Archive of ‘30. Be genuinely at peace’ category

On Happiness

My five year blogging anniversary is coming up soon. Which means, five years ago, I woke up and realized I had everything I wanted but I wasn’t happy. Not in a something is wrong, UNhappy kind of way – just in a restless, unfulfilled, purpose-less way.

And so I started this blog around the concept of never letting life pass you by, living intentionally, and constantly pursuing happiness. I hoped that blogging would keep me accountable to this pursuit. And, I guess it was successful, as I dedicated an alarmingly selfish amount of my life these last five years to pursing my happiness – to learning, to adventuring, to loving, to eating, to creating, to helping.

Andrus Williams Photography

During my blogging journey, I’ve talked to so many of my peers who face this similar restless feeling. Growing up, my generation was taught that we could do anything, be anyone, change the world. We went to college with ambitious dreams of how we could leave our mark on humanity.

In many ways, we’ve accomplished what we thought we wanted. We’ve entered the career we want. Or we’ve found the spouse and the kids we dreamed of. We’re emerging as the active figures and leaders in our communities and churches. And yet, it doesn’t feel the way we thought it would. So, we desperately cry out to figure out what God’s plan is for our life; what our purpose on this Earth is. Surely, it must be bigger than this.

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I’m currently reading a book – Restless by Jennie Allen – about realizing your purpose, contentment, and happiness, specifically in the context of fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.

As I’ve read it, I’m realizing that for once I actually feel purposeful, settled, and content in this little life I have. I always thought it would be some big finish line I crossed; some big accomplishment. But, it seems it crept up on me without my awareness. (And, how ironic that the most content time in life comes at a time that it is also full of pain and frustration. Never have I better understood the lyrics It is well with my soul.)

It finally hit me that my sense of purpose and happiness came about when I stopped searching so fiercely for it. Instead, it came when I started pursing God before myself. When I stopped worrying about me and my contribution and my legacy and how it all makes me feel.

I used to think of Christianity as hard – so many dos and don’ts, too many rules, and too many things to fail at. As I’ve matured in my relationship with Christ, I so plainly see now how simple his life, death, resurrection made it for us. Love God, love others, go into all the world.

Andrus Williams Photography

That’s it. That’s our purpose on this Earth.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not complicated. And there are a million different ways to fulfill this purpose. It’s going to Ethiopia to feed the hungry; it’s taking dinner to your neighbor. It’s starting a non-profit for at-risk youth; it’s volunteering in your church’s nursery. It’s entering full-time ministry; it’s praying for your community. It’s helping start an orphanage; it’s adopting; it’s raising your kids the best you can. It’s doing – using your time, talents, energy, resources – for God.

Instead of getting tangled up in the details, worrying whether it’s enough, and trying to overcomplicate our purpose – thus losing the purpose and contentment altogether – focus on loving God fervently, loving others always, and going into this world and doing for the Kingdom. However we can, wherever we can, whenever we can.

Real Life

One of my friends texted me that it has been exactly 3 months since my last blog post… And that was several months ago…

I tend to go through blogging dry spells whenever there are negative things going on in my life. I feel inauthentic when I’m in these dry spells, because I’m only sharing the pretty, sparkly, wonderful parts of my life. Painting this picture that all I do is go on vacation and watch pretty sunsets and bake cookies and drink coffee.

I think so many of us are guilty of this – sharing the best parts. The pictures of kids smiling – not the melt downs. Posts about celebrating success – not the work and stress that went into achieving that milestone. Pictures of perfect relationships – and not the work, fights, tears that went into building that bond. And can we really be blamed? Who wants to the world to know about our dirty laundry?

But that “other” part – the unshared part – that is what’s real, raw, vulnerable, deep. That’s where we make real connection with others. That’s where God moves mountains; saves us, transforms us.

I’ve felt convicted lately to step out into my vulnerability. To own and share all parts of my life – not just the pretty. And hopefully, through that, God can work.

Real Life

Real life is messy. And complicated. And overwhelming. It’s tears, and stress, and not knowing how you’re going to get it done, and spilled coffee, and dog hair. Oh, the dog hair everywhere.

And for me, real life right now is infertility. It’s been several months (about since my last blog post) since we got the confirmation of what we had suspected for years. I wouldn’t say I handled it well. At all. I’ve gone through every negative feeling out there. Twice. And then maybe once more.

By holding onto this, I’ve let it rob me of so much.

For months, it robbed me of any hope and optimism. With each piece of bad news, it is easier and easier to sink into the Mind Spiral of the Worst Case Scenario. WebMD didn’t help with that either, I might add.

It has interfered with my friendships and relationships with family. So many people have reached out and offered support – but I just didn’t (don’t?) know how to accept it. In one moment I am so desperate to talk about things, and in the next I am resentful that someone wants me to talk about it. That’s not fair, to anyone.

I’ve let it rob me of the chance to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same struggle. Through my experiences so far, I’ve learned that so many women face infertility. It’s not a lonely battle – even though that’s exactly what it feels like when you’re in the middle of it. Why is this such a hush hush topic? Why do we not feely share it? Why do we condemn our sisters to silently struggle after us?

I’m by no means at the end of this journey. I’m still standing right in the middle, with no clear picture of how things will progress. I definitely know I’m still in for a whole lot of “real life” and all of it’s complications and mess.

But, I hope to do a better job of sharing that real life.

I hope to accept support and to connect and to repair relationships.

I hope to have hope.

But one thing is certain – I’m not holding onto this anymore. It is God’s now – and His opportunity to move mountains, to save, and to transform.

June 9 | We Live Here

June 5th marked two years of living in Dalhart and living in this house. When we moved in two years ago, I was not excited – to say the least. After renovating the house in Farwell, loving every inch of it, and spending some of the happiest days of my life in that house, it was hard to move into a new house and a new life.

Two years later, this house and city are starting to feel like home.

So, it was fitting that the photo a day prompt a few days ago was “We Live Here.” As I took the photo for that day, I was excited to feel a sense of happiness and peace that this is the stage where my life plays out.

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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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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.

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