michele + josh | botanical gardens | oahu lifestyle photographer

You know that couple that you can just tell that they’re best friends and they’ve been through so much together and they’re so in love and the way they look at each other makes you melt and also they just happen to be really, really good looking? Yeah, their names are Michele and Joshua and I had the honor of shooting them.

They met 8 years ago and are now going on their 5th year of marriage and I am so glad that they were the ones who won my giveaway because LOOK AT THEM. I can’t even begin to tell you how good their modeling is. Michele was almost directing the shoot herself all while smiling and like… I couldn’t have asked for an easier time. The original date we scheduled for the shoot was storming so we had to reschedule. The day of the actual shoot, it was hot and humid and we were all sweating but they still killed it.

Also, random fact for all of you: if there’s anyone in the world who knows how to change from one outfit to another without flashing everyone in public, it’s a hula dancer. We train for that ish.

coen + family | botanical gardens | oahu lifestyle photographer

Heeeeeeee’s baaaaaack. The boy, the myth, the legend: Coen. And he’s got words to say. My favorite is, “Whaaaaat?” The terrible twos are coming up for this kid so we had to capture what’s left of his one-ness. Erin (his mom) booked me for a shoot to get some photos of him with her sister and her parents and oh. my. gosh. They’re the cutest. It’s absolutely no secret that I love greenery but go ahead and throw in a cute kid with dimples and his family that he adores (and the promise of ice cream), you’ve got yourself a recipe for some great photos. So without further ado, here’s Coen.

janelle + bryson | kahana bay engagement | oahu lifestyle photographer

Let me start by just telling you all that the day we shot these photos, a big-hurricane-strength-windy-storm was about to hit Hawai’i. No big deal, but they forecasted 60 foot waves or whatever and it was cold. as. heck (for Hawai’i). Keep this in mind as you scroll through these photos and see Janelle’s hair blowing in the wind, the sun hitting the ocean and mountains and the two of them in the water. Everything was freezing. The sand, the water, the wind. Everything. And yet, they look perfect and happy and in love.

If you recognize these faces, it’s because they were the very first couple that I shot going into this business last year. Ever since then, I had been anticipating shooting their actual engagement photos. So here they are in all their glory!

Juliana + Brad | Bellows Beach Engagement | Oahu Lifestyle Photographer

There’s nothing I can really say to express how much I loved this shoot. When you pretty much have an entire beach to yourself and the sunrise is amazing, can you really complain? I admit, I’m absolutely, 100% not a morning person. Nor am I really a night person. I’m more of a the-more-sleep-the-better type of person. But waking up for a shoot like this is absolutely worth it.

Juliana is the kind of coworker everyone wants to have, and I was lucky to have her as one for a short period of time. She made work fun. Even while I worked in the office and had to turn on my more intellectual vocabulary, I’d still get emails from her addressed to “My BFF”. So of course when she and Brad got engaged and she reached out to me for photos, I was more than happy to do it. Since Brad is in the military, we got to shoot at Bellows Beach when it was closed to the public. In my 27 years of living here, I have never been there. How.

Of course, like a lot of couples do, they started by telling me how awkward they are in front of the camera and I was like, “Girl. I got you.” Needless to say, we had fun, got some great photos and that has nothing to do with me and absolutely everything to do with how much these two love each other.

Worrell Family | SALT Kaka'ako Family Portraits | Oahu Lifestyle Photographer

I’ve probably taken more photos of Coen than anything or anyone else in my entire life. He’s only a year old but boy, does he know what to do in front of a camera. It also helps that he’s just adorable to begin with. It pains me to watch him grow since I’ve known him since he was born and have babysat him on numerous occasions, but that’s just what kids do. Break your heart. Haha. Anyway, Erin has been one of my sister’s best friends for yeeeears so I was more than happy to be taking her family photos for their Christmas cards this year. It was such a gloomy day, but we managed to get some great shots around Salt in Kaka’ako.


We’re two months away from a new year. Two. Months. Often times when I sit back and think about how quickly time is passing, I get sad and reflective. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. As a photographer, I find it easier to hold on to moments than to let them go which allows me to kind of be my own sort of photo album in some way. But if I were to be truthful with you, most times, holding onto moments spirals me into this never-ending hole of nostalgia and longing for those times that have passed, which ultimately leads me into pretty deep sorrow.

This year, however, I’ve been pretty excited for 2019 to come. Time passed by a little slower with 2018. A lot of undesirable things happened and I wanted things to just move on as fast as they could. Loss of friends, death of my grandma… 2018 has not been my favorite. But in the midst of all of it, through my chasing after a new year, I was told over and over to slow down. And though it was annoying for me to hear, wanting to control these hurtful situations, it was absolutely needed.

I was angry — with myself, with my friends — and I wanted out. In these types of situations, I normally give myself two options:

  1. Run away and leave everything as is or…

  2. Dive in head-first and try to fix things.

Without someone by my side telling me to slow down, I would’ve succumbed to the second option. My friends meant a lot to me. Still do. I wanted to just get in there and defend myself even though I knew very well that my words would only fall upon deaf ears. And although I had one person who stuck with me and never left, I had never felt so alone in my life. But this one person was all I needed to help me slow down and I hope I can be that one person for somebody else.

So I stayed where I was at. In an unfavorable and lonely position, I waited. There, I found out how to be silent and still. I learned that being broken is a worshipful thing to be and that it isn’t shameful. There, I planted myself in the hole I dug myself into. I cried as I prayed, knowing very well how much Jesus suffers with me. People I didn’t know before surrounded me and nurtured me. I grew roots even on my most difficult days. And through making myself known (which is the hardest thing for an introvert) and letting the sun bring to light my flaws and insecurities, I grew. I grew and grew and grew. And once I broke the surface and sprouted my itty-bitty leaves, I saw that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve been welcomed and accepted into a garden-full of people and now we grow together. When we rush through life, we don’t allow ourselves time to grow. And growth is a slow, slow process. Sometimes it doesn’t look like what we expect it to look like and sometimes we can’t even feel it. But it’s there, so long as you set yourself up for it and allow it. If you give up on the opportunity to grow, you might also miss out on seeing the community who grows with you.

I’d be lying if I told you I don’t think about the past anymore. It’s been 8 months since I’ve had a tight group of friends I’m comfortable with and it still hurts a ton. But I’d also be lying to you if I said I regret all the crap I went through this year, because I know I made the best decision for myself. It’s not at all about what you could’ve done differently or how you could’ve changed things. It’s about how you’re going to use those moments to grow you.

So, I’d encourage you to slow down. Even in the toughest moments. Especially in the toughest moments.

Every single moment of your life, you’re welcomed to come as you are. In your brokenness, in your losses, in your victories and triumph. You are welcomed and accepted and loved. Show up as you are, with whatever crap you might have. Maybe you won’t be accepted by people you may have thought would be there for you, because people are fickle. They will say and think things you have no control over, and will never know the full story because your feelings are your own and theirs are theirs. You lived it, they didn’t and striving for their acceptance or approval will wear. you. down.

So may we ourselves assume the best and have compassion as Jesus did — and still does — for us. Allow the broken to come and be accepted, pour into them grace and acceptance and there, all their gaps will be filled.


Janelle + Bryson | Tantalus Engagement | Oahu Lifestyle Photographer

At my previous job before deciding to do photography full-time, Janelle was one of the first people I met. Though I didn’t remember meeting her when she said hi to me about a week later, we formed a pretty good friendship while we could. She was the visual merchandiser and I was the social media manager, so the both of us were bouncing around the different stores and hardly got to see much of each other. But when we did, it was always such a good time working together.

Bryson proposed to Janelle at Aulani after graduating and I was SO. EXCITED. Though they won’t be getting married for a while, we decided to get some couple photos (not their official engagement photos) and they turned out amazing!

EmmaLee | Queen Emma Park Baby Portraits | Oahu Lifestyle Photographer

Last week, I had the privilege of getting some shots of sweet little Emma. This girl is the literal cutest. Lashes, dimples, curls. The whole package. It was also so fun getting to catch up with her mom and grandma (who I’ve known for about 10 years now, whoa) and play with Emma a bit. It had rained the night before and the location we were going to shoot at was pretty muddy, but we made it work! I loooove taking photos of babies because you really get to see their personalities unfold before your eyes as they grow more comfortable with you being there and they’re just natural models.


Behind the Brand

There are so many thoughts that have run through my brain about starting this business. Filled mostly with doubt and fear, I postponed writing this for so long. But due to some recent revelations, encouragement and prayers... I can say I am still absolutely terrified. Haha. I don’t know what to say when people ask me if I’m a “professional photographer” because yes, I am a photographer but no, I am not a professional. I am by no means qualified to do this as a profession by the world’s standards. I didn’t go to school for it but solely followed a passion I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Which, I finally believe is enough. But I am also much more than a photographer and don’t want to be trapped in a box. I have many interests and all I really want to do is create - so that’s what I’ll do.

I wanted to share with you the creative process behind the branding and logo-making of myself as a “brand” (this still sounds so strange to me). This logo in particular represents two very important things in my life: my faith and my culture. 

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Faith: The bible gives a couple scenarios in which I drew inspiration from. The first being that we, as God’s people, are clay pots; incredibly fragile, vulnerable and susceptible to damage. The second scenario is the woman with the alabaster jar. She breaks this incredibly valuable thing containing something even more precious - all she really has of worth - and pours its contents as a form of worship. It’s through our cracks and crevices and our emptying out of our lives that His power is able to shine through and we are used the way we’re meant to be: for His glory.

Culture: Kintsugi is an art  that I have deeply resonated with since high school. If you are unfamiliar with the art or the process, broken pottery is joined back together using a gold lacquer; making the piece more valuable than it was before it had been broken. The idea is that the imperfection and brokenness of the object becomes a part of its history rather than something to disguise or throw away. With the rise of social media and having these picture-perfect lives, we have become so accustomed to hiding our flaws; whereas this practice is the art of illuminating those flaws.

The ‘K’ represents the cracks as the circle represents the pottery. The three pieces separated by the ‘K’ represents the three things I’ll be doing: photography, content creation and crafts.

The internet and social media have become so saturated with picturesque and manicured lives that, to be honest, have always made me feel less than. I’ve so often forgotten my worth while comparing myself to the lives of people I don’t even know; people whose lives are seemingly perfect, though I know it can’t be true. What people won’t tell you is this: It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to be human. I mean, Jesus (you know the guy who actually lived the perfect life?) wept and was “deeply moved and greatly troubled” when Lazarus died  (John 11:33). So here I am, asking for accountability that I am as flawed and imperfect online and through my work as I am in person. My hope for this brand - which is essentially myself - is that it wouldn’t be something used in my power, but my weakness. Because that’s where I end and God begins. 

Here are two secondary logos I made because to be honest, it’s just good to have options and I had a lot of fun doing it *shrug*. Though that first one encompasses the entire brand itself, these two logos are still pretty symbolic of everything I just mentioned. I’ll be using these where I see fit, but I’m still figuring everything out (like my life). This is my personal journey of embracing my brokenness and I hope you’ll join me.

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As You Are

I have an honest confession: I’m not who I say I am. I’ll elaborate in a bit but here’s a bit of backstory to this confession:

I’ve watched a lot a movies this year and have liked every single one I’ve seen. As Hollywood (as well as the world) becomes more aware and accepting of different backgrounds and idea, although slowly and long overdue, the movies seem a lot more relevant to me personally. It may also be the fact that the 90’s have made its way back into our lives and I cannot even begin to express the amount of love I have for Winnie the Pooh. With that said, there’s another movie that completely took me by surprise.

There are few people who don’t know who Mr. Rogers is and have never seen his show. This is sad for me. I grew up watching him and in contrast to a lot of people out there, believe he was and still very much is a great example for a life well-lived. In an interview that one of his sons gave for the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, he mentioned that his father was somewhat like the "second coming of Jesus”. Some critics say that he instilled a false sense of pride in Millennials because he would say that we are special just as we are. But like… that’s just irrational.

Throughout the last 10 years of my life, I’ve had a fair share of lost relationships. In high school, I lost my closest group of friends who I had grown up with because of some life choices they made that didn’t resonate well with me. I then went on to lose the rest of my connections as I got involved with a church that made me completely cut off everyone else in my life. Then there were lost relationships within that church when I became a “rebel” and didn’t agree and conform to their way of life, more so when I left the church. And finally my last relationship in which I am partially to blame, and along with that, my closest friends. So here I am back at square one, learning to be okay without certain people but still a very hurt soul.

Looking back on all these relationships, I realize the common reason they all ended. Sure, there were factors in why things happened the way they did, but the core of it all is this: acceptance. Whether it had been my accepting those people as they were or vice versa, that’s been the issue the whole time and I didn’t realize it until now.

This past Wednesday, my pastor sent a message out to our community group telling us to think about our dads and that we’d share stories that night. I’ve become comfortable about sharing certain things, but nothing this personal. Though my plan was to pass on sharing, my pastor’s wife said we’d fo around the circle. There were some tears while sharing (mostly from me because I’m a baby), but it was just so good to hear these stories. 10/15 people had unsatisfying relationships with their fathers and the point of the message was that God is a better father than the best there is here on earth. But after all the sharing and the message, my pastor talked about wanting all of that for our group. That we are our own little family and the reason we meet is to open up, listen to each other and be known in an environment that is loving and accepting. We can come with our stories and our highs and lows without the fear of judgement, knowing that each person there is rooting for each other.

I am literally tearing up writing this, just as I did when he was saying this.

I have a really hard time believing that people will accept me as I am, especially in the church. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Something I remember people saying of me in my previous church is this: “I give up on her.” This, among other things I’ve heard said about me in that church completely shut me down both mentally and emotionally. It caused me to not only give up on people, but to kind of give up on myself. And it wasn’t because I would show signs of atheism or didn’t believe in God. It’s because I wasn’t who they wanted me to be. I wasn’t buying into the crap that would later be revealed to everyone as deceit and lies. Nonetheless, it gave me a really false sense of worthlessness and that’s what I began viewing myself as. Unworthy of time. Unworthy of friendship. Unworthy of love.

Church hurt is real, as its a place run by people who are still imperfect no matter how high up they are on the chain. I’ve spent the past 2 years going late to services and leaving immediately after, never wanting to getting involved or form any type of relationship because of the church that hurt me. But the one thing I didn’t realize could heal me of church hurt is, in fact, the church. I’m so glad to have found the church I’m at now and can honestly say I’ve healed more in the past 6 months of being there than I would’ve on my own.

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. - Fred Rogers

I hope you know you are loved and accepted just as you are. If not by people, by Mr. Rogers. But since he’s gone - and this is of much more importance- you are loved and accepted by God. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, and I know I’ll have my times of doubt and still continue to call myself unworthy. But I am not who I say I am.

God sees me differently. He made each and every one of us, unique as we are, in his image. He saw us in our sin and deemed us worthy of the ultimate sacrifice: his only son. So when you begin to call yourself unworthy, I hope you don’t think of the times somebody else has called you that. I hope you don’t think of your flaws or mistakes. But instead, think of God, his love and sacrifice and find your identity there. And know that wherever God’s love is experienced, his love is also given. I’ve found a place for that and I hope you have or will too.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

-Psalm 139:13-16

Small Victory

If you know me personally, you’d know how much I dislike social interaction. I’m okay around a small group of people — that I know. Being thrown into social situations where a lot of people are involved, even if I’m there with someone I do know, it’s hard for me. Let me give you a few examples.

In my last relationship, I was forced to live a socialite life. His family threw these huge, grand parties and knew people everywhere they went. They were those people. I was in this long distance relationship for 3 years and since he lived in the mainland, I didn’t have to live that life while he was gone. I’d see his family a few times without him being here and even those times were really hard for me no matter how long I had known them. But when he came back, it was non-stop social interaction and he just didn’t understand the toll that had on me. There were times in the midst of the party, I’d break down and cry in the bathroom and just sit there a while. And in the times he’d catch me crying or backing away from these situations, I’d be reprimanded.

Earlier this year, I started attending a new church and alongside that, a new small group. There were maybe 8 people there and I had told the person I was going with that I didn’t want to have to share anything. The pastor assured him that I wouldn’t have to share anything. First thing we did that night? “Draw a self portrait and we’ll go around the circle and share something about ourselves.” Giiiiirrrrl, that ain’t what I signed up for. But I’ve grown to love this group, which has expanded to a few more people and am becoming comfortable talking to these people after 7 months. This is what I shared that first night: “I’m Kelsie and I don’t like public speaking.”

Now, in these examples, I had been with someone I was close to and yet, I was still extremely uncomfortable. Going somewhere social without another person never happens for me. Never. I’m perfectly fine being alone in places that don’t require much interaction. I’m okay shopping by myself, working alone, etc. But going alone to a social event? Nah. This brings me to yesterday and the small victory that I had.

Last month, I saw that Laura Izumikawa (@lauraiz on Instagram) and her family were coming to O’ahu and doing a book signing. I have been following her for years because like…. why wouldn’t you? Cute baby, squishy cheeks, dressed up during naps. I immediately got a ticket for the book signing without even questioning who I would go with because I was that excited. Then the day came.


I drove to the book signing thinking,, “Okay. I can do this. It’s not a big deal. I’ll spend maybe 2 minutes with her and that’s it. Everything’s fine.” WRONG. I was standing in line, looking at all these people ahead of me and started feeling the anxiety trickle in. I started getting jittery and kept looking at the time on my phone. As soon as I was maybe 4 people away from entering, I turned around and left running. Literally. I ran to my car. Mind you, tropical storm Olivia was in effect and the shoes I wore were SO slippery. I risked my life to get out of there. Oh, the drama.

Once I got to my car, I realized I couldn’t even open my door. That parking lot has the tightest spaces and the car next to me had literally given me no chance of leaving. So I just stood there. I thought of other things to do around the area, but again, it was pouring and I would’ve had to walk. I stood there thinking, “It’s only a 2 minute meeting. She wouldn’t remember me anyway, nor would she care that I — specifically me — would be there.” You see how I can use the same ‘2 minute’ excuse to both stay and leave? Happens all the time.

But, instead of standing there like an idiot waiting for this person to move their car, I said a quick prayer (like, “God please help me”) and I decided to go back. I got there 3 minutes before the signing was supposed to end and the only people who were left were the employees of the venue. She graciously said hi to me, signed my book, let me take pictures with her and her daughter and I left.

It’s not much, but I’m happy I did this and I wanted to share with whoever is even reading this. And let me tell you this: Small victories are worth celebrating. This is something I’ve been learning in the past few months on this journey of being renewed and I hope this somehow encourages you to do the same. What’s crazy to think about is how much I’ve ignored the small victories in my life because of my anxiety. I don’t think it’s ever bad to care too much unless it’s caring too much about what people might think of you. And I stress the word “might”. because you won’t ever know until you do it and people can surprise you. In the end, nobody is higher than anyone else (though I can probably pose a pretty compelling argument about Beyonce — like, is she even a human?).

I’m going to be real with you and tell you this: There will still be times when I fail and give into my anxiety. I haven’t overcome it from this simple time alone, but I’ll always have this memory as reference that the world did not end by fighting against it. There are big changes happening in my life, the biggest being forming my own business. I’ll always have a fighting voice that will tell me that I’m not good enough and I’ll always worry what others will think. But Jesus totally fights for me.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


God's been calling me into some pretty scary places recently. I'm not talking dark alleyways or the edges of cliffs. He's also not calling me to stand in the middle of the freeway. No. I'm talking about the places I want to be. Those are the places he's been calling me to and I'm scared as heck.

When I think about what I want to be when I grow up (whenever that will be), I never really have a super clear vision of it. In my last post, I spoke about being a creative and loving anything along the lines of making something. My focus is photography but I'm not entirely sure that it's all I want to do. I don't want to be labeled as a photographer because I don't want to be stuck in a box. I also don't believe we're meant to just be one thing.

"A jack of all trades is a master of none." I've heard this phrase numerous times and it's always had a negative connotation, which has in turn given me the idea that I must do one thing and only that. But how exactly do you master one craft when you're interested in so much more? I mean, it's possible, for sure. Which I think is why people end up doing jobs they hate.

I believe we've all been there. The place that I've been in for the past however-many years. A place where dreamers go to be what they want to be and do what they want to do and yet, never leave to do just that. A cozy little place called I'm Not Good Enough. We foster negative thoughts and comments here - some from other people, but mostly from ourselves. Our activities include (but are not limited to): looking at others who are more successful than us, comparing our work to others and being our harshest critics, feeling sorry for ourselves and quitting. Doesn't it sound lovely? I've made a home there.

Extremely sudden change of topic, but I swear it ties in: I can't wait to be a mom. One of my greatest fears in life is not being able to have children of my own. I'm one of those people who cry when I pick up a kid and they lay their head on my shoulder or fall asleep. The desire is so real, guys. The closest I've been to being a mom is being a preschool teacher. Not the same, but that's as close as I've gotten so far.

I worked as a preschool teacher for a little over two years and I hated everything but the kids. It was a program meant to be a transitioning period between home life and Kindergarten, where we prepared them for the separation from their parents and kick-started the learning process. So yes, we got a lot of criers and lots of heavily-filled diapers. But seeing their progress made all of that absolutely worth it. And when they left us, it was tough. I still get sad thinking about certain kids and realizing how old they are now and how much they've probably grown.

While teaching there, I received a lot of gifts from parents. Whether it be from holidays, birthdays, when the kids left us, or when I put in my resignation. I cannot remember a single gift I was given and I'm sure I've thrown most of it away (unless it was a gift card, which I'm sure I used at some point). But the things that I've kept are the cards. Handmade and handwritten cards from the kids with pictures drawn in crayon or scribbles that make no sense at all. Backwards letters and all, I love those things and I cannot get rid of them.

Hopefully you see where I'm going with this. These kids aren't fine artists who have their work in museums or drawings worth a kajillion dollars. These cards are nothing of monetary value that I'm holding onto to sell later on. The stick figures don't resemble anyone in particular and oh gosh, their color choices are terrible. But I value them. Why? Because they thought of me and drew for me what they could. Just like how a mom would proudly put their kid's terrible art project up on the fridge. Just like how God looks down on us, his children, and finds joy in the work we do for him.

Can you imagine how heartbroken God is when we say we aren't "good enough"? We are his creation, being made perfect in time. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and he is our beholder. Remember that quote I mentioned earlier? Did you know that the quote doesn't end there? In fact, it's being used in almost the complete opposite way for which it was intended.

"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one." - Somebody in the 14th Century

I may not know where I'm headed on this creative journey of mine, and I may not have just one focus. But all I know at this moment is that whatever it is I do, whatever I create with these hands, it will all be for God. And though it may look like stick figures and scribbles in this world that deems me worthless, he'll proudly display it on his fridge (I'm sure he's got some bomb food in there too).


There's something that's been on my mind for the past 10-ish years and I've never really been able to resolve it. The thing is, I've been broken for the past 10-ish years and no matter what I've done to try to aide it, nothing has sufficed and has only broken me even more. Though the purpose of writing these blogs is to bare my soul and show whomever is listening that weakness is, in fact, strength, I don't think you're ready to sit here and read a post that'll take you hours. So I won't touch too much on those events that have broken me quite yet - at least not all at once.

As I've mentioned before, photography has been a long-time hobby of mine. But this isn't the only form of art that I've grown up doing and love. Crafting things with my hands brings me so. much. joy. I love finding new crafts and trying them (even though I'm a perfectionist and literally throw so many things away before giving them a full chance). I am by nature, "a creative" in every sense of the word. And by this, I have bonded deeply with God. It still trips me out to this day all the beauty that he's made here for us to dwell with. The bible also speaks of God as a potter with us being his clay. All of creation - people, flowers, mountains, etc - was made for his glory.

So that brings me to my issue. At the beginning of giving my life to God, I went to a church that fostered religion though it was constantly spoken against. We were told to break free of religion and its routines and instead to have our own personal relationship with Jesus. Yet somehow, in an attempt to do just that, it was all the opposite. This church caused me some great pain even though I disagreed a lot with the culture and didn't play too much into it. I completely lost my identity there because I was constantly torn between what the church was doing and what I thought God was doing. But I stayed. Mainly because this church was all I knew about "Christianity" and once I started attending, I had lost touch with all of my friends outside of the church. That place became my home, where my friends were and where I spent the most time.

From that point, everything I had was given to the church. I was given my first DSLR as a high school graduation present. I treated it as a baby, my most prized possession. But being at this church, nothing was really mine. I began serving at the church almost immediately after people found out I loved photography. The idea was this: Service is a form of worship. You were created to serve God. He gave you this skill and this camera. Use all those things for the church. I did this for free for most of my years at that church. The years I wasn't doing it was because I was given ultimatums in obeying everything the church did and I still did not agree. Don't get me wrong, I loved serving and using my God-given talents back to God by building up his body. But it became a freaking chore. I cannot tell you how many times we (the photo team) stayed up all night editing photos to put on the church website. How excruciating it was editing the photos in ways that took away from the artistry of photography. How many hours we spent photographing every event (we had something 4-7 times a week). In the end, I lended my dear camera to the church and had it returned broken, never to be used again. I cannot tell you how much emotional strain all of this put on me and my own relationship with God.

I wanted to be obedient to God and use these things for him, but I hated doing it there. I had two close friends who also enjoyed photography, just maybe not as much as I had thought. The three of us tried starting a photography business together. One person dropped out because they were told by the pastor to stay away from the other two of us (this happened often as we were often referred to as the rebels of the church though we just really weren't conforming to their ideals of a segregated church). The two of us went on. We prayed a lot, got a business license, started a blog, created a website, and actually booked some photoshoots. But then my other friend became uninterested and poof, it was over. I couldn't do it alone, nor did I really want to. She was the personable one and I most definitely was not. Still am not, but you know... I'm me. Haha. With those plans falling through and my choosing to stay in that church, I feel I had given up on my creativity in a sense. I found jobs to keep me afloat financially that I didn't find much joy in. But through these jobs, I found ways to be creative. Most notably, working as a preschool teacher and putting together Christmas photoshoots with the kids (completely free, might I add).

Three years ago, I left the church and found a job I thought I'd love - doing social media for a retail company. And I did, until they threw me into doing a lot of other jobs for them that I wasn't necessarily good at. So here I am now, going on almost 7 months of joblessness and I started really losing hope. On this island, we don't have many creative job opportunities and it seems like I'm stuck here for the foreseeable future. I applied for a LOT of jobs. At first, I was looking for something that would foster my creativity. Something I'd enjoy doing and could also benefit from. There weren't many options and to be honest, how do you create for a company or business you don't relate to (ie social media for a dental company). Then I became desperate and let's be real - medical insurance is important. So I applied for more. Most of them being clerical work and something I could kind of just do for the money. I had a few interviews and could almost laugh with them about how unexperienced I am for those jobs. Sad, I know. 

I'm one of those people that's ultra-sensitive but is really good at hiding it. So you may not know if you've talked to me in person recently, but I have really been struggling with all of this lately. I came to a breaking point last week when I really just sat and asked God why these things weren't working out. Why are you putting me through this? What are you trying to teach me? I had a pretty clear revelation of who exactly I was serving with my art for the past however many years: me. I've been doing it to bring myself joy, to make a name for myself and to be recognized. I apologized to God, asked for forgiveness and really was just like, "now what?" Then Alabaster Co. came out with A Liturgy for Creatives. It's a free, downloadable book for creatives that touches on our purpose here. If there were ever a sign I was heading in the right direction, this was it. The first chapter talks about silence and the effects it has on our creativity.

Silence is for calming, for emptying out, for letting go. In silence, we allow Jesus to do his work. - A Liturgy for Creatives

And I did just that. I stopped searching and applying for jobs to catch up with Jesus. I found times to be still and silent, stop the busy-ness and tuned my heart into his. Knowing for sure that he is the only one who completely knows me and wants the best for me. A few days went by and an opportunity arose that I caught online. I applied, without being too hopeful that it would work out and completely forgot about it. This is strange for me. With an opportunity like that, I cannot let go. I cannot stop checking my email. But in this newfound peace, I just simply let it go. Knowing that if it was meant to be, God would do his work. I found out yesterday that I was chosen for the project. Something I've learned thryough this and will continue to learn is that God wants us happy. He's given us talents and skills that don't only bring us joy and happiness, but things he finds joy in as well. If we're mindlessly or reluctantly doing things to serve him, it doesn't bring him any type of satisfaction because we're not giving it to him out of love. And if you feel stuck in a place like that, don't be afraid to stop to refocus on him. Because he'll surely resurrect what he's called you to do in a way that you're happy to and he's happy to receive.

I'm putting this out there for all of you to hold me accountable. I was lost and broken for so long, not knowing how to integrate this creativity into my relationship with Jesus. Thinking I'd always have to follow someone else's rules and regulations. And when I finally decide to just completely surrender it all to him, he answered. Moving forward, I hope to continue to rely completely on him for my creative vision. I know it won't be easy, as it's only taken me 10 years to get to this point *eyeroll*. It may not be a full time job that'll provide me with all types of insurance that I wanted, but as long as I choose not to lose sight on who brought me to this point in the first place, I think I'll be alright.






I'm currently searching for a job and although I've been through this process many times before, it's completely different this time because I'm not willing to sell myself out. Before I unbox that statement, let me give you a little back story.

Since I can remember, I've been interested in photography. My grandpa worked for Kodak before before retiring to be a full-time slave to his grandchildren and my earliest memories of him mostly involve a video camera glued to his hand. It's because of him that we have these amazing recorded memories of how sassy my cousin was as a toddler and how obsessed I was with brushing her hair when she was a baby. Though they're not the most "artistic" videos with upbeat tracks and shallow depths of field, they're art in their own particular way and can never be replaced.

That's exactly the kind of art I want to make. It would be a dream to be able to capture the moments in life that are fleeting. The ones we look back on and think, "Man, I was cute." Just kidding. But really, it's in the small, mundane moments that I truly believe make life what it is and is worth documenting. Though I credit my grandpa for having this influence on me, it was actually my kumu (hula teacher) that actually pushed me to do it.

We were on our tour bus in China headed somewhere we were performing. My parents had bought me this super cool digital camera with a touch screen and the capability to draw on your photos after you take them. RIP, cool camera. I had just taken a photo of my friend's eye in the sunlight coming through the bus window and my kumu asked to see it. "This is a really good picture! You should keep shooting." 

Firstly, if you know her, you know she doesn't just hand out compliments. Secondly, I was 13 and this woman had known me since I was born. And although a lot of comments she had made to me up until that point in my life had been semi-irrational and revolving around things I needed to fix with my dancing, I listened to everything she said. So from that point on, becoming a photographer was my goal. 

Fast forward to post high school and first jobs in college. I did absolutely nothing along the lines of photography in these jobs. I've worked restaurants and retail and childcare. The only time I really picked up my first DSLR my parents bought as my graduation present was at church events and when I needed to get photos of the kids at the YMCA that I worked at. Don't get me wrong, I loved shooting kids (yes, I know that sounds bad but whatever). My friend/co-worker and I actually set up a little studio in one of the rooms to get Christmas photos to send home with the parents and they loved them. But "photographer" was not my title. I was still a caregiver.

I took a huge leap of faith and applied for my first Social Media Manager position with a company that owned a couple of local boutiques and had its sights on opening a brand new concept store. The job was listed on Craigslist as a full-time position and after I had been interviewed and got the job, I happily quit my job at the Y only to find out it was not, in fact, full-time. This company had never hired somebody for social media before me, so I basically created my own job there. I did what I thought a Social Media Manager did. But I needed some way to make up for the hours I wasn't getting, so I asked to work on the sales floor when the new concept store opened.

From that point on, my job became a big question mark. I was the Social Media Manager but I also was good on the sales floor. They started coming to me for sign making, visual merchandising, and all these other things I was happy to do for them because it allowed creativity. Then the responsibilities I had became sort of a burden. It became confusing what part of my job was most important because I had two bosses telling me two different things. I was wearing too many hats at once and it was giving me a headache. 

A small and often overlooked detail about myself in this situation: I am crazy introverted. According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am 98% introverted. No room for confusion there. Can you imagine a introverted sales person? I can, because I was one. And a good one at that. I pushed myself really hard to be great on the sales floor because I'm also a perfectionist and am so afraid of confrontation. Then an opportunity arose: They offered me a full time office position.

Our accountant was leaving and they needed someone to take over for her, but didn't want to hire someone outside of the company. Do I like math? No. Am I good at it? Hahahaha, no. Did I take this job? Yes, absolutely yes. The deal was that I'd also have way more time to work on social media (remember, this is what I wanted to do from the get-go and was hired for). So of course I did it. But the same thing happened to me all over again.

On top of accounting, I worked in the warehouse when we had big shipments (once or twice a week at the least), I was backup for the sales floor when somebody called in (which was way too often), I made deliveries, I took over the online store, and when our warehouse manager left, I got a lot of her responsibilities as well. Towards the end of my time there, I spent no time working the job I was hired for. The one thing I wanted to do. 

Disclaimer: I am super appreciative to my bosses for all the experiences they'd given me working at that company. I honestly got to know the ins and outs of owning a business, the stress it came with, and also the rewards that came with it. They had put their full trust in me like I was part of their family. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them as business owners and will 100% keep in contact with them forever. 

Now here I am, jobless and not willing to put myself through that again. As I've mentioned before, I'm the biggest introvert. I find human interaction and networking exhausting at times and work best on my own. According to the Myers-Briggs test, I'm an INFJ. It is by far the best description I've ever gotten of my personality but I won't let it define who I am. People are ever-changing and ever-growing and I know I can push myself to come out of my shell when I need to. But I want to stay as true to who I am as possible because I know that pushing myself too far can, has and will eventually take a toll on me. And right now, this is who I am. 

I've been through a few interviews now for jobs that I know I won't fully enjoy and my parents and society will say to me, "Well, you need a job. You need insurance. You need to grow up." But are all of those worth sacrificing my happiness for? Peter Pan, people. Peter freakin' Pan. Just kidding. But hopefully you get what I'm saying. I was unhappy for years for selling myself out in many ways (not just work-wise), convincing myself that it's just how life is. Dream big, but settle for less. But now I refuse to believe that.

The fear of doing what I want to do is cripplingIsn't that so messed up? I have bursts of confidence that eventually fizzles down into a deep fear. I love writing these blog posts but what if people don't care what have to say? I love photography but what if people don't like my photos? I'd love to just be a "creative", but what if it doesn't pay the bills?

This is where Jesus steps in. There's a song by Bethel Music called "You Make Me Brave". Here's what the bridge says:

You make me brave, you make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore and into the waves. You make me brave, you make me brave. No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

No matter how many times this is repeated or how many times my heart has been torn while singing these lines, I'm still afraid. My fear and anxiety still consume me and I just stand by and allow it to. I invest more time and emotions into being this timid little thing when I have a God who fights for me daily to be what He made me to be. But I'm learning and growing and daily looking to Him with hopeful eyes, knowing for sure that He's not done with me yet. That I am a work in progress and He's a God who doesn't stop working on something until it's the most beautiful it could be.



June Third

I remember summer time the most. Being so involved in gymnastics and hula growing up, I would live with them every summer from ages 7-13 so that they could take me to my extracurricular activities. There was a big plumeria tree growing in the front yard that my cousin and I would use to build forts in using umbrellas. We'd have our own little picnics consisting only of sweetbread and water (exclusively in our super cool color-changing water bottles we got from our YMCA swimming class). My grandpa would be near, weeding the yard and listening to a static-y radio playing KSSK and all these great oldies. My grandma, watering her garden that surrounds the house, wearing her sun hat and sipping Pepsi out of her red X-treme Gulp jug from 7-11 (if you don't know what this is, you're young and I'm jealous). I remember summer by these things.

Sunday nights have always been and will forever be your nights. But no longer will it only remind me of your famous homemade potato salad, your 7:00 Korean dramas, your calling out my name to show me something you thought I’d enjoy on some random Korean show, or your knack for bringing up a topic we talked about hours ago as if the conversation never ended. I’ll be reminded of tonight. The fact that Sunday night would be your time to leave us.

That as I sat in the kitchen alone, serving the fresh strawberry pie from Anna Miller’s that Uncle Michael always brought for dessert when he came, you took your last breath in the presence of your three kids. I’ll be reminded of the look both mom and Aunty Stacey gave me with tears in their eyes as they walked out of your room. How your bedroom felt so terribly different from the one I had known my entire life. How the nurse took an hour to get to you. How it took another 2 hours for them to come and get you.

How grandpa responded when he found out. The two of you bickered more than having any other form of communication. But between grandpa’s hearing loss, his childish ways and your short temper, there were glimpses of obvious love. Even in your last month, you’d worry and care for him when you didn’t even have the strength to care for yourself. In his recent months of dementia, he’d ask about you and get upset and say, “How could I not remember that my wife is sick?” But I have never witnessed his love for you on the scale that we all did tonight.

I hope you heard him when he cried for you and told you he loves you. I hope, by some miracle of God, you were with him in those moments of deep desperation. I hope you felt him hug and cling onto you, and I hope you know he never wanted to let go. And when he wrestled with us and yelled for us to let him go with you, I hope your heart felt it and beat one last time. 

Grandma, you were the first person who told me that the decision I had made to leave the relationship I was in was for the better. Through my streaming tears and apologies, you comforted me with words I hadn’t heard from my most trusted friends. You told me you were proud of me and I hadn’t let you down.  And I think I fully understand why now. You’ve known love and want the same for me. 

I'm like you in more ways than I probably even realize, and I couldn't be any more grateful. Thank you for teaching me that family is a priority and that ice cream, whether it's hot or cold outside, is of utmost importance in a person's diet. Thank you for all of the amazing homemade meals you've cooked for us that we could never replicate because we can't stand the extreme heat of a potato right out of the pot. Thank you for driving me to and from my activities in the summer and introducing me to Celine Dion via KSSK at a young age. But most of all, thank you for your love and warmth.


Spoken For

I'm two months out of a major life decision that has both ruined and saved me depending on your perspective. I know how I'll be viewed for the rest of my life through the eyes of the people who have yet to experience grace, love and forgiveness and I'm afraid of that. I'm afraid of judgement and what's being said of me. I'm afraid of this tiny island and the connections we all have here. I'm afraid of how fast news travels and the gossip and lies people will choose to believe.

Yet I will choose to believe the truth. This truth: I am not defined by my faults and mistakes.

I stand by my decision for the sake of my mental health and well-being. I believe love is something worth fighting for and mistakes are forgiven as soon as they're confessed to my Father. People who truly love and care for me will love my happiness just as much as they hate my sin. Despite my feelings of loneliness and anxiety, I have a God who provides and takes care of me better than I could do for myself.

The reinvention process begins with a clean slate. I have no job, no car, and very minimal solid relationships. But I've got a full heart and more courage to step out creatively than I've ever had. I don't know where I'm going in life, but who even does?