When you show up for a photo shoot and are offered a glass of Prosecco when you walk through the door, it’s a good indicator that a pretty great evening is about to unfold. This family here knows how to make a visitor feel at home. The session itself, on the beach as the sun was starting to set, was relaxed and enjoyable. Once we declared it finished, the girls asked to swim in the lake, wearing what they had on, and their parents didn’t even bat an eye at the request. “Sure!” they said, and the three of us sat in the sand and watched them laugh and splash and live fully in the moment. It was an important reminder for me to slow it down and savor what is left of this already dwindling summer. Getting to know the wonderful families in my community is such a sweet, sweet perk to this job!
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times and at others, move forward with it.”
- Ray Bradbury
In the process of growing up, those first pangs of disappointment when life veers far away from your best laid plans can sting so profoundly. Everything in you wants to stay there in place, pouting and weeping, and banging futilely on the closed and locked door to your perceived desires. With time and experience, however, and the benefit of hindsight, you learn that what you want isn’t always what you need.
The sooner you let go and pray for the strength to change directions, the sooner you’ll develop the thick skin and resilient spirit necessary to thrive in any circumstance. Train your eyes to focus on silver linings; that’s where contentment is found.
I feel so much safer knowing this guy’s out there fighting crime!
I don’t fear the questions any more. I know that they are all part of the process of coming to union with God and refusing to make an idol of anything less. The point is that during that difficult time I didn’t try to force anything. I simply lived in the desert believing that whatever life I found there was life enough for me. I believed that God was in the darkness. It is all part of the purification process and should be revered. It takes away from us our paltry little definitions of God and brings us face-to-face with the Transcendent. It is not to be feared. It is simply to be experienced. Then, God begins to live in us without benefit of recipes and rituals, laws, and “answers”—of which there are, in the final analysis, none at all.
– Sister Joan Chittister
It is impossible to adequately put into words what was never meant to be hemmed in by words, but rather lived. I could never be “talked” into or out of my Orthodox Christian beliefs. The less dependent I am on “making sense of it all,” in fact, the more wide open I become to finding salvation in everyone and everything.
When the world seems like it’s falling apart, and I am in danger of falling apart myself due to the chaos of it all, like the apostle Peter I pry my focus off of the storm and onto Christ. Have mercy, I simply, humbly, pray, on all of us.
And I keep on praying for mercy, in whatever mysterious form God deems best, while I work and serve and create in the present moment, assuming nothing but pouring everything – my every hope – into the heaven I experience when showing and receiving Christ-like love.
I do not fear the questions. I need no explanations. The older I get, the more child-like my faith becomes.
Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.
- Meister Eckhart
Be in the world yet not of it. What a difficult commandment, one impossible to pin down with boundaries and absolutes. Yet we have to guide us Christ’s example of immersing Himself in humanity, with all its messy sorrows and sinfulness, hunger and frailties. He sacrificed His comfort and reputation to meet hurting people where they were at, rather than slink away and avoid that which was complicated and unsavory - rather than playing it safe.
Oh, but that kind of love is too demanding, and risky! It’s too illogical for us who feel much more at ease with proofs and answers than Mystery. That kind of sacrificial love requires prayer for strength and wisdom every second, lest we slip back into our default mode of self-centeredness, and judging our fellow man instead of showering him or her with mercy.
To cease leaning on my own understanding, to embrace salvation via love, I participate in the life of the Church. By fusing myself to Christ’s Body, through Her sacraments and saints, I have access to the necessary tools for an eternal heavenly, rather than earthly, perspective. I can then let go of my pride and fear, placing all of my hope in God alone. I can, through Christ, give, and give, and give, expecting nothing in return.
“Dear God, please reveal to us your sublime beauty, that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, so that we will never again feel frightened.”
- St. Francis of Assisi