele sat at the very back of the plane.  Like the very last row.  I heard every single time the toilet flushed.  Yay! ;)  I was just happy our seats reclined unlike the way to CR.

I was even happier I was able to sneak in a hour long nap.

We arrived in Houston right on schedule...a few minutes before 4pm.  We cleared security and customs with no problems at all.  Our rides were waiting for us as we walked out of the airport.

We were thankful to be home, but I think a piece of all of us was still in Costa Rica.  We could go back to our "normal lives" (whatever that is), but I don't think we'd go back the same people.

Costa Rica was a trip of a lifetime.  It was incredible.  It was humbling.  

I am so thankful myself and the 6 others I went with, all said yes to something so much greater than ourselves.  I can't wait to go back!

Until then...Pura Vida, los amigos!!!

I know one little person who sure was happy to have mommy home!  My heart has never been so full!!!!  And I can't thank his daddy enough for encouraging me to go on this trip for myself.  I probably never would have considered it had he not insisted I go and promised me him and the boy would be just fine.  And just fine they were :)


Monday, April 20, 2015

Costa Rica: Day 7 {Part II: La Paz Waterfall}

So I'm currently in the comfort of my home, obviously not in Costa Rica any longer.  I wasn't able to finish day 6 since I had a bad WiFi connection and well was exhausted.  I am still tired, but before I forget I want to finish up blogging about our last full day in amazing CR!

I left off on the previous post with us heading up to mountain to the waterfalls...
There were lots of dairy cows or farms on the way up.

As we got closer to the falls, we started seeing natural springs just coming out.

The way up to waterfalls was a lot of curves and bumps.  The temperature started to drop and the views overlooking the cities down below were just breath-taking.  It took probably an hour & half to get to La Paz Waterfall gardens.

As soon as we got there, we headed to a lunch buffet.  The food once again was really good.  There was bbq short ribs, roasted chicken, fresh salad & pasta, rice & beans of course, chips & dips, pizza, fruit, and fresh fruit juices.  

We ended our meal with delicious Cafe Britt coffee with warm rice pudding!!  Soo good!!  I could have just stayed here for the rest of the afternoon ;)  I think I have a slight addiction to the Costa Rican coffee, haha!

We had about 2 and half hours left to explore the gardens and waterfalls.  There are trails and you go at your own pace.  There were also lots of other areas to see other than the waterfalls.

There was a jungle cat exhibit, butterfly garden (that was amazing!), monkeys, frog area, snakes, walk-through bird exhibit, and trout pond.  Plus a ton of beautiful flowers to take in.  The monkeys really liked Elias or really he liked them.  It was so funny!!

We all kind of did our own thing based on what each of us wanted to do.  All of us, except Becky did the walk down through the waterfalls.  We took a selfie on the way down...trying to capture our "we are really in the rain forest" moment.

It was incredible!
The pictures just don't do this place justice!  There are a total of 4 waterfalls, and the biggest one starts up at the top.

The water was so cold and felt soooo clean!
There were ferns that were HUGE!  And these other plant that had the biggest leaves I had ever seen.  They called it "poor man's umbrella" but I'm not sure of the real name.  These were growing up above the walkway through the waterfalls.  I mean such beauty!!!

The flowers were so colorful and vibrant!  Sadly, I only had my camera phone with me so my pictures don't do a great job of showing their beauty.  Even the "small" leaves were huge.  They had these trees that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book or movie.

This one was called "White Magic" because when you stared at the middle of the fall, the cliff looked like it was moving back and forth with the water.  Was freaky!!  The picture below is looking down over the top of the waterfall.

The jungle cat exhibit...Daddy jaguar and mommy.  She had the first cubs ever born in captivity in CR.  Three little cubs that were so dang cute, only 49 days old.

Baby cub climbing and biting a tree.
Michele and I as we were walking through just kept saying, "wow we are really here!  In the rain forest!!"  It was surreal.  We really enjoyed seeing the falls but the walk back up was no joke!  I thought we might not make it...I blame the altitude, and not the fact that we are totally in shape for such hiking.  This was our we might not make it moment...haha!  

Towards the end of our hike, this little guy just popped out of no where.  Beverly, Melissa, Michele, and myself were so excited to see him!  He was not bothered by us at all.  I'm sure he saw us barely able to make it up that he knew we were harmless ;) we took a short bus ride back up the top and then we watched them feed the jungle cats before heading home.  My phone died right before we went into the butterfly house so sadly I didn't get any pictures of them.  But it was amazing!  We all had a great day & it was a good way to end our amazing trip!  We had a long trip home since it was "rush hour" once we made it back down the mountain.  We ate dinner and then packed our bags for the trip home.  Day 7 and our trip home...I'll post tomorrow!