Too Many Hats

Focus

For my entire life, I’ve struggled with trying to wear too many hats.

No, not literally. (Though that would be a pretty funny problem to have!)

I’ve tried to do everything. To be good at everything. Some days, I’ve moderately succeeded. Other days I’ve miserably failed. I’ve spent years trying to perfect being a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, a good Christian, a good employee, a good musician, a good girlfriend, a good cook, a good hostess, a good sister, a good writer, a good listener… the list goes on. I’ve tried to be well-dressed, well-spoken, and well-mannered. I’ve tried using lists, getting up earlier, dividing my time differently, and any number of ideas that are supposed to help you live your “perfect” life.

I’ve always known that doing everything was impossible. Not only for me, but for anyone. The people I look up to so much for their incredible abilities, gifts, and passions have accepted this lesson and are devoted to saying no. They say no frequently and firmly. They say no to so many great opportunities in their lives, so that they can leave space for better ones.

Over the past few years I’ve slowly embraced the concept of actively saying no, and passively letting go.

It’s entirely bittersweet and to be honest, I’m never quite positive I’m making the right choices. But, uncertainty aside, I would not be where I am if I held so tightly to everything I once tried to be. I’m working two jobs and pulling an almost full-time college load year-round, which leaves little room for anything else. I’ve faded out of many friendships, I’ve shelved my half-written novels, and I’ve allowed my hobbies to gather dust.

Let me tell you, that can be painful. I want to do everything! Fortunately (though sometimes it feels unfortunate), I know myself well enough to recognize that trying to do everything isn’t healthy. I have to focus. I have to be where I am right now—even when that means saying no to good things. I’ve focused my energy on fewer things… in the hopes that I can do them better.

It’s hard to choose “which hats to wear”, but anyone who wears them well knows that carefully choosing is essential. Saying no can sometimes bring peace, healing, and purpose into an otherwise hectic and scattered life. I know that throughout my life, I will be in a constant state of saying no to good things. But I also know that if I keep my heart open to God, those “No”s will not detract from my life at all, but instead enrich it.

Friends, spend some time today thinking about what God may be prompting you to say no to.

All the best,

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Alainya and Joshua [Engaged]

Today, I braved the drizzle to shoot engagement photos for one of my oldest friends, Alainya, and her fiancé.

I’ve known Alainya since I was four, and though we’ve drifted through various stages of friendship over the years, it’s been amazing to see her grow up.

Alainya is a beautiful, dynamic, and quick-witted woman. She shows amazing determination and works hard at everything she puts her hand to. I’ve always been amazed by her natural poise and tenacity! Over the years, she’s explored her various passions, dropped everything to travel the world on mission trips and with YWAM, and matured into a beautiful woman of God.

Despite having natural assurance and beauty in spades, I’ve never seen her as radiant and at peace as I do when Joshua is by her side. She simply glows.

Alainya, it was an absolute privilege to be able to capture the relationship that you and Joshua have. I am thrilled for the two of you, as you take this next step in your lives together! I wish you both all the best.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

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You’re Not Pretty

If you read the title and felt offended, I’m sorry. I’m really not putting you down, I promise! It’s actually a direct quote someone said to me.

Given, he was three.

The other day, a boy I nanny and I were discussing how pretty the clouds were, as they caught and suspended the rosy light from the sunset in the still-blue sky. In response to his questions, I explained why the clouds were “funny colors”. We agreed they looked pretty.

“What else is pretty?” I asked him. He pointed at his drawing on the fridge, smiling proudly. Laughing, I asked “Is Mama pretty? Is Miss Erika pretty?”

He shook his head. “You’re not pretty, you’re Erika!” At first, I was offended. Then I remembered he was three, and I tried to consider it from his perspective.

IMG_9611 copyTo him, colors are pretty. Art is pretty. Flowers are pretty.

People? Not so much. People are nice, silly, and smart. I dwelled on his comment long after he’d moved on to running laps around the house in the fading sunlight. Why should pretty define me? I am so much more. A quote from Britt Nicole that I’ve always loved addresses that:

“We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong.”

Preach. I don’t want to be defined in the term “pretty”. I want to be known for who I am. I’m not pretty, I’m Erika. And Erika is, and can be, so much more than pretty. Sharp, driven, caring, intentional, wise, brave, encouraging. I don’t need to strive for pretty, because pretty is a step down.

Neither do you. You are so much more than pretty.

Isn’t that freeing?

With his simple, straightforward, 3-year-old wisdom, my little man gave me a precious reminder of who I am, and what I am not. That kid is going places.

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P.S. Don’t mind the bad quality selfie… that’s about all I can get my energetic little boy to sit still long enough for these days.

Spring Exploration

Ahh, the smell of spring is sweet and fresh. The snow has (mostly) melted, the birds are singing, and here in Michigan, we’re trying not to get our hopes up. (Because you never know, next week could bring more snow….)

That being said, I have loved this spring so far. Earlier this week, Lauren and I each had a day off our respective jobs, and we decided to spend it taking some photos and wandering downtown Grand Rapids. We started off getting a fresh bouquet from Stems Market in Grandville, then headed to Rowster Coffee to start the day with a delicious cup of coffee and good conversation. I hadn’t been there before, but it was great! I highly recommend checking it out, if you haven’t. I just asked for a sweetened latte, on the instagram recommendation of Julie from Whimsy + Wild. It was delicious!

After Rowster, we spent some time at the GR Downtown Market, got our second cup from Madcap, and wandered around downtown a bit.

Not pictured: getting lost, thrift shopping, and dinner at Marie Catrib’s.

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Both photos of me were taken by Lauren. No tripod action this time!

Where Does Comfort Come From?

comfortLately, I’ve been thinking a bit about what I naturally turn to for comfort. The first few things that flew to mind were:

  • Tea
  • Books
  • Keegan
  • Hugs
  • Friends

As I sat there thinking about the security those things bring, I wondered why—even when I try to fill my days with things that ‘comfort’ me—I still have such a need for it!

I find I usually need comfort in times of exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety. As I was talking with my brother on the phone the other day, something he said stuck with me: “I don’t need surety, I need to trust.”

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Trusting God fully is difficult for me. I may have mentioned that before. (Like here.) I like to see situations under control—whether by me, or others. When I relinquish the reigns of my life to God, I struggle because I can’t always see what he’s doing. Of course I know he will never neglect to take care of me, but living out that knowledge with faith and trust is another story for this anxious girl!

I’ve been realizing more and more lately that the things I turn to for comfort are all good, but they ultimately fall short of healing my wounds.

In fact, there is only one who can truly comfort me. God longs to re-mold my heart to heal the wounds and fill the holes with Him!

But He is waiting for me to trust Him. To stop floundering through my life trying to heal my intangible hurts with tangible means.

Day by day, I’m learning to let God lead me. I’m learning to trust Him. I’m learning that my first steps toward true comfort should be to look to the one who can heal my deepest wounds once and for all.

So today, I’m choosing to draw my comfort from my trust and faith in God, rather than from earthly means.

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P.s. Thanks to Pen and Peplum‘s #52handlettered Instagram challenge for getting me started thinking about this topic!