Beauty & Trappings

_MG_4604“What most people see is a shy girl who might be a little reserved, but bursting with beauty. When I look at her I see a woman enamored with life – both the beauty of it and the trappings – that her smile communicates more than her laughter, it speaks to the future of happiness. The endless possibilities of choosing joy.” -My dear friend Nancy wrote this…about ME.

Nancy is the kind of friend who has a personalized game at her own birthday party that revolves around her sharing what she loves about each of her guests. This woman uses her gifts and talents to love people so well, and when she did this, with tears filling in my eyes, it reminded me why I love photography so much. I am what some have defined as an “extroverted introvert.” I LOVE people, but I enjoy my alone time…crave silence…refuel from peaceful moments…and find joy in observing and internalizing. Photography has become the most perfect balance and opportunity for my sometimes odd personality, as it enables me to interact with others in a way that is healthy and healing for me…in a way that offers boundaries, time to reflect and truly focus in on those around me. This hobby-turned-business has taken my love of people to an entirely new level. I have always loved authentic stories and getting to know wonderful humans, so being able to do that every day is a true blessing to me.

My life changed radically when I allowed others to know the “real me” and realized that they loved that girl more than the perfectionist. Nancy saw more in me when I didn’t see it in myself. Being perceptive means being able to see beyond…see the greater purpose and meaning that often hides deep within a physical body. She saw more than my insecurities and facades. THIS is what I want to do for others. This is why I am a photographer. Each and every one of us is built with incredible depth…complexity that is difficult to capture in a mere instagram post. While I am not able to completely understand and know everything about the human beings I have the honor of working with, I am able to do my best to feature the radiant authenticity they allow me to expose. There is something  beautifully vulnerable about portrait photography…being willing to stand in front of a camera and say, “Here I am. I am enough.”

The photos featured in today’s post are from my latest portrait session with the absolutely lovely Emily Lavengood. She has graced me with the opportunity to do three shoots with her so far, and I can’t wait for our next photo adventure. Have an inspired day, and never forget that unveiling the real, raw you doesn’t have to be frightening. It is the most significant journey, and I am in awe that I have the honor of capturing a tiny piece of these journeys for you all…to uncover the beauty and the trappings in all of us.
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Wounded Light

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“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” // Isaiah 49:16

{Pardon my late night rant, most likely filled with typos and run-on sentences…}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my physical body’s health and it’s connection to my spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Getting even more specific about the mind-body correlation, about a quarter of the motor cortex in the human brain (the part of the brain which controls all movement in the body) is devoted to the muscles of the hands. The wrist is probably one of the most important and commonly used joints in our everyday life. It is delicate…under strain much of the time (writing, driving, cooking, moving, exercising, etc) and can be quite prone to injury. Wrist fractures and breaks are one of the most commonly reported and commonly operated on orthopedic injuries in the U.S.

My right wrist has been through a lot…stresses, tensions, aches, and pains. When I was teaching yoga regularly, one of the concerns I heard most often was with clients who have struggled with wrist pain while attempting to workout. A few years ago, I was at a wellness conference with one of my best friends where I found my physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally drained body in a Holy Yoga class for the first time.

If you know me well, you are probably aware that I’m not a huge fan of showing emotions or crying in public. Perhaps I was just exhausted, but honestly, I think I was just ready. Ready for change. Ready for a new perspective. I was recovering from a wrist injury, and quite honestly dreading the class entirely. How long will they force me to stay in downward facing dog? Could my wrist handle it? A few moments into the class, the pain was too much to bare. The intensity…the sharp, needle like feelings. I opted for child’s pose and face planted into my mat. I decided to spend the duration of this class in a meditative prayer.

Everyone else disappeared. Tears streamed down my cheeks and onto the mat. I didn’t know where I was. I was unaware of any other people. It was just me and God. And it was healing. It wasn’t healing in a “miraculous no more pain” sort of way. It was healing in an authentic, being redeemed sort of way.

Suffering ceases to be suffering when you have a change of perspective. I suddenly had an awakening of grace and redemption. If you don’t get better, you become bitter. Those are two options we have. In that moment on my mat with my creator, letting go of how weak or silly I looked as I stopped following the group around me, I decided to get better. I let go of the frustration surrounding my physical and emotional pain. I realized that it was okay for health to take time and effort. It’s okay that joy costs pain sometimes.

My wrist may still click at times. My spine may still be curved. My heart may still hurt. But I am no longer suffering. Rumi quotes that the wound is the place where the light enters you. I am believing that for you tonight, whatever your wounds and battles may be.

“If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best way possible. Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Paulo Coelho

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What it means to be a tree.

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“I asked God to help me understand the story of the forest and what it means to be a tree in that story. He said to me I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that it was arrogant of me to believe any differently. And he told me the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.” -Donald Miller

With drowsy, yet engaged, brown eyes and two tiny arms full of baby dolls, my Papa would sit with 5 year old me and tell me stories for hours on end. I couldn’t get enough. From pushing tires with sticks, to jumping onto trains as a runaway kid, to being in World War 2, his words would captivate me and take my young mind to a deeper place.

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This past weekend, I spent time with good friends and was reminded that our lives are always telling a story. On Saturday evening, I had the honor of celebrating and taking photos at my amazing friend, Nancy’s, birthday party, which took place at this incredible historic restaurant with loads of WW2 memorabilia. The place had my Papa written all over it, and a train even went by as I wandered around outside. This venue had many stories to tell.

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Then, last night, a bunch of friends from church gathered for a movie night where we watched Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing.” In chatting about the film afterward, it was clear to see that as humans, our pride, selfish choices, and ego often cause severe destruction and detachment from one another. I think it all comes down to our aching desire to be known, seen, appreciated, and understood for the unique and complex individuals we are.

The film painfully and accurately displays passive people forced into action. People in need of grace. People like you and me. All trying to be heard and understood, but instead, we end up trapping ourselves into cages, being quarantined to our own segregated stoops. And when we live in selfishness and don’t strive to understand others, connection and unity simply isn’t possible.

We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.

Recently I have had a few encounters with people who have made some judgments about me or my life without first attempting to know me. If I’m being perfectly honest, it hurt. But if I’m being even more honest, I’ve done the exact same thing. We all have. We are human. Oh, how easily offended we can become when someone doesn’t understand us. And instead of striving toward healthier communication, we put up walls and prepare our weapons.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from my friend, David, who says:
“If you’re trying to meet and understand someone’s needs, and they are striving to meet and understand yours, then everyone’s needs are met.”

It sounds simple, but that is my goal. Living for ourselves will never bring change or true, fulfilling meaning. Living for others, for the bigger picture, the greater story, is what we were made for. I have come to a strange and somewhat confusing realization that I am fully capable of both owning my life and playing a leading role in it, while simultaneously not allowing the story to revolve around me. Isn’t that what the greatest heroes have taught us? I don’t have to lose myself in the midst of living for something greater.

We can be strong and necessary trees in an enormous forest. This makes us one. This allows us to grow toward the same goal and nurture the same home…bringing life to the “one.”

“When you fly across the country in an airplane the country seems vast; but it isn’t vast. It’s all connected by roads one can ride a bike down. If you watch the news and there’s a tragedy at a house in Kansas, that guy’s driveway connects with yours, and you’d be surprised by how few roads it takes to get there.” -Donald Miller

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Hangers & Hurricanes

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“Job found contentment and even joy, outside the context of comfort, health or stability. He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story then he did about himself.” -Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Up until about 15 days ago, I spent 2015 in transition, en route, and ultimately in a lot of uncertainty in regards to what the future would hold. While I definitely have a strong case of wanderlust, I also have a strong desire for “home.”

Months were spent in an odd limbo of sorts…dying to myself and my old ways…redefining many areas of my life. Many times, I found my heart aching for home. But the odd part was that I didn’t fully know what that meant. I felt homesick for something I feared I may never know or have again. It’s strange to be homesick without fully knowing what it is you’re missing.

My dad has always called me his bohemian, which I believe is quite fitting (the definition itself: a person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer). God has certainly trusted me with an adventurous life, and while I enjoy the experiences it brings, living a good story can be challenging at times. This year has taught me, though, that we need to be completely out of control and out of our comfort zones to fully embrace a meaningful life. When all the ordinary comforts are stripped away, we will have to look in the mirror and see who/what is left standing. There’s our truth. There’s our strength.

Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.

My purpose came from learning to let go. Losing. Grieving. And realizing that my story was actually better if filled with imperfect, adventurous authenticity. And while taking the reigns of my life has been a beautiful journey, it is also a time of mourning old versions of myself. When you live numerous stories in which you play a sedentary role, it’s an odd feeling to switch stories, to finally be the leading lady in your own life.

All of that being said, the gypsy soul will still crave home. My nomadic ways are part of me. And I’ve learned that the times I persevered and worked harder to make the day stand out, my story demanded that I change, and so I did. For the better…always for the better.

My good friend Nancy refers to her life as a hurricane…often out of control and unexpected. I can definitely relate to that, and often wonder if/when the storm(s) will cease. The answer is yes and no. The answer is…there is a season for everything.

When I entered my home 15 days ago after months of wondering and wandering, I cried as I opened up the closet and began to hangup my clothing that had been stored away in my car. What a gift…hangers.

To hang up clothing in a closet.
To hang photos on a wall.
To hang new memories in my heart, mind, and soul.

I am grateful today for hangers. For home. For the small moments of security in the midst of life’s hurricanes. But beyond all of that, I am grateful for the joy I found while standing in the middle of the storm. Like Job, I am grateful for the difficulties that this year brought…the things I endured…the ways God challenged me to persevere. I found joy even when I wasn’t comfortable. I kept going even when my body wasn’t healthy. I remained true to myself even when I didn’t have an ounce of stability. Without comfort and normalcy, I chose joy. This hasn’t been a perfect journey, and my story has come with many flaws and fallible moments. But it is mine. And I will continue to grow it into a really, really good one. The best story.

As Nancy said, perhaps life will always be a hurricane. But I am grateful for this wild adventure and the simple joys along the way, even as small as a hanger for my favorite flannel. Some seasons will have hangers. Some won’t. Some will have a tangible home. Some will be without. But I will write a good story through every season. I must.

Becoming Human //

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This year has been quite a journey in regards to figuring out what life looks like, learning how to adult (not sure I’ll ever fully have that one down), letting go, and seeking growth. For far too long, I have fallen back on habits and ways of living that are not conducive to me becoming the healthiest and truest version of myself. People pleasing, being codependent, and making bad choices is actually unnatural. It doesn’t feel human. It isn’t how we were wired. We were made for more. We were designed as humans to be human. I have always had a tough time with allowing myself grace and room to be fallible. That’s the point of this ramble, I guess. In the wise words of Donald Miller,

“We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”

Disclaimer: I am too tired to sugarcoat, wear a mask, and pretend to be someone I simply am not. This post is me. The human me. I am going to share some of my random thoughts on authenticity, adulthood, and navigating this weird and beautiful life that has been entrusted to me. I am reflecting, processing, and setting new goals and standards for myself. As I am continuing to grow and evolve into the woman I want to be, I wanted to jot down personal vows. Here goes:

-Sometimes the pain is just too much. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I could never have foreseen some of the hurts I have encountered in my short years on this planet. The wounds will heal. I really do believe this. Even the ones that are so deeply carved into my being. If they leave scars, the scars don’t have to haunt me. They can inspire me.

-It doesn’t matter how many people have told me not to cry. I need to
LE T | I T | O U T.
Feeling the feelings doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. I will let myself feel it all. I won’t run away from my thoughts and emotions anymore, no matter how loud they may be. I will turn them into art. I will translate the noise into something of worth. Purpose will come from the pain. I will cry. I will feel. I will heal.

-I don’t need to have all the answers. And the scary truth is that I never will. Some people and scenarios and heartbreaks will never fully make sense. I will learn how to digest and let go. I will not let the introverted control-freak side of me take over, internalizing and dwelling on what I do not fully “get.” I will embrace God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.

-The past hurts will come back and creep in sometimes. It will hit so hard it feels crippling. The lies and voices in my head will be loud at times. No matter how excruciating it is, today I vow to never cope in the self-destructive ways I have before. I am done drinking just so that I have a moment of silence and numbness, a brief period of relief from the chaos of my internalizations. I am done escaping. I will not push people away who love me truly. I will face the pain head-on. I will punch fear in the face. And the perfect love casts out all fear.

-It’s okay to make mistakes. But “mistake” implies an accidental offense. I will extend myself a sufficient amount of grace when I make a mistake and have a flawed moment. Because if I am learning and growing from it, that’s all it is. A moment. And it is absolutely unfair to be judged by a moment, by a season. We are all more complicated than that.

-In the same way, I will offer this grace freely to those who have hurt me, and for those who haven’t even hurt me yet.

-Grace doesn’t give me an excuse to make poor choices or have bad behavior. Jesus didn’t die for cheap grace. He gave us grace as a costly gift, something of unimaginable value. I will now live my life according to that truth.

-People pleasing is exhausting. Facades are tiring to build, easy to break, and painful to recover from.
It’s okay that I’m not invincible.
It’s okay that I can’t do it all.

-Applause is a quick fix. Approval from others has been my drug of choice for way too many years…the potent high causing me to perform as I play the part and pretend to be someone else. I will be unapologetically, honestly me, even if no one understands or rewards me for it. I will not sell my soul for applause and approval…I will not “play dead” in order to get a treat while the real me is actually slowly dying inside.

-It’s okay that not everyone understands my life. Their validation is not what I am breathing for. I must stay true to my vision, remain on the right path, and create, live, love, and be who I must. I am allowed to chop of my hair when I want to. I can wear a huge flannel. I can write weird songs. I can be whoever and whatever I am.

-I will not try to force or convince anyone to love me for who I am. I am enough.

-I will always give grace to those who have hurt me, and I will always choose forgiveness, even when I cannot understand the pain. However, I will not put myself in harm’s way ever again. I will forgive, but will never keep people or circumstances in my life that are toxic, damaging, or compromise who I need to be.

-I will not be cynical and
jaded.
I will not let my past paint my present or future. I believe in unconditional love. I believe people can change. I believe in growth. I believe in new beginnings.

-Being tender and sensitive doesn’t make me weak. I will view this as a strength and gift.

-Real love is an acquired taste. I am done with low-end “love”, which really isn’t love at all. It isn’t deep. It isn’t true. It isn’t unconditional. It’s just something else masquerading as love. As Donald Miller says, “But true intimacy is just like that: it’s the food you grow from well-tilled ground. And like most things good for us, it’s an acquired taste.” I vow to be healthy for myself and others. I will love well. I will do love in a healthy way.

I’m sure this list could go on forever, and I could/should make many more vows to myself. Thank you for accepting me in process. Thank you for reading about my transition and journey, as I am striving to become a healthier woman. Humans cry. Humans hurt. Humans feel. Humans make mistakes. Good humans grow. Great humans transcend. That is who/what/where I want to be. To whoever is reading this, thank you for letting me be me. Thank you for letting me become human.

Rainy Sundays & Beautiful Souls

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Yesterday, I had the honor of spending my rainy Sunday in Los Angeles (that doesn’t happen often, by the way) photographing the beautiful Alexis Hibbetts. I love photography because it allows me to literally focus in on whatever is lovely.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8

Alexis is such a beautiful soul, a truly radiant young woman inside and out, so I wanted to feature her photos as well as her beautiful message on the blog today.

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“One of the most important things I think that people need to embrace is having professional photos taken of themselves at least once a year. I think it’s important to remind ourselves how beautiful we are and to see our growth captured in a little moment of time. I have made it a goal to do just that for myself. To embrace whatever season I am in and to go enjoy myself in front of a camera…

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We are all so caught up in the ugly thoughts, not having someone next to us, body shaming, awkward phases of life that we forgot what it is like to know how beautiful we truly are…

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That beauty is created from God. We are created in HIS image. And that is just powerful to think about. “ -Alexis Hibbetts

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Musical Ghosts

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It’s too close, scary close//
Haunted by the musical ghosts//
They know, I know they know//
All the lyrics I wrote//
Hiding in shadows and notes//
Coming out from my throat//

I offer my sincerest condolences to those who grieve the facade//
But the truth is, I didn’t clock into life for you to applaud//
I apologize if this is all too honest//
I broke my promise//
But the soul’s not modest//

Digesting through art, creating to fight off death//
The violent silence begs for songs to come from my breath//
It’s a mess that I’m not cleaning//
It’s chaos without meaning//
We call it art, it’s a heart beating//

It’s too close, scary close//
Haunted by the musical ghosts//
They know, I know they know//
All the lyrics I wrote//
Hiding in shadows and notes//
Coming out from my throat//

Exhibit

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I don’t like the word ‘testimony’, because it implies you’ve arrived at the other side //
I’m not there yet, so I’ll call it my “story”, my journey, my ride //
The truth is that I’m still here in it //
The pain locked in frames, stuck in this exhibit //
For all to see, judge, pity, or despise //
Standing behind the glass, pointing while the soul cries //

I was hiding from the world so I wouldn’t be exposed //
But now I think it’s better that everybody knows //
My boundless internalizing doesn’t stop the world’s orbit //
So instead I guess I’ll spill my mind for you in this exhibit //

Let it be said that it’s not a pretty portrait //
You can’t handle the big picture, so take this messy vignette //
It’s not a work of art //
It’s a malignant heart //
It’s screaming silently as you wait for your engine to start //

How can you tell them, “I appreciate your prayers, but I need more.” //
How can I find the destination with all the closed, locked doors //
It’s an invisible battleground of dark and light //
It’s fighting wars that I don’t think we are equipped to fight //
Perhaps it’s what breaks us that frees us //
And after weeks of avoiding you, my soul cries, “Jesus” //

I beg for freedom from my heart’s museum //
It’s all too much when they can see me and I can see them //
But I fear that when I leave this place //
The demons already know my face //
And I’ll break free from the cold concrete where I sit //
And I’ll leave my darkness in this exhibit //

But can it follow me home, or will you follow me home?

Near to the Brokenhearted

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“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My heart is heavier than ever today as I write this message to you all. After years of a deep friendship and relationship, and just a little over a year of marriage, Nathan and I are no longer together. I realize that this may come as a shock to many of you who are not in our day-to-day lives. This is extremely devastating, disappointing, and while this is not an easy thing for me to share, I am doing it out of protection for both of us. I will not be sharing details, or answering any questions, as those are not necessary. I am, however, updating you all simply because I know that people will begin wondering what’s going on.

Since I met Nathan years ago, he has been a wonderful man of God who I was blessed to have as a best friend. Doing life together taught me a lot about myself, and while we are both very young, immature, and imperfect, we have also helped each other learn and grow. Watching this relationship come to a close has had it’s excruciating moments. Through the years, we shared memories, traditions, thoughts, ideals, and dreams. He knows my demons and darkest moments, and I know his. He knows the brand and shade of makeup that I use. I know what he eats on his cheat days. This is a significant loss. Years and years were spent investing time and energy into this relationship, and this is the most difficult and painful thing I have ever experienced.

Regardless of where we have ended up, I only want to see this man flourish and grow with a beautiful life. I love him dearly and wish him the very best…a healthy, happy life, and I know that he wishes me the same.

I am not asking for opinions, just prayer. It is a devastating thing to have a relationship end. It is a mourning, growing, and refining process during this huge transition in our lives.

I am so grateful for my incredible friends and family who have offered such an abundant amount of grace, love, and support during the toughest season of my life. Keep Nathan and I both in your prayers, and I ask that you extend grace and respect our privacy during this time. I don’t know what to make of all this. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that God is in the midst. He is still good.

There’s a quote I read recently by Priscillia Shirer that said, “God will redeem your pain and replace it with purpose.” That is my greatest hope, for Nathan and for myself. There is so much pain, it is overwhelming. But God is still sovereign, even through what I do not understand and don’t know how to process perfectly. Thank you for your prayers.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

The Journey of Trust & Wonder //

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
-Jeremiah 29:11

Alright everyone, I have a confession to make. I am extremely directionally challenged. No…really…I mean it. If I’m driving, you can spin me around in a circle, put me back on the exact same path, and I will find a way to get lost somehow. Due to this little problem of mine, I have learned to trust heavily on plans and control. Clearly I was born in a great generation for this, with Siri to guide my every move.

Another confession: I used to be a HUGE control freak. Major. Big. About everything. I lived in fear and didn’t trust in anything I couldn’t make happen myself. This flaw is isolating and causes you to miss out on a lot in life. Over the past couple of years, unexpected circumstances have forced me to stop being so type-A…to learn to loosen my grip on the steering wheel a bit.

Earlier today, I was following one of my favorite people to the beach. If I’m being completely honest with you, I wouldn’t have been able to get their on my own without a GPS. If I had lost eye-shot of the sweet truck in front of me, I would have been thoroughly lost. This expanded something deep in my soul and brought a smile to my face as I was driving. It was a sweet release, a relieving joy, to realize that I didn’t have to do all of the thinking. I didn’t need to worry and control. I could fully trust that this person I love dearly was leading me to the healing waters where I needed to rest. It wasn’t necessary for my mind to know every step of the way for me to end up in the right place.

Donald Miller quotes,

“I need for there to be something bigger than me. I need someone to put awe inside me; I need to come second to someone who has everything figured out.”

This is my gratitude for God. For humans. For this life that is so much greater than my fears, and so far out of my control. The road ahead of me is not one that I fully understand. I am learning to trust this journey, and it is exceedingly more beautiful through the eyes of trust and wonder. Often times when I don’t know where I am going, it is leading me to the perfect place. Where I belong. Healing. Peace. Home.