i used to be perfect.

I used to be perfect. I made perfect grades, was a perfect child, never got into trouble, never snuck out of the house, never went to parties, never even dated. I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do drugs, I didn't have sex.

In college I kept up with all of this and more. I was the president of my campus ministry. I was also the secretary, treasurer, and promotions officer, a small group leader and in the worship band. I was a good person. I really loved people, and wanted to make a difference. And I knew it. I also knew that this meant I would fall happily in love by the time I graduated college and then have 2.5 children by the time I was 30. This is the plan for all good girls, and I stick to plans.

Goodness, however, is not a true compass for life. Yes, we should try to be good and make good choices, but it doesn't actually dictate our path in life, at least not always. There's a lot more to it than that.

Four years ago, almost exactly, I broke up with my fiancee/best friend, left my home in New York, quit a job that I loved and moved back in with my parents in Alabama to start over. This was not my plan, but my plan was not working out for me. And I was angry. I had been so good for so long and had nothing to show for it. It wasn't fair.

So I decided to stop caring so much.

I'm not saying I'm a bad person; in fact, all in all I'd say I'm still a pretty good person. But the last four years have been quite the roller coaster. I have done and said things I am not proud of. I have fallen quite far from the pedestal I once put myself on. I've done the things I swore I would never do. I have made bad choices and hurt people. I've let people hurt me.

And you want to know the darkest part? It's a secret I could never tell anyone, but I'll tell you anyway: I wanted it.

I remember telling my mom a long time ago that I was afraid my story wasn't exciting enough. That I couldn't relate to other people because I had never really done anything bad. I remember her telling me that it scared her that I thought that. I understand that now too.

I wanted to know what heartbreak felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what rejection felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what drunkenness felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what lust felt like. I know now. And it has broken me. Not just me, but the little bubble I had lived in for so long. I could no longer be ignorant, or naive. And that can be a very scary place to be. I found myself longing for the safe little cocoon that I once lived in, far from real life and real choices and real people.

But here I am, smack dab in the middle of real life, where it is not safe, and it is certainly not stable.

The only thing that has always been a constant in my life, besides my family, is God. I have always loved God so, so much. It may sound cheesy and silly, and a lot of my friends now don't really understand it, but even when I wasn't in church I always believed and I always loved Him. There are things I believed growing up that just don't apply in real life, and that may have been a part of my original naivete and ignorance, and I definitely don't want to go back to that, but I have never wanted to leave God. Never. I have just been so afraid that I couldn't do it "correctly" anymore, whatever that means. Following Him is so damn heartbreaking sometimes because it's just so hard and we're just so bad at it. And I really hate being bad at things.

I became so fixated on the fact that I am never again going to be that girl from four years ago, that I was forgetting the fact that I am who I am today, and that's pretty awesome too. Yes, I have made bad choices, but who's to say I can't be even better because of those choices?

In church this morning (p.s. I've finally found another church that feels honest and real and I am so grateful for that) Pastor Ryan was talking about the prophet Haggai and the word he got while they were rebuilding the temple: that "the glory of this present house will be even greater than the glory of the former house." And maybe this is me being self-centered again, but who's to say God can't do the same thing with me? Maybe I can be a better, stronger, less afraid version of myself? With a little more wisdom? And humility? Lots and lots of humility?

I have been so worried that I couldn't be the girl I used to be. And that's so silly. Why should I ever be her again? She was not real. She followed a set of rules because she was scared of the consequences, not because she truly believed in what she was doing. She did what she was supposed to do, not because she was truly following the example of Jesus, but because she was looking forward to the reward. That is no way to live. Or at least, it is no way to live well. It's certainly not the way God wants us to live.

Now, I am so glad to be broken. I am so glad to be teachable. I am so glad to be wrong. I am so glad to know that when I make mistakes, I can be better off for them. I am so glad to know that I get more than one chance.

I used to be perfect. And I am so glad I'm not anymore.



we are groot.

I recently saw the newest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, and it was spectacular. A bunch of misfits and ne'er-do-wells fighting a common enemy for a common good, and they literally save the galaxy. Honestly, I was pretty skeptical that I would even like the movie that much, and I'm a huge Marvel fan. I just wasn't sure it would really come together in the end, and I wasn't sure the storyline would even be that entertaining for me. I was pleasantly surprised.

My favorite character was Groot. He's basically a huge tree (literally - he's called a Flora Colossus) who can only say the phrase "I am Groot." (Well, actually, he is saying a lot of things, but we simple-minded folk only hear "I am Groot." It takes a more complex brain, like that of Rocket Raccoon, to understand what he is truly saying..but I digress.)

Basically, Groot is misunderstood - a lot. He looks different. He is intimidating. And literally no one can understand him. He is so so so different...."other-worldy" in more ways than the obvious. People assume that because he is so different, and because he is from another world, he can't possibly be one of us. He doesn't think like us, or feel like us, or act like us.  He is, quite simply, not "us."

(Just so you know, a spoiler alert is coming, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, please go watch it, then finish reading this post.)

Towards the end of the movie, the Guardians must do something drastic to defeat Ronan and save everyone else. What ends up happening, is that to save his friends, Groot creates a protective covering of branches to surround them. He used the thing that made him different to help the people he loved, and in doing so sacrificed himself. When Rocket Raccoon understood what he was doing, and what would ultimately happen, he asked Groot, "Why are you doing this?!" His response: "We are Groot."

I'll tell you what, I wept for days after that.

Sometimes I make fun of myself for learning such huge life lessons from movies. Especially comic book movies. But, it happens, like all the time. In this case I learned that no matter how different we seem, or where we are from, we are all from the same tree, so to speak.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting the stunning Kate Bosworth. It was completely random. She just happened to be at a bar that I was at near my hometown. I would like to say I confidently walked up to her and like "Hello, Kate. It is very nice to meet you. I am a huge fan. May I take a picture with you?" But that did not happen. Luckily, I was with a much braver friend, who gave little to no shits about looking like a crazy person, and walked right up to her and asked to take a photo with me.

Kate was very pleasant, even though we were totally interrupting a conversation she was having with her gorgeous husband. She shook my hand as I introduced myself. She smiled. She said she'd be happy to take a photo with me. She literally made my night.

In typical now-a-days fashion, I immediately uploaded the photo to Instagram and Facebook. I was so excited. I was not, however, prepared for the comment feed that followed.

"What in the world happened to her face?"
"Do her features look a little alien to you?"
etc, etc.

I was absolutely mortified.

What if she somehow sees this photo (that I've already tagged her in) and she sees these comments?! How horrible! I was baffled that anyone, let alone my friends, could ever say such nasty things about another human being.

Of course, thinking about it later, I realized that this happens all of the time. I'm guilty of it too, much to my own disappointment. We somehow think that because these people seem like they live in another world (i.e. "Hollywood") they are somehow different than "us." They don't mind if we make fun of what they do to their faces (even though they probably had work done to cover another insecurity that someone else made them feel bad about). They don't mind if we make fun of the way they speak or the way they walk or the clothes they wear or the work they do.

They aren't "us" right?

But that night, I shook Kate's hand. She smiled at me and said "Hello" before turning back to have a drink with her husband. I hate to break it to you, but she is actually quite like "us." She just had more money to get the plastic surgery to get rid of the things she didn't like. All I could afford was the concealer to hide my acne, and the tweezers to get rid of my unibrow.

In the end, I'm no better than any of the people who said those things about Kate. It just seemed so personal because I met her. I will tell you now though, I will be much more mindful of the things I say about other people, no matter how distant from me they seem. Because "We are Groot," after all, and I honestly can't see it working any other way.



all alone in a crowd of people.

I remember one of my favorite parts about living in New York was being able to walk down Broadway at lunchtime, people swarming all around me, and no one even noticed I was there. It was wonderful. That was my alone time. That was my time to process and think.

I’m an introvert, all the way. I need alone time to recharge, or else I get really sad, depressed even. Not everyone works that way, but I do. I love to be alone. In fact, I am sitting in a Mexican restaurant, eating all by myself, amongst the sorry stares I’m sure I’m getting, because I truly don’t mind being alone.

The recent death of the great Robin Williams has shaken me to my core. I know, it’s horrible, because with everything else going on, with children being decapitated in the middle east and the Ebola virus running rampant and killing too many people to count, the thing that I feel most grieved about is the death of this one man.

Except he wasn’t just one man to me, not really. Peter Pan. Dr. Patch Adams. Jack. Mrs. Doubtfire. Professor Keating. Genie. Sean Maguire. Allan Parish. Just to name a few. So many men that I adored, that I grew up with. And I feel horrible, because as well as I thought I knew “him,” I had no idea that he was so sad. The man who put on a smile on a million faces was sad. It haunts me. You just never know.

Maybe it’s rattled me too because this is not the first time someone I’ve loved has chosen to end their life. I have had friends and family members commit suicide. Each time leaving me both angry and hurt, if that’s allowed. My first reaction is anger. “How dare he leave me.” “She was supposed to be at my wedding.” “Does she not realize how much this will hurt me.” Me, me, me. I almost always forget to think about what they were feeling, and concentrate instead on my immediate emotions. Betrayal. Anger. Despair.

Those feelings quickly turn around though, and then I feel guilty. Did I not listen to her? Did I not call him enough? Did she not realize how much I needed her in my life? Clearly this is all my fault. If only I had done more...if only I had paid more attention...

So I’ve decided that suicide sucks. It just does. Cause the fact is, I have no frickin clue what was going on in her head. I don’t know why he did it. I don’t know why she didn’t just talk to me. And it sucks. Because I didn't know. And I feel like I should have known. We should have known. And I know I’m out of my mind thinking this. It has nothing to do with me, really. But I can’t help thinking it. I can’t stop thinking it. How much of this can we help? Is it purely chemical? Is there really nothing we can do? I can’t handle it. And don’t tell me to just pray. I mean, I’ll pray, I will. But Jesus didn’t call us to be his hands and feet for nothing. And I know we aren’t supposed to use them to just pat a back and walk away. That just can’t be what he meant.

Mr. Williams apparently once said that what sucks is not to be alone, but to be in a crowd of people and feel alone. And as much as I enjoyed my strolls down Broadway, I think I can understand that. Because even though I enjoy my “alone” time, I know that if I ever needed to, I’d have a friend I could call and talk to, one who I really related to. I also know that even when I’m “alone,” I’m never truly alone. I believe there is a God out there who hangs out with us, like all the time. It’s definitely our choice to believe He’s there, but I really don’t think that changes the fact that he is there.

And sure, sometimes that thought sucks too. I mean, I know God was there with Mr. Williams when he tied that belt around His neck, but He sure didn’t intervene and be like “Hey Buddy, maybe you should put that belt down.” Which kinda pisses me off too, to be perfectly honest, but I can’t exactly question an omniscient being, can I? Maybe he sees something greater coming out of this. Maybe this will raise more awareness about the millions of others suffering from depression. Maybe Robin Williams’ death will in turn save thousands of others.

I dunno. It still sucks. We ain't ever had a friend like you.

Rest in peace Mr. Williams. You truly were one of the great ones, and you'll always be remembered as such.


feeling inspired.

I've finally started acting on a dream I've had for a while - start a photography series centered on people who inspire me. I've just posted my first "Inspired By" story on the Casara Photo blog, and I'd love for you to check it out. It's the story of Hannah, and her journey through motherhood, infertility, loss, and her unwavering faith through it all. Hannah has taught me to see beauty all around me. Her story is also helping to connect people who may be feeling alone in their struggles. If you're looking for some inspiration, or maybe you're coping with a loss of your own, I highly encourage you to read her story.



hello, dreamer.

Good morning, friends.

Can I just say how nice it is to be doing this again? I realize in my last post how much of a whiner I was being...mornings...jobs...eek. But really I am incredibly excited about what the next few years hold for me.

I feel selfish saying that I want more out of life, because I truly am blessed, but that really is both the pro and con of being a dreamer isn't it? One the one side, I have these beautiful thoughts and aspirations of good things - and not just for me - I truly do find joy in helping people and showing people how beautiful their lives are.

My passion is photography. Something inside me comes alive when I snap that shutter. It is raw and honest and good. I get to capture a moment that was once fleeting. I get to show a mother her expression when she looks at her newborn. I get to remind a husband how much his wife adores him. I get to bring out the joy kids feel when their only job is to be loved by their parents. And I do it every time I take a picture. I love it.

But like I said, being a dreamer can have it's dark side. Sometimes you feel like you're living an unfulfilled life. You have all of these beautiful hopes, but part of you realizes that not all of them may come to pass, and that leaves you a little sad inside. We feel like the rabbit in the cage...we have our food and water and shelter, but what of those meadows and streams and sunshine? Isn't that what we were made for?

I truly believe that everything God made is good, or at least it's supposed to be. And I think He made us to do good things. I think we are the choices we make and both our actions and intentions frame us and mold us. And, honestly, I think our main job in life is to match our intentions to His. I think that He is the biggest dreamer of us all. I think whatever we can dream He can dream bigger. And that excites me.

So maybe the best thing I can do right now, is just say "I'm in." Right now it is my job to make good choices. Love God, love people. Make my actions match my intentions, which ultimately match His intentions. What better dream is there?

I know there's more to it than that, but I'm still trying to figure it out too. I do know though, that following that dream makes me a lot less sad. So that's a start.



morning people.

I've decided I need to be one of those morning people. I mean, think about it. Morning people make the world go round. Bakers, baristas: morning people. So here I am at 6:30 am trying to be a morning person. I'm hoping this bagel and coffee kick in soon.

I want to do things. Mostly, I want to write beautiful things and photograph beautiful people. And write about the beautiful things that those beautiful people do. Is that so much to ask? Can I please just sit here all day and write about things that make me cry and smile and then go through all of the photographs I took this weekend and share them with the world in hopes of bringing a smile to someone else's face?

I want to help make the world go round too.

I have a full time job though so I have to leave soon. I have to sit in front of a computer writing about things I don't really care about, and looking through photos that I don't really care about, and answering phones that I surely do not care about. Because I have bills and responsibilities and whah whah whah.

Surely this is not God's will for me.

My pastor did this super annoying message series at church the last few weeks. He said that God's will is whatever. Like, whatever you're doing (as long as it's not killing, lying, cheating, etc) can be in the will of God. And we should do it well, do it "as unto the Lord." Because wherever we're at, if we're claiming to know Christ, we need to act like Him.

Yeah that's super annoying. I mean it's true, but it's annoying.

I want to quit and run away and then come sit in Starbucks and write forever and forever. But writing does not pay the bills my friends, at least not yet. You gotta do whatcha gotta do. Or something.

Anyway, I say all of that to say that I'm going to try and do both. I'm gonna wake up at the crack of dawn so I can do what I love, and then go to work and try to do it the best I can, so I can pay my bills and be responsible (and pay for my coffee and bagel at 6:30 in the morning) so I can keep doing what I love to do.

I sincerely hope that one day this is my job. In the meantime, look at how cute this is:



how dare you.

Do you  know who has had the audacity to break my heart? To make me want to give up on humankind? Who has absolutely deserved a kick in the groin and a slap in the face?


And I don't mean the real deals, I mean the ones claiming to be Christians - the ones who actually claim to follow Jesus Christ himself - and who are absolutely positively the most vile, prideful, disrespecting, violent, hurtful human beings on the face of the planet.

You claim to be better than someone else? You say that those people "aren't worthy" because of their background or social circumstance or GOD FORBID their sexual orientation (yep, I said it)?


If Christ himself would never say those things, or do those things, who are you? Who do you think you are?? Do you really think you're better than he is?

"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone." - John 8:7

So go ahead, Oh Sinless One, you cast that stone.

You blameless, perfect, wonderful being. CAST IT.


Yes, I am a bit angry. Angry enough the throw some card tables maybe. Not that I'm trying to compare myself to Christ, cause God knows I'm a screw up. But at least I admit it. I may not be perfect, or anywhere close, but I do think I know what it means to follow Christ. And it starts with LOVE.

We are to be patient, kind, loving and gentle. PERIOD. Through that love HE will be known, because that is who HE is.

Less of you and more of HIM.


And go read Philippians 2 while you're at it.

I'm out.