Monday, June 23, 2014

A life worth loving.

I look over my desk and see a heart that's hurting.  A pregnant patient that had to deny an emergency contact listing on her records because she didn't have anyone to list.  A soul that was aching for something more than the circumstance she's in.  

I glance up as a patient walks out and my co-worker whispers "don't say anything".  I pull up the schedule - "fetal demise".  18 weeks.  A mother had just lost her baby.  Her husband meets her in the parking lot and gathers her in his arms.  They stand like that for almost 5 minutes.  

My new job has been anything but easy.  My heart is cracking from the pain of the world.  From the things that people shouldn't have to go through alone.  From the aching of the longing of something more than what they think they deserve.  

My passion is burning:  to make a difference.  To be the heart.  To seek the lost.  

I'm not quite sure yet how the Lord's planning on using me in this new season of my life, but I know He will.  In the meantime, it's my duty to love those I come in contact with.  To be a smiling face to a broken life.  To shine brighter than the darkness of their despair.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kingdom Matters.

I recently came across a talk called "Kingdom Matters" by Paige Benton Brown that she gave at the 2012 Women's Conference for The Gospel Coalition.  I was told that it would give me something to think about, but it's given me so much more than that.  

I sat through the talk, pausing it often to write, and was moved time and time again by the things of the Kingdom that we often don't pause to consider as we go about our day: presence of the kingdom, parameters of the kingdom, purpose of the kingdom, and perspective of the kingdom.  Each of these tie into what the kingdom is, how it should operate, and how we should view and be a part of it as followers of Christ.  

The category "purpose of the kingdom" was the one that struck me most.  As I was listening, I felt myself resonating with the things being said, and I felt the Lord whispering to me "this is just for you; I want you to take this to heart".  There are so many times when I feel worthless: in the things I do, in what I contribute, and in the way I think others view me.  This isn't to be taken as me being depressed (though depression is real and pressing in our world when it comes to this), but just that I struggle to find my identity in something greater than what I believe people see me as.  

Two quotes that I wrote down tie nicely together:  
"We live urgently in the present, leaning toward the future, knowing that God loves His whole creation."
"Don't be satisfied with your Christian life by attending church and going to Bible studies.  He came so we can do His work in His world, perhaps in a sufferingly present way along that jagged line (IT WILL HURT) in every career, in every relationship, in every place that the Lord has placed you, to push that line out for HIS KINGSHIP and to rejoice in every place that you see it going out."
God deeply desires to use me right where I'm at.  Though on some days it's hard for me accept this truth, I know it's something He's slowly showing me through His work in my life.  He loves me, He accepts me, and He wants me to use the gifts that He's blessed me with in order to bring Himself glory.  He's all about bringing glory to His name.  

Last but definitely not least, I'd like to leave you with this:  
"A kingdom perspective on the world is not unrealistic, but it is basically optimistic, not because the world is okay, but because 
JESUS REIGNS
And so therefore, what that means is this world is not going to hell in a hand-basket; it can't.  That is a cosmic impossibility because of the promises of God."
Praise God for giving us hearts that beat for His creation, love that stirs us into action, and truth that urges us to lean into Him and His plan for His kingdom.  
 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou.

Yesterday, the world lost a beautiful soul.  

Maya Angelou was a writer, and activist, and a legend that will be remembered for years to come.  But most importantly, she was a daughter of the King.  This quote from an interview she had with Oprah is one of my favorites, and is such a beautiful way to remember her by.  


"It still humbles me that this Force which made leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me.  Me.  Maya Angelou.  It's amazing.  I can do anything, and do it well.  Any good thing, I can do it.  That's why I am who I am.  Yes.  Because God loves me and I'm amazed at it.  And grateful for it."  

What if we lived each day with this mindset?  How would we be changed, and how, in return, would we work to change the lives of those around us?   Besides being an inspiration, Maya was honest and raw.  She didn't hide the fact that she served a Creator who loved her, and that because of that love, she could do anything she set her heart to.  

What if we lived like this?  What if we allowed the love that saved our lives become the love we pour out to others?  This is my desire for my life.  I want to show others who Christ is, what He's done for me, and how He can change their lives.  I don't want to forget His hand in my life.  I can't forget how He's saved me from the depths and brought me to new hope in Him.  

Glorious unfolding.

Lay down your head tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don't try to figure it out
Just listen to what I'm whispering to your heart
'Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it's just not true
There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold

These are the lyrics to the song "Glorious Unfolding" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  Often times, unless the words of a song catch my attention, I just pass them by.  But I was driving today, wondering how I was going to work out my new job with physical therapy and what seems like a thousand other things, and this song came on.  

Talk about a shot to the heart.  

The words of this song are the words of my heart right now.  These past few months, though I've been employed, have been trying for my faith.  I've wondered and prayed about where the Lord wanted me, but didn't feel like He was giving me a very clear answer.  It was becoming difficult for me to accept where I was.  

A college graduate.  Unemployed.  No idea where I was heading.  

But then I decided there was only one thing I could do and one thing I needed to do.  Trust.  Give it to the Lord.  STOP TRYING and believe God to do the work that He knew needed to happen.  And when I did - things fell into place.  My anxiety became less.  I got a job offer.  And while I didn't know I'd be staying in Manhattan longer, I'm beginning to realize and accept that this has been His plan all along.  There's nothing I could've done to change it or stop it.  It was always going to happen.  

Praise Him for having such a compassionate heart that pursues me passionately.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

#iblogbecause

Blogging, and writing in general, has been a source of output for my life as a human with emotional and predictable needs.  I find myself turning to the swift movement of my fingers across the keyboard when my mind wanders and my heart is longing for something more than the world can offer.  I find myself asking the Lord what it is I need to be sharing with those (if any) who read what I write.  

The world is a place full of uncertainty, doubt, fear, and shame.  People walk around wondering 3 things:  Who they are, what they were made for, and what to do about it.  I find myself asking these questions as I have another conversation with a friend struggling with sin, as I look at another homeless person with a sign on the side of the road, and when I read another article about another bombing or shooting.  

Why?  Why is pain so real?  Why are bullets going off, and another life is taken?  

These questions place a longing in my heart that cannot be satisfied by living a normal 9-5 day, that cannot be ceased by a college education, and cannot be limited by a half-hearted passion.  I was made for more, I desire more, and I will achieve more than the limitations placed upon me by a world who doesn't understand me.  

#iblogbecause is my hope that this will happen.  Because I believe in more than sitting still while the world passes you by.  The Lord created me for more than standing on the sidelines, and I intend to harness the energy He's given me and use it for something greater.  

Will you join me?  

Find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/iblogbecause and with the hashtag #iblogbecause .  I'd love to hear your story and discover your passion.  Passion is purposeful and I believe that we each have it if we dig down deep enough.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The heart of grief.

To preface this post:  it's not that I've necessarily faced a lot of grief lately (though there are things that weigh on my heart from time to time), but I've seen a few close people in my life faced with grief, which inspired this post.  

"One day I will see my deepest sorrows transformed into the sweetest glee."  

I follow a page on Facebook (where I found this quote) called "Mitchell's Journey".  I came across it randomly, but was drawn to the father's vulnerability and raw emotion in his posts about losing his son to a rare disease that eventually took over his body.  His writing led me to express my heart in the ones I have lost, and the grief, and ability for joy, that comes from that.  

We lost Kaden 9 years ago this August.  It's crazy for me to think it's been that long, and there aren't many days that go by without my mind passing over the moments we spent with him.  Like all of my sweet younger cousins, he held one of the dearest places in my heart.  And while I've grown stronger and more mature since then, there is a unique pain that comes with losing someone so close to you that's so young.  

I do believe that everything happens for a reason (Ecclesiastes 3), but I want to be able to trust that everything happens for a reason, too.  And I think there's a difference between believing and trusting.  I believe in God, but do I trust Him?  With certain parts of my life, yes.  But others, no.  I continually ask "why" instead of saying "okay...".  Even if it's with pain, He longs for our trust.  

It's hard for me to trust that Kaden died to bring something good out of me.  But I'm able to see this more clearly when I look at my passion:  for children, for justice, and for being a compassionate soul towards those filled with the same kind of pain that I still face.  I believe that his death also causes me to have a greater passion for life in general; with my photography, my friends, and the future I hope to build.  I'm living my life not only for him, but also for He who took him from me, that I may glorify Him in life and death.  

Grief is a funny thing.  

In September, Taylor lost her dad unexpectedly.  Her family has been like a second family since I met her.  So much joy and strength was present in that family.  It may still be, but they're also moving on.  Her mom just sold the house, Taylor is building her own life, and their dad is no longer here to share in those accomplishments.  

And in November, we lost Dana.  She's one of the few people besides my family members that have known my parents before I was born, and had a significant impact on my life and growth as a woman.  When she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, we were hopeful in things going well.  They did for a short time, then slowly went downhill.  When the Lord took her away, I felt different, but the grief was still there.  She knew it was going to happen, and was prepared as she could be.  Though it doesn't necessarily make it easier, knowing that she was confident that she was going home to be with her Father made a huge difference.  

Grief is still a funny thing.  It comes and goes in waves, like the crashing of the sea against the shoreline, and is as unpredictable as the swaying of the trees in the wind.  We cannot control it, but we can decide what to do with it.  Sometimes it's necessary to sit in it and remember those we hold close, but other times it's necessary to take another step, if just one, and persevere in the hope set before us, that one day, we will be reunited with those whose hope remains in the Lord.  

It's okay not to be okay.  Those are the moments where the Lord holds us close and reminds us of His deep love and devotion to restoring our hearts and pulling us closer to Himself.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Losing my identity.

I almost forgot how precious I was today.  

Before you tell me, 
"Brittani, stop being so conceited!"
let me point your eyes to Scripture, to a chapter that has been so dear to my heart for many years now.  If you know me [somewhat] well, you know this verse is also tattooed upon my skin; a permanent reminder of a permanent love.  

In the moments when I forget how loved I am, I turn to this chapter.  Not only does it remind me of this great love that is poured down over my heart, but it also reminds me of a God who will never leave me.  It's been influential in my life since I chose to study abroad in Botswana, Africa, and was having a number of fears revolving around leaving those I loved.  While it's important to have and keep friendships, I know the ones that are true will be able to endure over distance.  Verses 8-10 of this chapter remind me of His hand over my life: 
"If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast."
And when I forget how precisely and intricately I was made, I look to verses 13 and 14.  They are a symbol of His work in creating who I am today, and who I will always be:
"For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." 




I tend to listen in too much on what the world has to tell me.  I have a tendency to believe the lies it's screaming, saying "YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH" and "YOU'LL NEVER MEASURE UP".  As I was editing pictures from a sweet friends engagement that I had the privilege of photographing, I would get to a picture that was blurry or didn't have the correct framing and I'd think to myself "this is terrible".  But then I would get to a picture that was beautiful and I would think to myself "but this one is perfect".  I believe that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to capture the essence of someone.  Who cares if 5 pictures are "bad" in my eyes, but just 1 is great?  I can make a difference by a picture I take or a memory I capture, as long as there's just one.  

One thing can make a difference.  One person can change the world.  And while I don't think I'll necessarily change the world with my photography, I know I can capture beautiful memories for someone to cherish for a lifetime.  

**Insert shameless plug to go check out my website here --> capturedjoyphotography.weebly.com :D 


Monday, April 21, 2014

The longest chapter, and why I need courage.

"If you long to be married, tell that to the Lord.  He cares.  He's not cold-hearted about it.  Don't use your whole single experience to pine away about marriage.  See it for what it is: ordained by God to secure an un-distracted devotion to the Lord.  So take that time and dive deep into His Word.  Don't miss this chapter by pining for the next one.  Trust that God is guiding your future and enjoy every moment of the gift of singleness."  -Ben Stuart

As I'm getting older (I'll be 23 next month), and college is becoming a distant memory, the friends I've made and moments I cherish have not.  Which means that the friends are getting married, some having babies, and even more moving away from Kansas; it's all present and real in my eyes.  

It's hard.  

I thought leaving high school and coming to college would be difficult.  But let's be real, I was young then.  Though many would argue that I'm still young.  But in high school, I thought the friends I had would be with me until the end.  With the exception of two, that theory proved itself wrong.  But now that I'm a college graduate, I look back and see the people I've met through Kansas State and am astounded at the difference some of them have made on my life.  These are the ones that will never leave my side.  These are the ones that will hold my hand through my hardest moments.  

I got a little sidetracked, but it all relates to my main point:  things are changing.  With so many of my friends either married, engaged, or in serious relationships, I can't help but think, when's it going to be my turn?  When do I get to experience that kind of love?  It's easy to get in a stage and mentality of self-pity when I tell myself the lie that I will always be alone.  

What a joke.  What a stupid, Satan-led ridiculous lie that fills my mind.  

How could I look at the friends around me and feel blessed and not look to the One who created them each for their specific purpose in my life?  How could I not look at my past mistakes and see how He shaped them to teach me something about myself now?

It's never about me.  It's always about Him.  In this moment, in this season, in this room I'm sitting in - it's all a constant reminder that my life is FOR Him.  And while this season-this chapter-seems to be the longest one I've found myself in when looking back on my life, I know it's forming in me something fierce and beautiful...something that will only be revealed in the proper timing.  

The quote I posted at the top struck me as I watched a brief message on singleness, and was deeply convicted by a simple truth I see evident in my life: I'm not content.  I'm not content with being single because I don't look to the greater purpose of my singleness.  I'm not using it to grow deeper with Him-not to say I'm not growing deeper with Him, I'm just not giving Him my singleness as a sacrifice and telling Him to do with it what He wants.  Instead, I'm telling myself that I can do it on my own.  That I can still grow closer to Him without relinquishing control of the pain I often feel from not having anyone to share this life with.  But what a lie.  I have Christ.  What more do I need?  

I'm going to post the quote again, because I believe in the power and truth that it holds.  It's something that I need to preach to myself daily in order to remain present-focused and aware of the fact that I am precious and I am pursued daily by the One who longs for me to know Him more.  

"If you long to be married, tell that to the Lord.  He cares.  He's not cold-hearted about it.  Don't use your whole single experience to pine away about marriage.  See it for what it is: ordained by God to secure an un-distracted devotion to the Lord.  So take that time and dive deep into His Word.  Don't miss this chapter by pining for the next one.  Trust that God is guiding your future and enjoy every moment of the gift of singleness."  -Ben Stuart

And I'm realizing in all of this that I need courage.  I need the kind of courage that the Lord provides when we trust in Him.  It's defined as "the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief."  I think it's safe to say that I fit pretty well under both of those categories.  

If you're reading this and you think you're in the same boat as I am, I have a question to ask you:  Are you giving it to the Lord?  Are you letting go of your singleness, your brokenness, your pain, and your fears-are you pressing into Him?  I know I don't all the time, so this is a challenge to me, and also to you, to do just that.  Lean into the One who longs for you to trust Him deeply-with every part of your life.  Not just the ones that are easy.  Be okay with chapters and seasons that are longer than others, because you never know what will come of them.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Count to Three

This poem I just wrote was inspired by this quote from Bob Goff: "Darkness fell, His friends scattered, hope seemed lost - But Heaven just started counting to three."

Count to Three (by Brittani Rae Shank)

The sun seemed to stop shining
as darkness fell
And You hung from the cross
with nothing left to tell
Day one
People wept;
stood around in disbelief
while Your enemies stood tall;
they boasted with relief
Day two
The madness still continued
as people forgot Your name, 
but Mary sat faithfully
Her heart remained the same
Day three
The tomb was empty
as people looked around
Now forever we find hope
The lost may now be found

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Captured Joy Photography

Hello my faithful readers!  If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I've decided to start a page devoted specifically to my photography.  While at this point in time, it's more just to showcase my pictures, I'm also hoping to start taking more pictures actually for people, and possibly in the future, transition to a business.  But that's just a goal as of now, and it would be a bit of a ways off.  

My desire to begin this page stemmed from my unusual love of finding the raw beauty in everyone and everything.  A close family friend pointed this out, and my confidence soared.  I've been blessed with the chance to do this, as I have my precious camera, a Nikon D3200 (a graduation gift from my parents), and a lot of willing friends who love to have their pictures taken!  

About the name:  The inspiration for the name Captured Joy Photography came mostly from my love and meaning behind the word "joy".  It inspired one of my tattoos and one of my main desires when naming this new adventure was that it had the word "joy" in it.  So then I had to decide what else to include.  That led me the word "capture".  I like the thought of capturing a picture, rather than taking one.  It seems like a more secure term, and with my photography, I want to have an image, a memory, a moment that someone will be able to treasure forever.  I believe there is joy in every circumstance, no matter how dark or scary it may seem.  And my photos aren't a process, they're a definitive presentation of the beauty I see, which is why I chose "captured" instead of "capturing" or "capture".  Long, but informative description for you all!  

I've been overwhelmed by the support so far, and am looking forward to continuing to build my experience and knowledge!  If you're reading this and live in the Manhattan area and are interested in me taking some pictures for you, feel free to let me know!  All of my contact information is on the Contact Information page on this blog.