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.
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.
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.
We have been fed this lie that being busy is a good thing. I think as a society we have become addicted to being busy. We think we have to be busy all the time. It is to the point when someone asks us “How are you doing?” A common response has been “busy.” When has this answer become ok. And in my opinion it is a masked answer for how we really are doing.
There are seasons where we will be busy and this is enviable. But when busy becomes part of our lifestyle is where we get it wrong. Because if we are always busy there is a time where you will burnout from always being so busy. You can only go so long before you will crash from being busy. You will not have time to do the things that fill you up. That help take care of you and your sanity. And we don’t have time for the relationships that are important for us.
Resting and not being caught in this hamster wheel of busyness is good for you as a whole especially emotionally. Being in the hamster wheel of busy there is an anxiety that comes with it because you have to always think about what is next. You miss the small blessings and miracles that are right in front of you in your day to day life. I can say this from personal experience. If I am not well emotionally, it throws the rest of my life off track and not seems to works well. If we are always busy, we are not taking the time to process what is going on with us and around us. I know when I do not take the time to process emotionally it is a recipe for disaster. Maybe not right away but eventually.
When we are always busy, things get missed because we can’t do everything well. When we try to so everything, we usually are operating outside of our gifts because we are trying to do everything.
The other thing about buying into the lie of having to always be busy, we rely on ourselves much more than we are suppose to. We don’t take the time to see if there is someone else in your life that would be better suited for the task than you. And we also tend not to take the time to seek and trust God. What if God doesn’t give you an answer before you need an answer? We tell ourselves it is easier to rely on ourselves and not on God or anyone else. We are created for community with God and others.
When God created the earth, He put a day of rest in for a reason. He knew that we need to rest so that we can be productive for the rest of the week. He even to took a day of rest when He created the earth.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3
So is your busyness for a season or is it a lifestyle? And is it a mask to cover up something else you don’t want to deal with?
Have you ever waited for something for a while and it takes longer than you expected it to be? You think I have waited long enough and whatever you are waiting on can come to fruition anytime now. This is where I was a couple weeks ago.
Part of my season of rest has been waiting for God to lead me to my next step. It is easy to say “I am good and just trusting God.” when asked how are life is going. But then there are times that this isn’t true. In the beginning, the waiting wasn’t that bad. But after a couple months of resting and waiting on God’s timing, it caught up to me.
It was a Monday afternoon and I was watching a Steve Harvey clip that came up on my Facebook. In this clip, Steve talked about how God got him to where he is today and that if God can do it for him then God can do it for you too. And as I heard those words tears started to come to my eyes. I realized at that moment the waiting in this season was being to wear on me. And that even though I trust God and His timing for my life, I realized in that moment I was starting to doubt. I was getting tired of my season. In this season of rest, I have gotten so many no’s and the no’s started to wear on my spirit and emotions.
I started to doubt and question… If I had done the right thing by quitting my job with no job in sight? Was that really what God wanted me to do? Was it what I needed to do for myself?
That night I went to the Bible study and we chose one person to share what we were struggling with. And when it was my turn, part of me wanted to just shut down what I was feeling but I knew I needed to share. As I began to share with my friend, tears came to my eyes again and they kept coming as I talked about my feelings and doubts. After my friend prayed for me and I shed some tears, I felt better. My doubts and feelings were still there but after that I was reminded that I was not alone in my journey.
I realized it is ok for me to have these doubts and feelings but it is what I do with them that is the important part. If I decided to dwell on my doubts and feeling rather than sharing them with someone else and giving them to God. It would have lead to worry, worry to anxiety, and anxiety to stress. Worry, stress and anxiety robs us of our peace and joy.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34