Tuesday, September 20, 2016

photography as a prayer

Give us this day our daily bread.  

Asher and his waffle sit in front of a candle in our pre-dawn fog.  

This was my photo prayer this morning and then the most amazing thing happened.   I have a momma-type friend who pops in unannounced from time to time.  No text or anything- she just comes by.  And after a morning (and actually a stretch of days) full of discouragement and worry and stress, she comes on in, folds mounds of my clothes, and then holds me while she prays.  And then she jets off like the angel-person that she is. 

Man, I want to be like her one day.  

She was an answer to a prayer I feel like I didn't even really pray.  

Daily bread.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

thin margins, profound miracles

On the surface, this looks like a normal, run-of-the-mill family picture- one to save for the scrapbook. Seventy "likes" on Facebook, mostly from older people and maybe that's because older people can see the miracle.  

But this is four generations of Chaney men, assembled together in one place, all smiling on Don Chaney's front porch in Clinton, Louisiana on the occasion of his 90th birthday. 

And I'll tell you why it is no ordinary picture, but rather a great miracle.  

from left to right:  Bill, Don, Jack, Asher, and Zeke Chaney,  four generations of Chaney LSU tiger fans

1.  They each were born.  

You are a miracle.  Dr. Ali Binazir wrote a fascinating article a few years ago about the chances of each of us being born as ourselves.  Turns out, the chances of even one of these guys being born as themselves is way less than one turtle in all of the oceans peeking its head through one life preserver on the first try.  Turns out, the chances are less than all the known atoms in the universe, or approximately 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000th power.   Each one of these guys is a miracle as are you.  As is every single person breathing air on Planet Earth.  

2.  They each survived until now.

PawPaw Chaney missed World War II by a thin margin.  Bill was in college for Vietnam.  Heart disease, car accidents, cancer, mental illness or any of the dangers and perils of this fallen and broken world hasn't taken them. They weren't miscarried or murdered, crippled by anger or addiction.  Here they stand.  Another statistical anomaly.

3.  They stand together in love.  

No one is estranged from the other, no hearts hardened to the point of not caring.  They care deeply for each other, are invested in one another and not one of them would disown the other.  This doesn't always happen in families because the world is hard and broken just like our hearts.  Another rarity.  

So you see, this picture is amazing.  As amazing as seeing an albino alligator on the walk into Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.  In fact, more amazing.   

It's a miracle and it's a gift.  And of course, all good gifts come down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change but changes all of our hearts from hard to soft when we let him.

a beautiful celebration

Don Chaney, 90 years old, with his four kids: Bill, Susan, Nancye, and Pat

I don't have a four generation picture from my side of the family- I wish I did.  Hopefully I will someday, but more miracles will have to be born for that to happen, so I wait.   

But if you have four generations alive and well that love one another, don't wait.  Capture it.  

Because it's a profound miracle.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

blue skies and a *little* dirt

Asher jumped off this platform over and over and over

another great Labor Day... eucharisteo.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

a little bit of them: cousin reunion 2016

I heard this song (thank you George Strait, you are the best) on my run Saturday morning- of course it was the perfect memorial song for our daddies and grandfather and grandmother we are missing this weekend as our Dent family gathered again.  If you watch it to the end and if you know our family, you might need to grab a tissue.  Grief and grace mix and both can yank a tear.

Love you, my family!  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

full circle

At my friend Rachel's photo shoot, her sister took pics of me doing my thing and I had no idea.  Thanks Samira Sayad Photography! 

"God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.  He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'"  Job 37:5-6

"I love the freedom and grace that flood through me when I read this passage from Job.
God says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth.'  That's it.  Just do one thing... Essentially, he's saying:  just do the thing I've created you to do.  You're rain: so rain. You're snow: so snow.
I love the simplicity of that, the tremendous weight that takes off my shoulders.  God's asking me to be the thing he's created me to be.  And he's asking you to be the thing he's already created for you to be...
Think about your adolescent self, your child self, the 'you' you've always been.  God imprinted a sacred, beautiful collection of passions and capacities right onto your heart:  what do you love?  What does your passion bubble over for?
So much of adulthood is peeling off the layers of expectation and pressure, and protecting those precious things that lie beneath.  We live in a culture that shouts, that prescribes rather narrowly what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a success, what it means to live a valuable life.
But those definitions require us to live on a treadmill, both literally and figuratively, always hustling to fit in...
The snow is only meant, created, commanded to fall.  The rain is only meant, created, commanded to pour down.  You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely."                                                                                              an excerpt from Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist 

Me?  I've learned that God meant, created, commanded me to do a few things and one of those things is catch some light and some moments with a camera.

I'm bummed it took me as long as it did to realize, but still, I'm grateful for the journey and the coming back around to my child self, my photo loving, camera wearing self.  Full circle.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

porch dancing, best birthdays ever, and all the miracles

This morning when Asher leaned over a plate of hot bacon, inhaled deeply and exhaled with an "ahhhh" and a smile, I thought of all the gifts.

Life is such a miracle.

steady rain outside, laughter and dancing porch-side Thursday night 

Meg's 35th birthday and it was epic with ping pong and tacos and confetti

I saw this mural and had my camera and told my friends to go do something crazy awkward.  Keep in mind, my friend does not drink and has all her senses about her- she just doesn't give a what and I LOVE IT! 

Not pictured: so many more things.  The early morning run with NTG, the take out with Kathy (in her new home in Shreveport!!!), a gaggle of kids jumping on the trampoline in the backyard, all the earth and dirt all over me from planting stuff, the spinachy veggie tacos, Zeke's golf date with his grandfather, Anna Grace's great dog rescuing adventure and her constant singing, the strawberry pie... all the things.  All the gifts.

Grateful.  A little tired maybe, but grateful.

"Turn to the window and wait for the sun to rise, to keep always rising.  Never stop being surprised that it does, never get over the miracle that you get to see it."  A Voskamp

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

a speed bump for the journey

I haven't quite finished Shauna Niequist's book Present Over Perfect yet, but I sure can recommend it. And it's not even that I totally relate to Shauna's journey, her being a very driven extrovert who has to pry her fingers off of perfect.  That's not me.  I love being alone and I love silence and I tell people all the time I don't do perfect and don't they know it.  That's not to say I've arrived, of course.  My journey is riddled with its own landmines.  I should probably be reading books entitled, What If You Tried To Do Your Best More Often? or Call That Person Back: Human Interactions Won't Kill You or Diligence is a Virtue. Even so, I can definitely relate to the themes of this new book- valuing deep and true connection over superficial charm, vulnerability, slowing down, giving up on things that don't matter, and pushing back on the culture that has us going, going, going all the live long day and tuning into the Spirit.  "Hustle is the opposite of heart," says Shauna, and I do agree indeed.  It's a good book, a long exhale in a world full of huffing and puffing or a speed bump for life when you're going 90 to nothing.  Go get you a copy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

sorrow-and-grace kind of rain

baby Amelia at her grandfather's memorial service
 It was only a bit overcast at the graveside service that morning, but it started raining again the afternoon of the funeral.  I keep marveling about how strange the rains are- coming right on cue to the sorrow I see and feel.  Of course, it's not all sorrow- it may be a sorrow-and-grace kind of rain.  As soon as the preacher started reading the passage, I was sure of it again - that great cloud of witnesses are alive and well, ready to celebrate with us as we pass to eternity.   I had stared again at my father's headstone as the flag over my uncle's casket was lifted and folded and how could I not think of my dad and my uncle and my grandmother and my grandfather and even my little baby all gathering and witnessing and celebrating?

It wasn't as hot as it could have been for East Texas in August, either.  I can't understand how hot my brother must have been in his dress coat and tie, but even as he blasted the a/c when we got in the car, I marveled at the temp.  Seventy nine degrees is unheard of for this time of year even if it is a little steamy.  It was a break.  Just like the songs that kept popping up before during and after this season of all this tragedy.  Or the way my uncle kept putting his arm around me like a daddy.  Or the friend who did my laundry while I was away.  Or the beautiful dreams I dreamt on Friday night.

Hopefully this funeral season is over for a while.  The sun is out today- finally- and maybe my spirits will lift. I think about my cousin's baby Amelia- a new life, bright eyed and beautiful.  And my kids, so full of energy and hilarity.  I heard this song, "Another Story" by The Head and The Heart on a run the other day:

"I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change much
The sun still rises
Even with the pain

I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change love
The sun still rises
Even through the rain."

So does the sun rise.

And we go on as best we can, grieving but with great hope.

ah, my sweet brother

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

back at it again with the white shirts!

Zeke wants to be an engineer, Anna Grace an actress, and Asher a worship leader. 
 Who was it that said we don't get to keep these moments, we only get to witness them?  It's true.  Here I am, watching these kids grow up and the moments fly by.  Our girl is off to middle school.  Middle school!  My head spins and eyes leak tears of joy and grief of these moments not kept but treasured all the same.

Here's to a great year, friends!

Friday, August 12, 2016

many waters

I usually reserve my last morning at the beach for a sunrise walk so that I can play with all the light drama of twilight and dawn.  But this vacation was bookended by storms and so I was confined to my balcony that last morning.  It was a red flag day and the beach was dark and empty except for one silhouette of a person I could just barely make out.  He was running and then the rain came down even harder and so he ran to the little water sport station and waited.  The whole big ocean was before me, infinite horizon and a storm, but all I could do was watch this little person waiting, sheltering.  I hoped he would be okay.  After a while, the rain let up and he ran on but I knew that it was another wait-out-the-storm message in a bottle that God kept sending my way.  There was a storm on the front end of this trip and there were rains on the way back but this vacation was a little bit of shelter, a prone positioned, catch your breath kind of wait.

so thankful for all of my people

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it."  Song of Solomon 8:7