Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the year in review // grace weekly, 10


It’s been a rather remarkable year. There have been a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts, a lot of beginnings and a lot of ends. There have been a lot of hardships and a lot of joys. Sometimes I just wonder what happened to the uneventful years, when days just passed by with a steady sameness, in which I was perfectly content. But I’m looking forward to the next, whether eventful or otherwise. :)


I love, love, love my Bible.


I love you.

Marrying this guy on February 22… goshhh I cannot wait.


Still laughing…

This picture is one of my favorites from my trip to Israel in May. Hannah was certain that the other camel was about to bite her in the butt (<<<sorry Suze).


Winter wonderland

It’s been kind of a disappointing winter in terms of snow. This skiff is all we’ve gotten… still waiting for a good flurry, which is typical since we got so much snow last year.



This is one of my favorite people in the whole world. I have innumerable hilarious, ridiculous, difficult, frustrating, sad, and epic memories with her over our brief (so far) friendship. :)



I find a huge percentage of my inspiration in the Word of God, and lately, particularly in the character of Mary—the sister of Martha and Lazarus.



This is what my spring looked like this year—deep in the woods of central Florida, there are scatterings of orange and grapefruit trees. The best grapefruit I ever tasted came from one of them.



My first (non-Canada) international adventure was to the beautiful country of Israel. We flew into Tel Aviv on May 16, and traveled from there to Golan, through Galilee, down to the Negev, and then to Jerusalem; finally we flew back out of Tel Aviv to the States on May 28. What an incredible trip it was… I would so love to go back!



When I got home to Washington on July 22, this was one of my favorite sights.


A day in my life

Days in my life have little common thread anymore—this “in between”/wilderness stage has been somewhat difficult in that regard. So I’m going for something a little bit obvious; these two beautiful creatures daily greet me for breakfast, dinner, or rides, depending on the day. I love them. :)



This picture makes me smile. Especially thinking of my little sister’s hilarious quips and comments about my husband-to-be—the latest being, “Sam, I don’t think I’ll ever like any of my boyfriends as much as I like you.”



I got to fulfill a bucket list item this fall and spend a couple of weeks in the Northeast—visiting my dear Pennsylvania family in Martinsburg. Its colors did not disappoint!



Not just one, but two—and I’m so blessed to be getting in-laws I love just as much as my blood family. :)



One of my dearest accomplishments of 2013 was my graduation from Great Commission Bible Institute in Sebring, Florida. It was incredible to watch God work over the course of a year that was sometimes incredibly difficult, and to find my heart changing and reshaping under the precise tool of the Word. (And my oldest brother is awesome—he was thinking of me that day while climbing to the top of 11,250-foot Mt. Hood in Oregon!)

grad11Tim Mt Hood 008

Let’s do it again

One day in February, one of my favorite Floridian families took myself and some classmates to Old Town, an amusement park near Orlando. After a lot of persuasion, I was prevailed upon to ride the Slingshot—which is exactly what it sounds like: a machine that vaults you hundreds of feet up into the air on cables. It was terrifyingly incredible, and I’d like to try it again. :)


I miss you

My GCBI family… I miss them so much. Pastor Aaron, I miss your wise and often hilarious (but painful) counsel. Gabe, I miss your ridiculous voice impressions. Luis, I miss your consistent passion for the Word. Riley, I miss you riling up Hannah. David, I do NOT miss your creepy facial expressions. Cody, I miss your teasing. Kirsten, I miss your kindness. Ethan, I miss hearing, “Hello, British!” Morgan, I miss your encouragement. Clinton, I miss harassing you to do your homework. Ashley, I miss your hugs. Scott, I miss your weirdness. Colin, I miss your fun and silliness. Tori, I miss your insights. Aaron, I miss your obnoxiousness. Larissa, I miss your smile. And Hannah, I miss “Hello? Hello…” :)



I love this place.


Dress up

I got to be the primary photographer at a wedding for the first time!



I’ve discovered a new interest in macro photography since I got a 70mm 1:1 macro lens for my Sony A700. With the use of an external flash I’ve been able to do some fun things with the wedding rings!


On holiday

I spent my spring break visiting Martinsburg, Pennsylvania for the first time—and liked it so much, I lived there for six weeks and visited again for two more!


Favorite memory

Getting baptized in the Sea of Galilee was an amazing experience, and even better because it was done by my teacher Pastor Randy with almost my whole GCBI class as witnesses. :)


Don’t ever change

Teaching my little sister how to ride under the watchful eye of Mt. Adams… I hate to think that time has to pass and this season can’t last forever.


Just because

I can’t do an accurate record of 2013 without giving some attention to three significant summer events: counseling at Camp Mantowagan for five weeks, visiting the West Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, and seeing the 150th reenactment of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg battlefield itself.

Mantowagan38Sad Day 4_ppReenactment26

Hopes and dreams

It’s funny, because I never gave a ton of thought to weddings and marriage until the very day that I got engaged. I wasn’t one of those girls who had chosen colors and styles and catering when she was twelve. Even now, wedding planning hasn’t been my favorite thing—eloping seems like a better idea, in retrospect—but I do appreciate the anticipation, the wonder of stepping out into something new, gaining a new name, a new family, and a new life. :)


Sunday, December 22, 2013

grace, weekly // 9


i. beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

ChristmasTree 001

ii. fluffy orange kitties that like to sleep in my lap.


iii. a whole seven weeks at home, unbroken—the longest stretch since before I moved to Florida in August 2012.


iv. learning 1:1 macro photography.


v. Oma.

I might have met her two or three times, but only actually talked to her once—almost eighteen months ago. The July sun baked the bricks of her house the color of rust, and her flowers craned their necks toward the blue sky. Pork chops, the best I’ve ever tasted, we consumed in embarrassing quantities; butter, blocks and blocks of it, we saw stacked in towers inside her fridge. There were loaves of thick-crusted bread, and napkins folded fancy at each setting. Pictures on the walls invited a glimpse into another time, and knickknacks on the shelves hid tantalizing stories of her visits to foreign lands. I could have listened to her thick German accent for hours.

I went to her memorial service this weekend. I could not mourn her death, because I knew how thrilled she was to go to Jesus after 91 years on this earth. But I did mourn that I had known her so little—that unlike her grandchildren and the kids that grew up in her neighborhood, I had missed a whole childhood, a whole lifetime, of knowing Oma.

Nisqually Boardwalk & Oma's 281

vi. words:

This is usually my favorite method of healing.


vii. music:

I know I already posted the Piano Guys’ version of this song… but it’s my number-one favorite Christmas carol, especially on piano and strings.

viii. Bible:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being.
In Him was life,
and the life was the Light of men.

The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . .
There was the true Light which,
coming into the world,
enlightens every man.
He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
who were born, not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9-14

Jesus. Eternal, pre-existing the entire physical and metaphysical worlds. Jesus. Equal to and one with (yet separate from) the God of Israel. Jesus. Creator of everything that exists. Jesus. The source of life. Jesus. A light of truth that penetrates into the darkness of sin. Jesus. The only Savior of His people Israel, yet rejected by them. Jesus. The one who welcomes with open arms anyone who chooses to follow Him. Jesus. The pathway to the Father. Jesus. Our brother who has agreed to share His inheritance with us, though we did nothing to earn it. Jesus. Fully man. Jesus. Fully God. Jesus. To Him be the glory.

Do not forget: Jesus is not just a baby that gives us the excuse to eat a lot of cookies and open a lot of presents. Jesus is truth embodied in the form of a man—grace captured in one selfless heart. Jesus was born, certainly. But Jesus also lived, died, and rose again. Don’t forget the rest of the story. (Hint: you can find it in the book of John.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

when oceans rise


“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”
- Hillsong United, Oceans

I have sung this song in the quiet of my empty house. I have sobbed with it while sitting alone in my car. But have I really meant it?

Lead me where my trust is without borders.

Where is that?

I can tell you where it’s not. It’s not in my comfortable routine in my comfortable house living my comfortable life. It’s not sleeping in late and waking up to a to-do list of petty tasks that mean little on an eternal scale. It’s not cozy home-light and sameness, or the broad stone walls of self-preservation.

Then where is it?

Comfort zones are walls and borders, putting up a barrier between normalcy and the inconvenience of spontaneity. I won’t find a borderless trust here. I have to look in places I don’t necessarily want to go, in things I don’t fully want to do. I have to look in the change, the uncertainty, the lack of control. I have to risk the pain and the sadness. I have to choose to make my home in the unknown and uncontrollable, because they are the nature of this world. Control is all illusion; the reality of helplessness reigns.

Lead me where my trust is without borders? Do I want to ask for this? Do I want to ask God to put me in a place where my very terror forces me to develop trust?

I don’t. I don’t want to go through these things. I don’t want to open my tight fist and let go of all that I feel entitled to. It’s not fair! Why should I have to give anything up to serve God? Why can’t I have God and all of my stuff, my relationships, my comforts? Why?

Because if I could, He would not be a God worth having.

The One perfect, holy, flawless, sovereign, Creator-God will share His throne with no one and nothing. My heart must be rent down the center, open to every facet of His will—or else utterly closed, dark, cold, and little comforted by the things I’ve replaced Him with. To serve a God so big requires a commitment so big that there is no room for anything else. If I want to keep my “stuff,” I'll have to ask Him to move out.

So it’s a choice. Do I really want to say “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders”?

Or does “Spirit, lead me into a life of comfort, happiness, and ease” sound more accurate? “Spirit, lead me into a marriage to someone completely selfless who will never hurt me” or “Spirit, lead me into a supernatural ability to control circumstances for my own benefit” or “Spirit, lead me into the discovery of how to prevent anything bad from happening to my loved ones”? 

If I am honest, I must admit: “Spirit, I want You to make me God.”

I want control that is His alone. I want power that is His alone. I want perfection that is His alone. I want to solve the world’s evil, but I want to do it my way. I want everything to work out well for ME and the credit to go to ME and the rewards to satisfy ME.

The only cure is to let go. The only cure is to tear my heart open, to unfurl my white fists. To release everything I desperately seek to hold tight into the oblivion of His will. I feel like a child who just clumsily lost hold of the favorite toy she was dangling over the side of the ferry-boat—there is a lostness, a desperation, a fear, a sadness, an unknown. There is the interval before the toy hits the water in which I hope against hope that a miracle will happen and the toy will be restored. God is often much more forgiving than the ocean—often the thing surrendered is returned in abundance, not swallowed by the swirling depths. But there’s always that chance that it won’t be.

But how do I let go when it could mean surrendering to such terrible pain?

It requires trust without borders.

It requires me to know the true nature of my God—who He is, how He works. It requires me to know in my deepest soul, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is good. It requires me to believe implicitly that He loves me more than I love myself.

We do not know these things innately. Ever since Satan questioned Eve in the Garden, it has been our nature to question the goodness of God. We are far quicker to blame God for withholding something from us than we are to celebrate Him for all that He’s given us. To know the nature of God for what it is—good—we must study Him, pursue Him, seek Him, find Him. We must immerse ourselves in His Word and allow our hearts to memorize His story. He has given us exactly what we need to know His character and allow Him full access to our lives—we just have to receive it and allow it to work in us.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

grace, weekly // 8


i. the winter sunsets by Mt. Hood.


ii. a weird frenzy of creative, constructive energy.

I’ve re-discovered the art of crochet, and with it I’ve come to an exciting realization: I’ve figured out a way to watch a movie in the evening and not feel guilty about being unproductive!


iii. looking back on a year of good growth in all respects—including photographically.

By the end of 2013, God willing I’ll have done sixteen portrait shoots, two couple shoots, two family shoots, a maternity shoot, a quinceanera, and a wedding. I’ll have nearly completed my certification as a professional photographer through the New York Institute of Photography. Even my little family of cameras has grown—from a single Nikon D40 and three lenses to a D40, a D7000, a Sony A700, and several new lens and flash pieces to play with. And I’m already looking forward to what projects I might get to do next year—which might involve another wedding—which might include traveling to Florida— :)


iv. catching up with friends, getting a much needed dose of solid discipleship, and browsing through forgotten Israel pictures.

Ashley 092

v. Christmas tree shopping with the silsters.


vi. music:

vii. words:

“Where is God? Where can I find Him?” we ask.
We don’t realize that’s like a fish swimming frantically through the ocean in search of the ocean.
- Ted Dekker

viii. Bible:

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2

My favorite phrase in this passage is the two little words, in silence.

We live in a loud world. Audibly or inaudibly, different things plead incessantly for our attention—television, social media, cell phones, family, friends, relatives, strangers, people in line behind us at an intersection, the semi-truck we just passed on the freeway. There is little silence to be found here unless we look for it.

Today I went walking, as usual. There was no wind, so not even the rush of a breeze past my ears broke the silence. I walked, prayed, admired the sunshine reflecting off Mt. Adams’ fresh snow. It was beautiful.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

grace, weekly // 7


i. one thousand gifts.

This week, I finally recorded my one-thousandth blessing in my little brown book. I started keeping track of thankfulnesses, both small and big, back in July—and I hope to keep doing it for a very long time. Sprawling on my bed at night to think over the day and look purposefully for the moments of blessing (not just “good” happenings, but also the little glimpses of God and whispers of Jesus that one finds in those stressful, sad, or frustrating events too) has shaped and changed the way I view life as I go through the day. And did you know that thankfulness is the threshold into the presence of God?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
Psalm 100:4

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6


ii. two favorite things in the view from my window: my horse and my mountain.


iii. tricky backlighting experiments.


iv. willing (or mostly willing) subjects to practice portraits on.

My sister is rather pretty, don’t you think?


v. Sam coming to visit me for the week and letting me teach him photography stuff (with Amy never far away).

This picture pretty much sums up my week. :)


vi. happy memories.

This picture makes me laugh. I’d forgotten I ever took it, and just dug it up accidentally while looking through some past photo shoots. I spent a lot of time last year looking at this exact view—sometimes doing homework, or emailing people back home in Washington, or catching up with friends on Facebook, or making projects. A lot of my life last year is summed up here. My love of Star Wars is represented, along with the vase in which I received bouquets of flowers from Sam; there’s sunscreen for the eternal Florida summer, an assortment of vitamins that I always hoped would make me feel better but never did, the iPod I took on my runs, two cans of Pepsi to tempt me during Lent, an array of Post-it Note reminders to help me keep track of a hectic life—and my Bible, lying closed and serene but ready at hand whenever I needed it.


vii. these two.

It’s so encouraging to know that someone loves my horse almost as much as I do… especially since pretty soon, I won’t be here to love her in person quite so much.


viii. a skiff of snow.

Snow on the ground just makes hauling buckets of warm tap water to the barn in subzero temperatures a bit more bearable.


ix. words:

This has been a hard one for me. I love to please people—too much. And the stranger my life looks compared to that of the average 19-year-old girl (most of my friends are in the midst of studying for finals at a four-year university right now in hopes of having an eventual career—not recent Bible school graduates who are about to sign a lifetime covenant of marriage!)—and the more I hear “You’re too young,” “You need to finish your education,” or “You should go see the world first”—the harder (and more important) it is to remember: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

light5 copy

x. music:

It’s finally Christmas-music-season!

xi. Bible:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26

This is just a portion of a larger topic I’m studying in Scripture right now—a topic very much of interest this time of year: peace. Not necessarily “Peace on Earth,” but rather the kind of peace that you find inside those rare souls who have learned the secret of contentment. The kind of peace that everyone seems to want and no one seems to be able to find—the kind of peace that lately has been sorely lacking in my life. You may be getting more of my ramblings on this subject in the near future. :)

Hallie Jo Photography


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