About the great world
My happy placesOh Hello friend you are loved
I woke up that morning just like it was any other day. For the first time in my life I wasn’t really looking forward to turning a year older. I practically felt nothing, deadpan, blank. The messages on my phone were left unread, many calls unanswered. I didn’t want to make a big fuss about of turning twenty five. I got up from bed quietly as both of my sisters were still sound asleep and looked out my apartment window- the city was bathed in early morning light and the sky a had a soft blueish glow. It was beautiful but I was too groggy to actually take it all in. I mumbled a short prayer of gratitude and proceeded to take a hot shower. I snuck out successfully ,went down the elevator and was greeted by the lobby boy just like it was any other day. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. If I got a happy birthday from him, I’d freak out. My desire to have my birthday remain relatively obscure was still pretty much intact. I tried to make my morning coffee run to the nearby Seven eleven a bit celebrative by eating the red velvet cupcake Rosee and Zyra surprised me with at midnight (and I think I even tried to skip a bit on my way there) but still, I felt quite numb to all the beautiful things that were happening around me. I had happier morning coffee runs around the neighbourhood- I expected to be happier, it was after all my freaking birthday! Something was wrong with me and I hated my unexplained nonchalance. Our work van picked me up just as I finished my cup of coffee and I went in greeted by a series of Happy birthday’s from my coworkers. I even got handed a present by my friend Marga. It was hard not to smile at this point but I was still weirdly fighting it. ”So this is what 25 looks like.” I muttered in my head as I did a quick touch up in the van and examined the stress induced dark circles around my eyes and my post adolescent acne. That’s when it hit me, I was simply tired. I was jet lagged, overworked, exhausted from trying to cram so many things all in a week. I actively chose not to rest and was neglecting the one thing that was of the essence. I’d get nudges from the Holy spirit all throughout the week calling me to rest for a while and to pause, but I was consumed the overwhelming number of things to tick off on my to-do list. My desktop wallpaper bore my heart’s cry - the word “Hustle” glared at me, hand drawn in metallic gold over watercolor foliage. I was doing things in my own strength, driven by my pride and self reliance. I let the values of the world reinforce me- I told myself I was a “go getter”, so I worked myself to exhaustion, completely ignoring the still , strong voice within me that told me to take a breather and just pause. On the remainder of our drive to the wedding shoot, I took that short time to do just that. God had revealed once more how the reason for my inability to fully experience all the wonderful blessings around me was my detachment from Him-I had put other things first. He is the vine, and we are the branches and apart from Him, we can do nothing. I got my birthday message loud and clear. A few days after, when the things I had to do stared to pile up again, I found out that God wasn’t done yet. He was still in the process of making a point.
I spent the whole morning scavenging through a pile of clothes in my apartment, tracing back my steps,calling up people and going to all the establishments I recently visited- my hard drive, the very one that carried a year’s worth of hard work , was gone. After hours of sweaty searching I had given up and had come to the conclusion that I had left my hard drive in the cab. I don’t know how I wasn’t screaming and freaking out at that point but the first thing I thought of was how God must really loved me, that this predicament He was pursuing me and calling me to look up and cling to him. The thought of losing all of those files really stung, but I kept on thinking back on how God always gives us what we need and how He sometimes takes things away for our own good. I knew that it was His grace that was allowing me to just surrender and trust Him fully in that situation. The pursuit of our dreams and goals ( even when we labor for His glory) is useless without His grace, His anointing. "Anything that is to be done for God is not to be done by power or by might, but by my Spirit says the Lord. " Striving to be all that God has called you to be is greatly dependent on how much you can rest in His grace. It’s quite a beautiful paradox. I was reminded once again, that without Him, I was nothing. I had put my hopes on a flimsy black box and my dreams, although put in my heart by God Himself, were turning into tiny little idols. I thought about C.S. Lewis’ words and how they really struck a cord in me- ”Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really, it is finding its place in him. “ God wasn’t going to let me go and let me slip into my old ways. In that moment of loss, I felt an overwhelming amount of love from our Father. He wasn’t done with me yet-He was testing my character, forming me and molding me into someone who I pray, is used mightily for His kingdom. I clung on to His promises, to the fact that God always wants the best for His children. I felt His pursuit of me even when I had failed to pursue Him. l will forever look back at this scene from the story of my life, with happiness: There I was-Katrina, 25 years old, in the confines of my apartment, on my knees, in my track pants, sweaty from running around all morning. I had never felt more loved and wanted in my life.
A few hours after, I got news that my hard drive had been found. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. God still wanted me to continue in the task He had placed in my heart, but only after He had given me such a strong reminder. By His grace, I also got to enjoy the remainder of my birthday. I found myself in His presence once again and as soon as I realised it was the only place I really needed to be for me to become truly joyful, He took away the fog that wasn’t allowing me to see all the beautiful things that were happening around me- another year of life, messages and surprises from family and friends, dreams that have come true, a marriage proposal (Okay, maybe I made this last one up) but more than anything, the gift of GRACE, the gift of God’s love and friendship- the very thing that anchors me in the midst of life’s storms. I guess got a taste of the quarter life crisis I hoped for during my more dramatic early teens. But at the end of it all, I stand redeemed, renewed, made aware of my fragile state and my need for the Lord. For He said to me ” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so Christ’s power may rest in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I look back with fondness over those long beautiful days I spent basking under the summer sun. The first half of my year was mostly spent on a beautiful island called Boracay, we’d fly in and out so often, at quite a dizzying pace, that coming home to the city felt like short pitstops until our next beach wedding. But really, I am in no position to complain. Weddings by the ocean barley feel like work at all. We’d run around (sometimes barefoot and sometimes, I, in a flowy summer dress) the pretty resorts on the island ,shooting sunkissed people from all over the world as they promise each other forever in front of their families and friends with gorgeous wedding details and the beautiful Boracay sunset as the backdrop to their happily ever after. Aaand I get to do this with such wonderful people who I am blessed to call team mates and friends (and photoshoot subjects when the situation dictates) On our free days, we’d get to explore the rest of the island, from the go-to touristy spots along stations 1-3 to cute hole in the wall cafe’s and restaurants at the less popular, more quiet, but equally gorgeous kiteboarding beach that locals call the B-side- now my favourite side of the island for the more laid back and organic feel to it. As I transitioned from gawking tourist to sort of a local (LOL), I’ve enjoyed making fun observations- like how much diversity there is on the tiny island, how lifestyles and profiles change quite drastically at every motorella stop and street corner. (One of the many things I’ve come to love about the place) How the scenery transitions from 5 star resort prettiness to a downright local/authentic filipino street scene. The whole island though is united by the gorgeous Boracay sunset, the prettiest in the whole wide world (in mu humble opinion) From whatever part of the island you’re from, everyone shares the same sky and looks out at the same beautiful sunset. The same sunset locals take fierce pride in and travellers fly halfway across the world for. And that same sunset that unites also signifies the passing of the day and the welcoming of the night, very much like how another good season in this girl’s life has yet again come to pass, that of early morning runs on the powder white beach, of swimming in the turquoise waters at dawn and looking out into the infinite ocean, a season of long working days capped off by the prettiest pink sunsets, of countless photographs (most of which, wedding related. my favourite outtakes from our off days shown above) of memories and laughter shared over the littlest things. And now that I’ve let all of that out and maybe wasted some of your time (Haha! ) I snap back into the realities of today, the beauty of longer nights and shorter days, of colder weather, of sweaters and rain. I welcome this new season, one that holds promise of a new adventure. I wait expectantly on our Maker’s good plan. xx Kat
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
I’m amazed at how much can come out from a place of lack. How much light can come out of so many moments of longing and emptiness. In the wilderness, you are tested. Away from the comforts of everyday life, your survival skills take center stage. As you tread through steep valleys, your lungs take a beating. How much they feel like exploding, pretty much depend on how well you’ve trained for the hike. In many ways, I’ve come to realize how times hiking in the wild are very much like spiritual droughts. In the wilderness lurks the enemy, who has come to kill, steal and destroy. He preys on your vulnerability, on your weak knees and tired lungs. He asks you, in the most cunning way, “Who are you?” and “Why do you do what you do?” When we don’t know who we are based on the book of life, we often get sidetracked by the question and end up floundering around with a vague idea of our destined callings and take all sorts of wrong turns. But we ought to know our true identity by heart-that we are beloved Daughters/Sons of the One true King, called on a mission to bring God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus lives in us, as the best part of ourselves. He is the best thing about us. In the wilderness, we sometimes lose sight of that-with the enemy trying to make our fake identities appeal to us more. The goal is to fatten our egos just as pagans fatten calves to get them ready for the kill. In the wilderness, we are vulnerable and subject to compromise. We tend to cave in during times of need-To drink from stagnant water out of dire thirst. I once heard that “What you bend your knee down to on the way to the top of your mountain, is what will control you when you get to the top.” Drink only from living water. The wilderness holds all kinds of darkness. But in its dark places, we are refined. Our characters tested and stretched, our true motives revealed. But when we finally come out of the wilderness (some of us staying longer than others), greeted by the rising sun, we have a renewed appreciation and understanding of the light. We see it again, as if seeing it for the first time and we let it dwell in us, as the best part of us. From enduring the wilderness, we find wisdom and an intense vigor to jump back on the path towards home, towards what really matters. There’s a C.S. Lewis quoteI really like that goes: “A thousand roads lead to the wilderness, but only one road leads home.” I think the beauty that comes out from getting lost, is the renewed desire to come home and see with new eyes, what we’ve always had with us from the very start.
"We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride. And in the end I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I’ve even gone one step further than my father did: The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” - Tim, About Time
** beautiful summer day spent with my favorite people in the world. Celebrating my parent’s 25th anniversary in a tiny cabin in the woods. Thankful to Jesus for the gift of family, for His grace and for being the source of forgiveness and true love. Also thankful for the present, for the here and now.
To my beautiful and brilliant baby sister who turns 21 today, I just want to say, your dreams are up for grabs and are yours for the taking. But in the pursuit of them, do not be consumed by them. For you have been called for a purpose that goes above and beyond this world, beyond this life and its temporary highs. In your youth, you will be offered many roads, choose the one that leads to true life. You are otherworldly. Walk with courage, in the knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Something that picked you out of a crowd of weary souls and set you apart. In your walking you will grow tired, especially if you walk in those platform pumps you wear everyday. Fearlessly, ditch the heels, go barefoot and ask love to carry you as you travel along. Prepare to be amazed as you watch yourself run. Walk in knowing that you are immensely loved, in your rawness and imperfection. Let everything you do come forth from that mind blowing truth. Happy birthday you little monkey, you.
Above: Photographs from our childhood. Me and my sisters as beady eyed little freaks with our babies Becky and Trixie. / With some of the most beautiful women we know: Our mommy, Our greatgrandmother Matilde, Our grandmothers Lola Buen and Lola Doring (not in photo, but is equally as gorgeous)
I couldn’t help but stand there amazed at how something so beautiful can come out of the ruin. How so much prettiness can come out from the dust. How something that once brought death and devastation could one day make someone stand in awe at its majesty and make a weary spirit come alive. I’m amazed at how something bigger than ourselves took all of that brokenness- and without human hands, in the fullness of time, while the world continued to spin madly on, while we continued to live and die- right under our noses, something we can’t quite comprehend, created otherworldly beauty worth marvelling at. As I continue to journey across the country I call home , I cannot help but fall to my knees over and over again-unable to fully grasp and process how much beauty we are blessed with. Both in places unspoiled by man and in places once broken. There’s no way all of this is an accident.
P.S. See the film version of our little adventure on my friend Shake’s blog! It is love!
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed, and You won’t start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Trips to Thailand (even short work related ones) are always such a treat. While Bangkok is one big art and culture fest and Samui is a sleepy, relaxing beach town- Phuket, I feel, is an interesting fusion of both cities. When you think Phuket, you automatically think of the cult hit The beach and the gorgeous island of Ko Phi Phi. I however will forever associate Phuket with charming local shops, artsy cafe’s and breathtaking seaside scenery. We spent 3 out of our 4 days there shooting around Trisara (our couple’s lush resort). While it was also fun and sort of relaxing in itself, I felt like I needed to burn all of the excessive Pad thai in my system with some good old adventure. We were blessed with one work-free day and a new local friend Aht, who shot the wedding with us,who generously offered to show us around the city, since we didn’t really have time to hop on a boat to Phiphi island. Seeing the city through a local’s eyes was totally refreshing- a day in the life of Aht, as I fondly call the experience in my head, felt like such an authentic travel experience. It was nice learning a bit about the Thai government, getting to ask about thai culture, thai food and hearing about the other places in Thailand we ought to visit next! (Chiang mai! Who’s game?) We just felt really blessed by Aht’s hospitality and good heart! Also, listening to all his family stories made me realize how similar Thai and FIlipino culture are.
We started off with the prerequisite “touristy” places. We walked around Kata beach (which I felt was a mix of the Legian district in Bali and Venice beach in LA) and then decided to move to a more relaxed and more quiet place near the ocean to grab some lunch. After some delish Pad thai, we then drove up to Prom thep cape, which was according to Aht, probably the most photographed part of Phuket. I was half expecting the place to be crawling with camera toting tourists (like myself! Haha!) but to my surprise and delight, we were the only people there plus a couple who drove up to see the romantic sight on their scooter (Ahhh to honeymoon like that someday!) We got to see Phuket from such great heights (cue the Postal service song!) and I couldn’t resist snapping away on my camera. There was also a local craftsman who was selling bags and charms at the cape. Carmela snagged a few treasures and I had to be content with just taking pictures since I was practically living on my credit card and didn’t have cash on me. Note to self: BRING COLD HARD CASH TO PHUKET as it is crawling with so much thrift shop treasures and gorgeous textile. I shall come back to hoard!
We then moved to Old Phuket town to get some coffee. Aht took us to his friend’s pretty cafe to get our caffeine fix. After which, we walked around, visited out a few nearby temples and then walked further along to check out the weekend market. The whole place was just…love! Streets were lined with food vendors (thai street food in my opinion, is the best ever! I look forward to it everytime I’m in thailand! I stocked up on coconut ice cream and food I couldn’t pronounce) and local crafters. Old victorian buildings that were restored into artsy cafes and vintage shops lined the streets, people from all parts of the globe were just relaxing and sipping on their lattes and watching the world go by-everything was just buzzing with culture, art and local goodness. I went crazy exploring all the shops and stalls, breathing in all that inspiration! This was easily my favorite part of the day.
Instagrams from a lovely afternoon around our hotel and Old Phuket town.
When the sun started to set and the fairy lights at the market came on, we had another round of Padthai, hearty laughter and then decided to head back to the hotel and pack for our flight the next day. We said our goodbyes to Aht and thanked him for being such a gracious host. I stop and look a back at this beautiful day with overwhelming gratitude to our Lord for gentle souls, art and majestic cliffs. All of this by Him and for Him. Praying this isn’t the last time I get to visit you Phuket!
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
You make me new, You are making me new
As promised, photographs from an afternoon with John, Kate and baby Tyler. I had a grand time hanging out and shooting with the newlyweds in their new home. The heavens blessed us with such gorgeous afternoon light too! Infinitely happy for my friend Kate and her beautiful new family. I hope you guys enjoyed browsing through these pictures just as much as I enjoyed taking them. Love and light! xx