Olivia: How Winning a Scholarship to a Retreat Changed My Life

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Saying No to Fear

This year, I never could've dreamed of what might happen as a result of stepping way out of my comfort zone to fly (for the first time ever, and alone) to another state 18 hours from home, and spend the week with a ton of girls I'd never met before.

Saying no to so many fears goes way further back than just this fall. For months, I had been searching for a wedding photographer to second shoot for and learn from. I felt like I was being way too picky. I wanted their shooting and editing style to be a very specific type, as close to what I wanted to shoot as possible. And I also wanted someone who put their heart into their work to serve and love people like I wanted to. So, I searched for probably 6-8 months before I finally found someone this spring who matched everything perfectly - KyAnn Molina. (If you look at her website, you’ll see exactly what I mean.)

I was so hesitant to message her and ask if she’d even consider letting me even haul bags (she’s not intimidating by the way!). She said yes! She’s one of the sweetest people I know, and I cherish our deep conversations we had on the drives up to each venue, and that we have now through messages and over coffee! Plus I’ve learned SO much, because guys. She is a master of light!

She is the one who introduced me to Delight & Be: a community of 16-22 year-olds who are creatives with a heart pursuing Jesus. Photographers, graphic artists, worship leaders, and culinary artists. I got to know so many sweet girls through the group, and was hoping to go to a retreat to meet them finally sometime, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to get a scholarship to go this fall!

The 2017 Delight Fall Retreat

The weeks, and then finally days, leading up to the retreat were loaded with spiritual attacks for each of us. Anxiety, comparison, and stress were rampant. All of us felt like we were drowning. Work, school, and trying to keep a business afloat while writing papers isn’t a joke.

As we flew in from all over the country throughout the day, we crashed on the TN airport Starbucks couches with our luggage in a huge pile. As everyone landed and came out, we ran across the waiting area to tackle hug each new profile picture as it came to life. This is the kind of group where you don’t care that there’s a million people walking around. Deep, real life talk happens anyway! We got some pretty hilarious looks from people walking by!

We drove about an hour and a half out to the most gorgeous little lodge tucked into winding dirt roads with a canopy of colorful fall trees and a lake. As we piled out of the vans, there were more hugs and laughter as we moved into our home for the next five days.

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The biggest thing I came away with was that I needed to slow down and just spend time with Jesus. Even if I don’t learn something every single time. Something I have a hard time with - feeling like if I don’t learn something every time I read the Bible and spend time with Him, that I’m failing. It’s a lie. He wants us to know His heart. And sometimes that means just sitting with Him, being still, with no agenda or distractions at all.

The first morning after worship and devotions, we spread out and had quiet time. I was pumped, and so ready for all I was going to learn. I sat down on the edge of a hill, the sun just peaking over the trees. The breeze played with the leaves and swept the fall woodland aroma into my face. I felt like I was blocked. I read some, and felt so stale. It was frustrating. I wanted to learn something, to dig into His word and be refreshed.

And so He taught me something:

“Be still. Just sit with me. I want to spend time with you, and you are not failing if you don’t do anything but just be. Here. With Me.”

We learned from our sweet leaders, cried, and laughed until we cried all day. Talked about running businesses and doing life. We sang, danced, spent time with Jesus, ate the most amazing food, took so many pictures, and basically lived in Heaven on earth for those five days. I can’t wait till I get to see those beautiful souls again.

Come ask me about it and I’ll never stop talking, just a warning! Okay, before I start crying - Savannah Banton made this amazing video of it all for us - it completely sums up our entire week.

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Olivia is a 17 year old who loves chasing truth, having deep conversations, and capturing joy and stories through photography. She is a homeschooled senior in high school, loves doing life with her Jr. High small group girls, and is an only sister to five younger brothers who keep things lively. She loves playing harp, piano, and singing on her church worship team; milking the family cow, babysitting precious kids, and running a wedding and portrait photography business. Most of all she loves serving Jesus and loving people through everything she does. Follow her on Instagram, or visit her website.

Portrait images of Olivia by Reflecting Hope PhotographyGroup image by Brandy Dawson