Broken but Not Worthless: A Journey to the Promise Land

I was first overwhelmed with the love of God when I was 24 years old. I was at a point in my life where I believed I was broken beyond repair and at rock bottom. It was there that God showed me yes, I was broken but not worthless. I had experienced trauma in my childhood, but everything that was meant to harm me, He would turn it around for my good. Since that time God has put a yearning in my heart to see lives transformed and healed by the boundless love of Christ.

I remember hearing a testimony of a fiery, charismatic young woman from California who was sharing how once she came to know the Lord, her life radically changed. So much so that she left everything she knew and moved to Thailand to help rescue children who were being sold into slavery. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that I heard this woman’s voice again through a video that was shared with me. This time, I heard more details about this woman’s ministry and all that God was doing in Thailand through her.

This fiery, charismatic woman from California is Lana Vasquez, founder and missionary at Life Impact International. Her ministry involves physically rescuing children from human and sex trafficking, preventing at risk children through education and other means from being trafficked, and healing through the powerful love of Jesus Christ. Children who are rescued at Life Impact are not just rescued – they are adopted into families who then become their forever families. The children grow up learning about God’s love and their purpose  – and they thrive. They grow up and are evangelists, powerful worshippers, and prayer warriors! From the depths of their pain and trauma, He brought them out and is using them to turn nations toward the One who rescued them.

We have had the privilege to travel to Life Impact to visit this ministry, to see with our own eyes what God is doing there and it is nothing short of jaw dropping amazing. A few images from our past trips are below. Our family will be going there again in a few weeks along with 23 members of our church fam to sow into the ministry, and to walk alongside Lana and the team there to learn and grow.

You can find out more about Life Impact and the wonderful work God is doing there by visiting: https://lifeimpactintl.org/

Please pray for us and our team! Follow our journey here.

 

 

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Reflections of a Newbie Fur Mama

img_5067.jpgWhen I was a child, I remember being jumped on by a big dog and crying so much. I never liked dogs from that moment on. In high school, I would cringe when my friend’s dog would lick me or brush up against me. Later in high school, I got bit by a dog. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of these furry creatures.

So, I’m sure everyone was shocked when we got Charlie. We had recently been inundated with the cutest and kindest of pups (namely our neighbors dog, Harley) and our daughters were in LOVE. Glory immediately started asking if we could have a dog – for her birthday, for Christmas, for anything! A friend reminded me that Glory actually asked for a dog the first time we Face Timed with her when she was still in China! Well, we’ll never fault her for not being persistent. 🙂

IMG_5070After much discussion, we decided that for Christmas, we would take the plunge and get a family puppy. Not just because of Glory’s relentlessness, but also because it would be somewhat therapeutic for Ruthie and help her with sensory issues. One day, I took the girls on a surprise trip to go “look” at some puppies and told Daddy we would not make any decision until later. When we got to the breeder, we asked where the puppy was and we saw a little golden white furball in a fluffy, red dogbed. As we walked toward her, her tail began wagging furiously and she melted (and we melted) as we petted and held her. The girls were so good with her and she was so gentle and playful. My heart was a puddle on the floor. To my husband’s lament, I knew right then that there was no way we were leaving without her. (But don’t worry, he was a puddle as soon as he met her, too! Who knew that Charlie so resembled his family’s dog back in Vietnam – so meant to be 😉 !)

img_5859.jpgHaving Charlie has changed our home in many ways. House training has been a challenge, but thankfully this pup catches on pretty quick and at 4 months has learned to ring a bell when she needs to go potty. The thing I didn’t expect was how much I would love her. Charlie loves us all, but she follows me into the bathroom, wants to take naps with me, sits at my feet wherever I go, and waits for me whenever I leave the room. She just.. wants to be with me. As I was sharing this with another dog mom, she told me, “This is how Jesus wants us to be with Him.” And my heart swelled with familiarity.

His desire for us is not just to be near Him, it is for us to want to be near Him, to just be with Him. Despite the busyness of our schedules, the storms that roar in our lives, the tiredness in our physical bodies, that our hearts desire would be to just be with Him, to sit with Him, to rest in Him. That we would have Him at the center of our hearts, include Him in everything we do.. because He’s all we want, all we’ve ever wanted. Thanks, Charlie for this sweet reminder of our Father’s love.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. // Psalm 63:3

A Father’s Love

As many of you know, I’m a wedding photographer (when I’m not stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom), and when I say I love my job.. I really love my job. God has used wedding photography to speak to my heart, to allow me to dream bigger, and to encourage me in so many ways – namely through relationships that have been cultivated over time with my clients and colleagues in the wedding industry.

There are many days when raising children with different challenges causes us to cry out to the Lord, or literally just cry — for their healing, for our healing, for His love to overcome all the fear and hurt so that we could be vessels of healing. In this season, we have been hit with some hard realities of what life was like for our daughters before they came home to us – and we are just glad they are home so that we can journey together through healing and restoration. It’s been tough, but as I mentioned in my previous post, God prepares us for every battle we will face in our lives – our job is really to cling to His truth with every ounce of our being.. cling to Him, knowing that ultimately He is in control and He has the victory.

AL6B9005Last weekend, I had the honor of photographing a beautiful vineyard wedding for a special couple. I did not know them prior to them becoming my clients but am so blessed to now call them friends who are near and dear to my heart. The bride chose to have a surprise private first dance with her father outside under the dim lights of the winery building. She found an acoustic version of “What a friend we have in Jesus” by Brad Paisley a few weeks before the wedding. Her dad used to sing this song to her every night in Chinese when she was a baby. She told me that one of her earliest memories is of her father carrying her out to her bed while singing this to her. As the music came on, accompanied with the soft pitter patter of the rain, the father of the bride sweetly surprised, gently began humming along to the memorable song, as he held his daughter close. In those next sweet moments as they danced, I could see the memories of their lives together come flooding into their minds, and they wept.

img_0168Not only did they weep, but I could hear sniffles all around from the few others who were there. I tried to keep it together, trying hard not to miss a moment while being so touched by what I was witnessing and what God was speaking to me. In them, I saw my husband and my daughter. My daughter who has seen and gone through much more in her minimal number of years here on earth than most people do in a lifetime. I saw my husband holding her, and singing the worship songs he sings to her now, gently caressing her hair, and them both reminiscing of their lives and memories together as father and daughter. I saw my daughter, healed by the love of her father, a man who loved her past her pain, a man who made everyday decisions to bring healing and joy into her world, healed by her Heavenly Father. And I wept.

Dear God,
You are such a good Father.

In our brokenness, you come to bind up our wounds.

In our sinfulness, you love us.

You hold us when we cry.

You’ve given us a crown of beauty for ashes.

You gave your Son to die for us, so that we could live.

Thank you for Your love that heals, covers, and protects.

Thank you for Your goodness which you have promised we will see on this side of heaven. We believe in You.