Spring, you have grown me.

The spring semester of 2018 was one for the books. A time of intense growth and finding. A magical, ridiculous, perfect, messy semester that I am SO deeply grateful it brings me to tears. I cannot express how important Liberty University is to me. I cannot express how clear it is to me that the Lord is moving and that He is for us in every season. This semester He showed himself to me in a very personal way, in a very intimate and overwhelming way. He showed Himself to me through His people, through the ones that love Him. His love poured from them in every moment. To the people he has given me, thank you for doing His work. Thank you for loving the way you are called to love. It does not go unnoticed. 

I have learned to sit still and I am working on sitting in silence. But the sitting still part is doing me well because I am finally able to see what is going on in front of me and around me. The Lord promises to use His people to do His work and the kind of revival that went on on campus this semester is a prime example of that. I have learned patience in a way I never thought possible. I have felt the tangible touch of grace and forgiveness. I have learned to cry. I have learned to laugh, and I have learned to be held in every part of those two things.

So, let this be an ode to 2018. A triumphant revelation of the goodness of the Lord through my eyes. The way I see His realness and the way that I see His heart every day that I wake up. Let me start at the beginning.

 

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2018 began with my family taking me to The Mattress Factory museum in Pittsburgh for my birthday. It was by far one of the best days of my year. They took me to one of my favorite places of all time, even though they might have not understood why it was so special to me they still pretended to love it and it made me so happy. I really love you guys so thank you for being you. 

 

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Room 321: South Tower

I never thought that this room would mean so much to me. Sarah Verst, thank you for being such an amazing roommate. Thank you for doing Tower Tuesdays with me and for cultivating a place for so many people in a season where it was needed. I love you and I am sorry for being an idiot for a time. I hope you have an amazing summer and see your peeps in China. 

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I went through this phase this year where I would write little notes like these for people throughout the day. I wrote this one to myself one day and it hung above my bed all semester. Read it please. It’s true. 

Brunch at Madilyns: These mornings were so special. So full of love and content. Madilyn thank you for opening your home and your heart so many times this year. Thank you for making a home that was so peaceful for so many people. Thank you for being you and for loving people so well. Thank you for taking care of my people. Thank you for August. Thank you for letting me in. You are going to rule the world one day, you are going to do amazing things in Florida and be the tannest, hottest mom of all time. Continue to wear bright colors please. 

I went back to LYH early in January for an intensive. I stayed at the Saras house and that week was so classic. First of all, I was gifted the most incredible present of all time. Second, I got snowed in with my best friend and we got to binge movies with her mom while I pulled my hair out about my projects. I also met Tess this week which was legendary in itself. S/o Robert Mott, luv ya <3

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My sweeties threw me a birthday party. Thank you for this, it made me feel really loved. I was very happy this night.

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This was my little corner this year. It was really special and silly and a lot happened in this corner and in this room that I won’t ever forget. The Lord shows up people!

My ladiesssss!!!!! Thank you for being you!! Thank you for pushing me towards the Lord every day and for constantly making me laugh. You guys mean so much to me, I think you know that. But I’m still gonna say it. 

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I shot my first wedding this winter and it was incredible. Hannah and Brian if you are reading this, thank you for being an example of an incredible, Godly couple and thank you for being so kind to us on your day. 

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I learned how to develop and print film this semester, that was really cool. The class sucked, but I made some pretty cool prints and I think I want to keep up with it. There’s something about “making” a photo that’s incredible. To everyone that sat with me in the lab—thank you, I know it smelled weird. 

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DC:

T, thank you for this day. I love you. 

A Day: 

We all went to Saras this day and had a huge breakfast and then did an impromptu photo shoot. It is easily one of the top ten best days of my year. We were so free, idk it was awesome. We were just there and present and content with being who we are that day. It was so fun. 

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Sara and I took Tess to our favorite movie theater in Roanoke. We were freaking out about going back to school so instead we went to Waffle House. Thank you Jeep for being there for us. 

 

I went to Florida for like two days over spring break to visit my grandparents. Even though it was a really short trip, I needed this break so much and they were so amazing to be around. It was so sweet to be able to spend one on one time with them and I am very grateful that we had that time together. I love you guys. 

I came back from spring break early to work and stayed with… you guessed it, Sara and her family. Chrissie and Brian, thank you for putting up with me. Chrissie, thank you for listening and I hope you were able to use me for a discussion board or something. This was a really fun few days, Sara and I just relaxed and cooked and talked. Gotta love her.

 

To anyone who came into the studio this semester, thank you. I had a blast making so many cool photos with you. To my main four, you rock let’s keep up the good work, we have something special. 

 

ATL Pt 1: 

We drove to ATL for the weekend to spend time with the Marblestones. S/o marblemom and marbledad and scrambled meags. A very very special trip and one that I’m so thankful we were able to take. Little did we know that the following week would be one of insane revival on campus. It was so cool to see how God orchestrated everything that following week so perfectly. WOW!

Grad Date: 

I took T out for dinner as a graduation present and we ordered trout. Why? Idk we don’t really even like fish but it was really really fun. She deboned it like a pro and then we had pasta that I could sob thinking of and a really interesting dessert. This was such a sweet night, one that was really important to me. Thanks for being vulnerable and for eating fun food. 

 

The last week of school was kind of a blur. We celebrated the heck out of Sara for her birthday, celebrated Tess for her graduation, went to a waterfall, had an incredible picnic on Cole Mountain, had many many Hill sleepovers, a roof night, and had a few playground nights and it was perfect. Hard, but perfect. Annie Caroline and Rylie, thank you for letting me dip my toes into your world. Thank you for letting me crash in your building. To everyone, thank you for staying up until 4 am that whole week. It was worth it? Because we had no clue that literally like five seconds later we would see eachother?

ATL pt 2: 

LOL jokes on all of us, we literally were all back together in Atlanta like less than five days after saying goodbye in LYH. We celebrated Jade and it was amazing. What a special 24 hours.

Then we all for real said goodbye but even that felt fake because we are going to see each other a lot this summer. 


The thing that I’m learning about the Lords community is that it’s really tight knit and makes a lot of sense that way. He keeps people close that need to be close. He loves seeing us grow and seeing us be joyful! He loves seeing us spur one another on! 

This is kind of just a recap of everything that happened within the past few months but, if you’ve taken the time to get through everything I hope you see what I see. A community, a story, a redemptive version of some life. I see a hope, I see loneliness brought into abundance and known love. I see sadness turned onto its FACE into an uncontainable joy. I feel a peace that can’t be tainted. I see growth and radical adjustment that can only happen with a support system. I see a God that loves us enough to give us little pieces of himself so that we can continue to fight. So that we have someone to lean on sometimes. I see a heart of a King that is so tender and so kind that he would think to give us friends. That he would think to give us family and nature and art and cars and music and mountains and trout. I see a God that wants us so badly to be evergreens, to be able to bear fruit in the winter, that he would construct and weave together a group of people around someone to lift them up towards him. I see a story and I see a light that can’t be shadowed. I see beauty from ashes. And what an honor it has been to get to this place. 

 


Peace sophomore year, it has been great getting to know you. 

"Hey."


Nicole Cuddy

IG: @nicolecuddy

Hilarious. Strong. Stubborn as Dundee. Incredibly fast in both speed and wit. Very smart and driven. Loyal. Weird. The best salad and breakfast maker of all time.

 

I have no idea where to begin when it comes to Nicole. She has been one of the most constant things in my life since fourth grade. Finding a friend as a kid that will most definitely last a lifetime is something that I don’t think happens often and its something that I am so deeply grateful for. Nicole is the kind of person that you meet and instantly smile. She’s wild and free and its incredible. Growing up together was interesting. As a kid, Nicole was heavily involved in gymnastics so, a lot of our relationship consisted of us hanging out after gym practices and me tagging along to gym meets. Those nights in hotel rooms together are some of the best memories.

 

For me, one of my favorite things about being friends with Nik has been being able to watch her grow into who she is today. She has fought her way through any insecurity and walks through life confidently and proudly. She raises her chin and shows her strength and that’s something that I have wanted to emulate for years. I have adored this girl for almost eleven years now but I think that this time in my life is my favorite.

 

We are separated by a six-hour drive and that has forced us to, in my opinion, come closer together than ever before. We have killed the whole long-distance thing and it has made our time together so much sweeter. I cherish every chance I have to sit with her and watch Alice in Wonderland or every chance I have to sit and talk with her mom. I love visiting her at the greenhouse and hearing about how many plants she had to water that day. I love listening to her talk about flowers and I love laughing about how much she knows about petunias. I love listening to her talk about what she’s learning in school and I am floored by how smart she is. I love thinking about how much we have changed as individuals throughout the years and I love laughing about how different we are now. I have loved watching her grow in her faith and sob every time she texts me about what she’s learning about the Lord. Her heart for others and her heart for me is amazing and it is the softness of that part of her that makes me smile.

 

Nik, you know how important you are to me already so sit with this. Keep pushing forward. Keep chasing excellence in school and in your walk with the Lord. Keep being yourself. Keep wearing your apron and dancing to Whitney Huston unabashedly. Keep sending me national geographic posts and keep looking at the stars at night. I will always drive with you late in the night and I will always sing Disturbia with you. You are so loved babe. 

"Man I feel like I left my consciousness in the sixth dimension"

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Miller Gross

IG: @jmillergross


Influencer (in more ways than one). Wickedly smart. Stunningly handsome. Funny. Explorer. King of ridiculous Instagram stories. Avoider of avocados. Encourager. Has longer, more beautiful hair than I could ever hope to have.

The Lord has been doing some crazy things in my life this year. By far the most recent and the most amazing one is this guy right above. Miller is my best friend’s sister-in-law’s brother.

Got it?

This circle of relationship grew last month when I became my best friend’s sister-in-law’s brother’s girlfriend. It’s funny how God works because someone who I distantly knew loved film,photography and August, quickly became one of my best friends, my boyfriend, and my person.

Our first date was as classic as it gets. We went to chipotle and I did not shut up about movies the whole time. He just smiled and listened until I was done and then to my (pleasant) surprise, went on a tangent of his own about his favorite movies and why they are the best. Finally, someone who not only could handle listening to me rant about Silence of the Lambs, but who actually cared and was genuinely interested. We then went and saw Lady Bird. Only the most amazing film of all time. We both cried. It was an amazing first date and one that I hope to recreate with him many times. From Chinese food in his car from his adopted Chinese grandparents, to aimlessly driving up mountains at three am because the outlook we want to go to is always closed, there is something about JM that holds me close. A forcefully gentle love that pulls me up every day.

 

JM is someone who constantly strives to be a better version of himself. In everything he does, he does it with strength and with passion and it’s something amazing to watch. His drive to draw nearer to the Lord is incredible and something that challenges me because I want to keep up with him in the race. He is someone that brings me insatiable peace because he is vulnerable and available in every conversation. I admire his ability to feel and to talk about his feelings so clearly. I adore his family and the incredible picture of redemption they are and the ability they have to make me cry constantly because I feel so loved by them. I would quite literally lay down my life for his nephew and I am so inspired by his older sister.

 

The way that the Lord has used and is using JM in my life right now are tangible and impressive. I am seeing a form of love that I can only equate to a small fraction of the way that the Lord loves me. I am seeing a very real emotion that I selfishly grasp at every accessible second. I am seeing forgiveness, patience, and healing in so many ways. I am seeing strength exhibited by the sheer will of wanting to move forward for the Lord. I am watching this incredible person lift his cross every day and embracing the honor of suffering for the Lord.

 

JM thank you for choosing me. Thank you for loving me and my friends so well. Thank you for appreciating and encouraging my love for Meryl Streep. Thank you for wanting me to be so happy that it hurts. Thank you for writing me notes that make me smile. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and for trusting me. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being who you are. I can’t wait to sail with you.

 

xx

 

Friendship Series

I’ve spent a lot of time this school year meeting new people.

It has been a semester and a half of constant coffee dates and impromptu photo shoots, two things that I dearly love. Being in college, specifically at Liberty, the act of meeting people is always fun and exciting. You never know who you are going to come across and you never know where that meeting may lead. It’s exciting, liberating, freeing, and emotionally uplifting. 

This year I have seen community in a brand-new way. It’s a simple decision to go out of your way for someone even if it is inconvenient for you at that time. Or a quick rearrangement of plans so that you can see a friend quickly before their class. It’s a simple text a few times a week asking how you can pray or a bowl of popcorn of a Tuesday night. I’ve found that it can be a spontaneous trip to D.C. on a Friday. Or a midday photoshoot with your best friends. A voice memo in the middle of the night telling someone you woke up thinking about them and you hope they know that they are loved. Or a drive up a mountain at three a.m. to talk about what’s on someone’s mind. It’s learning how to say I love you even when it’s not expected in a conversation. A movement to take someone’s trash away from the table. Or an offer to buy someone fries at a coffee shop. A handwritten note that you put on a wall or a Meryl Streep book that they know inspires you.

I’ve found that investing in someone means more than just friendship. Especially when the Lord is involved. He collides the souls, so that He flows through conversation like waves. He shows up on car rides at night and through Wendy’s runs after tanning. He comes into a dorm room once a week through a tight-knit group of women who want to change the world. It has been so amazing to be around people who make me think more and who challenge me to be better constantly.

With all of this being said, I am going to start a new series on this page. A bio-series if you will, of all of these people. I want to share their hearts with you because I know how powerful they are. They’re incredible people and I hope that you follow along.

 

 

Beauty From Ashes

Babes I am back and better than ever. I am #LIVING (s/o to Nat Bassie) and the Lord is #MOVING and its #AWESOME!!!!

This summer was a trial and a half. A whopping four months of intense happiness and utter brokenness. But, I wouldn't change a thing about it. So, since I have been pretty MIA in regards to this silly blog. I thought that since I'm back at LU I'd pick it up again and wow do I have some stories to tell. Over and over again the Lord is reminding me that He WILL indeed make beauty from ashes in EVERY SEASON. Like really, how insane is that?

"now you're making me like you, clothing me in white. Bringing beauty from ashes, for you will have your bride. Free of all her guilt, rid of all her shame and known by her true name."

-Ever Be; Bethel Music

Coming to Liberty in 2016 was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Yes, it was hard at first to get used to the 12 o'clock curfew but there was virtually nothing that I would have changed from year one. I grew in exponential ways both mentally and spiritually, I made friends that not only rocked my world but also my heart, and I built a community of creative people who push me to be better as an artist every single day. It is indeed a special place—a safe haven if you will.

So, leaving that safe haven left me in a kind of spiritual shock that I did not see coming. Writing about this is weird because I have an amazing family and amazing friends at home, but for some reason, being back in PA this summer was really hard. But, something that I have just recently unraveled is that the reason it was so hard was because I had split myself into two people.

I left one in VA and picked up the other on the way back to PA.

This poor girl had been left on the highway months ago when I decided to pack my car and head to LYH for my freshman year and she had been wandering around for months waiting for me to come back. So, when I picked her up on the way home she was tired and hardened by the year alone. She lacked the hope and the joy that the new me had found, she clung so desperately to who she wanted to be and refused to acknowledge who she was supposed to be. She treated her family badly at times and poured everything she had into empty relationships. This old girl was beat out. Her biggest temptations and her biggest regrets were all compiled into a skin that I had sworn I never would crawl back into. Yet only weeks into being back home I had not only crawled into that old skin, I had altered it to fit me again.

Mid-Summer my mom, sisters, and I went to visit my grandparents in Maine. They live on a beautiful lake in the woods that has served for several "come to Jesus" moments in my life. But, this year, Jesus was the last thing on my mind when getting there. I had somehow managed to get to a point so far from the Lord that prayer had become genuinely painful for me. Not because I was against the Lord, but because He wanted me so desperately that I couldn't ignore it anymore and I wasn't ready. I fought with everything in me to push Him out but, if you know Him, you know how hard that is.

I decided one morning to go kayaking and spend some time alone. I wanted to write. I wanted to get some things that were swirling around in my mind onto paper and out into the world. But as soon as I uncapped my pen I froze. I am not a crier and if my life was a movie this would be the scene that would be silent, but I kid you not a single tear fell out of my eyes onto the paper and I immediately felt the Lord say, "trust me." I wrote the single word trust into my journal, closed it, and sat there in silence. Me and the Lord. My fear had vaporized and for the first time in months I had felt as if I could grow from something. My skin was starting to shed and I like to think that in that moment I tore some of the alteration stitches out because the old skin loosened.

Stay with me, because this is going to sound irrelevant but I promise it will come full circle.

Months after this happened in Maine, I am back in Lynchburg, sitting on a dorm floor in South Tower on a Wednesday night and I heard something that rocked my world.

Apparently, in Biblical Jewish customs engagement was a huge deal. When a man and woman got engaged they were legally one, the marriage was more so of a celebration back then. The man would gather the two families for an "engagement party" and offer the woman a cup of wine, if she accepted, they were legally engaged to be married and immediately the man would leave. He would go straight to his parents home and begin building a home for he and his new bride. The woman, would go home with her mother and sisters and they would begin teaching her how to be a proper wife. A long period of time would go by, up to a year, and the man would finally return to his wife and bring her to the house that he had built for her.

When I heard this I was floored. I think its such a beautiful example of the relationship we are able to have with the Lord. He is preparing us a place. He's excited to bring us back to it when He's done. The thing that I found the coolest about this story is that in the time while he is building the house, the two are forbidden from seeing each other. Which  involves a lot of trust.

This is something that I constantly try to avoid because I know for a blunt fact that I have issues with and surrounding it. On my heart was the thought of, "what if we trusted everything in our lives the way we usually trust God?" What if I went to sit in a chair and trusted the chair to hold us up like we usually trust the Lord? I came to the conclusion that I most likely would never sit down. Or I'd sit down and then immediately jump back up because I'd think it would fall.

OR I'd build my own.

For some reason we trust our friends, our parents, our counselors—more than we trust the Lord most times. And when we write it out, when we talk about it, it feels ridiculous because um, hello? He's GOD. I think maybe it takes a couple conscious tries to sit down before we can get comfortable and put the foot rest up but I really think it'll be better than standing alone for the rest of our lives.

Being back at LU this year has already done a number on my heart in the best way possible. That skin has completely fallen off.

Beauty from Ashes babes. 

Thirteen Reasons Why You Matter

Last week I fell into the deep pit of binge watching the new Netflix series, Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who don't know what this is, it's a 13-episode series that follows the 13 tapes that Hannah Baker, a high school girl who committed suicide, left behind explaining her decision. The series is based off of the book Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher. I read this book a few years after it came out in 2007. I was 14 or 15 at the time and I remember loving the book. It was dark and mysterious and I ate it up. I finished it in one day.

Now, 10 years after the book was released, there is a new way to experience it. Visual arts are powerful and the adaptation from text to image in this particular story was extremely well done.  I think it is SO interesting because in the story there are 13 characters that ultimately led to Hannah's death, each of these people listened to the tapes. Some went through them all in one night and some couldn't handle it and had to go through them slowly. Like I said before, I read the book in one day. This show however, took me much longer. You know from the first five seconds of the series that Hannah had killed herself, yet you form a bond with her, and when you see her actually taking action in the last few episodes it is heartbreaking. I don't know what it was, the fact that I was watching a character that I began to care about to go through something so horrible; or the fact that I understood some of what she was feeling. 

As someone who is obsessed with film and the way that pieces like this are put together I was in awe of the meticulosity of this series. You could tell that the directors, the producers, and the actors cared about presenting this material in the right way.

They wanted nothing more than to spark a conversation. 

They did exactly that. There are tweets all over Twitter regarding the show, discussing the impact it is having on the world, specifically within the teen/young adult demographic. This is amazing. There is a piece of film, a piece of art, that has teens, young adults, and parents talking about really difficult things like bullying, self-harm, substance abuse, sexual assault/rape, depression, and suicide. This piece of art has people discussing and watching out for signs of all of these things. Yea, the media can suck sometimes, but it is amazing the amount of power it can have.

When I started this blog, this online journal, I wanted to do it for myself. I just wanted an outlet and I felt that this could be fun to try out. God had different plans. It has been incredible to get feedback from people who actually take the time to read some of the things I write. God uses even the smallest platforms to change hearts. After I finished watching this series I felt a powerful knock at the door of my heart and knew what was coming. He wants me to share. Oh, what a terrifying word.

So, after much prayer and hesitation I finally brought myself to the keyboard.

"A testimony is pain that has been reassigned"

-Johnnie Dent Jr.

When the final episode of this series ended I simply shut my computer and sobbed. The ending is extremely graphic and when I saw the disclaimer I figured it was just going to be graphic when they showed how Hannah killed herself. Honestly, what made me feel the most was the scene when her parents find her and begin to realize what happened to her. The audience is exploited to extreme, raw, pain. A pain that is unimaginable and honestly, a pain that seems ridiculous to the Hannah in the situation.

What really got me, what moved me to tears, was that Hannah didn't think they would care. She didn't think that they would react the way that they did. That was the hardest part to watch, in my opinion. It hit home. Knowing that there are SO MANY people, SO MANY teens, SO MANY girls and boys that honestly think that no one cares. It broke my heart because I know that feeling.

Currently I'm reading a book called Shut Up: Silence the Negative Thoughts in Your Head, by Christy Pierce. This book if chalk full of statistics of teenage depression and suicide rates. Adults reading this, did you know that 11.4 percent of youths 12-17 have had a (MDE) major depressive episode in the past year? Or that thirty percent of college students have reported being "too depressed to function"? This book is full of testimonials of teenagers and young adults that are struggling with mental health issues. It is supposed to open the mind of the reader and help them feel less alone in the midst of their trial.  This is something that is running rampant in the lives of our peers.

I have had run-ins with things covered in Thirteen Reasons Why. Every day I have to choose to stand, to look at myself in the mirror and to audibly say, "you are loved." This series wrecked my heart. It absolutely broke it, but for good reason. The Lord wanted me to be wrecked, He wanted to force me to recognize how important I am. He wanted me to see how impactful I am without even knowing it. Hannah Baker left a trail of people heartbroken and she had no idea they even cared.

This year I finally began going to counseling. It's interesting because only now, after weeks of talking through the same issues, I am beginning to realize that one of my biggest triggers is feeling abandoned or lonely. I don't completely understand this because I live on a campus of 15,000 people. I am NEVER alone. Yet, loneliness is something that I am absolutely terrified of. I am so afraid of not being cared for, of not being able to talk to someone. I am afraid of being legitimately alone with my thoughts. This is something I have decided needs to change.

It has become somewhat of a joke between me and some friends but I have started to say aloud, "I'm happy and I love myself" whenever I'm upset or thinking about something negative and hurtful. This simple statement is somewhat funny and never fails to make me grin. The audible profession of something that isn't necessarily always true has become something that can stop a negative thought in my brain in its tracks. Negative thoughts isolate. Isolation creates a sense of abandonment.

Heres the gist, whatever you do to remind yourself of your worth please, continue to do it. If it's something as silly as what I do, or if it's writing something on your mirror, or on your wrist, keep doing it. We need to remind ourselves daily of how important we are because it is so easy to forget that. Become aware of thoughts that you have and shut them down. Honestly, I'm so sick of the slavery we live in regarding negative thought patterns, it's crap. TELL THEM OFF. You are stronger, you are better, you are so much more, than the negativity running through your head.

We are called to be impactful. We are called to be world changers and to be lovers of the lost. We are called to throw ourselves out into the world and pray that He will catch us at some point. We are challenged to be someones person. This can be terrifying to a point of immobilization. It's this very challenge that gives us purpose.

Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

If theres anything I've learned from Thirteen Reasons Why it's that when people ask how you are, to be honest, because most of the people that ask genuinely do care. 

13 Reasons Why You Matter

  1. You have a beating heart that works really hard for you to keep going.
  2. You have a future that is designed specifically for you, not someone else. Don't jip the world, you might cure cancer.
  3. Nobody can look out at life with exactly the same eyes as you do.
  4. Your life matters because you yearn for something better.
  5. Your life is a miracle, an actual miracle.
  6. You are always changing into someone better.
  7. You have people that care deeply about you, no matter what you think.
  8. You might save someone's life by living.
  9. Your words have unimaginable impact.
  10. You are somebody's best friend.
  11. No one else can fill your shoes.
  12. You were chosen to be born.
  13. You woke up today, thats God saying that He believes in you as a gift the world needs.

Y O U  A R E  L O V E D

Ruts, Cameras, and Cracks

Recently I have been in a rut. Creatively, emotionally, spiritually, I've felt stagnant in every one of those areas. I thrive on the new. I gather inspiration from things that pop up unexpectedly, from conversations or interactions that I randomly witness at school. I thrive on things that are random. Recently I haven't had enough of this. I haven't had enough random. I haven't had enough unexpectedness. I have been living in a constant loop of normalcy and it's hurting me.

We are created to create. When we are children we all love to paint, to draw, to build, and somewhere along the road our love for creation is tragically diminished and replaced with a need to sustain. We become creatures of habit with age. We become comfortable with the norms of our daily lives and so, we do everything in our power to keep our little world the same.

I got my first camera when I was 12-years-old. I became obsessed with taking photos of simple things. I used to tell my mom all the time that I didn't like taking photos of people because they were never candid enough for my young heart. Instead, I took photos of dandelions, or the sky, or random parts of trees. I was more than content with taking photos of the most simple parts of nature because I found them to be beautiful. I've grown in my ability to capture the beauty of people but it made me think when I thought about the childlike infatuation I used to have about the simple things. I would never take a photo of a dandelion now and love it like I used to. Why?

Ruts are something that are extremely hard to get out of because biologically our brains are programed to stay in them. This is so interesting to me.

Beth Moore (my GIRL) spoke on this one time. She explained how negative thinking is a pattern that is so hard to get out of because thoughts, and neurons that go with them, shoot through your brain when you think them. This actually creates a rut within your brain over time. These negative thoughts actually carve out paths in your brain. Thats why they are so hard to cancel out. Because the positive thought patterns and their neurons can't intersect the negative thought paths because they have become rutted.

By no means do I understand how this works scientifically but it makes a lot of sense. We all struggle with this. In many ways. Right now I am in a season where I am constantly growing and trying to fill in these ruts. However, with growth comes pain. 

“The pain of recovery is sometimes worse than the pain of the injury. Allow Jesus Christ to heal your soul.”

-Christine Caine

My high school boyfriend tore his ACL, MCL and Meniscus in our junior year. I remember when he told me what happened, immediately thinking that he must be in so much pain. BUT then he went to soccer practice and ran on it. I was so confused. He said that when it tore it hurt but then as long as he didn't move it side to side he was okay. He could still run even with the injury. Soon after he got his surgery. I have never seen someone in so much pain before. He was strong, and not someone who complained about pain ever, and I watched him do his rehabilitation exercises. I watched the pain move throughout his body. The pain in this situation was far worse than the initial injury. 

This year I have learned this in very real ways. I have learned how this doesn't only apply to physical injuries but also applies to emotional and spiritual injuries. I have used this quote time and time again this year because it is so painfully true. It can be disheartening at times when we think that things are starting to look better, when we start to feel joy seeping back into the cracks of our brokenness. But in all honesty, it takes far longer to heal than it does to break.

When I first heard this quote it kind of scared me. I was done with the pain, I was ready to be new. I wanted to get rid of the freakin semi colon that refused to turn into a period. I needed everything to stop. I needed a finish line. But after a lot of pondering and acceptance, I realized that the pain of recovery is beautiful. The pain of recovery is educational. The pain of recovery is inspirational

In Lynchburg VA, there are tons of antique shops. There is one in particular that I adore. It is filled with little treasures, with old record players, vintage clothing, crumbling board games, and the best part—rose pink carpeting. I went in one day and was looking around and found an amazing Lomography Film camera. For those who have no idea what that is, its basically just a film video camera. Anyways, I lost it. I was so excited. I grabbed it and started messing around with it. When I looked more closely to it i saw that the lens that was on it was cracked. It had been broken at one point. The crack wasn't just on the top layer of glass either. It was deep within the lens, almost invisible

But, when I looked through the viewfinder I was in awe. The crack on the lens created an amazing pink tone that cascaded over only the left bottom corner of the picture. It made the image even more beautiful. 

That's when it hit me. It made sense to me. Our brokenness, our cracks, our deepest wounds that aren't easily fixed on the surface are the ones that make the images, the actions of our lives so much more beautiful. He uses them. He uses the pain. It's so encouraging to me that we serve a God that knows pain. We don't have to try and express our pain to a God that has never felt it. He felt it. He knows

Ruts can create beauty. Sometimes, ruts can inspire. Being stuck in a rut of pain has caused me to look for beauty. It forces me to look for the good. To know that it will get better. To know that I can reverse the rut. Every artist goes through dry seasons, every writer has writers block, every athlete gets injuries, every person gets broken. Without these things, what would inspire us?

Take your broken heart and make it into art

-Carrie Fisher

She says it best. Use it. Make the pain worth something. Let the pain change you, let it mold you into something so beautiful its chilling. Don't let the pain go to waste.

Beauty from ashes babe, He has no limitations.

Hawaii is only beautiful because it sits on a land of volcanic ash. Beauty doesn't end, it grows. There is no period and sometimes, thats okay

A Beautiful Mess

This week I finally did it—I cut my bangs. A life-crisis that every female comes into contact with. My first round with bangs was when my mom attempted to sustain my innocence behind and adorable haircut that worked wonders on my father when he was angry.

Now, this hair style is something that can be hard to maintain. Even knowing that this hairstyle would take work I was hooked on the decision and went for it, I sent a quick text and had my friend Sara do the honors. With one swift movement of her hand I heard the sharp blades of the scissors slice through my hair and I stopped breathing.

But, what I didn't know was that when you shower you have to blow-dry them or your hair the next day might as well be a hat. So, amateur me woke up the morning after my first shower with bangs and I looked into the mirror and couldn't help but laugh at the all-to familiar hairstyle I was supporting. I kid you not my hair looked exactly like it did in the above photo just on nineteen-year-old Natalie.

"Make a beautiful mess and clean it up later"

-Christopher Rice

I laughed. Sometimes all we can do is laugh at the ridiculous way we sloppily carry ourselves through this life. We ALL want to think that we have it all together at some points in our lives. But, if we were to be completely honest I think that we would all agree with one another that there are sometimes moments where our messiness is so demanding that its laughable, and this is good.

We are all messy. We are all overworked and tired. We are all zombies of technology and if you're not, you're probably not reading this right now. I think its incredible how we live in a world where we all put off a seemingly perfect image but we all know that everyones lying. BEING MESSY IS GOOD.

I grew up with a wild imagination and friends that helped me exhaust it. My two sisters and I grew up across the street from four other children, two of which we were very close with. We used to be obsessed with Build-A-Bear's. When I say that we were obsessed I mean we literally didn't speak to each other for a year unless it was spoken "through" the bears. We used to have sleepovers with our bears and our neighbors mom would let us build forts in a little closet they had in one of their bedrooms. Looking back at it now it probably made their mom go crazy because we would take everything out of the closet so that we could all squeeze inside of it to sleep. But, it was beautiful. Inside of this messy 5x8 closet was a world of imagination that could never be recreated. I like to think that their mom came into a room torn apart by children that never left her house and knew that this beautiful creativity was fleeting and that's why she let us do it time and time again.

The words "beautiful" and "mess"coincide so perfectly in our imperfect lives. The exquisite paradox is something that we need to cherish.

Beautiful: (noun)- excellent of its kind, wonderful

Mess: (noun)- dirty, difficult,or disordered

We are excellent difficult things. We are wonderfully disordered. We are people who are not perfect. We all have our things, our struggles. My mess is my thoughts and this week I learned a lot from trying to explore some of them. I began listing off things that were running through my mind at that moment and I got words like bland, normal, unimportant, and fine. Then I saw a photo online of a new fashion line that came out. This line is incredible, it's different and unlike anything any normal person would usually wear. But I found it to be amazing and it clicked in my head that this is something that makes a lot of people happy. These different clothing items make people happy because they are unique and we like that when its external. 

We cherish the oddities in life.

We love variety.

We THRIVE when people notice our differences.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with different people. We love finding gems in this world that stand out because we are so sick of normal. I know that we can all agree with this in larger terms but why can't we come to terms with this in our own lives. Be different. Embrace the internal mess just as we embrace the external. Go outside with air-dried bangs and KILL IT. People accept mess, we're just afraid to accept our own.We were not created to be perfect and I think it is far past time that we decide to live by that. He doesn't make mistakes so lets stop treating our messiness as one.

With this being said, I am learning that the messiness in us does not define us. It's something that will be there in our underlying personality but it isn't stagnant. Our mess isn't permanent, it can be cleaned. Thats the beautiful thing about redemption, the beautiful thing about being bought and refined by the King. We serve a careful God that loves his children in their mess. Sometimes He looks into our rooms where we have torn our everything in our closet and He smiles because He knows that the mess is the beginning of something wonderful. He knows that that very moment is fleeting and that we can learn from it.

When I was little my mom was really good about teaching us how to properly clean. My worst fear was that I wouldn't clean something correctly because then she would make me redo it. This is something that I've been sifting through in my life. Sometimes God has you clean up the mess, He wants you to pick up the things you've recklessly torn out and put them back. Sometimes, He wants you to throw them away. But, He is faithful to help in this process. He wants to help you pick up the pieces of your mess and He wants to walk through it with you. Messiness in your life is inevitable, its going to be there. But when the mess gets too big, don't worry because the Lord is a cleanser. He is faithful to walk by you in your mess, through your mess, and after the mess is cleaned up.

We are all in different seasons, different places in our lives. Whether you're in a season of brilliant joy or in one of crippling depression there are those moments where you catch yourself performing. Lets allow ourselves to be real about our mess because sometimes that's one of the most beautiful places to be in. 

The most beautiful you is the one that stubs her toe and dances across the room in an extreme effort not to cry. The most beautiful you is the one that cries when old people talk to you. The most beautiful you is the one that refuses to call your dog by her real name just because the name Pancake makes you happy. The most beautiful you is the one that trips in a tunnel trying to do parkor like Schmidt from New Girl and falls but laughs.

The most beautiful you is the one thats reading this right now and realizing that she is strong and worthy of respect and that nothing she can do can change that in the eyes of her Jesus.

She laughs at the days to come.

Let us not be paralyzed with the fear of being okay but, let us be made free by the ability to not be.

Y O U  A R E  L O V E D

Chasing Brokenness

Interesting title, I know. It needs some explaining.

One of my friends recently posted a photo of a book on Instagram. The photo was sweet and simple with a  caption consisting of a short excerpt from the book. I mindlessly read through it once and continued scrolling down my feed. Then, when I compulsively opened my Instagram app after five minutes of being on Twitter I saw it again, this time reading the caption more closely. This is what it read,

"I want to write it on the walls and on the arms scarred with wounds, make it the refrain we sing in the face of dark and broken places: No shame. No fear. No hiding. All grace. It's safe to suffer here. You can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Grace will meet you here."

I was captivated by these words and immediately I went to Amazon and bought this  book called The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.

I didn't know what I was getting into when I made the final click to purchase this book. I didn't know that along with it would come tears, questions, and countless quotes taped in my journals. I didn't know that the pages that were once clean and white would bleed with pink highlighter and black pen ink, that the marks left on the pages from passionately underlining would be all too familiar. This book has shocked, amazed, and challenged me to finally feel comfortable with chasing brokenness. 

As I opened the book for the first time I excitedly flipped to page one. As I read my heart crashed and like a pan falling on a wood floor an unbearable ringing sound surrounded my mind. I set the book down and looked across the table to one of my best friends in the world. I remember handing her the book and having her read what I had just read and she uttered an understanding "Oh".

I don't want to spoil this book in any way because the shock of it was so impactful in my life and I want that to hold true for others as well. But, without spoiling anything I can honestly say that the most shocking part of this book was the unwavering confidence with which she wrote it. She was saying some ROUGH things. But she did.

So often we have these amazing Christian men and women who speak to us or who write books for our generation and you can tell they've lived. You can tell that there's something there, that there's substance in their story. But so often they tell just enough to leave you hungry for more, they say too little to be able to really relate to their situation. No, that's not the point of their story, their point is Jesus. Our point is Jesus. But it is incredibly nice to have someone whom you respect be able to be confident enough in Christ and in His transforming power to be completely honest, to be so raw that you can relate on an uncanny level.

The book centers around the importance of recognizing that brokenness is a fact of life. That no matter how hard we try, no matter what we avoid, brokenness will at one point seep into our lives and rest in the cracks of our hearts for some period of time. I am a people person, I love talking to people, I love relating to people. But in this season of my life I have had such a hard time doing that because I wasn't willing to acknowledge or accept my own brokenness. I saw it as a weakness, as a deterrent. Thinking back on it makes me feel crazy. I go to the largest Christian University in the world, I am surrounded with love. But in some sense I was being fed lies of not being enough if I was cracked on the outside and not only the inside.

I resemble a gift that has been wrapped nicely but when you open it the gift is shattered and everyone involved is disappointed... at least thats how I see it.

BUT, the beautiful thing is that we're not like that at all. Jesus has relentlessly been pressing into my heart that we're in fact the exact opposite of that disappointing shattered mess.

Psalm 51:8 "Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which you have broken rejoice."

I called my friend while I was writing this and asked her to help me name something that was "nice on the outside but shattered on the inside." She replied with the exact opposite of what I asked for but of course it was exactly what Jesus wanted me to hear at that moment. She said,

"It's like one of those rocks that are super nasty on the outside but on the inside are beautiful and they sparkle."

She was talking about geodes—rocks that I remember buying as a child in museums and getting in science classes. When I was young we had a family who "hunted" geodes come in and we got to help split them. I remember that everyone wanted the big ones because bigger is better. But, I wanted the smallest one because that meant that I could carry it around with me. Not until today did I realize how special that rock really could've been had I been learning this lesson at that moment.

Geode crystals are formed when an empty space, when a crack, is filled with minerals and the space expands and hardens. Then, once created, the geode becomes completely lined with magnificent crystals.

There has to be a crack in order for beauty to form. 

The Lord is faithfully pursuing the idea behind being comfortable with the uncomfortableness of brokenness (phew, what a mouthful). He is making it abnormally enjoyable for me to rest in my brokenness. For me to accept it as a part of me that will become something so much better than what I can see now. I would love to close this post with my own idea but I came across this quote that I sloppily taped to my wall a month ago. It's from—you guessed it—The Broken Way, but it fits. Its short, sweet, and true. I hope that brokenness can become comfortable for you as it has for me and that we can learn to wear it boldly.

"The heart has to be broken and plowed and re-sown if it's going to yield."