half dome

IECn7OtHSOerS8McL6qRhw.jpgOver the summer, I felt a spark of excitement and anticipation to volunteer to be a leader with our high school youth group at church. After hearing Austin, our high school pastor, preach at church, I knew I wanted to dive into life with these high school students. My experiences at the two high schools I worked at as an athletic trainer and teacher were incredibly fulfilling and as I have settled into my passion for teaching at the collegiate level, the stirring to be involved with high school students has remained.

Following some meetings and trainings, I began attending youth group nights and the final pool party of the summer and found myself excited to jump in even further. Fast forward to this weekend. A last minute shift in some schedules created one last open spot for a permit to hike Half Dome with four seniors and Austin. Knowing I hadn’t been hiking regularly and days following this invitation, slicing my knee open on a boat propeller, I questioned my readiness and ability to be on the hike and truly contribute to the “team’s” expedition. Then, mix in being sick the week before we were set to leave; to say there weren’t moments of panic would just be a lie. But I knew this was an experience I would regret passing up and joyfully (with some big doubts) agreed and began to mentally prepare.

From my perspective, the plan to join in the festivities of our church’s high school group was this: meet them where they are in life and celebrate, challenge, support, encourage, and be present for and with them. The key words were: FOR THEM. I truly anticipated that this experience would be all about them; I didn’t spend much time considering an additional purpose. I now know God had and continues to have a deeper plan for what He is showing me through their lives. This weekend’s trip to Yosemite to hike Half Dome was a humbling start.

I’ve completed the hike to Half Dome twice prior to this trip. Mind you, those were both trips during college which has now been 10+ years ago (oh dear goodness that adds some years to my life just writing that sentence)! I considered that it might feel a bit different due to life circumstances and the fact that I am less in-shape than I was in college, but I also tried not to dwell on that concern. I continued to lean on the hope that God would provide me the strength to endure. Thankfully, He absolutely pulled through.

The first half of the hike was definitely harder than I remembered; the steep slabs of rock making the path up to Vernal Falls quickly followed by more uneven and jagged rocks leading up to Nevada Falls—Apple accounted for a total of 322 flights of stairs climbed on this expedition, just to put into perspective. The views did not disappoint but the heavy breathing sure began to add up. Thankfully, we all continued to trek onward, laughing and telling stories and asking each other a mix of fun and serious life questions. Just before noon we reached the summit and began to climb up the cables.

The cables themselves were much scarier and riskier than I remembered and about halfway up, I turned back to Austin who was a few people behind me on the cables and shared my panicky concern with my knee to be able to descend down the cables. Thankfully, he encouraged me that it’d be okay, that “he and the team had me covered,” and we’d figure it out no matter what. I think that is what God reminds me of daily—He’s totally got me and He will pull through if I trust Him. After some quick deep breaths and some short but pointed prayers, I continued to ascend to the summit. As we approached the final steps beyond the cables there was a mix of excitement, joy, and exhaustion. One of our students shared that he couldn’t truly enjoy the top as he feared the descent down the cables—preach dude, preach! I felt the same way! I didn’t remember feeling that tug of emotions—such joy and accomplishment but not fully celebrating due to FEAR. I wrestled with a lot of emotions on top of Half Dome this trip that were far different than those I remembered experiencing on the past two treks. As we realized we had spotty reception on the top, a few of us texted and called loved ones to tell them we had made it!  I remembered both times I had previously  summited Half Dome, I had called my parents house line and my Mom answered–something in that exact moment I realized would never happen again. Momentarily, I was hit with the overwhelming feelings of devastation, defeat, and sadness—grief is like that; it hits in waves, unexpectedly. As I wiped the tears from my face and tried to call my sister and my dad on their cell phones, both calls failed as my service wasn’t strong enough. It was in that moment that I regathered myself and asked for God to show up—it was time to lean on faith and the teammates that were in front of me.

After taking an exuberant number of awesome photos (thanks to Austin for bringing his amazing, professional grade camera and lens), we began the adventure down the cables and I have to say, it was far more FUN and involved less effort than I had feared. The mix of hikers coming up the cables and those coming down were so polite and so kind—everyone was looking out for the person on the next wooden 2×4 step and communicating with one another to make sure everyone felt as safe as possible. One hiker even commented that it had played a role in reminding him that there are still great people in this world that support and truly encourage one another—AMEN!

The miles following the descent off the cables proved the hardest (physically and mentally) for those of us that were at the back of our six pack. I was struggling with my knee injury still healing, another with some pretty gnarly blisters, and another with physical fatigue and mental exhaustion. To say the trek down the mountain was “fun” and filled with the same positive vibes that we started with would be a bit of a stretch. Thankfully, as we all regrouped, Austin continued to fuel our positivity and slowly, the morale of the group came back to where it started. We were off the trail and we had all successfully FINISHED the hike to Half Dome. WE DID IT!

It’s hard to truly capture the experience the six of us shared in a fairly short (okay, long) blog post. There isn’t enough blog space to share all the details about the car rides up and back and the music from the Greatest Showman sung at the top of our lungs and the history lessons sparked by the Hamilton soundtrack along the way. Those will all have to be filed away in our memories, waiting to be shared with friends and family, as they ask about our favorite moments from our weekend excursion.

Reflecting on the hike and this trip as a whole, I absolutely feel God’s hand not only over this trip, but in my life. I pray this experience was as meaningful for the other five individuals as it was for me. I thought I came on this trip for these students, to be a chaperone and to “lead;” in reality, God had so much more in store to show me. He is here and He is for me. I can’t wait to see what He has in-store for this year ahead. Here are a few things I think God showed me this weekend:

  • The risk is worth the reward.
    • It’s been an ongoing challenge the past few years to dive into experiences that feel scary and risky and unknown; however, they’re proving to be worth it!
  • With the willingness to dive into a “calling” comes immeasurable fruit.
    • It might be scary and sprinkled with speed bumps, but the willingness to say YES has absolutely produced something within me that is undeniably joyful.
  • It’s okay to be scared.
    • I’m learning that having fear is not the defeat but rather the unwillingness to truly weigh out the risk that is involved; life is truly not “safe.” We can take precautions that are smart and calculated but ultimately, we have to be willing to take some risks to experience the beauty and the magic life on earth has to offer.
  • Grief hits in waves, in moments that you might never expect, and it’s OKAY.
    • You can’t map out grief and the emotions that accompany the process of losing someone you love deeply. Grief is not linear and moments of intense emotion are normal—I’ve experienced multiple times that it’s possible to recover from them, manage them, and continue to live in the moment.
  • Love and appreciate your body for ALL it is and all it does.
    • You (like me) may not love every inch of your body, but celebrate ALL that it can do and accomplish. It’s a gift to be able to hike and move and walk and run; show love and appreciation to the bones and muscles and ligaments and tissues that allow you to MOVE vs. shaming the parts that are less flattering.



IMG_4229Prior to departing for the Linden Clover photography retreat back in May, we were asked a series of questions by the leaders. They wanted to know more about us—where we lived, our favorite snacks, our experience with photography…one of the questions was, “what do you like to photograph?” I responded that I loved photographing the ocean, mountains, taking portraits of family and friends; I suppose it wasn’t a question I had thought too much about prior to filling out this Google form—I just knew I loved photography!!! I shared that among my top favorites were (and remain to be) flowers and nature. We chatted about this at the retreat, as the leaders were a bit surprised! They had never really come across multiple people who loved taking photos of flowers so passionately.

I’m not exactly sure when my love for photographing nature began, but I know for a fact my mom loved taking photos of flowers, especially the roses my Dad grew (and continues to grow today) in their garden. She would take pictures of roses as they bloomed, send them out for development, and put them in a frame or hang them on the refrigerator. I constantly find myself gravitating toward flowers, butterflies, birds, and most recently, dragonflies.

This week, my sunchasing adventures led me to Descanso Gardens, twice, and I must say, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. I went there hoping to find inspiration and encouragement and left with so much more than I could have planned or hoped. Obviously, you come to a garden knowing that there will be an abundance of beautiful flowers, plants, landscapes; what I didn’t expect was the opportunity to capture dragonflies and butterflies. I was left speechless as I followed the most beautiful dragonflies I’ve ever seen. Vibrant shades of orange and blue, their translucent and strong wings were absolutely breathtaking. I sat on a beautiful wooden bench, awe-inspired and filled with the utmost gratitude to witness these beautiful insects.

Some friends and family know that dragonflies have become an extremely special and meaningful symbol since my mom’s passing last August. Every time mIMG_4218y niece and nephew see a dragonfly, they exclaim, “Oh look! It’s a messenger from Mimi! Hiiiiiiiii Mimi! They’ll fly around, hear what we have to say, and report back to her in Heaven!” The joy and excitement of these kids and the love that bursts out of them is not only contagious but necessary. I, too, find myself filled with joy and peace whenever a dragonfly is present.


adventures in texas

IMG_0634.JPGMagnolia. To some, that word sparks an image of a beautiful flower; to others, it conjures up an image of Chip and Joanna Gaines, HGTV, Fixer Upper, the Silos, and the couple’s passion for community, demo, and shiplap. I have to tell you, it was everything we hoped it would be and even more!

Not too long ago, Kristine and I vowed to take a minimum of one “sister trip” per year, just the two of us. It might be a city away, or the central coast, or it might be across the country. Either way, we settled on the idea that we needed a minimum of one trip per year and I’m so glad we did.

Our most recent trip was to Texas! We stayed in Austin and spent a day in Waco, checking out the Silos, hoping to spot Chip or Jo (which apparently does not happen often). Our three days included lots of laughter, amazing food and drinks, lots of walking, a rooftop pool, some tears, and some unexpected occurrences. I have to be frank here (no pun intended, of course…insert chuckle) and share that over the course of this past year, I’ve discovered that I consistently struggle with altered plans, unrealistic expectations, and a desire to limit discomfort for myself and my loved ones. I suppose it makes sense, considering what life has entailed the past handful of years. From a rental car issue, to multiple lost items; from mixed emotions, to 102 degree, 70% humidity temps in Waco; from a sudden, drastic shift in weather that included copious amounts of rain and some mild hydroplaning on the freeway, to a two hour flight delay, and finally ending with sprinting through the airport to make a connecting flight, the best word to summarize our trip was adventure. Needless to say, I learned a lot on this trip. Perhaps one of my favorite moments of the trip, besides our downtown explorations and time at Magnolia, was sitting across from Kristine in the Austin airport, scrambling to make new plans and determine all our options: we both went straight into planning mode, no questions asked and no hesitations. We rocked that strategizing time.

In a little shy of two months, we will make yet another sister trip to the Mid State Fair in Paso Robles. I feel incredibly blessed to even type that sentence, as I know many friends and family members do not have the opportunity to do the same. This time around, I look forward to entering our trip with an open mind and elasticity to allow for whatever may come our way. 🙂 Cheers to sister time.

Lessons that I am taking away from my time, with my number one partner in crime and this trip, are these:

1.) Life, and trips, are never what we fully expect or envision in our own minds: there are bumps and twists and turns; sometimes hydroplaning, sometimes moments of unexpected, deep emotions, but that does not equal “bad” or failure. It is my deepest desire to learn how to embrace the ability to more easily adapt to alterations.

2.) Life is sweeter when we celebrate one another’s differences and unique traits; to love our individual passions, desires, hopes, and expectations and share them with those we love most.

3.) Love and joy and celebration must start from deep within. Others can support our journey to finding happiness but it is up to us to create and foster it within, leaning on faith and confidence in the man/woman God created us to be.

chasing the sun

Flying Caballos Ranch, Linden Clover Workshop, Sunchaser Edition

Photo Courtesy: Linden Clover

One week ago, I spent 48 hours at Flying Caballos Ranch for a photography retreat hosted by Linden Clover in San Luis Obispo. It was 48 hours of meeting new gal pals, lots of tears and lots of belly laughter; of dancing in a barn and learning photography tricks and tips. Most of all, I think it was about the friendships gained—16 women who came together to share in the same experience and brought different perspectives to that ranch. They brought their photography wisdom and shared it without hesitation. There was no competition for best photos but rather joyful squeals as girls shared their images. It was about encouraging each lovely lady to shine through their images; to capture their best ones and share them and celebrate them; to cheer and clap when a wonderful image came on the screen and to share thoughts about what might have gone wrong with the aperture or shutter speed.

While the excitement and desire for beautiful images captured behind a lens was what brought us together, it was so much more than a photography workshop. We heard from a few different gals about their story of “making it” in the photography or graphic design realm; we heard the hearts of those two fearless leaders in the treetop hot tub about how Linden Clover came to be. We listened intently and cried and laughed along with each girl as they shared their answers on the first day to three seemingly simple yet incredibly profound questions: 1.) What do you love about yourself? 2.) What are you struggling with? 3.) Why are you here?

Those three questions were so many things: awe-inspiring, heart breaking, encouraging, motivating…It really hit me when so many of us struggled and felt so awkward at the challenge in answering what we love about ourselves. While some were brought to smiles and others were brought to sobbing tears attempting to share something they loved, person by person, we did it, and we supported one another. We clapped and cried and laughed and cheered.

It’s hard to capture the entirety of that two-day photography retreat, but what I can leave you with is this: I am changed and I am grateful beyond words. Until next year, Sunchasers!


becoming a bookworm


Photo Courtesy: Widewalls

Bookworms. People who love reading, who get lost in a good book for hours on end and struggle to put it down. I am becoming one of those people and I’m excited!

A more flexible schedule in this current season of life has allowed more time and space for multiple areas in my life. The main area being family time, closely followed by friend time and third, more time and space to enjoy hobbies again. One of my favorite relaxing activities to do alone is read. It’s become my norm to come home, sit on the couch and desire a “mindless” activity—usually watching TV. This isn’t bad in it of itself; however, I’ve been determined to spend my days and evenings a bit more purposefully. Don’t get me wrong- I love my weekly shows with the time and date set to record if I’m unable to watch. But I’m talking about those moments when I simply turn it on to “pass the time” or because I am simply bored. I’ve recently reignited my love for reading, a large variety of novels. In the past seven years, I finish an average of two or three books per year for enjoyment. I start the process of picking up a new book, beginning it, and then quickly find myself losing interest. That quickly correlates to stepping away from reading for enjoyment and filling my time in other ways. Since June 2016 when I took a step back from sprinting through life, I’ve finished nine books. That’s nine books in seven months compared to two or three over the course of 12 months. I’ll be the first to humbly cheer myself on for that new accomplishment 🙂 I LOVE READING!

I remember being a student in elementary and middle school, sitting through SSR: Sustained Silent Reading. Some days I enjoyed it and others, I loathed it. Being forced to sit and read…I could pass. We had reading logs and reading homework and…MORE READING. Today, I’m so grateful that reading was something I stuck with and was forced to “endure” at a young age. I also wasn’t always the best reader. I struggled with reading at even a remotely consistent pace, with phonics and pronunciation and reading comprehension. It was frustrating and limiting to the point where my parents, bless their hearts, scheduled multiple tutoring sessions to encourage growth in my reading. It was embarrassing to read out loud; to confess I had to read something two or three times before I remembered or even processed what was written on the pages in front of me. Today, I’m fortunate enough to have learned tips and tricks from so many different teachers and professors and feel blessed to not only be a better reader, but also enjoy sitting with a good book and a delightful cup of coffee, for pure enjoyment. There is always room for growth and improvement if we are willing to endure hurdles along the way.

There’s something about getting lost in a good book, intrigued by the characters and storyline. I spent years as I was beginning my career in athletic training and teaching feeling guilty about reading anything other than a textbook or a manual pertaining to an athletic training or kinesiology topic. Why would I allow myself the space to read a book for enjoyment when I should always be striving to better myself as a professional in a particular career? Little did I know that by providing time and space for reading “non-academic” books I would be directly improving myself as a person and professional. I’ve more recently allowed myself the time and space to get lost in books and it feels incredibly rewarding. I’m setting new goals for my reading and I’m almost as excited about these goals as I am for fitness or nutrition or professional goals.

I’ve read various articles about encouraging children and adults to set aside time in their busy schedules to read for enjoyment. They are articles pertaining to encouraging young (and older, too!) individuals to become life-long readers. A few years ago, an article in the Washington Post shared 5 key habits of life-long readers. Let me share them with you!

  1. Dedicate time to reading, regardless of busy schedules
  2. Confidently select books based on interests
  3. Share book references with friends
  4. Have a reading plan: look beyond the book you’re currently reading
  5. Allow yourself preferences based on author, genre, and topic

I think life-long readers are generally more capable of expressing themselves, both written and orally, and are stronger communicators. I’m sure there is research on that as well; however, I will not be diving into that in this post. I’m grateful for the time to read and reflect and begin writing again; I hope you might join me as well!

broken pieces

seashellsBeach week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I love the quaint wood-covered beach house. I love waking up to sit on the porch and drink a mug of delicious coffee while reading or simply enjoying the morning as the fog rolls away. I love the short walk that can be made barefoot to the sand. I love having beach hair, wearing no makeup, and wearing a swim suit as my main attire. Most of all, I love having family all nestled together in one place.

Earlier this week, my niece Brooke and I delighted in playing where the water meets the sand. We’d sprint up the sand only to turn around and sprint back into the waves. And by waves, I mean where the white wash rushed to the sand. She was hesitant to get wet—probably fearful of being washed away by the powerful monsters called waves. Little by little, she warmed up to the ocean and by the end of the afternoon we were knee deep, jumping and running and tumbling into the water. We also walked along the shore, collecting seashells. I love seashells—always have, always will. It was so fun to see Brooke so enthralled by every shell she came across. She’d yell, “Auntie!!!!! Auntie Pookie!!! Here!!!” as she placed each shell proudly in her sand bucket. What puzzled me for a short moment was how she would pick up EVERY shell: the broken ones, the full ones, the shiny ones, the dull ones. Every. Single. Shell. I thought about it for a few moments, silently. I usually prefer to collect only the whole shells, the most beautiful ones. And as per usual, it led down the path of yet another contemplative life moment.

Life is a lot like seashells, I think. Every day is a new adventure. Every season, the possibility of new memories to be captured and held closely. Life, when seemingly perfect, is to be cherished and the memories collected, like seashells resting on the sand. But that’s the thing about life: there is nothing perfect. No years where there is no heartache and suffering and challenges. If we waited for seasons in which there were no waves—no speed bumps—to enjoy and celebrate and cherish, we’d be waiting forever. That reality is one I have begun to accept and also learn to embrace. When expectations of what life is supposed to look like turn to moments filled with hope and gratitude for what is, that is when we can fully appreciate every season, no matter the waves it brings.

I have always loved picking up and collecting shells for as long as I can remember. The vibrant beautiful shells, colored with coral and orange and blue and silver. I love finding that rare sand dollar that is impeccably round. But this week, Brooke helped remind me that there is a special beauty to the imperfect shells—the broken pieces, the cracked shells, that still contain the most beautiful of colors. And those are to be collected, too. There’s something victorious this week, I have found, in celebrating the passing moments in life where everything is just as it should be, even when it looks nothing like what I planned. Collect the broken pieces, the chipped shells. Don’t be so entranced in the search for the perfectly shaped shells that you miss the beauty of what is in front of you.


IMG_0052 - Version 2Two years ago I moved to Paso Robles, California. I sought a new beginning. I sought adventure, continued professional growth, and the desire to immerse myself in a new community. All of those things have occurred over the course of the last 24 months. It is with a bittersweet heart I share that I will be moving back to Southern California during the summer. I have made the drive back to LA more times than I can count to visit family and friends, all of whom give me joy, hope, and a sense of “it will all be ok.” Paso has given me more than I could have imagined, as well. In one word, Paso has brought me healing. I don’t say that to mean I’m perfect and completely made whole, or any other cliché’ statement. I say that to mean that Paso has brought me all of which I had hoped and wanted it to. I have met some incredible people here, and am honestly sad to leave. But I also know that Paso will be one of my forever homes, a place I found more confidence and trust and a community that has become like family. I imagined myself staying as long as I felt called to remain, but the time has officially come following the completion of this school year.

I left Southern California realizing I used to think I NEEDED my family, my parents especially. That, without them nearby, I might not succeed or be confident or be able to “get by” on my own. What I have discovered over the past two years is that I do not necessarily need them to survive or thrive; but I WANT them. I desperately want them to talk with, to share meals with, to laugh and cry and question and debate with. I want them physically present to celebrate life’s greatest joys while sitting in life’s messiest and most heartbreaking realities. It has been one of the most heart-wrenching years of my life thus far—and I’ve been through quite a lot leading up to this last March! But more than any other details and challenges and obstacles and fears, I have concluded that I want to cherish the time I have with the two people who have given me life. They are far from perfect; but they are absolutely the most loving, kind, do-anything-for-your-children parents I could ever imagine.

Last year I was hit HARD with the reality that my parents will not always be around. That reality alone consumed multiple nights and showers filled with tears. It’s one thing to think about; it’s another to be dealt a hand with an aggressive cancer diagnosis. I have sat in the questions of “am I moving or leaving out of fear” or is it really worth leaving a job I absolutely love, in a community I love and have grown close with; the security and safety of a full-time job (two, in fact!) and health insurance and benefits and retirement. Even as I type this, I stop and say….REALLY!? And then I ask for peace of mind in the decision that is to be made—to stay or to go. And I am consistently led back to the word “go.” Go cherish moments and memories. After all, what value does a place of living give if the people I want to spend the most time with are not present?

While family has been a large part of this decision to return to the LA area, I have also spent ample hours of my life asking myself what it is that I want professionally as well. Ever since I left APU, I have envisioned myself becoming a future “Phil Ford” or “Chris Schmidt” of an athletic training education program. While that is a passion and something that is extremely exciting, what has also been a vision and strong desire on my heart is to establish a program similar to one in Ohio at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, here in California, that has an athletic trainer as the lead to create plans and programs for pediatrics oncology patients returning to sport or physical activity, or simply a normal active life.

I can honestly say I have no idea where life, or rather God, will lead me next. While my faith has been shaky and I have been challenged this past year, I remain hopeful that He will provide, that He will pave the way and be a lamp for my feet in this season of life. Paso, you have been wonderful to me and I will never forget the lessons and memories I have made. I look forward to visiting and maybe some day even returning!

highways and hindsight

highwayEvery Fifteen Minutes has impacted me more than I could have imagined. Four days after the event was conducted at our high school, and the images of (fake) blood, shattered window glass, and a staged funeral are still as vivid as they were on Wednesday. This event led to multiple meaningful and insightful conversations with students and faculty, and even family members. It deeply affected me, as I know it has for many others; and I am so grateful it has struck a cord- it NEEDS to.

Highway driving can be so enjoyable and just plain fun. But I have recently been repeatedly reminded of how dangerous it can be. Car crashes, posted articles, young deaths. Last week, I was nearly in a head on collision, heading northbound on highway 101 when a vehicle driving southbound landed in my lane.  For reasons unknown, the driver plowed through the median area filled with flowers and soil, causing a dust cloud. Before I could even process what was happening, I witnessed the car flip at least once, roll, and land tire-side, facing me, in my lane. I was lucky enough to have seconds to react and respond, pulling as far right on the highway as possible, and dialing 911 not knowing the extend of injuries. I was close enough to see airbags deploy; it was beyond terrifying. I still do not know how the driver and possible passengers are doing, but I wonder every day.

So today, as I traveled from LA back to Paso, I was sobered and reminded that those driving in front, behind, and beside me are someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, or friend. They all have a story of their own. Let’s commit to being considerate, concerned, engaged and alert drivers every time we get behind the wheel. Let’s commit to making our highways safer. No distractions, no texts, no posts or updates; no phone calls or fiddling with the GPS. It all can wait. And if it can’t, commit to pulling off the road. PLEASE. There is nothing more important than arriving at your destination safely- NOTHING. A traffic ticket or accident or collision will take longer than the 5 minutes saved by multitasking while driving. It’s just not worth it.

Some “accidents” truly cannot be avoided. But so many can. If you are over 21 years of age, have a designated driver. Enjoy beverages responsibly. Commit to driving sober. As the woman from Every Fifteen Minutes said about driving under the influence, distracted driving is also a choice. They are not “accidents” that occur due to alcohol or distracted driving; they are collisions, as it all stems from a choice. Choose safety today, for all of us.

portraits, playtime & profound moments

There is something sweet and rejuvenating and inspiring about capturing authentic beauty behind a lens. Carly is a senior who recently finished her studies at Cal Poly SLO and will be walking at graduation this spring. I was lucky enough to capture her senior photos prior to her graduation. We spent a whole afternoon exploring Paso Robles, visiting vineyards and flower fields, making new memories and laughing every moment along the way. It was a day unlike any other and so much fun!

I met Carly a few years back, after I moved to Paso for my new job. She was one of my first authentic, genuine and free-spirited friends here on the central coast. I’ve absolutely loved getting to know her and spending time sipping wine, running on beautiful trails, and sharing hopes, dreams, and daily excitements.  She is a beautiful soul, not entirely knowing her true beauty both inside and out and it was an absolutely joy capturing her behind a lens.

These are just a few photos  I think capture Carly’s authentic, natural beauty and glee–I hope you enjoy!

Carly, I wish you nothing but pure joy, success, and plenty of adventurous days in your future.  Remember, you are more precious than rubies.

Go Mustangs!

IMG_9718 IMG_9786 IMG_9391 2 IMG_9407 IMG_9453 IMG_9519 IMG_9550 IMG_9589 IMG_9785


rediscovering vulnerability

Summerland, CA  Photo by Kelly Franks

Summerland, CA
Photo by Kelly Franks

A new year. A new page, a fresh start to write letters and words and phrases of what is to come. But before that happens, I have honestly been off the grid for so long, I haven’t even taken the moment to reflect on the whirlwind of the last twelve months. There is something about closure and tying off loose ends that feels….good, and necessary. To unfold the last twelve months and all that has transpired would have been multiple pages and journal entries and blog posts that just never happened. Cancer updates, road trips, travels to LA, summer adventures, more cancer updates from friends around the country, crazy student stories…the list goes on. Despite a deep yearning and desire to write and reflect through pen and page, I think there was also an arcane fear of letting words and emotions and thoughts flow freely from within. For someone who has loved and thrived on vulnerability in previous years, this has been a year of not fully understanding and processing all that has encapsulated the wondrous workings of my mind. All that being said, I still believe there is something so profound and sweet about sharing process and struggle and victory with those surrounding you. My goals for 2016 are to reflect more, journal abundantly, blog more consistently, capture more photos on my exquisite DSLR camera, and simply ride the waves of emotions as they come. So, here we go!

As I ventured back to the Central Coast this weekend, I prepared to return to the “working life” routine. Following a much-needed two-week hiatus of family bonding and relaxation, I decided to go to church on Sunday morning. Usually this wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary; however, this was one of my first Sunday services in over two months. It would be easy to say it was due to travel and busy schedules and conflicting times. But let’s be real: if you want to go to church, you can and will find a way. It’s been freeing and also challenging to admit that truth, and also the truth that this has been a season of sickness, sadness, heartbreaking news, (drizzled with small victories), and God has felt quite distant in it all. In the midst of troubles and turmoil. I have clung to whatever glimpses of hope and joy I can possibly find and yesterday happened to be day when returning to church felt easier, rejuvenating, and more inviting than weeks past. For that, I am extremely blessed and grateful.

Yesterday’s sermon was the last teaching on the book of John for the year. There were two points that really connected with me personally and I finally allowed myself some space to reflect on paper. The first point was sparked through a statement that read, “God uses failure.” For some of you reading this post, church and God and Jesus may not be a part of your life. But I can guarantee failure has been, and will continue to be, a part of your life. Failure, to me, is the reminder that I am fighting, that I am living and trying and creating and expanding my abilities. Failure can actually be ok, dare I even say, good. Furthermore, I’d like to think it’s the recovery and new attempts that say even more about one’s character.

This point on yesterday’s sermon notes led me to the question, “What has God taught you through failure?” As I paused to reflect on this question, the one thought that kept coming to mind was marathon training. As a woman who has now been running (in some seasons, more miles than others) for over 16 years, I have recently felt like my training and inability to run in weeks past is a failure. It has been frustrating and sad and even embarrassing. But yesterday morning, as I sat in the wooden pews atop the favorite ABC green carpets, reflecting with my favorite pink Papermate Ink Joy pen, I was able to see a few positives that have resulted from this speed bump. When I stopped and asked myself what I have truly gained, I realized it’s in the moments when something is taken away that it is most cherished and appreciated. My love and appreciation and pure JOY for running has not always been present; it has felt like a chore to wake up early and log multiple miles at times during this season and previous ones as well. But when my body literally rebels against me and tells me a strong, “NO,” it’s in those moments I remember why and where my love for this sport and activity came from. I think I almost forgot for a few years how much l love to run, especially long distances. The tranquility and feeling of adventure—mixed with the accomplishment of finishing! And add a running group like the guys and gals I have met through Team World Vision and the “Rose Bowl Running Crew” as I like to call it now, and you have the perfect recipe of why runners are such a special breed: friendly, outgoing, compassionate, energetic, a bit crazy, and enthusiastic.

The second point in the sermon today that really spoke to me was the idea that God partners with people—we are coworkers with God. We are not self-made nor are we alone in this journey. We have friends and family and community alongside us. That point has been more than true in my life, especially in this season. I have had multiple friends call, text, send snail mail and letters; the community God has surrounded me with, both geographically and metaphorically, has been crucial. I can’t begin to imagine doing life alone. I was further reminded of this reality when I was at home at my parent’s house over Christmas Break. As multiple neighbors dropped by Christmas gifts and cards and asked about Mom and how she and our family was doing, they also repeatedly asked how they could help and what they could do for us. They reminded us of how long we have all lived on the same street and lived life and community together and wanted to share in our cancer journey with us, in any way possible: soups, cards, hugs; it warmed my heart. Even now, it reminds me of Acts, and the first church ever formed. It wasn’t an organized church made by four walls and a building and designated meeting place and time. Rather, it was a community meeting each other’s needs, sharing meals, working toward a common goal. Today, I am grateful for that reminder. Letting people in, being vulnerable, can be a scary thing, but it can also be extremely rewarding.

As I close these ramblings, I’m not 100% where my blog posts will lead in 2016, but I can type one word to capture my heart and mind in it’s current state: HOPEFUL. I am hopeful for what God has in store for 2016. May it be a joyful and prosperous year for you and yours and may you feel purpose and hope each day of your journey.