Hidden Treasures

A while back, my mom and I were going through some boxes in the closet and we came across the best hidden treasure ever. We found a photo book from my mom's fifth birthday.  For all my life, I've heard stories about my mom's favorite place as a kid, my great-grandparent's cabin in Minnesota, but I had never seen a single photo of it until now.  This book contains photos of (much younger versions of) my grandma, who passed away a few years ago, and many family members who I love so very much.  It's a glimpse into a past that I've only heard about.

And because of that, this is nothing short of a treasure.

 

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And this is such a great example of why I believe in the power of photography.  It's magic.  And that's why I love ordering beautiful, high quality Photo Books for my clients.  Printed photos are sadly not very common any more, but I hope that 50 years from now, their grandchildren will find those books, and get a little glimpse into this part of life.

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2014 in Review

It's hard to believe yet another year is ending.  As I took my annual trip back through photos from the last year via my Lightroom Catalog, I was once again amazed at everything this year brought.  God has certainly given me a few years filled with adventures and lessons about what is important in life. Speaking of what's important, one of those important parts of life is the people you love and remembering the way things are.  Which is why this year I decided to launch my Photography Business and start capturing people's memories for them.  And right now, I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU!!  In 2014, I had over 20 photo sessions and I truly feel incredibly blessed that each and every one of these people allowed me to capture a part of their beautiful life.  Each photo session leaves me feeling incredibly lucky to be let into someone else's life and to have observed the love and joy of another family.

Southeastern Oklahoma Photographer

Whew!  That's a lot of beautiful people, right?!

So that's what Megan Schreurs Photography has been up to this year.

 

Personally, it's been quite a year.  Here's some of what I've been up to in 2014:

I started the year in a very cold Chicago.  I survived the "Polar Vortex" and what was literally the coldest winter ever on record in Chicago.  If you don't remember, I spent Sept 2013 - Aug 2014 in Chicago as a Young Adult Volunteer program through the Presbyterian Church (USA).  While there, I lived in community with Billy & Clarissa, other YAVs for the year, volunteered full-time at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly - where I provided friendship to lonely & isolated Seniors in Chicago, rode lots of buses and trains, learned so much the West Side of Chicago, and learned to trust God in so many new ways.  You can read about my many Chicago adventures here.

Chicago YAV

 

As Spring came, it was SO GOOD after such a long and bitter winter.  The warmer weather led to a flurry of activity as anxious Elderly Friends could finally get out again and my housemates and I got serious about crossing things off our Chicago Bucket List.

Little Brothers Chicago

As the weather continued to warm up, we were unfortunately realized that meant that the number of shootings in our neighborhood skyrocketed.  We participated in a Peace Walk through our neighborhood, encouraging peace and nonviolent ways of resolving conflict. My long commute to work each day became a wonderful time of enjoying the warmer fresh air.  And during my time in Chicago, I continued my practices of fine art photography, enjoying the many photographic subjects the city had to offer.

Megan Schreurs Photography

I took wonderful little road trip to Des Moines where I spend a much needed weekend with my bestest college friends.

Hugo OK Photographer

My mom came to visit me in Chicago.  I took some time off work and we got to experience some of the tourist-y parts of Chicago before I left.  We took a boat tour, ate Chicago style pizza, walked the Magnificent Mile, rode the ferris wheel on Navy Pier, took pictures in "The Bean" at Millennium Park, and watched the 4th of July fireworks from downtown.

Chicago

 

My little sister got married in May and I was so thankful to be able to help her with many preparations as well as taking on the big job of being Wedding Photographer and bridesmaid at the same time.  Parties and outings with my Old Friends continued at Little Brothers.  I took a trip to Central Illinois to where I grew up to share about my experiences in Chicago and got to see my old house, as well as many family friends.  Clarissa and I embarked on a journey to experience all of the best ice cream in Chicago.  I spent a week on "vacation" with Little Brothers, which turned out to be one of the most exhausting but rewarding experiences of my entire time in Chicago.  And my YAV community and I ended our year with a closing retreat of reflections and roller coasters.

YAV program

And then my year in Chicago was over.  I came back to Southeastern Oklahoma, moved in with my parents, and soon opened my Photography Business.  Oklahoma is entirely the opposite of Chicago.  Just totally different.  The hustle and bustle and noise were suddenly replaced with peace and quiet and wide open spaces.  But I am enormously thankful to be able to spend time with my family.  I don't know how long I'll be here, but I know it's right for me right now.

Megan Schreurs Photography

I got to fly back to Chicago for a few days to document Lawndale Christian Health Center's big 30th Anniversary.  LCHC is doing big things on the West Side and I was so grateful for the chance to help them celebrate such a milestone.

Lawndale Christian Health Center

I spent a perfect weekend at gorgeous Ghost Ranch in New Mexico reuniting with YAVs who had just finished a year all over the world to reflect, share, and learn.

Ghost Ranch

Christmas came and with it lots of time with family.  My brother came from Seattle for a week and my cousin Phil and his wife were here for Christmas.  Of course we spent time playing games, eating Pizza, and celebrating our Savior's birth.

Southeast Oklahoma Photographer

 

2014 was a year of adventures, changes, growth, and trusting God.  I have no idea what 2015 will bring, but I know it will be good because He is in control.  Here's to another year and whatever it brings.

 

Megan Schreurs is a Southeast Oklahoma Photographer specializing in authentic documentary and lifestyle family, senior, and couple photography. Serving Hugo, Antlers, Soper, Fort Towson, Sawyer, and Paris, TX.  Contact her to book your session today!

Post-YAV Thought #512

YAV Program Chicago During my year in Chicago as a YAV, there were a few times when I was called a "missionary" and each time I was extremely uncomfortable with that title.

It's not that I don't think missionaries are important and everything, but it's just that I think Christians tend to see Pastors and Missionaries as the only ones in "full-time ministry" and that bothers me - a lot.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all charged with the command to love - even our enemies!  Jesus doesn't require only a part of our life - not just on Sundays while we're at church, or on Tuesday nights at Bible Study, or when we feel like it - if you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you have to be willing to give Him every moment of your life, to strive to love everyone you meet with His love, to let the Spirit produce the fruits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control) in your life.  And so we are all in "full-time ministry" - for all of our life.

My year as a YAV may have been more obviously about "serving God" but it was no more about serving God then the rest of my life.  No matter what I end up doing next - if I wind up with that ever elusive "dream job" doing graphic design at a non-profit, or I continue building a photography business here in Oklahoma, or I get a job at Walmart - no matter what, I will be looking for ways to love the people I encounter and to make Jesus known.

Coming Soon: Fine Art Prints & Products!

My first photography love has always been Fine Art - floral, landscape, and still life images.  People have been asking me for years when I'm going to start selling prints, and I'm happy to announce that the answer is finally SOON!!  Sign up here to be the first to hear all the details:  http://eepurl.com/2H5E9 Hugo OK Fine Art Photography Senior Family Couple Photographer

 

Megan Schreurs is a fine art and portrait photographer in Hugo, Oklahoma and the surrounding area specializing in authentic documentary and lifestyle family, senior, and couple photography.  Also serving Antlers, Soper, Fort Towson, Sawyer, and Paris, TX.

Simplification.

IMG_8722 Since returning to Oklahoma a month ago (how in the world has it been a month already??), I've been overwhelmed with how much stuff  I have.  So much stuff.

The fact that my closet was full when I hadn't even unpacked most of the suitcases containing all of my clothes that I wore for a year, the boxes of stuff that I didn't even think of for a whole 365 days, the way I don't even know what's in most of those boxes.  Sure, some of it is sentimental and I want to keep it.  But certainly not all of it; not most of it!

I was convicted by this passage.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." - Matthew 6:19-21

I was collecting all this stuff, these "treasures" just in case I ever needed it.  "I can use that somehow" was the thought behind keeping it.

 

But I spent a lot of time living simply in Chicago.  I only bought things that I needed and you know what?  I didn't miss it.  Not one bit!

Instead of thinking of all that stuff I was able to focus more on God and on the people around me instead of myself.

 

And so, I've been simplifying a lot.  I've been purging boxes and closets and drawers and putting more in the "get rid of" pile then in the "keep" pile.  When I find myself thinking "oh, but I could use that someday" I stop myself, remind myself of the birds who only collect the food they need and don't store extra in their barns (Matt 6:25-27), and I put it in the get rid of pile.

And the more I get rid of, the more weight I feel lifting off of my earthly body.

 

Audrey's House

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I just got home from four days at "Audrey's House," Little Brothers' vacation house just west of Chicago.

A bit about LBFE's Summer Vacation Program.  Some of our LBFE Elders are invited on vacation each summer; not all of them are invited - only those who are physically able and their coordinator thinks that they would enjoy the experience and be socially able are invited.  Each week a Coordinator, a bus driver, a volunteer, and two nursing students take a group of 12 elders out Monday through Thursday.  During the week, the coordinator plans activities.  Since our week happened to be all women, Lili planned a "Girlfriend's Getaway" themed week, with activities like thrift store shopping, a walk through a garden, a spa day, and t-shirt painting.

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Audrey's House is a beautiful and very large home in Batavia, IL - a far west suburb of Chicago. It has seven bedrooms, and (I think) eight bathrooms.  It is a beautiful facility, it is so perfect for our Elders, and we really enjoyed it!  It was so fun to hear the rooms filled with laughter and to see Elders enjoying the space!  We told them to make themselves at home and they did!  I loved hearing them exclaim "We're almost home!" after a day out.  Many of our Elders had never been in a home so large - or if they had, it was as someone who cleaned it!

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I was a little worried that this week was going to be kind of terrible, and I spent all weekend praying that God would give me unlimited patience and so much of His love to share - and He totally came through!  We had a great group of ladies - I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one of them, but still, waiting on twelve elderly ladies who need a lot of help with everyday activities and just trying to keep twelve people happy is exhausting.  I had to be "on" from before 7am until after 10pm each day - happy, ready to help, social, and making sure no one needs anything!  I never did get a chance to get past the table of contents of the magazine on the coffee table. And Jesus truly came through for me, as He always does - I enjoyed every moment, even though it was hard work and exhausting work.  I fell into bed every night so exhausted, but somehow woke up 6 hours later ready for another day.

I loved getting to know these ladies, hearing a bit of their stories, and watching their relationships with each other blossom!  I loved hearing their laughter and listening to their deep conversations.  I loved asking "Can I get you a cup of coffee?" and helping them down the elevator.

 

On Wednesday, almost twenty additional LBFE Elders - who were unable to come on a 4 day vacation because of health reasons or time constraints, but still wanted to experience Audrey's House - were brought by volunteers for the day.  We had lunch together and had a "Spa Day" complete with manicures and even massage therapists who did 15 minute chair massages for the elders!

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Our wonderful staff/volunteers for the week: Me, Traci, Liliana, Emma, and Jacquie - I loved serving alongside them!

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This lady down below, with Traci, is Elia.  Elia is 94 years old and never missed a beat.  As I was loading luggage into the car on Thursday morning she came over with her walker and asked "Can I help bring some luggage out to the car?"  No joke.  She moved to the U.S. from Russia in 1981 to be a translator for a scientist and her granddaughter was an olympic gold medalist gymnast in the late 80s.  Every once in a while she would walk over to me and say things like "Go sit down and rest - you are working too hard!"  Oh, and she liked to sunbathe on the back porch each morning - in her underwear. :)

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And this young lady is Lillian - our class clown.  Always joking and making us laugh, there was never a dull moment when Lillian was in the room!  She told me that she hadn't been so relaxed and had such fun in "at least seven years."lillian

This is Anne - with an "e" like in Anne of Green Gables.  She painted the most beautiful t-shirt, makes handmade cards, and speaks Spanish.   Anne is so kind and thoughtful - and as our most mobile elders (she went for a 45 minute walk each morning and ran up the stairs faster than I could!) was always willing to help get drinks when my hands were full and I had to say "I'll be right back!"  I'll never forget the shock I felt when she jumped out the back door of the bus to answer her cell phone while I was folding up walkers to put in the back of the bus on our way home from an outing!

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This is Lillian (Yes, we had two Lillian's and a Lili on our trip!).  She takes two creams in her coffee, has twelve children, loves wearing hats, and she insisted on buying me my favorite snacks when we went to Walmart.

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Now that I'm back home and there's no one to wait on, I don't know what to do with myself!

A Year: Long but Short

* When I started this "Year of Service" I thought a year was a long time.  * But now, as I look at my calendar and count my days left, it feels so short. 

* Mid-way through the year, around February, when I was feeling lonely and really cold and just plain worn out, I felt like a year was a really, really long time.

* As I think about the relationships I've started, I want more time.  In many ways, I feel like I'm just starting to know my elders.

* When I think about everything I've learned and experienced, I feel like a year must be a long time because so much has happened.

* But as I think about the things I haven't gotten to experience, it doesn't feel long enough.

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I'm trying to finish my year well but truth be told, there are a lot of distractions:  friends who want to hang out one last time, city things that I haven't gotten to do yet, the future to worry about,  packing to start, and a sinus infection that makes me want to curl into fetal position and cry because it hurts so much.

I have just one more visit with each of my elders; one more chance to show them love.

I'd appreciate your prayers.

By Grace.


God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT


For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

Romans 3:20 NLT'


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So many times during the past eleven months I have needed those reminders.

My default setting is to try to earn God's love. I am naturally a rule follower. I love rules, really I do.  I know not everyone is like that, but it is a part of me.

I can't remember ever going through "that rebellious stage" as a child or a teenager; I always wanted to please my parents and the very thought of them being disappointed in me was enough to make me not want to break the rules. I literally don't think I saw a PG-13 rated movie until after I was 13 just because it was the rule.

So naturally, in my relationship with God that's where I go.  I want to please Him. I want Him to see how good I am and love me more for it. I think that He will see how good I am and love me more for it, that somehow if I just follow the rules a little more things will be easier.

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But that is not how Jesus works. We don't have to work for our salvation or to earn His love. He just loves us because of who He is.  He is love.  The very definition.

I know that.

But during a year like this, it's pretty easy to forget.  I'm trying to do a lot of good things, and while that is good and it is important, it's easy to do them for the wrong reasons.

 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

James 2:14-17  NLT

Doing things - like feeding hungry people and clothing people without any - is a very important part of faith.  But it needs to be the other way around - because of God's great love for us we should want to love people.  It's not by loving people well that we earn God's love.

And I need to remember that.

 


A Different View: Chicago Architecture Tour

I'm spending the next week as basically a tourist in Chicago.  Sure, I've been living here for nearly a year, but I haven't gotten a chance to do a lot of things yet.  With a few days off and my mom in town visiting, it's the perfect time!  We started yesterday with a cold and dreary architecture boat tour on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.  How cool to see the city from a different angle! Chicago Architecture Tour  landscape skyline city photography

Ice Cream Adventures: Memorial Day Edition

My friends went to Costa Rica for two weeks and left their car at our house - with permission to use it as much as we want - thanks Michelle & Josh!! So, with the freedom of having a car in this city for the first time ever and a day off, we set off on an adventure. Ice cream was the goal, of course - Clarissa loves ice cream like no one I've ever met before. Rainbow cones, driving around the suburbs, and a picnic dinner = a wonderfully refreshing day!

Home.

I apologize right now for how long this is going to be.  It's been a really busy month, and I have a lot to say!  Thanks for sticking with this!
I went home for two amazing weeks.  Home is a complicated word for me.  I've lived in a lot of places and it can be very confusing.  What is "home"?  I've come to realize that for me, it's where my family - my mom & dad, my sister & brother - are.  The traditional sense of "home" ended for me when my parents moved across the country the week after I graduated from high school.  From that point on, my home because very confusing.  Is home where you went to school, where your friends are, the place that is familiar, where you grew up, where you were born? 
 
Anyways, my parents and sister currently live in Southeastern Oklahoma.  I lived there for two years before moving to Chicago, so it's sort of home, but I still don't know a whole lot of people there, and don't have many friends there, so it isn't really.
So yeah, when I say I went home, it's a bit different than a lot of people.
 
 
But my sister got married, so I spent two weeks in Southeastern Oklahoma, helping with the wedding and spending time with my family.
One of the many things I've realized about myself this year is just how important my family is to me.  I think it's because we moved so much when I was a kid; nothing in my life was consistent except the five of us.
 (my mom has always been one of my very best friends)
 
And so it was really, really important for me to be there to help with Becca's wedding.  Thankfully, Little Brothers and Krista have both been very generous and understanding with time off, so that wasn't a problem.
I'm not going to go into it too much right now, because this is already going to be way too long, but the week before I left Chicago was the hardest one of my year by far.  It was bad.  And so I was so ready for a some time with loved ones and a break in routine.
This is one of those occasions that meant a lot to me, that people don't quite understand just how much.
 
I spent the first week helping with a lot of projects for the wedding, which was why I was there anyways.  I worked really hard doing things like going shopping for last minute supplies, cleaning, various DIY projects, making trips from the church to my parents' house to my sister's house to the reception site, etc. 
 
 (the roses were in full bloom.  so so gorgeous.)
 (my biggest DIY project, I made a sandwich-board-style sign for the wedding out of an old pallet)
 (I enjoyed the wide open spaces and warm tempertures in Oklahoma - almost 90 degrees on some days!  And the kitties, of course)
(Oklahoma had leaves long before Chicago did.)
Then the extended family started to arrive.  My grandpa, Aunt Julie, and cousin Maya arrived from Whidbey Island, Washington on Wednesday night.  Aunt Libby (also from Washington), Aunt Ann & my cousin Maggie (from Wisconsin), and my cousin Kaitlyn and her boyfriend Tyler arrived on Friday.  My Aunt Amy (from Denver) came on Saturday with my cousin Ethan, as well as some good family friends from when we lived in Central Illinois, the Harts.  We were all so overwhelmed with love and with how far people traveled to be there to celebrate Josh & Becca's marriage.  It made for a very busy, but fun-filled weekend.
 
 
The wedding was a very DIY affair.  Everyone worked so hard to decorate with things borrowed from friends, from the church, from the school where my mom works, etc.  We cooked the food ourselves with the help of a friend who caters.  I did the photos, with the help of a family friend & her boyfriend. 
 
Yes, you read that right.  I was a bridesmaid & the photographer at my sister's wedding.  It was really chaotic and not an easy task and required more multi-tasking than I thought was possible, but hiring a professional proved impossible because Hugo is so far in the middle of nowhere plus their engagement was just so short that the few photographers were already booked.  So I told her I would figure out a way to do it and spent a lot of time figuring out just how in the world I could do this!  I am so thankful that Tori & David were able to help me out for the parts that were just impossible for me to do by myself - for times when I just couldn't be in two places at once, like during the ceremony and for group shots that I was in.
 
 
 
 
 
The ceremony was at the church where my dad is the pastor, and he officiated.  My grandpa (who is also a pastor) led the beginning of the service so that my dad could walk Becca down the aisle.
The wedding party consisted of my cousin and I as bridesmaids and Josh's two brothers were groomsmen.  The flower girl, Emma, was the daughter of one of Becca's friends.
It was simple and beautiful.
 
The reception was at a house at Hugo Lake, a state park just outside of town.  We were very blessed to be able to use that space and it ended up perfect.  The weather was gorgeous so most people sat out on the deck, which overlooked the lake, and the bugs weren't even that bad! 
 
 
 
There were also a lot of special touches on the day.  My sister wore my mom's veil, which my mom bought while she was serving a "Summer of Service" in Belgium the summer before my parent's wedding.  Becca also wore my grandma's wedding ring on her right hand, which was really special since this was the first of her grandchildren's weddings she wasn't at.  By aunt also brought my grandma's actual garter.  We used the china from our church that they used to use for church dinners back in the day.  The roses in the centerpieces came from our neighbor's rose bushes.  Some of the decorations came from a friend of my sister's wedding last year.
And then week two consisted of cleaning up (because it turns out when you spend a week setting things up, it also takes a lot to tear it all down!), spending some time in my mom's third grade class, taking people back to the airport (a three hour trek), and editing wedding photos.
The entire two weeks was jam-packed with busy-ness.  But it was soooooooo good to be back with my family.  I have missed them more than anything while in Chicago.
To be honest, it was really hard to come back.  Really hard.  Thankfully the beautiful weather has helped, but I would appreciate prayers as I try to finish strong - it's hard to believe that my year in Chicago is almost over but with only a few months left, it really is coming to an end, which is pretty bittersweet.
(And oh man, as I was looking through photos to add to this post, I realized just how many other thing I have to blog about.  So look for more posts soon - and bother me if I don't post them - cuz I'm just going to fall further behind!)

Realizing that my gifts MATTER.

Over the past week or so, I've gotten to see a few of my graphic design projects in real life. 
Somehow, seeing things printed in mass quantities instead of just on my computer screen in Adobe Illustrator makes it seem more "real."
I designed a postcard for National Volunteer Appreciation Week (this week! Go thank some volunteers!) for Little Brothers.  This week, almost 1,500 people around the city of Chicago will receive a postcard thanking them for their service with Little Brothers this year - with my photo and design on in!
 
And, I came home the other day to a postcard and bookmark waiting on my desk for me from my housemate, Clarissa.  I  designed a logo for the organization she's working with this year, Grace Seeds, and they "debuted" the logo at an event this weekend - complete with the logo on a cake!!
 
 
 
 
 
So I've been thinking (again) about Graphic Design and how important it is to me.
I really think that's one of the biggest things I've realized this year.
Our gifts have been given to us for a reason. My gifts have been given to me for a reason.
I've loved to create for as long as I can remember.  Some of my first memories are making things out of homemade play-doh and coloring "scribble drawings" with my mom.  As a little girl, I was constantly doing some sort of craft. Making something where there used to be nothing absolutely fascinates me.  I've been through phases of just about everything - cross stitch, polymer clay, scrapbooking, shrinky-dinks, painting, quilting, handmade cards, embroidery.  I could go on.
I started college with no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  None.  I actually started as an Elementary Education major, mostly because it was something I knew.  I understood school.  Thankfully, I went to a liberal arts college that required me to do some exploring anyways.  So I took the general Art101 class that everyone takes.  I loved every moment of it.  And thankfully, I went to a college where the professors care.  (Here's a secret: If you want to get me talking about my deepest thoughts, give me a paintbrush or some clay to stick my hands in and I'll spill it all.)  So I talked to my professor.  I told him how I loved art but I just wasn't sure that it was a practical thing for me to study since I really didn't want to be an art teacher.  He introduced me to the concept of graphic design.  I had never even heard of such a thing before.  He convinced me to take Graphic Design 101 the next semester to see if I liked it.  And I loved it.  I loved how it incorporated the creative with the practical.  I loved seeing my ideas come together on the computer screen. 
So I changed my major. 
I changed my dreams.
I started dreaming of a corporate, city lifestyle.  I was sure that I would move to Seattle, ride the train to work where I would design pretty things for clients, and go home to my cute little apartment.
And then I graduated.
I quickly discovered that finding a job in this industry is next to impossible.  I didn't have any real life experience.  I didn't have any contacts.  And so my little resume never made it to the top of the pile.  I applied for well over 200 positions and never even had an interview.  It was so sad, so depressing, so discouraging. 
So I got another job.  Ironically, it was in the Education field, the field that I decided wasn't for me.  Funny how God works, right?
And slowly, my Graphic Design dreams faded.
Gradually, I decided that I probably wouldn't ever get to work in Graphic Design.  It would just be something that I could do on the side, for fun.
I accepted that.
And then God led me to the YAV program.  I knew that I needed to step out in faith, and do something crazy for God.  I knew it was time to put my Faith into action instead of just talking about it.  And this work with Little Brothers is good work, really good.  It's just my gift.  I have to rely on God to give me what I need all day long.  And relying on God is an amazing thing.  And I hope that never stops.
But gradually, over the past 8 months, He's shown me that my gifts matter.
He's given me a love for details, for typography, a passion for color theory, and an enthusiasm for problem solving that are the perfect combination for designing.
He's taught me that my skills can help people by putting opportunities in front of me. 
He's made me realize that my skills are unique.  I know things about file formats, color spaces, and vectors that the average person doesn't have a clue about. 
And He's shown me that Design is something that is needed by small non-profits, churches, ministries, and organizations just as much - if not more - than large businesses.
So now I'm here, no longer dreaming of a corporate, career-driven life, but of a life helping people further the Kingdom of God through my skills of Graphic Design and photography.
Now I just have to figure out how to do that.
So keep your ears open, friends, for jobs like that - because in a few months my student loans are going to need to be paid again and I'm going to need a real job where they pay me.

 

A [failed] Day in the Life

I woke up this morning feeling wonderfully inspired to pick up my camera.  I thought "Oh, I'll do a "day in the life" series for my blog.  I'll take photos all day and then tonight I'll post them on my blog so everyone who reads it will know what my day looked like."  See, I had the day off work at Little Brothers today.  I had grand visions of getting things crossed off my to-do list that I somehow never have time to do, and heading downtown for an adventure, and cooking dinner, and enjoying a lovely relaxed evening with my roommates.  As you read that you probably realized what I missed - even though it was a day off, it was still only a day.  There's just no way to do all of that.  And then about half way through the day, the light was no longer as pretty, and I set my camera down and forgot to pick it up again.  And so the rest of my day went undocumented.  Oh well.  You'll still get to see part of it.

Thanks to my lovely bed-fort, I got to sleep in way past when the morning light would have otherwise woken me up.  A few months ago, back when it was really cold here, I tied up these blankets around my bed to keep the heat inside and keep me warm inside.  And then it had this unexpected benefit of also keeping it dark in my bed, which made me sleep way better than I had since I got here.  So I left it up.  And on days like today, I'm so glad!

The remnants on my desk of a little creative-ness this morning.  I told you I was feeling inspired.  Before I even took my pajamas off, I sat at my desk with the goal of drawing a grid for a homemade calendar.  But as I picked up those markers, I had to do more.  So I spent a little extra time doodling.

The result is the above little grouping: a homemade calendar, a countdown until I get to go home in May (26 days left!) and some quotes to remind myself to live for today and not just for the future.  I'm constantly forgetting that.  I'm always looking ahead, excited about something coming up, and I forget what a beautiful gift today is.  I'm trying to find that perfect balance.

This is "my spot."  You know, that favorite spot on the couch.  It's where my laptop hangs out and it's the first place I go when I get home after a long day.

Then I got some chicken out of the freezer for supper tonight.  The hardest part of cooking for me - remembering to take the meat out to thaw!  I'm always forgetting that part!

Of course, laundry.

And no DITL post is complete without a few selfies.  I never did brush my hair today.

The worst part of my day; I had to take care of some stupid complications with my student loans.  Student loans are going to be the death of me.  But I got it done.  For now, until they get something else mixed up.

Pandora.  All day.

And, let the cooking begin.  My turn to cook dinner for my roommates and I.  I've been wanting some of my mom's cooking, and since she's a few miles away, I called her to request instructions for some favorite dishes.  (Thanks, Mom!  They tasted great!)

And then my roommates came home and I forgot to take any more photos.  And that would have been the more interesting shots, huh?  Sorry about that.

"My power works best in weakness."

"That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.  If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,  even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses,and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  (2 Cor. 12:1-10)

I haven't talked a lot about the specific Elders that I work with through Little Brothers for a reason, because I want to honor them and their specific stories.  Each of them has a different story; some are eager to share and others change the subject when I try to ask them about it.  And that's okay.  I understand that it's not easy to share.
But here's the thing:  So many of their stories are not very happy.  These are Seniors who have been classified as "lonely and isolated" for a reason.  Unfortunately, many of them are not the easiest to be around; often they say things without thinking, they do things that are very self-centered, and they isolate themselves by doing these things.
I came into this year wanting a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love people, and I have definitely gotten the chance to do that. I truly love people all day long, and I am beyond thankful for that.  These are people who need it; too often I'm the only one in their life who takes the time to listen to them and just be with them.  But I've also learned a lot about loving, as a verb.  It's a whole lot of work.  It requires way more of 1 Corinthians 13 than I understood before.

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

And probably the most important thing I'm learning is to rely on God more.  I am reminded daily, when my strength runs out and I just want to stop, that I should be looking to Him to provide.  I am not supposed to be giving away my own love, but God's.  He has more than enough for all of my elders.  More than enough for the entire city of Chicago, and the whole world.  He is never going to run out.  On the other hand, I do.  Daily.  My tank of patience and kindness and love is completely dry many days, which is an amazing opportunity to allow Him to work.
Some recent photos from a few different Little Brothers luncheons and outings:
 
 
 
P.S. Watch for a blog post in the next few days about my trip to Washington D.C. last weekend!

A Random Sunday Update

Once again I've let time slip away from me and it's been a while since I've posted here on my blog.  Sorry!
 
Here are some tidbits of what's been going on:
I went to Arizona last weekend.  I was invited by a good family friend to stay with them and attend a mission conference that the organization he works for puts on.  I got to talk to their organization and a number of others about doing photography/graphic design for them. It was one of those weekends that leaves you with a lot more questions than you went in with, but good & important questions that take some serious time and thought to work through.  So I'm slowly working through those.
Also, it was wonderfully warm there.
 
The time change has seriously messed up my sleep schedule - the fact that I was in another time zone when it happened seems to have multiplied that.  I've been having a hard time getting to sleep, and therefore waking up, and it's resulting in a very sleepy girl.  I would appreciate your prayers that I would be feeling more rested soon.
 
 
I went on a photography adventure a couple of weeks ago and just explored the city with my camera in hand, which was a wonderful way to relax and be creative.
 
 
 
Clarissa and I have joined a new small group through our church - they do quarterly small group sessions, so our last one ended and a new one started up.  We are reading "The Signature of Jesus" by Brennan Manning, and it has been so good to get to know some Jesus-minded people in the city and get that deep conversation that I crave.
 
I am desperate for Spring.  Can't. Wait.
 
I find myself wanting more time to think.  I feel like I constantly have a million things going through my head and never enough time to work through my thoughts.  Thoughts about the future, about scripture, about theology, about myself, about how politics & faith overlap, about friendship and community, about poverty.  So many thoughts.
 
I got to the Botanic Garden's Orchid Show with two of my elders - and my camera.  It was lovely.
 
 
I've been getting to use my photography & design skills more for Little Brothers - I designed a postcard for Volunteer Appreciation Week and I'm working on a sort of promotional video thingy.
I'm learning about being true to myself and my mental needs.  We are all different and we have different ways of dealing with stress. 
 
And a few random photos from Instagram recently:
 
 
 

Another update: on vocation, being vulnerable, and a thank you.

A few weeks ago when I wrote about our Vocational Retreat in Indianapolis, I was pretty vulnerable when I shared about some of the ways God was speaking to me and how He is leading me.  Truthfully, it was hard for me to be that open and I felt pretty exposed as I posted it.  I may have typed it out and erased it and re-written it a few times.  And then I still held my breath as I pressed "post."
So you might wonder why I posted it.  
I posted it because I believe that it is important for Believers to be transparent about their stories and where they are on their journey.  I believe that for a few reasons.  Firstly, because I believe that it can help outsiders have a more realistic view of our Faith.  I'm sick of Christians putting on a happy, fake exterior when they're hurting inside.  It doesn't do them any good and it only makes people confused.  Second, I posted it because I believe that community is a powerful thing.  God didn't intend for us to go through this life alone.  Of course we have God, but we also have each other.  And I've seen community make a difference enough times to believe in it.  When you share yourself with others, it allows them to really love you; to support you, to offer advice and insight, to offer a shoulder to cry on or a hug when you need it, to be someone to pray for you, and to say "I don't know how to help, but I'm here for you anyways."  So I posted my true thoughts on the internet for the whole world to see.
I mean, not the whole world.  My blog is public, but it's not like the whole world reads it.  Only the people who care about me - my family, my friends, and my facebook friends (who I only allow to be my facebook friend if I truly know them and care about them - so if you're my facebook friend, you should feel special. :) ), so that helped too.
So yeah, it was hard.  But I felt it was important, so I did it.
And it's proven true.  My community (AKA you!) came together to support me in some really cool ways that never would have happened if I hadn't put those thoughts out there.  I received words of encouragement that helped boost my self-esteem (which I need, because I often struggle with confidence and feeling like I'm not good enough).  I received advice and tips.  And several people offered me with exciting opportunities.  In a couple of weeks I'm traveling to Arizona to meet with a non-profit about a possible position to use my graphic design and photography skills to help their organization when this year is over.  I heard about a photography workshop that is specialized in photography for non-profits - who knew that was even a thing??  I'm using my gifts more at Little Brothers.  The YAV office asked me for some pictures to use (see below, Clarissa is modeling her YAV tshirt!).  Cool things are happening.

 

And even if nothing comes from any of these things, I feel like God is speaking to me through you guys.  He's using you to nudge me forward and say "Yes, Megan, you're on the right track!  Keep going." And after 3 years of seeking these opportunities to find nothing but closed doors, finding some open ones gives me such hope.  Hope that God can use me somehow!
So thanks, my friends. 
Thanks for your support, for caring about me and my journey, and for loving me. 
Keep it coming.  This is still hard.

On Straddling Two Worlds - Or Twelve.

This year, I feel like I'm constantly straddling two worlds.
  • Balancing between the poor neighborhood that I live in and the rich neighborhood that I go to work in every day. 
  • Sandwiched in the middle of the people who know me, but are far away, and the people who don't know me but surround me here. 
  • Stuck in the middle of the Conservative Christian world and the Liberal Christian world. 
  • And for that matter, between the Christian world and the non-Christian world. 
  • Between my very single self and all of my (many) married friends. 
  • Straddling the photography community and my everyday real life, where few people even know I take photos. 
  • Between the old people that I work with and the young person that I am.
Truthfully, it's a lonely place to be.
And I'm constantly wishing that people understood each other.  I wish that we would take the time to care about people who are different than we are.  That we would ask genuine questions and look beyond ourselves.  That we would accept and LOVE each other for our diversity, not in spite of it.
(Random photo from a recent trip to the Shedd Aquarium with some "old friends" from Little Brothers, just because this post needed a photo)

Bringing some color into February.

A few weeks ago, my site coordinator, Krista, asked me if I would be willing to house-sit as her family is out of town this weekend, to feed the cat and let the dog out.  She promised that I would get yummy snack foods in the fridge and full access to their tv and internet (faster and more reliable than ours!) and a dishwasher so of course I couldn't turn that down.  And it turned out to be very timely, as I desperately needed some time away to reflect and think and just rest this weekend.And it was very productive for the first little while, as I wrote this blog post, did a lot of thinking, wrote some emails, and just did some things I needed to do. But then, a few hours into a stretch of a couple of days spent alone, I started to get lonely.  The peace of Christ left me as the devil came in and said "You're such a loser, sitting here all alone. Where are your friends?"  And suddenly everything bad about my life seemed to be multiplied times a thousand, every doubt was magnified, and the dark and cold outside seemed overwhelming.

After some time wallowing in the negativity, I did what I know to do when I can't take it any more.  I created.  I had brought along some art supplies just in case I needed to make something, because it truly is the best way for me to think sometimes.  So I turned on my worship music and began to paint with bright, happy watercolors and suddenly the image began to appear.

Today is a new day, and I'm braving the outdoors because I saw on twitter that the sermon at church this morning is about fear, which is one of my biggest struggles, so I know I have to go.  Today I am living into that promise, that God will never leave me, He will never fail me, and never abandon me.  He is on my side.  And I'm not letting the devil in.

How do you deal with discouraging thoughts?

Winter Retreat summary

Last weekend, my housemates and I went to Indianapolis for our Winter Retreat, centered around "vocation."
That is one of my favorite things about this year and the DOOR/YAV programs - how they set aside time for us to reflect on what we are experiencing and what it means to our life.
Anyways, we left on Thursday after work and headed to Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.  Second Pres wanted to host us because they are in the process of becoming a YAV site for next year, so some of our time was spent meeting with them about the YAV program and how they can make their site the best it can be.  It was pretty cool to see how much thought and work goes into creating a YAV site, and just how much they care about it.
Funny story:  we were supposed to take the DOOR van, but it ended up having some problems to Krista had to rent a car last minute and this teeny tiny one was the only one available.  So we had packed for the van and then had to make it all fit in this tiny car.  We felt like a bunch of clowns all crammed in there!
 
 
 
 
This church was HUGE.  I've never been in such a huge church. I kept getting lost.  I was told they have 4,000 members. It was gorgeous, for sure.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We also really like ice cream, and discovered a lovely ice cream shop in Indy to do some of our discussing.
We slept in the Presbyterian Women room, a huge craft room with sewing & knitting supplies, and lots of other fun stuff
See, they even need maps everywhere so people can find their way!
I think every church has an ugly floral women's bathroom, but this was a bit crazy - matching wallpaper, couch, and tableclothes!
During the weekend, we had various people come to talk to us about vocation - about how to use spiritual disciplines to seek God, about how vocation isn't always just a career path but a way of living , we even had a Jewish Rabbi come talk to us about how vocation plays a role in Judaism. - and we spent a lot of time reflecting together as a community on what it might mean for us personally.
 
It was a very timely topic, as we are all thinking about what is going to happen next for us, after this year is over.  We still have about half of the year left, yet everyone around me seems to want to know what I'm doing next!

 

As we talked about spiritual gifts and about being a part of the body of Christ - as unique and different parts - and as I prayed, read, and journaled, I realized that it is important for me to use my skills of photography and graphic design in my next step.  I am passionate about and love those things, and maybe more importantly, they are a unique gift that God has given me.  Now, how that is going to happen is a little harder to nail down.  This path is not very well defined.  I've been doing a lot of thinking about non-profits and how photography and design can help them "tell their stories." 
I am working with my supervisor at Little Brothers to start a project with them doing this soon, so I'm looking forward to taking some actions to see how this works in real life.
I don't know if this will mean a traditional job in a larger non-profit, who would have the budget to hire someone to do this full time, or if it will mean starting my own business (something I've been fairly set against in the past, so maybe God is working on softening my heart), or freelancing out work to various non-profits and organizations.  Those last two options scare me to death because they are unpredictable and wouldn't involve knowing my monthly salary ahead of time.  Yikes.  But I am trying to seek God's will and I know that if it is what He wants, He will provide for my needs. 
So yeah, pray for me as I try to seek Him.  Pray that my stubbornness and fears don't get in the way of His working.
 
 
 
Some photos I took of the sanctuary and chapel while I reflected.  Because sometimes I think best when I'm looking through the viewfinder of my camera.