Vanessa Embling » A blog about my life & photography

Masthead header
Vanessa Embling bio picture

    I love photographing people. I love telling stories with pictures. I love watching people and capturing emotions and feelings in an image. I love to have fun. And Laugh. And be silly.

    I am an endless wanderer and my middle name means 'bringer of light' so I try to do that wherever I go! I just moved back to the U.S. after living in Bolivia for the past two years working for a non-profit there. My life is an adventure as I strive to pursue my dream of being a photographer, adventurer, humanitarian and storyteller all at once.

Kaleb’s Birthday Party

Last weekend Kaleb’s family celebrated his 2nd Birthday.  Of course, lots of photos were taken and lots of fun was had!  What better way to hold on to the memories from such a special day than through beautiful photographs that will last for generations to come!

If you are interested in capturing the memories through photography at your next event, please send me an email at

Here’s a cute video I put together with the photos and some video:

Here are some of the photos:



minion, birthday, cake


Being honest about who I am really seeking to glorify with my life…


“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

I love the drama of these photos and how they truly captures the scripture in James. I will forever remember when Steven Leslie Johnson preached at the Arts and Entertainment Conference in Atlanta in 2009 and talked about this.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.

One of my deepest desires is to make a difference in the lives of those around me while I’m on this earth. But I guess I have come to realize over the years – that it’s really not about me and my life specifically… and it’s a lot more about God and the bigger picture. For a while, I was obsessed with the song “I was here” by Beyonce… some of the lyrics: I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time – Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind – When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets – Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget – I was here – I lived, I loved – I was here – I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted – And it was more than I thought it would be – I will leave my mark so everyone will know – I was here…

I think there is an aspect of the message of that song that we probably can all identify with. We want to leave a legacy. We want our lives to count. We want our time here to have meant something. And I think those are good things. But again, I’m realizing that… well… it’s not really about me. It’s not about being famous or that people know my name or that they think I am amazing. It’s about living a life here on this earth that will bring glory not to me… but to God in heaven. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

It does not say… … “that they may see your good deeds and praise you, compliment you, give you an award, think you are awesome, love you, pay you more money, make you famous, or fill it in with whatever you are longing for to try to feel better about yourself…”

It’s clear as I read the scriptures but it’s still easy to confuse things in my head and in my heart. In the end, our lives are just a mist as the scripture talks about in James. Our life on this earth is just a ‘blip’ in the grand scheme of things. I want to make it count, I want to make a difference and I don’t think that’s wrong. But I pray that it can be so that God will be glorified and that ultimately it’s all just to help tell His greater story. If my goal is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus… what better example was he of a man of great humility who did not seek fame or fortune or recognition – but instead, he always gave the glory to God and made it clear that he was here on this earth to do the will of his father, not his own will.

And so… maybe it’s not so much that people remember me or what I did… but rather because of my life they were able to see God, know Him and have their lives changed for eternity. I am not the main character in this story… I am just a supporting actor… or maybe more realistically just an ‘extra’ in this grand story God is telling.



What or Who Do You Depend On?

Romans 12

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a blog post.  Life has been crazy here in Bolivia – so much going on.  I felt compelled to share something I was studying out in my quiet time this morning.  I’m reading a great book about Jesus called “No One Like Him” by Tom Jones.

I was reading this morning about Jesus’ total dependance on God in his prayer life.

Luke 5:15-16 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 6:12-13 12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles

“Prayer was not just a ritual before meals or bedtime.  Jesus saw it as something so essential that he was willing to give up an entire night of sleep to do it before making a major decision.” (pg 32-33)
G.S.S. Thomson wrote:  Prayer was the atmosphere in which Jesus lived.  It was the air he breathed.
Robert Coleman wrote:  Prayer was more important to Jesus than eating or sleeping.  He could get along for periods of time without either of those, but he could not get along without prayer.

Wow.  That challenges me to the core.  When I’m hungry… I get ‘hangry’… (hungry+angry).  When I’m tired and lacking sleep, I am irritable and selfish.  I make it a priority every single day to eat and to get enough sleep so I can function.  But when it comes to my prayer life and relying… depending on God… I confess, I do not feel the same way.  I throw it in here or there.  I don’t treat it as a priority.  I rely on my own strength.  I rely on my own knowledge….  And as I study out Jesus’ life more and more… I see how short I fall from the example he set for me.  But I long to be like him.  I want to grow in the area of my prayer life.

“Jesus truly believed that ‘by myself I can do nothing.’ But because he came to do something of the greatest importance, he would live each day in dependence on his Father – his Abba – for whom nothing was impossible (Mark 10:27).
The overriding key to Jesus’ effectiveness as a great and powerful servant of God can be traced to one place.  It was not found in his intelligence, his charisma, his talent or even his miraculous powers.  It was found in his ABSOLUTE, UNWAVERING DEPENDENCE ON GOD.  We mistakenly think that Jesus had some incredible advantage over us.  But the truth is that he could not do it on his own anymore than we can do it on our own.  And what he had going for him, every one of us can have going for us… how will this change us?”  (pg 35)

I can find myself depending on many things:  sleep, coffee, food, sunshine, my friends, quiet/’me’ time, oh and the list goes on.  I can find that if I don’t ‘get’ these things, I feel off-balance.  But what about my time with God?  Do I depend on my prayer time with Him?  Do I realize how it affects me when I am not depending on Him?

I pray that everyday, throughout the day I can remember that ‘by myself I can do no good thing’ but with God nothing is impossible.  I will fight to go to Him, to draw near to Him in prayer.  To rely on Him and not myself or my own strength.  I will try to remember that my effectiveness is not found in my intelligence, in my accomplishments, in my talents, or my persuasiveness, in how I look or the clothes I wear… my effectiveness will be found in my absolute, unwavering dependence on God.

Celebrating Another Year of Life

On February 25th I celebrated my 35th birthday.  Kind of crazy.  I sometimes wonder where has the time gone?  I still feel like I’m in my 20’s.  I try not to get hung up on the number, or that I maybe have more wrinkles or grey hair than last year.  I am thankful for another year of life.  It truly is a blessing and I know that I am not promised tomorrow.  When I look back on this past year I am humbled by God’s faithfulness and I am reminded that he has done so much more in my life, this year and in years past, than I ever could have asked or imagined.

One year ago, I was packing for a 3 month volunteer trip to Bolivia.  It was a dream come true and I can remember the excitement and anticipation that I had.  I arrived in Bolivia on February 27th and immediately fell in love with the country and the people here.  In May, I started dating a Godly man who also happened to be from Bolivia.  And, before the three months ended, HOPE worldwide Bolivia, the NGO I was volunteering with, offered me a one year contract job in La Paz.  This was also a dream come true.  Before I started the job, I was able to go back to the US for two months in the Summer to celebrate my best friend’s wedding and to spend time with my family.  The finale of those two months was spent on our family vacation to Disney World and then on a Disney Cruise.  I mean, WOW.  I then returned to Bolivia to get settled in.

My time here in Bolivia has been filled with so many highs and lows.  I feel that God has been teaching me so much about patience and learning to rely more on Him and less on myself and others.  I have learned a lot about trusting Him and His plan and that His plans are so much better than mine.

But… to be honest, overall, it’s been a hard year.  The latter part of this year I found myself battling with depression again (ongoing for the last 15 years) and felt swallowed by a big black cloud.  I struggled to find joy and happiness around me.  I was miserable and consumed with negative thoughts – and then I felt horribly guilty for feeling the way I did because I saw the lives of the people around me who were dealing with some seriously traumatic hardships and challenges in their lives – and in comparison, my life was great.  But still, I just felt so stuck.  I watched this TED talk: ‘Depression, the Secret that we Share’ that I found really helpful.  I decided to start back on medication and come up with a plan to climb out of the black hole of depression.  I won’t get to be 35 ever again.  I won’t get these months back that I am here in Bolivia.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I want to make the most of every day God has given me.

It’s still a struggle.  I am far from out of the woods – but I am hopeful of the plans God holds for me.  I am feeling more grateful for the process of being refined and to be able to wrestle with God in prayer.  I do believe I am wiser and hopefully stronger than I was one year ago.  So, on this birthday, I celebrate the past, I celebrate the present and I celebrate the future.  Cheers to one more year lived.  Cheers to the infinite possibilities that lay ahead for the future, and with God, I know that they will be so much more than I could ever ask or imagine.

Do you or someone you know struggle with depression?  I would love to hear from you.  It’s not a battle that we are meant to fight alone.  Many people seem quite surprised when I tell them I struggle with depression saying ‘Really?  You seem like such a happy, outgoing person’.  I’m not entirely sure how to respond to that at this point.  But, I do plan on writing and sharing more about my battle to create awareness and hopefully helping more people.

Below are some happy photos from my birthday with friends in Bolivia.  We set up my ‘photo booth’ and on two separate days we had some fun and celebrated.  I am so grateful for the family and friends I have all around the world who I know love me and care for me.  You are always welcome to come and visit me in Bolivia!









April 15, 2015 - 4:11 am

SC - Thanks for sharing V. I appreciate your honesty. I know of a family member who is going through depression. I’m inspired & grateful for the work God has blessed, through you & the brothers/ sisters in Bolivia.

Some days are just hard…


I took this photo of Mt. Illimani in La Paz, Bolivia as the sun was setting.

Today is one of those days.

I have been listening to this song and the lyrics have been a helpful reminder of how great God is…

“Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe

I wish it could be easy
Why is life so messy?
Why is pain a part of us?
There are days I feel like
Nothing ever goes right
Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
Because I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

I’m not gonna worry
I know that You’ve got me
Right inside the palm of your hand
Each and every moment
What’s good and what gets broken
Happens just the way You plan

You are here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

And I will run to You
And find refuge in Your arms
And I will sing to You
Because of everything You are

You steady my heart

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
Because I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

I’m not gonna worry
I know that you’ve got me
Right inside the palm of your hand

April 9, 2015 - 9:37 pm

J King - Amen. Beautiful lyrics