Archive of ‘30. Be genuinely at peace’ category

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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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

Remiss

Lately, I’ve said “Sorry, I’ve been remiss in … ” quite a bit. In saying thank you. In saying congratulations. In calling people back. And, let’s add blogging to that list.

The last two months have been busy, trying, difficult.

Russell’s family bought a new farm a few hours away. And Russell elected to farm that new farm, and he moved in early April. There weren’t any housing options available for me that included internet fast enough to work. So, we lived apart for several weeks until a house that was being built in town was finished. And then we bought that house. And then we moved. Again.

It was just a year ago that we moved into our old house, after several months of renovations. In fact, there were several boxes in our garage that I hadn’t gotten around to unpacking after our move from DC. I suppose that makes this move that much easier.

During this time, I let myself slip into a two-month long pity party. Toward the end of it, I was worried that I had let a habit form – that I wasn’t going to be able to shake that negativity.

But, the power of being reunited with my love was more than enough to lift me out of my funk.

And enough to get me to blog again. And call people back. And say thank you. And so on.

It was even enough to get me to a place of excitement about this new adventure – as long as no one mentions moving again for a few years!

Russell in a field of wheat at the new farm

Happiness Project :: March 01

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project off and on for almost a year now. It’s one of those books that I read until something intrigues me, then I put it down and reflect on that something for a while, and then pick the book up again later.

Most recently, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of micro journaling and the author’s “One-Sentence Journal.” A manageable and structured way of chronicling life – the everydays, the big things, the things that don’t seem to matter but really they do.

I’ve decided to couple that concept with another project that I’ve been wanting to do – a photo a day project. Originally, I thought about doing that for my New Years resolution, but that was just too daunting to think about. A month though – I think I can handle that.

So, today I start my own mini happiness project, sharing a photo a day for a month of something that makes me happy. In no particular order. At the end of the month, I hope to have a collage of good feelings and happy photos – something to lift my spirits when I’m feeling down or to look back on when life has given me different things to be happy about.

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So, to kick off the happiness project….

01 :: Blooming flowers. Today, as I walked inside after lunch, I noticed that some flowers in our front flower beds are blooming. So happy that Spring is around the corner.

Closure

Last month, I spent two weeks in Washington DC, closing on our house, shipping back the last of our furniture and belongings, and wrapping up a chapter of my life.

While I was there, everyone I talked to asked the same questions: “How is life in Texas?” and “Do you miss DC?” And once I got back, everyone asked, “How was DC? Did you miss it?” As if they all expected that I had realized how dumb it was to give up all that DC has to offer for a small rural Texas town that smells like manure.

Of course, being back in the city I did realize that there are many things that I have missed – and still miss. Among them are ethnic food, my DC hair stylist, my friends, BCBG sales and fun shoe stores, and, ya know, things to do that don’t involve cows or crops in any way.

But there is so much I don’t miss.

Having been away for several months and then spending a substantial amount of time back in the city, I realize that it is a fun, young, vibrant city with endless opportunities. But, it’s not my kind of fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ll take sitting with my husband, watching my dogs play, drinking a glass of wine, and looking at a West Texas sunset any day over all of the restaurants and bars and events in DC.

Being there was closure and confirmation that we made the right decision to move back to Texas. I spent almost 5 rewarding years in DC, where I started a career, met and fell in love with my now husband, forged lasting friendships, and created countless good memories. And I can look back on the city for exactly what it is: a memory.

While I was there, I wanted to take photos of iconic DC monuments and buildings, presenting them as old memories. Well, I only made it to the Capitol (one thing I DON’T miss about DC – never having enough time to do the things I want to do). But, here are some of the photos:

Living in Mexico

So, confession. I’m one of those former brides that is totally obsessed with their wedding pictures. I have them littering my house and set as my background on my computer (all 15 of them). I’m in the process of scrapbooking, making albums, making photobooks (yes, all plural). It’s a little absurd.

Whenever I’m having a bad day, I look at my favorite picture, and it let it transport me back to that moment.

Like today. It’s not a bad day, per se. But, it’s rainy and dreary. I’m tired. My lover is far away from me. Work is hectic. And I’m being forced to accept that fact that winter is rearing its ugly head.

But, then I look at this picture, and life is all better again.

So, I’ve decided I want to live here. Forever. And never come back to yucky, dreary, tired, stressful, cold days.

While it would be nice to live on the beach in Mexico, what I really mean is that I want to live life that relaxed and happy. That in love. Looking into the eyes of a man who adores me. Sigh.

In that state of mind, all the bad things fall by the wayside: the dreary days and cold weather don’t matter, and the tasks and to-dos building up can’t defeat me.

Savoring the details

If you asked me how my day was, I would say it was okay. Just fine. Nothing special.

Absent from my answer would be all of the good moments that occurred all day long.

All too often, that’s how I operate. I live in the big picture, rarely noticing the details – and rarely caring that I missed them.

But, when it comes down to it, the details are more important than the big picture.

A detail – one that I pay no attention to – can make or break the big picture. One little errant detail can ruin a product, an event, a day. Just as one extraordinary detail can make a product, an event, a day, and turn it into something amazing.

With this in mind, I set out to cherish the good moments in my day today.

It started this morning when I actually got out of the house on time, even with that blessed extra 30 minutes of sleep. Then, the bus pulled up to the stop right as I walked up to it – and the same happened this afternoon. The line at Starbucks was almost non-existent. I accomplished a lot at work without feeling stressed. The sun is shining after days of rain. And now I’m on my way home to spend the evening with a man who loves me and the world’s cutest dogs.

It’s these kinds of individual moments that  make a day – and individual days that make up our lives. A happy life is all about cherishing the little details.

Is pride a fault or a virtue?

One of my favorite movies is Pride and Prejudice. For me, it’s one of those movies that I can watch over and over again, each time falling in love with something new. One time that I watch it, I fall in love with the dialog. The next time, I fall in love with the music. The next time, I fall in love with the scenery. And the next, I fall in love with Mr. Darcy. Sigh.

Lately, I’ve pondering one line in the movie: Is pride a fault or a virtue?

Pride is such a big part of our American lives. We are constantly seeking bigger and better things to make ourselves and our families proud. Bigger toys, bigger houses, better cars, more degrees, better titles at work, smarter/prettier/more athletic kids. The list goes on for days.

We are taught that pride is a good thing–that pride is a part (or maybe a product) of having a strong sense of self worth. Being proud means you did something right. Pride, therefore, is seen as a virtue.

I recently read an outsider’s take on pride that, while different than what my culture has taught me, makes a lot of sense to me. The theory went that pride prohibits a person (or family or culture, etc.) from having peace because it represents a constant struggle to one-up everyone else. Pride is seeing yourself and your accomplishments as better than everyone else. Since there will almost always be someone with more money, a better job, or whatever else makes you proud, you’re constantly trying to accomplish more.

As I thought about this, it became very clear to me that pride is not at all a part or product of having a sense of self worth. In fact, having a healthy sense of self worth means seeing the accomplishments and positive aspects of your life, while also recognizing your limitations and faults and understanding how you fit into the rest of life. Self worth isn’t a classification system–it doesn’t mean “I’m better than you or her or them.” It’s simply an understanding– it’s saying “This is who I am, and this is what is good and bad about me.”

One of my goals that I hope to reach before I turn 30 is to be at complete peace. It’s clear now that being prideful won’t help me achieve inner peace.

Different ways to be 24

I’ve kept in touch with my best friends from college, even though our lives have taken drastically different routes. One is getting her masters in biomedical engineering. One just returned from overseas where she worked as an au pair and traveled. One is building her career in marketing. And another is advancing in the world of graphic design, toying with starting her own business. We live all over the country—at one point, all over the world. Our different paths and geographic distance, however, have been no hindrance to our relationships with one another.

I’m proud of my friends for staying away from the safe life and instead taking on new adventures whole-heartedly. With adventure, however, pain, letdowns, and drama undoubtedly rear their ugly heads.

After a week wracked with pain and difficult situations, one of my friends asked me, “Does life really smooth itself out when you have a good job and the love of your life?”

This question caught me off guard and made me really reflect on my life. My immediate response was a resounding YES! But, I’ve had a good job and that same love of my life since I left college. And, it has certainly taken me a while to create a stable life—or “smooth” as my friend would say. The three years since college have been rocked by uncertainty, heartache, and, at times, regret.

As I thought about my friend’s question, playing it over and over in my head, I realized that my life isn’t smooth and theirs rocky. Instead, for the last three years, I battled myself, fighting the need to make compromises. I finally accepted that I can’t have everything and focused on achieving the things most important to me: stability, love, and a fulfilling career.

To have this great job and amazing lover, I’ve given up having friends or family nearby to lean on, my relationships with others are strained compared to what they once were, I hate the city I live in, I have no spare time to enjoy life, and my life has become a monotonous example of adulthood.

(It would take way too long to discuss my path to a stable relationship [maybe I’ll address that in another post someday], but I will discuss the work part of my friend’s question…)

I truly do have an amazing job—one that challenges and inspires me. I count myself blessed for the opportunity. But with it comes great sacrifice. I spend almost 12 hours of my day commuting to and being at work—much more when it’s a particularly busy time at work. Because of the time commitment it requires, I’ve lost the time to do the things that once defined me. I haven’t touched a paint brush in years. My Nikon is perched on top of my desk, practically untouched. And I can’t remember the last movie I was able to watch without falling asleep half-way through because of sheer exhaustion.

Meanwhile, I hear stories of my friends learning and performing salsa dancing, going to the theater, redoing furniture, and editing photos and creating beautiful invitations. For that, I can’t express how much I envy them. As much as it pains me, to get to this stable life, I’ve lost a part of myself. My priorities have changed, and I compromised part of who I am to create the life I want. While I’m happy with my decisions, I still truly miss participating in the activities that calm me and make my soul at peace.

In a book that I’m reading, the author writes “there are so many different ways to be 26.” When I look at my friends, I know that there are so many different ways to be 24. No way is better than the other; they are merely the result of different choices. We each have different priorities, and because of that, our lives are lived under different circumstances. Each of us has given up something, but gotten something different in return.

Although our lives were so similar just three years ago, we have pursued different parts of our lives that lay hidden during college. Today, we are five women who share common memories and a common bond of the past, as we carve out our individual paths for the future.