tonight: twenty. love matters.

we’ll wish along the Milky Way that time will never fly…
Brand New Day, Orba Squara (listen here)

last night his knees pressed against the bathroom cabinets,
and I stood behind him and cut his hair
that wavy mop that first caught my eye in the prelude to our story fell to the floor
and I’d resisted this role, not wanting responsibility of destroying
the wild mess atop, but it needed doing
love in the shape of hands holding scissors,
our story yesterday

Saturday he raced his bike down South, but he drove home
so that Sunday he could wake up early and go with me
Sunday when I ran my own race, and he brought a bike and a map
he cheered me along the course
and he did this gladly, yielding sleep to cheer-leading, and he chose freely
love in the shape of feet peddling to chase a girl chasing a finish line,
our story Sunday

here I see we keep choosing each other
just two days that could have been any two days of us
we keep waking up to get-to-dos in this story, ours
and I keep finding myself wide-eyed in the midst of this truth
here we are, twenty months in with days and weeks of stories

learning love.
learning trust.
becoming, little by little, more us.

Maybe someday I’ll get back to regular blogging.

today: valentine

He races his bicycle on the weekend, and he rides fast. He doesn’t always win, but sometimes he does well. And his pleasure in it is evident. He tells stories of racing weekends, face expressive and bright, relishing the fact that he gets to do this and that he does it well enough to be competitive. He knows that not everyone who has the desire to excel in a sport has the opportunity or ability to do what he does. He is passionate, and he is thankful. Collin was made, among other things, to ride a bike. It’s a window for him through which he sees how to live fully. I love this about him.

Getting to be with someone who has a grasp on what it is to live out of who he is moves me. Collin provokes me to want to live life alive in the way that he knows how to be alive. We aren’t perfect in our relationship by any stretch. In recent months, we’ve needed to learn how to disagree, fight and let go, and at times, we’ve both been exasperated and frustrated. I’ve needed to stare my selfishness in the face. It’s not always pretty. In the midst of growing a relationship, we find ourselves aware of our fragility and vulnerability, especially on the days that have been hard. And yet, that hunger to live so alive and so full, it drives us, both of us. These past months for me have been a process of learning to love and be loved right in the midst of life happening, good and bad, ugly and beautiful, allowing hope to trump fear.

Last night, we prepared dinner together and worked on our various tasks, chatting. He walked the dog to the mailbox. I made him a smoothie. The eve of Valentine’s Day was quiet and restorative. We are busy, separate and together. We wanted some quiet and normal before this week gives way to company and races and photo shoots and too lengthly to-do lists. We prayed before he went home, thankful for a great day and asking for good sleep and an awareness of God’s presence. I know that not everyone who wants someone to do life with has someone, and sometimes relationships break, fail, abuse, hurt or die. I looked at Collin last night, and I found my heart passionate and thankful that he is here and that he is mine. Collin is one reminder of God’s kindness in my life. He gives of his heart with confidence and grace, and he speaks words that welcome me into his story. He cultivates beauty in my life. He expects goodness.

I love that we are friends.
I love that we are taking our time.
I love that this is the page my life is on.
I love that he is my Valentine.

I was made, among other things, for this, here and now.

Thanks for indulging my need to record a little Valentine’s Day verbiage.

today: february

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s February, and one year ago, North Texas sat still and silent, held captive by sleet. This afternoon, I ran ten miles in 70 degree weather, arriving home sweat-soaked and thirsty. Quite a contrast. It still feels like winter, if not in temperature. It feels like winter, because life moves slower for me this time of year. I find time to think and pray, to create for the sake of creating, to stop and reflect and be. I crave wonder.

It’s February, and I’m looking forward to this month of quiet before things steadily build momentum for the rest of the year. I’m hopeful. And I think there will be stories to share. Last night I sat with friends who were praying for me, and I realized that sometimes I forget to remember all the goodness and grace in my life. For months I’ve lamented the writer’s block that seems to strike whenever I sit down to blog or journal. “I have no stories to tell,” I moan to my audience of no one. But alas, that is untrue. I have stories that weave a beautiful story, a compelling story, a redemption story. I just forget to tell them sometimes.

It’s February, and this blog is written with one purpose: to say it’s time for me to write. So write I shall. And wonder shall ensue. What provokes wonder for you?

tonight: mud

“I love a God who makes mud on the Sabbath.”
-Trent Sheppard

I’ll wear this mud on my face from here to eternity
if it means sight for these blind eyes
because in wearing this mud, a reminder of this
God reaching down, reaching in, holding on
God making mud, setting free
hands letting go
feet running home
depth coaxing soul
life taking hold
this is the process of broken pieces
made whole
God reaching down, reaching in, holding on
God making mud, setting free

I do believe; help my unbelief.

today: the new year, finally

There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.
-G.K. Chesterton

The first trip of 2012, a visit to Bellingham to visit Carla and her family. Carla and I became friends over conversation and coffee in Poland where we did mission work. It’s been over a decade, and our friendship grows and thrives in spite of distance and sporadic connection. We last visited almost two years ago, when her daughter was born. It had been too long.

I arrived to snow in Seattle, and the shuttle that took me north on I-5 crawled as the storm dumped inches and inches of white powder. Cars swerved, some into snowbanks along the sides of the highway. It was slow going getting here.

It’s been slow going these days here too, the temperature creeping down, down, down while the pile of snow went up, up, up all through yesterday. Today the temperature stayed well below freezing. I ventured out for a few minutes for a walk, but other than that, we stayed indoors, simmering chili and baking brownies while we played with little Luci, talking and laughing and enjoying the slow quiet a winter storm allows.

It feels good to be quiet, to sit here with my dear friend. The restfulness of this trip came unexpectedly. At first it seemed like the snow might slow us down; now it’s evident that the whole of this visit will be a full stop. Limited to the confines of Carla’s home, I read and pray. My only work, responding to emails and phone calls. These few days are the perfect beginning to a New Year (of which the first two weeks were spent wrapping up the previous one, at an almost frantic pace). I finally find myself awakening to expectation for all that is to come.

Here all that is before me is to be in the moment in a warm house with yummy food and like-family friends. In this place, my heart has stilled and my mind has calmed. I hear God whispering words true and love deep that makes me anticipate this new year. The last year passed a whirlwind, beautiful and busy and at times chaotic. I grew a business and a relationship and traveled a lot of miles and photographed many, many families. My sister married; my brother got engaged. My dad had and recovered from a stroke. When I stopped and reflected throughout the year, I was mostly grateful but often tired.

This year God’s whisperings are of life full and thriving, of learning quiet and rest, of trust and generosity. He invites me to leave behind the chaos and the busy, challenging me to believe more is possible. Perhaps I will learn to sleep and rest and play right in the midst of it all- is this not life abundant? Perhaps so doing will eradicate the chaos. I wonder if that is what could be.

I guess this serves as my new year’s post, a couple weeks in. More to come, hopefully soon.

today: Potager

“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”
-Michael Pollan

The year’s end arrives with unseasonably warm weather resulting in a respite of outdoor activity under a canopy of blue. Did Christmas really pass last week? The rush leading up to the holiday literally ended Christmas Eve, and I stood in church with a lit candle singing “Silent Night” trying to remember silence. My family gathered, we celebrated sans one brother and one sister, and by Boxing Day, all I wanted was my own heavenly peace to sleep in. I love the end of the year and the way it makes me want to reflect and daydream. I become a child awake to the wonder of possibility, infinite. It seems we are wired to ponder life on a grandiose scale when the first day of a new year stares us down.

I’ve never been the type to make resolutions, but tonight I sat around a dinner table with Collin, his sister and her beau, and I hoped for some things for 2012. We ate at a little place in Arlington that we love, Potager Cafe, an outside-the-box, hole-in-the-wall with real food and genuine community. You can eat as much as you like from the menu comprised of local fare. It changes based on what is available. You pay what you want to pay for your meal. Tonight a diner at another table offered Collin a glass of wine from the bottle on his table when Collin asked if it was good. Cynthia owns the place, and she hugged me when I left, wishing us a happy new year and promising to email me about an idea we’ve discussed the last few times I’ve eaten there. These things happen at Potager. We love it.

After dinner, we ran errands before Collin headed home so he could get to bed early, as a long ride owns the entirety of his Saturday morning. I kept thinking about Potager. The food is always good there (outstanding, really), but I’m not sure that’s all that keeps me going back. When I eat at Potager, I find myself invited to dinner at a place where conversation flows easy, and no one is a stranger. I don’t know how to explain the dynamic, but the uniqueness strikes me. And I hope to be the kind of person in 2012 who forgets the boxes that social norms create and who remembers that people matter and so does the way we interact with the world.

I think that’s the appeal of Potager. The business model isn’t the type to attract investors: no set prices and an environment that beckons patrons to want to stay long after they’ve finished eating. But I don’t think Cynthia measures the success of her business in profits (though I think she’s paying her bills). I suspect she understands something about the nature of community and the importance of stewarding the earth. She’s created a unique space in the middle of Arlington that resembles a hodge podge family dining room. When you’re at Potager, you’re in the midst of a better story than the typical American eatery.

Real food grown in a garden out back or procured from local farmers prepared simply with real ingredients? Do people eat like that any more? And while eating like that we slow down and learn the names of the people around us and rub shoulders with their stories, if only for a few minutes. We leave full and refreshed- every single time we eat there. Did I mention we love it?

“It feels like church,” I told Collin when we left tonight. He countered that it is better than church, because you don’t have to keep up an appearance to experience a good meal at Potager. Though that’s a post for another day, I say that to say this: in 2012, I hope to be the kind of person who imagines and creates unique spaces that allow genuine community to exist and thrive. I hope to take the kind of photographs that invoke emotion and start conversation. I hope to write the kind of words that provoke the telling of a better story. I hope to live in such a way that heavenly peace is never far off, because the reality of the presence of God holds my attention day in and day out, leaving me full and refreshed and able to fill and refresh others.

I am a child awake to possibility, infinite. Yes.

today: christmas

a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

O Holy Night

“…I do believe; help my unbelief…”

Mark 9:24

In the midst of anticipating Christmas this year, a funeral. She was an 18-year-old college freshman from Collin’s cycling community, struck by a car while riding her bike in North Carolina. She died ten days before Christmas. I met Megan only once, but Collin knew her. Attending a funeral for a girl just stepping into womanhood shocks the system with a forced focus on the aching fractures that exist in the world. The heart breaks, because what else is it to do? The heart breaks and the soul longs for a different story. We long for the world to be set right.

Reading the Scriptures and pondering the Christmas story following Megan’s death made me hunger for God who became man to meet me, to meet us here, now. In any untimely death the questions that come first are often why questions, but that’s not exactly where I landed. My questions arose from looking at the celebration of Christmas coming so soon after the funeral. How does this get set right?

My love of the Bible sometimes leads me, perhaps, to over-familiarity with the over-arching narrative. I forget to remember the significance of a God who came, of the word made flesh, of his life, of his death, of his resurrection. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold the story of a poor baby born to restore history, God swaddled in tattered rags, fully Himself in human skin. It’s a magnificent story, really, that God so loved, that God so gave. That we have life. The world left to it’s own devices is indeed weary. Without the Jesus story, our hope falters and fails.

Last night I prayed for grace and peace for Megan’s family and friends. May they know their loss and longings grieve God. I remembered the Jesus who wept before he raised his friend from the dead. Death wasn’t a part of the story when God made and called this world good. I feel wide awake to the reality that we need something, someone greater to come, to heal, to touch, to redeem.

And we have God, who humbled himself, who became like us, who came. And I don’t understand how it all works, but I do know this: we have great hope. And so I hope. Living that hope out here and now looks like grace and peace. It looks like food for the poor and wholeness for the hurting. It looks like love in the face of hatred, plenty in the hands of want. May we so live.