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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.
bda
  • July 15, 2015 - 10:43 pm

    Gabrielle - Mary’s Song of Praise 46 Mary said ” My heart praises the Lord; my soul is glad because God my Saviour, for he has remembered me, his lowly servant ! From now on all people will call me happy, because of the great things The Mighty God has done for me. His name is Holy; from one generation to another he shows mercy to those who honour Him.”

    Hello Mary what a beautiful statement you wrote again. Scripture says in Isaiah 49 : 1 Before I was born, The Lord chose me and appointed me to be his servant. Which recalls Mary’s Song of Praise. When you go through the whole scripture you understand how the name we have been given is a sign of our Mission here and our calling. Verses 15 so the Lord answers ” Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. 16 Jerusalem, I can never forget you ! I have written your name on the palms of my hands. ” Everytime God calls us he calls our name. Oh Lord! God is Good. He knows why your name is Mary and he will use you through it.
    Mine is Gabrielle and my story is different. I always loved my name because of what it means in Hebrew : ” God gives strength “. I have always been thankful to my mum for picking that name. I always thought it was a blessing. But it just in the recent years that I really embraced the mission behind it : being a Woman of God as God called me to be through my name. Indeed in American/ French the meaning of Gabrielle is Woman of God.
    God bless,ReplyCancel

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SUMMERTIME

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

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How happy(and handsome) does JP look? I promise I was so excited for our sushi date as well!

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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.

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HIKING

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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!


FOOD

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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:

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Congratulations Morgan!! I’ll be writing you shortly giving you all the details! So happy we will get to retreat together!

bda

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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!


ONE

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Water Bottle- Swell


TWO

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Vitamins- Olly Multi from Target


THREE

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Headphones- Beats by Dre

bda
  • July 12, 2015 - 8:01 pm

    Sarah - I just started getting really into podcasts for entertainment on my evening walks around my neighborhood. Would love to hear what some of your faves are!ReplyCancel

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,

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
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

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!

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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.

 

bda
  • July 8, 2015 - 9:21 pm

    Andrea H - So encouraging! Thank you for sharing your journey! I am so impressed at your guys’ accomplishment, and living in LA no less. Well done. Keep it up! :)ReplyCancel

  • July 9, 2015 - 7:37 am

    Gabrielle - Hello Mary,
    First and foremost Glory to God Psalm 103 One through Five : 1 Praise The Lord, my soul ! All my being, Praise his Holy name ! 2 Praise The lord, my soul! And do not forget how kind he is. 3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 4 He keeps me from the grave and blesses me with Love and Mercy. 5 He fills my life with good things, so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.”
    Following my comment below your Instagram photo, I wanted to thank you about this post. God really inspired you to share your story and debt free journey cause he does know it will help other Christians facing the same situation. I am thankful that I followed you on Instagram a few days ago because today God speaks to me again, through you, about my personal & debt journey. He reminds me again that he can forgive me and heal me. Indeed in 2010 I have been selfish desobedient when I graduated from a Community College in Paris with an Associate Degree I felt unhappy I was hungry I was ambitious I wanted more. My dream was to graduate from a Renowed and international Business School with a master degree in Business Administration which could have lead me to a well paid position in the best companies. My mum who couldn’t afford my studies for the two years to complete, advised me to be patient, to work with humility with my associate degree. I wasn’t content. I believed that my future would be bright ( when I say bright I obviously mean money making) only if I had this diploma. Since I have been through a difficult time because of my debt, so many things I was supposed to do are undone, postponed but one thing remains God never abandoned me, he got me through it, he just wanted me to recognize my faults repent myself. Then he asked me to pay my debt. So he is showing me the way. And I am praying for forgiveness Psalm 51 : 1 Be Merciful to Me O God because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! 2 Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin! 3 I recognize my faults; Iam always conscious of my sins. 4 I have sinned against you- only against you and done what you consider evil. I didn’t trust enough in the Lord to believe that he could provide. I wanted to provide myself. Now he just shows me that I must lean on him. He provides everyday and I am thankful. He opens new doors to me. Thank you Mary for this meaningful, inspirational post. Isn’t Mary who said in John 2 :5 Do whatever he tells you. 😉 I am sure that God will provide for all of us if we do what he tells us to do. In Christ, Gabrielle ( my Instagram account is godly_gabrielle) hope to hear from you soon.ReplyCancel

  • July 9, 2015 - 8:30 pm

    Dee - Thank you for sharing this story❤️
    Your stories and quotes that you share in IG or here on your blog always touch my heart. It also reminds me to trust on The Lord and to be a better person.

    DeeReplyCancel

  • July 10, 2015 - 6:07 am

    Eleanor - Mary, your words have been a constant encouragement and inspiration over the past few weeks and months, as I slowly and tentatively crawl back to God after a painful 10 years. Thank you so much; I don’t feel alone. Your passion to live vulnerably is truly visible in this piece, and I’m so happy for you guys to have found each other, and wish you endless joy on your journey!ReplyCancel

  • July 11, 2015 - 8:49 am

    Nessa - Thank you for sharing your story of struggling with debt. It is one I know too well, but I experienced a similar blessing of freedom from stress and worry after praying for relief. God listens and answers prayers. I’m happy for you both!ReplyCancel

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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?

Working out?

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.

Special.

 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.


I’m giving away yet ANOTHER $500 discount code for the Nine Retreat that is coming to Los Angeles this September.

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:

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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.

bda
  • July 7, 2015 - 1:34 am

    Morgan - Putting on some make up and a black dress!ReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2015 - 9:59 am

    Stephanie Wright - I feel beautiful when I curl my hair too! Because of the length I never really do much with my hair. So when I do it makes me feel good about myself.ReplyCancel

  • July 9, 2015 - 1:18 am

    Isabel - I felt beautiful when I would wear my hair straight (curly crazy hair over here). It reminds my husband of when we were dating. But lately, although I didn’t think it was possible, I feel beautiful when I carry my baby. I’m a new mom constantly covered in breast milk, surprise boogers, knotted hair…. I could go on. There’s omething about holding my little guy that has put a different light on my image.ReplyCancel

  • August 1, 2015 - 3:30 pm

    stacie youngblood - oooohhhh- I really want to go to this but the discount code would be amazing. I feel my best when I am working out almost daily. It changes my perspective on everything but finding the time isnt always easy!ReplyCancel