I met this lovely girl back when she had braces. Her and her sweet mama would come in to Smile Orthodontics in Puyallup (where I used to work) and I was immediately drawn to both of them. Their beautiful smiles and sweet presence made me want to get to know them more.
Over the years her family and I have become great friends and I love watching their family grow and change :)
I am exploring more and more with film and I asked Gretchen to be a model for me! At this particular session I only took a handful of digitals but what you see here is all film. We cruised around Seattle at a few of Gretchen's favorite spots and had a blast.
I also interviewed her about her life as a young adult <3
M: When you first entered College, did you think it would turn out the way it did?
G: Haha, I had no idea what to expect when entering college. Honestly, all I knew is what I had seen in the movies and clearly the movies don’t create an accurate representation of life. When I anticipated college I always pictured large incredibly memorable moments that would shape and define my experience. And yes, while there were definitely those mile marker moments during my four years, the thing I didn’t anticipate was the sweetness and power of the day to day moments, the seemingly insignificant moments; eating in the cafeteria and spending 2 hours’ belly laughing while playing “What are the odds”, camping out for hours at coffee shop to finish up a project, the late night conversations on my dorm floor that carried such an authentic purity, or even the moments of stress and anxiety that were so real and tangible to my being. All of these moments created a culminating effect and experience that no one person could manufacture alone. These moments were created and shaped by hundreds of individuals that impacted my life during college in the most unexpected way. I never imagined the sweet joy I would feel as I exited my time in college, not because everything was giddy like the movies but because life truly happened and I was impacted in a deep, raw, and unfiltered sense.
M: Who were you as a person your freshman year (shy, excited, nervous etc)?
G: I was a less mature and aware version of who I am today haha! I was definitely more close-minded and set in my ways. I had come from an environment where the majority of people thought similarly to me; therefore, my own views rarely came in friction with opposing lifestyles, opinions and perspectives. I thought I understood what it looked like to love Jesus, how the church should operate, and what the Bible said. This was all quickly challenged.
As far as how I felt entering into college, I definitely was nervous – college is a weird experience, especially living with someone the school picks for. I remember the first night with my roommate, Shea (who was awesome) but I had just met her that morning, we were about to get in bed and I had to ask “can I turn the lights off now?”. It was that moment when I realized, “Whoa, what did I just get myself into – I’m sleeping in
the same room as a stranger”. At the same time, this was exciting, I was starting a brand new season of life where it was unfamiliar and I couldn’t rely on comfortability to get me through.
M: How did you see yourself as the years went by from year to year; was there growth?
G: Oh boy was there growth! I began to listen to people who were different from me and feel no need to change them but instead appreciate the things they could teach me, I saw a bigger picture of how Jesus manifests himself in our lives, and I began to understand the absolute necessity for creativity and diversity within the body of Christ. Many parents are worried about their children becoming some they’re not in college, but the more I was challenged in my thought processes, beliefs, and ideas, the more I began to see a clearer view of God and who he had called me to be. I had seen glimpses but college enabled me to see who I was day in and day out. As the years past, many refining moments began to wipe away the lies that concealed powerful pieces of my identity. I began to learn more than who I was; I learned the things that motivated me, what drained me, what it meant to have boundaries that allowed me to have a healthy soul and how I was going to embrace life and people in all moments. Freshman year God taught me the hard work of being rooted in a place, Sophomore year God stretched my capacity for empathy while teaching me how to dream with Him, Junior year God chipped away at secret pride that I had carried for years, and Senior year I grew in my ability to wrestle with God in hard places and trust him with my dreams. All of this happened because my head knowledge and understanding was put to the test and challenged by real life moments
M: What lessons did you learn that you can pass on to a young girls graduating from high school?
G: Adapting to college takes a lot of time and energy (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional) so be prepared to give yourself more grace than you’ve probably ever had to before. Making lifetime friends doesn’t come easy and it shouldn’t; invest well into people and you’ll begin to see the pay off as time goes on. In the meantime, it can feel really lonely in transition, even when you’re surrounded by so many people ALL the time. Those moments helped me understand the truth that God truly is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And lastly, soak up every moment like a sponge; let the fun, challenging, exciting, sad, and
stressful moments touch you – feel them deeply, process through them, bring people near, and learn more about how God’s made you to be in your most organic states.
M: Do you think you should you know who you should be, or want to be, by the end of your college career?
G: No – I think college helps paint a clearer picture of who you desire to be and the vision of who God’s called you to be. That does not mean you’ll magically be there or that you’re behind if you don’t know who you are. How boring would it be if God was finished with us when we graduated from college? I’m so thankful that I’m a work in progress, that I am constantly being refined and realigned to the truth of my identity - it makes relationship with Jesus dynamic and not mechanical. If you do have a clear picture, then run with it but God will still speak and clarify it even more and if you feel like you have no idea, that just means you’re learning like the rest of us.
M: What challenges can you share that one might find themselves in as a college student?
G: Almost every imperfection, insecurity, and hidden pride will make itself known when you live in such close proximity with people. I struggled (and still do) with perfectionism and giving myself grace. I constantly have to be reminded that I am still learning and growing. People have so much more grace to offer you then what we often offer ourselves. Also, there may be many moments where you have more questions than answers, especially about God. Don’t give up – keep asking the questions, thinking, and wrestling. I have a distinct memory of crying in one of my professor’s offices because I felt so frustrated by all the questions I had about God. He looked at me, agreed and said “I’m just not ready to give up on God!”. This was a brilliant Theology professor and he too struggled with questions. Yet, he was persistent and understood the importance of holding uncertainty in tension with belief in the goodness of God.
M: After all you've said above, who does the Lord say you are as a woman of faith?
G: For me specifically I feel like God’s called me to be a lover or life and people. That means embracing every moment: the good, the bad, the ugly as a way to live organically. I know he’s called me to be deeply committed, hardworking, grounded, steady and consistent – yet, at the same time one who is deeply touched, immensely passionate, whimsical, imaginative, bold, and quick to say “yes” to the next adventure.
M: What excites you as you enter adulthood? What aspirations or dreams do you have?
G: College felt like this super condensed time where I learned so much about myself and saw God do some many stellar things. I know that if He can do such an immense amount in and through me in four years, he can do even more with me in “adulthood”. Ever since I was 15 God placed a deep burning and dream in my heart for people in parts of South America. I’d really love to spend a season of my life loving on people in that region. I saw God use so many of my dreams in college but I have so many more dreams and because of that I know he’s not finished.
M: Where do you go from here, and how do you feel the Lord has moved in this last season of school as a person that will equip you for tomorrow?
G: A lot of what God taught me in this last season was how to love him passionately in the mundane –he taught me how to have deep friendship with him in the days where I question my purpose or the days where I feel like he’s forgotten about the dreams in my heart. My last season of college was one where God revealed the power of longevity in relationship with Him. I was constantly prompted to ask the question, “How can I love God passionately for the long haul? “. He surrounded me with people at all different phases of life that possessed incredible longevity with Jesus. I learned from these people about stewardship, boundaries, and trust and I believe this will be essential in my own longevity. God also revealed a lot about balancing the dreams and passions in my heart with his timing. So as I venture out for “tomorrow”, I feel equipped in knowing that the goodness of God is tangible and that everything doesn’t have to happen “tomorrow” because I have a whole lifetime of loving Jesus ahead of me.