making me all weepy.

think of this post as a little celebration on a completely random day.

one year ago today, i wrote an important post (click here to read it). it may not have been important to anyone but me. but, nevermind that. it was one of those serendipitous days that occurs every so often when you just know that everything is right. when your soul is not whispering to you, but shouting with joy and you feel as if you might burst. a day when everything makes sense and life seems exactly as it should.

it was a very powerful day for me. a day where i realized that i was ready. ready to really chase my dreams. ready to accept and understand and move forward. ready to admit that i would never go back – i could never go back – to simply living my old, “regular” life, but i knew that it was time to embrace the calling and the feeling that i was meant to write. no matter what.

and while it made sense to me, how any of that would be possible, i had no idea. i knew that i was going to do it. i had no idea how, but i believed. lina and i were already committed to moving to asheville so that lina could follow her dreams, but this time last year, i embraced that this move meant that i would also be following my dream as well.

it was as if i gave myself permission to just jump. to take a leap of faith and risk it. and that’s what last year’s post was all about.

this week, Facebook turned 10 and they created little videos for users based on their photos and updates – things they had posted on Facebook since they first began using it. i joined Facebook in 2007, just a few weeks after meeting lina. and i actually joined so that lina and i could keep in touch. so, our entire relationship was based on a friendship started in sweden and developed through Facebook messages and webcam chats.

hug

when i clicked on my little one-minute video to see what Facebook had created for me, i was brought to tears by the photos and words that appeared before my eyes. it was a collection of beautiful moments from the very beginning of our relationship to now, in addition to some great highlights of my family and other amazing memories. i was so touched by my little video, and it brought to mind this incredible journey that i have been on throughout the past year. well, actually the past seven years…

so, i just had to share it with you. i wanted to share it as a way of honoring my life and reminding me of how overwhelmingly grateful i am. i wanted to share it with you to “prove” to you that you can make your dreams come true, that it is possible to live the life that you dream of and to find your passion. and i wanted to encourage you to never give up.

i hope that you, too, can look back over your life, whether it be 10 years or 10 days, and find things to celebrate as well. but, more than anything, i wish for you to feel hope and excitement and peace as you look forward.

click below to watch the video:

 peace & love. xx

learning to love yourself through a photo challenge.

 

 

february. the month of love. awww. and a new month for a new photo journey. woo hoo. now, i know that we all have mixed feelings about february and the holiday represented by flowers and chocolate and a little arrow-toting baby that creeps up on us every year. depending on our life’s circumstances, it can be the most beautiful, romantic day or the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching day. for most of us, though, it’s probably somewhere in between the “high in the clouds” or “in the depths of hell” feelings.

well, this february, i’m being practical. i decided that, in the interest of learning to love others, we would focus on our selves. that’s right. i said it. this february it’s all about you. just to clarify, this is a strong belief that i have… the belief that we nurture our souls first, and then the love that we want to share with others, the ways that we want to make a difference in the world, will simply grow from our self love and self care. it makes sense, right? we have to learn to love and accept and appreciate ourselves before we can really put any true, real energy out there that is good for others.

so, for our february photo journey, we are gong to love ourselves. we are gonna combine selfies, body image, self-love, self-confidence, and acceptance all into one photo challenge.

and here’s how we’re gonna do it:

february photo challenge 2014

 now, i can hear your moans and groans from all the way over here. you don’t want to focus on yourself for 28 days. it’s embarrassing. it’s scary. it’s revealing.

it can be those things, yes. but, that’s why it’s called a photo challenge and a photo journey. because after challenging yourself to take this journey, there will be a transformation – or at least some lessons learned. so, while it is all of those things above, it is also these things: empowering. inspiring. freeing.

admittedly, we all have things that we don’t like about ourselves. things we wish we could physically change or are not satisfied with. and things we wish we could internally change. ways we want to grow. and we don’t want to capture these things in a photo, much less share them with the world through social media. and speaking of media – we get so many twisted, messed up, wrong messages about what it means to be beautiful. and we think we don’t measure up. we are scared to not be perfect. so, we do not want to take part in any photo challenges that focuses on ourselves for 28 whole days – putting all of our flaws and real-ness out there.

but, my friends, i say “let’s do it anyway!” let’s claim ourselves as the beloved, amazing, beautiful, unique people that we are. let’s show the world that we know that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, ages, and nationalities. and ultimately, beauty comes from within. how about it, my friends?let’s claim february 2014 as the month that we begin to learn to appreciate who we are – exactly as we are!

how to play:

the ways to participate are the same as always. but, if you’ve forgotten or if this is your first time participating, here are a few tips:
here’s a link to instagram so you can sign up & get started! click here to join in.

and if you want to become part of the bllphotoaday community, just follow me at @_belovelive_ on instagram. and use the hashtag #bllphotoaday when you post your IG photo. then, you’ll see everyone else’s photos too. and there are some amazing people taking part from all over the world. check ‘em out!

if you don’t have or don’t want instagram (which is totally fine!), then simply post your pics on facebook or on your blog. but, let me know, so i can follow along. i’ll do my best to spread the word that you are participating. however, the best way to create a photo journey community is actually on instagram. buuuuut, there is one more option… you can post your photos every day to belovelive’s facebook page! perhaps we can get that community growing as well! invite your FB friends to “like” belovelive’s page and then our community will spread even further & wider! think of all the inspiration! click here to go to belovelive’s page.

 are you in?! 

peace and love. xx

a little reminder from an old friend.

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i opened up my facebook feed a few minutes ago, and saw an amazing status update by a person that i admire greatly. jason was my theology professor and mentor when i was in seminary… challenging me, listening to me, and teaching me every day. i remember sitting in his classes and feeling as if all of these thoughts and beliefs that had always been inside me, finally had words to describe them. theology became my passion while i was studying, and i think it’s safe to say that practical theology is still a passion in my life. in seminary, under the theological influence and inspiration of jason, i came to understand myself as a contemplative theologian, drawn also to the mysticism of eastern christianity (and other religions as well).

now, years later, jason is my friend; and yet, still a mentor, even though we are the same age. he has been a very influential person who has been a real truth speaker in my life, never letting me settle for second best for myself. he has pushed me, believed in me, and been someone that i simply enjoy being around. he is an amazing theologian and author, and i have soaked up anything he has written that i have read. sadly, we have lived very far apart from each other, so we have not been able to keep in contact that much over the past few years.

when i read this update from him this morning, i was inspired as usual. but, even more than that, once again (as he did so many years before) his words seemed to express deeply my thoughts and feelings. i sent him a message and told him this (and let him know how much i missed chatting with him), only to end up finding out that he’d be in town next week. so, now, we have planned to catch up over a coffee or a beer.

i share his words with you now… because, while they speak to me directly, but that are applicable to us all. the message is so timely and perfect for me as i seek to accept my own path in life right now. jason, describes that search beautifully. so, read. and soak up this wisdom and beauty.

“About six months ago, I began a journey that I am still on. For years I had been walking a certain professional path. I knew what my goals were, where I was headed, how many miles I needed to make each day. Most of all, I had singleness of mind and purpose. I was intensely focused and therefore highly productive, that is, until the destination toward which I had been moving suddenly and dramatically lost its appeal. And so I left the path I had been on for so long and ventured out into the woods. Suddenly, there was no path and no destination. And for months, this was incredibly disorienting. Where was I going? What was I doing? For what purpose? The loss of a sense of control was at times difficult. And then I came into a sunlit clearing in the middle of the woods. There were no well worn paths anywhere in sight, only trees and mountains in every direction. And for the first time, I understood that it is a good and beautiful thing to have no particular path, no particular destination. It frees one to explore, to take one’s time, to enjoy, to care deeply and to not give a damn. And so my journey continues. But I am no longer without purpose. Once my purpose had been to arrive at a particular destination. Now, my purpose is simply to remain lost in the woods.” ~ Jason Vickers

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sometimes, i need to remember to slow down and trust the process.

sending you thoughts of peace and love today.

#bllphotoaday.

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you know how i have been doing photo a day challenges for over a year now? well, i have and i love it. i love it so much that i began to make my own challenges last december. and that whole process has been amazing in itself. it is really humbling to have people from all over the world join in the photo journeys that i have created. some months i have created the list on my own, and other months i have asked other to get involved by suggesting word prompts of their own. these monthly photo journeys have blossomed into a collaborative, global, theme-centered experience. and i am overwhelmed and excited by all of it!

may has been a stellar month for the bllphotaday (belovelive photo a day) challenge. somewhere in the past week we passed 1,100 bllphotoaday tags on instagram! what that means is that there are now more than 1.100 photos that have been tagged and a part of this photo journey. (take a peek here!) that’s amazing!!! we now have followers and participants from all areas of the world, making it a fun opportunity to see little snippets of each others’ lives, countries, and cultures. 

in addition, by turning the challenges into journeys, i hope that to inspire us all to not just think about taking and sharing cool photos, but also reflecting on who we are, our lives, what’s important, and life in general. and the awesome part is, we get to share these journeys with each other. 

so, today i want to say a great big THANK YOU to those of you who are  joining in and creating such an amazing IG community. i have been so blessed and inspired by all of your talent, beauty, & peeks into your daily lives. you have enriched my journey and my life.

for me, it has meant so much to “get to know” people from different places; so much so, that given the chance, we would love to meet up for a cup of coffee or a pint of beer one day. i suppose this is one way to actually form friendships in the globally connected, social media driven, 21st century world we live in today. not something i would have ever imagined in the past, but now something i could not imagine living without.

i encourage you, if you have instagram, to join in bll’s photo journey for june. and if you haven’t yet, search for the hashtag #bllphotoaday and check out all the inspiring people and beautiful photos you find there! soon, you’ll be clicking and liking others’ photos, and they will in turn be clicking & liking your stuff. and you will being building an amazing, wonderful, supporting community through images and words.

 with all that said, let me now say this:

JUNE’S PHOTO JOURNEY IS READY!!

in june it’s all about enjoying the simple things in life… a time to remember that, even in the middle of our messy, busy, complicated lives, we can choose to live simply and to simply live. there’s also alot of craziness going on in my life personally in june, and i was afraid that i might get out of control & all wrapped up in the stress and craziness of moving out of our apartment. so, that is another reason i decided to focus on simplicity. to help keep me grounded, focused, and calm. this month i invite you to join me in finding one simple, beautiful moment every day & sharing it on instagram (or other places) by tagging it #bllphotoaday. can’t wait to see all of your amazing photos!! an amazing, supportive community is waiting for you!

here’s june’s list! 

june photo a daysave it to your desktop or on your smartphone, so you know what the word is for each and every day. as i was thinking about simplicity, i realized that there are so many ways we can make our lives more simple, so i organized the month into six different themes that are centered on simplicity. each of the five words under each mini-theme give you something to focus on for those five days. remember that it’s all about how you interpret the word. be creative and express yourself however you want! 

here’s a link to instagram so you can sign up & get started! click here to join in.

 

and if you want to become part of the bllphotoaday community, just follow me at @lizslens on instagram.

if you don’t have or don’t want instagram (which is totally fine!), then simply post your pics on facebook or on your blog. but, let me know, so i can follow along. i’ll do my best to spread the word that you are participating. however, the best way to create a photo journey community is actually on instagram. buuuuut, there is one more option… you can post your photos every day to belovelive’s facebook page! perhaps we can get that community growing as well! invite your FB friends to “like” belovelive’s page and then our community will spread even further & wider! think of all the inspiration! click here to go to belovelive’s page.

so, there ya go! we’re all ready for june. 

i just wanna give one more shout out to all of you #bllphotoaday photographers & friends. it has been an amazing ride, and i can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

 

keepin’ it simple. peace & love.

may’s photo journey: who am i?

it’s the last day of april and spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere. fall is on the way for those of you south of the equator. and it’s time to embark on what i consider one of the most beautiful months of the year. in my world, it warms up. the flowers burst. the sun shines. and everyone is buzzing around, busy and feeling alive again. we’re all like butterflies flitting about, excited to have a little more energy again.

now, whether it’s spring or fall, we can all use a little more energy and inspiration and kick to help us follow our dreams. i’m a big dreamer, you know. but, how do we know what are dreams are, what goals we have, or what to put on our bucket lists, if we don’t know who we are? and i mean all sides of us!

a few months ago, i stumbled upon a website that “analyzes” your blog/website and then gives you a diagnosis… what type of personality you have. i think it’s fun to think about these kinds of things, but they are also useful for all the reasons i stated above (= following your dreams!). so, for the month of may, i challenge you to join me in a journey of self-discovery. what is your heart like? your soul, your mind, your body? who are you from the inside out? and who do you want to be?

i’m a big believer in being. who we are defines what we do, and not the other way around. it’s not about what we do that tells others who i am, but who we are. i am more than a writer, a theologian, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an american, an ex-pat. i am all of those things, but i am so much more that that as well. it goes deeper than my roles and titles. and once i have a firm grasp on who i am today (and i mean only today because we are ever-changing and transforming), then what i do will naturally flow out of me.

so, i want to explore myself a little more in may. perhaps this desire to embark on a journey of self-discovery is a result of the changes that are coming to my life in about 2 months. i am moving form sweden to the states, and once again, the possibilities seem endless. another chance to follow my dreams and start over is upon me once again.

the other thing that is important to me is the idea of living an authentic life… of being exactly who you are. because all of us are unique, beautiful, and wonderful… exactly as we are.

now, i invite you, my dear friends, to spend the beautiful month of may with me exploring who you are, through the art of photography and reflection!

may photo a day 2013

if you decide to join me, the only thing i ask is for you to:

  • let me know you’re participating – here on my blog (comment below), on belovelive’s new Facebook page, on instagram (@lizslens), or on twitter (@elre74).
  • use the hashtag #bllphotoaday on your photos
  • try to snap a picture each day & use an original one (no throw-backs, unless you just have to. that’s a part of the challenge)

now, there is no pressure here. if you begin the challenge & then wimp out… no biggie. i’ve done that soooo many times. make it what you want. all i ask is that you give yourself a chance to express yourself. and if it’s not for you, then no prob. if you feel stressed out, skip a day or two & come back to it. it’s all about you – being creative and being you.

not totally on board yet?

ok. well, here’s why i love these photo challenges = what you get out of it:

  1. the community – if you share your photo,use the hashtag (#bllphotoaday) and explore other people, you will meet some pretty cool fellow artists from all over the world. i guarantee it.
  2. the juices – creative juices start to flow. overflow, even. you’ll find yourself taking pictures you never thought you’d take. you’ll beging to develop your artist’s eye, and start to see art every freaking where you look. downside: you may annoy people you are with because you want to stop & snap a photo every few feet/meters.
  3. the roses – looking for a way to capture the theme word for each day teaches you to slow down. to notice things you don’t normally notice because you are usually too busy flitting about. you begin to see that every day holds something beautiful to discover.

save the image on your phone, or on your desktop, or on your facebook page, or bookmark this post. check out the word for the day – all of them are something you can use to reflect on who you are.

now, this list may look challenging. i think it is. i’m a little freaked out by it. plus, let’s not mention how personal and intimate this photo journey is. but, i’m gonna see what i come up with. no need to just take pictures of the same old stuff over & over again, right?

every day you’ll find a word that has something to do with either your heart, your soul, your mind, or your body (not to worry! no body pictures are required!) use the words for each day as a prompt. i’m not gonna give any suggestions for each of the words. i’ll let you interpret them how you will. some are tough. some are not. just snap a shot of something that represents or symbolizes the word of the day. reflect on it a little. it will come to you. and whatever you do, it will be a beautiful expression of you.

happy snapping!! enjoy your journey of self-discovery!

peace

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a restaurant that feeds your soul.

 

i love spontaneity. and the best is when you have people around you who are also spontaneous. on wednesday, i put spontaneity to the test.

i had coffee in the afternoon with a friend that i’ve known for almost 3 years now. he’s from the netherlands, and we were in a swedish for immigrants class together. so, both of us were new to sweden. both of us were trying to understand how we were going to make a life here, but were also excited about the possibilities, and certain that things would work out for each of us. we were pretty much the only two “western” people in our swedish class and we’re basically the same age, so it was natural to be drawn to each other in conversation and such. though he is european and i’m american, we had way more in common with each other than with the others.

in addition to the obvious third-world similarities, we connected at a soul level as well. i found, in my new friend, someone with whom i could talk about philosophy, the meaning of life, spirituality, dreams, and goals. we are something of kindred spirits, i believe. and it felt amazing to have met someone that i considered my first friend.

while i was figuring out my place in swedish society, and having good luck with that thanks to my amazing wife, my friend was also having good luck. a man who’s been part of the restaurant business in the past, my dutch friend found himself working at a local italian restaurant. pretty soon he moved up to a management level and moved on in life. we kept in touch here & there, but not as often as i would have liked.

still, we have been able to squeeze in time for coffee, drinks. or perhaps i might just pop by the restaurant whenever there is time.

after our planned coffee meeting – an inspirational conversation, as always, i decided to ask my love if she’d like to invite one of our american friends in town to meet us at my dutch friend’s restaurant for drinks later on in the evening (did you follow all of that? hehe.). of course she wanted to! so, a quick text and a message on Facebook, and we spontaneously decided to meet at pappa grappa for drinks at 9 pm. not only were we meeting our american friend, but my dutch friend’s dutch wife (who i also count as a friend) was coming too. perfect!

as the city hall clock struck the ninth tone, my love & i opened the door to the italian restaurant where my friend is in management. his wife was waiting for us, and our american friend was waiting in the casual pizzeria area, adjacent to the cozy, dimly-lit trendy restaurant and bar. we took our seats in the bar area, on cushy burgundy sofas and ottomans. a chandelier hung over our head, and the background music was jazzy and smooth, like the place itself. it may feel upscale at pappa grappa, and it is sort of, but it’s relaxed. one knows that there is a high standard for food and service. in other words, you’re gonna be taken care of and you’re gonna feel like a vip while you’re there. still, it is a place for real people, any day or night. it’s a place for a good time, for good drinks, and a place meant to break bread with each other and engage in conversation. it’s a place meant to enjoy something good in life…. the simple things. food, wine, friends.


my friend is working hard to create a specific atmosphere at pappa grappa, and i think he is well on his way. his vision, as i understand it, is a place of elegant relaxation, where good food, good drinks, and relationships are important – for those who are patrons of the restaurant and for those who work there. and he is determined for it to have an international feeling, which is manifested through music, food, and art. he desires to grow the restaurant into a place dripping with culture and finesse. and he hopes that it is not only a place where people buy and consume food, but where people connect with each other, with the community, and with the world.

in other words, a place with soul. those are his words: “a place with soul.”

as someone who seeks peace and meaning in regular everyday life, i must admit that pappa grappa is a place that not only feeds my cravings, but also feeds my soul – through the atmosphere, the friendly and caring personnel, and the yummy, elegant, top-notch food & drinks.

if i sound as if i’m a gushing food critic, then i guess that’s how i sound. i’m not writing this post to be a critic, but i am writing to get the word out. and to support my friend. because anyone who seeks to have soul be the driving force behind what they do, deserves a little attention.

so, if you live in norrköping, head on over to pappa grappa for drinks, or dinner, or pizza. do it on a random wednesday night like i did, and find a reason to celebrate life, for no other reason except for the fact that you are alive and you want beautiful, soulful things around you.

and if you don’t live in norrköping, then go to a restaurant or cafe or bar in your city that touches your soul. sip on something and enjoy a few moments of the good life.

let your soul be nourished.

 

cheers, my friends! peace.

click here to visit papa grappa’s website or here to visit their Facebook page.

* all photos copyright of belovelive.