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! 

The Impact of Hello

Sometimes you never know the impact you have on someone. Other times, they’re brave enough to tell you.

This story came to mind again recently, and I thought I would share it. Many years ago, when I was starting high school, my friend’s younger brother was pretty obnoxious. Let’s be honest: a lot of boys are, as they enter their teens. He was loud, rowdy, and his sense of humor didn’t mesh well with the general public. Endless energy wrapped up in oversized t-shirts and braces. Pretty typical.

One day, I decided that I was going to be nice to him. It was just a challenge for myself, honestly. It was self-righteous.  I did think everyone deserved the benefit of the doubt, but I was focused on being a “nice person”. A “good Christian”. I didn’t set any high expectations, just to say hello, and smile. Not to roll my eyes when he acted up. Actually listen when he talked.

After a few months, I began to find myself enjoying the time I spent with him. We had real conversations, and I began thinking of him as the little brother I never had.

Still obnoxious, but in a familiar, special way.

One day, out of the blue, he asked me: “Why do you talk to me?” It caught me completely off guard. I never considered talking to him to be something unusual. When I asked him what he meant, he explained.

“The rest of [my sister]’s friends just ignore me or make fun of me.”

Ouch.

Yes, I’d initially decided to be nice to him for my sake, not his. But the friendship had eclipsed that decision long ago. I now talked to him because I enjoyed it! I asked how he was doing and I really listened. I cared when he told me who he liked, his plans for the weekend, or what he wanted to do in life.

I hadn’t realized that reaching out to him would affect him in a way he would recognize. I hadn’t thought that God would use my self-righteously-motivated action for real life change. I didn’t think I had anything to offer. Just a hello.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

How often are we annoyed by people who aren’t exactly “our type”? We ignore them, and choose to see only what we want to. No gifts, just gripes. We refuse to look deep enough to see the beauty with which God has steeped their soul.

If I asked for a show of hands of people guilty of this, I’d have to raise mine too. I have shut people out of my life, and swept past some that needed my love, compassion, or friendship. I regret each and every one of those times. I will never know the effect I could have had on their lives, or what their friendship could have taught me.

Today, I want to challenge all of us to take off our blinders and find out who needs us to reach out to them. To see them. To simply say hello.

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