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A Tourist in Thailand

My last several blog posts have focused on the mission trip that Russell and I went on over Christmas. I hope it’s clear that my heart and soul were touched and changed forever by the things we saw and the people we met while on the trip.

We were also lucky to spend a few extra days in Thailand, experiencing a little more of the country and culture as tourists.

Bangkok

We flew into Bangkok a day early, before the rest of our group arrived. To say we were the typical tourists is an understatement. We traveled by tuk-tuk, we ate Pad Thai, Russell had some clothes tailored for him in six hours, we saw every Buddha in the city, and we sat in a lot of traffic. If we ever go back, I’ll definitely skip Bangkok. One day was more than enough.

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Chiang Mai

Halfway through our mission trip, we traveled from Yangon, Myanmar to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we had a tourist day since it was New Years Eve. Chiang Mai and the surrounding area were really neat – a must see for anyone traveling to Thailand.

We rode elephants, held baby tigers, and let off lanterns. a.k.a., It was the best day of my life. I don’t think I will ever forget what it feels like to feed an elephant, to pet a tiger, and to release a lantern into the heavens, watching it float away and join the sea of thousands of other lanterns.

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Krabi

After the mission trip finished, Russell and I headed to Krabi island for a little relaxation (and a little too much sun). We took a day-long snorkeling trip to Koh Rok, which had, hands down, the most amazingly beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. I didn’t fully grasp the concept of powdery white sand and crystal clear water until visiting Thailand.

ThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailand had been on my list of dream vacations for years, and I’m so glad to have spent time really getting to see so much of the country, while meeting its people and learning about its fascinating culture (oh, and eating its delicious food!).

Happy Birthday to My Love

Since I met Russell over seven years ago, he has changed me and grown with me so much. He’s changed me from a vegetarian to a meat lover, a city girl to a farm wife, a (slightly oblivious) college girl to a confident business woman… And the list could go on for days.

So many of the characteristics I naturally lack, he excels. Discipline, logic, responsibility, adventure, steadfastness. How amazing that he lets me stand on his shoulders and draw from his strengths.

I like to think I’ve rubbed off a little on him too. He’s more compassionate and understanding, more charitable, and more likely to eat dessert.

From day one of our relationship, I’ve loved that we are so different. We push each other; challenge each other.

Going on a mission trip isn’t something I ever thought Russell would want to do. So, when he casually mentioned he might be interested in going one day, I signed us up immediately. Leading up to the trip, I worried that I might have pushed a little too hard. What if he hated it. What if he was miserable. What if it was hard to play with the kids since we don’t have any kids. What if it was too hard to be around other people constantly for two weeks when we are used to being just us two. What if, what if, what if…

Honestly, I don’t know why I worry at all about that man; he’s a star. He worked hard, painting and helping build a foundation at one of the orphanages.

MyanmarThailandHe played SO well with the kids, showing them his crazy yoga abilities and amazing athleticism. And then he introduced them to Lord of the Rings and iPad minis and Texas Tech. (For the record, Go Frogs!)

MyanmarThailandMyanmarHe earnestly and thoughtfully talked with the orphanage leaders, learning about their farming and sustainability efforts, and sharing ideas for improvement and growth.

MyanmarThailandHe was patient. And loving. And kind. And thoughtful. And protective. And strong. And I fell even more in love with him.

Happy birthday to the best partner in life I could ever ask for. xoxo

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My Prayers for the Orphanages

I want to start by saying I don’t think they should really be called orphanages. The children may not have their biological families – but they absolutely have families. Mother and father figures who love them, a whole pack of brothers and sisters, and in most cases, extended family members too.

The term “orphanage” always conjured up images of sweet, innocent children living in too little love – or worse, abuse. Visiting the orphanages in Thailand and Myanmar thankfully dispelled that vision. Instead, I saw them living in love and hope and joy and potential and play and fun and kid-ness. And it was awesome.

MyanmarMyanmarMyanmar and ThailandSo, I thank God for the adults who so passionately love Him that they answered the call to adopt these kids into their own families. What strong, faithful, good role models they are – not just for these kids but for all of us who meet them. They have dedicated their lives, their homes, their resources – their all – to serving God by loving and caring for these kids.

As if that wasn’t enough, they are also committed to serving their surrounding communities. They have church services, start Bible colleges, and host shoe outreaches and other fun events. The orphanages are truly resources for their communities, the place where neighborhood kids come to play soccer, where all know they will be welcomed with love.

Because of these loving and faithful adults, kids who once faced insurmountable odds now have a chance at life. And not just for survival – but for success and thriving. Not only do they have food, clothing, and shelter, but they are getting an education, learning skills, being encouraged. Speaking in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – they have a chance at self actualization. What a testimony about God’s provision!

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Despite the manifold praises, there are still so many needs.

Some worry about meeting rent in 6 months, while others worry about where or if their kids will be able to continue their education. Some sit with unfinished buildings on their grounds, waiting for the funds to complete projects that will further their mission and aid in sustainability. We gave shoes and blankets in the community – and the thankfulness for these items showed the clear need for other essentials like these. Kids sleep on beds so hard that they gave me bruises to sleep there for 2 nights.

So, I pray that their needs will be met – and exceeded. That their thoughts and energy won’t be spent on how to meet basic needs, but can instead stay focused on having the biggest impact in others’ lives as possible.

I pray for each of the kids we met and the many, many others we weren’t able to meet. I pray for their futures – that they are able to build on the growth and opportunity they’ve found already, staying steadfast in their faith, becoming change makers in their communities and country. I pray that they will always walk in light and love – and never doubt where that light and love come from.

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I pray for their communities and country. May the hearts and minds of the people of these beautiful countries be softened. May the hold that fear, deception, and superstition have over them be released. I pray that God’s glory will be ever more evident.

I pray for our team that went on the mission trip – that we never forget the passion and inspiration we felt while in Thailand and Myanmar. That we recognize that our trip might have ended but our role in their lives carries on.

And I pray for anyone whose heart might be moved while hearing stories of the trip and the work in this region. Truly, in all of my work and travels, I’ve never seen a place with more opportunity for a miraculous return on investment.

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Mission Trip

Russell and I got home from our mission trip late last night after 16 (or maybe 17? I lost count.) days traveling abroad. We’ve each had about 72 seconds of sleep. Our bags are definitely still packed. The mail is piled high. Our to-do lists are getting full already. My Christmas decorations are still up. The house and yard look like our dogs went on a rampage while we were gone.

But, instead of focusing on any of that, I’m sipping coffee and sorting through my photos. 703 of them to be exact. And trying to put into words what’s in my heart and mind after this life changing trip.

MyanmarWe were in Thailand and Myanmar to work at and support orphanages and do outreach in the surrounding communities. It was awesome, and challenging, and moving, and inspiring, and difficult, and not at all what either of us expected.

MyanmarOur hearts were touched by all of the people we met who have such a burning passion for Jesus, for His children, and for the betterment of their country and the lives of their peers. And we were blown away by the hope and potential – both for the individuals and the region at large.

MyanmarI’m not sure how long it will take to fully digest the last few weeks. And to make my way through 703 photos. But, I’ll definitely be sharing more of my thoughts, reactions, prayers, and photos soon.

MyanmarLast and most importantly, I want to extend a deep and sincere Thank You to everyone who thought about us, checked in on us, sent words of encouragement, and prayed for us while we were gone – your love was definitely felt!

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Deck the Halls

I’m not usually one who decorates for Christmas. Growing up, we didn’t place much emphasis on the cultural and commercial traditions of Christmas. I found out the truth about Santa at about age 4, we stopped having a Christmas tree well before I graduated from high school, I didn’t learn the words to Frosty the Snowman, and I went 27 years without living in a house with Christmas lights hung outside.

Well, this year that changed. The local sorority chapter asked if I would be interested in putting my house on their annual Christmas tour of homes, the proceeds of which support local charities.

With no experience decorating for Christmas (and not owning any Christmas decorations), I sought help from the owner/decorator/creative genius at B. Whimsy. I still couldn’t make myself go totally traditional – so no real Christmas tree, no red, and no Santa. Kari did a great job decorating, and it was amazing to watch the transformation! Here are a few pics of the results:

Home TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourESP_7030Home TourHome TourHome TourHome TourThanks for visiting! And Merry Christmas, y’all!

My Best Friends’ Weddings

Two of my very best friends recently got engaged (and one married now!). I have been so excited to share in their journey toward marriage and celebrate the love that they share with their partners.

I first started this blog when I was newly engaged. At the time, I wondered what the point of marriage was. I know now that my wedding day really didn’t mean much – other than as a chance to celebrate with friends and family.

That’s kind of a weird thing to say, right? But the day that I married Russell, I still cared about myself more than anything else. I married him because I wanted him in my life, to make me happy. Somewhere, sometime over the last three years, that changed. And whenever that changed, that’s when we were really married.

While it is about me being happy, it’s also about Russell being happy – and more than either of those, it’s about us as a family being happy, healthy, and functional. And sometimes that means sacrifice and compromise. But, because I love US more than ME, it always means reward and joy.

It’s about our families – past and future. It’s about our friends – old and new. It’s about the people who have poured into our lives and made us who we are today. And it’s about the people who we will, together, pour into and love over the next however many years.

It’s about our culture and society. I so strongly believe that healthy marriages and strong family units are the only hope that we have to survive as a country, a society, a human race.

It’s about God – about loving others the way He loves us and honoring the first and most important relationship that He gave us.

I once was ambivalent toward marriage. Today, I’m its biggest fan. I realize now that there are so many points of marriage. And, I’m sure, as Russell and I continue to grow in our relationship and marriage, I will realize so much more.

Over the last few months, I have so enjoyed celebrating not only my friends and their partners – but also love and marriage in general. I captured a few photos at their showers, each of which were such beautiful and fun celebrations of love, family, and friendship. I’ve been so honored to be a part of their journeys as they embark on the most important and sacred relationship and institution on this planet.

Praying blessings over these couples – love you guys!

Celeste’s Engagement Party

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Emily’s Couples Shower

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Reflecting

It has been a few months now since I quit my full-time job to focus on freelance work and photography. The decision and the time leading up to my last day was scary, exciting, daunting, nerve-wrecking, and relieving all wrapped up in one. I hoped that the day after my job ended, I would know whether or not I made the right decision. But, truthfully, the time since my last day has been a lot of the same, conflicting emotions I had for so many months leading up to my decision to resign.

I was really worried about getting bored. Not having enough to do. Worrying about not contributing to our family, not having employer-provided health insurance, not having an active 401k.

But, I am so blessed that so many of you have trusted me to work on your wedding invitations, family photos, Christmas cards, fundraising and event materials, websites, and so much more.

This week, I wrapped up several projects I’ve been working on. As I held the finished products in my hand, I had such a peace come over me that I made the right decision to focus on this business.

To show my deep, profound appreciation, I’m giving away a free mini-session, with a print release for your favorite image from the session and a custom Facebook cover photo – a $125 value.

Entering the giveaway is easy!

  1.  Like Andrus Williams Creative on Facebook
  2. Share the giveaway image on your Facebook timeline
  3. (Bonus entry for those who read my blog – leave a comment below!)

I’ll pick a winner on Monday night (November 11, 2013). The session must be booked by May 11, 2014 and is subject to availability. Additional fees may be assigned for travel outside of Dalhart, TX.

Congratulations to Rinnell Yoder, who won the giveaway!

Mini Session GiveawayAgain – thank you all so much for your love and support.

xoxo, Julia

A Family Portraits :: Dalhart, Texas

These two were some of the first people that Russell and I met when we first visited our church. And in the moment that I met them, I felt for one of the first times that I could find a church family and a place to belong in Dalhart. I’ll always be thankful for the kindness and warmth that radiated from them that Sunday morning – and the support, love, and fun they have shared since.

They are such a special family and friends to so many. I was so excited to take their family portraits this year. Their fun personalities and love for each other, others, and God shine through. Here are a few of the photos from their session!

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Be sure to like Andrus Williams Creative on Facebook to see more of my work!

Christmas

2013 Christmas Promotion

Today, I’m thinking about Christmas. I know, it’s only September. We still have Columbus Day, Halloween, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving to get through. But, still, Christmas is on my mind.

Russell and I are leaving on Christmas Eve to go to Myanmar and Thailand for a mission trip with our church. We’ll spend 3 days in Myanmar at Father’s House Orphanage, celebrating Christmas with the kids there. The orphanage houses over 20 children, aged 6-15, who were orphaned during the devastating tsunami of 2008. The precious children attend school, learn subsistence farming skills, and are taught about God’s love and His Word.

Right now, we’re working hard to raise money to take the kids Christmas presents and to be able to serve them a special Christmas dinner. We’re hoping to take a basket of goodies for each child, with basic necessities, like school items, toiletries, towels, and an umbrella, plus some toys and books for the kids to enjoy.

To help raise funds for our trip, I’m offering a Christmas Mini Session & Photo Card Package, for $215, with 100% of the proceeds going toward the gifts for the kids. Book by October 15 and get:

  • 30 minute photo session
  • 5 edited images with print release
  • Custom Christmas card design
  • 50 5×7 Christmas cards with envelopes (additional cards available for order; 25 for $40)

Please contact me if you’re interested in booking a session or making a donation to the mission trip!

*Sessions are subject to availability.

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