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Jacksonville Senior Photographer // Scarlett Lillian Seniors: The secret mountain.

Oct 17, 2008

The secret mountain.

One of my favorite books growing up was The Secret Garden. I've never read any other book in a day, but that is one book I did actually read in a day as a little girl. Something about the secret hidden beauty Mary discovers and that ability to escape to her own little world where everything is magical. The only child in me could understand the beauty of escaping to magical play lands, as I often had to entertain myself with no sisters or brothers to play with. I loved exploring my own little secret hideouts around the neighborhoods I lived in, which became my retreat to visit when life became stressful.

Here in the land of flat Florida, we have plenty of gardens, but we don't have mountains or hills. When I visit places like Las Vegas or Los Angeles like I have this past year, I always get envious of the different elevated landscapes God created on the other side of the country.

But here in Jacksonville, I discovered a mountain last year. It's almost like a secret mountain. In the middle of everything, but in the middle of nowhere at the same time hidden behind trees and homes and commercial property that people's busy lives fail to see. I discovered the mountain on one of my runs. I'm always looking for new paths to push me to run further distances. In that way sometimes people can't see the forest for the trees, I got curious to see the forest and walked through the trees to discover a magical lake that the mountain overlooks.

When I first discovered it, it literally looked like a pile of dirt with overgrown brush. The rain made the tracks up the mountain slimey and muddy. All the brush was mostly brown and dead, literally like weeds that had grown out of the pile of dirt it originally served as. There was nothing beautiful about it, but I have always loved hiking up it from time to time to have a moment of being that much closer to God as I overlook the land below and the life that swirls around beneath.

It's rare that I visit the mountain. When I do, it's only when I feel like going on a long run. There and back is 7 miles from my home. And considering I really stopped running over the summer, it had been a while since I visited.

But I've finally started running again a few weeks ago. It started with a few miles here and there on the treadmill to beat the Florida heat outside. But this week, I ventured outside again. Again, it just started with a few miles to get back in the swing of things, but yesterday, I felt like giving it my all and set my iPod goal for 7 miles to have my virtual Nike + Trainer continue to push me further in my ear. "Half-way point, keep going!" he chimes in regularly with the distance reminders that I'm not done yet, even though at this point I'm always tempted to turn around and go home. But I keep pushing through it.

Life has changed so much since I last visited my mountain. A relationship ended. A week later we found out my dad had cancer. I've lost some fake friends but gained new wonderful ones and a few others restored. My business grew up and became an LLC while hiring my first assistant to help me maintain it all. And of course, one thing after another keeps popping with the business, one interview after another, one publishing after another, and more and more weddings after another. I've been so thankful to have the distraction of busyness to keep me focused off the day to day wondering of how my dad's cancer outcome will be. Needless to say, it has truly opened my eyes to appreciate each day we are given with loved ones.

But that said, in all honesty, the past few months have been filled with a lot of tears. Tears of sadness and confusion about my dad, tears of joy in starting to appreciate the little moments of life, and tears just because I'm a woman and during that time of the month, we cry at everything. This year, I've also held a lot of bitterness in my heart from learning the hard way who true friends are, but yet, trying my best to forgive them despite how much they burned me. And because I stopped running and doing yoga, I gained a little bit of weight, also resulting to comfort food during all of the life crisis swirling around me. So of course the extra pounds never makes a girl feel good. My life has felt like the slimey muddy weed-filled brown mountain that I used to climb. A mountain in my life I've been climbing to try to overcome all the resistance and trust that God is using the time of hardships to strengthen me. Just like how a muscle can't grow until it is torn through resistance, I know we as humans are the same in our spiritual walks with the Lord and how he builds our character to reflect His glory more and more.

So this week, I decided to do my part to turn things around. I know, when we draw close to the Lord, He draws close to us, but that is something I had been neglecting. In the midst of feeling let down about so many things, I had stopped doing my quiet time in the morning and stopped praying heartfully the way I used to. But this week, I made a commitment to God to start putting Him first again in my day. To stop eating crap. To get back into running seriously. Because really, the spiritual and physical really do go hand in hand.

And yesterday, I was ready to tackle my mountain again. Around the 5 mile mark, the furthest I had been in months, my legs were starting to feel like deadweight. I was starting to hit "the wall" that they talk about in a cute movie I just saw called "Run Fat Boy Run". I almost turned around to head back home, but I hadn't reached my mountain yet, and I knew I had to make it there no matter how tired and hot I was. Also, let me throw in, due to some work stuff, I didn't get out the door until 1pm, so the Florida sun was beating down harsh on me, I have sports bra tan lines now to prove it. But I kept running and pushing forward as we are supposed to do in life, right?

I finally made it to my mountain and I was... amazed. Not amazed that I actually made it, but amazed how BEAUTIFUL it had become over the summer. The weeds had now turned into a mile of yellow and white flowers. So many butterflies fluttered along and kissed my shoulder as I walked up what once was the slimey muddy trails, but now was dry and covered in a layer of green grass. I almost felt like I was in one of those butterfly gardens I've seen advertised. I couldn't believe how beautiful and full of life my mountain had become. I had to remind myself that it was the middle of October because instead it looked like the newness of spring life. As I hiked up the new beauty I was seeing before my eyes, I felt like that little girl discovering her own secret garden. It really felt like a magic land.

When I got to the top, I just stopped for a moment and raised my hands to Jesus in worship. It was a simple moment of thanks for all He has blessed me with, for the grace He continues to show me as I endure the hardships of life and overcome, for how far He has taken my career that only He could open the doors for, for the extra months beyond the original time frame that my dad continues to be here with us, and for how He always takes me back even when I pull away and try to do life on my own.

The run started on my iPod with the over-played Leona Lewis song "It All Gets Better in Time", and it was an amazing run that reminded me of that exact thing. Just like how God turned my ugly mountain into a new beautiful creation, it was a great analogy of what He graces us with in our own lives. Everyday is another step along the journey of life as He turns us into a more beautiful creation than the day before. Sometimes we step in mud, sometimes the butterflies kiss us on the shoulder. But in the end, it all gets better in time with Him.

Yesterday especially was a day of thanks. As some of you saw on my Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday, my dad was rushed to the emergency room for sharp pains and shortness of breath. I put out a rally for prayers which so many of you graciously did through your comments on Facebook and Twitter and phone calls and text messages. And your prayers truly worked because the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with him. They tested him mostly for a blood clot in his lungs, but nothing was there in the end, praise Jesus! So as always, to everyone who reached out, thank you for your sweet prayers and words of love as true friends who show concern during this time my family needs you the most.

I dedicate this video to all of you as a thanks for standing in the gap of our faith. It's called "Mountain of God" by Third Day.

"I must go through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an absolutely powerful email! Scarlett, you never cease to amaze me! Your photography, your talent, your passion, your writing- I am inspired! I too am in a slump, my job is BORING and it is just wearing me down. I need to get down to it and focus on my spiritual life, my exercising and my eating! I'm going to do my best to TRY to follow your example and let God transform me! Thank you so much for your words and your authentic faith! You are an inspriation to many!


October 17, 2008 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Your words struck such a chord with me.
Especially the bit about realizing who your true friends are. It's been something I've been struggling with ever since about February.
God keeps revealing little bits & pieces to me to comfort my heart and --- your words were just another little piece, so --- Thank you.

October 17, 2008 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Suzi Scott said...

All so true! I agree that the tough times strengthen and build us up and help turn us into the people we were meant to be!
I love reading your amazing blog posts!

October 17, 2008 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Scarlett, Your writing is truly amazing and to see you freely speaking of such intimate and personal experiences so openly really speaks so much about you. I hope that everything continues to change and bring about amazing things because, as I am continually learning, the hardest changes bring about the most amazing things. It's great to hear someone speak so freely about their faith, once upon a time I knew that so well and it really was an amazing thing to have and the hardest thing to lose. Reading your blog definitely keeps me encouraged as I have two very close family members also facing cancer and a lot of uncertainty with sickness among my family. Stay encouraged and continue to write these amazing posts because you never know who reads them and what impact your words may have.

October 19, 2008 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Scarlett Lillian said...

Thank you as always for embracing my heart and sharing yours as well. I appreciate all the personal emails as well in relation to this blog entry! Glad I could help inspire each of you!

October 21, 2008 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Bowdren Photography said...

Awww Scarlett that was just beautiful.... I know how we are on metaphors and analogies and using the "mountain" of the flatlands of Florida spoke so eloquently of the struggles Christians or anyone face when we feel barren in that way. I also admire your honesty... for putting it all out there with the struggles you have.... knowing that life's pitfalls never keep you from struggling even when you have the hand of God seeing you through it. He never said it would be easy, He always says He's there.

October 25, 2008 at 1:47 AM  
Blogger Scarlett Lillian said...

Thanks Becky for always being in my corner and appreciating my analogies for EVERYTHING! LOL!

Funny enough, after I wrote this, I tried to go do a photoshoot at the mountain with Krista for Ginger's spend a day, and we got caught for trespassing on private property! Blah!

October 27, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

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