“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent”
For better or worse, I skipped right over a Thanksgiving post this year. Any ounce of creativity I have of late has been poured into hours spent working on photos, which is all good and well. I love taking photos. I’m thankful that it is my bread and butter. I want to write some words about thankfulness, and I will some time soon, when I catch my breath. I’m excited about the prospect of getting back to writing in December as the pre-holiday photo rush calms towards a more normal pace. In the meantime, I’m loving the craze of so many little people I love passing in front of my lens with their families. The wonder and joy of children growing up captivates me endlessly. I’m thankful for their curious hands and squirmy bodies and eager minds and smart little mouths… but I digress. This is a post about Advent.
The word Advent means coming, and in the Christian world it marks the 40 days of waiting and preparing our hearts, communally and individually, for the coming of Jesus. It’s a season of looking back to the coming of Christ. It is a season of looking forward to his return. I love Advent. I love the hope discovered in the story of the Christ child, the unlikeliness of baby Jesus’ birth followed by the unlikeliness of his survival those first years followed by the unlikeliness of his wisdom as a boy followed by his unlikely rise, not to fame or power, but to the cross. The wisdom in his humility is utterly captivating. Believers and unbelievers alike have pondered his ways and teachings for the last two thousand years. Those ways and teachings compel lives to change towards belief that we can live love because Jesus lived love.
Advent reminds me I love Jesus. I seem to have an annual pile of busyness that builds up throughout the year, and come Thanksgiving I pause to be thankful (for so much), exhausted. A few days later Advent begins, and it is just in time for the photography rush to almost begin to end. I want to pause and wander around the stories of the gospels. I want to savor the questions Jesus asks and that his coming leaves me with. I don’t hesitate to be frank about my doubts, because really, I believe he is God, and I believe he is big enough to use them to turn me to hope time and again. And Jesus brought hope. That night the angels chorused above the shepherds? They knew hope had taken on human form and laid his life down in a manger. The shepherds celebrated, because when angels appear in the sky, what more can you do but believe something great is coming? So they hoped.
These few weeks of anticipating Christmas mean a full stop comes, and we have this glorious invitation to reorient our lives around the One we were intended to live for. When we do so, we live hope in the world. This is what I believe.
Love’s like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
-John Mark McMillan
Yesterday my run took shape around the hurry of a full day, and I forced a few miles in between photo sessions and needing to walk the dog and eating and friends and a date night. Saturdays in the fall tend to look like all of the events of the week get thrown into one day. Friday I went to bed early, though, so I felt certain I could navigate the day, over-stuffed reality that it presented, without the sense of busy overwhelmed-ness that sometimes seems to define my days this time of year. My runs shorten when I’m busy and some days (more days this year more than past years) I’ve skipped runs when I haven’t managed my time well.
Yesterday though, I made the day bend around my desire to run. And I remembered that I love to run, I crave running, some part of me (maybe all of me) needs to run. The sun held its head high. I listened to familiar music. I pushed my feet hard, due to the narrow window of time I had to run more so than my desire for swiftness. I saw birds, trees, sky and the cement jungle that snakes to define my neighborhood of awkwardly paired industry alongside rows of apartment complexes. The thing happened, though, that happens when I run. My head cleared, and I felt present to the world and present to God.
Oh how I want to live there, so wide awake and so fully aware.
In the time of year when things are so busy I cannot see straight (which is decidedly not a complaint, just the state of things)…
never the type to plaster a fake smile on the days when everything fell apart
or to withhold one on the Best Of Days (oh the beautiful surety that laughter will come, always, if eventually)
and ever the type to grab hold of days, falling apart or in the best places ever, and play hard
makes for one tired child in the midst of these weeks of endless busy
it does not cycle, for authenticity as a premium means constant change
and solid footing comes at a cost of ever sinking to my knees
aching or grinning, either towards reprieved reality
There is a design, an alignment to cry,
at my heart you see, the beauty of love
as it was made to be
–Sigh No More, Mumford and Sons
Last fall, like the last few falls, looked like planning a Mexico trip and gathering shoes and and array of photo sessions and a lot of people and a general sense of overwhelmed-ness that has been laid to rest for a number of months now.
This fall looks similar (sans the Mexico part), but the general sense of overwhelmed-ness is gone most days. That’s not to say life is not busy; it is. And that’s not to say that I’ve got life figured out; I don’t. But something definitely shifted this fall.
This fall I spend my days looking after a sweet little man and edit photos while he naps. We run and read and play. Before I arrive at his house in the morning, I walk my dog and spend time with God and pack a lunch. I reply to emails and phone calls. When I get home, I make dinner with my boyfriend some nights and work on photos eating sushi with my sisters other nights. On Sundays I go to church and am just there, participating in the service and visiting with friends and family without the weight of have-to-be-there. Life, for the first time in many years, seems to almost lack boredom attached to the mundane. I’m mostly loving it. And I am aware of God’s presence.
Today, though, I felt a little sad that this wonderful space that is the current page of my life does not include working at church and planning a shoe trip. It does not include working in a partnership in my business the majority of the time. I know it was time to step away from those roles. And I believe God is writing the same story in me that He was writing then. But I think about those little kids and their little feet. And I think about teaching at church and inviting people into a something-more kind of life. And I think about photos alongside of a friend who is creative and spontaneous and fun. And I miss some of those things.
Not all the time. But now, today.
This is not a grass-is-greener-in-nostalgic-world kind of post. It’s just acknowledgment that this is the page I woke up on today. It makes me curious to know how the big picture puzzle that is my life will fit together and play out. It makes me thankful that I don’t have to figure that out today.
And there you have my internal process externally.
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
they just know to spread their wings
or maybe they don’t know not to know to spread their wings
so freely does flight come
while i cling to what i don’t know and cannot see
fearing faltering yet
somehow owning doubt and disbelief
sets me free to know the Truth
and then with deep breath
yes, i believe (helpmyunbelief
oh to grace how great a debtor
daily i’m constrained to be…)
and here, silent,
tension, yet peace.
he, not mine, but dear nonetheless,
he wakes with a smile, eager
and sleeps without effort, tired
all that eagerness wearing him right out
on a schedule, mostly, every few hours
the weight of this little man
is not the ounces and pounds adding
length to his body and chunky goodness to his thighs
(though there is that)
the weight of this little man
is that he makes me s l o w my pace
to see him
is that he makes me notice details
that are laughter at tickled toes and fright at the car wash
is that every day something new
grabs him, wide-eyed and wonderful
the weight of this little man
is that I remember who I am (child, loved)
as he settles into my arms for our days
to him I can only say thanks
p.s. howilovebabies. (in the most non-gushing sort of way, if that is possible)