Vanessa Embling » A blog about my life & photography

Masthead header

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.