Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Siebel Family Portraits | 2015

Meet the Siebel Family.

I met The Siebels when I was first in College ministry and they were involved. They brought such energy and example. I love getting to reconnect on where life has taken us and capture their growing family in the process.

Here is a look into their mini session in Fullerton.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Defeated & defeat: Our Ethos Fall Kick Off

After our big Fall young adult ministry kick off this week (ethos) a friend stated this in response to my husband and I’s social media: “I love Charles for his positivity and you for your sense of honesty.” Friends, it was so good but it did not go as planned, it was definitely a struggle and my IG post reflected that. Honesty about struggle tends to ooze out of me (to be real & in the hopes that others may know stuff isn't always easy despite how social media can seem). I know it can probably come off wrong but I think it's needed, too.

We’ve worked really hard for this kick off. This was the biggest effort that has been made to bring a presence to local college campus, to invite, to connect with and to create a meaningful space for young adults to engage with God and each other. We’re not “Half-Assers”, ya know? We both work hard and like things done well (this has it’s downsides). We planned, led our team and dreamed along the way. Then it was go time. And the battle was real.

During dinner at our last kick off (we have a tradition of catering with our favorite taco man) I had a dental emergency which took me out for most of the night. This was a huge bummer for me as I was really trying to be so present in my new season of ministry. So this week there was one of those less than awesome conflict/miscommunication discussion between my husband and I (fueled by some hard life things swirling around) that zapped our energy the night before our event. At the end of that I remembered my dental emergency and had the thought of “Crap, there’s going to be something, some tool of the enemy, that tries to get in the way tomorrow”. I don’t usually have these “I sense the enemy” moments but I could feel it this week and it was pretty heavy.

So, it is kick off night and all was going pretty well. Our team is THE BEST and was making the prep happen. I was doing some creative chalk art for the night. I realized we were getting closer to the start time and our taco guy haven’t arrived. They do things in a way that seems kind of haphazard to us but they always show up and do a great job. But it didn’t feel right. About 15 minutes and multiple phone calls later the details aren’t clear as to why but they clearly aren’t coming. And it is less than 1 hour until dinner time. I KNEW IT. This is it. This sucks. We we’re planning on 160+ people and now there is NO free dinner, which we promoted like crazy. And we all know young people like their free food.

In so many scenarios I have found myself to be the one who has to (or puts it on herself to) wear the “problem solver extraordinaire” hat. Part of this is my desire to accomplish/be needed and part of this is my desire for things to go well so people can have a good experience. So, it’s Phylicia is running around fully engaged in do-whatever-it-takes mode time. I am literally running to the restaurant across the street while calling all nearby Chipotle locations and freaking out. Chipotle is definitely a no go. I walk into this small restaurant desperate to see if they can provide ANY food for 160 people. I’m like, “Really, I’ll take anything, I know this is crazy”. This place has been so good to us as a church and the owner invites me back to where he is grilling. He asked me what we were providing and I told him what the taco man included. Long story short he say’s he is calling in help and he is going to make it happen, I just need to go grab a few things at the store. I wanted to hug they guy!

I ran back to the church and frantically told Charles what was happening and that it would be solved. I ran to my car and got on the jam packed freeway and freaked out, anxious about the lack of time we had. I ran into someone I knew at the store who graciously helped me count and bag limes. The ladies at check out were so encouraging once I told them why I was buying 60 limes and so many chips. I was pretty upset and stressed but trying to remember it was already coming together.

So.. it worked out. Dinner was 45+ minutes late. The line for food was way long and crazy. There were more people than expected. I spent 30 minutes pulling burning hot corn tortillas apart to make them go further. But you know what? Over 200 people ate. The night went on. Over 30 new people came from our local college campuses and through other invites. The space was full of meaningful connection and worship. People met new friends. After hugging my husband in the corner as he shed tears and thanked me in relief he gave a great message on meaningful friendship. Dancing, lawn games and photo booth fun continued throughout the night. Our team stepped up in incredible ways to sacrifice eating and hang time to make it all happen. And they spent time encouraging me in the stress and reminding me of God’s provision. And they loved making it come together. And we all celebrated.

So, the enemy sure did try. And it definitely took it out of me (and Charles).
You know what he tried to rob me of? My presence. The things I have been fighting hardest for. We have made some serious choices to allow me to be present in ministry and for us to be a team (quitting my full time job, restoring my leadership and creativity) and I can’t help but think that Satan does not like that. And it made me pretty mad because it definitely threw me. But his efforts were failed attempts. God had a lot of good in store for that space, for the hard work and planning that led up to it and for the people he wanted there. And he so gently guided me back to presence and seeing what He had in store. Yes, I definitely hated that it didn’t go as planned and caused a ton of stress. But people still had fun and I am sure we will hear stories about how the connection made on this night we’re significant for many people.

I straight up felt like a bus hit me the next morning. My phone tracked over 4 miles of me running all over. I was sore. I didn’t sleep from being so wound up. Charles and I went home feeling so grateful but also a little (or a lot) defeated. I am so thankful we both had the next day off of work considering how wiped and useless we were.

Another bit of God’s provision and love? Earlier that week I had schedule a coffee date with a wise and encouraging mentor. I showed up pretty sleepless, on the verge of crying and overwhelmed but 1.5 hours later I was so encouraged, energized, affirmed and comforted (in this scenario and more). This definitely changed the outcome of my day. Again, I don’t always notice the enemies’ attempts or even God’s had at work but I saw God’s grace and timing in this meaningful coffee date, in the amazing restaurant that saved the day, in the friend at the store and in our amazing team.

Oh, and in my sweet husband who was so grateful, encouraging, committed and affirming. We've wanted to be a team and it has taken some serious effort, struggle, hard conversations and learning. While the night was so stressful for us, we felt so good as a team (YAY) and in the way we got to support each other.

Thanks for letting me process this here. Maybe you have felt a tension like this in our recent life. Keep fighting. God has good in store.

Don't - give - up!

... And of course, a recap in photos:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

digitally defined worth.

Have you ever struggled with your worth being based on what the digital world has decided?
Have you decided the worth of others based on what the digital world declares?

I've been thinking about this topic lately. And maybe you are with me.
If you have a business, start up, creative venture, or just spend a lot of time on social media, you might feel the tension. Things like:
  • Why is he/she so valued? Their stuff isn't even that good.
  • Why don't more people like my ______?
  • I guess I am not as good at this or as needed in this area as I thought.
  • They have it all together, post the best stuff and everyone likes them. 
  • I should do things more like them.
  • Maybe I should scratch this idea since it hasn't gained many followers.
I am concerned for how comparison and social media validation bring ourselves down, but I might be more concerned with how we lift people up too high.

Like many areas of our life, we have to keep our thoughts in check.

Do you ever stumble upon an instagram account and see that it has 67.5k followers and decide you MUST follow it and be enriched? Like this is a new source for all things to do, eat, quote and share?
Do you stumble upon an account with 408 followers and brush it off?
I am pretty sure I have done both.
And I am pretty sure I have let other people's digital success make me feel like I have less to offer.

I'd encourage you to keep a few things in mind today:
  • Perfect is the enemy of good. You have something great to offer. Don't let someone's great defeat yours.
  • The grass is greener where you water it. Don't just follow others. Water your own stuff. Decide what you value and why. And keep at it.
  • Social media is about as reality as reality TV sometimes. It can be a great place for depth, relationship, encouragement and real life BUT it can also be so deceiving, addicting, discouraging and misleading. Their marriage isn't perfect, their home gets messy, they have ugly sweatpants days, they feel insecure as well. And whatever, they aren't you (or me).
  • Who are your people? I am guessing that before social media, most validation came from friends, family, peers. Of course there was till comparison but I bet it wasn't flying in from 1000 angles. Do you lean into the leading of God, people closest to you, people you trust in your field? Decide where your source of healthy advice, feedback, worth and direction comes from and check in often. We all need reminded that we're noticed, we matter and that we're capable of good. 
  • Less than flawless is good. Do you really desire for your IG feed and life to look just like theirs? Or, what is your level of great? Where is God leading you? What makes you proud? What do you enjoy? Their great isn't your great. Be you, fully. And be real, too. Authenticity is deeply needed.
  • Digital worth isn't the true factor. Remember where your worth is rooted. Remember that everyone discovering you and "liking" you isn't true worth. Remember they are not better than you because they have a trillion followers. Or, you are not better than them if you have a trillion followers.

I attended the Yellow Conference a few weeks ago. It was named after flowers. Take this in:

"A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms."

While this conference has much to do with marketing, social media, branding and image it also speaks deeply of worth, individuality, creativity and being healthy. I am so glad for that in this over saturated world of competition and false identity. 

B L O O M. 
Do YOUR thing.
Go, be you, boldly.
The world needs what you have to offer. That includes those right around you - not just the big digital world that gets you (or me) a lot of likes. 

I'd love to hear how you keep you worth in check or your story with this struggle...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cultivate + Create | part two

In the past ten months I have done A LOT of processing on what happens next in my life. Specifically how I spend my time (read: a form of work). I've had times of lack of interest. I've run through interest in so many things. I've started applying for jobs. I missed the cutoff for the first job I actually felt stoked for. I've wanted to have margin to do ministry with my husband. I've felt defeated in that. I've wanted to pursue my creative side (photography) as a more front running thing. I've wanted to just not make a decision. I've gotten really excited and then I've felt totally unmotivated (in the matter of one weekend). I wanted margin and then the lack of clarity was hard. Most of this has been influenced by what I feel I am supposed to do.

But. I am so thankful for this time. I've wrestled with my own doubts, insecurities, passions and ability to be present. I've had a lot of really good, supportive, "me too" conversations. I have had time to grab lunch or coffee with great people. I've enjoyed grocery shopping. I've made our home more homey.

But maybe the most important thing is that I've reconnected with me.

I am following God's lead into a rhythm of cultivating who I am, a presence in where he has me and exploring without restraint the creativity he has put within me. What does this mean? I am not totally sure but but you have to start somewhere, right?

I've fought off the idea of having a separate Facebook, Instagram, etc. for my photography and other ventures. It's like the cool thing... have a space where you get a lot of likes for making yourself look good. Now, I am not totally opposed to that concept. I know that is smart business and marketing. The part I struggle with is everyone creating a space to be known for something. Like we all have to be entrepreneurs with some start up non-profit or creative business. We are not ALL called to that. And I don't want to give in to that notion.

But here I find myself, telling you I have created Cultivate + Create on Instagram and I will utilize this blog space as well. I don't really know if it will last and how it will play out but here's why I am choosing this...
I have spent a lot of my like forcing myself to function a certain way due to different job requirements or commitments I have said yes to. I have sacrificed much of my creative/people loving side to do "important" things (my own problem here) and downplayed much of what gets me pumped.

Now I want to undo that (much due to the needed push from my husband). I want a space where I can freely foster my own creativity, thoughts and learnings without flooding my other platforms with this journey (we all know there's so much out there we don't care to follow). I want my personal instagram account to remain daily life kinda things. This Cultivate + Create space will be stories, words of my journey and learnings, photography, things I create, things I see as pretty and things that I feel the nudge to share.

I need to do this for me. I don't want to annoy people who aren't interested in this journey on my personal IG feed but I want a space where cultivation flows freely. Also, I don't want this to be about how many followers, likes or comments that I get and Charles will be here to keep me in check. But, maybe it is a place you find beauty, encouragement or relate to. That would make me excited! Maybe you are not interested at all and that is ok. That's the point. If people want to follow along, great. If not, I want to be good with that. I want this to be about exploration, connection with others and a free space to let myself wander. And to see what God has in store.

I was just at The Yellow Conference and one of the speakers talked about how we have to write and share our gifts despite the fact that someone is better than us. There's a lot of people who know more, take better pictures and do cooler things than I do. BUT there are also people out there who I know might will find encouragement, hope or something beautiful when I stop downplaying and start living fully in who I am.

Today's disclaimer: I hope none of this sounds prideful but rather speaks of less restraint on who I am and more freedom to simply be. 

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being my people and support.

Go and BE YOU.