Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everyday Your Life Will Never Be The Same

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Sometimes I forget where I'm at. Not literally. But in my life- I forget where I'm going, forget what I'm living for...I just...forget.
But this week, my eyes have been opened to who God is. Who God is to me. Who I am to God. And I cannot tell you the shaking in my fingers as this began to unfold.
Yesterday, was Alyssa and Chad's wedding ceremony. I've been planning on taking the pictures for a long time now, but the day had finally come. The night before, I tossed and turned. When I woke up, it felt like I couldn't breath.
My first reaction-quiet time. I pulled out my journal.
"God-you are king of all kings, Lord of all lords. I am not coming before you to ask for anything. I only long to praise you. You are my lover, the owner of my heart. You are the only thing I need. This world has nothing for me. You are what makes my heart pitter patter. You are what allows me to wake up every morning to more and more beauty. I am nothing without you. Today is a huge opportunity for me. A HUGE opportunity. I cannot thank you enough. I awe of you, and what you are doing for me. I long for you today, God. Give me your eyes to see, Father. You are all I need. p.s. Thank you for the perfect clouds."
I put down my journal, feeling a lot more relaxed. I went and did my hair, and shot some photos of Steph doing Alyssa's hair.
We headed over for the church, when I realized I was almost finished with the 16 gig card. I went to grab my other cards and realized-I left them at home.
Nikki and I drove all the way back to the house (driving the speed limit, because we were already being illegal enough), grabbed the cards and a mirror, and headed back.
Got to the church, filled up the 16 with Alyssa getting ready. Changed to the 8, and only got 68 pictures out of it. I was starting to freak out a little-only 8 gigs left for the WHOLE ceremony and afterwards.
Thanks to Chris, we got the 16 unloading onto the computer, and I did what I could and shot with the two 4s. I had two pictures left on my card when Barry said, "You may now kiss the bride." I got four out of it.
We took a few pictures afterwards, and headed into the kitchen to see what I had got. I took a deep breath, and it seemed like seconds later, we were on the road to take more pictures.
We went downtown, and took some pictures by City Hall, with many honks from passers-by. When it started to snow and we were all frozen to the core, we headed to a pretty little tea/coffee shop and took some shots down there while drinking warm coffee and hot chocolate.
Alyssa and Chad went their way, and we went to Fargo's as a family plus Chris. Stayed there for a while, ate some delicious pizza. Went home. Got all the pictures off. Chris left to go get his brother. I sat on the Lovesack, and crashed. Nikki and Dad tried to carry me to her room so I could sleep, and I ended up just walking.
I slept straight through the night.
Woke up this morning in awe.
This. Just. Happened.
God is faithful.
If not for last minute plans, Chris wouldn't have been there, and I wouldn't have had ANY room for the after pictures. If not for my small quiet time, I probably would have barfed. If not for Stephanie's encouragement, I wouldn't have had the guts to get in the way of people and take pictures, no matter how in the way I am.
God planned all of this out-small little things that put together to make something grand.
This. Is. Worship.

My home was meant to be behind a camera. And because of God, I was able to capture a moment that will not be repeated. I don't care that I'm not getting paid. I don't care that it's going to take 24 more straight hours to finish them. I don't care that I'll be up all night until I get it done. Because this place-God shows me who He is.
I do not see what I see on my own. I do not capture what I capture on my own. It has absolutely nothing to do with me. Because it is only because of God that I knew what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. He placed people in my life to teach me and to encourage me. The night before, I wrote in my journal, "Free my heart from Satan's lies. Do not let my heart believe the lies. Close my ears, so I do not even HEAR them. For I am a child of you, and all I want to hear is your voice."
God is faithful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Long For More

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Have you ever heard the song 'You Won't Relent'? Well, my hair is the perfect example of this.

One day, I was flipping through some pictures from someone on flickr. There were some images of a girl with short hair in the snow. The thought came out before I even thought about what I was saying, "I think someday I need to cut off all my hair." My breath caught a little, realizing what I had just said. I need to cut off all my hair. I need to cut off all my hair. Uh-oh. Stephanie looks at me, and just says, "Yes." My head started to shake, "No, not really. I don't think I can. Maybe someday...when I have more confidence." Crap. I had just said that out loud too. "You hide. You're hiding behind your hair." "No, I don't think so," I said, keeping my eyes on the computer, thinking maybe that way she won't see right through me. From the corner of my eye, I see her face, showing me this conversation wasn't ended here.

A few weeks later, I thought about it again. "God? Am I hiding?" I knew the answer was yes. I didn't want it to be yes. So, I pushed it to the back of my mind, and pretended I never heard it. Never felt it. Never KNEW it.

Later on, I told Stephanie, "Maybe...it does need to happen..." She looked at me and nodded, a smile on her face. She knew I knew the answer.

A bit ago, as I was getting ready, I had pulled my hair back to brush my teeth. "Hmm. This is what I would look like with short hair." Woops. I had said it out loud. Again. "God? Am I hiding?" I asked Him again. I heard it clear as day, "Not only are you hiding, you're ignoring me." I kept my hair tied back while I finished up my morning routine. "Wow. I think I like it." Oh man. Now it's really in the open. I told Steph my thoughts. She smiled at me the same way she smiled every other time I brought up.

Saturday morning, I was writing and reading. I've slowly been going through the book Captivating and Saturday I read another chapter. Just reading the title shook me. "Beauty to Unveil". I knew God would punch me in the gut with it. I read through the first few pages. I felt as if I was treading water through an ocean. Starting out great, and getting slower and slower and slower. Until finally, I was sinking. Drowning. Drowned. My insides felt like they had been ripped out by an unfriendly hand. I wrote down my prayer requests for Stephanie, one of them including "I want to be beautiful like God sees me."

Over lunch, Stephanie and I started talking about it. Her and Audrey had just talked about it too. I have no idea what beauty looks like to God. I have no clue.
I spend all my time making other people see their beauty. As a photographer, I see how beautiful each and every person is. But somewhere in here, have I lost my own sense of beauty? I don't have the time to see it. I never thought of it as a neccessity. All I know is the world's standard of beauty. Beautiful gets you in such a big mess, according to the world. But as a woman of God, I am beautiful. As they said in Captivating, "Beauty is core to a woman-who she is and what she longs to be-and one of the most glorious wats we bear the image of God in a broken and often ugly world."

I finished my lunch, and sat down in Stephanie's hair chair. "I think we need to cut off my hair." Tears began to well up in my eyes. They began to fall. And pour. Stephanie came over, held me in her arms. She pulled up my head, looked at me in the face and said, "You are beautiful." "We need to do this now, before I lose my nerve....if you have time." She pulled out her scissors, put a cape around my neck, and started cutting.

I thought that this would be it.

Here I am, three days later. I'm tired, I'm overwhelmed, and I'm on the verge of cranky.
My hair is gone. And we still need to cut off more. I'm sick at the thought of it. I feel like crying and just pulling it all out. But I have to remember-this is not about me.
This is about Him. Teaching me.
I still have too much to hide behind. This is safe. I have too much that is still allowing me to hide beneath. I want to see beauty in myself. Not this stupid head of hair that is all I see. God wants something more from me. All I hear is what other people are saying to me. I don't want to hear it.
This. Is. Not. About. Me.
Other people look at me and see outer beauty. I can't tell you how many times the only thing I hear from people is, "You have such beautiful hair." I get it. But when was the last time I heard something about myself as a person.
I want to be more than a head of hair.
Not only this.
God wants me to be more than a head of hair.
I am made in the image of God. God created me a woman so that people would see His beauty. And yet, when I look i the mirror, I hate the face looking back at me. I have nothing wrong with myself. I love the woman God is making me into. But what I don't like is this head of hair I am using to be beautiful. My hair is my safety net-my hair is exactly what I'm using to hide the rest of me. When someone sees me, they see a beautiful person because of my hair.
I long for more.
God longs for more of me.
There's still so much I need to learn.
But one thing I do know-I am going to be beautiful. I am not going to see it from other people, I am going to see it from God. He will show me how I am beautiful. And I will know His definition of beautiful.
I'm frusturated. I'm freaking out. I'm a mess.
But it's going to be worth it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cold Souls

Tonight we watched "Cold Souls".
Basically, a man (Paul Giamatti), is a starving actor, trying to get better. He's putting too much "soul" into his character, and doesn't want that to happen. He comes across an ad ("Is your soul weighing you down? Think about Soul Storage!") and decides to store his soul.
He goes to the place, and the doctor tells him this is exactly what he needs. He hands him a pair of goggles, and says, "You can even look inside, if that's what you want."
Paul gets a look of horror on his face, and tosses the goggles back. "No, oh no, I don't want to look inside...wh...wh...no!" the doctor says, "Well, it's an option if you want it." And Paul looks at him with sincere disgust. Saying in his eyes exactly what he said, "I don't want to look inside."

This got me thinking. My soul is probably a really gross place for the most part. In the movie, when his soul is removed, it continues to be compared to a "chickpea", which, is extremely small. I know people whose souls are probably the size of a chickpea. But what is the size of mine? Is my soul any better than theirs?
Oh no, no no, completely not.
Thinking about this, what would I do in a situation such as this? If someone gave me goggles to see what my soul looked like-would I be repulsed, and say, "Why would I want to do something like that?" or, would I accept the goggles, and search for the inner parts of who I am. My soul.

Thinking on this further. God sees our souls. God knows the deepest parts of our souls. He knows how big our souls are, and how small. He knows the color-"You'd think some would be rainbow colored. But no, they often come in blacks, browns, grays-yes, there are many grays."
My soul is not hidden. Some day, I will be judged for exactly that. I am a human. I used to live my life as a rebellious God-hater. A rebellious God-hater. God is bigger than this. There are no ends for God's love and grace and mercy. And so, although my soul was something that was probably half the size of a chickpea, and blacker than the deepest black, I have been renewed.
God revealed Himself to me. And I took his hand, and chose to follow along his path.

Near the end of the movie, Paul is faced with the goggles yet again. "Your soul is resisting-you must look inside to reconnect to it."

Pause the movie, come back to real life, and go back about four months.
I received Christ as my savior a year ago last August. And yet, four months ago, I was sinking into yet another pit of darkness. "Your soul is resisting." I was not finished. I was not ready. I was not accepting. Satan deceived me SO many times- showing me Bible verses that he had manipulated and showed me "This is okay" when God was still there tugging and pulling, "This is not who you are meant to be. Come back to me. Come back to me."
Until that night at Stephanie's house, I had not taken a good look at my soul. I would have looked at someone the same way that Paul did the first time-repulse, disgust, and yet, curiosity. But I would not have looked. Until Steph's house, I was unwilling to see inside of myself, in order to connect yet again with Jesus Christ.

Back to the movie.
Paul puts on the goggles, basically by force, and lays down into the shoot. They push him in, his hands shaking, and he closes his eyes.
A white room, "I knew it." he said. "Nothing's here," you can imagine his mind saying. And yet, once he looked further, he opened some doors, and found things that hurt, but things that he would not be himself without. It ended with a start-too soon it seems. He comes out from the shoot, and pulls the goggles off of his face. His eyes are red and tears are stuck underneath his eyes. Silence.

Back to four months ago.
I took a look inside of myself. I saw who I was. It hurt. It hurt to see that I had sunken into this mess of thick black tar, and I was unable to even realize that it was happening. I was in a completely dark place.
Surface looking at my soul, I saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was worthless.
But it was because of God's simple reminder, that I was able to open some hidden doors, and find things. Broken things. Messed up things. Sinful things. Rebellious things. But I also found something more-
The Holy Spirit.

I am a broken, disgusting, sinful human being.
And yet because I chose to live a life walking side by side with Jesus, He chose to place the Holy Spirit inside of my heart and inside of my soul.
I did not change on my own. The Holy Spirit showed me that I was sinking. And guess what He did.
He pulled me out. He grabbed my hand, and pulled me completely from this mess of tar I was stuck in. Being out of it, I am able to see the thick pit that continues to call my name.
But it is because of Jesus' death that I am able to hold onto the Holy Spirit's hand and do everything that I can to not jump in head first into that pit.

I am not a perfect person. I never will be a perfect person. I will never attempt to be a perfect person. But I know that because I am imperfect, God sent His only son to die for me, and He was able to forgive me for every single time I even poked my toe into that pit of tar.

My soul is still ugly. I am sure of it, because I am sinful.
But God looks at my soul, and sees purity, because He has wiped away every sin.

I am forgiven.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Greater The Mountain, The Greater The Lesson

Ice cream parlor. The workers with dreary faces, everyone impatient because I cut to the front. I ordered my ice cream. Frozen in my hand, I walked over to my friends. Looks of excitement filled their faces, The sheriff was sitting with them. "What's up guys?" I asked, as I pulled my chair out and sat in it backwards. People groaned at the screeching noise it made. They didn't acknowledge me, but simply continued on. The sheriff kept talking, "Whoever works for me gets the book for the day." "No way!" my friends gasped. I was confused. The sheriff looked at me and said, "Knowledge. Answers. Wisdom. All in one book." My heart started to pound, an animal trying to break free from its cage. Still somewhere it didn't feel right.
Flash forward a few days.
I'm standing at a library, a book as high as four. The pages were old and ancient, but when I flipped them, they were still crispy, like it was hardly used at all. My mind began to turn. Everything I've ever wanted, here in this book. I flip it open to the middle and begin to read.
Flash forward a few hours.
I'm sitting at a table, my head down, hands through my hair. My nose feels dried out from the continuous mothball smell I cannot escape. My wrists are tired, from trying to write down everything I can. So I am able to do EXACTLY right in every situation. Everyone that walks by looks in awe, they want to see. To know. But I am beginning to wish I never started.
Flash forward a few more hours.
I feel as if I am going to scream. My mind has no way to process. Write. Write. You need answers. I bgin to be desperate. I know my time is running out. I have to know. I begin to feel suffocated, I know the feeling. Tears well up in my eyes. My throat burns. I throw down my pencil and shove myself into my seat. I'm a failure. I don't know everything. I will enver be able to remember all of this. I'm going to be broken and hurt for the rest of my life.
I lean over and the tears begin to pour out.
Stephanie has been across the library watching me all day. I haven't noticed until she walks up to me. A stranger in this dream world.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I can't do this. I'm overwhelmed and I'll never know what to do in any situation. I don't have answers, and I'll be just like everyone else, living and breaking and hurting. I don't want that. I want answers. I want to know what to do and where to go. this stupid book is so big, there's no way I can read it in one day, much less know it," I spilled out.
She leaned down, and placed her hands on my shoulders, "Look at me."
I avoided her gaze.
"Look at me," she said again. I looked into her eyes.
"No amount of knowledge is going to get you anywhere. You have to experience the journey on your own in able to know. No book is going to give you every answer, or tell you where to go. Your heart is where the Spirit lies, and that is all you need. I know it hurts but the climb is all worth it. And remember,
The greater the mountain, the greater the lesson."
The room began to disappear around me. "Where are you going? Where am I going?" I cried out.
I was standing in the middle of a field. Green, flowers. All of it, flat land. Cracking. I heard it. Like something finally breaking free from its shell, held in for so many years.
I turned around. Right there, before me, a mountain began to rise. Bigger and bigger before me, until my eye could not even reach the top.
I fell on my knees and wept for the freedom I felt.
My eyes fluttered open, struggling between the world of dreams and reality.
I sat up as fast as I could and jotted down my dream.