Monday, October 24, 2016

{almost} feeling twenty-two


it's only seven-thirty in the evening here, usually I wax eloquent two hours from now or so on this, my birthday eve. But it's been a long busy day already, and it feels about nine or ten and my mind is racing and the words are flowing and for the first time in what feels like eons, I feel like sharing on this little corner of the internet I've called home for seven years tomorrow.

i'm bundled in a fuzzy blanket, with a coffee cup nestled in my lap, my journal and bible alongside of me, a coloring book and pencils on the night stand, and bags and clothes and suitcases and various sundry things strewn about the little cottage that Josh and I have called home this past week. Josh is also snuggled up in a blanket, sound asleep next to me - tuckered out from a day of driving and exploring. (he said it's a power nap, and he'll be getting up to make a salad for supper in a little while. typical.)

we've been cozied up in this tucked away gem for the past week on what has been an idyllic honeymoon in the Green Mountains of Vermont. we got up earl(ier) this morning, driving two hours north to Stowe to visit the Trapp Family Lodge and the Ben and Jerry's Factory. the scenery was beautiful, our time was perfect, so many memories made and so many childhood dreams fulfilled. and how sweet to finish our adventuring and come back "home" together, with no goodbyes ahead. (best part of being married after a long distance relationship - no more tragic farewells, halleluyah.)


tomorrow, I turn twenty-two years old. I feel like I'm leaving so much behind with this birthday. twenty-one you can still pull the "but I'm just a kid" card, sometimes. but this feels like adulthood...and I finally feel ready for it. I've been fighting growing up for a long time, and I know I'll always be young at heart, but after this past year, this past week...so much has solidified itself in my heart, and it's time to take a deep breath, and step over the threshold into a new chapter.


this has easily been the hardest year of my life. i've never been so tired, battered, exhausted, and spent in any other season. for a while, I felt like I completely lost sight of the Liza you all know so well, the personality that I've always rejoiced in, the joy I thrived in, the love I had by default for the world around me. and this year, I learned that in order to live out of that kind of "happiness", you have to understand in the depths of your soul that pure and unadulterated joy comes only from resting in Jesus. Quit trying, quit striving, open your arms, and rest.

this year, I've learned what true love looks like. I've been fiercely and faithfully cherished by the most incredible man I've ever known. I've seen my community rally around us as a couple and carry us like the hands of Jesus that they are. folks, it truly "takes a village." I've been so humbled to see my family care for me in ways I never wanted to admit I needed. Jesus has stripped me down to what feels like the bare bones emotionally, and shown me His capacity to love, and that it's mine in Him. i've felt helpless to do anything, and found out I don't have to do anything. which is liberating and terrifying.

this year. oh, this year.


tomorrow marks one year, when, around ten at night, I got a Skype call wishing me happy birthday from the four people I missed more than any other people in the world. and when that call was over, one of those people asked if they could call me on the phone. and when he did, it changed my world forever. less than one year later, he's sleeping next to me, my best friend in the whole world, my husband.

within twelve months, I went from single, to "in a relationship", to engaged, to married. i have a new last name, a new home, two new rings, a new family. hardest year of my life? hands down. BEST year of my life? you bet.

dear twenty one,
you were rough.
i'm glad you're over.
but you were the best year of my life.
i've never known such depths of joy or stabs of pain like i have this year.
but i've never been more thankful.
i've never seen Jesus this clearly.
i've never experienced grace like I have this year.
i'd do it all over again in a heartbeat if I had to.
twenty one, it's been good.

twenty two?
you're going to be the best yet.
you're going to be a year of healing.
i don't know what's ahead, but I have HOPE.
bring it on.


all photos taken by caroline morales during an epic engagement shoot a month before our wedding

Friday, August 19, 2016

and just like that, it's over.

august 21, 2015. hardest goodbye.
Tomorrow, the most defining characteristic of the past twelve months of my life is over. Finished. Done.

The long distance relationship that really started with a gut-wrenching goodbye on August 21, 2015, was magnified by an official beginning on October 26 of that year, and then quadrupled by a proposal April 27, 2016, is coming to a close.

This season, the hardest, sweetest, most challenging, most joyful season, of our lives has changed us, shaped us, and drawn us to Jesus and to each other in ways we never dreamed. I never knew that I could love one person as much I've fallen in love with this amazing man this year. And I never knew that loving him could bring such a depth to my relationship with Jesus as it has. This love is the ultimate picture of Christ and the church, and now I totally see why. I can't fully comprehend it, but I see it.

I've cried more this year, ached more this year than any other season of my life. It's been crazy hard. I've walked through so many heartaches - made more brutal by the fact that my very best friend in the whole world was hundreds or thousands of miles away the entire time.

But Jesus has proven Himself faithful. Altogether lovely, altogether worthy.

our first photo together, november 1, 2015.

Tomorrow, I fly to Colorado almost a year to the day that I left last summer. I haven't seen any of my friends or former coworkers in twelve months, it's been a whirlwind of a life changing year for all of us, and I'm completely overwhelmed and frankly a little scared.

But my heart is pounding out of my chest, I can barely focus, and I'm giddy with anticipation because starting tomorrow, I will spend more days in the same place as my beloved than we have this entire year combined, and the days we will spend apart between now and the day we are husband and wife we can count on just about one hand. (Fifty-nine days till that glorious day, in case you were wondering)

after the first few grueling months apart, together at last Christmas 2015

In less than twenty four hours, I'll be in his arms, holding his hand, in his space. OUR space. There's tears in my eyes...it's almost too much to take in...I mean, it's only been six weeks since I saw him last, but this is it. The end of being apart. After this, TOGETHER is our new reality.

engagement shoot, July 5 2016. (photo by Jess Stoltzfus)
All the letters, the emails, the thousands of texts...the countless FaceTime calls at all hours of the night, the tears, the laughter, the thousands of selfies we took trying to bring each other into our daily lives...the disappointments, the missed calls, the late nights, the early mornings, the desperation, the intense joy and the overwhelming love....it's ALL WORTH IT.



Tomorrow.

And I can't hardly wait!

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
- Isaiah 40

Monday, June 6, 2016

a hundred photos, a thousand words. {100 days of summer // week one}

Life keeps rolling, and my words to describe this beautiful new exciting season often fail me. But photos don't. This summer is on track to be the most fun and challenging and thrilling of my life, and while it's hard to articulate in writing, I'm finding pictures truly do speak a thousand words.

My new summer initiative is what I'm calling the "100 Days of Summer." The hashtag has already appeared on my instagram, and my goal is share a photo (or two) a day from beginning of June till early September, documenting the adventures as the season unfolds. the captions are straight from my instagram feed as well. follow me [at]liza.morales for real time updates.

june 1st.
I've traveled to over 40 states, lived at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and still this view stops my heart and brings tears to my eyes. (I'm not being dramatic.) This will always always be home, and no matter where I end up, these mountains and this valley and this city will forever hold my childhood and my heart. #blueridgemountains #100daysofsummer #capturethemoment


june 2nd.
humid mornings, summer vibes, shorts and tshirts, and quality time with my favorite wise old grasshopper. #100daysofsummer #porchlife #loveandlife


june 3rd.
randomly running into these two lovelies completely made my day. watching them grow up has been such a joy, and I'm so proud of all they've accomplished and all they will do in the future. keep shining, Dani and Kaitlin, y'all are beautiful inside and out, and no matter how much you grow up, and how famous you become (*wink*) you'll always be my Annies, and I'm so thankful y'all are in my life 💛💛💛💛💛💛 #theatrekidsforlife #castbondingneverends #100daysofsummer

pounding, in-a-flash summer rainstorms, creeping along the interstate, jammin to our song, getting wet, and loving every minute. pc: @c.morali #fightsong #100daysofsummer #homefortheseason
note: and the bestest of Catherines will be home tomorrow and I'm pretty excited about that. #westpointsis @catherinekmorales


june 4th.

birthday games with the best friends and our new favorite twenty-year-old #imaginiff #100daysofsummer #fredsarehere #HAPPYBIRTHDAYMADDIE


june 5th.
another first place tournament championship in the books for this epic goalie and player. love love love watching him play his sport. #bigsisterperks #100daysofsummer


june 6th.
morning FaceTime with the best friend, coffee for days, packing like CRAZY for my trip to St. Croix, and eating the last of my yummy waffle caramel thingys from Christi - happy Monday to me!
.
moment of truth: this has been a crazily hard two weeks, the hardest yet in this journey post-tour. so many failed opportunities to be love, so much selfishness, so many words I wish could be unsaid. but last night, as I crumpled in tears, Jesus met me at my breaking point and helplessness and showed me a whole new level of peace and freedom. the cloud has lifted, the joy is back, and this much needed vacation may prove to be the best medicine yet.
.
halleluyah for mercy and grace and PERFECT LOVE and for faithful friends and family who don't leave me in my muck! I'm blessed. so very blessed.
in other news: T-minus 11 hours till the StX adventure begins! #loveandlife #keepwalking #keeploving #100daysofsummer #stxcroixbound #maddieandlizagocrucian


summer reading. makes this big sister's heart proud. #homeschoolers #sisterofbrothers #fouryoungestmorali #100daysofsummer

....
If you're having trouble putting your heart into words this season, whether it's because of joyful things, challenging circumstances, or changing worlds, I encourage you to start capturing the moment. focus on the little things. and start seeing your life through the lens of a thousand gifts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

{{ traveling scrapbook: the wandering child is home }}

whew.

for those who were wondering if my actual return to blogging was legit, and then proceeded to wait the entire month of april and saw nothing, my apologies. i'm currently sitting cross-legged in a chair at the mall waiting for my sister to finish eating supper with her basketball friends, writing this out. it's been one heck of a day...of a week really...and after twenty-two days out of the thirty days of april being on the road, i am HOME for the near future and so glad to be so.

golly. I really don't have words. what. a. month. seriously.

I've been in four states, driven eight hundred and fifty miles, flown four hundred and thirty miles, and met thousands of peoples. I've stayed in three different hotels, had three different rental cars, and been in two airports. welcome to the life of a traveling Compassion IC!


not to mention the countless episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Fixer-Upper" and "Flip or Flop" and "Full House" reruns that I've watched in the past four weeks. don't judge, long hours in a hotel room aren't this extroverts favorite thing and sometimes I just need to hear someone talk...haha.

ANYWAYS.

I love my life. I love my job.


and it's good to be home.

it's also been a life changing week or so. I spent six days in south carolina with some of the world's most amazing people, and got to meet this year's His Little Feet choir. I got to spend time with the love of my life and there's some pretty darn exciting stuff in the works in that regard, so stay tuned...(yes, I have a boyfriend, and have for six months actually, for those who don't know yet...)


this summer is going to be more traveling, more adventures, more exciting things. my instagram is my scrapbook, so for those of you all wanting to keep up in a more tech-savvy way, please follow me over [[ @ liza . morales ]] and for those of you all wondering if my life really is as amazing as it looks, IT IS. *smile* and i love it.


but.

it's not easy.

it's hard to explain it all here, on a blog post in so many words that'll be read by so many people, but my life is not easy. there is a daily battle i've been fighting for two years that threatens me with lies that I'll never be good enough, I'll never measure up, I'll never be "spiritual" or "mature" enough to be anybody. but I also have found that the love of Jesus FREES ME from the opinion of man, and even though it can be a struggle at times, the overwhelming, overarching joy I've discovered in being LIZA, who is known and loved and cherished and treasured, is incomparable. i'm so incredibly blessed to be loved by people who see me for I am, who encourage to be exactly who I was created to be, and who's great joy is running alongside me and sharing life with me in ways that are so selfless and kind that I can't help but grow and thrive.


Jesus doesn't promise us an easy life. we can actually guarantee ourselves that it'll be as hard as all get out. in fact, I know that what Jesus is building in my life is amazing and out of this world simply because the enemy is attacking me on every side daily. that's actually a confidence-boosting fact. the more attack, the greater the victory must be.

He doesn't promise easy. but He promises *abundant*. and dear ones, that is what my life is right now. it's running over, over flowing, abundant, glorious and beautiful. challenging, yes. difficult, yes. but so incredibly worth it.

"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." - John 10

the wandering child is home for the month, and i'm so glad. ready for a break, ready for rest, ready to learn to live in these new realities and get excited about what's to come.

happy may, everyone!

oh, and please do say hi. i'm curious who actually reads this blog now, after what, five and a half years, so if you read this, check in...it'll make my heart happy to know *hugs*

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

{{the traveling scrapbook continues...}}

I'm currently sitting in the Philadelphia airport. I've been traveling since about ten this morning, with a few more hours ago. This adventure is a longer one, a whole week in Dallas, plus a few days vacation. Right now, I'm working part-time for Compassion International, and I travel just about every other week visiting different stops on the Compassion Experience Change Tour and helping with Compassion Sunday events. It's an amazing job...and definitely not what I thought I'd be doing if you'd asked me this time last year.

from my last gig in Chattanooga, TN

When I flew away from Denver for the last time exactly seven months ago today, I really had no idea what I was going to do. I had no plans, nothing lined up, and only about a day to process the fact that I would be living at home again indefinitely, till I was actually there.

My heart was tired, and my soul needed a breather. I basically slept for two months straight as I adjusted from the fast paced, hectic life of a tour schedule to the quiet life at home. And honestly, I'm still adjusting. I still wake up in the middle of the night looking for my girls, I'm not used to having my own room, and I'm basically either the best or worst house guest ever since whenever I spend the night in someone else's house, I switch into "host home mode" - which can either be super helpful or super weird. Ha. 


I had to process a lot. I spent soooo much time with Jesus...because I really didn't have anyone else to turn to with the burdens that were weighing on my soul. I had to make some pretty big decisions almost right away when a job in Europe came available...and those weeks of interviews, and ultimately having to decide by myself whether I was going to go or not drew me closer to the Father's heart than I've ever been before.

One opportunity I *did* say yes to was the assistant coach of our public city high school swim team for the winter season. And while it was such a learning curve and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, I was back on the pool deck, coaching my favorite sport, and I'm so ridiculously thankful I said yes. Those twenty-seven kids....*shakes head*. I don't even have to words to describe them. Except that even with all their drama and attitude and excuses, they're some of my favorite kids I've ever met and I miss them every day. Beyond teaching me self-control, patience, and how to better articulate instructions (you know who you are), they taught me that everyone has a story, that listening sometimes is the best answer, and I was blown away by the example of endurance and perseverance I observed. I've also never laughed harder daily in my *life*. I'm serious. These children. They drove me crazy and kept me sane, they teased me and laughed with (and at) me, and were excited for me, and their excitement was an incredible encouragement. And I know they're reading this, so hey you guys, YOU ROCK. (and I'll see you next week and I'm super excited!)


And now, with my job with Compassion, I'm either traveling and working long days on the job, or I'm at home and not working at all. It's fantastic. Week on, week (or two) off - it's exactly what I need for where I'm at in life right now, and gives me some much needed family time with my siblings and parents. From driving the Middles to and from school, spontaneous McDonald's runs with hungry siblings, play dates outside with the Littles, adventures with the older girls, and dates with my parents...it's so good to be home.


It's been such an incredible year so far. 

And the biggest lesson I've learned is identity.

That I'm loved. I'm cherished. I'm valuable.

Because when you're confident that you don't have to be anyone or anything but yourself, that you are loved beyond comprehension, you can do *anything*. ANYTHING.



My favorite t-shirt right now says, "Go Be Love." My swim kids asked me about it one time, what it meant. And I loved being able to sit back and think a minute, realizing that because I'm so secure in my identity, so confident that I'm loved, that I'm FREE to extend that love to everyone around me. I don't have to prove anything, I don't have to be anything, I can just love people. That's it.

This has been seven months of healing. Of forgiveness, surrender, and letting go. And out of that, out of that healing, has come immeasurable joy. Lively hope. Renewed vision. Nothing that has happened before defines me, nothing matters except the Love that is so freely poured out on me.


This year isn't over yet. Faaaaar from it. There are many more adventures ahead. More plane flights, more people, more conversations, more life-changing events. Life is getting exciting, and I'm trembling with joy just thinking about it.


There's been a verse that's been a favorite of mine for just about exactly a year. It's 1 John 4:18.

"Perfect love casts out fear."

If any verse summed up my past five months in five words, it's that one.

"There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear."

Dear ones....Jesus loves us perfectly. He pours out His love over us. And because of that, we don't have to be anything but His children. You don't have to prove anything, you don't have to be someone you're not, you don't have to be afraid of failure, or being left behind, or forgotten. Even if your life doesn't go exactly the way you plan, you can still walk in completely confidence into the great unknown *knowing* that You. Are. Loved. And because that Perfect Love is being poured so freely over your life....you can then love others perfectly, because it's not just you on your own strength, it's HIS love, HIS strength. 

And that opens doors for a kind of love and trust between each other that isn't humanly possible...and it's pretty much the most beautiful thing you could ever experience on earth. In fact, I'd say it is.


This is a song that my dear Courtney gave me back in October...and it's pretty much become an anthem of mine.

"So let my heart tell You again when seasons change and stories end
Your steady love it will sustain me through it all,
Jesus, Your Love....
...There is a strength that rises up in me
to know that You've been here before me
A strength beyond what I can see
Jesus, Your love, Jesus, Your Love..."


So friends. I'm back. It's been months since I wrote, honestly because I just couldn't write. There was too much bottled up inside of me that I couldn't share...and now that I've had time to process, Jesus gave me my words back. He is faithful. And this little journal of life that's stuck with me through thick and thin since I was fifteen years old is back again - if nothing else, to proclaim a testimony of perfect love and faithfulness that's only possible because of Jesus.


Let the adventures continue!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

{ winter style book : it snowed! }

Speaking honestly here, it's been a long, hard week. My friends, when Jesus starts expanding your heart, expect growing pains. Denying self, fighting flesh, and claiming peace in chaos are not easy things, but the reward is infinite and always worth it.


My outfit today is one that I was just laying in bed thinking about what to wear, this came to mind, and so I wore it. Those end up being some of my favorite pairs anyway, when I sort of strangely instinctively know what I'll be comfortable in on a given day.


This crochet top was part of my early fall closet purge/shopping trip. I basically went through all my clothes from high school, got rid of...most of them, and started over. The top was on clearance at TJ Maxx, and was sort of the first item I bought at the beginning of my freedom journey. That ended up being a pretty incredible week for me spiritually too...just stepping out into unknowns and making decisions without being afraid. Good stuff.


The skirt...this skirt is from tour. And it brings back so many memories every time I put it on. It's been all over the country, seen many a set up or a tear down...tearful faces and messy hands have been wiped dry on it, excited fingers have grabbed it and pulled it to go and see something cool, and it's seen many happy cuddles and comforts and playtimes after school. I love my tour clothes...they tell the stories of my kiddos and those are memories I treasure, and memories I miss.


I'm not sure if you all remember our itty bitty rescue kitten we found on the side of the road one night on our way home from a football game...but he's definitely not little or abandoned anymore. He's a big, fat orange cat with a mind of his own and while he's mellowed out some, this is rare moment of kindness. Oh, Simba...you remind me of the farm too, so I still love you, even when you bite me 'cause I love on you too much.

{once again, all pictures credit to the lovely Caroline}

Jesus is doing a big work in me right now. It feels like I'm walking through a bit of a fog, and every day there's something new to work through, but there's such peace in knowing the victory is already won. I don't have to strive for something that Jesus died to give me. It's my job to believe, to walk in faith, to trust Him completely.

And you know what? He always brings joy. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, Joy is a state of the heart. So even when it's hard, and life hurts, I can still be joyful. And every day, there is fresh mercy, fresh grace, fresh joy. {psalm 30:5 // lamentations 3:22-23 }

On a lovely, cheerful note: IT SNOWED! Not for very long, but long enough to make our trees and bushes pretty for a few hours before the sun came out and melted it all. I love snow...winter has finally arrived! <3

// The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies they never come to an end
They are new every morning, new every morning
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord
Great is Thy faithfulness \\

Sunday, January 10, 2016

winter stylebook // purple and polkadots


back to blogging after way too long...really praying about what to write about on here in this new year.  the past five months have been life-changing, soul-shaping, heart-altering, and out of this world and I really want to start sharing some of it with you all. the past three-ish months specifically have been very impactful, and I feel like a completely different person. Yay, Jesus!

anyway. today's outfit is honestly pretty reflective of the changes in my life. I've started exploring my personality a little more, who I am, what I like and don't like, and trying new things. I have a rather....hilarious personality type (if you're the myers-briggs sort, i'm pretty much a classic enfp.) and a very short attention span, so new things are always super fun and exciting for me, and I'm not afraid to mess up and start over if necessary. And especially now that Jesus has done so much soul-work and my confidence in His love is through the roof...I've gotten even crazier. *mysterious laugh*



I've always wanted fun tights, so I finally splurged a little and picked up a few pairs from Target to see what I thought. These are gray and black polka dots, and are technically sweater tights - aka. SUPER warm and cozy *and* cute.

note on my classic trusty rusty boots: yay for dads who love leather and polishing up these favorites after they went through a year of tour in slowly progressing disrepair. Thank you, Daddy! (he also did my cowboy boots which look uh-maaaazing now!


short skirts are something I've not really tried to do much with in the past, but for months now have wanted to experiment with. when we took a spontaneous trip to Washington D.C. last week, we hung out in Tyson's Corner one day and I bought this purplish-red standard from Forever 21. I got a couple others too, which you'll be seeing soon as I keep playing around with my clothes.


I've done so much wardrobe cleaning out and buying of new things in the past couple months...now I feel like I pretty much only have what I wear, and plenty of combinations and colors and patterns to play with. It's been super fun so far and I love using the same pieces to get different looks depending on the day and occasion.

My gray shirt is from Old Navy...loose fitting and soft, I wear it tucked in, belted, loose, layered...any way you can think of it, it works.

The belt is off a sweater dress I bought at Walmart on tour last year. I wear it with....everything. Stretchy and versatile and never too tight, it's the perfect accent for most of my skirts and dresses.

But here's my favorite piece of my outfit by far.


My necklace.

If my life had a motto, it would be this.

GO. BE. LOVE. 

The only way I can spend my days loving others and being poured out for the Kingdom of Heaven is if I know, beyond a doubt, that I am loved by my Abba Father. It's HIS love that enables me to live the life I'm called to, and live fully in the freedom and joy He died to purchase for me.

Every morning, my call is to get up, get moving, and be love to the world....because He loved me first.

And, as most of you know, almost all of my jewelry has some sort of sentimental value, and this piece is no different. The necklace was a gift from my very best friend, who knows this truth very well and has been my joyful companion in so many "go be love" adventures...and many more to come. All kinds of stories about that....for another day...


So here's to a new year of love, life, and ever more of Jesus! There's so much in store for each of us in the next twelve months...joy, sorrow, laughter, love, pain, hurt, forgiveness, peace, and a never ending source of strength for whatever we may encounter. Friends, give your year, your story, to Jesus...and let Him show you what He can do in just one, willing life.


{picture credits to my budding photographer sister and pal, the lovely Caroline.}