Tuesday, February 2, 2016

on pioneering our paths

Morgan in action!

"Will I ever get used to it?"

My friend Lois had taken a selfie after ripping open and trying on her brand new clerical collar* and sent it to her friend Morgan.  Lois had been preparing for a long time to become ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal church and this was the question on her mind as she donned the outward signs of what was happening in her heart.  Morgan gave us an account of the conversation in her homily during Lois' ordination service. Her answer via text was something along the lines of "Oh, yes, don't worry.  You totally will,"  a friendly off the cuff answer.  But Morgan had the insight to dig deeper and give a real answer on Saturday in front of the church which I think speaks to all believers alike.

Morgan looked at Lois and in front of everybody said that the real worst and best answer to the question of getting used to this calling was actually, "No.  You never will.  And thank God."

The adventure of walking with God and serving Him is never dull and never, ever stagnant.  He constantly pushes us, stretches us, and teaches us something new with every new day, every word of scripture read, every relational struggle.  It may not always be easy and it surely won't be a comfortable journey, but it will be GOOD.  The best Journey leading to the greatest Home for the longest of Times.

So thanks for the reminder, Morgan.  And thanks for the inspiration, Lois, in your friendship and your service for these years our paths have crossed.

Here's to never getting used to the life He's called us to as His children and servants.

Amen.  And Onward!

*I'm not unsure about Episcopal terminology and this may not be correct, but you catch my drift.  I do treasure all my ecumenical friendships considering them a great gift! 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

just like a song

Here we are, not so very young anymore but still youngish, right?

I can't help humming along with Adele - When We Were Young

It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
My God, this reminds me
Of when we were young

When we were young
When we were young
When we were young
When we were young

Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized
We were sad of getting old
It made us restless
I'm so mad I'm getting old
It makes me reckless
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
When we were young

Ice Up South Highlands


Our church and its grand live oak trees sit on a hill on Ockley Drive (Ockley is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "oaks").  Winds of trial and adversity have blown here for a number of years, but the tide has been turning for a while now and I could almost feel the winds blowing warmer at our last event- Ice Up South Highlands.  We invited our neighborhood and community to join us for smores and music and crawfish and food trucks and a giant ice slide and the resulting convergence of thousands (a couple thousand!) people gathering among these oaks was as encouraging as it was astounding.  Our staff is a God-honoring, people-loving united team and I am so grateful, but even more than that, I'm so thankful for the ways God is bolstering us, encouraging us, and enabling us to be a light.  On a hill.

...They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

eyes to serve

"Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn."  Mumford & Sons 

If the Lord gives me a long life, I know what I want to do when I'm 65, 70, 80 years old. I want to be the old lady who comes to your house and stays all day so that she can tell the story of your days with little ones- that old lady that looks for  the light in your home and grabs hold of it, catching it, and wrestling it down into images printed in a book.  

I drove to Dallas tonight to do my first Day in the Life photography session with a sweet young family with two lovely and lively little boys.  I'll be here all day to capture their waking moments, their bedtime stories, and all the beauty of an ordinary day in between. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I can't wait.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

suffering, a monkey garden, and some rules to live by

Six kids can be easier than the biological three.  They would play all together, Anna Grace directing like a circus ring leader, then they would pair off.  Circus, pairs, circus, pairs...

There she was, standing in the kitchen of our house that sounds like a playground.  My eleven-year-old wonder was pigtailed and poised, giving her speech on the cause and effects of tornadoes when my eyes brimmed with happiness.  How is she herself?  What a miracle, this person.  I later read Ann Voskamp's exposition on the beauty of life and gratitude in suffering and it took my heart swell up a notch.  What a beautiful, terrible world we live in- a holy experience indeed.  

I just finished Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street.  With respect and admiration for such gorgeous prose, I treasured this little book that mixed joy and sorrow in a stew of beauty. 

My favorite excerpt from the chapter "The Monkey Garden:"

"There were sunflowers big as flowers on Mars and thick cockscombs bleeding red fringe of theater curtains.  There were dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies turning somersaults and humming in the air.  Sweet sweet peach trees.  Thorn roses and thistle and pears.  Weeds like so many squinty-eyed stars and brush that made your ankles itch and itch until you washed with soap and water.  There were big green apples hard as knees.  And everywhere the sleepy smell of rotting wood, damp earth and dusty hollyhocks thick and perfumy like the blue-blond hair of the dead. 

Yellow spiders ran when we turned rocks over and pale worms blind and afraid of light rolled over in their sleep.  Poke a stick in the sandy soil and a few blue-skinned beetles would appear, an avenue of ants, so many crusty lady bugs.  This was a garden, a wonderful thing to look at in the spring.  But bit by bit, after the monkey left, the garden began to take over itself.  Flowers stopped obeying the little bricks that kept them from growing beyond their paths.  Weeds mixed in.  Dead cars appeared overnight like mushrooms.  First one and then another and then a pale blue pickup with the front windshield missing.  Before you knew it, the monkey garden became filled with sleepy cars. 

Things had a way of disappearing in the garden, as if the garden itself ate them, or, as if with its old-man memory, it put them away and forgot them....

...This, I suppose, was the reason why we went there.  Far away from where our mothers could find us.  We and a few dogs who lived inside the empty cars.  We made a clubhouse once on the back of that old blue pickup.  And besides, we liked to jump from the roof of one car to another and pretend they were giant mushrooms. 

Somebody started the lie that the monkey garden had been there before anything.  We liked to think the garden could hide things for a thousand years.  There beneath the roots of soggy flowers were the bones of murdered pirates and dinosaurs, the eye of a unicorn turned to coal."  

 If you are an artist (read: if there is breath in your lungs), I have found Momastery's Three Rules for Surviving a Creative Life right on the money.  Read the article, but in short it is simple: 

1.  Create

2.  Call it good!

3.  Rest

Amen and Onward! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

bathroom art

Certain scriptures are sewn into my heart and memory because of the cross-stitch lining of my childhood home's walls.  My mother's creative gifting was with a needle and thread, but I'm a camera and computer kind of girl so it looks a little different, but the end goal is the same- visual scripture memory without even trying.  I'm so excited about my new bathroom art!

Friday, January 15, 2016

right where we are

We no longer have a cabinet full of sippy cups and we don't own a stroller. Even our toy cabinet looks different- it's Nerf instead of Thomas and Battleship instead of Matchbox. All three of our little people are now big- all in elementary school, all old enough to hustle and stay together in a crowd, all capable of making their own breakfasts, all big and too old for me to coddle them like I want to sometimes because where did my babies even go?  

But it's true- we've entered a new stage of life, us Chaneys.  And as much as I loved and will miss those babies and toddlers, we're jumping for joy right where we are.

Because if we blink too long, we'll miss it.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

a blanketing wonder

 "You can never have too much sky."  Sandra Cisneros

We were sitting around a backyard firepit discussing the astronomy app Jack recently got for his iphone (I think it's this one?) and I brought up Cisneros' notion that you can never have too much sky.

Isn't it true?  

It is perspective and beauty- an ever-changing wonder blanketing us with its protection and provision- light and water.

I absolutely agree.

You can never have too much sky.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

rock star fuddy duddies

John Harrigan in his natural habitat and his beautiful wife Lydia

A friend who knows us really really well (as pictured above- go buy his new book and be blessed by it!) said on his recent 3 day, 2 night visit to our house, "You know... the Chaneys give off this rock star front, but really, they are just a couple of fuddy duddies."

We laughed and laughed because the fuddy duddy part is so so very very true.  It still makes me giggle.

Take this, for example.  My other friends, the Bethards, are rock-star fun fuddy duddies, too.  And we had a BLAST taking this picture for an upcoming fundraising event (PROM for grown-ups, y'all!), but just before this picture, we were eating lentil soup and trying to visit while I was at the same time trying to help my daughter write a report about Grover Cleveland while Asher was frustrating his sweet little friend Gray by putting pizza sauce in her hair.  And after this picture, we got frozen yogurt and rushed home so that we could stay near our all-family-member bedtime of 8:30 pm.  We love early mornings and early bedtimes (because we hope and pray we all get some sleep- it eludes us so often) and fuddy duddy is right!

Because life is hard and it makes us tired.  We have so much joy and love and great moments, but as we all know, the second law of thermodynamics of our fallen world has us on an entropy-induced road of messes, messes, and more messes.

And then I came across this yesterday (thanks, NTG):

"The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world:  but joy, pleasure, and merriment he has scattered broadcast.   We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God*:  a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."  CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

So yes, we are definitely rock star fuddy duddies with enough joy to catch glimpses of the goodness of our Creator and enough pain to ache for His return.

Thanks, John, for yet another truth bomb my friend.  Rock on!

*I would add here, an obstacle of our hope of His return to make all things new

Saturday, January 2, 2016

my 2015 testimony

What did your 2015 look like?  Was it what you expected?  What gifts were you given?  What trials did you walk through?

For the most part, my 2015 was full of an abundance of blessing- growing children, a healthy marriage, rich friendships, general health, and enough of everything that we need. 

However, I was really hoping our house would sell this year so that we could move on to a place with a bit more square footage for my growing family.  That and maybe more job certainty and stability for my husband (could oil prices just go up already?).  We prayed and prayed for those things.  But even though we didn't get them- even though God clearly said "no" and "wait"- He gave us the grace we needed to have dinner parties and slumber parties and gatherings galore anyway.  He gave us new ways of seeing our little home and patience with this frustrating thing of a showing and selling a house.

He also emphasized what it means to be poor in spirit: knowing that in every moment no matter how much or how little we have, we are completely and utterly dependent on God for our everything. 

So at face value, 2015 wasn't a banner year of wealth and prosperity, but it was a year RICH in good gifts:  peace, contentment, patience, and joy.  We haven't perfected the art of living in these truths every moment, but there is no doubt that these are the gifts of the year and they are good.  This is my 2015 testimony.

There will be both celebration and suffering in 2016 no doubt- it's the world in which we live.  But my God is good and we'll endeavor to remember to thank Him in the midst of both. 

Happy 2016, friends! 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

San Antonio 2015

A family getaway after Christmas is becoming a bit of a tradition for my little crew, filling that lull between Christmas and New Year's quite nicely.  Ole San Antone had quite a bit to offer for the whole family, so off we went.  And here is our review. 

 1.  The San Antonio Riverwalk

The downtown riverwalk is a beautiful site at this time of year with all the millions of Christmas lights reflecting off of the water, but beware of the mass of humanity walking its banks and filling it restaurants to overflowing at this time of year. Mass of humanity.  Hotel Contessa, our home base for four nights, is perched right on its banks so that first night when we rolled in hungry, we set out not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  But we survived the crowds and ended up at Barriba Cantina where the Tex-Mex was pretty good and the live music was fabulous.  And boy was I proud of the kids for enduring that mess.  All our people can walk and keep up and it's an exciting place to be when your youngest is 5 years old and pretty self sufficient.  All you parents of little ones, take heart! You will get there, too, and it will be glorious!

2. The Alamo

We highly recommend watching the movie before you go to get some good historical context.  We sure were glad we did.  The Alamo is an interesting downtown relic albeit a little underwhelming and small compared to what it once was.  Still, we're glad we went.

After the Alamo, we took a boat tour of the Riverwalk.  We made some funny memories here, but we recommend you skip it.

3.  Floore's Country Store

I LOVED this place.  Off the beaten path in Helotes, Texas, we hit it just right on family night and the burgers were good and the line dancing made my heart so happy.  Fun place not to be missed.

4.  Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch 

The kids, especially Anna Grace, loved this.  And we have a hilarious video that I will treasure always.  

 5.  Pearl Brewery District

We ventured to this hipster paradise for lunch and ate at La Gloria- kid friendly and good guacamole.  Two thumbs up!

Hotel Contessa really was perfect and the rooftop pool was a plus for burning off energy.

Girls night/boys night was fun, too.  The boys caught a Spurs game (the "go spurs" won by 100 points according to Asher) while AG and I caught a movie.  Beautiful!  

6.  Natural Bridge Caverns

I was a big fan of this, but Zeke liked it the most I think.  Well worth the cost.

 7.  The Gristmill in Gruene

It was nice to take a little Texas Hill Country drive to Gruene- not too far away from San Antonio and it's just the best.

these three made LOTS of videos! 

 9.  The Esquire Tavern

Date night was supposed to be at Bella on the River, but you needed a reservation that we didn't make, so we ended up at the Esquire- somewhere straight out of a Wes Anderson film.  Great atmosphere and good food- it opened in 1933 and it certainly retains a lot of the feel of that era.

10.  the Old Time Photo

Across from the Alamo.  Need I say more?  MY FAVORITE!!!! 

To keep it real, I've got to tell you that it wasn't perfect and we almost had to turn around (probably should have) on day three heading to the wildlife ranch because of bad behavior, but we certainly made a lot of memories together and I consider it one of the best gifts God gave us in 2015.

"Remember the Alamo!"  will mean a lot to us Chaneys for years to come.