Last month, I turned 31. It feels a little surreal that I am now in my thirties. I would be lying though, if I said I wasn’t excited about my age. Really! I love this season of my life! I am ever grateful to face my birthday reflecting on what the Lord has done and getting excited about what is in store next. Doing this life with Him has proven to be the greatest adventure I have said yes to! He is such a good and faithful God, one who doesn’t withhold good gifts from His children. Sometimes this life includes discipline or trials that lead us to wisdom and a more abundant life.
I learned quite a few things in my 30th year of life, but these are my top 5:
1. Community | We aren’t meant to do this alone. Period. Genesis 2:18 even says “It is not good for man to be alone…” Although this verse is about marriage, I’d like to argue that it ALSO means we are created for connection, for community, because this is GOOD. [if you aren’t fully convinced, you can look up Acts 2:42-47] But one thing that comes with being connected to community is the responsibility of intentionality. Being intentional about following up, being transparent and committing. Choosing a life of coming alongside one another, regardless of if someone meets your expectation or deserves your grace. Choosing the commitment of loving one another… as Christ loves us. This is where effective discipleship happens. (PS. Below is a TINY portion of my community. If you’re reading this and you are dating/engaged/married and are seeking a community in Gainesville… we’d love to have you join our group. Otherwise, I’d love to point you in the direction of another awesome group!)
2. Getaway and Dream | This also brings me to the other big thing I learned this year…Alone time. [half of you probably cringed reading that!] Listen up, I consider myself to be an extrovert and I LOVE quality time with people. But. there’s something to be said about retreating, dreaming and reflecting. Even Jesus, who was in constant fellowship with His disciples or others around him, set the example for this as he retreated many times to be alone with the Father. I had two “Jesus Getaways” this past year that were TREASURED times. They marked my year. One by myself and one with Wayne. The first getaway was right around Ethan’s first birthday. Together, Wayne and I celebrated Ethan’s birthday and our first year as parents (look at how cute E looks!) Immediately following the party, I then retreated to local hotel room, where I rested, celebrated, dreamed, hoped, prayed, waited and then prayed some more. Then a little bit later in the year, Wayne and I decided to go away together with the same intention…uninterrupted stillness with God. No phones, no work, no plans other than resting in Him and seeking Him. That looked like a lot of prayer time, together and alone. Slowing down and enjoying stillness with Him. Worship. Reading. Dreaming. Tasting the fruit of withdrawing from the everyday to be unhurried with Jesus. Having these getaways 6 months apart was a sort of re-calibration before the start of a new season. Definitely something I plan on making a yearly tradition!
3. Chase Slow | With me beginning to shoot film this year, I’ve been challenged to stop, slow down and be even more intentional about my shots. When my film camera comes out, I can’t fire away with my shutter. I have realized that there is an instant gratification that come with shooting digital, a luxury that isn’t available when you’re shooting film. The process of film, slowing down while i’m on site shooting, to waiting for the scans to arrive has actually helped me become more satisfied with my work and appreciate the beautiful more. It makes me take delight in the images I’m taking even more. Let me just tell you that it’s so WORTH IT, because film is stunning. But the idea of slowing down for better quality goes against everything ingrained in us, right? I’m ever thankful that shooting film has been an unexpected opportunity to learn that there’s refinement to be had, that only happens in the slowing down and waiting.
4. Rest | I absolutely adore this career of mine. As a photographer, I get to use this creative gifting He has given me and visually tell His beautiful stories from behind my camera lens. I have developed friendships and worked with some of the sweetest couples who have chosen me to be a part of this new season in their lives. There’s this unique opportunity to come alongside of them and I don’t take that for granted. I love to work and I love to work hard. There’s this verse in Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you’re working for the Lord and not for man.” Give it your very BEST effort. However, a part of me giving my best (as I’ve learned this past year) is me resting. Without resting I am giving in vain – out of my emptiness. This year, I’ve learned a new meaning to taking a Sabbath. Really resting on my days off and being protective of this time. This is the only way that I can be filled and ready to tackle my work.
5. Hands Open | To be honest, this was the hardest one for me yet. Not too long ago, I experienced loss that resulted in me putting up walls to protect my heart and “what’s mine.” However, this past year, the Lord answered a prayer I didn’t even know I was praying. He used a stranger, turned dear friend, to gently teach me that living with my fists clenched was not living an abundant life. This stranger, lavishly blessed me and when I tried to repay her with credit, she wrecked me by saying, “It isn’t about that, it’s about friendship.” I know that might not sound like much, but to me, at that moment, I realized that in this area of my life I was too tightly closed off. She had no idea that her words were slowly opening my hands up and pushing away the fears I was clinging to. I was being protective and not fully trusting my God. I had built up these really high walls because of a hurtful experience, and here this complete stranger was standing before me, hands WIDE open, giving me the most precious thing to her.
Oh Jesus, help me keep this lesson close to my heart. To love, serve and freely give to others just like you did. Like You Do.
So here I stand open heart, arms outstretched, confidently expecting even more adventures with Him in the coming year. Cheers to 31!