“To see life intentionally, things broken and beautiful.
To create authentically, revealing delight in the commonplace.
To wholeheartedly engage the hurting with care and warmth.
To embrace adventure and depth, the known and unknown.
To bring joy to others, that is my purpose.”

Those words, that purpose, has been long in coming, over thirty years in the making. Growing up as the oldest child in a first generation Christian home, things were not always as they seemed from the outside. I daresay, no one’s life is as it seems from the outside, some experiences are not for those on the outside to know. But those experiences in the home, are the ones that shape and mold us into the people we become, for better or worse. Though I trusted Jesus as a young girl and loved Him with all the intensity of my passionate child-heart, it wasn’t until my early twenties when I began to understand what it meant to surrender my life to Jesus, overcome lies and fears and embrace my Identity in Christ.

I was a sensitive, willful, ambitious child who often lived in a world of my daydreams and creative imagination. Said world was nurtured through my passion and love of reading. I was always reading, often several books at one time. Reading taught me how to tell stories, it also fostered my imagination, my connection with people and creativity. I’d often find myself creating, in some artistic medium, how I was imagining the stories I was reading. Creating has always been as natural to me as breathing, always seeing endless possibilities of adding beauty in even the simplest of ways to the world around me. I’ve dreamed of making a difference for as long as I can remember, relating to the heroines in the stories I read which developed into thinking of ways to help people and solve problems, even as a child. Childhood days were spent in imagination, art, ballet classes and eventually giving up ballet for the opportunity to share-board a friend’s horse! Horses very quickly found their way into my passionate heart but almost as quickly, I would have to give them involuntarily. 

 (Babyhood and childhood, 1980’s and 1990’s eras)

Just after I turned 13, my family moved four hours away from where we had lived our whole lives. This, of course, meant a lot of change and a lot of giving things up. This included my precious and beloved share-boarded horse, Shadow, who had been offered to me as a gift! I was crushed and struggled to understand the practical reasons of “why” from my parents. While certain dreams were taken away, the promise of new adventure somehow overcame my young heart. However, adventure soon turned into the unconventional. My crucial young adult years were spent running my Dad’s business in exchange for most of my high school opportunities, though it wasn’t specified in so many words. After years of our lives revolving wholly around work, healthy family relationships soon became a concept and less of a reality, and friendships, so crucial to those years were almost nonexistent. My dreams of pursuing horses, theater, dance and other childhood ambitions soon faded into the past. Working full time as a young teen became my life, and I grew to resent the lack of opportunities and growth. Daily I found myself frustrated with the mundane realities that were growing more oppressive but I forced myself to hide it behind a weary smile as I was told I was gaining “experience” and “work ethic”. The expectation to act and pretend that everything was fine when in fact it was not, went against everything in me. But often the more we do something, even unhealthy things, the more it becomes our familiar and familiar turns to normal. 

By the time my Dad sold his business, I was 18, awkward, unsure, and desperate for love and identity. This drove my search for approval from others, attempting to find my identity in whatever I could throw myself into. With no real desire or confidence to pursue college, and my dream opportunities fading before me, there was a glimmer of hope when I was personally invited not once, but twice by the Head Director of drama company to attend his two-year program! However, my parents were not in support of this opportunity and discouraged any hope of attending. This was crushing and I wasn’t able to pursue theater on a personal level. Although within a few years, I would begin directing what would be several successful high-school musical productions on my sheer God-given skills alone. During these years my spirituality was defined by serving others, volunteering and spreading myself thin, sometimes until the wee hours of the night or morning. I pursued and achieved Congressional Bronze and Silver Medal awards and Gold Certificate awards with all my volunteer work and personal development. Meanwhile, I pursued professional photography courses and eventually photography Missions trips. All these opportunities provided some hope, however, it was always temporary which led me to busy myself more than ever. I have found that no matter how it is disguised, busyness can be the enemy of authentic living, often projecting an illusion of control and success. Busyness was something I prided myself in and I was good at it! I was busy with volunteering, photography, directing, bible studies, mentoring, working part-time jobs and keeping up with the demands and expectations of my family home life. Anything to make me feel needed and valued and shut up the aches and fears inside me. 

After many years of living burning both ends of the candle and enduring continued growing stresses at home, my health failed, my body suffered, and emotionally I had nothing left to give. I was no closer to feeling lasting acceptance and rejection at home was only deepening as no matter what I did or accomplished, I didn’t feel valued or celebrated. I had no desire to continue. I was bedridden at 25 years old suffering from the effects of my choices and the choices of those who should have been there to support and help me. My heart once full of dreams and ambitions, desires to care and serve, to make a difference was withered. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” || Proverbs 17:22

Through all this, I stayed at home, though the stresses increased, I learned to cope with relationships that were unhealthy and grew to be abusive. Familiar things, what you are used to, what you know, even dysfunction and abuse can become your “normal”. Facing the unknown feels impossible and leaving is terrifying even if you feel trapped. It can be easier to stay, to leave it alone, less confusing and risky to break away. The dysfunction of our daily home life became more evident as I reached out for counseling. While this was liberating, it was equally terrifying. As I began to understand and embrace my identity in Christ and the specific ways God had created me as a person, fear was slowly being replaced with love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” || 1 John 4:18

 (2012: Self-portrait, 5DMKII)

It was in the midst of this season of struggle, through some poignant situations, and rejection of attempts to build authentic relationship that I reached my lowest point. I believed the lie that no matter what I did or how much I tried, I would never be accepted or be good enough. I wanted to take my life. Through this desperation, my eyes began to be opened to the gentle love of those speaking truth to my soul. Counseling equipped me to have the courage to call sins what they were and in doing so, I began to see more clearly. For years I had worked to make things at home different, only to realize that the only one I could change was myself. Truth sets us free and the more I started listening to Truth, the more freedom began to be an option and not an illusion. Jesus had opened my eyes and was calling me out of darkness. I had a choice. God gave me the strength to choose . . . to leave home, to leave the life I knew, to take responsibility for myself and make changes. 

Leaving home was just the beginning of what has become a life-long process of learning to live in grace and freedom. The years that followed that choice and leaving everything that was “comfortable” have been anything but easy. In many ways, things became much worse for a long time while at the same time becoming better than I could have imagined. Like a little child learning to walk, I found myself stumbling about while learning to embrace my identity in Christ, growing in confidence and learning about living in freedom and choosing healthy relationships. It was in the midst of this season that God brought my darling husband and me together. Our dating relationship lasted over two years through all kinds of real-life and long distance. How wonderfully and beautifully God had been cultivating our hearts in surrender and growth individually. He wove our stories together to continue that heart growth for both of us as individuals, into dating and now marriage. Fog and fear still affect many of my days, but they no longer define my life. Choosing the truth over lies continues to cost me friendships, family, familiarity, and reputation — but I have gained so much in learning to walk in the freedom of the Truth. 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” || Psalm 34:4-6

 (2012 Self-portrait, 5DMKII)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” || Portions of Psalm 27

Christ has freed me. I belong to Him. While I have overcome many battles — the war continues on. Triggers still happen, the fog lurks around and hard days exist. The pain doesn’t simply go away. Healing is a process and sometimes, becoming whole feels more like two steps forward and five steps back. My body is still on a road of healing and recovery, just like my heart. Progress, not perfection is the new echo of my soul, one step at a time. 

 (April 11, 2015, the day I married my best friend. Photo credit to the lovely, Rebekah J. Murray)

This is how Wholehearted Creative was born when I least expected it — in the midst of struggle and battle. The heart that once held dreams and ambitions of changing the world is choosing to live authentically, pursue rest and embrace growth. I am learning what it means to be Whole and how to live as a Wholehearted person. I am different. I am changing. I am growing. I have begun to taste and embrace the joys of freedom and living as the person God has created me to be. 

For those who are in the midst of a deep struggle, who battle fear, fog, depression, and abuse, for those who are overwhelmed . . . this is a place for you. Be encouraged in knowing that you are not alone. No matter what your story is, or where you are in your journey, there is hope. Change is possible and dreams can be rebuilt. Here is my hope, my confidence even in the midst of the storm, that Jesus is the restorer of my heart, my whole heart so that I may delight in His secure love and bring Him glory. Hallelujah. 

Definition of WHOLEHEARTED
1. 1: completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic. 
2. 2: marked by complete earnest commitment: free from all reserve or hesitation. 

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.” || Psalm 86:12