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Where His Path Has Led…

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There was a time, not so long ago, when my life was quiet. I had so much passion and so few outlets for everything bursting from my veins. Now it seems the exact opposite is true. I have so much noise in my life, so many ways to give and serve and do…more than ever before in my entire life. Before I was begging God to open doors. Now, I wouldn’t mind if He shut a one or two. Before I felt like a like a dam trying to flow anywhere and everywhere it could…mostly still, yearning for movement. Now I feel like a rushing river, splitting off a million different ways…wondering if I have enough to fill all the channels. They’re just different seasons for different purposes in His plan.

I was going back over my old blog recently and was struck with the transformation the past 5 years have brought. God has been so good – that is the overarching theme to my story. That doesn’t mean things have been easy though. In fact, I’d say the opposite. He’s put me in places that forced me to grow, and sometimes I even felt like I was thrown to the lions with a single sword I’d never used before in my life. You see, not so long ago I was a very different girl, struggling to understand God’s plan. I had nothing, but Jonathan really. My hands were empty and my heart was full of longing. Then the Lord abruptly put me on the path I’m on now. He told me to quit my job, start a business and give everything I had away when I had so little. But He has been a faithful guide. He didn’t leave me alone, even though I felt a deep silence and solitude often. He strengthened my hands and my heart. He said “go” so with only trust in Him and nothing else I went! I struggled. I fell. I failed. I lost my way many times. He asked me for more than I thought I could bear. I found out that I wasn’t enough, but He is more than I could ever need. He showed me confidence in who He made me to be, even though my path was nothing like my prideful, selfish heart wanted. His love bound me up and held me into Him.

Four years ago this week, I started Jennifer Blair Photography with so much fear and insecurity, but also a blind trust that God would be true to His word. God has used this journey, this business as so much more than a mere business. It’s much deeper than a career or income. I look back overwhelmed because there was a part of me that just knew I’d never make it. If I could tell myself 4 years ago all that God was going to do, I wouldn’t have believed it…well, and that would make faith irrelevant and faith in God is the whole point. By God’s grace I’m not the girl I was 4 years ago. God has taught me a confidence in Him, and thereby confidence in who He made me to be, that I wouldn’t have if not for trusting Him with this endeavor. He’s shown me doing what matters, His ways and greatness with Him, go beyond what the world says is the definition of success. He showed me that I can work, strive and do everything humanly possible to move forward but it is Christ that builds the house. I labor in vain apart from Him. I have worked and it has come to nothing; He has taken my nothing and worked miracles. He also taught me that sometimes His best is found through the crushing of my dreams, through hurt, pain and suffering. I’ve been broken more times than I care to count. Even in those times, He brings a wholeness and teaches me more of Him, molds me to be more like Him…and I find those are the sweetest times of my life.

Then He gave us Eleanora, our bright and shining light. She fills up more of my heart than I thought possible. She is crazy, beautiful, challenging and a mystery. Because of my incredible love for her, and the immense propensity for my human heart to distort what is good, I have to constantly keep my mind in check by God’s word. She’s the biggest outflow in my life right now…and yet there are still more split offs than ever! I can’t help but laugh at the plans of God sometimes. His ways are far beyond my comprehension. Give me a daughter AND so many of the other opportunities, just when I have the least time for them? Yes, this is where His path has led. Through one impossibility after another He is enough. He’s been there in the loneliness of the dessert pool, and He is with me now in the raging sea, with currents pulling a million different ways. In every season He is faithful and in everything He will bring glory to Himself when I surrender my life. Even here, as I feel yet another season coming like the tide I know He will lead as He has always done so lovingly. Regardless of what may come, He is worth it. He is enough.

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“I gain Him – sensing my losses, not losing my senses.” – Jim Elliot

“But I count my life as no value to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24

“The Christian’s victory is not over others, but over himself. His sword is drawn, not to slay his fellowman, but to slay himself. He wins by losing. He triumphs by being defeated. He lives by dying. His crown is a crown of thorns. His throne is a Cross. His weapon is not strength, but weakness.” – F. J. Huegel

“Anyone who seeks to find their life will lose it, and anyone who loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matt 10:39

 

 

Elle Turns ONE!

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Our sweet Elle turned ONE a few weeks ago! It seems like old news now, but it was such a sweet time. Poor kiddo is going to always have some super hot birthday parties though! We decided on doing her bash at the beach. It was hot and rainy, yet completely perfect. Simply having those we love there to partake in our joy was more than enough. I’m so thankful for all of our family that made it a special celebration…and for my boo for putting up with my craziness! (So yeah, hanging a backdrop with duct tape in the midst of hurricane winds is a little nuts!) My sweet sister and cousins (Ashleigh, you count! Hehe!) helped me pull everything together the day before the party. I tried to keep everything low-key and forced myself to wait to pull everything together so my perfectionism wouldn’t take over. We grabbed most everything from around the house, because hello, my house is all blues and whites! Ha! On a deeper level, the artist in me is very pleased with how things came together. It felt like the perfect culmination for this year. When we found out our baby Blair was a girl, the only solid idea I had for her nursery was a calming ocean inspired space. The very first time I laid eyes on her, I noticed that her beautiful blue eyes have depth and color like the sea. It seemed only fitting to have her first birthday party go along with the same feel. She is my ocean…beautiful yet fierce, ever moving and changing, drawing me in and taking me out of my depths all at once. I feel so lucky to be her mama. I’m so thankful the Lord saw fit to give her to our little family. I’ll share more about her 1 year update soon…if I find the time! For now, here are just a few shots I grabbed on my camera during the party.

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These two are my heart.

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I finally grabbed a decent shot of Eleanora and her bestie Ansley! Hooray! It’s only taken me forever.

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As some of you know, we don’t sit still long around here…

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Elle did not take to the cake like I was expecting at all. She never “smashed” it, but I think she liked it regardless.

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She may not have eaten much, but we did! Thanks Lisa McGriff for the gorgeous and yummy cake!

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I absolutely love this shot! As you can plainly see, Elle was DONE with photos. This is the attitude side of her.

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We love you Elle! Happy first year!

Smoky Mountain Getaway

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One of my favorite things about photographs is that they make you remember moments that have passed. They can alter your memories of what really happened. Usually images portray what is happy and good. When we look back on them, it is often with fondness for those memories. I’m thankful for that fact. This trip to the mountains, if I’m honest, was not very enjoyable for me. Parts of it were wonderful and I enjoyed being with family, but with sickness, Elle not sleeping much and chasing her all day long to keep her from eating rocks, it wasn’t relaxing…at all. I think everyone else had a good trip, and I’d much rather it be me that had a rough go and not my husband or baby. For those reasons, I cherish these images. They remind me to look for the beauty in some ugly circumstances and the good in bad things. There is always a rainbow…eventually.

These are the happy memories I will look back on for years to come and remember the joy of this season. I’ll remember Eleanora’s happy cheesey grin and the way she was mesmerized by the babbling brook by our cabin. I’ll remember how she loved to throw rocks and Jonathan strumming the guitar. So while these may make you think everything was perfect and wonderful for us, there was actually a lot of “Nooooo!!! Don’t eat that!” and headaches and lack of sleep. I choose not to remember those things and cherish this beautiful season, exhaustion and all. I choose to wake up and be reminded of God’s grace in my life. No matter where I am, I am never without Him. Yes, my hands are so very full, which can be overwhelming sometimes…scratch that, almost all the time! I choose to view them for the blessings that they really are. I choose to look back at these images to remind myself that my hands are full, full of good things.

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She was so content to play in the dirt and rocks. We did this for hours to wear her out! Haha!

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These two! Goodness, I love them!

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Love is Messy

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Love is a messy thing. If I’ve learned one lesson in this past year, my intro into motherhood, it’s that love makes a wreck. When you truly, deeply love someone that love comes in and turns everything upside down. For me, love always comes slowly. The first sign of feeling love’s crazy emotional roller coaster isn’t thrilling for me, but sobering. I see myself going up and up and up, knowing there is about to be a crazy ride down, then up again, then down again for the rest of my life. Love, for me, is saying  “yes” to all of it. My personality can easily make love’s wild ride seem steady by looking at the bigger picture, but it is chaotic nonetheless. Love grabs me and takes me through it all. It turns and whirls unexpectedly, and it has made a mess of things before I even realize it at all. Love is a messy, wild thing.

Love made some good messes. It wrecked my heart this year, in the best and worst of ways. I knew that it would, just not exactly how. Not loving many people is easy. It is orderly and clean. There is no heartache, nothing gets torn up. As C. S. Lewis says in one of my favorite quotes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all engagements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” When I met Jonathan and decided to risk opening my heart to him, I knew it might get broken. I love the thrill of the adventure, but inwardly I see and know the risks and have decided the possibility of beauty is worth it before I jump in. That’s me in a nutshell. When I got pregnant it was the same. I felt the loss of the beauty of who I was. Still, I also knew who I was becoming, the life I was birthing was going to be more full and beautiful, even if it came with messiness and heartache. All the things I perceived were true, but immensely more deep. Love turns things over. It exposes selfishness and ugly, dark places that were once hidden by many different facades. Love doesn’t ask for room; it moves everything else out of the way and fills up the crevices. It showed me that I needed to clean up a lot of things in my heart that shouldn’t be there. Love made good messes.

Love made some bad messes too. Well, it wasn’t really love per se, but the human heart’s uncanny ability to distort what is good. Experiencing such a huge upheaval of love all at once can be a hard thing to process. It comes suddenly, making all these messes, pulling back layers where we are vulnerable. My heart doesn’t know what to do about it sometimes, so it tries to create order. If my love isn’t anchored in the true and pure Love of God, it will become tainted. That impure love goes around masquerading as real love, when underneath those “loving” actions can be motivated by insecurity and selfishness. My heart has deceived itself into thinking “love” is so exhausting that I deserve this or that. Goodness, look at all this loving I’m doing! Love made this and this and this, so I deserve to have a little selfishness here and there. Just look how hard love worked to make everything so orderly, how many messes it cleaned, how much time it spent caring…sure things got messy, but goodness, love did pretty good keeping everything ok. Before I know it, the impure love built an idol to itself. Under the guise of loving service my selfishness, combined with both pride and insecurity, built up in my heart. Boy, what a mess it becomes when God comes in and that weak foundation makes everything come tumbling down. It happens far more often than I’d like to admit. Real love is like a bright light that exposes all the dark places.

Most of all, Love made me ok with all the messes. After this year I’ve stopped trying to clean it all up. I’ve learned this lesson a thousand times, but I’m glad God doesn’t stop trying to teach me. I am a mess. But I am a mess He loves. After all, His love was messy too. It required leaving all of Heaven’s perfect glory and becoming humble in the most profound way. He became a man. He got dirty. He loved messy people by meeting them in their mess. I’m not exempt. Underneath my personality’s calm persona, there is often a raging storm in my heart and mind. I have no doubt I might be the biggest mess of all. And yet, He loves me. That insanely immense and pure love is teaching me, to first love Him, love other imperfect messy people and also to love my own messy self. I get that backwards a lot. Isn’t the human heart so strange? I’m baffled that we can love ourselves to much and yet despise who we are at the same time. Pride and insecurity live together simultaneously and both are hideous. Even in all the ugliness, the Blood of Christ covers us. In Jesus we are made whole. God’s love has made us new. Each and every moment of my life I need to cling to His truth, His love, His purity. I see my need for Him on a deeper level this year because of love’s messiness. I wonder if God laughs at our affinity for messes, like I do with Eleanora sometimes. She’s really good a destruction. Just today, she found my cup of coffee, thinking it was going to taste good and ended up pouring it all over herself and my rug. She wasn’t too happy after that. I’m not too happy in my messes either. I can’t clean them up though. It’s like Eleanora rubbing the coffee deeper into the rug. I can’t fix things. Only God can through the work of Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Love makes a big mess, and I’m thankful for it. God works in that big mess to make Love even more beautiful. He works in the best and worst of messes, clearing things out, making things right and letting us feel pain for a purpose. In love’s mess He can make us more like Jesus if we surrender to Him. He is the order in the chaos. He is the Love that overcomes selfishness. He is everything, more than enough  and immeasurably more than we can imagine. I’m glad His love comes in and wrecks me. I need more messes like that.

 

PS: I thought these images of Elle and her oatmeal mess a few weeks ago were perfect for this post.

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Eleanora | 11 Months Old

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Today isn’t happening. Eleanora cannot possibly be 11 months old! I’m in complete denial. And yet, the birthday invitations have been ordered! One more month and we will have a 1 year old!

Development/ Things I want to remember: Elle is still doing great with walking. She toddles all over the house, almost running sometimes, with arms full of toys. She can climb stairs…she’s working on the fridge too! The cutest development is her dance moves. When she likes a song she’ll wave her arm and shake side to side. It’s the sweetest thing. She also learned how to do the cheesy scrunched-nose grin and it is the cutest thing ever. (See photo below.) She does it a lot when she’s happy. I don’t ever want to forget that sometimes she will clap her hands to fall asleep. It’s hilarious! She will lay there with her paci and bear clapping until she conks out! Haha! It’s also adorable how she points to wherever she wants to go. Her hair is also getting longer and curlier by the day…which makes me ridiculously happy!

Weight: I’m not sure, but she definitely gained a pound or two this month. She’s taller for sure. Some of her little outfits are getting short!

Clothing: Same as last month. She’s officially outgrown her 6-9 month onesies though. They’re too short to button. Her feet have finally gotten too big for her 3-6 month shoes too!

Sleep: ELLE LEARNED HOW TO SLEEP IN!!! Hallelujah! She used to always cry for a bottle around 6-7 and now she sleeps in until 7:30-8 am everyday! It’s a game changer for me. I can actually get up, shower, have coffee and some alone time before she gets up. It’s such a luxury!

Eating: This girl certainly still loves food. If I’m eating it, she has to have some too. Cheerios make her insanely happy.

Personality/ Mood: Elle is definitely a people person these days. She will just walk off without me when we go somewhere and make a friend. The other day we walked into church and she went over to a group of girls, waved, did this shoulder shrug – open arms thing and gave them her biggest cheese grin as if to say “Hey girls! I’m back!” She started to give kisses ALL THE TIME and gives me at least 100 per day. If you ask for kisses, she will give them to anyone! That’s the sweet part of her…but she’s also developing a bit of a temper. When she doesn’t want me to put her down or take something she gives a annoyed yell that doesn’t sound so lovely. We’re also trying to learn how to share so she’s not the mean baby in the nursery. She likes sharing…most of the time!

Loves: Almost every day we go outside to smell the flowers and look for the neighbor kitty cats that like to chill in our yard. When we see said kitties it makes her day. She “meows” quite well at them. (Adorable!) She still can’t live without her Beau the Bear from France. He gets lots of “kisses” and I’m pretty sure I wash him once a week. She carries him all over the house and cuddles his tag (on his butt) to fall asleep. Elle has started to really love her books this month. She will sit and “read” her favorites for an hour sometimes as she “sings” to herself and points to the animals on the page.

Doesn’t love: Not eating, not getting her bottle fast enough, not having the “toy” she wants that is really a pair of scissors or something, getting her diaper changed, me telling her not to gulp the bathwater, etc…Basic baby stuff. She also didn’t love the fireworks on the 4th of July, which actually surprised me. She hasn’t been afraid of ANYTHING yet!

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There isn’t anything in the world I think is more beautiful than this sweet face!