This is the story of God turning tears of despair into tears of joy. Where should I begin?
Myfaithhasbeena struggle. The documentation of it on this blog is only the tip of the iceberg. I have been in an ongoing darkness from God for the past 3 years. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Yes, there were times of hope and small signs that it wasn't all for naught, but in general, it was just dark. I just want to preface this entire post with this sentiment. God did not quickly come to my aid, he didn't let me struggle for a few weeks and then reveal himself. This has been the most painful experience of my life. And if any of you are struggling with something similar, waiting on God to show up, I want this to encourage you, not discourage you. I get really discouraged when I hear someone who struggled for a month or two, or even 6 months, but then God rescued them (not that there is anything wrong with that! A one month struggle is a struggle none the less). I just would think, "What the hell? Why am I STILL struggling and hearing nothing God?" It wasn't fair to me. So, if that's you, know that that's not this story. This isn't a story of a quick fix.
Now. Let me begin...For a long time, I've doubted God and his plans and ways. I mean, is it really best to let someone not hear from you for 3 years? Those are 3 years I could have been witnessing to other people! Years I could have been praying for others! That lack of trust is what consumed the first 2.5 years. I couldn't even attend church because I was PISSED at God. Worship songs just made me want to scream "THAT'S NOT TRUE!!! You really don't show up or love us that much!".
Then, these last 6 months came along. And I doubted the very existence of God. That's not a fun place to be. I mean, at this point I hadn't felt the presence of God in almost 3 years, what else was I supposed to think? Lucky for me, I was smack dab in the middle of a 9 month theological development class that taught me what the bible said about EVERYTHING. But what does that teaching mean if you don't fully believe any of it?
Somehow, wouldn't you know it, God knew what he was doing.
God knew that if I continued to hear over and over that reading His Word was the only way to guarantee hearing from him, that I would eventually try it. And so, for the past 2 months, that's what I've been trying.
Let's jump to last Saturday afternoon.
That morning I read in Jeremiah 31:9 this, "Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble. For I am Israel's father and Ephraim is my oldest child." The people of Israel were in the dark for FORTY years. So yeah, I suppose 3 years is nothing in comparison to that! But God had this hope for Israel, he had future plans of good for them. And so that morning as I journaled, I prayed that God would give me tears of joy instead of tears of despair. That he would bring me to those quiet streams and smooth paths, I am so tired of stumbling. I ended my prayer with, "Guide me through my day, confirm my faith."
......later that day.......
I was folding laundry in my bedroom while listening to this sermon called How We Are Saved that Matt Carter preached a couple of weeks ago at church. I was listening along the whole time and really enjoying what he had to say, but still not really expecting to hear or feel anything from God afterwards. Well, as Matt's finishing up the sermon (which I highly recommend listening to) he quotes this scripture that I have heard a thousand times.
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6
I dropped to my knees immediately, and let out a sob. I can't say that it was new knowledge, I've been told this verse a million times during my struggles. But that Saturday, God used it to speak to me. GOD SPOKE TO ME!!!! HE SHOWED UP!!!!!! I received the tears of joy that I had asked for only just a few hours before! How's that for a turn around time?! Right after this moment, I went to journal my experience because I know I can easily forget moments where God moved. Here is an excerpt:
"These words saved me from despair. Lord imprint them on my heart. I had faith because YOU started it in me, and even though my faith is wavering, you will follow through with me til the end. I'm not out of your grasp, I'm right in the center of you hand." April 19, 2014
And then if all of that wasn't enough, Monday evening I was studying for my upcoming oral exam through my class and I came across this topic of salvation and sanctification. Basically, I was studying if believer's can fall away and then why we struggle.
In 1 Peter 1:5 it says that those, "who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." The word guarded here can mean both "kept from escaping" and "protected from attack". God is preserving believers from escaping out of his kingdom, and he is protecting them from external attacks.
This is why I haven't stopped believing!!! It's not by my own faith or will power. It's because GOD was GUARDING ME. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS????!!!!
Then the scripture goes on to say, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-8. My faith has been tested and it has resulted in PRAISE and GLORY and HONOR at the revelation that God is REAL! And not only is he real, but HE SHOWS UP.
I am not naive enough to believe that this will be the end of my struggles, but I see a relief. God spoke to me once, and I know where to find him again....in his word.
I've slowly been crafting my style to be more and more "boho chic". I'm even growing my hair out! I've had it short and in a sort of long bob style for almost 2 years now, which I love, but I'm forcing myself to try it long again. In case you were wondering.
Kimono: Target, Necklace: Calli's Boutique, Black Top: Calli's Boutique, Jeans: AE, Boots: Nine West
The past two weeks have FLOWN by. With getting this new job, my days are just flying away from me. So I am relishing this free Friday night to sit at home, watch Teen Mom 2, and blog away.
There is so much swirling through our community this week, so many emotions. And I'm thankful that God has been giving me the grace to actually read his word each day this week. That's an inconsistent thing for me, as much as I wish it wasn't. I got a new journal from the boutique I work at, and on the left side it has space for drawing. I thought I would enjoy scribbling about whatever scripture I read that day, and I do! I've always loved to do art, but I've just gotten so out of practice and straight up BAD at it. I'm looking forward to getting more into this though! Here's today's drawing:
Last weekend I had SUCH a fun photo shoot for some high school girls in Austin. I can't wait to edit the photos! Definitely made me wish the business was picking up and I got to do this more often though :/ S.O.S.- send over seniors!
Thursday night this week Levi had a date night planned for us! We both love the band Eisley and I've always wanted to see them in person. Levi got tickets for their tour coming to Emo's in Austin and it was great! Their voices are straight up magical. Although, for it being a concert, visually it was kind of blah. There wasn't a whole lot of personality, I felt, and it seemed like it might be more fun at a relaxed outdoor venue or sitting in a coffee shop.
Today, Cattie and I had lunch and shopping plans, so of course she brought along her cardboard cutout of Taylor Swift, because why not? #carselfies (ps- my insta is @bethanylynnphoto)
My best Taylor impression:
And there you have it! Now I'm sitting on the couch, contemplating dessert :)
This is the hodgest of podges post today. I have all of these iPhone pictures that I want to share so I remember the small moments, but there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the order. Here we go!
Mosely has been SOOO needy lately! She gives us this look every time we are just trying to sit on the couch and watch Big Love. We got her a soccer ball this week thinking she would love it, and then in like 4.5 minutes she popped it -__-
I am starting to wear my Kendra Scott earrings more and thought I'd show these off! Levi and I had a mini date night last night in Austin because we had to take dinner to the greenroom at church. After we dropped off the food we went to Hill's Cafe on S. Congress and had some home cooking! It was pretty good!
Cattie and I have been having photo shoots for the past few weeks because she is entering images into a contest to meet Taylor Swift! It was so much fun and I will die if she doesn't win.
L: Me and Seamus on St. Patrick's Day at Sarah and Wes's house :) R: Mosely felly asleep with her head IN the cat bed.
I bought lots of fun new makeup this month! So far my verdict is this: Returning the Baby Skin, just felt oily and didn't notice a difference in any "pore erasing". I LOVE the Tarte eyeshadow palette, it's amazonian clay shadows and they stay on all day! I like the Too Faced blush, I mainly got it because Ulta was having a promotion and it was only $15 instead of $35. I put it on lightly over my NYX blush and it works nicely! I don't like it by itself. The NYX gloss is already my second bottle! I get it in Creme Brulee and it's awesome! The eyeliner is by Benefit and is helpful in achieving the smokey eye effect. Different than my usual style but it's fun to use every once in a while! Lastly, the two elf products are from Target, I finally found the lip exfoliator! While it's great, I think I just don't really have lips that need to be exfoliated that much! I use chapstick non stop during the day so I don't have much roughness to exfoliate.
L: Me crying on my way to Target because of the amazing response on my post about marriage. I had NO idea that post would get the reaction it did, and I am so glad that God is using Levi and I's story to influence other people. It also helps to see that the pain of those first few years is being used for good.
R: Mosely wanting to play. What's new.
I bought a new journal and this morning I wrote in it for the first time! I love this journal because the left side is a blank page that I can use for drawing! I've been enjoying lately finding a verse and then sketching it out. I'm hoping to do this more as a way to spend more time thinking about scripture. Also...I bought this journal at my NEW JOB. More on that below!
L: First day of work outfit! I got a part time job at Calli's Boutique in San Marcos! Technically called Two P's and Calli's Boutique if you want to get official. Basically, the senior business is running SLOW this spring. Things just haven't picked up the way I hoped they would. And so it seemed crazy to only have enough work for 2-3 days out of the week. I've toyed with the idea of a part time job for a while, but it was just never right timing. Well, Levi and the band at the Stone are getting transferred to a new campus they are opening in West Austin this month, and while we are so excited about this transition, it's also a slight pay cut. So with the slow down of my business, and the change in pay from his drumming, it just made sense for me to get a part time job! I had my first week of work last week and it went great! Although I really miss staying in yoga pants all day. I think I'm going to work most Tuesdays and Thursdays so if you live around here come visit me!
R: I held a contest through Bethany Lynn Photography back in the winter and the winner won a best friend photo shoot. We shot that this past weekend and I am SO happy with the results! I can't wait to edit them! I had my friend Brogan come along and help hold a reflector for the shoot and it was hilarious. It was such a windy day, and we were on top of a parking garage, so she almost blew away a few times!
Last bit! Mosely, wanting to play...again. Just so you know, we don't deprive her of play time! We throw her ball in the backyard during lunch and right after work everrrrryday but she still wants more more more. Good thing she's cute!
That turned out to be a lot more writing than I intended! Woops ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ - Bethany
She's here! She's here! The long awaited Emerald Rose came this week and I had the privilege of photographing her entry to the world! I have never been more proud and amazed at someone's strength than I was in that delivery room with Sarah! She is INCREDIBLE. I always knew that, but this just solidified it.
Can we talk for a second about child birth? Ok good. Um.....It's intense. And this a regular thing that happens in the world and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW YOU PEOPLE DO IT. I told Levi that after I was done it felt like The Walking Dead, when someone is turning into a zombie and they keep seeing flashes of blood and ripping flesh. Yep. It's like that afterwards. Flashes and visions.
I just had to get that part out.... :) But all together it was a WONDERFUL experience and I cannot believe I was able to do it and these are some serious keepsake images. I am just going to share a few as I know Wes and Sarah will share more when they get the time!
I love these two so much!!! We powered through 7hrs of natural labor together, except I got to take breaks and eat Mighty Fine, not be in pain, and generally be relaxed. :) I think Sarah's labor all together was around 10hrs, but almost THREE of those were pushing! She's a wonder woman.
First moments all around!
Emerald was born on Wednesday April 9th, and I took the below photos 4 days later when we visited them at home!
Levi and I tried to get a picture with Em and then right as Wes clicked the camera she RIPPED the loudest biggest action down under. I felt it. That is all.
I'm sure there will be many more Emerald updates to come as she grows!
So...is it the best BBQ in Texas? I am a self professed BBQ snob so I was dying to see what all the hype was about! We investigated this morning and I've got my thoughts below!
The crew! These guys (and gals- Sarah+Emerald) got in line at 9:30 and did all the hard work! I showed up at 11 and we still waited almost 2 more hours!
I was sort of expecting it to feel like I was at the Soup Nazi, but everyone was SO nice! They even supplied us with little sausage wraps while we waited!
We are hoping that eating Franklins will finally send Sarah into labor! Here she is at 41 weeks waiting 3hrs for BBQ :)
Finally inside the Promised Land.
We ordered Ribs, Brisket, Sausage, and a Chopped Beef Sandwich plus potato salad and cole slaw.
Again, everyone was SO friendly! This guy even cut off a huge hunk of brisket for us to sample while we ordered!
The ribs fell off the bone!
I definitely scooped half of this meat off my sandwich and will be having leftovers tomorrow!
Things get serious when you have to roll up your jacket sleeves.
A face only induced by the Franklin Fog- a bbq induced state.
Let me preface my final verdict with a brief background story. I worked at a bbq restaurant for almost 4 years in high school. It was the best bbq of my life and doesn't get the recognition it deserves! If you are near the Houston area, you MUST drive to Texans BBQ in Willis, Tx. Get the ribs, the spicy chicken, the beans and the baked potato casserole. Just do it.
Now, Franklins was GOOD. Their brisket is best I have ever had. But every thing else gets a solid B++. The ribs were wonderful, as was the chopped beef! The sides were "meh", the sweet tea was "meh" and the sausage was not my fave. It's the loosely compacted kind, which I'm not a big fan of. The quality of their meat is fantastic and it has great flavor on it's own! All in all, I loved it. But- I will not wait 3+ hours for it again. Just not worth it to me! Gimme some Texans BBQ please!
I don't know if I've addressed this on the blog before, but I'm pretty sure everyone who reads this knows that I'm leaving the wedding photography biz. Last July I made the decision to stop taking on more weddings and start doing senior portrait photography. It's been a great choice and last night we finished up our second to last wedding we have booked.
It was at The Winfield Inn, which is where we were married at almost four years ago :) I was so glad that one of our last weddings was out there, because who knows when we will be back! We only have one wedding left under the Two Times Photography name and then we are done! I say that because we are going to be partnering up with our friends Brandon and Ashley with his wedding photography/videography team, Brandon Hill Stories. We are excited to see where that goes and I am SUPER excited to not be the one in charge :) As much as I love being in control and directing, I do not love all the pressure that comes from being the number one person behind a wedding photography business! I'm excited to play second fiddle for a little while :)
Here are some behind the scenes shots from our last time at the Winfield:
I don't know when we will learn to make prettier faces during light tests. Probably never.
This is the face of someone who is ready to go home. Haha.
And this is the face of someone who really wanted a piece of that cake!