On the Road with Martin Smith | FAITH + TRAVEL

To say Martin Smith is a forerunner in worship music would be an understatement (cue I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?, Emmanuel, God’s Great Dance Floor, etc.). He’s been a leader, innovator, influencer and model for the church world for 25 years, and he’s made a significant impact on my world recently.

On August 18, 2016, I played keyboards for Martin at Gateway Church for a special night of worship. You may recall my Snapchat from that night...included below. :) This was a “once in a lifetime” experience for me personally, considering the fact that his distinguished and recognizable sound was the soundtrack to my earlier years.

Two weeks later, I received a text asking if I’d be interested in playing at a conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with Martin and his band. Would I be interested??? My “once in a lifetime” was transforming before my eyes (insert all of the emojis here).

I really didn’t know what to expect. I love Martin Smith’s musicianship and leadership, but I’d only spent about 5 hours with him to this point. Those 5 hours turned into a 5-day ministry trip, which left me feeling like family with a group of people I’d never met.

I arrived at the Philly airport around the same time as 3 Brits arrived from London Heathrow. We met up and drove 2 hours together to Lancaster. Needless to say, we had some good ole’ quality time right off the bat! My roommate for the week was Elle, who arrived late that evening…just as I was jumping into bed. Nothing like first impressions!

Here come the photo diaries, along with some continued #fangirling, but I'll do my best to keep it to a minimum. :)

VIDEO RECAP | CLICK HERE!

COFFEE MATES

Coffee is a MUST for this crew, so a walk to the local coffee shop became our morning routine.

DELIRIOUS? MATES

Martin and Stu G were in a band called Delirious? for two decades together, but they haven’t properly played together since then. The legends reunited on this trip...what a special occasion!!!

*Note to self: leave your camera sitting around more often...^^*

LANCASTER MATES

AMISH MATES

Our trip to Lancaster wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Amish country! That afternoon included following a guided tour bus around town, exploring a local gift shop and blasting tunes with the windows down…until we accidentally got behind the wrong truck.

BAND MATES

The musicianship is unmatched…I mean, seriously. What am I doing here and how am I playing with Martin Smith and Stu G?! But more importantly, the genuine care, encouragement and FUN I experienced was more than words could ever say. This was one of the best weeks of my life musically, spiritually, creatively and personally—and I don’t say that lightly. I came home inspired and motivated on every level.

*Side note: Martin has a new band called ARMY OF BONES! I used their song “Break Away” in my recap video…be sure to check them out!*

Live event photos by Tom Limebear | Travel photos by Jessica Sheppard | Edits by Jessica Sheppard

This experience has stirred my faith. 3 months ago, I could hardly fathom playing with Martin at Gateway. It never crossed my mind that anything else would come of it. What a God surprise! Life's circumstances can look entirely different in a moment's time. Anything and everything is possible. Overwhelmingly humbled. Overwhelmingly grateful.

Thank you Martin and friends for a week to remember.

Much love,

Jess

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Monday Memories | PHOTOGRAPHY + TRAVEL

Since someone like me would probably be missing California on a day like today, I thought it'd be a good idea to relive my recent West Coast memories with a photo diary. Finally sharing a few pictures that seemingly slipped through the social media cracks.


Venice Beach

Mom and I (surprisingly) spent an enjoyable amount of time in Venice, an area I've honestly avoided at all costs. Why? Because all I remember from past visits to the area is helicopters swarming over the beach and people dressed in bizarre styles (including costume masks). It just seemed like a confusing place. 😳 

Anyway, this time around, I'm eating my words...largely due to the amazing eats of Venice Beach.

I met up with one of my blogger friends, Jenna (from Visions of Vogue) for lunch at The Butcher's Daughter, which was such a treat...followed by an ice cream treat at Salt & Straw. Mom tried the sea salt caramel and I indulged in lavender honey. Seriously, it's a must.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood is one of my favorite areas in LA. If you missed my Top 5 Instagram Spots in LA, more photos from the neighborhood are featured there!

Malibu

Ahhh, the best for last (in my humble opinion). Malibu is my "grace place," the spot where I inhale rest and exhale LIFE! This is the area I love to stay when I visit LA, because there are oceans and mountains only 45 minutes from the city (not to mention southern California weather). I seem to leave more of my heart there with every visit...it's such a special place to me. I could go on and on, or I could just stop talking and show you my photos.

We stopped off for a late lunch/early 4:30 p.m. dinner at one our favorite Malibu spots. What are the chances of us running into friends from Southern Germany there?? We must've been at the right place at the right time. Then Psalm 37:23 comes to mind: "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives."

Life happenings may seem to be "random" or "coincidence," but when our days are surrendered to God, He's leading even our smallest decisions. Grateful for His grace to remind us we're right where we're supposed to be, even in our leisurely moments.

Much love xo

Jess

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5 Instagram Spots in LA | TRAVEL + FASHION

5 Instagram Spots in LA | Travel

Am I the only one that has an unspoken, unofficial Instagram bucket list? For instance, whether it's a cute little place that everyone posts about or an epic spot that I must see for myself, Instagram has helped mold the explorer in me.

In fact, when I find out I'm scheduled to visit a city, or I'm planning a trip, I usually go straight to Instagram and search the location...the most popular Instagram picture-taking hot spots are usually in the "top posts" from that city! Just a little travel tip if you're a picture chaser like me. :)

So you can guess what life was like in LA for me...visiting those Insta hotspots, being a total #tourist. I've included 5 of my favorites, only 2 of which I'd visited before. Enjoy!

1. Pink Wall @ Paul Smith | West Hollywood

We snapped these photos on my 26th birthday, so giant silver foil "26" balloons were a MUST. It was a windy afternoon, though, so my balloons were captured saying 56, 65, and 62...pretty much anything but 26. :) Oh well, we made for a fun memory, that's for sure!

2. Love Wall | Venice Beach

The "Love Wall" by @Jgoldcrown is an art piece I've always wanted to see in person, so this was definitely on my unofficial Instagram bucketlist. :)

*Location: outside the Greenleaf Chopshop in Venice Beach, California (however, there are a few similar pieces around the US)*

3. Bottega Louie | Downtown Los Angeles

Bottega Louie is my standard. I do my best to visit every time I'm in LA! The most beautiful pastry items, including the #1 MACARONS in LA...seriously, Google it. It's true. (Because all things on Google are true, right?) They also have a full restaurant, so be sure to take a visit for dessert, or a full meal if you're in the downtown area!

4. LACMA | Los Angeles

This was my second visit to the LACMA and I'm such a fan of this place! In fact, last time I was in LA, my bestie and I visited Hillsong for Sunday morning church, then ate at Bottega Louie for brunch, then spent the afternoon at LACMA! Slow-paced, open space vibe...the grounds are beautiful to enjoy. Highly recommend!

5. Aflred's Tea | West Hollywood

Alfred's Tea recently made it on my must-do list, since I've been seeing it all over Instagram lately. I expected a line to be out the door, but it was a rather quiet afternoon in this tiny corner tea room. I ordered the rose boba tea and thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

*Tip: they do not accept cash...credit cards only!*