Thursday, January 1, 2015

Farewell to A Corner Pillar...

Today, I bid a fond farewell to my beloved blog.

To be honest, this is a difficult post for me to write. For over six years and six months, this little spot on internet has been mine to call home. It has been a haven in which I’ve freely shared my heart through words and pictures. It has been a sanctuary where I’ve been able to grow and flourish. It has been a catalyst that has afforded me many wonderful opportunities and some of the very best friendships of my life! 

Before I write further, though, I should mention that I have no intention of giving up blogging, lest you imagine otherwise. I do plan to continue my blogging endeavors, just in a new space- a space that gives me more room to spread my wings and one that is more reflective of the person I am today. Just as a seedling outgrows its pot or a hermit crab his shell, so I have outgrown this first dear home of mine.

I am a different person than I was a year ago. This year has decidedly been the most difficult of my life. A year ago, we were packing up the last of our boxes, getting ready to load our moving truck and move from Florida to Alabama. A year ago, everything familiar in my world was about to change. Last year brought new surroundings, a new church, and new (wonderful!) friends. It also brought a lot of health challenges my way.

Up until last year, I had never struggled with my health; I had always been healthy aside from the occasional cold, and had no reason to believe that would change anytime soon. Right before we packed our final boxes, however, I got very sick. I was sick for an entire month with the nastiest flu bug I’ve ever encountered along with pharyngitis, laryngitis, and tonsillitis. You name it, I had it. When February arrived, I was finally feeling like my normal self again, but when March rolled around, I fell ice skating, hurt my knee, and couldn’t walk for two months. Even after I was finally able to get around again, my knee still had quite a bit of healing to do.

In late April, I began feeling nauseous at completely random times. At first, it was infrequent, but then the spells began intensifying and occurring more often. In the first part of May, we took a nine hour business related road trip down to Florida that seemed to set something off inside of me; I felt terribly nauseous for two weeks straight and then intermittently every day afterward for months. As time went by, more symptoms from this mysterious malady had begun appearing. I had no idea what was causing me to feel poorly, so I had started adjusting my diet and being extra careful with my food choices, hoping to clear things up. A couple of months later, I had improved slightly, but only slightly.

In late July, after finally realizing this wasn’t a problem I could correct on my own, I made an appointment with a naturally minded M.D. who turned out to be a Godsend. After appointments and tests that spanned the next couple of months, I was finally able to begin a course of treatment to knock out the nasty bug (it's not really a bug, but it's called Geotrichum, for those of you wondering) they’d been able to identify in my system. Part of the healing protocol was strictly adhering to an incredibly restricted diet for six weeks that mainly consisted of clean meat, healthy fats, some vegetables, and some legumes. All grains, dairy (except for plain yogurt), fruit, sugar of any kind, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), “sweet” vegetables (like carrots and butternut squash), etc. were completely off limits. (Read: no food happiness. :) Then, if that weren’t hard enough, I had to take out some key foods on the diet I was showing an allergic reaction to (eggs, coconut, and almonds to name a few), which left me with precious little variety. Those six weeks were some of the hardest I’ve ever had to go through! Those of you who have been on seriously restricted diets before will understand why. I knew it would be difficult going into it (I’d been on the GAPS diet a couple of times before), but how difficult is another story! Add to all of that the fact that I was also trying to gain back weight (even though I was eating all the time), and I had a serious challenge in front of me!  

Toward the end of November, I finally began feeling better. It was such a relief after months and months of struggling on a daily basis. While I’m certainly not back to normal yet, I’m praying that I will return to full health in the Lord’s good time. My doctor is now helping me work through some other health issues that were likely caused by the aforementioned ones, but it is such a comfort to see evidences of improvement and healing.

By now you’re likely wondering if I’m sharing this dull account of my struggles with you to gain your pity and sympathy. I promise this isn’t the case, because those are two things I have no need of. You see, it was through those months and months of daily fears and struggles that I learned some of the most important lessons of my life- lessons I would never have otherwise learned. When you are completely helpless, lying flat on your face and lacking the strength to even pick yourself up, you look up to Christ. You realize, as never before, your complete lack of strength and your deep need of grace. You realize that you were never strong like you once believed you were; you realize that you are just as much in need of God’s strength and power as you always have been. Physical ailments have a way of revealing one’s true state of weakness like nothing else can. When pain and fear cause you to cry out to the Lord for help on a moment by moment basis, you realize that you desperately need Him every hour even when everything’s coming up roses.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah."

-Psalm 46:1-3

Looking back a year ago, I can’t help but smile at all of the plans and goals and aspirations I had dreamed up for 2014. Almost none of them came to pass because most days it was a battle just for me to get my basic work accomplished. I never knew how I would feel from one day to the next, so there were a lot of things I couldn’t commit to. My year looked nothing like I had hoped it would, but in the end, it was so much better. God took my piddly dreams from me and replaced them with beautiful realities I could have never even dreamed up myself. His ways are so much higher than mine. Even though I have struggled with my health almost every day this year, He has been faithful to lead me through every one of them.

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness."

-Psalm 86:15

I have been humbled by how faithfully my family, my friends, and even strangers have lifted me up in prayer these past months. It has been such a comfort to know they have been going before the throne of grace on my behalf. God also used a few very special people in my life this year to help me through the hardest times. There were days when I failed to trust the Lord as I should have, when I was feeling low, when I was fighting discouragement, and when I just felt like giving up. On the hardest days, I was always lifted up by an understanding hug, an encouraging text, a note in the mail, or a thoughtful gift; these dear people never failed to point me back to Christ. I certainly don’t deserve such kind, loving friends and family, but I’m ever so glad I have them! My family has been incredible on a daily basis, stepping in and filling my shoes when I was unable to. I couldn’t have made it through this year without their love and support!

Though 2014 was undoubtedly been the most difficult year of my life, it was also been the very best. I am so in awe of everything the Lord chose to do this past year that it has brought me to tears more than once. It is with a heart filled to the brim with joy and excitement that I close this chapter of my life and step into the next. With this final post on A Corner Pillar, I’m saying goodbye to 2014 with all of its trials and challenges and gifts and blessings, and hello to 2015 with its 365 crisp white pages. I’m terribly excited to see how the Lord will choose to fill those pages, how He will draw me closer to Himself, and how He will use me to proclaim His name this year. 

Now it is time for me to close and say a final farewell to this sweet old blog of mine. To all of my readers over the years: thank you for your comments and encouragement and support! They’ve meant the world to me, and I’m thankful for each and every one of you! If you would like to keep up with me on my ordinary adventures, photography endeavors, and everyday life, then be sure to stop by the new blog I launched today and say hello! I hope to see you there. :)

With a grateful heart,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Four Months Later

The absence of blogging in my life helped me to realize just how much I enjoy sharing my heart with you. My lack of writing these past months also made me realize that I was created to write, and when I don't, I start feeling a little jumbled inside. Having a place to say what's on my mind, to encourage whoever might be reading, and to share my work helps me more than I realized. Writing even helps me to know what I myself am thinking, funny though it sounds. My scribblings may sometimes be clumsy and untidy and fraught with grammatical errors, but my love for writing hasn't diminished in the least- not even four months later.

Four months later finds me sitting at my desk in a quiet house in front of a blank screen. On this sunny July afternoon, I am girded with a bowl of berries that taste of summer and a cup of honied fresh ginger tea that tastes of tranquility. There are so many thoughts swirling through my mind; there is so much that I could share. How does one attempt to cram four months of stories and thoughts and pictures and discovery into a single blog post? Well, perhaps one doesn't. Perhaps it would be best to simply pick up where I am today.

March, April, May, and June were filled to the brim; each day in each of those months was a blessed gift from God. Watching spring unfold for the very first time was breathtaking. Better learning to depend on others because I was unable to walk for two months was challenging. Making new friends in this new city has been great fun. Growing closer to my church family has been wonderfully sweet. Observing Joseph pour his heart into Tech Loft and watching it take shape has been inspiring. Taking a trip back to Florida for book sales and spending time with friends and family while in town was special. And that's really just the tip of the iceberg.

The Lord has been growing me this year by stretching my faith through various trials, teaching me to more fully trust in His sovereignty, and instructing me to lean on Christ more and more as the source of my strength. He has used these months for great good in my life, and I am incredibly thankful for all I have learned.

I can't promise to blog very regularly during this busy season of my life, but you will find me here as often as I can squeeze in some time to write. I have, however, been able to update my Instagram account frequently, so feel free to follow me there if you'd like to keep up better (user ID: laurenbhope).

May your summer days be merry and bright and filled with the Lord's perfect peace,


p.s. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving you without at least a few pictures from this past spring. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When You Miss Someone

I don't know what you do when you miss someone, but when I miss someone, I make their favorite dessert- while thinking of them, of course- and eat it. Just kidding. Not really. Actually, texting and calling help almost as much. My bestest friend is out in Texas for the week learning some intense tech repair techniques, so I figured I would dedicate this next post to him.

We were out taking some photos at sunset the other evening, and I took advantage of that wintry golden light by taking a few spontaneous shots of Joseph. Brothers make great test subjects, er, models, in case you hadn't noticed. ;) 

And Joseph, I'm working diligently on perfecting your upcoming birthday dessert while you're gone, so rest easy.


"And above all these put on love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
-Colossians 3:14

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hiking in Oak Mountain State Park

I sat at my desk again today with my leg propped up, wishing that I could walk the lake path in our neighborhood or sprint around the perimeter of the house with my little dog at my heels. Being unable to do either of those things and knowing that spring is just around the corner has me fighting against feeling stir-crazy. So, in the spirit of perseverance, I figured that I would do the next best thing and edit some pictures from a recent hike we took. Picture editing in moderation relaxes me and lets my mind wander to places my feet can't presently take me... 

Not too long ago, we went hiking in the beautiful Oak Mountain State Park (you know, back when I could walk without crutches ;). The weather was gorgeous that February afternoon. The air was clear, the sky was blue, and the day was almost warm.

Bella Speranza Photography: Oak Mountain &emdash;

At the state park, there are horseback riding trails, biking trails, and hiking trails. Some of the trails have connectors that lead to other trails, and some of the trails cross. Never having been there before (it took us a little while just to locate the trailhead), we somehow got a little turned around (not lost, mind you ;) and ended up on a different trail than we were intending. But it didn't matter in the end, because the scenery was lovely wherever we hiked.

Bella Speranza Photography: Oak Mountain &emdash;

Bella Speranza Photography: Oak Mountain &emdash;

Apparently, eating is a must while hiking- not just in between hiking and resting. I never knew! haha

Bella Speranza Photography: Oak Mountain &emdash;

From what I could see, all of the deciduous leaves had dropped off the branches except for this variety, with its crispy, orangey-gold leaves. They were still hanging tightly on, and made for a pretty sight in the warm sunlight.

(If you know what kind of tree this is, I'd love to know!)

Bella Speranza Photography: Oak Mountain &emdash;

It seemed as though the pines grew mostly on top of the hills (right), while mostly deciduous trees grew in the valleys (left). It was really neat getting to walk through the forest and see a good ways off through the trees. I'm so used to the impossibly thick underbrush in Florida! 

In the end, we made it out of the park with a few minutes to spare after hiking around 3.5 miles. It wouldn't have been much fun to have gotten locked inside the gate all night long without food. ;) Our hike turned out to be a little shorter than we'd anticipated, but we had great time all the same. I'm looking forward to visiting Oak Mountain again in the spring. I can just imagine how beautiful those trails will look with all of their trees leafing!

"By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,
so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."
-Hebrews 11:3