Monthly Archives: August 2011

today: go (somewhere).

“Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.”
-Louis L’Amour

Last night, over swordfish and orzo he prepared, we talk of life and of going, somewhere. This summer, so hot, seems to dash my spirit, time and again. I travel in the fall but had returned from a weekend away. Hurricane Irene caused my brother Josh and I to take a different trip than we’d expected: to Colorado instead of North Carolina. Collin hadn’t gone with me; he raced his bike. I was tired, having had an active weekend with Josh that looked like early mornings and yielded sore muscles. We ate, though, and I could see Collin’s face light up as he daydreamed out loud. This world, a playground, and we hear God’s invitation to participate in a word: explore.

I wish I had my camera to photograph the sureness on Collin’s face as he talked, for it mirrored something I know: going (somewhere, anywhere) widens the world, expands sight and shifts perspective. There. Is. More. I go on trips for a number of reasons: to see friends, to work, to participate in mission work, to do something different, to relax. This weekend I went to spend time with Josh and to get away. That was it. We found ourselves, though, strengthened and filled with anticipation and hope for the coming season. It was as if our hearts needed a bit of a reset, and we received it. Our everyday is not the whole of every day. There. Is. More.

It feels like a gift, this reminder.

today: rainy run musing

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

Saturday morning and hours before the alarm wakes me flashes of white and rumblings of sky. Months of drought mean that I wake fully at 4 am before recognizing this: it rains. Return to sleep then the alarm rings at 7; there are photos to create. But with the rain, the sky greyed. A text to client to reschedule, but in the early I am wide awake.

Breakfast with coffee and prayers. I lace up my runners then I drag the dog on a drizzly walk. All summer long we survive our morning routine: I sweat; she pants. The rain, so wanted and so needed, she hates it. We return home. The dog runs crazy through the apartment then slumbers beside my desk. I grab a water bottle, blast Pandora through my i-Phone as I strap it to my arm and head out the door.

It drizzles still, and it is August, and in a summer that we’ve had many days over a hundred and severe drought, 75 degrees feels like grace massaging weariness out of my bones. I run hard, muddying shoes and drenching shirt- with rain and sweat cooling skin. I’m smiling, and it’s been months since a run produced a smile during my efforts. I double the length of typical pre-photo session Saturday run, and I feel I am in the presence of God alone.

My mind wanders to the words the writer of Hebrews penned in the New Testament: she urges that we seek level paths for our feet so that what is lame might not be put out of joint. I ponder those words. I have been busy and short-tempered, and my dad has been sick, and I have lacked patience, perspective, grace. I am broken. And yet mornings like this are healing: I rediscover a level path for my feet, literally, yes but in the work of my run and the cool of the air, my heart craves the God whose kindness leads to repentance.

A long few weeks, and I consider something Hebrews alludes to. Healing is often participatory. “Use it or lose it,” my boyfriend tells people when urging them towards a healthier lifestyle and better fitness. A lame foot unused will never regain strength. And sometimes there are moments of big dramatic miracles and wholeness comes instantaneously. Oftentimes, though, healing and the return to wholeness is a process. And that’s beautiful, because trust is required and that trust transforms not just what is broken but also the character of the one being healed.

This morning I return from my run, feeling muscles and reminded that they work. The rain slows by the time I finish, but the air remains cool. I settle into the rest of my day wide-eyed and hopeful, aware of a good God who ran with me this morning and awakened, once again, to faith. And to think I was just excited about the possibility of a long run in the rain…

God’s intention? To return me to patience, to perspective, to grace.

today: being a grown-up is hard sometimes.

So my dad had a stroke. He will be okay, and we are thankful that this is the case. We are also thankful for the community that is in our lives, who showed up at the hospital and with meals and to pray and to take boys swimming. That was two weeks ago (only two weeks?!?), and where life seemed to be a bit crazy before, it is all out crazy after. I want to tell the story of my dad’s stroke so you can know the incredible ways God showed up and people loved well. But I feel (like so often this year) like first I need to catch my breath.

My business is running in full force. And I’m amazed and feel like I’m living a dream I didn’t know could be real. That said, I’m all-the-time busy, with phone calls and emails and taxes and all the day-in, day-out running a business stuff. The days I take photos are amazing. The other days, my learning curve is high. I’m tired, and I’m tired of being tired. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to do creative work that tells stories and captures beauty. But it didn’t slow down when my dad had a stroke, so I’m running behind.

I’m not running behind on work stuff. My bills need to be paid, so I get that done. I’m running behind on the-rest-of-life stuff.

There are no groceries in my fridge- not even milk for my morning coffee (but don’t worry, I still have blueberries).
I have not finished a book in weeks.
My journal is mostly blank.
I talk to God in passing in the morning, and sometimes that is it.
My house is messy.
My bathroom needs cleaning.
My dog needs bathing.
My feet need to run.
I want to go on vacation, but I went on vacation in June.
Fall is going to start, and I’m excited about the prospects. But I would like to stop and catch my breath.
Insomnia has crept back into my nights.
I miss writing words.
I miss nannying babies.
In some ways I feel like I’m dropping a lot of balls- the relationship kind more than the responsibilities kinds.
That said, I know I’m loved. And I know joy comes in the morning.
I’m sorry if you’re one of the balls I’ve dropped.

Being a grown-up is hard sometimes.

today: remembering to remember

Thursday last, and I photograph children whose faces will not grace my website or even this blog post. I photograph children whose stories are hard, sad, broken. They, wards of the state, stare into my camera wearing stories too big for years too few to have seen so much of life. Some smile, resilience written by hope searing through pain, shining. Some barely hold eye contact, the shutter’s clicks unable to coax anything close to a grin. They range in age from infant to sixteen. The state hopes these photographs will help them find a home. For me these photographs mean I have a face, a name for my evening prayers. I photograph these children, foster kids, because it’s what I know I can do for them now.

In telling you this brief story of my Thursday, I hope it provokes your heart to pray for the little ones whose stories are bigger than them and whose hardships just might suffocate the life out of them if we don’t step in and look at their stories, their faces- and validate them. They are here, alive. They are here, alive, which means God dreams something more for them than a story of sixteen homes in three short years. I photograph 27 kids in a few hours as the sun blazes. In between photos we eat cookies and drink lemonade, and some tell stories and some mention dreams and some don’t say a word. A few are bright, and one wonders how they maintain that disposition as CPS navigates them through the foster care system. Some are slow and struggle, and whether it was by birth or circumstance, I do not know. Most seem resigned to their story.

A couple of the foster moms move me to tears- an African American woman, middle-aged, mother to two she’s already adopted. She ushers five Mexican kids, ranging in age from 1-12, into the University Park home where the photo shoot takes place. The baby on her hip looks nothing like her but clings to the only mom she’d ever known, so clearly wanted. She clucks at the kids to smile when it is their turn. She urges them to pick out a book from the pile stacked on a dining room table, a collection from the neighborhood’s castoffs. I feel her love- fierce, determined- as she tells me she wants to adopt all five. Will I take their picture when they become a real family? I think they are already a real family. I am staring in the face of a real live superhero, and she holds that baby and wipes a runny-nosed toddler’s face, and the older children help her strap the younger ones into car seats. And then I don’t just think they are a family; I know it. I hope the state agrees soon.

Another woman leads in six kids, all of them clearly special needs, a parade of temper tantrums by children far too old for such behavior and toddler minds forced to grow into teenaged bodies. I only photograph one of her kids, and she tells us she’d adopted five of the eleven who live with her. She wants to adopt the girl I photograph too. She’s 11, and her mannerisms match a three-year-old, innocent and volatile. I wonder how her foster mom has the time, the strength to keep giving love to so many who need so much. She takes all the hand-me-down clothing the host offers as she guides her crew back to their car. She chooses those kids- the ones who look funny and act strangely- and she wants them. In choosing those kids she too chooses a superhero identity: selfless compassion and endless grace.

The last child is a girl, ten. She chirps her way through her photos, her freckled face expectant as she tells me she hopes to be adopted. She pets the dogs and watches the fish and moves from kitchen counter to piano and back while her foster mom talks of life in the country and horses and acres of land that is good for kids. After they leave, I feel tired- all those kids and all those stories in so little time.

And tonight I’m editing those photos, staring at the faces of little ones you cannot see here. In some of their eyes I see my own reflection. The light of the sun hits the camera just so sometimes and reflects in the subject’s eye, and the image created bears a picture within it of the one who takes the photo. All those kids, when I photographed them, I told them that. I showed them on the camera screen. “I’ll remember you,” I told them. “And when you look at the picture, you can remember me, because you’ll be able to see me.”

I wanted them to know they are remembered. I hope that they know they will not be forgotten. I pray that they’ll find their ways into families. And I trust a God who redeems stories no matter how broken. He who made them, he really remembers, and they bear his image on their little souls. No amount of brokenness or hurt can take that away. I understand the resilience hope writes on some of their faces: redemption writes a better story.

tonight: the end. is not the end.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
-C.S. Lewis

it’s the not yet part of now that catches up
yanking hard breath out of lungs
if feet don’t ever recommit to finding way to ground(edness)
on days unexpected or hard
it’s the not yet part of now that
infuriates and frustrates and vacates wonder
if left to it’s own or allowed a full stop
on days when harsh words slip and kindness slumbers
when disease destroys and healing falters
when brokenness shatters that which seemed to be getting better
it’s the not yet part of now that wearies
but
now, hope
now, faith
now, love
now, grace
now, circumstances do not define
now, heart, please constantly realign
because this dim glass is not all
this now holds the reality of this whisper, this call
we hold hope open-handed now, a kingdom we stand in, full
and enthralled, this promise: now and not yet
the end. is not the end.