I used to really hate my name. As a young girl, I never resonated with it. There were too many nursery rhymes and children’s songs for one to feel special. I felt disconnected with a lack of my own identity. I grew up Catholic and the Virgin Mary is a very beautiful symbol in this denomination of religion. I remember staring at the statues and paintings that were on display in the church wondering what it must have felt like to be her.
Can you imagine an angel appearing from heaven and declaring you have been favored by God and that you will carry His one and only Son? Oh, and that Son is going to be the Messiah? How the heck did that conversation go when she told her soon to be husband Joseph? What I have grown to admire most about Mary is her obedience. God called her to live radically and step forward in a very unknown situation and she agreed. Having to flee her hometown, be considered the outcast and having so much gossip said about her is enough to break any individual. But the day that Jesus was born, all of God’s promises and truth came to life and Mary’s love for Him grew stronger and more faithful.
I want to live a life of obedience like Mary and Joseph. I want to listen to God’s insane plans for me and JP trusting that He will guide us exactly where we need to go. I want people to look at our lives and see God, just like they did/do with Mary and Joseph. I’m sure more times than not people will think we are crazy and that is okay. God’s love for us is absolutely crazy and if we continue saying yes, He will invite us to live out the most amazing story.
In the past week, my birth mother has come up in conversation a lot. A couple of friends have asked if I would ever want to meet her and I have never been able to give a confident yes or no answer. It is a sensitive subject as I have never had any communication with her, besides the time we spent together while I was in her womb. To be honest, I really do believe those 9 months were enough. She is the person I admire most in this world as she gave me life. Did she have to? No. But she obediently made the choice of carrying me to full term. Deep down in my heart, I feel this intense love from her. I feel like she spoke to me, prayed for me, cared for me enough to last my lifetime. She did what she knew she had to do, no matter the chaos it caused around her, to fulfill God’s purpose of her life and ultimately mine.
That is selfless, obedient and sacrificial. Just like the Virgin Mary. Just like everything I strive to be.
It’s easy to look at the Virgin Mary and my birth mother and call them crazy. These are two incredibly hard situations to be put through but I believe through taking those courageous and humble steps forward, the love they have felt in their hearts is like nothing else.
Now, at 28 years old, I LOVE being Mary! For the life I desire to live, I honestly could not think of a better name for myself. I am reminded whenever I write it on paper that my birth mother gave me the most selfless gift which then led me to my parents who gave me this name. When my husband whispers it after “I love you” I am reminded that I have an incredible man by my side who supports me no matter what situation God calls us to. And of course, my Savior is the result of such an incredible young woman obeying God, which makes her a saint in my book. Because of them, I am loved fully and strive to share that love as vulnerably as I can on a daily basis.
I can’t help but get that Will Smith song in my head during this time of year. Am I the only one? This is one of our busiest years to date as far as traveling for work and wedding season here in Southern California. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Ketchikan, Alaska for a little bit of work and play. Actually, a little bit of play and a lot of work. During our down time, we managed to capture a few sweet memories of our trip up north.
DATE NIGHT IN KETCHIKAN
How happy(and handsome) does JP look? I promise I was so excited for our sushi date as well!
So we have this really bad habit of not bringing our nice camera with us when we are exploring new places. Especially on work trips. Our most recent trips to Iceland, Norway and Cape Town are hardly documented besides the pictures we took on our phone which lets face it, end up right on Instagram. It makes me really sad that we don’t have more images of the places we travel to, so we tried to change that this time. We barely succeeded.
We decided to hike Deer Mountain Trail the morning of our wedding we were documenting. Was it the best decision? Probably not. This 7 mile hike is just minutes away from downtown. We started on the trail head and a couple of hours later made it to the very top as we adventured through the mossy forest below. The view was so gorgeous and it was so nice to be away from the tourist hustle and bustle of the city. Our legs may have been shaking on our way down the mountain and in a lot of pain the rest of the trip, but it was so worth it!
I didn’t know much about Ketchikan before we arrived but soon I learned so much! The welcome sign alone informs you that it was the first Alaskan city and that it is the salmon fishing capital of the world. So we knew our goal was to eat as much fish as possible on this trip! We found ourselves at the Alaska Fish House on the 4th of July and it was delicious. I scarfed down my salmon chowder so quickly as we watched people enjoy the holiday festivities right outside our window.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Are you traveling anywhere this summer? Is it with family? Friends? Solo? If not, where is a place you DREAM of traveling to?
I have ONE more discount code to give away for the Nine Retreat. If you would like a chance to win this code, please leave a comment sharing your summer plans/dreams below! I can’t wait to hear what you all are up to this summer!
Last weeks $500 discount code giveaway is:
Congratulations Morgan!! I’ll be writing you shortly giving you all the details! So happy we will get to retreat together!
MY FAVORITE THINGS
This week I am sharing some items that I use in my everyday life. I stopped dead in my tracks walking down the vitamin aisle at Target one day..how beautiful is this vitamin packaging?! The best part is they are gummy vitamins! I actually look forward to taking my vitamins…I have never said that before! I carry this 17oz bottle with me everywhere I go, it’s perfect for your purse! Your water stays cool for up to 24 hours, perfect for my active lifestyle. These amazing headphones were a lovely Christmas present from my husband. I would never buy them on my own but I am absolutely in love with them! He knows me better than myself. I listen to A LOT of podcasts with these beauties!
Water Bottle- Swell
Vitamins- Olly Multi from Target
Headphones- Beats by Dre
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22 NIV
Entering into this relationship we had a lot of baggage. Unfortunately some of those bags were loaded heavy with loaned money that we had to pay back every passing month. It was two weeks before JP proposed that we had the “financial” talk in a Big Sur cafe. We laid everything out on the line. How much money we had. How much we earn. How much we owe.
I dreaded pulling up my student loan website and showing him the huge number that had never gone down in the 6 years of paying monthly post graduation. I had been paying interest this whole time and somewhere in my mind decided that I would most likely be paying this huge payment every month for the rest of my life. I had just accepted it as a way of life because it felt like there was no way out.
Something stirred in my heart while we sat in that cafe in Big Sur. All of a sudden these feelings I had repressed for so long flooded to the surface. Shame. Guilt. Fear. This was no longer only my burden that I would bear…well really ignore…it was now JP’s.
I couldn’t stop the tears from flooding down my face and he came to my side and brought me close to his chest. I just held onto ambitious (and stubborn) Mary who wanted to be a photographer but had absolutely no money to do it. I signed up for the first school that I inquired with and they milked me for everything I didn’t have. My mom co signed the loan with poor credit and alas, I was in a hole 5 figures deep with a large percentage of interest. Was I negligent in my decision making?
I try not to visit woulda, coulda, shoulda town for too long. I am well aware that everything happens for a reason and it’s all a part of God’s ultimate plan. My story has been shaped by photography school and somehow it has been shaped by this heavy shackle of debt I drag around with me everywhere I go.
JP has a lot of school debt as well, not as much as mine, but it still exists. We couldn’t help but feel discouraged that this would be something we would be paying back for a very long time and now with our loans combined, it would be even longer. There really was no positive side of it…well only that I thankfully became a successful photographer so at least I am able to pay this huge loan off for a reason.
“Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor,
you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8 NLV
Now the great first part of our debt story as a couple is that as we walked into marriage with only our car and student loans. We were free from credit card debt and had radically saved a 6 month emergency fund as well as paying for a wedding (seriously a miracle!) but then something happened. We fell flat on our faces and were poor stewards of our money. We ended up in a big hole with credit card debt as we tried to balance monthly expenses as well as enjoying the luxuries of Los Angeles dining a bit too frequently. It was one of those experiences that completely surprised us by how much damage had been done so quickly but really there was nothing to do now but dig ourselves out. The debt tornado had passed and now it was time to clean up the mess from the storm.
There were a lot of emotions tied to this. Despair. Frustration. Anger. More shame. More guilt. More fear. But something magical happened. We got down on our hands and knees and asked for forgiveness. Together. Throughout our relationship we have come to this beautiful place of knowing that none of the money we make is ours. It is all a blessing from God and it is our responsibility to handle it wisely. Unfortunately, we did not in the beginning of 2015 but we were ready to make it right. We surrendered it all to Jesus. We surrendered all of those nasty and negative feelings that could weigh us down and make us lose the light of the world.
The result of those prayers were nothing short of miraculous. The weight had been lifted off of our shoulders and we found peace in our hearts. We were forgiven and not only were we forgiven through some really hard mistakes, we were loved fully. Throughout the next few days, opportunities for work poured in and we were humbly blown away. We laid out all of our income and expenses for the year, month by month, week by week. As small business owners, there is never a steady paycheck and that is what hurt us in the beginning of the year. Not planning accordingly to when our income would actually be coming in. With the surplus of job opportunities that poured in that same week of laying it all down at the feet of Jesus, we mapped out that with A LOT of hard work and major budgeting, we would be out of this nasty hole by the end of this year. Seriously, that is a HUGE mountain that has been moved friends.
That vulnerable and sensitive conversation in Big Sur allowed me to experience something I had never before. JP lovingly and willingly took on my debt and never made me feel guilty for it. That beautiful gesture freed me of so many awful feelings of inadequacy that the enemy would whisper into my soul. My tears had been wiped clean and I no longer had to carry that burden all by myself. As JP and I both surrendered our financial mistakes and stresses to Jesus, we felt those same feelings together…but tenfold. We felt free, hopeful, loved, reassured, forgiven and determined. We saw a way out of this hole and even though we dug it even deeper this year, we feel even more faithful that we will be able to radically pay off all of our debt in the next few years.
How can we feel confident that we can pay off all of our debt in the next few years? Because we are not doing it alone…we have handed over all of the control to Jesus and He has filled our souls with joyful determination.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Proverbs 3:5 NIV
Last week we made the first big step! We paid off our Prius! Such a blessing from God and we couldn’t help but celebrate with a cheesy photo from that day!
Whatever might be wearing you down, whether it is debt, a lie, fear, a sinful lifestyle, etc…I encourage you to lay it down at the feet of Jesus. You too have someone who will hold you as tears run down your cheeks when you finally own up to the burdens you are bearing. I promise you will not only feel free but the Lord will delight in you surrendering your control to Him and you can finally move forward together.
What is something that makes you feel beautiful?
I’m not saying it defines your beauty but you know that feeling when you do something different and it changes your whole attitude?
Maybe it’s a new dress?
A relaxing pedicure?
A fresh haircut?
Or pretty shade of lipstick?
For me, it is curling my hair. A head full of curls makes me feel like a million bucks. I have probably done this about 15 times in my life but every single time, my spirit is lifted and I can’t help but run my fingers through my hair.
It’s my go to “special occasion” hairstyle and it makes me feel just that.
I used to look down on these products/actions of “luxury” as I have always identified myself with being a “simple girl”. Although, as I get older I am embracing these small things that bring joy to my daily life.
It is a retreat that focuses not only on how you can feel beauty from the inside out but also ways to help take care of your physical self that will benefit your quality of life!
Last weeks Nine Retreat discount code winner is:
So excited you will be joining us Melissa!! I’ll contact you shortly with information on how to use your code!
Thank you ladies who bravely shared your dark matter! You are courageous and beautiful!
If you are still wanting a chance win a $500 discount to the Nine Retreat, please leave a comment below on something that makes you feel a little bit more special and beautiful.