i still care for you

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Ever since I started taking classes again, the amount of reading I did outside of school dropped significantly. I can hardly make myself read the necessary words required to earn a passing grade, let alone something that is for no other reason than inspiration and passion and concepts that challenged you.

I’ve made the resolution about 7 times over the last two years that I would pick up a book more often. And not one that coordinated with my lessons for the week.

And here we are, January 2016, and I’m failing at this goal yet again.

Until last night, that is. Okay, maybe it was this past weekend when I finally decided to turn off Netflix and open a book before bed instead of hitting “play next” again. I was already about halfway through one book, but in the interest of transparency, I was really just trying to finish it so I could start the book that has been sitting beside my bed for the last month-and-a-half.

So finally, last night I was able to pick up this long awaited book for the first time. It was just going to be a few chapters before I put it down and called it an early night.

But here’s the thing, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t even want to make myself try to stop.

I just kept reading and reading – soaking in every word and sentence and chapter after chapter.

I read three-quarters of the book last night. And I felt more alive and inspired and in awe than I had in months. Maybe more.

The book is not filled with complex concepts that take a mathematical formula to pick apart, but it is filled with truth and love and words that would resonate with anyone who took time to crack the front cover.

The chapters are short and the message is simple: we need love – we need people – we need each other.

I haven’t been able to get this book out of my head for the last 24 hours. There’s something among those pages that stirred something inside of me.

Stories. We all have stories. Our lives are filled with stories as we write one of our own. This book is filled with stories and lessons and experiences that simply say, “We’re all human. We all struggle. We all need each other. Let’s share our stories and do just that.”

The book is If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms.

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As I turned the last page, unable to fully believe that the book was over – with a few tears rolling down my cheeks, I longed for more. I wanted to hear more stories, more hope, more struggle, more redemption – more love.

It seems silly that such a simple concept could make such an impact. But I think that’s just the point.

It’s simple.

“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”

                                                                      – Jamie Tworkowski

We are made to pour ourselves out again and again. There will be hurt and there will be pain, because, as C. S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable”. We are automatically opening ourselves up to the hurt that this world throws at us day after day. But we can still make the choice to love – to boldly step out, to admit that we’re wrong and that we’re broken, but that we all walk this same road together.

Oh, how I wish I could meet Jamie at a coffee shop somewhere drenched with the smell of salt water. I want to hear more of his stories. More about the things that led him to where he is today – that allowed him to simply say yes when an experience turned into a story turned into TWLOHA. Because we are all just humans, trying to give our best yes in the most broken of places.

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breaking screaming invitation to believe better things.

We’re saying the story doesn’t end here, that the air in your longs is there for a reason. Perhaps we’re all in the business of better endings, you as much as us, the business of redemption.”

                                                                      – Jamie Tworkowski

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when i lost my heart to you

My goodness, how do I even describe these people & this day.

Through a crazy mess of twists and turns, I was able to make it to one of my best friend’s weddings. Not only that, but I had the honor of taking a few pictures throughout the day.

Though it may have been raining before the wedding and during the ceremony, it was one of the most beautiful wedding celebrations I’ve ever been apart of. The wedding party was safe & dry underneath a big oak tree that was the most vibrate shade of yellow that is only seen during a true Ontario fall as two lives were pledged to God & each other forever.

I laughed, I cried, I ended up half in the pool trying to move the filter sprinkler – you know, a typical day. But most of all, it was a beautiful joining of two amazing people who seek God above all else in a way that is tangible to everyone around them.

My dearest Chris & Riley, I love you something fierce – from California to Canada and Australia and back.

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25 for 25

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As a continuation of my last post “24 from 24”, I thought I’d turn the tables and look forward to the year ahead.

I love the idea of a blank slate. Whether it’s a new planner, a new school semester, or an unexplored city – there’s nothing better than starting fresh, with new opportunities and choices ahead.

So, here are 25 things that I’m looking forward to doing & learning in the coming year:

  1. More In-N-Out. Obvs. I mean, this is a pretty easy one to accomplish.
  2. Exploring my new city and state, finding my favorite places while still always wanting to try something new. This is still an ongoing goal. I accomplished this in part, but there’s still a long way to go. Lets add it to the 26 list.
  3. More coffee dates. Taking time to sit down and share stories and conversation over a piping hot [or ice cold] cup of coffee [or tea, I’ll allow that]. This is a never-ending goal.
  4. Keep travelling. There’s something beautiful about experiencing somewhere you’ve never been. I think I travelled less this year than I have in many moons. Having said that, I loved the travelling I did and found myself unexpectedly content with being in one place most of the time. 
  5. Pick up the phone and dial. I’m done wishing I made more time to talk to my people. Probably didn’t do so great on this one.
  6. Buy more expensive makeup. You’ve held out for 25 years. It’s time. This one, however, I crushed.
  7. Bike that extra mile or 3 at the gym. The extra few minutes will be worth it. Does doing this for half of the year count? :|
  8. Visit the PNW. Because I’m 25 and that hasn’t happened yet. I’m doing it wrong. Moving this to the 26 list.
  9. More whiskey. More beer. More champagne. Definitely accomplished the champagne goal.
  10. Launch one of the biggest, most exciting projects I’ve ever been apart of. Stay tuned. 2016 was crazier than expected, so stay tuned for this in 2017.
  11. Allow myself to take time for creativity. DIY therapy is the best therapy. I did this for a while and am trying to get back into this now. Working on it.
  12. Try every single flavor of La Croix. I made a good dent.
  13. Take pictures with my camera more consistently. This has been an ongoing goal for too many years. Failed this one. Hardcore.
  14. Try at least one new recipe a week. My Pinterest board has been neglected when it comes to applying the copious things I continue to “save for later”. I basically ate the same thing for every meal.
  15. Put down the phone more. People are more important. Trying. Trying. Trying.
  16. Learn to really, truly rest. Still on this learning curve.
  17. Get another tattoo. Because once you get one you just can’t stop. I wish.
  18. Finally watch Parks and Rec. I’ve failed up to this point. It’s not okay. And I failed yet again. 
  19. Find a church community that I can invest in. Oh, how I’ve missed that. So thankful that this was accomplished. Even if it wasn’t in the way I expected.
  20. Attempt to learn how to surf. I might break a neck, but I want to say I’ve tried. This water is just so dang cold.
  21. Apply #20 to snowboarding and long-boarding also. This is a goal again this year. 
  22. Listen to more new music each week. Always. More. Music.
  23. Use my planner for more than the first two months of the year. CRUSHED THS ONE!
  24. Finish my degree. Finally. Praise Him. It is finished. 
  25. Live fearlessly – trusting fully in our Creator. Still my goal each and everyday – even when I fail at it.

So here’s to 25. Here’s to expectantly waiting for big adventures and answers to bold prayers.

Photo by @graceandsalt.

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24 from 24

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Because I’m almost a quarter of a century & the last year has been on of the craziest on record, I thought I’d make a little list. Because my split left-right brain and split type a/b personality loves a good list to process the last year.

So here we go. Here are 24 things/lessons that happened or were learned while I was 24.

  1. Growing up in Canada does not mean that you are resistant to all things cold. Especially after living on the equator for a year. It’s 72 in the house right now and I’m bundled like I’m camping outside in the non-existent snow.
  2. The intercontinental trip to Uganda never gets more comfortable or enjoyable. My legs are simply too long for that to ever be possible.
  3. In-N-Out Burger for life. #proteinstyle3x3
  4. Canada failed with the whole Target thing. They need to figure that crap out.
  5. As much as you complain about the cold, you really kind of miss the snow.
  6. You fully understand that you would start to complain about this aforementioned snow within the first 24 hours.
  7. Life is better when you have friends to laugh with. Even when you’re making a fool of yourself.
  8. Coffee is always a good idea.
  9. Everyone needs the ocean in their life every so often. There aren’t many places that feel closer to the Creator than by the water.
  10. You should always take the Netflix hint when it asks if you want to “continue playing”. This is probably a warning that you’ve been letting it autoplay the next episode for too long.
  11. Sometimes you need to ignore the previously mentioned warning.
  12. One can never see NEEDTOBREATHE too many times.
  13. Settlers of Catan is addictive. Sometimes you play upwards of 15 games a day. And that’s okay.
  14. Handwritten notes need to come back into style. Encouragement on physical paper is unlike anything else.
  15. Having friends who are amazing musicians makes life that much better.
  16. Champagne is always the answer.
  17. If champagne isn’t the answer, whiskey is.
  18. You should stick with school the first time around. It’s less pleasant trying to finish your degree 4 years later.
  19. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of all the things you got to do during the 4 years you weren’t in school and put everything into perspective.
  20. Trying something new – especially something that scares the shit out of you – is probably just the thing you need to do.
  21. Putting up the Christmas tree by yourself, while somewhat depressing, allows you to put the ornaments just where you want them. But you also have to put on all the lights. Not sure it’s worth it.
  22. It’s worth the extra time it takes to stay in contact with friends that live far away from you. It’s always worth it.
  23. If you live by yourself, it’s acceptable to eat the same meal every night for a week. I mean, how do you even make a pot of soup for one person?
  24. Some years you live without having a real “home”. And to be honest, it’s during those years that you end up learning a the most.

So here’s to 24. For all that it was, for all that was learned, and for all of the wins and loses. You gave me a run for my money, and I could barely keep up.

But here we are, almost at 25, and still moving forward. So here’s to 25. To all that you will be and all that you will bring. Here’s hoping for big adventures, getting up after failures, and more In-N-Out burger than any year before.

From 24 with love (and a little heartbreak),
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Photo by @graceandsalt.

have yourself a merry little christmas

Oh, what a wonderful Christmas it was.

While it wasn’t my first Christmas away from “home”, it still felt weird leading up to the holiday season, knowing I wouldn’t be in Ontario this year. I was dreaming of snow and cold and fondue on Christmas Eve – but the snow was scarce (read non-existent) and I was thankful to still be able to spend the holiday with family on the west coast.

While I was expecting a warmer than normal Christmas, let’s just say it was plenty cold. While I still would have loved a snow sighting, it still felt cozy enough to not seem out of place. Thankfully my new jacket came in time for the train trek to Fresno. My Canadian mittens may have also made an appearance…

Normally, our Christmases at home are fairly quiet. With only one sister and just a few cousins in the area beyond that, there was never much commotion. I always dreamed of a big Christmas filled with lots of people, good food, Christmas movies, and lots going on. My first Christmas away from home in North Carolina was just that, and I was looking forward to this Christmas following in those footsteps.

And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I’m so thankful for my west-coast family. They made Christmas week so much fun. Seriously, I can’t even count the times I ended in in tear-inducing, ab-workout laughter. These people are my kind of crazy, and that’s just the best feeling.

We took a few pictures before I had to catch my train back to San Diego on Sunday. Don’t be fooled by the pictures – it was cold. It felt a little less like California than I expected, and I was okay with that. In fact, it was the same temperature in Fresno as it was in Ontario this week – so it’s basically like home came here.

Here’s to family, and Christmas, and uncontrollable laughter.

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These are my people. As crazy as they are. And let’s be honest – the crazier the better.

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the fall

All the fall things. Literally, all of them.

This is the first fall since 2010 that I haven’t been in North Carolina for at least part of the season. I must admit, I’m missing the Blue Ridge Parkway, the cool morning walks to the bakery, and, of course, the Sky Top apple cider donuts.

But, let’s be honest, Southwestern Ontario has a pretty remarkable fall itself. Last week, sister and I took a short hiatus from school work and volleyball to roam around a local apple orchard. We went to Orchard Home Farm, just a beautiful country drive away from Kitchener.

We picked some apples, got lost in the trees, and took a few pictures along the way. We didn’t choose the apple picking life, the apple picking life chose us.

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All photos taken with my iPhone 6 and processed with VSCO’s F1 preset.

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almost home

Cottage adventures are the best adventures.

We’ve been spending time up at a little cottage on Golden Lake for over 15 years. The cottage belongs to some of our best family friends – we’ve grown up there together, skipping rocks and catching frogs for a week almost every summer. This summer was the first in about four years that all of us were reunited on this little lake in Northern Ontario.

While the visit was brief, the nostalgia was thick. Suddenly, we’re old enough to take the jet ski out and wander onto the dock without cautious warnings from our parents. Sometime during these years, we’ve grown up – living lives together and apart. But still, we can always come back together for a few ridiculous card games and the best popcorn that you ever did taste (shoutout to Mrs. Hillier for that).

So here’s to those days spent together & and the lifelong memories made – wherever we may be.

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love will be enough for us

Oh Florida, while your beaches are beautiful, your humidity is fairly unnecessary.

As the sun lowered & the humidity became bearable, I ventured outside with my good friends, Duncan + Christina, to shoot a few engagement pictures. While this trip is the first time I’ve met Duncan, it feels as though we’ve known each other for years. And it doesn’t hurt that the two of them make quite a cute couple.

I was dreading these photos, nervous that I wouldn’t get a good shot worth anything at all. I tend to lean more towards snapping candid photos, opposed to posed shots. However, it turns out that you can still capture the candid moments within them all.

So here’s to being bold & trying new things, and life, love, & other mysteries.

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sailboats

Sundays are for sailing – or at least every Sunday should be for sailing.

Last weekend, I spent a beautiful afternoon on the water in the Toronto Harbour, on the most gorgeous sailboat. My Sperrys finally felt at home, and the views weren’t too bad either.

This girl used to be terrified of boats. I mean, cry in the middle of the boat that goes around the outside of Magic Kingdom for the whole ride, kind of terrified. In fact, you couldn’t find me in or near much water that was outside of a swimming pool and in its natural habitat. However, I have thankfully overcome that ridiculous fear & now find water to be the most calming & relaxing places in the world.

So here’s to resting, slowing down, and dusting the dirt off of my camera for a beautiful day on Lake Ontario.

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after the storm

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Fear & anxiety. I can finally put words to it.

I spent years & years experiencing feelings that I couldn’t place, that I couldn’t name. I couldn’t understand these emotions I was feeling.

It wasn’t until I moved overseas and struggled with this on a more regular basis, that I was able to put a name to what I was feeling. Living in a developing country brings out both rational and irrational fears in the best of people, not to mention someone who has an [over] active imagination and desires safety more than most (I was also introduced to the Enneagram and my #6 personality type). Being there gave me permission, in some way, to validate the feelings that I was experiencing in not only a physical sense, but in many different aspects of my life in general. Suddenly, I was able to admit what I was feeling – to myself & those closest to me.

But let me tell you, saying these things out loud did not make them disappear from my life, nor were they easier to deal with. In fact, they became more prevalent. Because I knew what I was looking for in myself, I could easily spot them and drag them out to unrealistic lengths. It’s like when you notice a little detail that you never have before, and suddenly that’s all you can see – everywhere.

However, this also put the power to change my reactions and thoughts back into my own hands. I was aware of what was going on, and could make the concious effort to combat this fear & anxiety at the source. I suddenly realized that these thoughts were being put in my head to play games with my mind & throw barriers in my way. Knowing this, I was able to develop methods that allowed me to not only acknowledge what was happening inside of me, but confront it and allow myself to walk through it.

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Because I knew the devil was using this weakness in me, I also knew I needed to turn to Someone who is infinitely more powerful – Someone who has already fought and won my battle. I started memorizing scripture to throw in the devils face whenever he thought he could get a hold of my heart and mind. I found that simply speaking these truths out loud made him shake in his boots.

So I came up with a list of 10 bible verses to combat fear & anxiety:

  1. ISAIAH 41:10,12&13: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
  2. PSALM 125:1&2: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
  3. ROMANS 8:37-39: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  4. EPHESIANS 6:10-13: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark works and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
  5. 1 PETER 1:3-5: “In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  6. JAMES 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  7. 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3&4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
  8. JOSHUA 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  9. 2 CHRONICLES 20:15b&17b: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
  10. PROVERBS 30:5: “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

I’ll be honest, I still struggle with this daily. Sometimes these lies & fears sink themselves into my heart, allowing anxiety to yet again win. But still I try to fight this upward battle – losing more days than not. But the ultimate journey is one of PERSEVERANCE – consciously choosing each day to still turn to Him no matter what you face or what battles you lose.

Press on.

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 Photos by Grace & Salt.