Our Wedding: May 26, 2018 North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

One of the most cherished memories I have of our wedding had nothing to do with how great the food was, or what kind of dinnerware we had. They are about all the beloved hands that came together, hiking up and foraging in the mountains of Hawaii, multiple times, to pick all the greenery and meticulously put it together, the hands that brought the sentimental items from different parts of the world, those who found all the tables and linens, went to every Target on Oahu collecting the exact candles, and all the cherished hands that worked together creating the exact intimate wedding I wanted, dripping with flora, overlooking the beach I walked for many years.

The “I do’s” and our first moments on the beach as husband and wife

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The amazing people who pray for us, and who surround us with love on this journey.

Family,

And some details I just didn’t want to leave out…

I couldn’t leave out the black and white edits. They’re beautiful.

Thankful this path led to you.

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Leaving Room for Miracles

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Fear of failure, the gaping black hole that steals so many promising dreams. What my life will look like in six months I truly have no idea, and the amount of conversations I’ve had about this very concept are plentiful; most look at me in either complete awestruck amazement due to the amount of courage this takes, or I get a look of bewilderment and incomprehension of why anyone would risk everything. I have no exact end date to my world travels, and as I step forward into what often times feels like deep waters, a single stepping stone appears. Sometimes appearing in the split moment before I feel like I’m going to lose balance, tumble in, probably hit my head on the way down, and drown. I was like most for a good long while, in that I had an idea of what my life would be and I had created a pretty cozy safe life for myself. The problem was no matter how much I attempted to convince myself that I could feel content with my life the way it was I couldn’t shake an unquenched desire to search for more, to find the gold in life with the unique life I was given.

For those who are venturing out and pursuing a new goal or direction in life because internally you know it fills your soul and has the ability to touch others , take the risk. Step out in faith and courage. When you step out in faith you are creating a space for miracles to happen.

This is where God works mightily, in the appearingly void spaces of the unknown, in the risk. I’ve had several conversations with those who feel a void in one way or another, but you have this one amazing idea that could bless either yourself or those around you. I wonder if that is where God is waiting to show you just how mightily He will work in your life, on your behalf. What if He is waiting for you to move, to step out in complete blind faith, not knowing the outcome. What if He wants you to choose the possibility that could lead great failure and no provision, a crushing fear for many, because this is where His great sovereignty lies, over outcomes only He can control. This is where this piece of His Greatness is revealed and He desperately wants you to see Him, to trust Him. My pastor once said it is easier to turn the steering wheel of a truck when the truck is moving, but have you ever tried to turn the steering wheel of a truck that is in park, it’s not so easy. God wants you to be courageous and move, even in the struggle, He may be calling you to keep moving. If you have a heaviness in your heart that you want more, that you want to see the gold in life, this maybe you.

For those of you who have a friend in the midst of taking huge risks in life, show up. Be there. Love them when they are celebrating even the smallest of milestones and achievements, and love them even more in their failures, reminding them of who they are and celebrating that. Love them more when they are completely discouraged and their heart is hanging on by a thread; when they are down to one mustard seed of faith. When they want to give up remind them of how God sees them and be a listening ear for their pain and then their new ideas. This has been my saving grace in this journey, my friends and family overflowing with so much loves it spills onto me. Those who get excited with me over the smallest of things, and celebrate with me through words, calls, or messages, the astonishing adventures I’m embarking on and relationships that have been built. The (mostly women) in my life who have sent me constant encouraging words and reminders of truth, and have been a listening ear, your strength and perseverance is humbling. Thank you is an insufficient phrase. I love you does not express enough.

For those of you who have opened up to me, I will always write back. I am thinking about you, I am praying for you, and I am rooting for your success through Jesus. In the unknown, in the risk, the miracles lie. Step out, and leave room for miracles.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ” Hebrews 10:24-25

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus did.” Romans 15:5

“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“but if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. He preforms wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:8-9

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Women Empowering Women

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During my explorations in New Zealand’s South Island, where I spent over a month exploring, I decided to visit local churches and walked into Elim Church in Dunedin. I was immediately welcomed and befriend by some loving, extraordinary women. They invited me into their homes, fed me, and together we shared pieces of our lives and stories. I was asked to share my story to a women’s group within the church; I’m usually not much for any form of public speaking, but I felt prompted and said yes before the words “no way” could escape my mouth. This was one of those raw moments that, like a domino effect, led to other women opening up, sometimes despite the tears streaming down their cheeks. These are the pivotal points in time we as women can choose to really support, uplift, and empower each other in both emotional and practical ways.

I started out feeling nervous and realizing that no one in this room really knew me. In those first moments, I was unsure how I would be able to relate to all these different women when I had no idea who they were and what their experiences have been.

“My life hasn’t turned out the way I wanted or ever expected it to go, and I thought I’d share a piece of my story with you, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.” As I began with those first words to just lay it all on the line, I saw every woman’s eyes I looked into, looking back with complete connection, understanding, and waiting with expectancy for what I was going to say next. I went on and talked about my achievements, my heartaches, my disappointments, and why I walked away from a good paying career to explore the world and at least give myself a chance to pursue things that fill me with passion and a sense of purpose. (If you want to know more about this please read my “About” page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.)  I talked about faith and what that looks like when God hasn’t given you the life everyone else seems to have and you so badly wanted. I talked about how I hear God, how I’ve listened to Him asking me to step out of the boat, then feeling like I am sinking. How in this entire adventure I am stepping out not knowing where the next stepping stone will be or when it will show up. Similarly, how the Israelites were called into the wilderness and continually cried out to God wondering if He brought them there to die because they too felt like they were walking blindly with everything resting on their faith and trust. How Hagar was cast into the desert with a child and had to lay Ishmael down under a bush to die because they didn’t even have water. I shared about my confusion in this season and how here I sit, amongst a group of women speaking about faith, and I myself am unsure how I am going to keep a roof over my head.

Most importantly I shared how I saw God show up, sometimes at the very last minute, every time I made the first move to step out, and take these huge risks. I’ve always chosen to walk forward until I see God close the door; and then sometimes He opens a window and I crawl my way through that. He is always there, and He always answers in some form. God always provided for the Israelites and a spring of water for Hagar, in the last moments. Ishmael thrived and grew into a great nation. God ALWAYS provides when we follow His promptings in our journeys; sometimes it just looks a bit different than we expected. I shared that I really do believe our lives are made to be stories of God’s mighty work, and for there to be room for Him to truly reveal Himself there has to be great imperfection, lack, and despair. There has to be a need, a deficit, for Him to fulfill. Our stories aren’t just for us to have this outwardly appearance of a good life. Our stories aren’t just for us at all, but for God to reveal Himself through us to the world. Our ultimate goal shouldn’t be to have a cookie cutter “good” life, but to connect with others through the life we have and share our stories.

After I shared my stories we had great discussion. Multiple women opened up about the heart-wrenching struggles they are facing and have faced in their own lives, and how they too have lives that don’t look like they’d ever imagined. Stories of husbands leaving, having no means to support themselves let alone their children, struggles of depression, and just not being where they thought they would be in life. These are the moments we as women can speak life and hope into each other, reminding each other of who God is and His love and sovereignty over our lives, or we can completely miss this opportunity. We all have shortcomings, but these are the times we can really connect and push each other forward in our faith and in our lives. It is a beautiful thing, when women allow themselves be completely be striped of any pride and share their struggles. Take these opportunities, when we see the needs right in front of us. Be conscious that sometimes we are called to not just listen and embrace, but to act in any way we can provide help. Empowering isn’t just verbal but sometimes requires action and provision. So, there I was the next day, with no income myself, no knowledge of where the next roof over my head was going to be, arms filled with grocery bags, walking up to a doorstep I was seeing for the first time, and leaving all the groceries for someone who’s need was greater than mine.

Women empowering women.

Deeply Rooted in Wanaka New Zealand

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When I look back to the places I’ve cherished most around the world they all have a common thread that ties them together. They are places where I was able to sit and just be. Places where all I could hear were the sounds of nature, and the voices of man were rare if existent at all. I found these spots all around Wanaka. I could’ve lumped a Wanaka post in with my Queenstown trip but it wouldn’t have given Wanaka the notoriety it deserves and unique identity it has. This is a place where I just walked for hours along the lake.

 

About 10 minutes into my walk I saw a man taking several photos of a tree that was surrounded by muddy water. The tree didn’t have any leaves on it and it didn’t seem that pretty to me, so I was having a hard time reconciling why out of all the beautiful scenery that surrounded the both of us he was obsessively photographing this tree. It literally looked like a giant stick in the mud to me. I looked at this tree and immediately had thoughts that it would probably end up dying. It was rooted in an area that will be covered in the lake waters as soon as the lake rises and it’ll probably drown, get uprooted, and eventually wash ashore. For now, it just stood there all by itself.

 

I walked up to the guy taking the photos of the lonesome, bare tree and said “I wonder if it’ll survive much longer?” He responded, “Well, I guess there’s no telling, but the locals call it a weed, and this weed has survived over 30 years, sometimes half submerged in lake water. I bet its roots are deep into the soil below, and its branches are always ready to absorb the sunlight. This tree has gotten quite a bit of tourist attention recently.”

 

“This tree has gotten quite a bit of tourist attention lately.” This statement had me thinking about this tree for a large part of my continued walk. What made this tree so special was not its eye-catching beauty or massive impressive size, but simply because it was making it through difficult environmental conditions time and time again. And, through these conditions it has still been able to push through only God knows what under this lake to grow roots deep enough to keep its stability. This tree is sometimes up too its branches in water and it has still been able to grow enough to always touch the sunlight and not completely drown.

 

It was such a parallel to the season my life is today and probably seasons that at one point or another many of us get to. Where we are completely out of our natural element and comfortable environment, plucked and placed far away from those who usually console us or give us advice and feedback, and left to decide what we are going to dig our roots into so that our soul gains stability. And, in these moments, when we feel the cold waters rising to our necks, are we going to choose to raised our hands in anticipation of the moments of sun made just for us to soak in its beneficial nutrients, provide comfortable warmth, and eventually cause the waters to recede.

When Jesus spoke again to the people He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light in dawned.” Matthew 4:16

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

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A Quick Moment in Phuket and Time for Reflection

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As I landed in Phuket I felt a sense of deep relief as I knew rest and refuge for my soul was just around the corner. I am so thankful for everything I’ve been able to experience thus far however, I am ready to slow down. I am looking forward to waking up and having time to journal about devotionals and readings on a daily basis, having time to just be and listen to what God is trying to tell me and where He is leading me next. I’m only spending two days in Phuket and then off to a new location for an entire month. I so need this.

As I sit on the beach in Phuket, I realize it’s not so much that feel like I’ve had any epiphanies about myself over the last two months, it’s more that I’ve just had confirmation about things I already knew. One being, I enjoy traveling slow. Traveling to new locations every few days is exhausting and, yes, I get to say that I’ve been to this specific place but the places I feel a connection to are the places I was able to spend time in, create relationships usually beyond one conversation, and not have my mind filled with a to do list before I leave because my time is so short. Also, I love not being worried about getting the great Instagram worthy photos. Those are great and I absolutely love it when I get one but to be honest many of pictures you see on Instagram do look that beautiful from the angle they were taken; what you don’t see are the dozens of people standing in line waiting for you to hurry up and take the picture of yourself over the ledge. These locations are usually the most touristy and cost a lot of money to get to because you have to buy a tour with dozens of other people to get there. Which brings me to my next received confirmation. I’m not that into guided tours. Especially if it’s in large groups. I do love guided tour groups revolved around things I just wouldn’t be able to by myself like taking a boat to swim with giant manta rays or riding an elephant, but if it’s something I can do on my own or with a friend or two I’d rather go that route.

I’ve been so busy these last couple months I haven’t had a clear mind to really just be with God without the busyness soon distracting me. I’m continually hoping and praying one of the reasons for this journey is to provide clarity on where my life is going next. I left a job I wasn’t in love with, sold everything, and said farewell to so many loved ones not just to travel the world, but to also find what I can add to it. I have asked God for a revelation about this time and time again. Time and time again He provides the next stepping stone of what He wants me to do next, but never the whole picture. There are moments when I hear nothing but silence and feel nothing but inaction on God’s part and I can be brought to utter frustration. It reminds me of Habakkuk. Not that I am surrounded by a world I feel is falling apart due to evil, although I’m not saying this isn’t happening; it’s just not my point right now, but that I have had extended dialog with God about various areas of my life and many times I see inaction and wonder why. My testament to walking by faith and not by sight is being built mightily. What I love about Habakkuk is although he had moments of complete frustration and not understanding God’s inaction or timing he didn’t run from God as Jonah did. He poured his frustration into prayer, over and over again. I will choose to continue in this way.

As I lay on the beach in Phuket, I look back and can see all the things in my life I grew tired of and knew it was time for me to move on, but I also see all the good I was able to pour into some of these heavy tasks. I am thankful God used me and worked through me in these moments and lie in anticipation of what He will have for me next. As impatient as I get for the story or my life to hurry up and unfold I remember that the purpose of my life isn’t for me or my story at all. This is all God’s story and Him revealing who He is to the world, and I get to be a small piece of the puzzle.

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The Sweet Taste of Freedom and the Hope in Goodbye

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Freedom has a multitude of various meanings depending on who you are speaking to and their personal experience with it. Starting out on this venture is expanding mine.  I can’t say I was completely embracing of the thought that I may need to let go of so many things I wanted to keep, things I’ve worked hard for, and ultimately value, in order to have hands that are open and able to receive whatever is coming. To be bluntly honest I’m still hoping that what I’m going to get even if it’s in experiences, outweighs all that I’ve given up. I have no idea of exactly what’s coming even next week and I have no words to explain what an odd feeling that is. But what a thrilling thing hope is. It’s a feeling that is at its peak, pours over spilling on those around you giving the entire group an excitement and anticipation for only God knows what’s around the corner.

In order to have open hands to receive what’s to come I realized I needed to let go of what I was already clenching tightly on to. I needed to free myself up from all the securities most of us grow so accustomed to. I had a good size studio apartment that was just a five-minute bike ride to the nearest beach on the north shore of Oahu. It had everything I needed, and not to mention I thoughtfully and carefully worked on its aesthetics to make it the cutest coziest nest of a place for me to come home to and feel relaxed after a long hard day of work. I had globe lights and twinkle lights strung throughout to give off the softest most comforting lighting, I had saved money and searched the island for a while to find real wood antique and/or rustic pieces that would go well in my space, there were flowers everywhere, and sentimental, some even handmade items that just made my space feel warm and inviting. I loved having people over and letting them enjoy the warmth and comfort of the place I lived while I enjoyed their company. I had worked hard for years to have the ability to create a second home on Oahu and the initial thought of giving it all up to physically have nothing but a suitcase was not appealing to say the least.

As I began going thru my closest and selling my clothes, giving a ton of things away I thought people would need or just enjoy, selling my furniture some that had stories behind them or I had built myself, the feeling of freedom began bubbling up. Wow, I was in the midst of creating an abundance of room for what could be the wildest, riskiest, but most abundantly blessed moments of my life and getting rid of all these things I had accumulated to just be free was the most liberated I’ve felt to date. I now have nothing tying me down. Everything I wanted to sell I sold and for the prices I asked for. Even down to my car. I remember telling God “Okay God this is what I want to make selling my car. This is what will make me feel good about selling it.” Down to the penny God showed up. I got a call from a friend back home and he asked me how I was doing in the process and if selling everything was going well. I told him the details of what I asked for and what I received. I’ll always remember his response. “Melanie, do you realize every single thing you asked for you got?! Down to the penny you got it.” It was just another clearly defined moment that reconfirmed this was exactly what God wanted me to do. He was showing up, going before me and paving the path one stepping stone at a time.

As all this was happening, one of the sweetest things to come out this was my friends seeing how God was parting the red sea so I could walk thru and the elation and joy they had for me. There are moments when I don’t know who is more excited, me or one of my friends.

One of my most cherished possessions are my relationships. I am constantly in awe of the amazing, strong, faithful, trustworthy, loving, honest people I have surrounding me. My community is an incredible one and saying goodbye is never easy. It is incredible to see how each one is cheering me on and over joyed, waiting in just as much if not more expectancy for what’s to come. These goodbyes are difficult but it’s a great thing to know that they are difficult because what I have in these relationships are rare treasures. I’m not so much saying goodbye as much as saying I will miss you until I see you again.

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The Prayerful Beginnings

And there I sat, amongst at least a couple dozen women but feeling utterly singled out. It felt as if the speaker was speaking directly to me, to my soul that had felt dormant for months, maybe years. I suddenly had a flash back to that funny commercial of the man sitting in his t-shirt and underwear on his worn in couch eating Cheetos with the crumbs piling up on his rounded-out belly.  The man on the TV pointing directly at him telling him to get off the couch, put the Cheetos down, and go exercise, go live. As I sat on the floor hearing this person tell me to “choose life”, I knew it was just the confirmation I needed at that very moment. I was determined to forge ahead and choose life.

I have been working in corporate America for almost 10 years now. Right out of college I knew I needed to get a foothold into a career that would pay off my student loans and build a foundation of financial stability. After all, isn’t that the American dream? Go to college, get a respectable good paying job, get married, have children, buy a house, and be in a position of being independent and self- sufficient. I don’t think any of those things are bad, and many people do have a significant sense of purpose and fulfillment in them. I too felt a certain sense of accomplishment from graduating college, getting into a reputable career that paid decent money, and purchasing my own house that literally had a white picket fence. What I have accomplished up to this point were all things that were within my control, and I did it! I felt good. But what do you do when the things that are outside of your control don’t fall into place the way you always assumed they would? When you are left with expectations that just weren’t met; when the life you thought you would have, the life you expected either never happened or it just fell apart before your very eyes?

To add on to the fact that I haven’t started a family, after 10 years in a career that I haven’t loved for the past 6, the heaviness from the lack of fulfillment started to bare its weight. I rarely found much solace in friends who could share in this same experience. When I would look around me I didn’t see many if any women my age is this specific situation. Most of my friends are well into a marriage or relationship and/or have children who naturally shift one’s life path and priorities. What I did come to realize is even though my life looked very different from most there is still a uniting common thread between so many and that is having expectations that haven’t been met and the feeling of disappointment that comes from it. What do you do when you find yourself in this place? When the life you are living is so different than the life you so badly wanted. Well I still don’t have an all-encompassing answer, but I prayed.

God, what am I supposed to be doing; am I still in the right place? I can’t see Your plan at all, sometimes I can’t even hear Your voice. My life just isn’t making sense to me. Is there something that I missed along the way? I have this guttural yearning, this unquenched desire, a feeling, that there could be so much more to my life and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve been surviving and having fun in moments, but unsure if I’ve really lived for years now. I’ve been in such a monotonous routine on a daily basis. You haven’t given me a family yet to pour into so what is it You want me to do? What do You have for me? Please tell me if I am completely off in my desires and they stem from any selfish sense of entitlement. Is it wrong of me to want more? To crave something deeper?  I want to be able to completely surrender to Your will, even if it brings more difficulties than I think I can bare, or it leaves me without my deepest wants. After all, I am not owed anything. On top of that I have already been blessed with more than I deserve. I realize all these things. Regardless, here I am desperately searching for more.

Am I alone in this? Has anyone else felt like they weren’t choosing to live their life but rather they were waking up every morning feeling like they were on auto pilot? And I don’t just mean some mornings, I mean MOST mornings. I was overcome with the realization that some mornings my soul never even really woke up, like I was completing my daily routine half asleep, with eyes only half open and that was just so I wouldn’t trip.

I have prayed so many prayers similar to this over the past few years and then, one day, I received what I saw as an answer. We had heard rumors that the company was going to close its doors in Hawaii for months and finally one day we all got called into meetings with or managers at the same time and were told our office is officially closing its doors in 9 months. We had an option of applying and taking a job in a handful of states on the mainland or we could severe ties with the company. Any time I considered following my career that I no longer loved, leaving the place I lived and I fell in love with to move back to the mainland, well the very thought repelled me greatly. I cringed; I couldn’t handle even thinking of continuing my life in this zombie-like status. It felt safe but it just didn’t feel right. What a surreal experience, to realize that I felt safer taking the risky route and it was riskier and more unsettling taking the safe one. I knew I was being prompted to not take the safe route. I was being asked to let it all go, take the risk, and follow a path not yet revealed. Step by step, enter into the unknown. I decided to sell everything I owned in Hawaii; I bought my first plane ticket, squeezed my friends and family tight and left. I was off to see and experience the world, and find my way, along the way.

Here we go God, it’s just me and You. Please hold my hand tightly; I’m following Your lead.

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Photos by Sunny Golden Photography

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