Monday, December 23, 2013

Shut up and love.

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others,
I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
1 Corinthians 13:1
I love social media.  I just hate what it's done to some people. 
It's created in us an over-inflated sense of ego that seemingly demands everyone to formulate - and consequently share - their own personalized response to every single issue under the sun.  It's morphed our newsfeeds into soapboxes....  
This week, my newsfeed was flooded with articles and statuses and posts regarding the famous bearded redneck from Louisiana who ignited a cultural firestorm of debate with his words.  Everyone from celebrities to theologians to politicians took to their social media to explain, complain, or proclaim their own versions of truth.
Admittedly, I took a small part in reposting a couple of blogs from my favorite writers, whose words focused not on who is right or wrong, but rather on the deeper truth that we, as believers, must cling to....
"I will not reinforce the notion that anyone is less than, condemned, or left out, because if that is true, then my salvation is a lie. Because I love mercy for myself, I can’t help but love it for everyone else, and I won’t cheapen it by imagining that my grace is free but someone else’s must be earned. Jesus is the best news in history." - Jen Hatmaker
Back in the Spring, another cultural/theological debate emerged the week of Easter, flooding the pages of social media.
Is it any coincidence that the prince of this world would try to distract us from the Prince of Peace?  

Is it any coincidence that these distractions of monumental proportions coincide with the exact holidays set apart to celebrate Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? 

And we - oh, especially we Christians - fall for it. 

Even at Christmas.
Hook.  Line.  Sinker.
Over and over and over again.
We are enticed and reeled in.  We take to our keyboards and screens.  We post and re-post, tweet and re-tweet, investing and ingesting until we fill ourselves up to the brim with the controversies of this world...
Oh, I've done it, too.  More times than I can count, until my heart was sick with conviction over the time wasted, words wasted...
love wasted.  
Oh, If only a fraction of our energy was spent doing the thing Jesus actually told us to do. 
In Mark 12, we see a heated debate taking place between Jesus and the Saducees.  Once he had rendered them speechless with His responses, the Pharisees pressed him further.  One of them, a teacher of the religious law, asked Him which commandment was the most important.
Now, some would say this particular guy was attempting to bait Jesus.  But, I like to think this scribe, much like us, genuinely wanted to know the answer.  He had just stood in the midst of the great cultural and religious debates and discussions regarding Resurrection and taxes.  He had witnessed Jesus astonish the religious leaders.  I believe, as some commentaries suggest, that he genuinely wanted to know how Christ would answer such a difficult question on something that would pertain to everyone...
And Jesus replied, The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord..  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these."
Did you catch that?  Jesus is saying that loving people is equally as important as loving Him with our whole hearts, souls, all of our mind and strength.  He even goes as far as to tell us how to love them.

As much as we love ourselves.
This Christmas, I won't allow myself to become distracted with the debates of this world.  I'm going to turn my eyes from my newsfeed and towards that baby in the manger, our God in the flesh who came that we might know God, that we might know love.  (1 John 4:8)

I'm going to use my social media feed to tell people - yes all people - the only truth that matters for eternity, which is that baby in a manger is our God in the flesh.  He knows you.  He loves you.  He came to save you.  He wants to have a relationship with you because you are His child.  His beloved, regardless of what the world says you are.   
I'll let the theologians and the politicians and all the other bloggers and tweeters hash out the cultural and religious wars on the pages of our news feeds.  
I'm going to shut up and love. 

Can I encouarage you to do the same?  Hug someone.  Buy someone a cup of coffee or a meal.  Serve someone.  Love someone. 

And for the literal love of God, show someone God loves them. 

Shut up and love.

"Keep reminding God's people of these things.
Warn them before God against quarreling about words;
it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen."
~ 2 Timothy 2:24

Friday, December 20, 2013

In the Middle of Expectancy


Our not-so-baby baby boy turned eight yesterday.


Everyone tells you that time seemingly passes more quickly with the second child and that is so true. It’s difficult to believe that eight years and sixty pounds ago, I was preparing to give birth to this *surprise* child.

I never wanted boys, or so I thought. I had it predetermined in my mind that I would have girls. Two or three of them. I’d refer to them as such. My girls. The girls. Growing up, I always wanted a little girl with big brown eyes and brown hair. And then I had our sweet Chloe, who has always embodied everything I ever dreamed my baby girl to be… right down to the dimples and giggles.

When we found out we were expecting and that the due date would be so close to Christmas, we decided not to find out the gender... This was shocking to everyone who knew me since patience and delayed gratification are not innate traits of my character.

In hindsight, I think I secretly feared that it was a boy. I secretly feared being somehow disappointed if I found out prior to his birth. But the truth is, I already knew. I knew in my heart this child was a boy. Although admittedly, the night before we went to the hospital, I packed some girl clothes just in case.

When they announced it was a boy, I wasn’t surprised … at all. In fact, the only surprise was how unsurprised I was… and then I saw him and that became the surprise. Complete opposite of what Chloe had looked like as a newborn, there was this tiny, pink baby with rosy cheeks and just a tiny bit of light blondish hair. I’ve heard lots of mothers talk about how love at first sight doesn’t always occur with newborns, but it was immediate with Parker.

Eight years later, I often think to myself that if i ever had more children, I would secretly wish for more boys. I had always heard that there was something special about little boys and their mamas and it’s so true, in an undefinable sense. Parker is all boy in his growing affinity for all things related to football and action/adventure but he is also one of the sweetest, kindest children.

Birthdays are the moments you want to live in. But there is tension if you linger too long. you look at a photograph that you took a few hours ago and you can already envision yourself ten years from now looking at the same photograph weeping over how young they were… or how old you are now… or both.

Lingering too long brings about that painful awareness of how fleeting our time is, how fast our children are growing, how fast we are aging. And perhaps, most painful, how powerless we are to stop any of it, or even slow it.

A few weeks ago, Parker put his hand on my stomach and said sweetly, “Mommy, I wish you were pregnant.”

I laughed, but I also realized that as my “baby” reaches the brink of his tween years, it brings about another bittersweet milestone of knowing I will never carry another child inside of me.

I tell him [only half-joking] that I’m too old to start all over.

But I also tell him something else, something the Lord placed in my heart many years ago.

It was late 2009. My life was completely unraveled. I was a divorced, single mom who had just surrendered my life to the Lord. I had just made a public profession of faith through baptism and had just re-enrolled in college to finish my degree. David Platt was in the midst of a series on James and it was rocking my world and wrecking my heart. I was just learning what it meant to live within this real relationship with the Lord when He pressed foster care and adoption on my heart indelibly. I knew that it would someday become a part of our story, but I didn’t know how or when.

In the years between then and now, God began mending the broken and reweaving the unraveled. I can see so clearly now those seasons of heartache and despair as preparation for what would come, a broken family that He would make whole again.

My heart is overwhelmed when I think about the impossibles He has made possible… and the impossibilities that He will make possible in the years to come. As we celebrate this season of Advent – this expectation and awaiting of our Savior, we become filled with another kind of expectancy. I tell Parker that I won’t carry another child in my tummy, but that maybe – just maybe – God is preparing us to open our hearts and our home for another child someday. One who needs a family for a night – or maybe a lifetime. One who needs a brother just like him and a sister just like Chloe. One who God has planned to be with us from the very beginning, and will bring to us in His perfect timing.

I still don’t know how or when. 
But I am expectant.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” ~ James 1:27

original post:

Friday, December 13, 2013

a thousand words

photo by Sweet Julep Photograpy
They say a photograph is worth a thousand words - and if that is true, I may not have to write again for at least a year. 
It was in the first year after our divorce in 2008 that I wrote Psalm 71:20 on the matted frame of this photograph.  I couldn't have known then that it would someday become a part of this photograph, a perfect portrait of restoration. 
I had ran into someone who had given me hope through his story.  I came home and wrote this blog and scribbled the verse on the picture frame to remind me of that hope - that promise.
In the years that followed, I put the framed photograph away and pulled it back out more times than I can count.  Some chided it as an idol of sorts; others desperately tried to convince me that it was all a faraway dream of which I couldn't let go.  Some concluded that I couldn't forgive myself of my past.  
It was a tumultous path, paved with darkness and doubt and inconsistencies.  There were moments of clinging to the promise of His word, and other moments struggling to discern whether or not I'd really heard from Him.  Had I made it all up?  Had the desire of my heart misconstrued the word of God or had God Himself conformed the desire of my heart to His perfect and sovereign will? 

Beleiving Him for the seemingly impossible, at times, actually felt impossible.  Even my own father, always full of pragmatic logic, urged me to let go.  In fact, he went as far as to imply that I might "need to get my head checked" if I geniuinely believed reconcilation was a possibility. 

He urged me to move on with my life. 
And so, I tried. Desperately.   
And failed. Miserably.
But God.  Oh, thank God.  He alone has the final word on His word. 
Ultimately, He used all the brokenness in my life to bring me to wholeness in Him.  All the while revealing to me that there was nothing I could do to undo His promise. 
In His own timing, He mended and moved the broken pieces of my life, of our marriage, and of our family into one.    

original post:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beauty for Ashes: Burning divorce papers.


"He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair."
Isaiah 61:3
Combining two households after seven years of separation and five years of divorce is a rather monumental task. In the past few months, we have filled a storage unit with furniture and lined the garage with boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

There is still so much to sort through, discard, donate and store.

Of course, all of that pales in comparison to having our family of four residing under one roof again. They say that divorce is like a thousand little good-byes and it’s true. But it’s also true that reconciliation is like a thousand little hellos – to all the things you deeply missed and never thought you’d experience again like family dinners and good night kisses and bedtime prayers.

In some ways, it’s all so new again and yet, the most amazing thing about redemption is that in so many ways, it feels like we were never really apart.

As the weather began to turn colder last week, the thought occured to me that we needed to build a fire in the fireplace. This is a rare occurence since our house is small and after having experienced the convenience of gas logs, real fires seem a bit cumbersome and messy.

But it was Thanksgiving week and the first holiday that we spent together as a family living in the same house… in eight years.

Well, all that and… we had something we needed to burn.

Even in the midst of all the boxes, I knew exactly where they were. Filed away in an unlabeled manilla folder with all of the other important documents that one collects and keeps throughout adulthood. I pulled them out and looked at the date. The judge had signed our ”Final Judgment of Divorce” on November 26, 2008. Five years to the day.

I thought about those days – thousands of them – that had passed in between. Even when I couldn’t see it, God was “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

“In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” Isaiah 63:9

I’m so thankful that final judgment of divorce was not the final word for us.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks: Memories and Moments

My parents' cabin in the woods - Calcis, AL
As I get older, time seems to move at a much faster pace, as if it's snowballing year after year, gaining momentum.  Sometimes, it's almost as though it's barreling on ahead and I'm running behind, trying to catch it.  I think this is why I love photographs so much, and why my love for photography continues to grow.  I want to capture it all, every detail.  I want to take it all in and, in some ways, a photograph gives me something we all long for: a frozen moment in time.
My maternal grandmother [whom I call mom] was granted custody of me when I was around a year old.  She was a vietnam war widow in her very early forties, having [almost] finished raising three girls of her own.  And so, I spent the first decade of my life in a brick home on a culdesac.  She remarried when I was 7 and soon after, they began secretly plotting our move to the woods.  I say "secretly" because I was, in fact, included on any of these plans, I don't remember it.  I just remember the day we got in the car and drove for what felt like forever to see this old, abandoned structure that they were giddy over.  Long ago, someone had placed shoddy wooden siding over the large, square logs.  The roof had caved in and the floors on the lower level had rotted, exposing the earth below.  Vines were growing up around and in it.  It was 1985.  This was going to be our new home.   Eventually. You know, because being nine wasn't weird enough... My parents labored over the next year on their dream home, tearing it down log by log and having it moved to the twelve acres they'd purchased even farther in the woods.  I remember very little about this time... I remember a yard sale in the cul de sac when our house was on the market.  I remember the anxiety - and dread - of changing schools.  Mostly, I remember the awkward horror of having to live in a tiny camping trailer with my parents in the months between our house selling and the cabin being finished.  My stepdad had taken a year off work to complete construction with the goal of having the original portion of the cabin completely rebuilt and restored by Thanksgiving, 1986.
Now, I wish I could tell you that I have such wonderful memories of that first Thanksgiving huddled in our cozy cabin in the woods.  And I could... but it would be a lie.  The truth is, I have exactly zero memories of that first Thanksgiving in the cabin.  Again, I was ten.  And now that I am the mother of an [almost] ten year old daughter, I can attest to the fact that at that age, you are in your own little world.  If your immediate needs are met, then your mind is often elsewhere. At ten, I couldn't have possibly appreciated their labor of love or the work of my stepdad's hands.  In fact, it would take another sixteen years and his sudden, tragic passing to make me gaze upon that home with new eyes.  By the time I was a teenager, it felt cozy to me.  In my late teens and early 20s, I loved holidays huddled around the fire.  But after his passing, I began to love what the cabin represented to my parents, and to him.  I began to love the fact that, after he was gone, he was still in every part of the home.  The rafters that hold up the tin roof are trees that they cut down and skinned together; the stones in the hearth are ones they hand-selected from the property and lay themselves; they stairs going up to the loft are trees cut in half and the railings are smaller, skinned trees.
Over the years, it became more than a cabin in the woods, and more than just a home.  And I don't have a just one memory that stands out, but thousands.  I cannot choose just one favorite memory, but I can share a favorite moment.  It's the moment before the feasting begins, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas.  All of us, at least twenty in numbers, cram in, circle up, hold hands and pray.

Giving thanks. Always.
"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
~ Ephesians 5:20  

Friday, November 15, 2013

In the Middle of Redemption - A Marriage Restored

"You will restore my life again..."  ~ Psalm 71:20
I am getting married tomorrow. 
And to be honest, it’s rendering me speechless. I am in bewildered awe of what the Lord has done and the last few weeks have left me a little bit undone trying to take it in.
It’s been almost fourteen years since we stood at the altar and established a covenant. It is a covenant that the Lord remained faithful to, even in the midst of my outright faithlessness and unfaithfulness.
I can’t wrap my brain – or my heart – around that kind of faithfulness. This kind of love. This kind of joy. Oh, how He loves us. Even in spite of us. Regardless of what we have done or who we have been. Regardless of what kind of mess we have made in our own lives or in the lives of others, He is faithful. He will do what He says He will do, even when we have done nothing to do deserve it.
Even when we have done everything in our power to un-deserve it…
In the darkest, most broken moments of my life, He would whisper His promises of restoration and redemption to me. So much like a father, gently urging his child to trust him. And so much like a child, I’d try and fail. Time and time again. I’d make a mess of my life over and over and over again and He remained steadfast. Unchanging. It was a tattered and torn journey, this path from divorce to reconciliation.
To look back, I can see His sovereign grace guiding every step – and yes, every misstep. Ultimately guiding me home.
People have asked me what it’s like to fall in love all over again. I tell them that it’s really much more like how I imagine one would feel after being lost and wandering in the wilderness for years, then being found and brought home. Everything about being home would feel both new and familiar, routine and extraordinary, and underneath it all – a constant, nearly overwhelming gratefulness that you were found and a profound, life altering gratitude for your home.
I am home. 
In recent days, random people have sent me messages urging me to write it all out – to tell our story in full. ”Someday,” I tell them. For now, I don’t even know where to begin.
And so, as I sit to write and new words won’t come yet, I look back at the thousands of words I wrote through the years. And I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that He moved me to write, to keep a record of His faithfulness – knowing that even today, He is weaving these old words in with my present reality and giving us a story, a testimony, a ministry - so that one day, people may see and hear and put their trust in Him.
Tomorrow doesn’t mark the end of anything, but a new beginning and the fulfillment of a promise spoken to me nearly five years ago.

Excerpt from Summer 2009:
The end of our marriage was a battle. Emotionally. Spiritually. We had been caught in a repetitive cycle of trying and failing and giving up and trying again. My relationship with Chris mirrored my relationship with Christ and I went through that vicious cycle – of confession and repentance and then, inevitably, failure – my failure – more times than I can count, each time more brutal than the one before. Until there was nothing left – nothing for him to give – nothing for me to take. Until we were both standing in the midst of the rubble of our life together and each waving our own white flags of utter defeat.
And then, we retreated. He, into quiet anger and bitterness, and me, further into darkness and shame and failure.
I think, in some ways, I naively believed that God would somehow, finally leave me alone now. That I had somehow finally disappointed Him past the point of His forgiveness. I would be own my own, able to choose my own path for my life. It was my first legitimate taste of so-called ‘freedom’ and yet, it didn’t feel like freedom at all. In fact, it felt just the opposite.

For the last year, I have busied myself with life, my kids, with friends, exercise… with anything and everything I could. I have moved at a pace that never allowed for a quiet moment. I couldn’t bare the thought of lying still. I was terrified that of what that moment would bring. I didn’t want to feel anything. I used everything and everyone in my life to self-medicate and avoid anything below the surface.
Needless to say, no one can move at such a pace for too long. And the moment that I paused to reflect, to allow myself to see even a glimpse of my own heart, it was even worse than I’d feared. And the heartache was compounded by the resounding reality of finality. It was too late.
I was divorced. I was a single mother. These are the circumstances – no, the consequences – that I would have to live with, that my children would have to live with. Indefinitely. Maybe forever.
I did what I do best: I candy coated this harsh reality for myself and for others, making it shiny and sweet. I consoled myself with the thoughts of how much worse things could have been or could be still. And this worked, for a time – from time to time. But it was clear to me, as it had been for years, that God really was not going to leave me alone.
“I – we- have made a terrible mistake“, I finally, reluctantly confessed to Him – and to myself – one night in prayer.
Yes, you have. It wasn’t an audible answer, of course. Nor was it harsh, but more of a simple, emphathetic nodding – the same way I imagine a real father, like Chris, would comfort his daughter, like our chloe, after realizing she had made a tragic, life-altering choice.
He ached not only for me, but with me and I felt it. But I also felt something else. Something that had been foreign to me for some time: hope. “Hope only in Me”, He said, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV) I contemplated these words. Affliction – check.
I had one out of six down… I’d have to work on the others…
It would be another three years before I purchased a ring for my left hand that [providentially] had this same scripture engraved on it.  Three more years riddled with more mistakes and wrong turns than I can count, and yet it was all of these years collectively that He was engraving this scripture on my heart – changing me, transforming me into a woman who could not just read these words, but by His grace –

one who can live them.
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” ~ Psalm 9:1

original pospt:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Phoenix rising.

Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore
Last week, I watched the sunrise over the New England coast – this morning I watched it peek over the poolside palm trees in Arizona. I could write about it but at this point, my thoughts would read more like a TripAdvisor review than anything else…

No, really. I’m kind of in love with this place. Madly.  And just last night, room service delivered chocolate covered strawberries and a note to let me know the feeling is mutual.

The impending break-up is going to be tough…

The thoughts do not run deep when I’m grasping to take in beauty that I haven’t seen before. Bewildered awe begets few words.

And so, I watch the sunrise reflecting onto the Phoeniz mountain preserves in the distance, behind the grounds of the resort.

In silence.

And all I can think of here in the middle of the Phoenix sunrise, is the proverbial, mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes.

And my own life, rising still – amidst the rubble and ruins and ashes.

And I realize that this rising restoration, just like the sunrise isn’t the end of our story; it’s only a new

And so, for today, I'm somewhat wordless and as I struggle to find the words, the only ones that come arrive in the form of lyrics on repeat in my head.

And so I’ll let my words be few…
“You are God in heaven
And here am I on earth
So I’ll let my words be few
Jesus, I am so in love with You
And I’ll stand in awe of You, Jesus
Yes, I’ll stand in awe of You
And I’ll let my words be few
Jesus, I am so in love with You
The simplest of all love songs
I want to bring to You, oh yeah
So I’ll let my words be few, hey
Jesus, I am so in love with You
And I’ll stand in awe of You, Jesus
Yes, I’ll stand in awe of You
And I’ll let my words be few
Jesus, I am so in love with You”
Phillips Craig & Dean lyrics

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Photography Gallery

a link to my online photography gallery is here: 

This.  This is the chasing after beauty... 
and catching it.  ;)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Waiting on the sun to rise... and other musings from the road.

Waiting on the sun - Cape Ann - Rockport, MA 10/9/13

I’m on the plane home from my bucket list/business trip to New England. The lost rental car key fiasco now long behind me, I turned my second rental in without incident… Although, I still find myself checking for the keys at least one every fifteen seconds or so.
I’ve already completely freaked out on more than one occasion, as if there’s some sort of delay between the searching and remembering that I’m not responsible for those keys – or any keys in particular at the moment.
This was my solution for most of the trip…


I have a confession to make, although it’s really more of a fact than it is a confession: often times, I have a smallish cocktail at the airport prior to boarding the plane. I just do. It’s not that I’m scared of flying – I’m really not. No, it’s just more that the notion of flying has the tendency to sway my mental frame of mind from that of pragmatic logic to a sort of prolonged, silent panic.
 In those moments between boarding and reaching cruising altitude, while everyone else is busily chatting or texting or thumbing through the latest skymall magazine, I’m sitting upright, deathgripping the armrests of my seat, eyes closed trying to pray while my brain is suggesting that we recount every detail of every major commercial airliner crash of the twentieth century instead.
So yea, I’m just saying - it helps with that. Or at least I like to think that it does.
Swiping through my Instagram images, I’ve decided I should self-publish my own little photojournalistic book of my collective travels. I think I’ll call it How not to lose your rental car keys… or something like that. I’ve decided that it will have to be more photographs and fewer words, because as much as I’d love to spend all of my free time writing when I travel, more often than not I find myself speechless, utterly wordless, taking in all that surrounds me.
Yea, this trip was like that.
Words aren’t really requisite for describing the beauty of New England in the fall. Even the photographs fail to do justice. It’s one of those things you have to see and feel for yourself.
I hadn’t been on a solo trip in a long time – as long as I can remember, in fact. And though I had meetings interspersed among scenic routes, I stopped along the way to take photographs. I explored coastal towns on foot, ate my lunches and dinners alone and watched every sunrise and sunset that I could. Taking it all in one step, one photograph and one breath full of sea salty air at a time.
I don’t know where to begin to write about it all. It moved me and the words will come in time, like aftershocks reverberating from within. Eventually, they will have to spill out. They always do.
The coastal town of Rockport was my favorite. I was only there for one night and when the sun had disappeared my vantage point, I’d chased it in my car all the way down to the port, capturing it just before it disappeared into the westward horizon. It was pure adrenaline. “This”, I thought, “is my fix” … or “my jam” as my friend Amy would say. This rushing after the beauty – and capturing it.
That night, I could hardly sleep with anticipation of the morning. From my room at the inn, I could hear the waves lapping and lashing onto the rocky coast and the sound of wind lightly howling between my door and the exterior screen door. It was far past midnight, but I was wide awake. I tried reading, and counting sheep, and reading some more, and at last, literally praying for sleep to come…
I’d set my alarm for 6 knowing that sunrise was at exactly 6:48. As soon as it sounded, I hurriedly dressed and began to walk the road winding in front of the inn. I knew I’d need to walk around a bend to be facing fully east. I knew because I’d used my compass.
Yea, I was serious about pursuing this sunrise.
I found the perfect spot on some rocks down below the road and carefully stepped onto them, finally settling on one that looked the most comfortable for sitting.
And I waited.
And waited.
And waited some more.
Had I always been so impatient?
Just last night, I’d literally chased it down and now here I am, in the cold predawn hours alone on the coast of northern Massachusetts, just waiting for it.
Yea, life’s like that.
And you know, it’s always in those moments that you know, there has to be a lesson in this. Isn’t this the ways of our Lord? Always reaching, always teaching..
I thought of how many times I’ve chased down things of my own will, of my own accord, and on my own terms.
How many times I’d chased the wrong things because I was so unwilling to wait, so ridiculously impatient.
At exactly 6:46, I positioned my camera, looking through the lens. The next two minutes seemed to last as along as the previous twenty. And at 6:47, the eastern sky came alive with color, taking the night captive – and my breath away. At 6:48, the first rays of bright light peeked over the horizon and though my camera was perfectly positioned, I was no longer peering through its lens.
In that moment, it was as though the while thing was just for me. All of it.

Sometimes, we are called to pursue, to chase after His calling, His purpose, His beauty.  Sometimes, we are called to wait.  Sometimes, we are called to simply be still and know... that He is God.  (Psalm 46:10)
And still, as faithful as the rising sun is the faithful Son – whose will is always accomplished, in His perfect timing.
Learn to wait on the sun. And on The Lord.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. 
Be brave and courageous. 
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”
~ Psalm 27:14

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bucket lists, sunsets and random misadventures ...

Cape Ann - Rockport, MA 10/8/13  © Nadia Wilder

For some time now, I've thought that perhaps I should've been a travel photojournalist.  It would've been the one career path that combined three of my great loves: travel, writing and photography.  

And then I went on this sort of bucket list trip to New England... 

I say "sort of" as it was one part weekend wedding, two part weekday business and a distant third part bucket list trip.  I've always wanted to visit New England in the fall and it has, in every way, exceeded how beautiful I'd imagined it to be.

No really, every random street pretty much looks like a postcard...  
See?  ... Cape Cod - Falmouth, MA 10/5/13

I literally took a photograph of a local Family Dollar store earlier today because it was so ridiculously nostalgic.  Cute, even.

I sat on the edge of the rocks to take the photograph (on the top of this post) this afternoon.  The wind was fiercely whipping my hair into my face and the smell of salt was so strong in the air, I could literally taste it.  The sun was slowly fading into the west and the last few rays seemed to bend and reach upwards and outwards across the horizon, painting the sky with strokes of pink.  It was breathtaking, in exactly the kind of way I'd always expected a fall evening in a New England coastal town to be.  

It was one of those moments.  You know, where every misstep and misadventure up until this point felt so worth it all.  It seemed it should've been one of those profound moments that I heard from the Lord or had some sort of epiphany... And yet, the one pervasive thought that kept repeating incessantly was: 

Do I know where my keys are?

Followed closely by:

Yes - they're attached to your wrist.  Still.  Just like they were fifteen seconds ago when you last checked.  And the five seconds before that.

If you were to ask me how one manages to lose keys to a rental car, I'd tell you I have absolutely no idea.  Then I'd probably also tell you that it's an entirely possible scenario which may or may not have left me stranded on the cape for an entire afternoon while I waited five hours - yes, I said five - for the rental car company to tow - yesI said tow - a new car to me.

I watched, in mesmerized confusion, as they then loaded and towed the keyless car away.  Which is the most ridiculous thing ever.  Do these people not keep spares?  I digress, that's an entirely other post, scathing review and strongly worded letter to the folks at Budget.  Folks from whom I will never ever rent another car from ever again as long as I live.  Never.  Ever.

In the span of one stranded afternoon, I'd suddenly morphed from solo traveler/adventurer to helpless, stranded tourist.  My friends having all left to return home from the wedding, I was scheduled to begin the solo leg of my journey.  I had planned to take my time driving up the coast that afternoon.  Instead, I ended up wandering the streets of Falmouth like a vagabond.  A vagabond with a really nice camera...

It was there, hours later, in the parking lot of the inn that I succumbed to the sobering reality that any travel photography books of mine would be less beautiful landscapes and a lot of pictures like this....  

My new rental arriving - Falmouth, MA 10/7/13

They towed the keyless rental away along with the notion that I could've, should've, would've been a really great travel writer... Yes, anything I write about travels will have to be more or less tales of what not to do, which - let's face it - isn't all that much different from my writing about life in general.  

It was a slight consolation that I actually like the new car better.  I thought, for a brief moment when I first caught a glimpse of the tow truck pulling it in from the side view that someone had messed up and sent an Audi.  I was ecstatic.  Until I realized it was a Kia.  But still, it is a really awesome Kia.  The Optima is where it's at.  

Seriously, I may buy a Kia just like it when I get home...

And so tonight, I used that Kia to chase down the sunset.  

It was fading fast on this end of Cape Ann and I raced northward along the coast hoping to reach another turn that would allow another vantage across the water.  A couple of lucky turns in the dusk and I caught it down at the wharf in Rockport.

I stood breathless in the freezing wind as if I'd chased the sun with my feet rather than my rented Kia and took this photograph...

Sunset at the wharf -Rockport, MA 10/8/13

And in that moment, I didn't think about my keys, not the ones I lost nor the ones attached to my wrist.  I didn't think about the heel I lost today on the brick sidewalk in town.  I didn't think about the wrong turns I've taken on this trip - or in this life.  

I just thought for a moment, how I'd chased the setting sun, relentlessly - just to catch a glimpse of its beauty, His beauty - the skies proclaiming it with every sunset and sunrise. 

I thought of how thankful I am that He instilled in me this love for photographs - the ones that tell His story, the beauty of His creation; and this love for words, the ones that tell His story, even through my messes and middle places and missteps and random misadventures.

And then I thought of the Father's relentless pursuit of me.  

All to reveal the beauty of His grace and redemption to me.  

He sought me.  And bought me.  And I'm so thankful that He caught me.  

"Yes, You were there, I know. . . . How ever far and fast I’ve run, still over my shoulder I’d catch a glimpse of You on the horizon, and then run faster and farther than ever, thinking triumphantly: Now I have escaped. But no, there You were, coming after me. . . . " -Malcolm Muggeridge

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” - Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

Friday, October 4, 2013

In the Middle of Restoration

Several of my friends welcomed their second babies this week and my newsfeed was flooding with images like the one above, reminding me of this day – the day we became a family of four.
Chloe, just twenty-two months old at the time, marched right into the hospital room with her Nana, clad in her “big sister” shirt and matching bright, polka dotted bow, with her purse on her shoulder and said, “Hi Mommy!  Hi Daddy!  Ooooh, hii Baby Paka!” 
She crawled up onto the bed and laid her eyes on her little brother, forever changing the dynamic of our family – and our hearts.  In those moments she transformed from the baby in our family to the big sister… and a second mama of sorts.
Kids are like that, you know – so astoundingly adaptable.  She immediately embraced her God-given role, even as I was still struggling to grasp hold of my own...
Click here to continue reading: 

Friday, September 27, 2013

In the Middle of Reeling

I wrote a post over Middle Places today titled "In the Middle of Perspective", but it should've been titled In the Middle of Reeling... because, really - reeling is really a much more accurate depiction of what I am actually doing, lurching violently, still grasping at perspective.
One of my coworkers passed away suddenly earlier this week.  It was so terribly sudden and unexpected and we are all reeling in silent motion, greiving and processing and dealing in our own ways while we go on with our daily routines.  I work for a smallish company and sometimes, in smallish ways, it feels like a smallish family of sorts.

On Monday, I'd walked into her office to talk with her about a work-related issue.  On Tuesday, I walked into her office to sign the memory book for her family.  I walked in and immediately wished that I hadn't.  Although I wasn't extremely close to her, the sight of the empty office, and her empty chair seemed to modify the gravity in the room, making my feet feel heavy and unable to move.  Her personal items had been replaced with a framed portait and vases of flowers.  I sat in her chair to write, offering what words I could muster of symptathy and empathy and of hope.  But all I could really think was that she had been sitting in that same chair just the day before...

I sat still but my mind was racing, and my heart was reeling, recoiling from the brutal force of having been sucker punched in the throat by mortality.  There were a few brief moments, there in her empty office all alone, that I seriously questioned my entire existence altogether. 
Coming face to face with the life and death of another always makes us come face to face with the reality of our own.

In those moments, stupified by shock and grief; disoreiented by the realization of how fast and fleeting and fragile this life is, we want answers. 

John Mayer wrote a song titled No Such Thing that suggests there's no such thing as the real world.  And I beg to differ.  This is the real world.  My youngest brother has this thing he'll say at the most random, ordinary and sometimes awkward moments of life.  He simply says, "This is real life."  It's comical and caustic because the thing is - whatever moment you're in - he's right.  It's rather ironic that it's often in the wake of death that life becomes more real

In those moments, there are no answers.  Only questions. 

What am I doing with my life?  Am I wasting my it?  What would she have written in my memory book?  What would others write in mine?  Did I show her Jesus?  Am I showing Jesus to others?  To anyone?  Have I missed my calling?  What is my calling?  Did I miss an opportunity?  Do I even look for opportunity?  Could I have been more sensitive to His spirit?...

At the end of that day, and of all of my days, I realized how very much I want my life to count for something - and don't we all?  Something so much greater than myself or the sum of my needs.  I was reminded of that desire in my heart to live a life of passionate pursuit of His purpose and how, in recent months, I'd been lulled by life into routine.  The constant whirring and buzzing of traffic lanes and car rider lines and football games all moving together, creating a lullaby of white noise, drowining out the very thing - the very One - who has the answers.    

The One who calms the wind and waves, can calm the storm in me.  In the middle of all my reeling, He speaks through His word:  "Be still, and know that I am God." 
And I cry out to Him, as the Psalmist did in Psalm 39 - and my reeling follows so much of the same pattern: sickness and sorrow and doubt, followed by sielnce and grieving ... and ultimately, submission - or rather, surrender.  All over again...
"The psalmist, bowed down with sickness and sorrow, is burdened with unbelieving thoughts, which he resolves to stifle, lest any evil should come from their expression, Ps 39:1-2. But silence creates an insupportable grief, which at last demands utterance, and obtains it in the prayer of Ps 39:3-6, which is almost a complaint and a sigh for death, or at best a very desponding picture of human life. From Ps 39:7-13 the tone is more submissive, and the recognition of the divine hand more distinct; the cloud has evidently passed, and the mourner's heart is relieved." ~ Spurgeon
My heart - and my reeling - is relieved. 

Oh Lord remind me of how brief my life on Earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered and time is fleeing away, that My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you. Human existence is but a breathe.
And so Lord where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:4,5

Friday, September 6, 2013

In the Middle of Disappointment

Following his Daddy - literally and figuratively
It seems appropriate that I would write about football this week as it is the thing that is all but consuming our life right now.  This little guy is on the field two hours a day at least four times a week. The lazy days of Sunday soccer and one weekly practice have reached an abrupt end.  We were completely unprepared for the investment of time this endeavor would require.  Parker started training camp in July, then regular practice in August.  By mid-August, they were in full pads and helmets and on the field in the summer heat practicing four to five times a week.  This blew my mind.  You know, because they are seven… 
It all just seems too much to me.  Maybe it’s my innate desire to keep my “baby” little.  I took him to one practice and quickly realized that I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to watch the running of the drills, the screaming of the coaches.  The other moms and dads on the sidelines seemed fine. I just wanted to break loose, run out on the field, scoop up my baby in my arms and carry him [like a baby] home.
He is the much more sensitive of my two children and watching him endure such a physically tough sport was difficult.  Frankly, I felt certain that he’d want to quit.  Can I just tell you it would’ve been the first time ever that I’d have let him quit?  We normally have a rule that we will allow our kids to try whichever sport/activity they are interested in with the understanding that they have to complete that particular season.
I was completely prepared to throw that rule out the window – along with the massive amount of time and money we’d already invested. Because it seemed too hard.
Maybe more for me than him… 
Because, maybe, that part of me that was so accustomed to fearing and running from that which is difficult and painful is still alive and well within me – and maybe, just maybe, I have a tendency to project that onto my kids.
It was a reminder of how far I have and yet, have not come.  And so, as it often happens in the throes of parenthood, the Lord is teaching and reteaching these lessons all over again.  Lessons of trust, and of perseverance.  The lesson that I can learn in the middle of anything and everything, even little league football, if only I’d let Him.  If only I’d listen.
At the end of Parker’s football game this week, I stood at the edge of the post-game huddle.  Sixteen little sweaty players taking a knee, leaning in to hear their coach.  It had been a very close game and his team had come back in the end for a fourth quarter victory.  It should’ve been a happy moment, but as I looked through the lens of my camera, zooming in on Parker, I saw something I wish I hadn’t: disappointment.   It was on his face, in his eyes.  He was several yards away and though our eyes hadn’t yet met, I could tell by his facial expression that he was fighting back tears.
He hadn’t gotten to play.
He wasn’t the only one.  It had been a close game and with it being his rookie year, there were four or five other players that didn’t get put in, but still – even that knowledge didn’t lessen the blow for him, nor the ache of my cracked heart.
I did that thing that we mamas do, that instinctive feigning of strength, masking my own hurting heart in an effort to comfort his.
It’s a difficult lesson for him to learn at seven.
And for me at thirty-seven.
I felt utterly helpless as we made our way back to the car, his helmet heavy in my hands, my heart heavy my chest.  By the time we were in the car, he was completely over it – laughing and talking with Chloe.  But it would take several days for me to completely get over wanting to “fix” it.  This wanting to shield him and protect him from any and all disappointment.
Chris had told him that it was just part of the game, that he had to keep going strong in practice and giving it his all.  And therein lies the balance in our family, and in our parenting:  Chris’ solution is to persevere.  My solution is to send the coaches, and maybe even the league, a strongly worded email rallying for equal playing time, lamenting the unfairness of it all…
But I keep silent and in what I hope will be a trend for his life, he takes the wisdom of his daddy’s practical [much-less-dramatic] advice and evokes the same quiet strength.  In that moment, I am thankful that he has a father to emulate - one who doesn't react foolishly out of emotion, but is steadfast and solid refusing to get reeled in to any unnecessary drama.  Yes, listen to your Daddy.      
Because the thing is, he loves playing football – genuinely loves it.  He doesn’t mind the heat, the pads, the helmet, the hitting, the yelling.  

He showed up at his practices this week and gave it his very all, making tackle after tackle, impressing his coaches and amazing his mama… because my seven year old has demonstrated more strength and perseverance in the wake of disappointment than I do at thirty-seven.

The next game, he got to play.  A lot.  He learned the value of persevering through disappointment.  And I did, too.  All over again.
I willingly accept this lesson, in both the little disappointments and painful, tragic trials of this life.  I keep on asking, praying, whispering under my breath and beneath the fear, “Teach me your ways, Oh Lord” (Psalm 86:11).
And He answers me.  Right where I am.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  
Through suffering, we continue to share [Jesus]
so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in us.”
2 Corinthians 4

Friday, August 30, 2013

In the Middle of Pressing On

Every day offers us lessons to be learned.  Some days, I am much more willing to learn than others.  And some days, the holy spirit will press something so firmly into my heart that it doesn’t matter how willing or unwilling I am in that moment.  It’s almost always a verse, or a portion of a verse, spoken in a whisper to my heart, yet striking so deeply that it reverberates for days, or sometimes, weeks.
Often it is a simple as “Be still” (Psalm 46:10) or “Trust me..” (Proverbs 3:5), and sometimes, it’s something more.  A few weeks ago, it was that something more and this morning, a few weeks later, it’s still pressing in on my heart, even in the middle of my pressing on:
Remember Lot’s wife.” ~ Jesus (Luke 17:32)
One verse.  Three little words, poking and prodding.
Oh, I remembered her, alright.  Sometimes, I am her…
“When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.  As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” (Genesis 19:16-17)
But she couldn’t help herself…
“Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:20)
The implication is that this woman, whose name is never mentioned, had left her heart in Sodom even as her feet were carrying her away.  But the greater implication is disobedience, despite her reasoning – whether it was cherishing or curiosity… she had been instructed not to look back.
Perhaps the directive would’ve been more effective if she’d been told the consequences of looking back.  Perhaps she’d reasoned that a quick glance wouldn’t be categorized as an actual “look back”.
And isn’t that just the very essence of our human hearts at times?
Sometimes, the Lord reminds us not to look back – for the sake of our very own lives.
And that which He has saved us for is greater than that which He has saved us from.
Whatever you’re in the middle of, remember Lot’s wife… and set your feet and heart on Him, pressing on.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” (Philippians 3:13)