One Hundred Strangers

In November, I went to a women’s gathering in Atlanta called The Grove (see more here). That night, Jennie Allen, founder of the IF:gathering (see more here) spoke. She challenged us women to live and pursue the dreams God has laid on our hearts. Jennie talked about how our dreams, passions and the things we are good at are all laced together but we have to be willing to go on the journey to find out how God wants to use us in those places. That night, I decided that was a journey I wanted to embark on. So I did. I read her book, Restless, and very rarely could I put it down or stop talking about it. It was as though I was finding out who I was for the first time. It was so good and there were moments of painful memories that I had to work through. In all the pain and “ah-ha” moments, I was finding myself. I was tying all the pain from my past to my dreams. It all connected. God was redeeming my pain. Jennie had us write out a list of sufferings and a list of pleasures. We put those moments on a timeline. Once my timeline was completed, I noticed that at every moment of pain there was a moment of creativity. Who I am was being born out of the pain my past held.  

I always believed I wasn’t good enough. pretty enough. skinny enough. smart enough. I knew that about myself. I thought that I could never measure up to anything that anyone expected of me. Through this journey over the last few months, I have realized it goes much deeper than that. I didn’t think I wasn't only not good enough, but I believed that I was insignificant. My story doesn’t matter and no one wants to hear it. This feeling of insignificance was emerged from the moment my dad chose his desires over me when I was a child. I never wanted to believe that his decision to leave affected me, but, it has + it’s okay that it has because Christ is redeeming it. 

In 2015, our photography business has flourished + we have been so blessed. Between September and October we had 8 weddings to shoot. As I stared at the calendar I told Alex that at the end of these 8 weeks I was either going hate shooting weddings or I was going to absolutely thrive and want to pursue this full time. There wasn’t going to be a middle ground (I know myself enough to have known that). The end of the 8 weeks came and as you guessed, I loved it. I loved hearing the stories of all these couples and families I got to work with. And through my photography I got to tell my audience their stories. I found the thing that makes my heart become alive so Alex and I started praying about what that meant for us. 

That night at the grove, God gave me the vision of one hundred strangers. I didn’t know what it meant or what He wanted me to do with it, so I just held it, prayed over it, and offered it back to Him. As I have gone through this journey of finding my dreams, it came full circle: 

I didn't feel as though I or my story were significant. I am creative and organized. I love telling peoples stories through my creativity and photography. 

I want to tell peoples stories through my photography because I want people to know that their story is significant. I want to be the one to tell people there story is significant because I was never told mine was.  

So. One Hundred Strangers is a new series Alex and I are launching. Through this series we will display the stories of friends and family that we meet. And through one hundred strangers, you will get to hear stories of people that you may have never gotten the change to hear otherwise. Eventually, Alex and I want to take one hundred strangers internationally. Our end goal is to partner with different non-profits and organizations all over the world to tell their stories of failures and victory. 

As I came to this conclusion, a question that was burning in my heart was “why stories? why are stories so important to me?” One morning I sat down with a hot cup of coffee, my bible, favorite sharpie pen & my journal that had plenty of empty pages that were asking to be filled. I felt lead to the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. As I read, my heart leaped for joy and excitement as I was finding my answers and it was as though my pen couldn’t stop writing.

John 4:1-30: Jesus & the woman of Samaria 

Jews & Samaritans didn't talk. Let alone a man & woman. Jesus broke the social “rules” to talk to her. He didn’t allow the world to tell him what was accepted. He followed where the Father led. He talked DEEPLY with her. It was not surface conversation: Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.” . Jesus also proclaimed who He was to her: The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” She was important to Jesus & though she was living in sin, she was obviously significant. Hearing & talking of HER story— Jewish man to Samaritan woman— stirred something in her heart because she went back to her town & told her people of Jesus: Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

Jesus already knew the story of this woman but still took time to sit, talk and listen to her. He knew the story of every person he healed yet he took time to make mud for the blind eyes andtalked to the lame man and the healing pool. Jesus invested & he made people feel significant and known. Yall. He knew Judas was going to betray him yet still called him FRIEND. 

The bible itself is a book of stories. All these stories point to the same plan- JESUS. The bible is also full of people telling of OTHER peoples stories. There is significance and importance in the history of people. 

As I look back on 2015, I become humbled an thankful for all Jesus has done in my life & how He has used me. In 2015, there were hardships and failures but it will not be remembered by those moments. It will be remembered as one of the most faithful, growing years I have had. 

I would have never guessed that at the age of 24 I would be married, own my own business, and be in the midst of living all my dreams. 

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that I may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Growth is necessary + our struggles birth new identity.

And now, I am staring 2016 in the face. Here it comes. Ready or not. Some days, I think I am ready for all these next 365 days hold for me. Other days, it seems a bit overwhelming. 365 days of challenges, hurt, excitement, success, failures, pain… dreams… 365 days that have yet to unfold. Though I believe 2016 may be the best year yet, it comes with scary promises + unknown territory. My desire is to take on 2016 strong + courageous. In the excitement + all the unknown may I see the fingerprints of God woven into every moment. May I desire God’s will for my life above my own comfort. 2016 also comes with new goals: become healthier, get published in a magazine, dare to dream like I never have before and to actually live those dreams.

So friends, here is to 2016, may we dare to ask God to move mountains and to recognize that sometimes those mountains are us