I woke this morning to an unusual amount of reminders that so many are presently in the midst of upheaval. Today thus I am asking myself how to live in such a way that is respectful of the fight for courage and stamina being battled all around me. Are we not all only a phone call, an accident, a natural disaster, a diagnosis away from having to take up arms ourselves? Fear is not the answer, neither is ignorance or distraction. I must enter into the reality that there is another Reality, the Reality, centered around the purification and salvation of our souls – a mysterious Reality in which holding tight to pettiness and greediness is tragically ludicrous.
I long to proceed from here with purpose. Purpose (to me, anyway) equals eye contact, warmth, gratitude, creativity, prayer, industriousness, simplicity, breaking bread with one’s neighbor. Purpose says to hell with gossip, envy, insecurity, splitting hairs and, most of all, pride. Pride is nasty and blinding and binding and the opposite of a life lived to its fullest. Pride will trick me if I’m not vigilant into assuming I know better than you, or am more important than her, or less in need of forgiveness than him. Purpose is weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice.
I believe in both Love and eternity, and am truly most content when putting that feeble faith into hope-filled, light-filled action. Forgive me my callousness, laziness, selfishness and vanity. Peace be with you who are scared, overwhelmed, lonely, sad, sick, suffering – it is you to whom Christ reveals Himself in all His illogical, unearthly grace and truth, cutting straight through the damning fluff of triviality. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on us all!
By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns
We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
And the few willing to listen demanded that we confess on television.
So we kept our sins to ourselves, and they became less troubling.
The halt and the lame arranged to have their hips replaced.
Lepers coated their sores with a neutral foundation, avoided strong light.
The hungry ate at grand buffets and grew huge, though they remained hungry.
Prisoners became indistinguishable from the few who visited them.
Widows remarried and became strangers to their kin.
The orphans finally grew up and learned to fend for themselves.
Even the prophets suspected they were mad, and kept their mouths shut.
Only the poor—who are with us always—only they continued in the hope.
I was up again last night, only this time because my mind was chock full of ideas and couldn’t shut itself off. See, I’m growing this dream of becoming a photographer for real – like the kind that hands out business cards and offers photo packages. I’ve got quite a bit to figure out of course – a lot to figure out, and it’s way too easy when staring down such a time and energy-consuming challenge for me to become overwhelmed, to the point of paralysis. But this time I do believe the drive is there, and the love is there, to soldier on. Being older helps, and having been rejected as a writer helps, in that I’ve been there and done that as far as comparing myself to others and lamenting my shortcomings in light of their crazy awesome talents.
It took years to digest the freeing fact there’s room for everyone’s unique voice as far as creative expression is concerned, and that really, when it comes down to it, success in any field hinges on persistent hard work and a refusal to stay down when knocked down. Trial and error, baby! That’s where the breakthroughs lie waiting to rush in and lead us forward. Finally tearing through a mental roadblock, after having bumped up hard against it ad nauseam, is electrifying.
All that to say, I’ve no idea where this passion will carry me but I’m committed to appreciating the incremental daily steps along the journey. This afternoon that included pouring over photography books at Barnes and Noble while sipping coffee and taking notes. I’m praying for the discipline to be patient with myself, gentle with myself, and respectful of the process.
Here’s to new tricks, and the courage it takes for middle-aged moms to learn them!
Read MoreWhen we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable. – Madeleine L’Engle
I managed to fire off these shots while at the pool with my kids right before my camera went to the repair shop. I loved that this challenge helped me see the overlooked rugged beauty of wood. Thanks, Amber, for opening my eyes a little wider.
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By Reginald Gibbons b. 1947 Reginald Gibbons
for Maxine Kumin
A cylinder of maple
set in place, feet spread apart—
and the heavy maul, fat as a hammer
but honed like an axe, draws
a semicircle overhead and strikes
through the two new halves
to leave the steel head sunk
a half-inch in the block and the ash
handle rigid in the air.
A smack of the palm, gripping as it hits
the butt end, and the blade
rolls out of the cut. The half-logs
are still rocking on the flagstones.
So much less than what we have been
persuaded to dream, this necessity for wood
might have sufficed, but it is what
we have been taught to disown and forget.
Yet just such hardship is what saves.
For if the stacked cords
speak of felled trees, of countless
five-foot logs flipped end over end downhill
till the blood is wrung from your back
and snowbound warmth must seem
so far off you would rather freeze,
yet each thin tongue torn from the grain
when log-halves were sundered at one stroke
will sing in the stove.
To remind you of hands. Of how
mere touch is song in the silence
where hands live—the song of muddy bark,
the song of sawdust like cornmeal and down,
and the song of one hand over another,
two of us holding the last length of the log
in the sawbuck as inches away the chainsaw
keeps ripping through hickory.
My Nikon D5000 is in the hospital, known also as Gary’s Camera shop. I took her in to get the flash repaired, which had ceased firing for some reason, and was given a stern talking to from the owner about the dusty dirty state of my lenses, my camera bag and the camera’s sensor. So I had to admit her, though it tore at my heart to do so. She’ll be gone for three weeks but will hopefully be good as brand new when I pick her up again. I also just invested in a fancy portrait lens and am giddy, giddy with excitement about the prospect of a higher quality lens on a cleaned up, fixed up camera. Learning a new hobby, even this late in the game, is such a fulfilling thrill.
OK, enough about lenses, and sensors, and flashes. I understand, based on the bored expressions of my own family members when I go on too long about the nuts and bolts of photography, this may not be as interesting to you as it is to me. So how about instead, I share a few photos I shot last week of some really adorable kids. Thanks to my sister-in-law and her sisters for letting me practice on their little ones!
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
- Ray BradburyRead More
Last night my mental checklist of things to do got all funky and freaky. In the dark, tame apprehensions morphed into wild irrational threats to my peace of mind. In the haze of half-awakeness, tiny setbacks felt like insurmountable failures, and potential bumps in the road like looming mountains of doom. “Get behind me!’ I demanded, but still those anxious thoughts lingered, snaking their slithery fear mongering exaggerations around the ” I know better” parts of my brain. Lord have mercy, I chanted, until my breathing returned to normal and exhaustion prevailed over worry.
I slept fitfully.
Then came morning, and with the light of day instantaneous relief. Gone were the shadows darkening my reasonings; new were God’s mercies.
The farther I travel down this twisted and narrow path, the less I know for sure – the greater the Mystery.
I need help. Christ IS help. Leaning into that help is good.
Leaning into that help is all I can do…well, that and to never ever forget how vulnerable I am to doubt, greed and pride – much too vulnerable to judge anyone, of anything.
I’m keeping it simple:
Love God. Love you.
And that will keep me plenty busy for a lifetime.
“There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hand and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord help!” God knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy.” - Abba Macarius