Hello, Fall! (And My First Attempt At Modeling)

Old Poway 1

Photo Credits: Lapis Lazuli 

Did you guys know that today’s the first day of fall? It’s hard to tell that it’s already autumn when the sun’s shining brightly and you still need to sleep with the fan on at night. But I am so excited that it’s fall! Fall means that it’s pumpkin season, and that it’s almost the arrival of winter. Woohoo!

My best friend lives in San Diego, which is about a two hour drive down south for me. It wasn’t until I took this little getaway trip that I found out it’s been nine months since we’ve last seen each other in person. N-i-n-e m-o-n-t-h-s. The last time we saw one another was back on New Year’s weekend. It wasn’t intentional, but sadly, it just kind of happened. I guess it’s because we’re sort of going through different life stages and we have conflicting schedules, not to mention that the physical distance can be quite challenging too. But we do seem to be able to pick up right where we left off. I know that if I ever need an ear to listen, or if I just want to randomly call someone up to say hello, I can always call her. And I do.

I’m thankful that despite the distance, we’ve managed to remain pretty steadfast friends over the years. You’d think that we got along from the get-go and it was smooth sailing from then on out, but it wasn’t how it started for us. We went through some pretty nasty drama and falling outs during the early stages of our friendship. There was definitely a year of petty silent treatments too… Ahem. Anyways, all I can say is that it’s truly by God’s grace we’re still friends to this day. All that we’ve been through in the past, and whatever awaits us in the future, not only continues to deepen our friendship, but it sharpens us as well. We may not be able to walk together through everything as we did before, but it doesn’t mean that our relationship is any less significant or precious. Solid friends are hard to come by and even harder to maintain. As all relationships go, it does take sacrifice, effort, and time. But it’s seriously so worth it.

Near the end of my trip, we decided to have a spontaneous photo shoot session. My amazing friend and her equally awesome husband are into photography, so I became their subject for the afternoon. Besides the fact that it was about 102 degrees outside and I was sweating like crazy, it was a pretty fun experience! Who knew that modeling could be so hard though? It’s so much easier to smile for the camera when there’s something actually going on or when you’re posing with other people.

I don’t know why it becomes so much much more awkward once you decide to call it a photo shoot. I didn’t really know what to do at first, but I just went with the flow. Eventually, I did become much more comfortable in front of the camera. Here are some of my favorites from this shoot.

All photo credits go to the bestie and her husband.

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Grace Upon Grace

I’m not really big on birthdays, but I turned a year older this week and found myself doing a lot of extra reflecting. I’m usually — well, still am — the busy bee in the house, bustling out and about every single day, but I took a step back this week to do some introspective thinking. I’m the type of person that processes things as they go, and mulling things quietly to myself isn’t something that I tend to do on a regular basis. But I did that this past week because I found myself to be alone at home, so I was forced to reflect and have a lot of quiet time to myself. (All of my introverted friends should be so proud.)

So after all that personal reflection, I’d like to take the time to flesh out my thoughts in writing, and to share it with y’all.

I think I can say that in my short life thus far, this past year has been one of the most rewarding, albeit challenging. Or maybe I’m biased because I have selective memory and the past year is still fairly recent in my memory. Regardless, many trials and unexpected blessings occurred that stretched my faith and caused me to trust in God through the good times, the bad, and the mundane. And I’m so thankful and glad for all that’s happened. I’m grateful for the friendships along the way, people that really supported and prayed for me and walked with me through it all. Praise God for them.

In a nutshell, all this happened within the past year: I’ve dated, broken up, resigned from my job, dealt with family crises, took upon more ministry opportunities at church, started a new job, learned how to resolve and handle sticky, drama-like situations, and trained for my first half marathon. Not exactly in that chronological order and probably not the best summary of all that happened. But I guess those are the biggest events that come to mind. All in all, what a humbling year. I’m amazed at the depths of my sins, but also at how wonderful God is — how vast is His grace and love for me.

As I was reliving all these past events through my trip down memory lane, I made up a little short list of what I really want to do as I turned a year older. I’ve been trying to pray for myself more, to ask God for strength and guidance for the times ahead. I look back on this year and see both the areas where I’ve wasted so much time in and areas where there was tremendous fruitfulness. My continual hope is to shine for Jesus and be a living testimony for him in all that I do and say.  Continue reading

Trust and Obey

During my hour-long commute to work one morning, a song popped into my head and I started humming to the tune. Before I knew it, my heart was overcome with emotion as I sang these words on repeat:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

I can’t remember the last time I sang this song at church, so it was an unexpected surprise to be reminded of the words. They’re simple lyrics, but if you really dwell on them, they’re hard to sing.

I thought it was quite appropriate and a good reminder, since I’ve been going through a lot in my own life (which sort of explains the blogging break). I am finding that submitting out of obedience is always the best answer, even when I don’t feel like doing so, even when it is difficult. There are times when obedience may cost me everything (or maybe my pride, which feels like everything), but I can be assured that God does hold my best interests at heart. Maybe what I initially want really isn’t what is best for me, and maybe something that I wouldn’t prefer ends up being the better choice. There are definitely days when I choose to debate against the Spirit or to avoid doing what I know will bring God greater glory. Whether it’s apologizing and confessing sin; reaching out to someone that’s harder for me to love; surrendering my desires; or being bold in situations when I’d rather hide — trusting and obeying God is far more sanctifying and lasting than doing things my own way. Continue reading

Weekly Favorite Links (July 16-August 5, 2015)

(Photo Via)

What makes you happy?

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately, both directly by others and one that I have been mulling over on my quiet drives to and from work. I guess part of it is because I had to take a workshop session related to happiness for work purposes and it was a really interesting experience. The workshop began with pop songs playing in the background (which did make us feel pretty pumped up) and after that, everyone had to go around sharing what was one thing that made them happy. I honestly didn’t think much of the question at first, so the first thing that came to my mind was GOOD FOOD ’cause I was hungry and…. I love food a lot. Y’all should already know that though.

As the session progressed, I realized that what seemed like an initial harmless, superficial question really was one of life’s most significant question marks that every individual must answer for themselves. Because we all strive to be happy; we may all differ in how we believe and see where happiness comes from.

If there was one thing that was apparent from that meeting, it was the realization that the world believes you are in charge of your happiness and there are concrete steps and goals to achieve it. By the end of the workshop, there was probably about ten suggested strategies that were offered to all of us to achieve the happiness we were looking for. We were also asked to publicly share and offer examples of ways that we were trying to achieve such happiness. For example, someone would be asked to share to the rest of the group how they were kind to someone else or one thing they’ve learned recently in order to improve their weaknesses. I was called on to share a recent event that inspired me and empowered me. Others were asked to talk about what they loved about themselves and areas where they had to overcome certain challenges. We were also given a worksheet to complete and take home and before we left the meeting, we all had to write down two commitments we were going to work towards.

On the one hand, I appreciated the workshop. There were a lot of good points made and some great practical ways for me to work on my weaknesses and further areas that I can continue to grow in. The personal sharing from everyone was also pretty relatable and we were able to bond better as a team. Furthermore, I felt more motivated to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone. And yes, making a commitment to something, striving towards goals, and successfully achieving them does bring about the feeling of happiness. But only to a certain degree. That feeling of accomplishment, the exhilaration you get from checking off something from a bucket list– it’s all temporary. So while I enjoyed the workshop, on the other hand, I also left that meeting a bit dissatisfied and not fully convinced at everything that was addressed. I think I was taken aback because for the first time in a long while, I was told that Self can make happiness happen. As if the greatest purpose in this life is to be happy with myself and come to terms with how great of a person I am (as if I need more reasons to be prideful of who I am).

However, I know that in order to find true happiness and lasting joy, everything that was suggested at that workshop were only fragments of what I know to be true. I think the workshop only addressed and scratched the surface level of bigger issues. I felt like the people leading the session and even the group discussions were trying to persuade me that a band-aid would fix areas that might need open heart surgery. There comes a point where we can try to do everything in our power to get what we want and it will be in vain since we’re limited as human beings. The biggest hole in that team bonding activity was that contentment apart from Christ is impossible because only in Christ alone will we find our everlasting happiness. After all, God’s creations were never meant to replace him as our Creator.

Self cannot be elevated nor is the individual Self reliable enough to deliver. I think if anything, Self only ends up disappointing more than impressing because we’re all fallen sinners. Honestly, I don’t even know what will happen to me in the next minute, much less a lifetime, so how can I guarantee my own happiness? I can’t. Instead, I believe and trust that true happiness is found when I surrender my life to Jesus, when my sinful desires are cast away and when my mind is renewed to be more like his. In Christ alone, my soul will be satisfied. Continue reading