Jenni.

It’s crazy the way that God orchestrates the events in your life.

Jenni is a prime example of that.

And because of that I figured she was a fitting woman to begin the “Imprints” series with.

I met her at the very beginning of my college experience – fresh from orientation and into my summer study program. She was the RA for the summer session I spent in Pullman before the official first semester of my college career. I’m sure I never would have met her had I not stumbled my way into WSU’s freshman summer program, judging by the fact that her home is hundreds of miles from a convenient meet and greet outside of coincidence and the fact that while I’m barely staying afloat in my freshman year she’s working on finishing her senior year and making the transition to Grad school hundreds of miles away.

This is a fact which I think about regularly – the sheer luck of finding her in the massive sea of students on campus. God is so incredibly faithful to provide the people who I need to weave my way through the mess of life. And I was given a real gift in Jenni.

She’s never slow to call me out. She tells me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear. She loves the Lord, but is never slow to be raw in her frustration. She is bold and brilliant and a blessing. It is because of all these things that it’s been such a pleasure to do life with her these past months.

She has this funny little saying: “We’re all just made of human.” I’ve heard it more than I’d like to admit, in the moments when I’m hating my humanity most she’s the first to remind me of it’s beauty. In my moments of vulnerable insecurity, it’s her that gathers up all the pieces and shows me the charm of my humanity.

The first time we really talked (about more than the price of textbooks and where to find a decent parking spot), she and I sat down for what felt like a couple minutes, and before I knew it, it was two o’ clock in the morning and I was so stimulated by our exchange that I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to sleep for days. It was our first real conversation, completely an accident in the beginning, but a total blessing in the end. I was enthralled by her outlook on life, her insight, her enthusiasm, and her excitement for adventure. We laid everything out. Those sort of heart-to-hearts that you walk away from able to breathe again but completely horrified by your lack of control in spilling your guts. In a matter of hours we went from happy acquaintances to trusted allies, and in all the months that have followed I’ve realized how incredibly lucky I am to pursue a friendship with a woman so wonderful.

And because her voice is such a beautiful presence in my life, I asked her to share some of her own insight and stories so that the rest of the world can begin to see the legacy that her presence has imprinted on my heart.

Let me just note, before we start, that each of these responses is so perfectly “Jenni.” I came to her with this crazy idea that I wanted to interview her for my blog and she never once asked why. Instead, she took it seriously and gave me entirely whole and in-depth answers to all of the questions that I asked. It is because of that that I have chosen not to shorten any of her responses, nor interject them into what I am saying, instead I want to present them to you in their entirety, the way that they were written, so that you can see the Jenni-esque blessing she has given. However, because of that, this post is going to be much longer than normal, but I promise you, it’ll be worth it.

With that being said, let’s begin with the story. I asked her to share her own “testimony” and the reasons why she found Jesus in it, to which, true to her honest and unfaltering nature, she replied…

Well, I grew up in a neighborhood that was robust with older adults and severely lacking in children, especially those who were my age. I struggled with boredom and loneliness as an only child with two working parents. My main childhood friend had divorced parents and was only present every two weeks. When I was about 8 years old, she had asked me to church. I went a couple of times before my parents began to question what I was learning and soon followed suit. We began attending as a family and soon Jesus was a household name, and I learned that I would always have at least one best friend. Years went by, we moved, changed churches a few times, and found a place where I learned more about this man Jesus than I had ever thought possible. The fact was, I was a participant in the “machine” of church, going every week and participating in all the functions, as well as maintaining the persona of being an ideal Christian child. [However] what couldn’t be seen was that though I knew the Bible strikingly well, I still struggled with my doubts; and my relationship with Christ was present, but it was dry.

My college years came and I set out to find a way to be connected to the Word, as I had come to understand its importance and relevance in a relationship with Christ. I began by attending a sister-church of the one I had grown up in, however because of its exclusive habits, such as all the youth growing up in seminary schools and all the pastors going through the same extensive instruction, they lacked the ability to connect with those who had different experiences, such as myself. I struggled to feel welcome, and while I agreed with their teaching and appreciated their dedication to the Word, Christ is inclusive, loving, and welcoming, and these were things I didn’t experience. Thus, my hunt began. My search was unguided and my prayers ceaseless, when one day I was sitting in our student union building between classes and a girl was walking by who suddenly turned and sat down next to me. She asked about some of the usual small-talk things such as my major, where I was from, and what I like to do when her question of “What do you know about Jesus” popped out quite abruptly. I then explained my journey and how I believed an experience with Christ was more of a relationship than a religious institution and she invited me to her church. I started going and bringing a couple of friends. After about a month, I had a sudden stroke of emotion during one of the worship songs and began sobbing. It was as if I had found an oasis in the desert, and its power was so consuming because I hadn’t even realized how dry and cracked my spiritual life had become. It was full of knowledge, sure, but lacking in passion and love for Christ. My flame had been more of a reflection in the glass of a gas fireplace, rather than one of a torch of heat carried around to be passed on to others.

My sophomore year I experienced my first love, and to my detriment he was a profound atheist. At the time, I knew it wasn’t ideal, but we had discussions, and we were open-minded, and I had hope. This went on for almost a year, and when we broke it off, I was devastated. Not only had I ended my first relationship and lost my first love, but my relationship with Jesus had just about disintegrated. The trickle was slow, but I had lost the time for reading my Bible, remaining connected with my friends in the faith, sleeping in on Sundays rather than going to church, and the whispers of lies had begun to take root in my mind. I shielded my heart from emotion and placed logic at the forefront, claiming that it was the only thing that could be right because it actually made sense. Although I had answers to the dozens of questions asked by my boyfriend, his logic began to seep and reaffirm the doubts from years before. I became bitter. I became lost. I became numb. I became atheist.

But God wasn’t finished with me. If anything, he was just beginning. Descartes once said “In order to determine whether there is anything we can know with certainty, we first have to doubt everything we know.” This quote hung on my mirror for over a year and fueled my logical mind. It was only by God’s grace that friends began to reach out to me again and invite me to church, no matter how often I declined. However…each time the music would begin, and I started to sing, tears would stream out of my eyes. Of course, my stubborn heart refused to admit the Holy Spirit’s presence, and I referenced the experience as being a conditioned response.

At this time, I began to struggle with my memory, much due to what I believe to be stress-induced from my involvement at college, and yet one thing from over a year before had stuck. When I begun dating that boy, I mentioned to a friend that he was atheist and it wasn’t the ideal relationship, (in our relationship) he had stated  that the only thing he hated about me was that I was Christian. At the time I laughed and responded that it was ironic because it was the core of my identity. In a conversation with an old friend about it, she had also laughed and said, “It’s funny because what he says he hates most about you is what he actually loves about you. He’s drawn to the light of Jesus which he claims to detest most.” That phrase from over a year prior had stuck with me and it had nagged at my consciousness begging the concept: there is no way I could be that bright on my own and draw others to myself. It had to be something, or someone, more. I continued my questioning, but I had the most important one answered: did I believe in God? Yes. Was his existence merely as someone who kept the tides in balance and the seasons in check, or was he the wrathful, yet loving, God who was pursuing a relationship with us? I don’t know when Christ reached out to me again, or when I took his hand out of the drowning mess I had become, but I knew the entire journey that if I were to come to a faith it would be Christianity once again, because it was the only one where my salvation was not dependent on anything I could do for myself or for my God, but solely functioned as a result of Christ’s love and sacrifice.

The past year has been possibly the best in my life. I have had the opportunity to find myself and my identity in Christ, strengthened by fellow believers and growing in my relationships through Him. I have been blessed by being on the other side of my faith…Christ has given me the ability to understand what I believe and why I believe it, rather than just robotic movements that have been encultured into me by a religion I grew up in. In some ways, I’m a brand new baby-believer seeing many things anew, but in many ways I lean on Christ as we are old friends and can laugh at my idiotic moments. Mostly, I feel blessed to have been called upon… He functions as the void-filler we all need in different ways: a father, a brother, a groom, a teacher, and a friend. Being in Christ, means being in love, and I am blessed and honored to have a glimpse of this experience.

I’m asked why I choose Jesus, but at the end of the day, it is He who chooses me. Without his grace, I could not even fathom how to begin searching for something in the void. We are creatures made to strive for something bigger than ourselves, given by the evidence of thousands of cultural religions across the world, but Christ alone fills that need as God alone created that requirement. I think we have the ability to deny Christ as he pursues us, but we cannot choose him on our own. The truth is the truth even if no one believes in it. Even if people deny Christ, it does not refute his existence.

One might argue I’ve known Jesus since I was a child at a church summer camp around the age of 10, but I’ve also recognized the cultural significance of growing up in religion, and the ramifications it has had on my ability to think for myself. I might argue that I’ve known him for over a decade, but have only experienced him for a few years now. I might also argue that I will never know Christ. He fills the void, but as an omnipresent and omnipotent being, I cannot even hope to fathom what he is doing nor would I want to; that would belittle an awesome God. “God has 1000 things going on in our life at a time, and He might let us in on 3 of them.”

The thing that I love most in her story is her admittance of her straying from the Lord. It is such a humbling experience to admit to walking away from the faith, and in the church is often chastised. But for Jenni, her walk in the opposite direction of the Lord is the precise ignition that she needed to feel the Lord’s pursuit anew. I love that she says “the truth is the truth even if no one believes in it.” It brings it all home, ties in all the ends and seals the deal – Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When we first met we had no idea of the other’s faith. Granted, I’m not so sure we had no idea, there’s this sort of light that Jenni exudes – whether that be through her bright smile or small gestures of affection – that so unabashedly proclaims that she is different. She was a thinker, and a genuine woman. I was drawn to her, and funny enough, looking back now, I see how God’s light in her was that pull.

Nonetheless it wasn’t until that fateful late night conversation that we shared point blank what we believed in. I had been struggling with the feeling of solitude in a college surrounded by people who despised my God. Jenni was in the process of healing from what she refers to as “beefin’ with Jesus.” We were both in vulnerable and strange spots – but throughout the night, I was alerted to the fact that although both of us were feeling conflictingly forgotten by our God, neither of us was slow to admit to the goodness that God had been showing us. Neither of us had refrained from mentioning our frustration, but amidst that, we went from acquaintances to sisters so deeply in love with the Lord that the previous estrangement felt obsolete.

We clicked. We were able to talk about the Lord in the realest sense possible. For the first time in what had felt like forever, Jenni gave me the opportunity to speak freely about the God that I love without condemning me. The further we progressed into our friendship the more I came to love this about her – her willingness to listen and think.

She asked me the hard questions. And she genuinely respected me when I asked her.

She’s on fire for the Lord because she isn’t afraid to admit that she doesn’t always understand everything that he has in store. Her own attitude toward him is such an inspiration in that it challenges me to think deeper than the surface. Through the multitude of conversations that we’ve had and the amount of time we’ve spent together I’ve seen the Lord pursuing  her heart,   so I asked her to share where she sees the Lord working in her life and this is what she had to say:

This is a tricky question for me currently, because, for once in my life, I am incandescently content with my relationships, and this has seemed to be one of the greatest struggles from a childhood of loneliness, an adolescence of wanting deeply faith-based friends, and the flakiness of stressed-out college students. My view of God has shifted greatly in the last few years, if not only the last few months, and so as I encourage everyone to trust in Jesus, I, myself, find this to be one of my greatest struggles.

Depending on the decade of psychology, you could see my personality hinted at beneath many diagnostic categories of OCD, Type-A, perfectionist, and control-freak. I like to have things a certain way, and I believe there is a right way and a wrong way, a perfect structure, organization, analysis, planning logic brain. The only saving grace is that I also have this oddly spontaneous free-spirit which continually conflicts with my instinctual robotic tendencies. I love people and their passions, but I hate the unknown. Right now, as a senior in college, I have a plan of graduate school, but there is not yet any certainty of acceptance, or any inkling of summer plans, which will be arriving in a few short months. I also have recently started dating my best friend of the past two years, and as one so rigid, I do not proclaim to know how to “relationship.” Life is going exceedingly well in my support system, but it seems to be the only thing keeping me from losing my mind in regards to my fear of the unknown. I must continually place my trust in Christ, and it is a constant struggle of reminding myself and giving him everything. My thoughts are continually of giving Him what is rightfully his, and that I am only borrowing time. He has a plan. He is the plan. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

As I sit here reading through this response, I find myself smiling at the Jenni-esqueness of it. I love hearing her take on life, and I love that she is open about it. Jenni and I spend a lot of time marveling at the complications and awesomeness at life, crying together and having dance parties, laughing until our ribs snap and talking until we’re out of breath. In each instance never shielding from the other the rawness of life as it’s thrown at us.

One of the most interesting facets of our friendships is that Jenni is a “self-proclaimed feminist.” For me, her beliefs offer an interesting point of view that I often neglect to have faith in. For years the feminists in my life have made a deep impression on me, one that slices further than I want to admit. But Jenni is different. She is understanding and gentle, but steadfast in what she believes. So I asked her what it means to her to be a feminist and this was her response:

“First, the reader must understand that I am a self-proclaimed feminist, but that with this identification, I think of Feminism and what I call “Neo-Feminism” to be two different things. Feminism is akin to the 1970s, man-hating, bra-burning, loud-mouthing women who fought for nothing but stirring up trouble. Surely, they had some great points, but I am a believer in neo-feminism. I love men, and I want for equality. I think neo-feminism stands for more than just women, but rather represents a fight for equality. In the best and most basic terms I can describe it: “Do you, Boo-Boo.” I want for equal pay among the genders, and for people who are struggling with their sexual orientations to not be ridiculed. I promote women who choose the workplace as their home as well as promote those who choose a 1950s housewife lifestyle. I want for a culture that teaches not to rape, rather than a culture that teaches how not to get raped. I want for women and men to stop being sexually objectified. I want for racism to be something scoffed at in history books because it no longer exists, and those who promoted it are pitied from their lack of understanding. I want for people to be fulfilled by what they are doing. I want what MLK Jr. wanted: for people to be judged by their character. Yes, I am a feminist, but first, understand what this means.”

Refreshing isn’t it? Jenni was the first person in my life, in a very long time, to be open about the fact that declaring yourself as something doesn’t always mean that you become the stereotype. It’s with this in mind that our friendship has come to such a beautiful place of fruition.

Jenni teaches me to believe in myself. She teaches me that it’s okay to love myself. She exemplifies what it means to be a hard worker. She demonstrates boldness. She encourages adventure. She provokes my mind in the greatest ways. She reminds me of the rawness and scandal of a faithful life.

Words cannot express the blessing that she is. There are so many ways that she has already changed my heart in these past couple months that I cannot even begin to imagine what the Lord has in mind in the years to come.

She’s left an imprint.

So I leave you with this, one of the life mottos that she lives by:

“We are a culmination of our experiences, so live well and live fully, because what we do is what we become.”

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Textures & Cool Tones

Yesterday I got the opportunity to spend my morning in the company of this wonderful human, playing with cameras in the cool winter air.

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Having recently gotten involved in the lovely world of photography, she was eager to take her new camera for a spin and I was more than happy to join. As a Pullman native she had a few places picked out, the first of which was a work yard and the second a garden. Both were beaten by winter and full of texture.

It was a crisp morning, and as we wound our way between stacks of pallets and around mud puddles, the cameras captured the coolness of the morning brilliantly. It was a northwest day without the rain, and I was blown away by both the simplicity and complexity of the shots & I wanted to share them with you. Enjoy.

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This simple shot was one of my favorites from the whole adventure – I love the color of the pallet and the texture of it’s splintered end.

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Stacks on stacks on stacks [of pallets]
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This old yellow building was probably my favorite location of the entire adventure. I love the texture of the peeling paint and the dulled yellow color. It all seemed very rustic, and it fit well into the northwestern chill of the day with it’s muted scheme. (I’d be interested to see what this same building looks like in the summer sun.)

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I love the colors of this wall – the yellows, cremes, whites, and darker grays – and I loved the different patterns.
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This wall – in all of it’s textured glory was my dream come true.

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IMG_0439 IMG_0441 IMG_0446 IMG_0449 IMG_0452 IMG_0463 IMG_0466 IMG_0469 IMG_0475 IMG_0478 IMG_0486 IMG_0487 IMG_0496 perspectiveriver river2 Stay warm, dear reader. Until the next adventure!tharin

Surprise! A Birthday Celebration for Housteeze

Recently one of my good friends had his 24th birthday. A few days before it came about we were at the store, coincidentally in the cake isle, when I asked him what his favorite cake was and he let slip (after answering red velvet) that he hadn’t had a real birthday party…like ever… and a surprise birthday party was never even a part of his cognitive process.

So, of course we had to throw him one!

Earlier this year one of my best friends threw me an incredible party for my birthday – complete with Tangled themed decorations and a delicious gluten free homemade breakfast shared with my family and friends. It was entirely incredible, and such a massive blessing, and I couldn’t help but think of all the fun we could have with this. So we started scheming.

I wanted to make sure that everything was super cheesy and stereotypically birthday-party-y, so we set about to create a birthday party reminiscent of our childhood – complete with streamers and a “birthday boy” button. And it was great.

It was so fun to have our friends in one place, eating under-cooked cupcakes, improvising lighters (because you can’t have a flame in the residence halls) with phone apps,  and acting out the game of charades. This is what college is about I think – not the 2am drunken walks home or the mornings full of regret – but this, nights spent in the company of friends to the tune of a celebration of life.

Houston had no idea, and he was happy with the surprise. I guess now he can check surprise birthday party off his list.

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(A blurry one that I wish wasn’t blurry – haha.)

To Houston –

Happy Happy birthday, you are a great man – and now an old one – and I hope that your birthday was absolutely superb. I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead for us, and I hope that this birthday has filled your heart with memories that will last the years to come.

You are so dear to my heart, and I am so glad we got to celebrate you! May your 24th year be filled with even more magical memories.

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P.S. Here’s a super sweet post that Houston wrote about the event, enjoy: “The Heart”

Call Me Out

I got coffee with one of my good friends the other day and as we were talking I could see the beginning of tears in her eyes, riddled with sadness, frustration, anger – all of it – and I wanted to cry too.

“You know what one of the things I love most about you is,” she asked. “You listen to the Lord more than anyone I know,”she smiled at me, reaffirming before she caught my eyes and sunk the knife in, “but even though you know what he wants you to do, you don’t act immediately – like you’re waiting for him to change his mind or something.”

I caught my breath. Ouch. But then…is it not true? Here we were, sitting next to each other, my hands shaking and my heart burning from an ache I wasn’t entirely ready to admit, and the only reason this conversation was anything different from any of the others we’ve had in the past couple months is because this time I did something.

I like to think of myself as a bold person. Never slow to speak the truth, and certainly not slow to act on behalf of those that I love… But when it comes to listening to the Almighty I often find that the story takes a different turn. I trust that the Lord has a plan, but I am slow to act accordingly because – even though he’s proven over and over again his faithfulness to follow through with his better plan – I am terrified of losing the things that I, in my humanity, think are the most dear.

And here I was, the Lord asking me to reevaluate one of the relationships that I held most dear, and asking me to dial back my involvement, and I hated it. For three weeks I had been locked in a back and forth with God. He had been telling me to loosen the reigns, I had been telling him no. He had been telling me to chose a different path because that’s what he had for me, I had been telling him no. He had been telling me to give my heart ache to him, I had been telling him no. But, it’s because of his persistence that I knew what was coming…and I knew that it would suck.

So for three weeks I mourned the loss of a relationship that hadn’t even taken a blow yet, for three weeks I asked God if their was another way that hurt less. For three weeks I asked God to change his plan. It was his turn to tell me no.

So I knew what was coming, and I knew what conversation I needed to have, and I knew what in my life was going to have to change. I knew where I felt convicted and where I felt validated.

God told me it would hurt, and I hated that, so I came back to campus and waited as long as I could, but, like I said, God is persistent and he sent a series of signals to me to make clear what plan he had for me.

I always feel weird saying that God is calling me to do something because – unfortunately – it’s not like I have a direct phone line to heaven.

However, it has been my experience that the Big guy is pretty persistent with me in illustrating what he wants from me. Lately he’s shown me how great it is to incandescently believe in the plan that he has for me. He’s been nothing but obvious about what he wants from me – whether that be his guiding my hand as I journal, spontaneously opening my Bible to my convictions, or putting people in my life to call me out on my “ish” (for lack of a better word).

He was right, it did hurt.

But I knew it was coming. I cried before it happened, I mourned it so much that by the time I did what he was calling me out to do there was nothing left. I was resigned.

It sucked. It hurt. I hated it.

But its done.

And that’s where this “call me out” thing comes from.

It was there, the other night, sitting across from one of my most treasured friends when she said “I’ve been waiting for you to say this to me, and I’ve been praying for it for so long.” And then I saw the tears again.

It was a hard thing to hear. I asked her why this was the first time she had said anything and she told me that she had tried before, but this was one of those things that I had made clear I was going to have to learn on my own. It was one of those moments of clarity that sort of knocks the air out of your lungs – it was like the world slowed down and my lens zoomed out to see the entirety of the situation.

For weeks God had been calling me to move – why had it taken me so freaking long to do something? 

I had been scared. I had been unwilling. I had been compromised. I had narrowed my vision to a dangerously small perspective. And it was this moment – this instance of being called out that shocked things back into perspective.

From there I got to talk with some other really incredible and Godly women about everything. It was altogether life-giving and beautiful. I presented an idea, and rather than BS their way through a response, they genuinely listened and then gave wisdom instead of know-how. They reassured me of the goodness of God in situations that don’t feel too good. They gave me an opportunity to remember what it looks like to be in community. They demonstrated to me the beauty of a Godly woman.

They called me out on my crap, but rather than just tell me what I was doing wrong they offered some honest perspective into it.

Here’s the thing – I’m not slow to call people out. I’m learning how to do it in a loving way.

And I have God-fearing people in my life who do the same for me, and I have never been more thankful.

Because it’s these voices who remind me where it’s my priority to fix my eyes.

Vessels.

All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty handed
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free
I’ve been set free

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your love in me

– “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)” by Hillsong Worship

I stumbled across this song by complete accident. Having just turned on a worship station to spend some time with Jesus before the day’s next task. I was suddenly overcome with emotion, tears streaming down my face as I digested the lyrics. They articulated my heart cry. The song asks the Lord to take the broken pieces of my heart and use them for his glory. They appeal to the Lord’s goodness, they appeal to his grace. I was overcome.

Carry that until now… This Winter break I did what feels like a detrimental amount of reflecting. On everything.

It was a period in which God answered a lot of my questions… in a lot of ways that I was hesitant to listen to. God was clear with what he wanted from me, but I was afraid to listen, and so I walked the other way, and he kept pursuing me. (I love the guy, but man, he’s persistent!)

Amidst this there was one massive standout moment – the idea of being a vessel for Christ rather than a “tool” for the Kingdom.

I guess that for some this might sound like it’s the same thing. But I feel like God really moved in my heart to show me that these two concepts are entirely different entities.

Allow me to explain:

A tool is something concrete. It is used as a means to an end. Manipulated by the holder. A tool is a device that really serves no other purpose than to be used. It can’t really be adapted, it is just used to accomplish a goal.

A vessel is an empty thing. It is used by it’s controller to fill, to pour into. A vessel is something that can be changed and adapted, and suited to fit a specific purpose, it is something that can essentially give back what is put into it. It is not a means to an end because it’s not entirely stagnant.

So how does this apply to the faith?

I’ve decided that, in response to God’s calling me out, to pursue a life as a vessel for his glory and not a tool for his kingdom. Meaning that I love the idea that I am waiting to be poured in by the Creator so that the overflow of his goodness might be the very thing that makes it possible to give back. I love the idea of not being a hardened object, but rather an ever changing source of overflow with a never ending thirst for his pouring into me.

The idea of a vessel means that I am able to be loved by God and in return love my fellow brothers and sisters of the faith through the overflow. It means that I am waiting to be poured into, and craving his life-giving grace. It means that I can’t do it on my own because without him I am empty. It means that this is a relationship which goes two ways. It means that, at the heart of it all, this is a relationship.

God puts the broken pieces of me back together so that he can continue to fill me. He covers the blemishes with his grace and fills the cracks with his mercy. He is faithful to make me whole and use the “broken and scattered” pieces of me to raise me back to life. He makes me an object of his affection rather than a seldom used object for repairs. He is in constant pursuit of me, healing my heart and fixing my scars so that he can pour into me. He is constantly proving to me my value to him by having the grace to love me so ceaselessly.

I’ve heard the call, and I’m trying to answer. I’m trying to allow my heart to see this. And I’m trying to give grace to myself as God continues to show me what it means to be a vessel.

How are you living – as a tool or a vessel?

The Moments We Live For.

4cougs anaandmegarrett and ana

Being part of my new church’s media team gives me a lot of opportunities to do a lot of cool things – all with the kind of access of a press pass, so bonus! Earlier today I got a text message inviting me out to shoot some footage for the church -something along the lines of putting together an intro video – I was told a big group of people was heading down to the river to hang out around a campfire and light off Roman candles. It was a sight to behold. And when I wasn’t tripping over the rocky slopes I was certainly trying to “behold” it.

We were out in what felt like the middle of nowhere. A patch of cliffs situated around the river hundreds of feet above the water. Atop the hill was a fire and welcoming smiles. The fog of the day receded for the time so it felt like looking out on forever. It was a vast reality. I stood on the outcropping of rocks and looked out on the blackness, the water swelling beneath me with a glassy black sigh, and just breathed. In the moment between requests and conversation, I thanked the Lord for his pursuit of my heart.

I’m constantly awestruck by the beauty of moments. And I was put face to face with that tonight, and in an oddly sentimental turn of events, this little outing was so much more than a trek through the hills in the dark.

This was the ignition of my Spring semester. This was a night surrounded by God fearing people who are genuinely living life in a fun and loving way. This was a night with some of my very best friends spent in laughter with an adventuring heart.

Despite the bitter cold of the Washington night air I was warm.

My heart is most alive in these moments – the spontaneous adventures, the moments of fellowship, the voiced declarations of love. My heart swoons at the recognition of God’s pursuit.

Moments.

This is why we are alive. This is what life is about.

Moments.

And their celebration.

5cougs(We did shoot some pretty rad footage, but I’m not sure when the video will be complete, I’ll try to find the link when it’s done!)

The New Rig

This Christmas I finally got my hands on my new baby – a Canon Rebel T3i, complete with some fancy bundle perks – including a tripod and two lenses. It’s pretty safe to say that I’m in love. I couldn’t wait to take it out, so I took some of my family for an adventure, and these are a couple select shots from the day. I’m so looking forward to seeing what this baby can do!

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Our first stop was Gonzaga University’s St. Aloysius Cathedral where I snapped these quick shots. In the editing process I was enthralled by the vision of them in black and white (I’m a little partial to black and white photography).

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In trying to light these prayer candles I also lit my finger on fire – I’d say a good three times. But it was worth it to grab these shots. Once they were lit, the candles were a vision of the serenity of the moment humbled before God to present my requests and praises to him.

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Seeing as it was New Year’s Eve, I wanted to be sure to capture the festivities. These are two of my favorite shots because of the excitement oozing out of those in front of me. I love that you can see the fireworks show in the screen of the man in front of me, and I love all the upturned faces in the second. It was a brisk night, but the cold was made braille by the vision of the clocktower alive with colors to ring in the new year.

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My brother has recently gotten into all things photography/videography based, so I let him take the reigns for a minute to grab these shots before I stole my new baby back from him. He’s getting pretty good, and he certainly knows his way around the camera.

I hope you enjoyed these little moments. I look forward to many more adventures with this piece of equipment!

How I Intend to Make 2015 the BEST YEAR EVER

I’m slightly *cough, completely, cough* obsessed with the movie Tangled. For my eighteenth birthday party (as a college freshman, mind you) I had a Tangled themed party where all my friends ate off of Rapunzel plates and we smashed a Flynn Rider piñata. These sort of shenanigans have become commonplace in my life –  as such, I’ve found that Rapunzel’s celebratory “Best Day Ever” phrase has become a regular occurrence in my daily vocabulary. So, in honor of the new year, I thought it only right to share how I plan on utilizing all my “best days ever” to create the best year ever!  Without further ado… my realistic resolutions for 2015:

Nurturing my Gentle Spirit & Being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable and gentle, in any scale, is a terrifying feat. Sharing your heart often feels more like signing your life away than reaching out to the people that you love – not to mention the fact that society has ostracized being vulnerable as nothing more than a burden which impedes the experience of life. I’ve listened to those lies, and I’ve realized that I’m really good at being really honest about/with other people, but I don’t allow myself that same liberty. So this year I’m resolving to put a stop to it. As intimidating as it is, this year to be a learning experience in how to cultivate a gentle spirit. It’s something that I have to really work at, seeing as my natural disposition is to punch before asking and pull before giving – but this year, in it’s newness gives me the basis to begin to nurture my nature – even if it’s a different part of it than I’m used to.

Cultivating Relationships

As a freshman in college my life seems to be a steady stream of introductions, as such, I find myself locked in this world of perpetual acquaintance-ship mirroring the “week of welcome” rush. As 2015 will encompass the tail end of my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year, I believe that it’s the perfect time to begin understanding which relationships are important to me and which relationships I want to spend time cultivating. Whether this is grabbing coffee with the girls, or giving up a night to play video games with the guys, or making “family dinner” so that we all can hang out – I want relationships to be a primary focus this year.

Spending More Time with God & In His Word

In November I finished my study of Jeremiah, and realized how interested I am in the grand story of the Bible, so I decided to start from the very beginning. In 2015 I would like to read every book of the Bible, not necessarily cover to cover, but every book.  Through the past couple years I’ve realized the hunger that I have for God’s word, and the understanding of it, and I want this to be the year that gives me that foundation. In addition to that, I want to be intentional with the time that I spend with the Lord – whether that be through quiet time or periods of prayer. I want to rest in his pursuit and I want to strive to pursue him as ceaselessly as he pursues me.

Giving my Summer to God

I’ve decided to be a part of a short term mission this summer where I move to San Diego, California for ten weeks… and I am beyond thrilled!! To give you a basic run down (because I plan to write an in-depth run down in the future) I am moving to California for the summer to share the gospel with the people of San Diego by becoming a part of their culture – this means getting a job in the city, living in the community, and assisting a church plant in the area. It’s an amazing opportunity, and I am excited to share the experience with all of you, and even more excited to walk by faith into an unforgettable summer devoted to the Lord through Resonate Church’s Elevate in 2015.

Writing for Wonderlust

Here we are, a brand new creative outlet in the new year and I couldn’t be more excited to watch it grow. This year is going to be a blogging-blitz of adventure tales, musings, and praises and I am excited for you to be a part of it with me! There are so many different series that I am excited to share with you – my first being “Imprints” which will be launching at the end of this month!

I’m thrilled by the prospect of this new blog. There are so many stories to be told, and adventures to be had, and they can all be a part of this corner of the web, and that’s more thrilling than anything that I could hope for. 2015 is a new year full of new opportunities, and I’m excited to take Wonderlust along with me.

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So let’s make this the best year ever!

Hello World!

Welcome to Wonderlust by AJ! I’m so excited that you are here!

This project has been a long time in the works, and seeing it’s coming to life is nothing short of surreal.

You’re probably asking why you’re here – I’m still asking myself that same question – so allow me to ease some of your concerns.

First, what is this?

When I began my previous blog, AJ’s World, as a freshman in high school, I had no idea how deeply I would fall in love with the world of blogging. It was a three-ish year stint on Blogger, vomiting my thoughts to the world through the convenient web medium. It was a beautiful period of self discovery as the blog provided me the foundation to share my thoughts with the world; but as I progressed through high school, and then eventually into my college career, I recognized the radical changes I went through as I make the journey to become the woman that God has created me to be. I recognized a change in priorities, a change in interests, a change in heart.  Each typical of the journey that we all take through adolescence into adulthood.

I’ve fallen deeper in love with the Lord. Recognized my passion for adventure. Learned my admiration for the arts of videography and photography. I fell in love with life, and as I fell harder and deeper I began to recognize the need to share that with all the people who had supported me in my first blogging endeavor.

The problem was that I had begun the blog at the beginning of the changing period, and although I believe I am still in the process of growing, I also believe that the growth which I’ve already undergone since my freshman year of high school should resound with the way that I present myself to the world.

That all being said – I wanted more for the blog.

I wanted a place where I could share my videos, photos, adventures, thoughts, and life – all in one place. Previously, my blog followed one theme – give my thoughts on how the world works as a high school girl; but it is my hope that this blog is entirely different in that, rather than a showcase of ideas, it becomes a showcase of life the way that I experience it – messy bits and all!

I want this to be the home of my media creations, the foundation of my musings, the voice for the stories that I feel need to be told. I want this to be uniquely individual and different – for you and me, dear reader.

Second, why the name “Wonderlust?” 

Not to be confused with the Heather Nova album or the coined term “Wanderlust.” Nope. This is a separate entity. I’m not entirely sure whether or not I made it up, most likely I didn’t, but what I can tell you is that the term “Wonderlust” holds a special cubby in my heart. It is the embodiment of the constant journey to quench my thirst for curiosity. It is life’s greatest adventure, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of the experience.

Wonderlust is more than a made up word (or a misspelling of the word “wanderlust”), it’s the heart of adventure, the birthing ground for memories, the beauty of wonder, and the continual pursuit of a life. It is a journey, but more than that, it’s the adventure of your life, so I’ve chosen to buckle up and revel in the ride.

Last, welcome!

This is only the beginning, and I hope that this new corner of the web becomes everything that I dreamed, I pray that this is more than a tablet, this is a grand story of the beautiful adventure that I have the privilege of taking part of.IMG_0078