Starve Your Ego; Feed Your Soul

  

To say a lot has happened since I’ve last posted a blog is an understatement.

Exactly one month ago, Corey was climbing a well-maintained corporate ladder at a head-turning pace while I was finally starting to feel the ground again in terms of really creating momentum with my photography business. We lived in an all too comfortable luxury apartment that came with its own library and multiple heated infinity pools, our two dogs were eating the most stupid organic thing you could possibly find on the suburban Denver shelves, and we were quickly becoming the type of people I used to question and I didn’t even know it.

The funny thing about leisure is that it’s always a Catch 22. One of the many falls of this world.

(Also, a precursor: This isn’t a bash on wealth. Rather, a claim on how unfit it’s been for us.)

Had we kept this pattern going, I’m sure we could’ve been great. Defined by what and who, though?

For the first time in my life, I witnessed my husband go through depression. (Yeah, can you believe that? For those of you who know Corey personally, you know how unbelievable that sounds. He lives to make others happy. And maybe that was the problem.) I don’t know how these things start; I’m not even sure if there is a way to detect Day 1. It wasn’t until late October that I really noticed. And the thing with most men — ladies — is that they like to think they can manage things on their own sometimes. Is it pride? Is it strength? I’d honestly consider it both. Regardless, it’s false. We all need each other.

Corey’s job was taking a toll and quite frankly, I’m not sure who wouldn’t have felt the way he felt. Averaging 1 day off every 40 days or so, his body was the last thing to fail. His spirit and his mental health? They started to deteriorate a lot quicker. But with the heightened growth of my own career path and the lies thrown at us about the definition of success, the concept of really taking care of ourselves became the last thing on our list of priorities.

It was a Tuesday, I remember. Corey and I were both home (a rarity) and I had asked him what he’d like to do in the few moments we had together. He neglected any option; regretfully saying no to it all. At last when I asked, “well, what sounds fun to you?” He solemnly let out a single tear. The thing is, I don’t even think he realized he cried. He just looked off into the abyss and breathed out, “nothing.” It was then I had realized we were no longer in Colorado because of a calling we had received from the Lord. We were still there for our own sake of ego and kingdom.

The thing about changing trajectories is that, because we are such creatures of habit, it is remarkably easier said than done. I remember looking my husband in the face and telling him what I think we all need to hear every so often:

It is okay to not be okay.

Your feelings are valid.

You do not have to please your boss, this world’s standards, your expectations of who you could’ve been… You do not have to please anyone else but the Lord.

This life is too short to live another day wishing it away.

You have permission to express what’s inside.

You have permission to quit.

I think the most difficult discernment to make when in positions similar to this is wondering whether it is actually a time to change something, or if it is a test and we should see it through with persistence and endurance. I also think that, for me, a really easy way to go about answering that question is asking myself and reflecting with the Lord: How have I been practicing my role as a disciple of Christ? As in, am I going out and being the Church toward the ones around me? Have I even had the energy to? Have I found myself willing to sacrifice the time to? (Or is my life just one big bag of lousy and self-centered excuses?) Even if all else is a loss, am I at least still remembering what it means to love? Am I going out and making more disciples? Do I even remember why I am here in terms of eternal salvation? Or am I wondering why our company doesn’t offer us a better insurance package while my new order of farm-to-market produce is delivered at the door?

We learn this in high school psychology, but honestly, y’all… You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. You need to be poured in to be poured out. Listen to the flight attendants; you can’t assist someone with their oxygen mask if you yourself is dead.

About three weeks ago, we accepted a position out in Oregon. In the middle of nowhere past all the mountains and trees, where Corey and I had met. I wish to explain how it all came to be, but that in itself would be a completely separate blog post. But let’s just say: God is great. (And He so desperately awaits us to come knock at His door because all He wants to do is save you.) Corey is currently finishing out his last week in office and will be driving westward soon to begin his new position with YoungLife. We had already moved all of our belongings a couple weeks ago and he’s been living out of our empty apartment with a sleeping bag and three changes of clothes. You’d think that wouldn’t be the most pleasant, but he’s never been merrier. I asked him the other day why and how this temporary lapse in his well-being was able to rectify so quickly, and he simply replied, “Ji, I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. I had forgotten to ask myself that during the process of becoming successful. And that’s just it. I’m not passionate about being a businessman. I am passionate about being in relational ministry. I’m sorry I had forgotten. But I don’t think we’re supposed to ignore what God has build us all individually to do. And what I’m about to do next, I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. And the knowing of what I was made to do… that makes all the difference.”

I remember sometime during college, someone explained to me their definition of passion and it has always stuck. They said when you finally get to a place in life where you experience yourself truly passionate about something, it is that moment when the Lord has finally decided to reveal to you, specifically, a very special portion of His heart. Not all can see it because not all will be revealed to it. But the moment you realize you’ve been shown it, it is then your responsibility to do something about it. If you don’t, you’ll never fully live.

Apart from prayer and supplication, the greatest lesson Corey and I have taken from this rollercoaster is that it does no good to keep moving just to move. You can be as busy as the next person, but there is nothing scarier than a lost ghost. It does one good to have regular check-ups with yourself. Are you being filled spiritually? Are you remembering to ask yourself what you were made to do? Are you actively surrounding yourself with people who remind you of your worth? And most importantly, for my Christian friends, are you serving God… or people (including you)?

I’m including in this entry in a gluten-free vegan soup I had made.

I find it relevant and it is a mental note I want to keep for my personal files because it is made with practically nothing. I mean, okay so obviously there are things in it. But I have been living out of moving boxes for the past who-knows-how-long while waiting for our new condo here in Oregon to finish. With the minimum utensils and groceries I had, I have never felt so full. When Super Target is just down the street, you forget what real hunger feels like. Or what it really means to enjoy the things in front of you. Everything is an option; nothing is received with the heart of gratitude it deserves. This wholesome, simple, and nutrition-packed soul food has reminded me through its essence that sometimes the best way to be filled is to go back to the roots. Go back to what you know replenishes you.

Ingredients;

7 (? -ish?) cups of organic vegetable broth
3/4 cups of red lentils
1/2 cup of brown rice
2 whole carrots (diced)
2 stalks of celery (diced)
1 white onion (diced) — I prefer them larger for texture
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 can of tomato + green chiles
1 1/2-2 cups of kale (chopped)
Season with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste!

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My Prayers as a Wedding Photographer

There has only been one instance in my entire career as a wedding photographer that made me sincerely question my desire to continue what I do.

It was last year, it was rainy, and I wholeheartedly felt like we all forgot why we were gathered.

And trust me, it showed in the pictures. In the faces. In the lack of life. In the lack of love.

It’s a sad reality when you are in the midst of documenting what is supposed to be the most vivid reflection of unconditional and unshakeable love. Instead, you are reminded that for some of us, we are hoping for the best wedding, not so much for the best marriage.

I know that expectations are an inevitable reality for all of us. It is not that I blame folks for having dreamt of what their big day looks like.

How it will feel.

How it will smell.

How it will glisten.

How every single thing will be in neat. perfect. order.

How people will react.

How people will post about it.

How it will be remembered.

How it will go down in history of all the weddings of the world.

I remember some of these anticipations, being a married woman myself.

I remember the planning, the anxiety, the mild worries, the temptations to care even more than you already do.

But you want to know what I remember most?

Letting go.

People often assume I love my job.

Maybe I’m just an overexplainer (or maybe this is just me being female) but the answer to whether or not I love my job is twofold.

Do I love photography? Honest answer: no.

I think it’s a pretty cool expression of art and I am extremely grateful that the Lord provides me the opportunity to use it as a business and a ministry.

But… what do I LOVE? I love being with people. I love capturing life. I love exercising my creative heart. I love making people realize the beauty within them in the truest of colors. I love seeing moments of passion and holding them for more than the seconds they exist in this world so that maybe, just maybe, my images can reignite real emotions, real memories, real comfort and real joy in the eye of the beholder.

I love being surrounded by something real.

So, what pains this love for what I do? When the intentions are abused. When the thoughts and expectations of my clients listed above trump the list below:

How he will look at me.

How this love is so undeserved.

How we are all so broken yet gifts like this day exist.

How much sacrifice my friends and family have made to be here.

How I look and what others think are so little in comparison to the sheer joy inside.

How… this day isn’t actually the best day at all. Rather, it is the first of the infinite best, favorite, and memorable days to be had with my significant other.

How nothing else matters.

Because… To be before God, and to hold my one and only, is all I came here to confess, and all I came here to portray.

In this life, it could rain. It could pour more than your faint heart could’ve ever imagined. And you know what? I hope you can find it in yourself to dance in it. Your dress could quite easily get dirty. You’re going to have to dry clean that thing one way or another anyway. Your hair may become disheveled. Bobby pins will surely fall. But are you asking yourself: am I having fun? That one bridesmaid may run late (as we know she always does), and your groom might forget that one thing you asked him not to forget. But by the end of the day, y’all are getting married. And that’s pretty rad. The florist could mix up which arrangements go where. No one else will have a clue. Cufflinks could get lost and the cake could fall over, to which I say, what a story to tell later. Someone could’ve made the wrong turn and show up in their loud car in the midst of the ceremony, and it was your aunt twice removed who show up in all white. And you know what? That’s alright. Life goes on.

But, do you get what I am trying to say? These imperfections in terms of photos, are perfect.

The wrinkle in the nose. The ugly cry. The dirt embedded in the shoes.

It makes the day believable. It makes the whole thing beautiful and honest. It makes your day truly yours.

As a photographer who cares more about the mood of the day, the flow of the laughter, and the authenticity of the expressions on your faces, it is an absolute inconvenience when the dress has to be fluffed to a tee, the make up has to be in its neatest chapter, when that jacket has to be ironed for the seventh time by the mother-in-law. I mean, you do you. I am the last person to say what should be done and how. But if you’re doing any of this out of concern that the photos might not look as nice, let me assure you, you have never been more wrong.

The perfection is not what makes your wedding day memorable. Or important.

The in-between moments are.

It’s in the life.

It’s in the Love.

That wedding last year was a huge wake up call for me. It broke my heart and yet, it also allowed me to incorporate an essential tool in my work. Something that I really should’ve practiced using every single time I took my camera out. I regret to this day for not having had the discipline and the diligence to use it all the times before.

Prayer.

So simple, yet so easily forgotten. I decided from that specific wedding forward, I will do my part and pray for the couples I get to meet and love. From the day they book me on the calendar to the morning of the big day, my prayers are lifted up. It has become my most favorite thing about my job.

My prayer is that your joy overpowers your need for perfection.

My prayer is that the defining moments of your marriage are not determined by the temporary.

My prayer is that when I ask you two to share a kiss in front of my camera, it isn’t the fully-rehearsed, better-side-of-your-face showing kiss that you hope to emulate from Pinterest (please don’t). But rather it is as if I weren’t there, as if it was just a secret moment between you and your beloved, that every time you embrace, you forget any outside prompting… all distractions crumble away… it is as if you were kissing for the first time. As if you were kissing for the last time.

My prayer is that every person that you had invited to this extremely important event was selected out of pure and thoughtful intentions. That they weren’t for the sake of filling up the pews or because they have a heavier wallet than others. Because if the latter reasons are the motives behind their invitations, then surely you will find yourself being unnecessarily self-aware and not showing your true self. The people surrounding you that day should feel like a cloud that lifts you up, not an audience to perform in front of.

My prayer is that you really understand what you are getting into. Because if your concerns for the artificial details truly dictate your attitude and outlook of your wedding day, I worry for you. Out of love. Out of knowing and realizing time and time again that marriage is no joke. And if something as fickle as a playlist or someone’s uninvited date is going to sabotage the beginning of your holy matrimony, you need to check your priorities before it’s too late.

A wedding isn’t a show.

It definitely isn’t a mark of money or reputation.

A wedding isn’t just a party. And it is most certainly not something you want to waste away.

It is one of the most important promises that you can ever make in your life, that just so happens to be in front of a handful of carefully chosen witnesses.

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty intimate. In my opinion, all else is, as Joey Tribbiani puts it, moo point.

A wedding is supposed to be a prelude to a MESSY, up and down, RAW, unfiltered, wholehearted marriage. Let it reflect as such.

Not a preview of some cheap ABC family film that never shows the outtakes.

I will do my part as your photographer. As a business owner. As a friend.

I will remember to pray for you and your beloved. It is my honor and absolute joy. I will remember to ask the Lord to bless such a day, to help us keep in the forefront of our minds what this celebration is supposed to be focused on, and how much work, sweat, and hard love it took to get us here.

I just ask that you do your part, as a soon-to-be married. I ask that you forget what the world tells you of what is to be expected. Be open to life happening and realize that your love for the life ahead of you with your partner surpasses any high or low. Realize that hard laughter can cure just about anything and that none of us are worth taking too seriously.

Just be you. Beautiful you. And accept that. And I can promise you. It will be picture perfect.

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