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pity party or hope hoedown

We made our last car payment on my Explorer 10 days ago.

As the weather’s been warming up around here, I finally bit the bullet and took my car into the shop yesterday to figure out why my air conditioning isn’t blowing out my dash vents. I was hoping maybe my car just had a cold, or maybe allergies (since pretty much everyone in Austin suffers from them) and that it would just get better, but no such luck.

I’ve also been hearing a rubbing noise in my wheel well that a friend notified me could very well cause my tire to just fly off.

So yesterday I finally broke down and took my car into the shop. It’s going to be $2,000 to fix.

Did I mention we just made our final car payment?

After I hung up with the service manager, I realized immediately that this is more than an enragingly large expense with ironic timing.  This is most definitely a significant fork in the road moment for my heart.

Two paths lay before me.  The why-can’t-we-ever-catch-a-break pity party path and the make-a-choice-to-see-the-brilliance-of-God’s-provision path.

The pity party path is calling out to me.  Loudly.  We thought we were going to have that payment freed up in order to work on decreasing our debt and actually be able to live beyond the shoestring we’ve been living on for years.  This also means that, barring a miracle, I won’t get to visit my family in Chicago again this year.  I haven’t been home in two years.  To me, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.  But when I look back at pictures of our last visit and see how tiny Jonah was at 4 (he’s now 6), it just kills me because kids just grow up and change so much so quickly!  I mean he’s like a whole different kid!  It also breaks my heart because I’d really love to be more of a part of my nieces’ lives and see them and my best friend’s kids a whole lot more often.  Not to mention my siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and all of my extended family, our church family and our close friends that I haven’t seen in years.  Plus thinking about how my parents have only seen their grandson a handful of times since we moved when he was 14 months old just feels unbearable sometimes.

But then…

As I sit here typing, DJ Jazzy Jesus as usual sends me the perfect song right when I need it…

Everything is Yours by Audrey Assad (such an awesome album!)

When all the world is under fire
When skies are threatening to thunder and rain
And I am overcome by fears that I can’t see

If everything is Yours
Everything is Yours
If everything is Yours
I’m letting it go
No, it was never mine to hold
No, never mine

Who could command the stars to sing
Or hold the raging seas from breaking through the doors?
And tend the fragile roses with the very same hands

If everything is Yours
Everything is Yours
If everything is Yours
I’m letting it go

So through the sobs, with the help of Audrey Assad’s beautiful and true lyrics, I recognize my other choice.  It’s going to take a few more months until we get to experience the benefit of freeing up that money, but at least we have that free car payment now in order to cover these repairs.  God is faithful.  My ideal choice would have been to not have the air conditioning and the bearings break in the first place, and to instead take next month’s car payment and buy plane tickets.  But that’s not what happened.  And this didn’t take God by surprise. He saw it coming.

So although I can’t see the future, or really barely my next two steps, I do have a choice about my attitude.  To choose defeat or to choose hope.

But just because I decide not to turn into a crying puddle of defeat doesn’t mean it stops there.  I’m still asking heaven to move.  For my car, that it would somehow be less expensive and easier to fix than they thought.  That some way, some how, we’d still be able to get up to Chicago this summer.  And just because I choose hope with my brain does not necessarily mean my heart is going to agree to follow along.  So that’s where prayer really comes in.  Whenever I go through hard times, it seems the moment I ask for prayer is the moment my heart gets on board.  Right when I get to the end of myself, God has this beautiful way of calming the sea, of filling up my cup, of bringing light and hope into the darkness.  It’s that inexplicable peace that surpasses understanding. 

I wrote a note on a friend’s Facebook wall yesterday.  I probably had one of the most joy-filled days yesterday for absolutely no reason that was wholly inspired by her contagious joy.  And then this morning, one phone call and… blam!

I’m living in the same reality.  My car was broken yesterday, but the knowledge of the cost of it has sent me spiraling.  It feels so unfortunate.  And it actually makes me feel mad, frustrated with myself, that after all of these years of His undying faithfulness to take care of me, that my trust in Jesus is so circumstantial.  

So… what if this time I choose to trust Him?

What if I choose hope?

What if I decide that, despite my circumstances, I am going to be joy-filled? 

It honestly feels like I’m giving the devil the middle finger, that’s what! 

Deny my flesh.  Deny my self-sufficiency.  Let go.

And fall on Jesus.

I can’t do anything without you, Jesus.  I’ve come to the end of myself.  I’ve done all I can do.  I’ve tried handling things in my own strength, with my own plans.

And of course He plays this song for me right now…

So I? l’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So I? l’ll stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

-Hillsong

What is a car repair bill to God?  What are plane tickets?  God, you know my heart’s desires.  I surrender them to you.

—————

This feels like a side note, but at the same time significant…

I just sat down and looked at my Destiny Project board.  It’s a board that I put together (for this amazing retreat experience I went to last fall) full of magazine photo cut outs.   Images chosen because they spoke to my soul.  Well today I noticed something I’ve never seen before…

Next to the orange and green beach lifeguard tower there’s a vehicle.  On the back it reads: “Ocean Rescue”.  I’ve never noticed that until today.

Interesting…

Oh please Lord, be a message for me right now, because I pretty much feel like we’re drowning in a financial “ocean” right now.

Amen.

— lisa —

Fork in the road photo-image credit; joy dancers photo-image credit

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Life Knots

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground…” Hosea 10:12 (NIV)

A friend sent a devotional out to my small group that related to what we’ve been discussing in group. I didn’t really resonate with the big message of it, but a piece of it jumped out at me.

“…break up your unplowed ground.”

It instantly made me see a parallel in something I’ve got going on right now. For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with soreness and tightness in my shoulders, neck and back. I’ve got two fused vertebrae in my neck. My aunt has the same thing and a family friend who’s a chiropractor pointed out that it’s most likely genetic. It’s not too dramatic, but it does make it harder for me to keep my head up straight above my spine, resulting in me naturally holding my head forward (I have to consciously put my head back to have it in the correct position). To compensate, my upper back sticks back further, which makes my lower back stick in more, which basically wreaks havoc on the whole muscular structure in my back and especially my shoulders and neck.

I also have torticollis, meaning my head sits tilted to one side, which does the same thing as the fused vertebrae except instead of being a front to back problem, this causes problems side to side all the way down to my hips, which also affects the muscles in my legs.  It is absolutely crazy to me to think that something that’s wrong with my neck can affect my whole body all the way down to my ankles.

Needless to say, this has been a chronic problem, noticeable since my late teens. Thinking about it now I just realized I’ve been living with some level of pain or discomfort for probably 15 years. I’ve gone through periods of seeking out treatment, but right now the expense of it is just too much. A while back a photography client of mine who’s a massage therapist introduced me to this device called a Thera Cane that allows you to work on massaging your own muscles. At the time I borrowed hers for a couple of weeks to try it out, and after giving it back I just never got around to getting one for myself.

Well for the past few weeks I’ve had so much discomfort (like not being able to turn my head to change lanes and being in pain just sitting watching TV) that I decided I had to do something. I ask Dave for neck rubs pretty much nightly, but my back is seriously such a mess, it barely makes a dent in the situation. And I was tired of making the problem worse trying to Cirque de Soleil the knots out myself. So I finally caved and bought myself one of these things and it just arrived yesterday!

Ok, I realize that was a ridiculously long back story to get to my point, but here it finally is…

Last night I started working on some of these lifelong knots that I’ve stored up in my shoulders. Most of them wouldn’t budge at all and I’m actually more sore this morning than I was before I started (I’ve been researching this whole thing today and realized I was probably being a little overzealous). But one knot in particular, after working on it for a few minutes, finally gave up and released. And you’d think that after a lifetime of being tightly knotted up, filled with toxins, that it would feel like such a wonderful relief. But you know what actually happened? It made me feel so sick I almost passed out. I had become so accustomed to my mess, so accustomed to that brokenness, that as the blood rushed in to those nerve endings that hadn’t been accessed in over a decade it was almost too much for me to handle.

And isn’t this a crazy beautiful picture of how we are with our life knots?! With our unplowed ground?! The places we’re stuck and sometimes comfortably so. It might not be perfect, and every once in a while things get down right painful, but it’s manageable. Not enough pain to cause us to change. So we deal with the discomfort and adjust other things in our lives in order to compensate, but deep down we know we really should deal with the root of the problem or it’s eventually going to incapacitate us.

So as I till up the soil of the muscles in my back, I’m thinking about the unplowed knotted up places in my soul. What do I need to dig in to and release? Will it be a lot of work? Will it be uncomfortable, sometimes even painful? Will it leave me woozy and sore? Yes, yes and probably yes. But will it be worth it? Well when I think about the ability to turn my head without a twinge of pain, to sleep through the night, to sit without having to squirm and stretch, to go through a few hours without noticing pain somewhere in the muscles throughout my body, it does feel like it will be worth the cost and discomfort of finally dealing with them. And when I think of the knots in my soul that need to be pressed on and worked out, I know it will be worth it to see those tangled messes released as the blood of Jesus flows in, allowing room for a new range of movement and freedom! 

xoxo,
:: lisa ::
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wonder woman underoos

Hi guys,

So every once in a while I decide to get real in this space. To let you in on the behind the scenes of my life and my heart. I’m not sure if it’s boredom or possibly that thing that drives people to sign up for reality TV shows or what.

I think a lot of times I want to just totally spill my guts on my blog, but being my “business” blog makes me hesitate. What will people think of me? Will they judge me? Will they possibly not hire me because I’m a crazy mess or because I love Jesus?

Well you know what!? It’s my blog. And in all honesty I’d rather work with people who truly get me. That’s what really brings me life and joy and freedom anyway. The people who know me and get my style and trust me to capture them in my own crazy beautiful way. And there’s something truly wonderful about spilling your guts and then getting that little love note that your honesty has given someone else permission to be real or more free or more bold. I guess that’s what great art does. It makes you uncomfortable. The artist is exposed. It’s raw. But there’s something wonderful and magical and… ALIVE and real in it!

Besides, every referral I’ve gotten where someone just sees me as “the help with a camera” is pretty much like hot pokers in the eyes to me. They’re not happy because my photographs aren’t what they were expecting.  And I’m not able to truly do my thing because I can just feel their expectations weighing me down and pressing me into the tiny little box they’ve laid out for me and it just doesn’t FIT me and in the end no one is happy.

If you know me IRL (in real life) you know that I’m a pretty authentic person. Most of the time I’m not afraid to bring it real. It’s not for everyone, but I think I’d rather overshare on the off chance that we might make a real and genuine connection rather than just floating past one another like two random people in the cereal aisle.

I don’t really hide much because I see such beauty in my mess. And besides, everyone has a mess, it’s just how well you hide it. But I’ve learned that by letting mine out in the sunshine, 1) it just feels a whole lot more freeing to not live alone with the burden of it, and 2) it usually gives others permission to do the same. And man oh man do I love watching people being fully themselves! It is one of the most beautiful things in life I think. I’m actually getting emotional just thinking about it…

Watching someone weeping and laughing at the same time. Seeing a grown woman jump up and down with joy. Holding a friend who’s on her 6th miscarriage. Meeting a friend for coffee on a drizzly evening. Winking at my son and watching him scrunch up his face as he winks back. Skyping with my family thousands of miles away. Holding the hand of the man who’s known me since I was a girl and has seen all of me… and still loves me. What is life really about if not these things? 

This is one of my favorite quotes and pretty much says it all I think…

“Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide.”
- unknown

So what did I even come here to discuss in the first place? Well, it’s kind of a long story, but to sum it up I woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn’t sleep. So I decided to come downstairs and get some of these random thoughts out of my brain and just sit in the quiet and listen for God’s whisper.

I ended up in Romans 12 and verse 12 really stood out to me…

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
– Romans 12:12

I’m pretty sure the reason I’m sitting on my couch at 5 o’clock in the morning is because I’ve recently started listening to Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace CD’s. For the past few years I’ve been living in denial about the reality of our financial mess. Finally I knew it was time to hike up my big girl panties (although frankly I picture them more like Wonder Woman underoos) and look this beast in the eyes. (Interesting side note: one of Wonder Woman’s weapons – the Lasso of Truth. Ka-bam!)

But the thing is… I don’t think I realized just how deeply all of this was really hitting me until early this morning as I lay there, staring at the ceiling, sleep eluding me. Now that I think about it, I haven’t really been sleeping very well at all lately and I’ve been having some cRaZy dreams (which usually means my subconscious is trying to work some serious stuff out since my conscious defenses are finally down).

I also just realized that I’ve been working on all of this stuff very matter of factly, maybe ignoring the emotional piece and just trying to get a handle of the numbers. But I haven’t really been allowing myself to experience the full weight of it and I definitely haven’t brought it to God or let him into it yet. What a heavy burden that hello! I don’t have to carry all on my own!

Man. What a great Daddy we have.

I take in a deep breath.

And let it out.

He’s here to help us carry this burden. He’ll fight for us. He’ll show us the way out. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow because He’s got a plan for us and our lives.

My small group is going through Lysa TerKeurst‘s study Unglued. We’re only one week in, but I am loving it! In Chapter 1 we learned about the story that we all know – Joshua and the wall of Jericho falling down with just a shout and a trumpet blow. You almost want to skip over it because you go, “Yeah, yeah, I know that story. I’ve heard it a hundred times.” But Lysa brought a fresh perspective to it. She pointed out that before Joshua gets his marching orders, he meets an interesting man with a drawn sword along the way. Some think it was an angel, the leader of the heavenly armies. Joshua asks the man if he’s for Israel or for their enemy (Joshua 5:13). The man answers, “Neither.” Which seems like a funny answer to give to the leader of God’s chosen people who’s about get marching orders to take over a city. But Lysa brings to our attention that maybe it’s just that Joshua didn’t ask the right question. The real question is: “Who’s side am I on?” God can use anyone he chooses to accomplish his plans. The question is do we want to be a part of his story? Will we join his side?

So when I look at our financial mess from my earthly perspective it feels overwhelming and impossible. BUT when I look at it from God’s perspective and I ask myself, “Who’s side am I on?” When the answer is God’s side, the good news is I don’t have to worry about the outcome of the story. God’s already got it written. Just like when before the battle even begins, God tells Joshua the plan in the past tense:

“See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.”

Done and done.

Our financial pit hasn’t come as a surprise to God. I don’t think it was necessarily His plan for us. We’ve made some poor decisions on top of unemployment, a mountain of hospital bills and a few other things that have been out of our control, but I’ve definitely been an ostrich when it comes to the big picture of our financial situation, letting debt pile up and having no plan whatsoever.

BUT! Worrying about the past doesn’t change anything. 2013 is a year all about living in the present for our family, so here’s the plan…

If I will just lay down the pen and let God tell the rest of the story, I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to be in control. I don’t have to worry about how it will all turn out.

I can just be.

In fact… I’m pretty confident that with the Author of the Universe, the One Who Breathed the Stars into Existence… with that guy telling the story, I’m pretty sure this is going to turn out to be one epic story.

xoxo,
:: lisa ::

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!


btw… that crazy pic at the top was my group from Destiny Project last year (I’m the wacky one in the teal hoodie, pretending to be a pirate… in case you didn’t get that from my awesome acting skills). DP was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out their website. There’s a weekend coming up in May (2013) in Austin and I definitely recommend it!!!

And I also wanted to say that this post was partly inspired by my good friend and DP leader, Sarah Sherwood who is going through some crazy medical stuff right now. She’s absolutely inspiring and the model of strength of character in the midst of trials. Sarah posted this cartoon the other day that reminded me of how much I used to love my Wonder Woman underoos when I was a kid. And those gold bracelets. Empowered. Please pray for Sarah as she’s right in the middle of some intensive treatment right now. Thanks guys!

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barton creek greenbelt :: austin family photographer

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I love this family. I’ve photographed them every year for the past 5 years. They’re really fun and easy to work with, their kids are just awesome… and they’re always ridiculously coordinated. It’s been really cool seeing them grow up every year. See what I mean…

Here’s 2008 through 2011 — I’m totally in love with the legacy they’re creating!

 

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