Sunday, November 29, 2015

Help Portrait: A Free Community Portrait Event.

If you've been curious about this event, here's the why and the details...
Want to know more about Help Portrait and what we're doing? Check it out here.
You can share this post or our Facebook event. 

I am a photographer but if it weren't for the photographer friends I have I wouldn't be able to afford what photography cost.
Maybe you can relate.
Or maybe you've never had a portrait taken because of limited finances, lack of opportunity or even just a lack of worth to do so.
Maybe it has just been a while.

Whatever the case, I (and the team) believe in the value of photography and that everyone deserves a great portrait. That's YOU.

So, you are invited. And we'd love for you to spread the word. Who do you know who would love this opportunity?

Saturday, December 5th | 9-11am.
Hillcrest Park (entrance on Lemon and Valley View) in Fullerton.

We will have a team ready to welcome you, snacks and more. Just check in with our team and join the party!

You can head to the portrait station for you free portrait. This can be an individual, family, your children, with a friend, etc. It's up to you! (*due to supplies one portrait per party will be provided unless otherwise specified).

Within a few minutes your portrait will be printed for you.
After the event the digital image will be provided for download if desired. 

We hope to see you there.
Questions? Send us an email

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Work it Wednesday: Thrive | Live a rich life.

My goal in this season has been to reconnect with my creative side, reconnect with my calling/leadership in ministry and not get ahead of God.

I am stoked on this season of exploring new creative hobbies and being consistently engaged in photography again.

But in reconnecting to my best investment in ministry it has been so great to see what God has given opportunity for.

Honestly, sometimes it is hard to feel like my investment in ministry matters simply because it is not my (paid) job. I don't need monetary value to want this role. I am so thankful I get to partner with my husband in a ministry were both so passionate about. But without a title and a paid role I often times don't feel valid. But I continue to fight those thoughts and follow God's lead in the ways I can best invest myself.

So our first Ethos Ladies Night was born. On a long car drive Charles and I talked about what I really want my investment to be. I knew it wasn't just attending, helping and having good conversations. I want to build into the women of our ministry. I want to share my story, connect with theirs and offer what I can to help them know Jesus deeper and live a healthy life. So I started dreaming about a gathering for just the ladies. Not just a gather in someone's living room and paint our nails and make ice cream sundaes kinda thing (although I think that can be awesome too), but a night to really build value into them and create meaningful connection. So I started looking for a meaningful space that would be pretty and engaging and I started praying about what God wanted shared in this space.

The idea of THRIVE emerged. My heart desired for these women to not just get by but to live a full life. You know how people come up with snazzy acronyms in their lessons? I'm not that snazzy. But I started thinking about the comments that make up a thriving life and when I mixed the letters up they spelled RICH and I loved it! It fit my thoughts and prayers for this night. Not in a monetary, cushy, fabulous way but in a fulfilling, enriched and deep way.

The theme of THRIVE: Live a R.I.C.H. life was made up of:

  • Remain: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5. This is one of my favorites. And I think it speaks of how much we have to gain when we stay close to Him. Not just in the easy but in the hard, in the unknown and in the great.
  • Integrity: What happens when no one is looking? What happens when things aren't smooth sailing? What happens when were tested? What happens when we don't feel like obeying, loving or forgiving? I think integrity is such a vital aspect to thriving. It's a constant despite challenge. Not always easy but brings refinement, growth and fruit. 
  • Community: I am all about my sharing life. That's part of why I blog. But I know I couldn't get through life without those close to me or even new friendships or social media connections. God uses people to bring growth, comfort, wisdom, a kick in the butt and more! I know I need all those things. And I know we can't thrive alone. 
  • Healthy Habits: This kind of goes with integrity but I think it is so vital. What foundation are we laying? What guardrails have we set for ourselves? What have we committed to, even when it isn't easy? Habits aren't always second nature but they can become them when we're continually committed. Think exercise, time connecting with God, weekly catch up times with friends, holding back unkind words towards your spouse, putting away your clothes at the end of they day... 
As I planned this I knew I wanted to invite other women in to share their journey, wisdom and encouragement with our young ladies. It was great! They prepared a homemade meal and shared as God led them along the lines of the theme. 

I certainly hope (and think) it was a success and the ladies were encouraged. They made new friends and connections, heard such valuable & honest words from great ladies, made a beautiful necklace to take home as a reminder to thrive and hopefully experienced God's deep love for them. 

All that feels like such a success to me. But I am so humbled at what God did in my heart in this space. Each of the women who were involved in the evening were such an encouragement to me. With their presence, excited commitment, affirming words to me, willingness to share honestly and there love for these young ladies; I felt so loved. I felt affirmed in how God led this evening, in the opportunity to exercise my leadership and in a chance to connect with others in a meaningful way. 

This evening was meant to pour into these young women but I know I grasped a little more what really thriving looks like thanks to each of them. I am so thankful for a space to engage my gifting, for such great young women to connect with and for the ways I do not see that God is at work. I went home exhausted but with such a joy for how the evening unfolded. And even as I type I am realizing that much of that peaceful joy was because I got to lead/connect in an avenue that aligned my passions and wasn't forcing a different outcome from me. So good, healing and encouraging and I am thankful. 

Some quotes from the valuable women who poured into the evening:

"Go forward where He has led us while remaining true to how He has created us" 
"Know Him deeply to live life free as who He created you to be"
"Thriving isn't about what you have or do, it is who you are & how you're connected to God."
"I am approved. I am accepted."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Marriage Monday: Just as we are.

I have had quite a few conversations this week with people at all different stages.. Newly dating, married, struggling through their career, etc. In most of those conversations one of the major struggles is the hard stuff. But not just because it is hard. Mostly because it looks different that the what others are navigating. And that is probably mostly because we can't see their hard stuff.

I just saw photos added "5 years ago" on Facebook from when Charles and I were first hanging out - before we were "anything". This got me thinking back on our dating journey. Our story was unique, as each. But often times we question things because they don't look like what someone else is experiencing or has experienced.

Sometimes the temptation is to think I should be more like someone else, or that my husband should be more like someone else. Of course there is always room for us to grow as individuals and as a couple. But when I compare, criticize and start to expect myself or my husband to me more like someone else he gently and yet firmly invites in grace and content. I am me and he is he. We are we. This is our relationship and our journey.

I hope with each decade of marriage we look back and see that we've believed in the person each other is. I hope with each decade we embrace the moments/seasons of messy and the journey God has us on. I hope that with each decade I learn to lead with grace more like my husband.

I imagine the more I learn to trust Jesus as the person he has created me to be, the more I can roll with the punches and love people as they are, especially my husband.

He reminds me to take a deep breath.
Here's to our journey.
And here's to yours.

Lead with grace.

One of the first photos we took together:


*Note added by the husband: often these post are basically fresh conversations in the Stoicu home. So, welcome to our journey.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Less plan, more presence.

I don't have an outlined plan for what is ahead as far as my "career" or life in that way. I've had something I have been fully committed to for most of my 20s, but not now. And it is hard. But people around me so kindly remind me what I've chosen, why and that it is good when I freak out (which is relatively often).

My plan?
Don't plan (too much).
Make room what what I love.
See what opportunities arise.
Trust where God has led and is leading.
Say yes where I want to.
Be present.

Right now that looks like 3 projects I have said yes to and focusing on those yeses. The present. Not making it about what could be next, what could make me feel more important and what I should do. Focused on now, opportunity, learning. They look like:
  1. Ethos Ladies Night. I am pretty excited for this. While I was physically present in our Young Adult ministry, I didn't feel present in any other facet. And being connected to people is my thing. This was killing me (due to previously mentioned burn out, not the right fit job, etc.). Charles and I had a long talk on a road-trip this summer about what my investment looks like in a way that is my best leadership. I knew I wanted to cultivate my heart for the young women in our community. Through that conversation came a few dreams but the ability to start with this event. And it is almost here. I am pumped to spend time getting to know, encouraging, sharing stories and having fun alongside these women. I am pumped to create a space where they can be known and get to know others. I am pumped to speak into their worth, how to thrive and draw closer to Jesus.
  2. Help Portrait. I've really wanted to host a Help Portrait event. I love this organization and how it empowers photographers and willing people to offer their good. I saw the founder speak recently and his honesty, passion and encouragement blew me away. Plus, this organization is where the idea came from for the past 2 years of The Photo Project in Kenya.
  3. The Downtown Fullerton Art Walk. I am so stoked for this. Share and Do Good (check them out!) asked me if I would be their featured artist for December. PUMPED. I love them, the store and am so excited for this opportunity to share photos/stores from our Kenya trips and more. But this is a big deal to me because in this season of wanting to engage my creativity I wanted to ask them if I do art for an event BUT I was too scared. What if they think my photos are lame? What if they want "real" artist? What if.... But they contacted me. And I knew it was encouragement from God as I dream but keep letting fear win. I am grateful for that nudge.
All that to say..
If you're dreaming about what life holds for you next and you are unsure, focus on what life has now.

Where can you say yes that aligns your passions?
Where can you say yes that creates opportunity?
Where can you say yes that allows you to learn and grow?
Where can you say yes that allows you margin, freedom and space to dream?
Where can you say yes that invites risk, potential, adventure?

In this season of margin, creativity, freedom and alignment of passions, I am still so hesitant to try, fail, learn and risk. So I am reminding myself, and maybe you as well... don't give up, try, fail and be ok with it, live life fully engaged. In order to dream we have to be willing to look dumb, make mistakes and take risks.

I'm trying. It's not easy, but there is a lot of good and I know there is way more good ahead.

If you are on a similar journey, I'd love to hear about yours and the yeses you are making (or want to).

Don't give up!