Roller Coasters and Faith

Wow.

Do you ever have those seasons where life is like a roller coaster? Up and down, up and down; almost nauseatingly so. Just when you think it’s settling, maybe slowing, it jolts you around a turn and you find yourself facing a dizzying series of vertical loops. Your stomach drops and your heart stops.

I’ve been caught up in that the past few weeks.

With my brother in the Marines, Thanksgiving was missing a vital presence. Offhand conversations have upended seemingly stable situations. My beloved grandmother took an unexpected ambulance ride, and is now in the hospital until the doctors decide she can come home. My relationships have suffered from the strain of these trials. My health and rest have disappeared. There are times I feel burnt out—nothing but a husk of who I used to be.

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Through these difficult moments, there are things I’ve held tightly to. People who care for me deeply enough to drop what they’re doing and sit with me. Friends who offer prayers, hugs, and advice. A God who gives peace even to the stormiest soul.

Thankfully, I’ve also had the pleasure of living some incredible moments of peace, rest, and joy.

Catching up with dear friends who were far from home and missed dreadfully. Encouragement from people I respect. Laughter with my family. Promises of help, no matter how hard things get. Enjoying the beauty of creation. I’ve been liberally given grace. Options. Love. Trust. Honesty.

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Those experiences are ones I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. They are my ports in the storms of life. Reminders of how incredibly blessed I am. Reminders of the gracious Savior I serve. Reminders that His plan is perfect, even when my life isn’t.

On a roller coaster, you often only see as far ahead as the next turn. What parts of the ride you can see are convoluted and disconnected. Life is no different! So I will hold tight, knowing that I am being supported by a network of family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. They hold my hands, keep my head above water, and lend an ear whenever I need it.

Even more relieving to know, is this:

I am supported by my father in heaven. Rest and peace are his domain. No trial is so difficult that he cannot sustain me, and no sin is so grave that he will void his love and grace. He lends his strength liberally, and seasons even my worst days with joy.

I trust that when the time is right, the roller coaster will slow to a halt. I will look back on this experience and see the things I learned and the ways I grew. Until then, I will continue to rely on the people around me, and my relationship with my God.

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eDSC_0051P.S. The photos in the post are from a recent excursion with my dear friend Lauren, one of my invaluable friends. She has supported me selflessly through this, and never fails to encourage and show me God’s love. Thank you, Lauren, for your friendship and your wise words. You are irreplaceable. 

Also, go read her blog here! She recently wrote a post about our friendship that made me cry.

Loneliness

I’m incredibly relational. If you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably picked up on that. I love spending time in deep conversation with people I respect and love!

Lately, however, I’ve been busy. I’m working 50 hour weeks between two jobs, plus a full credit load. I’ve literally made myself sick (and lost my voice) from stress, exhaustion, and lack of sleep.

I long for times of rest, to be with those I love. But they are far away. Whether they’re across the state or across the country, the people I normally recharge with can’t come alongside me this time.

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I’ve struggled with loneliness for months now, since my brother left for boot camp, school picked up, I started another job, etc. My friendships have nosedived. My parents and I hardly find time to talk. I feel isolated.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded that God is using this time to call out to me, and I’m so busy trying to keep my head above water that I’m not listening.

“Erika!” He says. “My precious daughter, you are never alone. I am right beside you. Why don’t you see me? Why won’t you come to me?”

As terrified of being alone as I am, I haven’t been relying on the most constant, trustworthy presence in my life. I have isolated myself. Cut myself off from the power I need to sustain me, and to get me through this busy schedule; the power that is inside of me already!

I’m working on it. Reaching out. Begging for help. Trying to remind myself that I’m not alone, because I have an incredible and powerful God who can’t wait to do life with me. He will never leave me. Even after failing him every day of my life, he still calls out to me every single day. Is that not amazing?

Honestly, I haven’t gotten it all figured out. I’d love to say that after wrestling with this, I’m now at peace.

I’m not.

I’m closer. I’m praying more, and spending more time reading the Word. At times I’m in awe, and at times I’m in tears. Day to day, I’m trying to not rely on myself, but to let the strength and peace of Christ fill me.

Friends, let me pray the same for you. I hope that as you’re reading this, you’re reminded of aspects of your life where you need his strength and his peace to fill you.

My advice? Let him. He’s calling out to you too.

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P.S. The photo isn’t of me, but my lovely friend Mehgan, as you may remember. 

Donnie and Rebecca [Engaged]

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Six weeks ago, when I sat down with Rebecca, I didn’t know anything about her or her fiancé Donnie. I wasn’t sure what to expect from our first meeting at all! Were they eclectic? Quiet? Fun-loving? Loud? Laid-back? Quirky? Romantic? Shy? A confusing combination of them all?

Rebecca and I had intended to discuss details for the shoot, and I was hoping to also get the chance to find out about her and Donnie’s story. I had a few questions mapped out, and I knew she did too, so I assumed we’d meet for maybe an hour.

We ended up spending well over three hours chatting about writing, history, and other shared interests over coffee! I came out of the meeting with not only a great client, but also a new friend.

Now, flash forward to the actual session, last Saturday. It was a lovely, sunny day, and I really enjoyed spending the evening photographing this sweet couple. The autumn colors were magical, the day was warm, and a strong breeze kept it crisp enough to feel like October.

Donnie and Rebecca, thank you for inviting me to capture this special time in your relationship. You both have incredible senses of humor, love of life, and love for each other. I wish you all the best for the rest of your engagement, and the rest of your lives!

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P.S. More of Donnie and Rebecca’s photos can be seen on my Flickr page! 

Life is like Leaves

Autumn to me, is a combinations of adventures and memories. It’s walks in the woods, apple picking, and the intoxicating smell of spiced baked goods infusing the house. It’s the chilly breezes that chase away summer’s humidity. It’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, and the vibrant colors right at home.

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One of my favorite things about fall each year is watching the leaves change through the season. It is incredible. They start slowly, as if shy. Here and there, a solitary tree will burn with color, but most lack the courage. Warm shades tint the leaves with nothing but a gentle, timid touch for weeks.

Then suddenly, everything is ablaze. 

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I was surprised by the grand reveal this year. I am every year. While I thought I was watching for them, the changes drifted by unnoticed. I was so focused on the one tree that outshone the others or the one which lagged behind, that I forgot to notice the overwhelming beauty of the whole.

That is true in so many aspects of life. Do you agree with me?

Just like I don’t notice every leaf changing, I am too often so focused on the minute details of my life that I forget how overwhelmingly beautiful it is, as a whole.

Can you imagine what it is like? While you are upset because the your work “tree” is still stubbornly green, God has created a masterpiece around it. While the “leaves” of your relationships don’t have the color you long for, you’ve missed seeing the outcome of God’s artistry in other areas of your life.

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Sometimes he doesn’t work in the way we expect, or prefer; but he knows what he’s doing, and he works for our good.

I want to remember to be constantly amazed and delighted by everything God has done in my life, and the perfect way they work together. I want to step away from my worries and my to do list for a moment to praise God for the splendor he has created, and is creating, in me.

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P.S. Did this post encourage you? Challenge you? Do you disagree? Leave a comment below! I’d love to chat. 

Niemeyer Family [Family Portraits]

I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to spend the afternoon with the Niemeyer family on Sunday. When my friend Marissa asked if I would take their family photos, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I don’t think they were either!

Though they said a few times they weren’t used to having family photos taken (the last time was over 8 years ago!), they were wonderfully photogenic and relaxed all day. They chose to go to Aquinas College, because they loved the significance of having the photos taken while Marissa is a student there. The location was ideal, and they even pulled off a perfectly stylish, complementary look. Hooray!

Not only that, but it was a joy to get a peek into their family dynamic. The three ‘kids’ are witty, charismatic, and fun, and it clearly comes straight from their parents.

Now, of course, the photographs. Meet the Niemeyers!

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And of course, no siblings can keep straight faces forever! Love this outtake.

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Niemeyer family, thank you for the wonderful afternoon!

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