I told myself I would never wear red lipstick. I don’t know where this phobia of colored lips came to play in my life but as far back as I can remember…it was something that I hated. I grew up with this beautiful woman as my neighbor that I knew as Grandma Rose. Her hair stood firm with half a can of Aquanet daily and her lips always adorned with a shade of pink or red. As much as I loved Grandma Rose…I hated her kisses. They left stains on all of her straws and cups and especially on my olive skin. She respected my phobia and would give me the biggest hugs or would wait to apply lipstick until after she spoiled me with kisses. Her kisses literally made impressions, were everlasting and full of confidence.
Fast forward 20 years and I recently purchased my very own red lipstick because of my own desire. To be honest, I haven’t kept it on very long. I think it’s going to be something of an acquired taste and I am definitely going to have to get used to seeing it stain everything my mouth touches, but it’s a start. Now that I think of it, I have slowly ventured into womanhood. I didn’t grow up doing lots of girly things like painting nails, curling hair or wearing different kinds of makeup. I have never dyed my hair and it wasn’t until a few years ago I purchased my first pair of high heels. Maybe I wanted to live this young girl, carefree life as long as I could or maybe I just never thought I would be very good at being a woman and I felt like I had to constantly search on what that looked like.
The fact of the matter is and if I can be corny for a second and quote Britney Spears…I’m not a girl, I am a woman. I have experienced the in between of “not yet a woman”. I feel like this year especially has been the biggest journey of that. The last few years I have been searching for what I wanted life to look like and who I wanted to be and I am finally understanding what God is asking from me.
He is asking me to put on red lipstick, leave an impression of love and be confident in who He has designed me to be.
I married young, at 21 years of age, and really planned what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. In “my dream plan” I wanted to be starting a family at 26, I wanted to have just moved into our home with the white picket fence across from the community park and I wanted a business that I shared just with my husband. The reality of it all is that I held on so tightly to my own dream that I didn’t allow or welcome in growth for myself, my partner or for us. I was forcing my phobias on life, like that red lipstick stain, and making my own rules for everyone to abide by. If it didn’t fit into “the plan”…it wasn’t even worth discussing. I didn’t know how to be confident, courageous or welcoming to Gods plan.
Present day? My ex and I divorced shy of two years of marriage, he actually just started his own family at age 26 as I have found my life partner and best friend, and the business I began is growing and so many people are involved in it. And all of these things, through lots of healing and forgiveness, are so amazing!! Once my own plans got knocked out and I learned to trust in God and what He has in store for me, living became this thriving activity full of so much adventure and freedom!
So as I have been searching the past few years… I have been taking many opportunities. I have been listening to my gut and allowing God to guide me through it all. I have met amazing people and seen amazing places. I have felt like “I had it all figured out” to only realize, that I never will. I have been learning to take it all one day at a time.
I am focusing on becoming the woman I want to be and that being a woman of God. I am trying so hard to focus less on me and more on others. I am keeping my heart open to taking risks and dreaming big but also coming first to the Lord and seeing what He wants for me. This year has been humbling. It’s been one that has stretched me, challenged me and allowed me to grow more into someone I could only have dreamt I would be.
Through my time in Uganda and giving up a lot to have that experience, I felt the strongest I have ever been. I remember leaving Africa feeling like I could do anything and I had all of the strength and motivation behind me to do so. When I stepped back on American soil, I felt the weakest I had been in such a long time…I felt so lost. My emotions have been on an absolute roller coaster ride the last 6 months. Falling in love and figuring out a future with your best friend will certainly do that to you as well as fitting “your own life” into that. I have felt the most loved ever by a human being and I have hated on myself the most from insecurities and fears creeping up on me from past experiences. I have learned time and time again to forgive and to love unconditionally…mainly for myself. Through every challenge, there is strength at the finish line. And that is exactly what I have learned this life is…a marathon of sorts.
So what kind of woman do I want to be and embrace for myself? I want to be the woman God has created me to be. I want to be strong, courageous and a whimsical dreamer. I want to live with a childlike soul so I can continue seeing His beauty from the eyes of a child but with the wisdom of an adult woman. I want to step up and take risks when He asks me to and I want to listen to His voice when He asks me to stay put and be present in my own community. I want to leave a courageous, confident impression of love…just like red lipstick kisses. I want to be available to others as I know over the past year, I have made myself the most unavailable.
That is where this post started from…being available. This year has been one where I have been continually reached out to. It is the biggest blessing and honor. It’s also been overwhelmingly beautiful. I find myself in tears every day reading e-mails from beautiful people around the world. I want so badly to sit down with each e-mail and devote an hour or so in reply, but then I see my list of editing and shoots that has to happen in between all of the travel going on in the midst of emotional lessons. I so badly am working on being as available as I can be to all of you. As the woman God has created me to be, I thrive off hearing stories and connecting to people. I believe we are all here to help one another and it’s my biggest honor that I could connect with some of you.
So as I move forward, I start small in dedicating time to you. If it is connecting for a coffee, skype session or simply replying back to one of the many e-mails one day at a time, I will be here for you. Forgive me as I learn to juggle it all but I feel the Lord asking me to find balance in making space for others. Whether that be a reply e-mail or simply being able to dedicate my time to building a volunteer program and community to offer unique giving opportunities…I am doing it for you.
Through all of my self discoveries, even the ones where I learn I really do love girly things, I am learning to grow and stretch to welcome the woman God wants me to be instead of constantly feeling I have to search for it. I will lay down my life to be available to others. I will take risks on people and opportunities. I will love myself and others as unconditionally as God does and I will always move forward hand in hand with my Father.
Looking back on my time in Uganda this past trip that lasted from December to May, there are many things that stand out in my mind but one stays heavy on my heart in a good way. Your support.
The last thing I expected on my trip was to meet so many people in the virtual world and learn that so many individuals were supporting and praying for me on a daily basis. It was a vulnerable adventure, there is no doubt about that. If you know me at all, it is very hard for me to keep what is on my heart to myself. I believe that we all can teach and inspire someone, so that is why I laid it all out there to you during my stay on Instagram which can now be relived through these books.
I celebrated Christmas in a beautiful fashion, I hung out with a bunch of joyful children and spoiled them with presents that many of you helped make happen through donations. We danced, drank soda and even had a cake for Jesus’s birthday. I experienced homesickness for the first time and finally knew what it felt like to want to be in two places at the same time. I made a lot of friends from all over the world and we adventured through out the beautiful country of Uganda. I met my angel Juliana and in one short month, you saw me fall in love with her and lose her in my very own arms. The prayers that poured out for my little girl in the midst of her falling even more ill was remarkable. All through out the world, people stopped and prayed and kept Juliana very close to their hearts. You witnessed a lot of love from children and me being reminded everyday that I was not brought to Uganda to help or change these people but they were changing me daily. Even returning back the states, your support still overflows as I miss Jinja and my loved ones so much and I feel those prayers. Peace and hope overcome me and I thank you for lifting those thoughts to God for me. I truly cannot thank you enough for opening your hearts to me…I feel like I have the biggest family ever!
Through all of this…I just feel so loved and supported. Thank you for that. I plan on returning but this time is to work on redesigning We Spread the Love and opening up so many opportunities to invite you in to be able to come to Jinja and have these experiences for yourself and also give back where you are.
All proceeds from these books will be funding those projects and I am so excited because it opens up so many opportunities for YOU! I thank you for your patience over the last year in figuring out and working on these things and I promise it will be something you will be so excited to be a part of.
I split this journey into 2 volumes for a couple of reasons. Firstly, production costs. If I put it into one book, it would be quite expensive to buy and little to no money would be able to go back to fundraising. Secondly, this will be a series. You can buy volume one now and in the future when you are ready, volume two will be waiting for you. If you would like both, you get a little bit of a discount now too! Through future trips, more volumes will be made and again, every penny will be put towards fundraising. I can’t wait to see what this will look like years from now!
If you have any questions, feel free to write me at email@example.com. I thank you for everything! These books have been a vulnerable labor of love and I am just so honored and blessed that you would like to take one home with you. Thank you so much!
5×5 // 40 pages
You can purchase volume 1 here
You can purchase volume 2 here
Volume 1 + 2
You can buy both volumes here
If you would like to donate without purchasing books, that is very welcomed and you can do that through the donate button on the We Spread the Love website.
You know when your friends do something that is just so perfect? It kind of seems like it was there all along it just all happened so naturally? I met Kelsey and Drew a year ago when our mutual friend Jill DeVries introduced us and what a blessing that introduction was. They moved to Los Angeles from Grand Rapids, Michigan and are both amazing visual artists. Drew is an illustrator extraordinaire and Kelsey is an amazing blogger, writer, stylist, make-up artist, hair stylist…she just has really great style and knows how to make people and things look good! They continue to inspire not only me but so many on a daily basis. So, the two of them together, collaborating on this project..of course it is amazing!! I am in awe of the simple and sleek design of each card and it happens to paired with some beautiful paper too! I encourage you to check out their “Inaugural Collection” and see some of the newest designs and grab a few cards to send to loved one! It is more than a gift, it is an experience.
I was lucky enough to photograph their newest collection, check out a few of the images!
Be sure to take a look at more photos that we took in their “Inaugural Collection” Lookbook.
Visit their website to purchase all of your greeting cards!
You can find the Anchor Paper Co. collection in one of Los Angeles’ most amazing coffee shops, Handsome Coffee.
Handsome Coffee teamed up with Anchor Paper Co. and created their own card! How amazing is that?!
Here is the amazing duo at work!
Be sure to check out their personal projects.
Drew // Your Just Lucky Designs
I am a broken individual who puts way too much pressure on herself. I am happy to bend over backwards and show grace to others but I find it quite hard to give that grace to myself. I am a lover and sometimes I feel that can be a flaw..I always question if I have loved enough. I have this crazy assumption that I am a bother to those around me..which I know deep down is not true..but my natural instinct is to keep to myself until I am approached or reached out to.
I am a believer in Christ, surrendering my life to Him has been the hardest and most amazing gift. I am a dreamer. I often find myself overwhelmed thinking of all the amazing places and people in this world that I want to be a part of my life. I am a natural host…I love taking care of people and making sure they have the best experience ever. I am a mother at heart and I believe children are the most beautiful things in the world. I take pride in being one of Gods children and that He loves to dazzle and woo me in ways no one else can because He knows my heart like no other. I am an adventurer and the thought of being on the road or traveling this amazing world non stop excites me. I am also a homebody who craves stability and a sense of belonging where community is created. I am a simple person and if you stripped me of everything but left me my loved ones…I know I will be just fine and dandy.
In no particular order I love hiking and being outdoors. The country of Uganda. Sushi. My loved ones. The color green. Audrey Hepburn, John Ritter and Lucille Ball because they feel like family members to me as I grew up spending a lot of time with them…they make me laugh. Reading and writing. Pairing quotes and pictures. Sea Lions. Buying greeting cards for people and collecting perfect ones for the perfect moments. When I am driving or getting lost in a new place and the perfect song comes on and it makes you think you are in a movie and the soundtrack is playing over your stereo. Jesus. When my stomach and cheeks hurt so badly from laughing. Getting so excited about something that all I can do is skip. Hot sauce. Collecting magnets from places I visit. Meeting people for the first time and finding Gods perfect connection between our two worlds. Common courtesy. Rice and beans. Getting lost in a book that you don’t want to eat or sleep. One on one dates with strangers. Small intimate gatherings with friends. Bonfires and hammocks. Moscow Mules in copper mugs. Mobile homes of all sorts. Snoozing my alarm for about an hour. Helping others so much that you are exhausted but mostly because of the amount of love overflowing from your whole being.
I share with you my weaknesses, my strengths and my random likings because all of these things make up me. It’s so easy for us to get lost in the hustle and bustle of this world striving to be someone we are not. Other peoples lives are intriguing…yes. Every single television station has at least one reality show where we can easily get sucked in on what other people are doing and how they are living their lives (which most of the time is unrealistic and frankly sad). We work harder to become stronger, richer, prettier, more successful, etc. Sometimes I am blown away at the thought that WE ALL come into this world the same way. Everyone was in a woman’s womb at some point. What happens after the moment of birth starts peoples unique journeys through this life…but we all came from the same place…with absolutely nothing and we will leave the same with only our memories and full hearts.
Even though we came into this world the same way, God created us uniquely. Everything I shared…I didn’t list it because it’s what a friend or someone I know likes, is like or is striving to be. I listed off some qualities of who makes me…me. Some I like and some I don’t like. Don’t get me wrong, daily I am faced with opportunities or temptation to be someone else. I can get lost in the possibilities of how I can dress, eat, look, educate, travel, decorate ( I blame pinterest), socialize….there are so many ways to go about this life! Some people embrace who they uniquely are and some people admire the unique qualities in others and adapt them to their own lives. There is nothing wrong with being inspired or inspiring others but this day in age…so many people are ignoring who they are because they like the thought of being someone else.
I want to encourage you to be YOU! No one else can be. Let’s stop striving to live a life out of just the influence of what others are doing…which it seems like they are all doing the same thing anyway. BE THE INFLUENCE! Follow the beat of your own drum…is that the saying? I’m not sure. Embrace the life that God is calling you to live. If you are not sure what that life is…ask Him. If you are not sure who you are…ASK HIM. If you are not sure where you got lost in the midst of conforming to other peoples lives…sit down next to Him and He will remind you of the beautiful, unique child you are…the one He loves no matter your weaknesses, strengths or interests.
You are one of a kind. You are amazing. You are unique. You are beautiful. Please be you.
You don’t know me but you helped bring me into this world and for that…I have to tell you thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our time together was limited but without those 9 months, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. It is now that day, April 25th, one of the last days we spent together but also the day you so graciously handed me over to two other people who would take over the role of caregiving for you. I can’t speak much on this experience, forgive me..my memory isn’t all that great, but I know this was one of the hardest things you have ever had to do.
I think about you a lot. There are times I get lost looking in the mirror wondering what parts of you I am looking at. Do you have green eyes? Is your hair also thick and brown? Does this shade of pink tint your lips as well? As I am getting older I find myself reflecting on what other traits I may have of yours that are not only physical. Do you love to travel? Are you an artist? Do you love children so much that you would do anything to give them the best life possible?
I want you to know how thankful I am for you. I understand that I wasn’t a plan for your life but acknowledging that I was a plan for THIS life…I can’t even express my gratitude. Thank you for those 9 months. As my friends venture into motherhood, I know it isn’t just a walk in the park emotionally, physically, financially, etc. For you to sacrifice yourself and your body for me is courageous. I see my friends on their journey and it’s something from the first day of knowing you are carrying life and growing a person, everything changes. I’m not sure if you knew all along that we weren’t going to spend more than that time together but it had to be somewhere in your mind. I just imagine everyone around you asking you how you are doing and possibly wanting to dive into those details (names, feeding plans, birth plans, decorations, baby showers, education, etc.). If we are anything alike, I am sure you wanted to run away and crawl under a rock to avoid these questions…to avoid those answers. Thank you for dealing with all of that…I know it wasn’t easy as it’s not the usual answer “I am giving this child up for adoption” when people see your growing belly and start asking questions with genuine excitement.
We spent a lot of time together, a lot of intimate time. I am sure a lot conversations were had…many promises you asked me to make with you…many apologies you asked me to accept. If one of those promises was to live life to the fullest and to follow my dreams no matter how big they are…I am keeping that promise. If one of those apologies was along the lines of forgiving you…I do.
I can only imagine where your mind can take you sometimes. I want you to know that I am doing great. Maybe you get lost in thought when you are driving or walking down your drive way to get the mail at the end of a long day and wonder how I am doing…I have always wanted to tell you that I am fine. This journey of life has not been easy but it hasn’t been the hardest. The amount of happy memories I have far outweigh the bad memories..and even in the bad times, I understand that those have happened for a reason. That’s the biggest thing I should tell you that might provide the most comfort for you…I know God has been in this whole situation with us since before you even knew I was in your life. Whatever events occurred to bring me into this world or to make that decision that we wouldn’t walk side by side after April 25th of 1987…it was all God. We can’t doubt Him and His intentions… if this is His will, it’s the best way.
So today might be one of the hardest days of the year for you. As the years pass and I grow older, I can’t help but think less about party hats and cake and more about how you are doing. I know it’s a big favor to ask of you and the dream answer would be that you have already, but I need you to forgive yourself. I can promise you that the decision you made was the best decision and the only one that could have followed through. Again, if we are anything alike and forgive me if I am more like the other half of this equation and this is annoying, but I can imagine walking away from this situation and holding regrets and I pray that you are not. We spent our time together and it was some of the most crucial and important times of my life and I have a feeling our time together was spent with a lot of love, caring and compassion.
I am sorry…I’m sorry that you had to go through that 9 month roller coaster. Sorry you couldn’t drink coffee or sleep on your stomach. I’m sorry that your body morphed into ways that only God could come up with. I am sorry you had to walk out of that hospital alone and I couldn’t be there to hold your hand. More than anything…I am just thankful and I have a feeling you are too. I know you learned so much through this whole experience of bringing me into this world and that has created a bond that I am forever grateful for. I may not know your name, where you come from, what you look like…or anything for that matter but you are my hero and I love you so much.
So today let’s celebrate life…and let’s celebrate you. Thank you for the most amazing present I could ever dream of.
I wish you all of the best.
Image by Dorothy Huynh
She began humming this song and all of a sudden I realized it was the answer to the prayer going on in my heart. God was speaking through her kind humming and singing. I began singing aloud with her and ever since that day, the song has been in not only my head but also my heart. It’s been answering so many questions I have had on my mind…it’s been a sign of complete confirmation. My dear friend Dacia didn’t know it that day singing the simple tune of All Sons and Daughters “You Have Called Me Higher”…but it was everything I needed to hear.
I look back on my last entry and laugh. Just a few weeks ago I was desperate to understand the confused thoughts and dreams going on in my heart. I was staring at all of these puzzle pieces on the table trying to figure out what piece goes in next. Pieces were being put into the wrong spots…even though they were still a solid piece to the puzzle of course…they were on the table… I was trying to figure it out on my own instead of taking a step back and understanding that God is the only one that is seeing the big picture. While He is preparing my heart for what is to come…the next step..the next puzzle piece about to be laid down…I just kept interrupting Him assuming I knew what He was up to…I knew where the pieces belonged.
To be honest and completely humble, I still don’t know what He is up to…but I really want to THINK I know what He is up to. I believe He has a puzzle piece in the shape of Jinja, Uganda in His hands. These past two weeks have been nothing but a continual fall…a fall into a deep hole that is love and that hole is made up of beautiful red dirt. I am seeing this place with a whole new set of eyes. This is no longer the place I will come and visit every year for a couple of months at a time…it’s something so much more. It’s a hard feeling to describe because I personally have never felt it before but what I can say is…I am looking at Jinja, Uganda and knowing for the first time in my life…this is the place I am meant to call home.
It’s amazing how in such a short amount of time and in the midst of confusion and endless possibilities, God can just turn on the light switch. His timing is incredible. I am noticing how in my life He is slowly preparing my story and events.
I know little to nothing about cooking but I do know it is wise to keep the burners on a medium gauge to avoid burning your food. Now when I cook…I put my food on the high option and usually end up walking away…get distracted talking to someone, cleaning my room or most likely scrolling through instagram and forget about what I have going on in the kitchen. God on the other hand is such a patient cook. He is slowly stirring everything in the pots and pans..adding seasoning here and there and knows exactly when the food is complete and ready to be served. I know His dish is going to be way better than mine and I am so grateful for that.
In the past 5 months, the Lord has been preparing my dish. He has been adding ingredients here and there and even removing some from the recipe. He has been slowly stirring the Jinja into my heart and now it is here to stay. Nothing will ever taste as good mixed in my life at this point in time. I am understanding and completely accepting that Jinja, Uganda is the place I am meant to call home at this point in my life and when I come back in December of this year it will be a whole different kind of return.
What is the next step? I am not too sure. Those pieces are still on the table. While I can see them and they are beautiful and I personally believe I know where they belong in the puzzle..I’m going to let God continue to place them in the right spots…in the right time. I just know that this picture is beautiful and I can’t wait to see how it looks when each puzzle piece is laid down in it’s perfect timing, in it’s perfect place.
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe, I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down
But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord