Book: Miracles by Eric Metaxas

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I admit, I have a writer’s crush on Eric Metaxas, author of one of my favorite books, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. It started when I watched all the videos about him on youtube, then followed him on twitter. His speeches and random humor made me feel like we were friends. I was excited when he said he would retweet someone who took a photo with his new book. I thought this would be my chance to get some tweeter attention. So I bought the book and took a photo with it. If it was a marketing trick – I fell for it. This was my chance to be friends with one of New York’s Christian elite. It work – I got retweeted. :)unnamed

I found Miracles refreshing. I read the first few chapters with my boyfriend so I could really understand the miracle of creation and the science of our existence. I pretty much failed science so reading it with someone and being able to ask questions really helped bring the text to life. For the first time, I could understand why the fact the Earth it’s self, is indeed pretty amazing.

“Reason and Science compel us to see what previous generations could not: that our existence is an outrageous and astonishing miracle, one so startlingly and perhaps so disturbingly miraculous that it makes any miracle like the parting of the Red Sea pale in such insignificance that it almost becomes unworthy of our consideration, as though it were something done easily by a small child, half asleep.” 

I was encouraged when I read about a dream Eric had when he was young. It was the dream that would change his life and bring him to faith. It was full of unique imagery that explained the gospel in a language that only Eric would understand. It spoke his language. I myself have two bother-n-laws who I am praying who would one day invite Jesus to be a part of their life. When I pray for them, I never know what to say. Everything seems cliche. But after reading about Eric’s dream, and how God suddenly made perfect sense to him, my prayer is that God would speak to my brother-n-law’s in the language of their own heart.

“God knew me infinitely better than I knew myself, and he had taken the trouble to speak to me in the most intimate language there was; the secret language of my own heart. That was that.”

The last chapter read as beautiful as a C.S. Lewis conclusion,

“We may fool ourselves into thinking we are avoiding the question, but to avoid the question, to avoid answering the question, is to answer the questions. Whether we knowledge it or don’t. We fool ourselves into thinking that to table the question or to wait longer before we answer it and make our decision is wisdom, when in reality it is self-delusion and folly.”

I’ve always been one to believe in Miracles but reading about recent one’s that have taken place in the lives of people who Eric know personally encouraged me to believe they happen more often than not.

Book: Misfits Welcomed by Matthew Barnett

IMG_3653I am finding the best audio books to enjoy are the ones where the author shares lots of stories. It’s like being able to sit with them personally to hear all that has happen in their life.

I saw Matthew Barnett tweet about his new book, Misfits Welcomed a while back and left a comment, “Can’t wait for the audio book.” I’ve heard different parts to his story about how he came to Los Angeles to build a church and end up pastoring the homeless living on skid road, poor immigrant families, drug addicts, run aways teens and so many people that society gave up on.

I knew this book would be full of powerful testimonies of people who came out some dark times. What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about serving others and the joy it brings to ones life. I love how encouraging Matthew Barnett was, he made me believe I too could have an impact on others, if I just listen to the voice of God giving me one of those crazy idea to be generous to others and to embrace my misfit self. 

Quotes from the Book

Love finds a way. Love opens the door to dreams that could never come across our minds with out it. Love is the greatest factory of ideas. My prayer used to be, “God teach me how to be creative.” Now I pray, “God teach me how to love.”

[Lessons from running the LA Marathon] That 6 mile stretch taught me everything I needed to know about perseverance. I started to think about all the things that could go wrong, than I stopped myself and said, “Don’t let fear multiply, you’ve come this far, go all the way.” It was the most difficult, but yet the most liberating experience in my life. I decided this victory will be the launching pad to crushing fear. The finish line wasn’t just an end to the race, it was an end to this torment to fear.

People can change and anything is possible, because God is in everything. We really believe our community can changed, and many think we are crazy. We are proud to carry the label of people with unrealistic expectations.

When a misfit becomes activated in faith, they often have no idea that limitations are even there. The joy in being a part of God’s plan ignites a fire in their soul to do something great. 

There is potential in people who society would label as misfits, instead of looking at people as victims with nothing to offer, try telling them that great things are still attainable. Confront people with the possibly of achieving great things.

If people can’t understand your positive expectations for humanity, you are probably a misfit. You have misfit expectations compare to the skepticism of the age in which we live.

The message of Christ was made to go where it doesn’t traditionally fit in…The message of Christ is lived out through the transformation of his people. Sunday morning church is not the decision spot for the church, but the launching pad of inspiration for what we can be and do Monday thru Saturday.

God has placed you somewhere you have unique influence to share his love. Yes, you. You have influence somewhere that no one else has. My advice is to live intentionally about your influence and be confident in the one who loves you, and the power your influence can have in the lives of others.  

Inward living produces outward devastation. Outward serving produces inner joy.   

Serving has never left me empty but always filled. I found the more time I have to look inside myself, the more time I have to feel cheated, victimize, and self center..The thing I got going for me, is I know what to do when life becomes all about me – Jump into someone else need.

Serving is not always a strategy, an idea, its a way of life. Its a way of treating people, a way of encouraging.

What made me believe every word of this book was the on time I saw Matthew Barnet at a Dream Center Outreach. He wasn’t the super star pastor but he was among the crowd enjoy the day, talking to people and being one of the kids. I even doubted it was him because no pastor would be here on a hot summer day, at a little city block outreach like this. haha. Serving is not always a strategy, an idea, its a way of life.

“I wish I read more.”

image The past year I’ve gotten into the habit of reading and finishing books. It use to take me 6 months to complete a book. The problem; I couldn’t stay still long enough to focus. The moment I would sit to enjoy a book, my mind would wonder leaving me frustrated I didn’t understand what I was reading and then asking myself, “What did I just read?”
As I’ve been reading more often these days, I’ve been having lots of people comment, “Ugh, I wish I read more.” I remember being in that same spot; wanting to read but failing every time I tried. The books I’ve read and share with you have dramatically changed my life in one accept or another. The only way I can describe it, I feel like my brain works better now.
I finally can understand anything I want, as long as I take the time to understand things deeply.
There are so many benefits to reading and you are selling your mind short by not developing the skill. “I’m not smart.” is an excuses to be lazy.  If I didn’t start reading I’d probably still be making a few bucks an hour, still be single trying to figure out whats my problem, and be very stressed out that life isn’t working.

Sounds extreme but that where I was five years ago. Reading challenges me to keep on growing as a person. My boyfriend, Gus, still tells me, that a quality he first saw in me that really caught his attention.

Some benefits to reading:
1. Learning and understanding concepts faster by reading about them.
2. The more you learn about different subjects, the more the mind creates connections between subjects, helping to discover new ideas and finding solutions.
3. Reading about or from successful people and about their life lessons help you work better with people and give you a path to follow and try for yourself.

So my secret:

Buy a non fiction book that catches your current interest. You have to want to read it. For me, a physical book helps me focus on the pages, reading on my iPad is too tempting to switch to another app…Like Netflix.

Sign up to audible to download a new book every month. This will help you read the books maybe you aren’t SUPER passionate about but still want to hear what it has to say. Create a morning habit of listening to your audiobook instead of morning news.

Focus is a skill you must strengthen. Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes. Get comfortable and read. Reward yourself after you complete the time with some downtime watching something on Netflix or TV. Your mind deserve to zone out.

Make it a goal to read everyday and try to finish the book in that month. Shop for your new book near the time you are about to finish your current one. This will motivate you to complete the book even if you’ve grown bored w the subject.

Highlight text that speaks to you.

Do a recap when your done. I blog about it as my way of saying I understand what I read enough to share about it. I often tell Gus about my book, waiting for his questions to see if I understood the book. Having these conversations are always super fun. I love having deep conversations and hearing feedback on the subject I’ve currently grown passionate about.

Display your books as your trophy case. Completing your book will give you a scence of accomplishment.

Make it into an event. Go out, find a cute coffee shop and read. Soon it will become the reward you look forward to.

Now go find a book to fall in love with.

2014 Playlist

Certain years because more rememberable due to the music that came out that year. Looking at my digital music library I picked out a few albums that accompany me through the changing seasons.

1. Some of my favorite movies has to do with how good is their soundtrack is (Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Moonrise Kingdom). After I saw Divergent and enjoyed the story, I downloaded the album. The mix had a lot of familiar favorite artist, making it perfect for summer. divergent-soundtrack-cover

2. As I am always on search for non-mainstream music, coming across EP’s is my newest fascination. Vancouver’s small collections of songs was just enough to make me fall in love with this new artist.  Winter by band’s full named Vancouver Sleep Clinic. Their angelic sound caused me to go into deep thought about life, love and the future. This became a very personal album that I refused to listen to if anyone else joins me inside the car.

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3. Thom Yorke has been my generation’s favorite artist. His newest album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes can be found on his site for $6 bucks. As I discovered this late in the year, it was the perfect, “sound of the future” I’ve been looking for to welcome 2015.

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4. One of my favorite podcast opened up with one of Phantogram’s new song. I did some google research and tracked the album down, “Voices“. This album was perfect to share with other people. Its atmospheric music played on repeat in my car as I hosted overseas’ guest and drove into the city.

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5. Sometimes finding a new artist means keeping an open ear during shopping. I stopped in my tracks when I heard Mother & Father by Broods. Something about the honest lyrics caught my attention, plus I totally relate to the song. I discovered their EP was just as enjoyable. This group released two great albums this year.

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6. The RELEVANT Collection, Vol. 11 was a free mix download by the Relevant Magazine. Through out the year it’s been my go to music when I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for. I enjoyed it so much I made a CD copy and kept it in my player whenever I was annoyed at the radio or when my iPod was asking me to make too many decisions. I’m old fashion who likes to press CD and something plays.

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7. My last recommendation was by good ol’ Damien Rice. Out of no where released an album in titled My Favorite Fade Fantasy. The album plays like a music score. It must be listened to beginning to end to hear what sounds like one full song.

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I’d say this year felt like a drought for new music – I don’t keep up with the mainstream but when it comes to finding new artist, I am on the haunt.  It might be I am 31 and no longer in the “cool” group but other then these albums, no one really caught my attention. There where a few single’s I enjoyed like Grizfolk The Struggle (Rac Mix) and some songs from Porter Robinson’s Worlds.  If I missed any new albums that you enjoyed this year – feel free to share!

It’s not to late to enjoy some of 2014 tunes, I’m excited to see what our artist have in store for 2015.

The Importance of Being Prepared

When I think about the photoshoots I’ve done in the past, the ones that were the most stressful where the ones I took getting prepared lightly. Usually this would happen after I hit a home run with a shoot, I’d just grab my camera bag with not many thoughts about preparing for the shoot. A number of problems never fail to come up during a shoot; I didn’t charge the battery, the batteries in the flash decided to give out by the third photo taken, the location agreed upon was closed, a child starts crying for no reason, all of these things happen but preparing for them is the game changer to master.

Every mistake I’ve made or failed to be ready for, I add it on my mental list of preparation.

1. Work out money and the detail before your shoot. Land on an agreement of prints, photo count, location, and so forth. What will help you with this is to pretend you are looking for a photographer in your area, research and see what the market is like. Then decided what is fair for your time and talent.

2. Charge all the batteries the night before, even if you think they are charged enough.

3. Clear all memory cards, capture any photos on it before you head out, even a few images on a card can impact your ability to get that final shot. You don’t want to stand there with your clients in front of you deleting images to make room.

4. Contact the location you are going to shoot at, get open time and ask if they don’t mind if you take photos. There have been times I failed to do this and the place was closed, and another time we had to pay $50 to take photos. That is something I could have added to the price.

5. Contact the client days before, exchanging contact mobile phone numbers, location address and time. Be prepared to show up earlier.

6. Communicate the payment for your service is due the day of the event. Many time’s I’ve said, “Don’t worry pay me later”, only to be paid months and months later, and awkward conversations of where’s my money. People forget and move on, get paid now.

7. Look up examples on line of the shoot you’re going to do. Of course you want to have your own style but chances are your clients have been on Pinterest and now have “this” idea of the photos they want. Also, this will help you with setting up your shots.

8. Gas up the car, clear your calendar. Avoid booking two photoshoots in a day. Its overwhelming and the second one will pay and be sloppy.

9. Book your appointment based on the best lightning of the season, or if the location is shaded anytime works best. The most visual mistake is shadows or harsh sunlight.

10. Do as much as you can to make the process easy for your client, do most of the work as possible. They are not only paying for photos but a service. Go beyond the agreement if it doesn’t hurt you. You want them to tell there friends about you, and you want to become their family photographer. What an honor. Or better yet, you want a photo you took to become their Facebook profile picture. That’s the greatest honor for a photographer of them all.

November Shoot with the Juarez Family 

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The Purpose of it All

This year I consumed a lot of new knowledge. I asked questions, read books, listened to books, created action steps, did social test, and solved a lot of little problems. Yet, I still feel like I didn’t get much done. I didn’t blog much or start any new projects. I guess this year was a lot of-sewing.

As I wrap up the year and organize my life as well as my files, I wonder how I can be a larger influence to those I come in contact with. You know those people that say one sentence to you and it transforms your life? Well, I want everything I do to have that impact. My videos, my blog, and my interaction with family and friends. I want my good intentions to become real actions.

Yesterday Gus and I went to the exhibit BODIES. I’ve always seen the posters when I would travel, finally I had a day off to check it out. It seemed interesting but I had no idea what I was in for. As I looked into the eyes of the person who once existed, I couldn’t help but wonder who they where when life was in them. From an artist point of view, it was hard to view bodies detached from the person it belonged to. I saw the brain and the nervous system still connected which still made the human body form. I realized just how much our brains effects our whole being. The heart was displayed all alone in a corner. Who’s heart did this belong to? What did they love?

I pictured a movie of these people lives and a mad scientist taking them a part. I could see the final shot of a close up on their eyes pulling out and reveling their body with no skin and tourist walking around them in a museum. And there I was in the shot. I started to wondering what will my end be?

Oh the deep thought of humanity. What is the purpose of it all? If I had the answer I’d be rich.

As a person who loves finding answers to questions, what if the answer was as simple as love. Every scientist I’m sure would disagree. But the more I learn about astronomy and human psychology, I can’t help but feel loved by the Creator. The more I seek Him, and the more I help others, I feel like a bee who’s existence is necessary. I have a purpose, my existence matters. I know those who study the human body sees us as parts working or not working, but we will always be more than that. It’s up to us to live intentional and with purpose. How the story ends doesn’t stop at our death but it is the start of a new beginning. Maybe the answer of our purpose won’t be found here on earth but in heaven.

photo via Google search

A Turning Point

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The book The Story by Robert McKee describes a turning point as a moment a character is forced to make a decision. I read the book years ago but never forgot the revolutions I received from adjusting my prospective to a writer of my story when it came to my own life. Author Donald Miller had the same experience and even wrote a book about it named Million Miles a Thousand Years. I was reminded about what I experienced after listening to his audio book.

When life takes a turn of its own, with no control of my own, I am reminded of the power of making a decision and what story I want to create for my life. I can’t control the twist and turns but I can control what has power in tossing me around.

I was one of those girls who wouldn’t or couldn’t make up her mind. I soon saw that making no decision was indeed a decision of choosing not to act. This left me stagnant in life, unable to move forward, leaving me not happy with where I was, and who I was becoming. I gave up control to the cares of this world.

What drove me to finally start making a decision was the fear of not living the life God has written out for me. What I failed to see that it was He who placed the typewriter in my view to start typing out my story. I had a say in what happened, the decisions I make, if my will is to please Him, wouldn’t lead me to harm like I was fearing. Trust is what I was confused about. I was placing my trust in myself instead of He who knows every mystery of the earth. His love for me is more powerful than the mistakes I have made and will make, and because of love, I am free to create the story I want to live.
The turning point was indeed surrendering.

The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” C.S Lewis