she was purple

A response to the prompt of the day: purple.

Oceans of blue trapped in her eyes.

The passion in her heart burning red.

Colors bleed together to form a vivid purple,

she weaves the lavender through her hair.

There are some people that you meet that are absolutely extraordinary in every way. You look at them and for a second you are in awe, in awe that such a resilient, beautiful soul can exist in such a dark world.

That, to me, is my best friend.

The stories she could tell you, the tragedies she’s seen would break even the one with the strongest mind. She’s been given more in her twenty years than most have been given in forty. Battles seem to come her way more than victories, and the mountaintops are few and far between the valleys.

Yet through all of the challenges and hardships her heart has stayed kind. The average person might grow bitter and callous from the trials, but she remains soft and kind to those around her.

She has been an inspiration to me and so many others through the way that she loves others and perceives the world around her. You can find her in the woods with her eyes wide open, taking in the beauty of the world. Or in a busy coffee-shop, sharing her heart with another to encourage them in their own life.

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How grateful I am for this purple haired, purple hearted friend of mine.

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when your heart is discouraged and your soul doubts

If I were to be honest, it’s been a rough kind of week. I have faced much disappointment and confusion, and hurt from certain situations and relationships. I’m left feeling a little betrayed and a little hurt, but mostly discouraged.

I’m tired. I’m tired of where I am right now, tired of the hurt and disappointment. I’m weary from fighting battle after battle, and trying to keep my head above the waves. I’m not where I want to be, my heart is straining for what’s ahead and what could be, but it’s stuck here. And my discontentment is breeding doubt. I’m doubting that this is where I’m supposed to be.

And I know I’m not the only one that’s feeling wounded from situations or relationships in their lives. I know that I’m not the only one who’s feeling so discouraged, so doubtful. I know I’m not the only one.

And I wish I had the words for those who feel the way I do, but I’m not full of wisdom or insight. I don’t know what the right things to say are.

But what I do know is that there are promises for us, ailments for our hurting hearts and sick souls in the Word.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. //
Psalm 34:18

I am an incredibly introspective person, who is perhaps a little too self-aware. I hid away inside myself when I am feeling a little too much, and I retreat to the back parts of my mind, as if I’ll find answers there to answer the “why”. I don’t like to leave questions unanswered, and I like to find those answers for myself. But sometimes (most times) I don’t have the answers to why things are the way they are. And I don’t know why things must hurt as much as they do.

But I serve a kind and just God who has a plan and a purpose for everything that I go through, all the little and big hurts I feel. I serve a God who doesn’t seek to bring pain to my life, but lets me walk through fires and storms so that I can better experience His sovereignty and faithfulness. I serve a God who promises to be a good Father, even in a world full of heartbreakingly bad situations.

The LORD is righteous in all His way and kind in all His deeds. // Psalm 145:17

Even though my heart is wrestling with discontentment and worry about what is to come, my future rests in the hands of a God who has been faithful in every season in my life, and will be faithful in every season to come. He has held me up when I was struck in my grief, and He has led me through the darkest hours of my life. When I look back at the valleys and storms and fires and mountains He’s led me through, how could I ever doubt that He will be faithful now and in the future?

In my deepest doubt and furthest wandering, still He chooses to rescue my heart and bring me home. When I didn’t want to seek Him, He sought me. When I didn’t want to love, He loved me. It amazes me how He still chooses to see me as His child, even when I’ve been more like a prodigal.

A thousand times I’ve failed, still Your mercy remains. And should I stumble again, still I’m caught in Your grace // hillsong

If your heart is filled with discouragement and you find yourself doubting, I want to encourage you to look back. Remember the difficult times that you’ve been through and the darkness that you’ve seen. Remember the storms. Remember the tragedies and the loss and the brokenness. But also remember that you are here right now. You made it. He saw you through some of the most difficult things in your life. He carried you through it all. He lead you through the darkness and through the valleys and through the storms before, and He will continue to do so. He has been faithful and He will continue to be.

I know it’s easy to settle into discouragement and doubt, because it seems (for a little while at least) comfortable. It is familiar. But you cannot stay there. We cannot stay there. We cannot let our hearts get weighed down by the hurt, we cannot let our souls start to forget His faithfulness. We cannot stay here. We must choose to remember His faithfulness and His sovereignty in our lives, for that is the only way our discouraged hearts and doubting souls can be healed.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. // Psalm 147:3

A Look Back: My Favorite Moments of 2016

With the craziness that December was for me (having final exams ten days before Christmas, having a parent have an unexpected hospital stay, having to plan my visit to Georgia, having to schedule my classes for the next semester, having work the days following up to Christmas…) I had little time to reminisce and look back at 2016.

2016 was a rollercoaster for me, with so the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I walked through the grieving process, as I lost my best friend in November of 2015. I got an incredible summer internship. I performed in a super fun concert. I got engaged. I got to see two of my close friends get married. I got to see my best friend get engaged… it’s been a rush.

There are so many memorable moments that happened this year, but I decided to pick out a few of them to share with you.


Concerts, concerts, concerts!

This year I got to see SO MANY of my favorite bands, including Ben Rector, Colony House, Mat Kearney, needtobreathe, and Passion Pit. Seeing these bands perform wasn’t the only highlight, but getting to experience it with such good friends made it so much better. I got to see Ben Rector with my boyfriend, Mat Kearney and needtobreathe with a couple close friends from college, and I got to see Passion Pit (for free!!) with my best friend because we volunteered at Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus.

Elliv: The Experience

My university puts on this incredible performance every year called Elliv. It’s totally student planned and student led, and a way of “de-stressing” before the craziness of finals week. We audition to be put on different music teams then spend the whole spring semester practicing and getting ready for the big performance. My team was the “rock” group, and we played songs by Muse, Paramore, Kelly Clarkson, and Young The Giant. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and performing in front of 3000+ was absolutely energizing. Not only did we have fun, but my team grew close and became good friends through the hours and hours of practicing. Plus I got to wear killer costumes and great hair + makeup.

You can check out part of our performance here.

Choir Tour + Chicago

The choir that I am in, Jubilate, goes on tour every spring semester. In 2016, we got the chance to go to Chicago and Wisconsin to perform at a couple different churches and schools. This was my first time in Chicago, and I was SO pumped to see such a cool city. Honestly, all I can remember from tour is the few hours we spent in Chicago. It was so cold and windy, but it was so much fun popping into coffee shops and record stores and experiencing a new place with friends.

THE BEST SUMMER INTERNSHIP EVER

Oh, I’m getting emotional typing this… This summer, i had the blessing of interning at Jersey Students, a ministry at Jersey Baptist Church. I was one of two interns for the summer, and my specialty was anything creative. I led worship on a weekly basis and shot photographs for various events, as well as shooting and editing video for a week long missions event and a week long camp. It was hard work and exhausting, as I was also working a part-time job at a local cafe. But God blessed me big time by letting me intern at such an incredible ministry. I met so many wonderful people and got to be a part of so many Christ-centered conversations and share my heart with some pretty amazing students. It was honestly a dream internship, since I got to do creative things while also working in youth ministry (a huge passion of mine!). I miss it so very much.

Got Ink

I got my first tattoo during the summer of 2015, but I got two more in 2016. These two tattoos mean so much to me, and are little reminders of what I have survived this year.

I got twenty tree rings on my shoulder in memorial of the 20 years of Gregory Long. Greg was my best friend for nearly 7 years. In November of 2015, just a couple weeks after his 20th birthday, he and his girlfriend Haley passed away in a car accident. It absolutely rocked my world. I had lost before, but never someone who I was so close to. These twenty rings are a celebration of the life that he lived and the impact that he had during his short life. Greg was truly an incredible person, and I wish that everyone had the blessing of calling him their best friend.

My close friend Abby wanted to get tattoos over our fall break while we were in St. Louis. I decided to get a simple one and settled on “it is well” across my neck. This phrase has been an anthem for me lately, as 2016 was a year full of challenges and struggles. It’s a reminder that through it all, I have the ability to say that “it is well” because of the goodness and grace of God.

Fall Break in STL

For fall break last year, my friend Evan and his sister Emily invited us back to their home in Illinois. (they live just thirty minutes from STL) Over our five day break, we got to explore downtown STL, taste authentic STL bbq, explore an incredible interactive museum in a huge, old warehouse, and enjoy time spent with friends. STL is easily one of my favorite cities I’ve had the chance to travel to, and I hope to come back soon. Plus I’m glad I got to spend some time exploring with my best friends.

I GOT ENGAGED!!!

A couple weeks before it happened, my good friend and fellow photographer India asked me and Kevin to be models for a Wes Anderson themed shoot. Wes Anderson is my all time favorite director, and I absolutely adore his style in his films and photographs. What I didn’t know is that this was all part of Kevin’s elaborate plan. We spent the day walking around taking pictures in downtown Columbus, and at the end of the shoot India handed me a prop – a notebook. When I opened it, it was actually a hand-bound scrapbook of memories that Kevin and I had made over the last year and a half. The last photo had the caption “how about we do a real engagement shoot?” and when I turned around, he was on one knee. Oh my heart. It was absolutely perfect, and I had no idea. I’m so excited to spend the rest of my life with my best friend!

And all the little moments in between…

2016 gave me so many memories to keep in this little heart of mine. I got to experience so many new things and new places and meet new people. I grew closer to friends and learned new things about myself. I got to see the Lord work in my life and the lives of others. I got to see the other side of my grief. I got to come back to a great university to continue my education. i got to share my heart and passion with others. I got to take a lot of pictures, sing a lot of songs, and laugh a lot of belly laughs. 2016 was a testament to God’s goodness and grace, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017.

What were your favorite memories of 2016? Let me know in the comments!

With love,
Erin ❤

instagram.com/erin.esther

 

before the fireworks, before the ball drop.

So much can happen in 365 days. Your life can turn upside down in a matter of seconds. And you might find that the person that you woke up as on January 1st 2015 is not the same as the person who bids goodbye to another year on December 31st, 2015. I’m most certainly not the same as I was 12 months ago.

2015 brought heartbreak, but it also brought healing.

At the beginning of 2015, I was drowning in my insecurities. The semester wasn’t going the way I had wanted it to, I was very ill physically, my grades were slipping, relationships were going wrong, and I was very unhappy. I just wanted to get the spring semester over with, but I wasn’t looking forward to returning to a summer job in an office for the whole summer. I was defeated, and very broken. I had put so much of my hope and expectations in people, and I thrived on affirmation of others. I had turned away from finding my identity and purpose in Christ, and I filled it with relationships, business, and feeble attempts to define myself as the “artist” the “photographer” “the girl people would want to be friends with”. I returned home for the semester defeated and depressed.

I was angry for a while. I was angry at God for taking some things away. I was angry at a boy who shattered my self-esteem. I was angry at my circumstances.  But most of all, I was angry at myself for not doing better, for not being a better person. I recognized my weakness and I knew that there had to be a drastic change. And as i looked back at the relationships I had destroyed, the choices I had made, and how far I had wandered… I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I surrendered to His will for me. And that brought healing to my heart. He helped me pick up the pieces of a messy breakup, took away the stains and “ick” i had stored up, reminded me that my identity is found in Him alone, and guided me back home – to where I needed to be. And so the spring brought healing, it brought people from home back into my life, who walked with me through this process of healing. And through the healing process, I was able to enter the summer with a new sense of purpose, a healed heart, and a humbled mindset.

And I am learning that healing is a process that takes time. God is still healing my heart, and He will continue doing so in 2016.

2015 brought loss, but it also reminded me of love.

Towards the end of this year, I had to walk through something I never would have imagined I would have to. I lost my best friend in a car accident, and honestly? It still doesn’t feel real. I remember when I found out. It was 3 AM and I was sitting by my phone hoping someone would call and say, “He’s in critical but stable condition”. I was praying for a miracle. But instead, when the phone rang I heard, “he’s with Jesus.” And my whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt. I still can’t wrap my head around it right now. I understand that it will take time. It hurts a lot, as I look back at all of the previous years that Greg stood by my side in the good times and bad, and every other in between. It makes me nostalgic for the old days mostly, and a little anxious about the days to come. But even during this trial, I have learned so much.

The most significant thing I’ve learned is that I am loved by so many people, and I have so much love to give to a hurt world. During a time of pain and grief, my friends have come together and surrounded each other with support, prayers, encouragement, tissues, laughs, and most of all, love. I have never once been alone during this time. I have some of the greatest friends by my side, even when they are hurting and feeling this pain too. We were close in high school, all of us. But college slowly made us drift apart. In light of this tragedy, we have become closer than we were before. Over this last month, I have cried with these people until I couldn’t see straight and I have laughed with them until my stomach hurt. They have reminded me that I will never have to go through life alone, and that I am always loved.

The day after Greg and Haley passed away, I was absently leaving through a book written by my biggest inspiration, Jamie Tworkowski. His book, If You Feel Too Much (which you DEFINITELY should read if you haven’t), is filled with his thoughts and reflections on life and the hurt and pain in this world. I stumbled across something he wrote when he lost a good friend to cancer. And it resonated with me and brought me comfort. I don’t know how to end this section, so I will end with these words.

“Though the price will be the heartache of loss- for we can’t control when or how an ending comes – what a privilege that God allows us to connect with other people in this life, to be known, and to be loved so we do not walk alone. Perhaps friendship – the deep kind, the best kind – perhaps it is a miracle.” – jamie tworkowski

2015 brought disappointment, but it also brought a deep sense of hope.

My first year in college wasn’t exactly how I planned. And I’m halfway through the second one and it’s still not exactly going how I planned. By the halfway mark of 2015, I was stressing about how I was going to keep my scholarships and stay in school, diagnosed with a chronic illness, about to start a job I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, and stuck in licking county for the whole summer.

But by God’s grace, I managed to keep my scholarships and return to Cedarville this fall and get the chance to room with my beautiful and wonderful best friend. I have began treatment for my illness, and I am doing better than I was. I ended up absolutely loving my summer job, even though it wasn’t the one I had planned on getting. And being stuck in licking county brought some incredible things into my life; one being a group of wonderful 8th grade girls that I got to minister to and mentor over the summer. and another being my boyfriend, who I wouldn’t have began to get to know had I worked at a summer camp like I planned.

All of that taught me that sometimes (well… sometimes it feels like most of the time) life doesn’t exactly work out how we want it to. And that’s because God’s plan is so much bigger and more incredible than we could even imagine! I’m learning that I have to remind myself often that God is in control, not me. So often, I decide what my life is going to look like and tell God that’s how things are going to be. But by His grace, He doesn’t allow all of my plans to work out…instead, He replaces them with something much better. This has brought me such a deep sense of hope for 2016. I have an idea of how I want things to go, but who knows what can happen in a year! All I know is that God will lead me to where He wants me to be, when He wants me to be there.

2015 brought pain, but it also brought purpose.

I watched two sweet women girls in my life lose their fathers, one to a heart attack, and one to cancer. I saw the eyes of the hurting and broken in downtown Columbus, void of hope. I felt the pain and burdens that the young girls i mentored carry, I felt it deeply. I felt the loneliness and longing in the eyes of the underprivileged kids I worked with. I walked through the nightmare of losing my closest friend.

I questioned the purpose for all of these things. I cried and screamed at God to fix it, because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all. But in the midst of the pain, i was reminded that there is purpose even if we can’t see it at first. And more importantly, we have a purpose to love. My eyes were opened to the pain that surrounds me every day, and I realized that I am called to live a life that brings hope and joy to people’s lives. Our greatest commandment is to love. Our greatest purpose is to love, even (maybe especially) those we find it hardest to love. This realization brought change to my life and it brought a passionate feeling of purpose. I used to hate the fact that I felt things so deeply, so much. But now I realize it is a gift to feel things so clearly. It may be painful, but it reminds me of my purpose.

2016, I don’t know what you will bring. But…

All I know is that I am ready for you. I am grateful for everything I have learned in 2015, the opportunities I’ve been given, the friendships I have been blessed with, the memories I have gathered. But I am anxious to see what a new year brings me. I am anxious to see what God will do in my life and in the lives of those I love. I am anxious and expectant.

But perhaps most of all, i am ready for the memories I will make and the time I have been given. If 2015 taught me one thing, it taught me to never take the time we’ve been given for granted. It taught me to hold those I love close, to chase after my passions and ambitions, to love without stopping to deem the person worthy of it or not, to make memories I will treasure, to make this world a better place day by day.

2015, you taught me how to live. And for that, I am forever grateful for this year i’ve lived through, these 12 months I’ve grown, and these 365 days of learning and becoming the person I am today – the person that enters 2016 without fear. Thank you for that.

January, February, March
The days are marching forward
April, May, June and July
They fly like a hummingbird

August, September, October
The year is almost over
November, December arrive
Now the year is gone

Time is illusion
Time is a curse
Time is all these things and worse
But our time is now
Our time is now
Our time is now
Let us sing before our time runs out.

– before our time by Jon Foreman

give me purpose.

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It’s a strange temperature outside. It’s simultaneously cold and warm, as if the atmosphere can’t decide whether it wants to embrace the crisp autumn air or hold onto summer’s heat. The sun beats down, warming my skin. But the breeze tickles my face and sends shivers down my spine.

The weather is caught at a point between extremes, torn between what it is and what it could be.

Maybe I am no different than the weather.

I have a camera in my backpack and headphones in, listening to a playlist filled with autumnal acoustic songs. I sit in the middle of a field, awaiting the sunset. The sky is fading into beautiful blues and pinks and purples and oranges.

I close my eyes and whisper, “anywhere but here.”

My heart is ready for a change, ready for something different. I won’t say that I’m discontent. But I just long for what’s ahead.

The roads I’ve traveled feel well worn, the sights around me feel overseen, the life I’ve lived feels like an echo.

I lay on my back and stare up at the sky, wondering just when I’ll become what I hope to be. I think of the people I haven’t met yet, the places I haven’t seen. I wonder how much I’ll grow, how much my life will change.

I am not afraid.

What I am afraid of is never changing. I’m terrified of staying the same. I’m terrified of my life staying in the exact place it is.

When I look at the lives of those I graduated with, I see huge moments. Some are engaged, some are married, some are achieving incredible things, some are traveling across the world, and some are creating a new life for themselves. My life is dull in comparison.

Perhaps I am not unlike Augustus Waters from John Green’s infamous The Fault In Our Stars. Perhaps I too fear oblivion.

I fear oblivion. I fear it like the proverbial blind man fears the dark.

Augustus Waters fears living without making a mark on this world, without living a life that is insignificant. But realist Hazel Grace reminds him that oblivion is inevitable. For one day, everything will fade away and one day there won’t be anyone to remember anything. No matter what Augustus does. he will someday fade into oblivion.

I am afraid of the same thing. Though, perhaps not selfishly. I don’t long for fame or for worldly significance. I’m not afraid of living a life that people forget.

No, what I’m afraid of is living a life that doesn’t do anything significant. I’m afraid of leaving this world the same as it was when I entered it. I’m afraid that my life will not stir change in other’s lives. I’m afraid that I won’t do anything to better this world or to impact the people I come in contact with. I’m afraid of just simply living.

I want to live with purpose. I want to live fearlessly and passionately. I want to be so deeply in love with life and living. I do not just want to pass by, robotically doing everything that I am “supposed” to do, as the world tells me. I do not just want to graduate, get a job, have a family, and just get by.

I want to live.

The sun is over the horizon now and I am perplexed at how rapidly my surroundings change as the sun fades over the trees. I am almost frustrated with myself. Here I am, sitting and watching the sunset when there is so much to be done, so many things to see, so many people to meet. When I think of all the things I’ve yet to do, I get anxious. The fear of not making a big enough difference cripples me. It uproots my peace and drives me to discontentment. It tells me that I cannot enjoy this season I am in, I must keep changing and going.

The breeze rustles through the trees, almost to whisper, to me.

have patience. you’re not done growing.

God, I know I have a long ways to go. But it fears as though I’ll never get there. I feel stuck, I feel tied down in a place I don’t want to be. 

I think of all the pain I’ve seen. I think of the people I want to gather in my arms and keep safe. I consider all of the tragedies that I so desperately wish I could mend. I think of all the broken hearted people that I want to love. I think of all those who are lost and wish that I could point them back home.

I feel caught in between, more like stuck in between. I know what I could be, but I’m not there yet. It’s just within reach.

It’s hard not to wish so desperately for the future, where I will be out of school and able to do what I love and have a life of significance. But it seems so far away.

But I hear a strong voice, steady and firm, but soft and loving. It’s the voice of my Father, the author of this story of mine, the One who is faithful and will not leave this life of mine undone.

My child. My plans for you are unimaginable. I have created a good work in you and I will be faithful to complete it. But I am not done with you yet. Your plans fade when compared to my plans for You. Take heart and have faith in Me. There is purpose and significance in the season I have placed you in. Don’t think for a moment that I cannot work in your life now. Do not think for a moment that I don’t have a reason for this.

The sun has almost disappeared below the trees and I have a renewed sense of purpose. I will learn to love the skies I am under, I will learn to embrace this season. Now that the sun has set, this sweater I’m wearing feels too thin for the chill of the dusk. The weather will change when its time come. It will change when it’s meant to.

And I will do the same. I will not rush, I will not long for the future so much that I forget the present. I will not hold onto what’s been. I will flourish right here, right now, right as I am.

Maybe I am not anything like Augustus at all. For I have peace in the promise that He has began a good work in me and will be faithful until completion. The world may fade and anything impact I’ve had on it and the people within it might slip into oblivion. I might not achieve all of the things I hope to. But it is not in vain. For I know that my God has a plan. It is not my plan, but His. I just get to be a part of it. And anything done for Christ is not done in vain. For I do not seek an earthly crown that will be lost when the world fades. No, I run for a heavenly crown. Just so one day, I can throw it at the feet of my God and my Savior.