Lately I have been having conversations with friends and with people on social media, the theme that keeps coming up, at least for me, are feelings of uncertainty. I don’t know what is next in life and exactly where I am going. And usually, I am ok with that.
But lately it’s bothered me more than usual. And you would think I would have made friends with uncertainty especially with how my last year and some odd months have gone. It’s been unconventional by any means and I am not where I envisioned myself 5 years ago. I have been living in uncertainty for over a year. Sometimes I get tired of waiting for God to open the next door I am supposed to walk through. I think some of it has to do with the time of the year for me because last year around this time I experienced similar feelings of uncertainty.
I have learned recently that if I choose to play into this feeling uncertainty and not rely on God, it will lead you to a place you don’t want to be. There is a potential decision that I have been mulling over and over again in my head to the point it has become obsessive thoughts and torment. In this decision, there was no right or wrong decision. It’s more like a fork in the road in my life. On one hand, financially it would practically make sense, it would be the more conventional way of doing life. I would have a stable job with benefits and it would be a new career for me. On the other hand, I would be taking the unconventional way in life and it would much riskier financially. I would be doing several different jobs while building my business. I had gone back and forth between doing what is practical or having a flexible schedule. For ever reason I thought I should potentially pursue the job, I had a reason not to. This lead to increased anxiety about the uncertainty feeling I was experiencing and the fear of making a decision I might regret. Which ultimately leads to decision paralysis. I even did a decision tree but because I was in decision paralysis, it did not help me to make a decision. But I kept walking through the open doors while still experiencing the torment in my mind.
One day it occurred to me that God is not a God of torment and obsessive thoughts. This decision essentially had become an idol of indecision in my life. My thoughts and conversations would always somehow lead back to this decision that I needed to make. Once I realized this, I decided to give it to Him and just trust Him for my answer. You would think this is the end of my torment but then I would have moments where I would take it back. And every time I took it back I could feel pain in my back where I carry stress or when I was thinking about making this decision I realized I was clenching my jaw. I also noticed my increase in irritability and less patience.
I realize what I was experiencing was not peace. When I decide to change something in my life, I always look for God’s peace. And I know that I have God’s peace when I know without a shadow without a doubt of what I am supposed to do. I become stubborn and no one can change my mind other than God.
I realized that the answer that I was looking for was there all along and that I needed to pay attention to the cues that I was being given. There are some things that I learned or was reminded of in this.
- I have learned that God is not a God of torment! He is a God of peace and He will give you peace when it is the right place to be.
- I have also learned to pay attention to my body. This is something a coach taught me. To see how your body reacts to the thing you are thinking or talking about. Your body will give you clues on what is right or wrong for you. I think it is amazing that God created our bodies this way to give us clues.
- This is something that I knew before but I was reminded again in this situation is that I need to check my feelings. I gave my feelings of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety too much power. I was already feeling some of these emotions before this decision. When we give our feelings too much power, we are often deceived and manipulated. Sometimes our feelings are not representing truth. Sometimes they are representing a lie we believe. This is why our feelings need to be matched with the truth.
- I also was reminded and it is ok to embrace uncertainty while not having to figure something out to solve this feeling. Too often I try to fix, solve, or ignore my feelings. God gave me feelings when He created me. I have not found anything in the Bible that asks us to fix, solve, or ignore our feelings.
- When I gave into this feeling of uncertainty, it lead me to other emotions. First, the fear of regret with possibly making the wrong decision. Second, to the anxiety of having to make a decision which lead me to obsessive thoughts. This all lead to decision paralysis for me. Which lead me to tormenting myself with trying to make the right decision.
- I learned that you can make an idol out of trying to make the right decision. Because this decision was what I thought about all the time, it is where I would lead conversations with friends and family. I wanted their take on what I should do. Thankfully they did not tell me what to decide. Rather they challenged me to seek God in what I should do.
- I learned again that it is okay to make a decision based on where God wants me to go and what is right for me rather than seeking the approval of what other people thought I should do. And being ok when others give opinions about what you should do or your life even if it is are opposite of what they think I should be doing whether it is the financially stable or financially more risky decision. This is my life, not their life.
- I was reminded again that when I have feelings of anxiety and fear, take some time to rest. I mean truly rest not escape. We all have something(s) that we use to escape life and the things we are facing. For me true rest could be that I spend some time with family/friends, serving others, spend some time alone, write, do something in nature, meditate, or listen to some music. When I truly rest and not escape, it takes my mind off of my feelings and places it on my Creator or something He has created to enjoy.
Here are a few questions to ponder to think about in your life. Have experienced decision paralysis because you gave the feelings you are/were feeling too much power? Do you have trouble deciphering what is truth and a lie in your life especially when it comes to your feelings? Are you always second-guessing your decisions because you don’t trust yourself to make the right decision?
Earlier this year, when I was working with a mentor on my photography business, I had a realization that I was not expecting or was ready for. We were talking about a possible opportunity that was being presented to me. And when I was talking about this possible opportunity, she saw my eyes light up and I had excitement in my voice. This was not there when I talked about my business/photography. She was brave and asked me the hard question “Is photography what you want to do for a career?” And when she asked me, I realized at that moment something was missing for me. This something that I was missing is part of who I am. This something was the relational piece. While some photographers create a long term relationship with their clients, but for me, it seemed like a transaction after having worked in the social service field for so long. God created me to be a relational person.
The feelings I experienced after this realization was like a gut punch! What I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life was no longer what I wanted to do. And the primary feeling I felt was lost. This feeling of being lost was somewhat familiar. I had felt this after I left my job in social work in May 2019. But the difference between the two, was that this time I felt truly lost. I did not know what to do or where to head next. I felt like I was going to be stuck in jobs that did not fulfill who God has created me to be for the rest of my life. Like I was just going to float through life just existing not thriving. I had heard of people who hated their jobs and just went because they needed to make ends meet. I have never hated a job and I did not want to be the case. I knew that I did not want to live my life existing and that I was created for more but in these moments it felt like just existing was what I was destined to.
Soon after this realization, God planted a seed into my heart and mind of a possible direction that I was meant to go. He even gave me a framework for a course to go with the idea He gave. And it would help fill the piece that I was missing in my photography business.
You would think since He gave me the idea and framework for the course, I would have jumped on board with the idea immediately. But it took me a while to get on board with God. He waited patiently as grieved what I thought I wanted in life and worked to through my feelings.
Part of what I needed to work through I had put myself in this box and I did not want to be viewed as someone who just changed directions on the whim. I eventually came to the conclusion that this direction change for me is no different than someone else changing careers.
When I finally got on board with the seed that God planted, it felt right. I did not feel like I was trying to fit a square into a round hole anymore. It made sense with what I know about myself and how God created me. And it was one of the parts of my job that I loved when I was working in social services.
I have always loved seeing the aha moments happen in the process when someone is empowered to dream and creates steps for those dreams, despite their circumstances. All the while looking at the roadblocks that stand in their way. This is the seed that God planted in me in March of this year. This seed will blossom into many beautiful flowers as people are empowered to grow into who they are created to be.
You can find more information on this at Marilyn L Weaver.
Recently, I took pictures of where my grandparents and aunt live and in the area surrounding it. I grew up in this area and it was fun to see this area in a different way. I am so used to seeing it, I forget how beautiful it is. They live in Lancaster County, PA.
This is the home that my aunt owns and my grandparents live there with her. The last two photos are looking out their back yard.
The animals got in this photoshoot also. They have a beautiful blue parakeet who was not sure of hearing the shutter of my camera go off when I took his picture. The chickens’ names are Henny, Penny, Kacka and Becca. The sheltie, Dusty, was not too impressed that I wanted to take his picture.
These flowers are from their yard. My grandmother owned a greenhouse for years. Her flower beds are beautiful every year. The pink cherry blossoms are the trees pictured in the first set of photos.
This is the one-room school that my mom and all her siblings went to school. My sisters and I almost went to school there. The last photo is of the outhouses at for the school. There is no bathroom inside this one-room school. I joked with my aunt that these look luxurious compared to the ones that were there when I grew up.
This is a view of the backside of the home farm where my mom grew up. My grandfather farmed this land for many years.
This is the house where my grandparents moved to after they moved off the farm. This place is only a mile or two from the home farm and about a half a mile from where they currently live.
Of course, I had to add a horse and buggy picture to the collection. The people that own this horse and buggy are Mennonite not Amish.
I added some landscapes just to show the terrain. It was fascinating to really look at the landscape and see all the hills that we live in.
These random farm animals were striking a pose at the right time for me to capture the beauty of them.
I look forward to doing more of these types of shoots. Just to really look at the beauty that I live around. It is so easy to think that other places are more beautiful than the place we live in but I think each place has its own beauty we just have to look for it.
Total cases: 492,416
Total deaths: 18,559
(According to CDC, on 4/11/2020)
This week the statistic of the COVID-19 pandemic hit me in a new way. Prior to this week, they were just a statistic and sad to say they were not much more than that. I look at this number of deaths this is 18,559 people who have died since January 21, 2020(that is only 81 days). There is a person with a name, a family and a life behind each number. A person is a person no matter who they were or what they did. They are still a person that God created to be on this earth for a time. People matter to God so they should matter to us.
There are people who will argue that this statistic is inflated or incorrect, that some of those people died of something else but tested positive for COVID-19 or let us not forget the numerous conspiracy theories that are out there surrounding COVID-19. Can we stop arguing?!? The fact is that 18,559 people have died in the United States in 81 days! This number does not include the people who have died that are not related to COVID-19.
Let that sink in for a little. 18,559 people have died in 81 days in the US.
How does this not bother us? How does this not sadden us? How is this not like a sucker punch to our gut when we hear it?
Can we put aside all politics, conspiracy theories, etc? And mourn with the people who have lost loved ones?
Most likely these family and friends will not be able to say goodbye to their loved ones for a while due to the funeral being postponed. Meanwhile, they continue living life feeling and seeing the void their loved one left behind. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how that would feel, how it would be hard to face each day and how they feel when they see us arguing about where COVID-19 came from or who is responsible for it. At this point, in my opinion when we are pointing the fingers to someone else we are forgetting what is important. Reality is that we are in a health pandemic worldwide with a highly contagious virus. And we all have a responsibility to respond wisely and do our part to help minimize the spread.
While I am on this soapbox, I am going to share something else that I have seen that sends me from zero to one hundred. Some Christians have claimed that this is religious persecution because we are not able to gather in our churches together to have church.
First, this is not religious persecution. Our governing authorities have put things in place to protect us. And we as Christians have a responsibility to follow what our authorities ask us to do. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 The government authorities have not taken away our religious freedom at this time in the United States.
Second, the church is more than just a building. We(people) are the church, not a building. This pandemic has caused Christians to look at how we do church and why we do it this way. It has caused a pivot in churches. Most churches are holding services online. Most of my family is Old Order Mennonite and they have held church services in a building for many generations. They are now doing a hotline call where their congregation can call in and listen to the message. They do not have internet and/or TV so doing church online is not an option. This is a monumental change for this church! This would have not happened if they did not need to think creatively on how to provide a message for their congregations.
Can we put ourselves aside and think of others during this time? This will look different for each person.
It might mean that you stay home and practice social distancing.
It might mean that you wear a mask when you go grocery shopping.
It might mean that you find creative ways to connect with others. Such as phone calls, video calls, send snail mail, etc.
It might mean that your business pivots to be able to continue to serve your clients.
It might mean you work from home now.
It might mean that you no longer have the distractions that you had and you have no excuse not to do the thing you have been putting off.
It might mean that you support essential workers by staying home. As they are putting their life on the line to make sure people have what they need or the care they need.
Recently, I wanted to try more of a fashion shoot rather than a lifestyle photoshoot. My friend agreed when I asked if she would model for me. We actually switched services. Miranda, my friend, became my editor for my Rocking Chair Stories Session and I would do the photoshoot for her. Miranda has this big and unique personality. She tells stories with lots of inflection, accents, and gestures. Honestly, the first time I met her, I was not sure I would be friends with her because I thought she was way over the top. It is a good thing that we don’t go by the first impression. Because I learned that at times she may be over the top by my standards but that is what makes her unique. There are so many other things that make her an amazing person and friend.
Miranda loves the people in her life deeply. She is on the quest for truth and authenticity especially in her relationship with God. As big as her personality is, she has this ability to be still and present where she is at. Miranda has a maturity that most 19 years do not have. Her style reminds me of the 1980’s and 1990’s with a modern twist to it. Miranda fit right into the vision that I had the photoshoot. The clothes she wore were all clothing she had in her closet.
We met in Lancaster City, PA on top of the Duke Street parking garage to begin our shoot. The parking garage had some great options for the photo shoot. After we were done at the parking garage, we got in my car and drove to the Lancaster County Court House. (Which when we go there we realized that we could have walked there from the parking garage.) At the end of the shoot, I found this alley beside the courthouse where we finished the shoot with a few alley shots. We visited La Dolce Vita Courthouse Bakery on the way out of town to take home some awesome baked goods for later on.
The Coronavirus has completely changed our lives in what it seemed like an instant. In these unprecedented times, take a few moments to document what you are seeing and experiencing in words and pictures. If you are home with your family, take a few photos each day of activities that you are engaging in. And you don’t have to be a professional photographer or own a “fancy” camera to do so. Just take photos with your cell phone to document what is happening in your life and in our world. You will be happy that you did. You will be able to look back at these photos and it will remind you of the memories that you made at this time. Heck, maybe make a photo album out of it. You could call it The Corona Chronicles.
Here are a few tips for you to be able to capture your photos.
- Composition: Look at what is in the shot when you go to take it. Sometimes by moving something or moving it will completely change the photo.
- Angle: Look at the angle are you taking the picture. Usually especially in portraits by taking the photo at a higher angle it will be more flattering to the person you are taking a picture of.
- Light: I always try to use natural light first when I am taking a photo. It is more flattering than flash if you don’t know how to use flash properly. So open your curtains and let that natural light in. And have the light source come from behind the camera as it will light up what you are taking a photo of.
- Story: Think of the story your photo tells. I am a believer that every photo tells a story. We just need to look for it.
- Use the tools on the camera on your phone: Play around with the features that the camera has. I am sure it has more than than you realize. If you want to learn more about a feature on the camera and you can’t figure it out, go to the internet and search for a video that teaches you how to use the feature.
- Editing: Editing your photos is not a must when it comes to documenting the day to day activities with your family. There are simple apps that you can use if you want to edit your photos. These are a few apps that I use to edit my photos on my phone: Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom Creative Cloud.
I know this can be daunting to remember all this when you are taking a quick picture with your phone. Don’t get caught up trying to remember all this. Just take photos! Document what you are experiencing on your own or with others(family, friends/roommates). There is so much that we can take photos of during this time. Some suggestions are: what social distancing looks like for you in your home, your children helping you cook dinner, when you go for a walk look at the things around you, cute things your pets do, etc.
Give yourself grace as you are learning to take photos. You will not be at the level as a professional photographer and that is ok! You don’t need to be a professional photographer to be able to take good photos of your Corona Chronicles.
Lastly, I would love to see the photos that you take during this time. Tag me in your photo on social media or send me an email(firstname.lastname@example.org) with your photo.
Nine months ago two days ago, I left my 9-5 job in social work. Leaving that day I left that day broken what felt like a million pieces. I did not know what was next in life. There was so much uncertainty about my future. But there was one thing I had and I knew for sure. That I had peace. I knew I was doing what God was asking me to do. As scary and uncertain my future looked that day, I was resting in this unshakable peace. I was leaving my job without a plan not knowing what was going to be next.
As I look at these last nine months, I see the lessons that God had for me in this valley:
Listen to yourself and your body – Your body gives you so many clues on where you are at emotionally. My body was giving so many clues that I was not listening to long before I realized it. It showed in my eyes and the way I carried myself. It was not until weeks after I was not working I saw a brightness in my eyes that I had not seen in a long time. I shared more about it in my last blog post in this series.
Be willing to take care of yourself even when it seems selfish. – This is something we hear so much self-care but most of us are really bad really practicing it. Self-care looks different from person to person. There are times I would come home from work and watch TV for the night and then go to bed. I have learned that this is not self-care this was a way that I used to escape from what I really needed to deal with or to numb what was going on in my life. But I learned self-care for me looks like going on a drive with my camera and take pictures of things in nature, going for a walk at Longwood Gardens, taking time to connect with God on my own or at a church service, journaling, listening to music, having dinner with a friend, traveling, painting, and spending time with my family. I needed a season of just being in life and not having thinking about anything else.
God always has a plan even when we can’t see it. – If you had told me on the day that I gave my six-week notice that nine months later, I would not have a 9-5 job, I am not sure I would have been brave enough to make that decision. I am an extremely logical person who makes decisions out of logic and reasoning and not emotion. I am grateful that God does not let us look into the future. Actually, I believe this is a gift. Because I would have been paralyzed by what these last nine months brought. Looking back I can see God’s hand through it all.
God is faithful and He keeps his promises. – God has provided for me in the last nine months in all areas of my life. Relationally, He has brought a great group of friends into my life. I have been grateful for their friendship through one of the hardest seasons of my life. Emotionally, He has begun to pick up those million pieces that were broken inside of me and started to repair what was broken. Financially, He had provided for me every month to meet my financial needs and then some. Spiritually, I have learned to trust God in a deeper place than I have before.
It is ok to try something but find that it is not what you want in life. – Through this season I have tried several different things and I have learned that some of the things that I have tried are not what I want for my life. Like I love traveling alone but two weeks is too long for me to travel alone.
Education and mentoring is a great thing! – In the last 9 months, I have taken some time to further my knowledge, especially with business and entrepreneurship. I have learned so much about myself in the process. And who I want to be in this world. What I do and don’t want to do in life.
It is ok to take a season of rest and to take a slower pace in life. – In our world today it is about the hustle and always being on the go. These last 9 months have truly been a season of rest for me. I am grateful that I have had this opportunity to rejuvenate and rest. I would hate to see where I would be if I had not done so.
I need to travel several times a year. – I love traveling and going to new places. Although I hate packing to leave for a trip. Travel was not something I prioritized in my life.
God has created me with a gift of creativity. – When you suppress a gift that you have been given, you will feel like something is missing. I was a high functioning burnout, I did not use my gift of creativity often because I did not have the energy to do so. And I was not feeding part of who I am.
I am a person who loves people and being in relationship with people. – I love to walk beside people on this journey called life. And it is a gift that God has given me. And when I don’t do it, there is part of me missing in my life. It is something that I can do easily. But just because it is easy for me it does not mean that I do not need to be careful about who I choose to do it with and how many people I choose to do it with at one time. I am also an introvert so people can drain me and it leads me to a place that I do not want to be.
Taking a moment out of your day to say hi or have a conversation with someone can be life-changing. – I have had countless people who have stopped their day to ask me how I am doing. Some have even helped me process what I was going through that day. Many have stopped their day to pray for and with me.
Just because I am independent, it does not mean that I need to do life alone. – For anyone that knows me personally, knows that I am one of the most independent women you will find. But if I had stayed to myself and not been vulnerable with friends, family, my counselor, and other people in my life, I would not be where I am today. I would be in a lonely place. I am in a place and do life with people that love me for me.
Vulnerability is a good thing. – Being vulnerable can be one of the hardest things in life. You risk getting hurt. You are letting someone see what you are struggling with or what your weakness is. I can so easily tell someone I am good when I am not. I can hide behind a mask of independence. But this season has taught me that hiding behind a mask does not help me. It actually hurts me. There is no one to share my burden. I have learned that when I choose to be vulnerable it gives others the courage to do the same.
It is ok to take risks even when you are not sure about them. – I generally make decisions on the side of caution. But sometimes I have to take a risk and see where it takes me. God is right there with me no matter the decision that I made.
When you are experiencing emotions, take time to process them and don’t ignore them. – I am not the greatest at identifying and processing my emotions. A large part of this is the culture I grew up in did not encourage you to do this. Actually, it was an unspoken rule. Through the years I have learned that I need to allow myself to experience them, process them but also look at the truth. Sometimes our feelings are the opposite of what the truth is. My feelings do not negate the truth even when I don’t understand my feelings, the circumstances, or the truth. This is something that I learned last summer when I was processing a friend’s death.
When I am feeling fear and anxiety, I am usually trying to control something. – Recently I experienced fear and anxiety, I was trying to figure out why as I am not generally a fearful or anxious person. It occurred to me that I was trying to control something that I was not meant to control. I was trying to take the control out of God’s hand and put the control in my hands. Looking back I realize it was a foolish thing to do but it is something that I try to often because I think I know what is best. Reality is God who created me knows what is best for me because He is sovereign over the whole earth and He sees the whole picture.
***This is part of a series of blog posts of me sharing about burnout and things I have been learning through this. They are numbered in the order that they are written in and to indicate that they are part of this series.***
You meticulously and brush the sky with the stroke of your paint brush. You do this with intention. You place the clouds in the right place so they can highlight the colors you choose to light you the sky with. You have colors in your paint palette that we don’t even know exist. You choose to paint the sky each morning and evening. You delight as you watch your creation as an artist when light dances across the sky with each sunrise and sunset unique in its own way. No single one is the same! You love when we stop and marvel at your masterpiece that you create.
When we choose to marvel the painted sky, we are reminded of you, the Creator, who does this faithfully every day without fail. If you are faithful in something like the sunset or sunrise, then how much more faithful will you be for me? I was created in your image. And you delight when I trust you, my Creator, to provide for me faithfully in every moment. So I can choose trust you in your promises because you are faithful.
A few years ago, I started a tradition for me on Christmas morning. My tradition is to go into nature on Christmas morning and take pictures. I love it because there is a stillness and peace. It’s like the world is still asleep. There are few cars on the road. And when you are out in nature you hear can hear the world around you. Sometimes it is the crunch of dried leaves as you step on them or the bird that is singing in the woods. Funny story – The first year I did this, I was at Chambers Lake at Hibernia Park where there was a beautiful fog that blanketed the lake. While I was standing there looking at the lake, I hear someone say “hello” a few times. I look around and did not see anyone. As I was about to answer this person, they continue on in their conversation. I then realized that they were on the phone.
The things you see are amazing. You see things that you normally are too busy to look for. The frost on the detail of leaves or the design of bark on a tree or fog nestled between the trees.
These are the photos from my 2019 Christmas morning photoshoot at Brubaker Park in East Earl, PA.