Monthly Archives: July 2011

Today: Heather and Her Beautiful Family

Our friendship really took off when we went to Mazatlan several years ago, Heather and I. Little did we know that one short-term mission trip to Mexico would spur a dozen or so more, shaping the contours of our lives for several years. Little did we know that the ongoing planning of those trips would lead to the ever-growing constancy of a friendship needed and wanted.

Now Heather is one of my best friends. Then she someone I knew slightly and admired. Then she was pregnant with her sixth child. Now Emily is five years old. Heather and her husband, Lee, both turned 40 this year. I took some photographs to be a part of their birthday gift. It’s still a work in progress.

This morning on my run I found myself thinking about Heather and Lee and their family and wanted to write some words about them. The world needs families shaped by moms and dads like these two. They love well: each other and their kids. They parent uniquely. They believe the best about their kids and are unapologetic about calling that out of them. They’re not concerned with convention or status quo; they are concerned about relationship and raising whole children.

I can’t help but think when God dreamed up marriage and family as an answer to the it’s not good for man to be alone problem, he envisioned a family like this one. They are not perfect; but they are beautifully human and life is celebrated and love is the greatest wealth in their inheritance.

In their house there is real food and family around the table at meals. There is laughter spilling from the piano room and filling the whole house as the girls write a song. There are piles of worn books beside a television that I’ve never seen turned on. There are smiles and there are hugs. There is listening. There is learning It’s not that there aren’t fights or disagreements, but when they happen, apologies are the norm and trust is rebuilt. Little children are not intimidated into proper behavior, and older children’s dreams and desires are valued and discussed. It’s not always possible to do everything, but it is always possible to see a child, right where they are and meet them. I think this is the gift Lee and Heather give their kids: they are fully present parents. It’s not that they are perfect, but it is that they choose to show up, time and again. They choose each other. They choose their kids. And then they find ways to choose others too.

In the midst of all this kid-loving, life-celebrating goodness, Heather and Lee both pursue interest and passions of their own too. If your life is focused on the others around you, somehow time finds ways to stretch and make room for music lessons and long runs and date nights. I don’t know how it works, but it does. I think some intentionality might be required and some help from a God who’s way is to discipline the ones he loves. Because in so living, fullness is found.

When I spend time with Heather, I’m reminded that people are gifts and that some of life’s greatest treasures and most beautiful moments are found- and shared- when you encounter someone who lives fully and entrusts and empowers others to do the same. This is the way Lee and Heather illustrate love and life and friendship and family and beauty to their kids and to the world.

I thought about this today and thanked God for my friends. I wanted to write this down to remember and to share, because when you realize you’ve recognized something beautiful you want others to see as well. Because lives like these? They make me hope in a world where families struggle and break all too often. Lives like these are beacons of something different, something more.

They compel hunger while illustrating the way to living full. I love that.

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tonight: these stars in my eyes

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reason and analysis but first of all by living.”
-Thomas Merton

Well, I’ll not claim perfection, thank you very much, but I will claim life.
Oft pushing through the shadows, determined chasing down the light looks like
in the midst of the spills and messes, letting go without defeating
then ever, ever, ever strengthened stride.
With the sun tomorrow rising I’ve got these stars in my eyes-
this anticipation is not the slightest bit hyped-
It’s the wonder of a child, loved, forehead kissed and whispers, quiet, “good night.”
It’s deep roots and wide wings and solid ground and far flight.
It’s slumber rested and enemy ignored and wonder flaming from inside.
It’s hope and redemption coupled, dancing, and I will claim life.

today: listed subtle shifts

“The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
p 14, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

It’s subtle shifts, oftentimes, that are the ones that lead to fullness.

Reduced caffeine leads to increased energy and better, easier to attain sleep.

A commitment to earlier bedtime results in actually getting up when the alarm goes off. And walking the dog most mornings. And getting a run in before it’s six thousand degrees. Because once it’s six thousand degrees outside, you melt. True story.

Speaking of running, a shirt soaked in cold water prior to heading out means the first half hour passes before the heat becomes THE HEAT.

A step back- or forward- reframes the photograph and at times takes it from mediocrity to mangnificence.

Reading, for pleasure, just because, inspires. Even if it’s Harry Potter for the fourth time.

Stopping. Smiling. Eye contact. They matter.

So does listening, to God and to others. And when doubting, confess unbelief and ask for help with belief. Jesus takes kindly to that. Every time.

Sometimes “no” has to be said.

The remembering and the learning, they are constants. They produce gratefulness. I think this is a season for simplicity. I don’t have big profound things to say, but in these small moments I feel like I am relearning, time and again, how to really live. And I think these small moments are revising me, preparing me for the next big thing. Whatever that is…

Ah, and hope. Relentlessly.

today: the treadmill

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
-Robert Frost

The photo doesn’t exactly fit, but it does make me smile.

You might as well call it the dreadmill, because I hate running on the treadmill. Texas in the summer though, particularly this summer, necessitates the occasional treadmill run. Most mornings I wake early enough to allow time to get outside before the heat suffocates resolve. Running outdoors in the summer is a study in perseverance; gone is the thrill of just being while running. My body can be coaxed to do the same work. The same prayers are uttered. The same miles yield beneath my feet. All that sameness costs in the summer. The efforts are harder, and the payoff most days feels like checking a block. If I find joy in running in the summer it’s in knowing that fall and winter and spring come next. It’s anticipation.

Still, the heat and scorched skin and guzzled water bottles and general misery are much preferred to the indoor run. I love to run, because I love to be outside. It frees me. It fills me. It reminds me that the world is bigger than me and my story. I connect with God. I hear him best when I run, and boy, do I need to hear him. The treadmill takes those things away. I hamster wheeled out a workout today, because my body requires it. I sleep poorly without some physical activity. Hours spent at a desk produce antsy limbs created for use. I ran in the gym at the apartment mid-afternoon. Poor sleep coupled with an early morning photo session closed the window of time designated for my morning run. I thought about skipping, but training picks up in the fall. Discipline about scheduled running days helps prepare for increased mileage and the accompanying busyness the extra minutes then hours logged produce. I run on running days.

And honestly, today’s run sucked. I ran thirty meager minutes at about the same pace as I do when I run outdoors this time of year- s l o w. It sucked, but I did it. I finished. The work got done; the miles got covered. It wasn’t a glamorous run. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t far. But my body did what needed to be done, and some days that’s all you can ask of a person: that they do what needs to be done.

Striving for excellence is noteworthy. Great feats ought to be celebrated. Champions are cheered for accomplishing something amazing. That said, the hardest work and biggest efforts aren’t always race day PRs or big wins that get noticed. Sometimes the most is given in the nuanced choices to put one foot in front of the other on the days when anything else seems more appealing. Today I did the work. Today I finished. I did what needed to be done, and it was enough. That’s what I learn and relearn on the treadmill.

Not the most stunning anecdote, but what I’ve got for tonight.

today: new day

“Tell us a story from before we can remember.”

“The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.”
Tree of Life

This day, the day that started brand new with breakfast and coffee? I ran miles and played with the dog minutes. I wrote words and worked on photos. I prayed and tried (a little) to listen to God. Words were read, clothes were folded, dishes were done. What is Jesus like? Conversations and emails and text messages exchanged: the stuff of life, relationships. Photographs and books and notes and screens. So much of the mundane lacks shine and yet life is beautiful. I go to bed every night and promise to get there earlier the next day, and tomorrow comes, a brand new day and the routine cycles on and on.

Some days I wonder if this is enough.

Some days I wonder. Period.

Most days grace awakens me to more. I hunger.

Today I’m tired and that’s why I need to remember the more, to remember that today started brand new, and tomorrow? It will too. And that newness seems like everything tonight, like the world gets clothed anew every day, and the pockets of redemption, they run deep. This I hope; this I believe.

(P.S. Thank you for journeying with me, and I promise to write something less cryptic soon).

tonight: early morning run

“Running is real and relatively simple…but it ain’t easy.”
-Mark Will-Weber

the morning, quiet
the stillness, settling
the work, habitual or maybe compulsive or somehow necessary
the work, wanted
though the heat attempts to suffocate delight
only momentarily success then a turning
thoughts wander to resurrection
and the more-ness of it all
settling there hopeful, hopeful
and the sureness stirs anticipation
sweat glistens in the light
trickles down testifying
the body’s effort:
this daily work, a one-two rhythm,
ground pounded and life strengthened,
pushing back death with every step
this choosing of life alive
cooling a soul
the morning, quiet
the movement, awakening
the work, believing

I love N.T. Wright and how he makes me camp out on resurrection. If you haven’t you should read him. Start with Simply Christian.