beauty in all of it.

I’ll be arriving home, in America, on June 22. I’ll be leaving home, Papua New Guinea, on June 13.

What a weird thing. Two homes. Two places containing my life, people I love and who love me. This is the year of another major transition. It happens for us missionaries about once every 2 to 3 years, more often for most. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. It’s exciting. It’s stressful. It’s emotional. It’s a lot more things.

What’s going on in my head? Honestly, I have no idea. It’s confusing and frustrating, surrounded by joy and expectation. And I can’t put most of what I feel into words. I’ve been here before, 3.5 years ago. But that means nothing. It’s always new and different.

In these next 10 weeks, I have to get my house ready for someone else to live in while I’m gone. I purge – a lot. I clean. I decide what needs to come home with me, what I need to buy for family, friends, and partners. I try to plan how all of it is going to fit into one 50lb. checked bag and two little carryons. Is that ever possible? Should I just pay the extra bag fee?

I finish up things at work – try to finish well – while also planning what things will look like when I return seven months later. Is all my crap organized enough to be out of the way for other teachers to use the space? Is what I’ve been teaching organized enough for a new teacher to use my materials? What do I need to know for new things I’ll be teaching?

I strategically and intentionally plan time with my people, to soak up as much time as possible with them before we part for months, maybe a year or more. Will this be the last time I really get to hang out with them for a while? Should I say goodbye now, or wait until we might hang out again? Is this possibly the last time I may ever see them again?

I plan what my time in America is going to look like. Family. Friends. Travel. Informing partners and spreading knowledge about what I do. Education. So much excitement. Some days I can hardly contain it. Some days it stresses me out. Most days I try to push down the feelings so I can focus on my work and relationships here, now. And I question… Can I fit everything in? Can I meet everyone’s expectations? (The answer to that is always ‘no’ :))

And I look back on the last 2 years and some months. What defined this field term? I hit my mid-30s. I learned much about myself. I tried new things (teaching dance, photography, economics; serving on staff at POC, redeeming my first experience there; hiked a mountain and didn’t wash my hair for 5 days – ew). Friendships were deepened; they are so precious to me. New friendships were made. Some friendships evolved. Some friendships faded a little. Some ceased altogether. There was happiness and excitement. There was grief and sorrow. There was anger and pain. There was joy. Most days are ‘normal’. Some are heavenly. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, and it’s all I can do to exist.

Beauty is my word for this year. And I think that defines everything for me. I am surrounded by beauty every day. You can’t live here and not notice it. But not just in nature. In the people. In relationships. In conflict. In the heartache. In the ashes. In the mundane. In the struggle. In tears. In weakness. In courage. In the pain. In the unknown. In growth. In breathing. In who I am.

God is good. So good. He knows. And He’s got this.

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death. life.

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Genesis 1-3 | Such perfection. Beauty. Light. Life. And then brokenness. Darkness. Death. In just one instant –  one time believing Satan’s lies – one act of disobedience – one bad decision on humanity’s part, and it’s all destroyed. Have you ever felt this brokenness? Your brokenness? Something happens. And you know that if God’s creation had never fallen, this would not be happening. It’s a feeling deep inside of your soul that causes you to know, beyond any doubt, that this world, and everything in it, is broken. I’ve felt it. And it feels hopeless. Doesn’t it? And you can feel the utter darkness.

But God…

John 1 | Enters Jesus… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Jesus was there from the beginning, right there creating and then watching it all happen.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”

He knew what had to be done.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God restores all things. He reconciles and heals the brokenness we create. He destroys death and offers life. He makes us a new creation. He brings light to our darkness. He gives us hope that can’t be found anywhere else.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Our sin was carried to the cross and is no more. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.

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On January 1 this year, I decided to start a read-through-the-Bible again. I need God’s Word deep in my life. I want truth.

And this time, I want to write about it so that y’all can get a glimpse of a little bit of the truth I see. I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I write!

(What I wrote today was from day 1.)

❤ brandy

(scripture portions from ESV)

be still

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:3-7)

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:5-8)

Be Still My Soul
Katharina von Schlegel (1752) / Jane Borthwick (1855)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

——-

I read these words only a couple days after returning to Papua New Guinea. All of it, the Scripture portions, the whole hymn, are words of such comfort, truth, rest, glory, praise, grace. But that day, the one line that stood out to me most, that gave me the most comfort and joy, was from the hymn… “Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay, from His own fullness, all He takes away.” Praise the Lord. This lifestyle of mine is so transient, so much taken away all at once when I leave one place for another. But I always know that Jesus repays what He takes away; and He doesn’t pay from earthly things but from His own fullness! What a promise. He is so faithful.

❤ brandy

samica engagement shoot

My sister, Jessica, and her fiancé Sam (Jessica + Sam = Samica) are getting married in November, and I asked if I could work on my photography skills by taking engagement pictures for them. After a lot of convincing, I got them to agree! 🙂 I love these two and I’m so glad I got to capture a little bit of their relationship in a few images.

My photo count at the end of the night was 541… yikes! But I narrowed down my favorites to these. (Sorry, there’s still quite a few here!) We shot all the photos in the beautiful downtown of Lincolnton, NC.

Sam is a gamer, so we had to get some photos in our local gaming store, Game Swap.  Aren’t they a couple of hotties?!

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I don’t know who this is, but Sam was super excited that the owner of the store wheeled it out of the window display for him.

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Sam and Jessica love to get frozen yogurt at the local fro-yo shop, Habibi.

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And some other random ones from around town…

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My parents live on Oak St, and every time I drive down it, the huge oaks take my breath away. I’ve been wanting to take photos of someone on the street, and my wish finally came true! These are obviously my favorites from the evening.

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And this is what happens when you say, “Don’t walk like you’re drunk!” Of course they have to be completely contrary. I laugh out loud every time I come across this picture.

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They’re adorable.

❤ brandy

the impossible

Today I was reminded of something from my Papua New Guinea orientation training from over three years ago. We were sitting in class – we had loads of class time – learning about the PNG culture. We learned about cannibalism, cargo cults, the heterogeneity of the people, the 850+ languages, animistic religious practices, the remoteness of so many villages.  Pretty much, we who were new to the country were sitting there with this sinking feeling in our guts, wondering how in the world these people can be reached with the Gospel.

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Our classroom at orientation – we like the comfy seats!

We felt much like the followers of Christ did in the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30).  Jesus tells them that it’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  And they asked him, “Then who can be saved?”

After learning the history of the people of PNG, I wondered the same thing… “How can they ever be reached?”  And then I remembered what Jesus said next.  “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

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Cooking breakfast with my sweet was-mama (host mother), Maria, in her village house.

The same rings true for the current state of our nation.  We may look on with hopelessness at the violence, racism, the morality shifts, social justice, and wonder the same thing… “Then who can be saved?”  “How can they all be reached?”

But we can rest in the fact that “what is impossible with men is possible with God.”

We have seen and heard of so many miracles happening in PNG, and around the world, in places that seem impossible to reach – people coming to know and accept the Gospel of Jesus in spite of past cultural and societal pressures and circumstances.

Praise God for that – we can trust Him to do the impossible!

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A cloudy PNG sunrise over the coast of Madang.

❤ brandy

adventuring

I love adventuring.  Almost every day I get to adventure around my town.  I get out for a walk and discover new awesome roads and houses, blossoming trees and flowers, people, pets.  I usually get to stop by my family’s office on Main St. to say hello in the middle of the work day.  I like to think I’m a bright spot in their day. 😉

My favorite Spring tree - pink dogwood!

My favorite Spring tree – pink dogwood!

I’ve also taken some recent adventures around my great state – most of which happened to have been in the beautiful Appalachian mountains.

My sister and I have hiked a couple of the South Mountain State Park trails.  The last time we hiked loads of wooden stairs to the top of a waterfall.  It was so beautiful – and peaceful at the top!

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A month ago, my sister and I went to Atlanta for the Braves opening weekend!  They lost, but I still love them.

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The next week, my mom, sister, and I went to a women’s retreat held by my church, Freedom.  We went to Ridgecrest in Black Mountain, NC, where we studied the book of Titus, got to know and encourage and love on each other, explored the small town of Black Mountain with new friends, and enjoyed the beauty that surrounds that area.

If you're ever in Black Mountain, stop by here for a cuppa!

If you’re ever in Black Mountain, stop by here for a cuppa!

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in downtown Black Mountain with sweet friends

And a couple weeks ago we did a pre-Mother’s Day outing with my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and cousin to the Biltmore Estate!  I love that place so much.  If I lived closer I would totally buy an annual pass, if only to explore the vast grounds – almost 3 million species of plant life!!  Also this time they had a Downton Abby display – several of the costumes worn by the characters, information on how they made those costumes, and details about their life during that time period.  And the rooms!  Every time I go they have different rooms open for viewing.  The whole place is stunning.  The gardens, the conservatory (with so many different orchid species), the forests, the views, the winery – all so lovely.  When I go, I like to get unique shots of the house.  Here’s my shot from this trip!

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the ingle girls!

the Ingle girls!

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favorite flower shot of the day

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conservatory and rose garden

Last weekend I got to visit some friends who live in Papua New Guinea with me.  They’re on home assignment, too!  They live in Boone – I hadn’t been there in years and years!  It was so great to share a meal with them, play a game (a favorite pastime in PNG), and explore downtown Boone and some hiking trails.  I even did some yoga at the summit!

dancers pose is my favorite.   i'm getting better!

dancers pose is my favorite. i’m getting better!

Laura and me

Laura and me

My next adventure: move to Atlanta and connect with my friends and ministry partners who are there, while being a dancer in a production of Annie Get Your Gun and taking a couple online classes!  I’ll be there mid-May through the end of July.  Can’t wait to hang out with all you Atlantans. 😉

❤ brandy

healthy living

I love having a healthy lifestyle!

I used to hate running. I hated hiking. Pretty much hated anything that made me sweat. I also hated worrying about what I ate. The fact that I remained relatively thin didn’t help the matter any. Sometimes I’d gain a few pounds and decide that I needed to workout and count my calories. The running might last a couple months. The counting calories would only last a couple days.

But I realized in the last several months that it’s not about how I view my body, or wanting others to view me as having a super awesome bod, or even about preventing future health issues (hello, diabetes in 3 of my grandparents!)  It’s not about cutting out certain things because the world tells you that you should.

My body is the earthly home for my eternal soul. My body is a vessel God uses to carry out his Great Commission. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. My life as a follower of Christ means that I should be actively preparing (physically, mentally, spiritually, etc) to jump into whatever he calls me. And I think by being sedentary all day and eating junk without thought, we are basically throwing those facts to the wind. (Also maybe having that lazy [physical] lifestyle as a Christian is just like a [spiritual] lifestyle of not ever picking up the Bible to study the very words given to us by our God?)

So those facts have made me not only see how necessary a healthy lifestyle is, but I’ve also grown to really love it – I enjoy running. I enjoy hiking. I really enjoy yoga (so relaxing and stretchy!). I love adventures! I love the taste of healthy food. Don’t get me wrong… it’s not like I don’t have Cadberry Mini Eggs sitting on the table in front of me right now!

(And have you noticed how super awesome and comfy exercise clothes are?? I could live in yoga pants… I digress ;))

It also helps that I have my healthy-eating workout-buddy sister for a roommate and a super-amazing town for the running!

Our favorite meal - maybe I'll do a recipe post for it!  So delicious.

My new favorite meal – maybe I’ll do a recipe post for it! So yummy and healthy.

The running trail through downtown Lincolnton - looking forward to the blooming flowers and trees!

The running trail through downtown Lincolnton – looking forward to the blooming flowers and trees!

❤ brandy