Category Archives: Guest Posts

Lessons From India – an interview with Liv Brubaker

This summer is about you guys – the movers & the shakers. Your wild ideas, beautiful stories and hopes of Something Bigger – that’s what this next few months is about. I’m happy to introduce you to some fellow Lark & Bloom readers who are doing big things. Today – Olivia Brubaker

 

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Liz : Olivia, I stalk you on Instagram. I’m gonna just go ahead and admit it. Saw that you went on a trip to India. Do you travel a lot or is this a pretty new experience for you?

Olivia: I’ve traveled a good bit inside the US and I’ve taken a couple cruises overseas, but this trip was my first experience where I was able to actually live in another country for a while, learn the culture and spend time with people.

Liz: What did you do while you were there?

Olivia: In India we spent most of our time out in the community with people, making friends, learning about their beliefs and telling them what Jesus has done in our lives. We also went to a house church in a village and visited a place called Home of Hope, a place for dying and destitute beggars who have been rescued off the streets along with orphans.

Liz: I think I point out the obvious when I say most college students don’t do stuff like this with their summer breaks. What made you want to do it?

Olivia: I knew at a young age, even before I knew Jesus, that life was meant to be lived well. I was meant to be part of something greater. I watched several adults in my life wake up at the same time, do the same thing, go to the same office, walk through the same routine day after day.

Where was their purpose? Where was the hunger and the passion? I can remember thinking to myself that if I only had one life, if I only had one shot at this, there had to be more. I decided that I was made for something, though I had no clue what it was, and I vowed early on to never sign away my heart and destiny to a mundane life.

Once I met Jesus, I discovered where the burning thing in my heart were coming from. I was created for a purpose. I was created to do what those before me had never done and go where no one else had ever gone, and I was created to tell people about Jesus along the way. The world needs what Jesus offers: freedom and an open door to dive in to everything He has created and everything He is. So I chose to go to India from that place in my heart of deep thirst and hunger for adventure and greater things, but also to offer the world the same hunger, purpose and freedom I have been given.

Many people don’t know that they were created for things much bigger than themselves and that they have wonderful destinies made just for them to walk in.

One of my biggest passions is to find people rejected by the world and remind them that they have a beautiful and unique purpose. I was able to do that a lot in India.

 

Liz: What did India teach you about yourself?

Olivia: Most people I speak to who have traveled say they return home thinking, “Wow, I’m so blessed, those people had so little.” But I think if you walk into a secret house church hidden in a village of people risking being beaten and shunned by their families all to seek Jesus and you see lack, you are not seeing with the eyes of Jesus. After seeing the passionate and faith-filled hearts among the Christians in India, I was absolutely shaken by how much more they had than me.

How much more they were willing to sacrifice, and how much more of God they have experienced because of that. In America I have paid so much attention to celebrity pastors and huge churches, but in the kingdom of Heaven it is these  overlooked people who will reap great reward- these people who run after Jesus and give everyhting they have to Him just for the sake of being with him. They are the real “world changers.” The real movers and shakers. I left wanting what they had, remind that there was so much more of God to discover.

Liz: What did India teach you about people in general?

Olivia: India taught me that every single person from every single nation wants the same thing: love, purpose, community, happiness, wholeness. I also learned that God is chasing after every single one of us, every single one, offering those things and more, despite all of the other places we search for them.

Liz: Never had the privilege of going to India yet, what was your favorite experience there?

Olivia: I think I can speak for most of the team when I say our favorite experiences were the village house church and our visit to Home of Hope. I also loved being invited into people’s homes and making friends in India.

10297602_10152058630961701_6686458980729875056_nOlivia Brubaker is a soon to be 19 year old attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. She is studying psychology and pre med. Passionate about restoring dignity, honor, destiny and health to the homeless and those in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Approximately 250,000 homeless people live with untreated severe mental illness in the US (and growing). I believe that every living thing has a right to physical and mental health and my dream is to one day provide medical care to those who are overlooked. Twitter and Instagram: @livbrubaker

 

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“You are an artist. You were born to create” – an interview with Michael Tucker

This summer is about you guys- the movers & shakers. Your wild ideas, beautiful stories and hopes of Something Bigger – that’s what this next few months is about. I’m happy to introduce you to some fellow Lark & Bloom readers who are doing some big things. Starting now.

 

Michael Tucker

 I’d like you to meet Michael Tucker. His photos are magic and his thoughts about you in the last few paragraphs are gold. Pure gold.

Liz : Tell us a little about yourself.

Michael : Hi! I was born in Metairie, LA – a suburb of New Orleans. A couple months after I was born, my parents decided to move to Memphis for my dad’s job. They missed home too much and moved back to Louisiana when I was 5 years old. Post-Memphis, I grew up in another suburb of New Orleans called Mandeville. I love Mandeville – I grew up exploring its woods and bayous and spent a lot of time playing baseball and against my own will, going to swim practice.

My dad thought it’d be a good idea to shape me and my sisters into decent swimmers- he thought right. I was good at swimming, but it wasn’t for me. I quit sports when I was 14 and turned my attention to girls and better friends. But mostly girls, I think. My sisters, both younger than I, kept swimming through high school – I kinda look up to them for that commitment. Anyway. High school ended and I moved to Baton Rouge to study business at LSU.

photo by Michael Tucker

I always knew I’d be at LSU- I’d grown up going to LSU football games with my dad. LSU football remains one of my greatest passions, it’s probably in my blood or something. I got my Bachelors’ in four quick years and somewhere along the way I gained 54K followers on Instagram, became extrememly passioate about art, and found myself at an intership with an ad agency in Chicago which is where I’m at right now. Also, I take photos. Photos of people mostly.

Liz: How did you get into photography?

Michael: During my senior year of high school, I became friends with this dude named Colin whom I always thought was older and cooler than me – he played guitar at this church I went to on Wednesdays and really just looked older than he was. Turns out we had a lot in common, a bunch of mutual friends, and were basically the same age. So we started to hang out and he convinced me to buy a 35mm. I bought my first camera, a Canon A-1 , probably just before I graduated. Colin took beautiful photos. I was inspired.

I bought a roll of film and went shooting in small-town Louisiana with Colin. My first roll turned out pretty nice, so I didn’t really look back after that night.

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photo by Michael Tucker

Liz:  Whenever I see your pics in my Instagram feed I am always captivated. There is something really inspiring about the way you capture everyday life. What do you think your photos say about your worldview?

Michael: Well thanks! I always wonder how anyone can be captivated by anything I make – it’s wild and humbling, every time. I’ve been trying to understand who I am, not just as a photographer, but as an artist and human. What’s my voice? What’s my style? These ‘who am I’ questions are probably questions I’ll be asking myself for years and years to come, but I think what I’m beginning to understand about my art and photos in particular is that everything I make is part of a larger conversation with things much greater than myself. Things like the human experience and God. The way I take photos is very reactional. My photos are just a representation of my relationship with those ‘things much greater than myself’.

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photo by Michael Tucker

Liz: Social media gets a bad rap sometimes for being superficial. You are a part of a large online community. What are your thoughts on that?

Michael: I could talk about social media and community all day, but I’ll try to make it simple. Social media is as superficial as you allow it to be. Generally speaking, if you’re genuine with your audience, they’ll return the favor. I’m sure you’ve experienced this to be true. People can tell when we’re forcing it. So be yourself and make cool things on your own timeline. The cool thing about content for social media is that it’s often a win-win for you and your audience. You get to open up and they get to consume, and hopefully be inspired. Again, it’s only superficial if you make it so.

And just to touch on my personal experience with my particular Instagram community – it’s been fantastic. I never would or could have expected to meet so many people making so many cool things. Not to mention the incredible number of generous hearts I’ve come to know – generous in love, grace, encouragement, advice…the list goes on.

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photo by Michael Tucker

Liz:  Any tips on building a meaningful community online?

Michael: Building a meaningful community. Hmm, I’m no expert, but I think it comes down to a few things – willingness to take risks, thought leadership, and of course, and genuine interest in your community. Even more than that though, I think it’s important you ensure your own foundation is solid. Would you follow you?

Liz:  Okay, I have to ask. What are your favorite iPhone apps for photos?

Michael: Ha! I shoot with the native camera (the camera already on the iPhone) and edit exclusively with VSCO Cam.

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photo by Michael Tucker

 

Liz: What do you want to say to other Lark & Bloom readers?

Michael: There are so many of you that would like to think of yourself as artists. Maybe not by profession, but still a true artist. What I want to say to you is this: You are an artist. You were born to create. But somewhere along the line, someone or some circumstance discouraged you. An acquaintance, a teacher, a life-altering event – maybe even yourself – discouraged you from creating things you loved to create. Listen – Art is not photography. Art is not drawing, painting. Art is not music. But art is free expression. Some of you are really good at loving people – you are an artist. Some of you make beautiful and moving films – you are an artist. 

Some of you speak really well , write really well – you’re artists. And some of you understand numbers and science like most people never do, then use that knowledge to invent cool gadgets – you’re an artist. Art is free expression. It cannot be contained unless you choose to contain it yourself. Choose wisely.

Follow Michael on Instagram @mchltckr or check out his website mchltckr.com

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From Army Ranger to Fashion Photographer

It is the final stretch of An Uncomfortable January, a series dedicated to taking risks. Today I am interviewing one of the riskiest people I know. Ian was an Army Ranger and risked his life for our nation (insert a standing ovation for all who have served our country) and is now a fashion photographer.  Today he is sharing his thoughts with us. Spoiler Alert: His answer to #7 is pure gold.

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Self Portrait Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Takada 2012

1. I’ve known you for about 5 years or so, but why don’t you go ahead and tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Ian. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I grew up there my entire life in a home with my twin brother and wonderful mother. When I was 18 I joined the US Army to pursue a career in the military. I am now a combat veteran finishing my education in the arts. I am also a fashion photographer. I’ve been married for five years now to my beautiful wife, and I currently reside in Santa Barbara, California.

2. My husband has a flag that you carried on a mission when you were an Army Ranger. What made you decide to go through such grueling training and put your life on the line for our country?

To be honest, I had no intentions of becoming a Ranger when I enlisted. It was something that I chose to do because I felt that I was subject to greater leadership. Before I became a Ranger I was with a conventional Army unit, where I had been mistreated and manipulated. I decided that it was time for something greater. Something better. I had learned on my base in Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington (formally Fort Lewis) that 2nd Ranger Battalion resided there.

I had no idea who Rangers were or what they did, I just knew that those men were held to a greater standard than I was. I called the Ranger Regimental liaison (recruiter) and told him that I wanted this so bad and refused to be a part of my current unit. Two weeks later, I had orders for Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

My time spent in Georgia was amazing and at the same time soul shattering. I had just gotten married to my wife Muka, and it would be 4 months before I saw her again. She was motivated to push me through because she knew that I could be a better soldier. Once I had an understanding of what it was to be a Ranger while going through RIP, I could not turn back, regardless of how brash my training was – physically and mentally. I knew this was something I had to do.

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Me shooting in Santa Paula, CA 2013

3. What did it look like for you when you were deployed? Was it a 24 hour threat?

Unfortunantly, because of my role as a Ranger I was held under SOCOM regulations, therefore I cannot go into specific detail about being deployed as a Ranger.

However, what I can say is, we are deployed for a specific amount of time in a foreign country. Given tasks to complete in a timely manner. Our capabilities backed by our training is what allows us to commit to such dangerous and vigorous tasks. Other units in the Army coin us as men who are excited to run towards danger. There is a real reason for that. A Ranger is a mentally tough and highly skilled soldier, therefore whatever task is given to him, he can shoulder it and prevail no matter how difficult the task is. This is what we believe, its in our Creed. There is a phrase given to us: Sua Sponte. It means “Of their own accord.” This phrase is the mentality of your modern-day Ranger, and its used on the battlefield and in everyday life. We are men of our own accord, not because we are told to, but because we choose to be.

4. Whenever someone is working to achieve a goal or dream there are risks involved. Some good and some bad. How did you learn to differentiate between the risks that were worth taking and the ones that weren’t?

The way I see it is, you never really know the risk at hand until you take it. When you take a risk it is taken because of a certain gain. Whether that gain is personal or for others, you take it because you know the potential outcome and that’s what you strive for. The risks I have seen men (Rangers) take in order to accomplish something, it was out of selfishness and gain for their men. So that they shall prosper, not just the risk taker himself. Risks are worth taking if there is a good deed that comes out of it. I believe that, and I know a great number of men who believe the same.

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

5. Most of us are not taking enemy fire in the pursuit of our goals, but we do have lots of other things that can serve as deterrents or distractions. How did you stay focused on your goal when you were getting push back?

I wasn’t always taking enemy fire either when taking a risk haha! However, our role as humans, as people who inherit the Earth, is to prevail and fight our lives as we see fit. I have had many distractions in my life, in and out of the Ranger battalion. Even in my own marriage I have been distracted with things that only I have wanted to do, not thinking about my wife. And the older I got, I was able to identify them more.

Most of the time you fail because of those distractions but it is up to you how bad you want those accomplishments. Being selfless is one of them. Your accomplishment doesn’t just affect you. It also affects others around you whether they are near or far. Your deeds are a reflection of you. If you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure, but when you look back at your failure; what was it that you could have changed? What were the lessons learned from that mistake? This is how I continued to stay focused as a man, a husband, and a Ranger. Now I am a photographer and guess what? Those same distractions reappear, but I have been able to identify them, and work through those obstructions.

Self Portrait 2012

Self Portrait 2012

6. One thing I love about you and Muka is that you are dreamers. After you were finished with the army, you took another risk and started a photography business. Becoming a Ranger, owning your own business, moving cities…you guys have tackled some serious dreams so far in life. What would you say to people who have a lot of things they want to accomplish in life but doubt if they can do them all?

Do them! When we decided to up and leave Washington, we said, “Hey, let’s just leave Washington.” We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the risk, but we knew the outcome. We knew it would mean happiness and joy. We knew it would mean marital development. I still remember what Jady said when he married us, “Your loyalty towards one another will allow you to defeat all odds & you will become better people every day.”

This is something we still stand by to this day. We know that we will have to be loyal to one another, that’s how we have accomplished so much. You have to learn to be loyal. Not only to one another but to yourself as well. If you cheat yourself, what makes your think you aren’t easily capable of cheating and deceiving others? Loyalty to yourself is a huge factor in gaining success because the biggest thing that backs loyalty is Truth!

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

7. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom on being risky and chasing your dreams?

You know I’ve been getting the word “wisdom” thrown at me a lot lately! As humans, we take an everyday risk. We take risks as soon as we get up in the morning. As soon as we walk out of our front doors to start our daily lives. My mother was a very wise woman, and before she died she specifically told me, “When I leave this place (Earth), you better not sit here and mope around like it’s the end of the world. Go forth and live your life, and live it every day, because tomorrow is never promised to any of us.”

Those words are something that everyone needs to hear. Fear is what kindles in most of us, which is only natural because it is human nature to be afraid. However, the Enemy is what backs our fear. We must never fall for tricks of the Enemy. You have to foster a strength that you never thought you had. You have to engage your issues with power and trust in yourself.

You have to know that failure does exist, but it does not last forever. —> click to tweet

I have failed many times, only to realize that success was just a few steps ahead of me. I always knew that if I could muster the strength to overcome my obstructions, that would conquer my everyday problems. Don’t hold back, don’t hold grudges. Forgive people. Love people.

There are many who have died holding on to evil and deceit, unfortunately they have left what they have held onto for others to burden. Leave a legacy. Make something for the person who comes after you, so that your legacy may have no age or expiration.

Be happy. You’re alive!!! You are loved, whether you want to believe it or not. Last but certainly not least, believe in yourself and be yourself. Believe that you are worthy of greatness so that you may leave a trail of greatness!

– God Bless and Rangers Lead the Way!

Ian E Robertson

Visit Ian’s website to connect with him and learn more about his work–> ianrobertsonphoto.com

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Filed under Faith, Guest Posts, Uncomfortable January 2014