Monday, December 25, 2017

playing our best and Divine smiles

I don't remember what scripture he used but I do remember my pastor singing at the end of Sunday morning's sermon.

"Mary nodded, pa rum pa pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my drum for him, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my best for him, pa rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum
Then he smiled at me, pa rum pa pum pum
Me and my drum.

And I kinda lost it- this God who sees us and smiles at us and loves us and rips through heaven and earth just to be with us.  He looks our way, smiles at our feeble but best attempts at using the gifts He's given us. 

Merry Christmas, indeed.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

toasting teacups in the dark: a Christmas reflection

My friend Meg and I are always, always working to capture joy with our cameras.  We thought long and hard about our photography business' slogan, "joy preserved."  We strive to get better and better technically and creatively with every day and this is our gift- playing with light and emotion and moments to convey something that extends even beyond happiness and beyond ourselves- all the way to that enigmatic joy-thing that you know when you see it.

After playing with light and fog this week- our first fun attempt- this image of these sweet sisters toasting teacups in the dark began to stir something in my heart and the joy themes everywhere began to come together.  Culturally, this season is of course all celebration all the time, but the grief this time of year can also be amplified and magnified even in the midst of all the tinsel-strewn Christmas crazy.  And as Matt McCullough exhorts us to do in his article, "Christmas Under Death's Shadow,"  I'm going to be honest about my grief this Christmas.

I grieve that my dad won't be with us to see his gaggle of grandsons gather to celebrate.  He won't give his teenaged granddaughter a big hug or tell her corny jokes.  We won't hear his laughter.

I grieve when I remember that we would have one more wide-eyed and wild-hearted child to wake up to on Christmas morning- the miscarriage was years ago but I still hold the memory.

I grieve for and with my friends who have been dealt a tough hand this season- a fresh cancer diagnosis, broken trust and a broken marriage, a child fighting for her life in ICU- and of course that only scratches the surface of the everywhere-darkness.

And yet, LOVE has come.  And the Word was made flesh, dwelling among us, giving his whole self to push back that darkness, to overturn it, to conquer it once and for all and so we have JOY.

We toast our teacups in the dark and know that Light has come and will come and we don't have to be afraid.  We abide in Joy because of Love- Joy that doesn't ignore the darkness or pretend it isn't there.  We acknowledge it and yet we pick up those teacups still.

So Merry Christmas.

Cheers, friends.

Be honest about your grief and celebrate anyway.  Abide in Joy.  Love has come.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

called to joy

"...Joy is what keeps reality from being sufficient unto itself, which is to say, it keeps reality real, since in this world of multiverses and quantum weirdness, where ninety-five percent of matter and energy we know only to name as 'dark,' it is obvious that reality extends far beyond what our senses can perceive.  So what in the world, or what beyond the world, is calling to us when we are called to joy? 'It is true that the unknown is the largest need of the intellect,' wrote Emily Dickinson in a letter, 'though for it, no one ever thinks to thank God.'" from Joy:100 poems by Christian Wiman

Saturday, December 16, 2017

poetry and french fries

I've recently been toting around Christian Wiman's book, Joy, an anthology of one hundred poems on the subject.  I've been reading excerpts at dinner with friends, in carpool line, and all the places.

At lunch today, Zeke was curious, so I let him read one entitled... wouldn't you know it... "Joy."

"Don't cry, it's only music,"
someone's voice is saying.
"No one you love is dying."
It's only music.  And it was only spring,
the world's unreasoning body
run amok, like a saint's, with glory
that overwhelmed a young girl
into unreasoning sadness.
"Crazy," she told herself,
"I should be dancing with happiness."
But it happened again.  It happens
when we make bottomless love-
there follows a bottomless sadness
which is not despair
but its nameless opposite.
It has nothing to do with the passing of time.
It's not about loss.  It's about
two seemingly parallel lines
suddenly coming together
inside us, in some place
that is still wilderness.
Joy, joy, the sopranos sing,
reaching for the shimmering notes
while our eyes fill with tears.
          -Lisel Mueller
I anticipated more of a shrug and a what-does-that-mean, but instead, Zeke kind of grinned and said to us, "That's deep.  It's kind of like y'all," looking at his dad and me.

It was a silly sweet moment- something to cherish.


Ah marriage... it's not always happy and easy- not at all- but it's good.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

unwanted Christmas guests and what to do about them

Cancer doesn't care that it's Christmas.

His friends Anxiety and Addiction and Discouragement and Fear and don't care either- they taunt and jeer while their Godfather Death looks on with approval.  These are the uninvited, unwanted, and joy-crushing Christmas guests that mock our looking up and Advent-waiting.  Consumerism with its ersatz appeal aims to distract us so much that we forget the truth of Christmas all together.  We know they're killing and stealing our Hope and Peace vibe, but they've dug their heels in and they're not going anywhere.  What to do then?

The learned Jeff Raines spoke this morning about Peace at Christmas, about Paul telling the church in Philippi to "Rejoice in the Lord always..."  (Philippians 4:4)

Not just to rejoice always, but to rejoice in the Lord.  It's different.  We don't rejoice in these unwanted guests in our lives, but we rejoice despite them.  We rejoice in the Light that overcomes and overwhelms them.  It's different.

Also, he tells us that it's not a singular verb, but a plural one.  It's not "you rejoice" but rather, "rejoice, y'all."   As if we are supposed to do the rejoicing together.  Which makes sense with all these intruders trying to gang up on us.  We are better together, we remind each other of the Hope we share, we build one another up and we carry each other's burdens, encouraging one another.

Our unwanted Christmas guests may not leave like we'd like them to this season, but in rejoicing together, we can regain our Peace.  That's why it's so important that come hell or high water, we are in the pews at church, we are in each other's homes, and that we are present with each other, looking each other in the eye reminding each other that we aren't alone.  That despite all the circumstances, Christmas is amazing. That Love has come down and the Light will not be overcome with the darkness.

Cancer and his buddies may not care that it's Christmas, but we do.

And it's everything.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

for it all

I think Ann Voskamp says it best... "In Christ, thanksgiving is more than a holiday —
In Christ, thanksgiving is all of our days... giving thanks isn’t a pollyanna game — but a powerhouse game-changer:
God asks us to give thanks in everything — because this is the way you live through anything."

We are certainly thankful for all the things and trying to let that gratitude get us through all things.  We have so much joy and adventure and blessing but those are mixed with equal parts stress and struggle.  Thank you, Jesus, for it all.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

meet Captain!

Introducing our newest family member, Captain Henry Miller Shreve Chaney!  We are in LOVE!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

when the going gets tough, the tough go camping

Daisy Sate Park, southern Arkansas - my old stomping grounds growing up

Jess and Phil celebrated their 11th anniversary with a perseverance-themed 5k - appropo! 

Asher gave the whole thing a 10/10

Can't wait til next time!