Thursday, December 26, 2013

Daily {Breathe}

The presents are unwrapped; there is a garbage bag full of their outer layers leaned up against my front door waiting for someone to take it out to the curb.  Most of the high calorie food has been consumed, except the plate that now holds the straggling cookies and sings its siren's song of temptation to each hand and mouth that passes it.  When the light of the new day dawns, Christmas will be over and we will begin to look toward the next round of merriment...and into the vast, blank expanse of the new year.

A new year.  It is a white piece of paper surrounded by sharpies.  The artist knows she has to draw, but where to begin?  For once we put the color to the paper, there is no turning back.  We must continue to add new lines, words, embellishments, and turn the mistakes into creative little pictures to blend with the whole.

What will we write?  Who will co-author with us?  What colors will we choose?  What words will be prominent?  Which ones diminished?  These are the questions...nay, the opportunity...we have each day of a new year.  But they are difficult to see in the fast paced flurry of the moment and much easier to surmise from the distance between now and the start time.  We are given a gift in this in-between time.  The gift of breathing room.  The gift of perspective.  The gift of intention.

I always try to have a word for the start of the year, thus I am pondering....What do I want this next year to be like?  I think for me, I want to keep in view both the vision this time affords us of the whole (of the desired future), but also of the daily.  It is that word "daily" that I think will be the word for this year.

It is the daily action of intentional writing on the paper that germinates the whole.  Daily precision or daily sloppiness become my options.  Daily acts of kindness toward those I live with, daily moments of self-care, daily eating, daily exercise, daily thought life, daily friendships.  Thoughtless or careless pen strokes on a daily basis can make the difference between joy and sadness a year from now.  It can make the difference between joy and sadness every day too. 

When I was a child, I scribbled like a child.  I don't want that to be the picture I end up with. Like when my hands had to learn cursive writing in third grade, the work may at times be slow and tedious, but with daily practice, the new habit can be learned...and learned so well that I can't remember not ever being able to do it!   It is easy for me to be aspirational or wishful, but in order to be intentional.... well, for me, that takes the word "daily".

Daily, daily, daily, I have the choice to write on this next year's blank piece of paper.
What will I choose to write?

Do you have a word for the year?  I'd love to hear it..and maybe a little story behind it too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tasting the Holidays {Breathe}

My grandmother would have been so proud...and perhaps a little shocked...last night.  I am sure she would have given us instruction on how to it better and clicked her tongue at us, pretending to be mad, when we sampled pieces of the dough.  But I think more than anything, she would have smiled, knowing a tradition begun so far back in our family history is being created all over again in 2013. son and I spent some time in the kitchen yesterday making "the taste-of-Christmas".  We all have one, don't we?  That cookie or dish or treat that when we put it in our mouths, images of holidays past rush in and flood our hearts.  It is the taste of recipes passed down - eaten and enjoyed in childhood, then learned and made with love in adulthood.  Savored around the table by all. 

For us, the taste-of-Christmas is perogies.  We don't make them any other time of the year except for the Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner.  They take preparation and are time consuming to make (because I do not have my grandmother's gift for making those stuffed dumplings.  Even in her 80's and 90's, when her eyesight was declining, the woman could make hundreds of them.  She didn't need to see well...her hands knew very well what to do.)  I could buy them at the store, but the making process is part of what makes them taste so good!!  The ones we make are by no means perfect - they are lumpy and some of them fall apart when we cook them - but the conversation we have as we make them just makes the imperfections perfect.

What is your taste of the holiday season?  Do you find yourself feeling like maybe you don't have time or it is too much of a hassle to make it this year?  I'd encourage you to stop and remember the taste, then do the very thing you have no time for...make it.  Make it because it will taste good in your mouth.  Make it because it will taste good in your heart!  Make it because the people you will share it with (your kids or friends or coworkers) need to taste your flavor of the holidays too (and need to hear the stories behind it!)!!  Make it because it is a time to celebrate!

May we all savor the taste of this holiday season - in the foods, in the people and in the conversations that are waiting to happen.  May we take the time (that none of us have!) to add flavor and celebration to our gatherings!  Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blind {Unspoken Truth Spoken Everywhere}

Warning:  The following does contain faith-based ideas...however, it is the author's intention that nobody should be hurt or harmed by the reading of this material!!  :)

My little two year old niece came over yesterday.  She came in through the front door and was immediately mesmerized by my Christmas tree.  I think she touched every ornament she could reach and asked me over and over, "what is this one?"  We talked a brief bit (you know how long two year old conversations last) of the story of each one.  Then, as quickly as we began, we were done.  She was off to another diversion - this time to the nativity set.

She held each wooden piece in her fingers, examined them carefully and asked me who each one was.  After that, she didn't need me any more, didn't need to ask any more questions.  She just went to work - intrigued at the job before her. 

 A question about the Christmas story has always grated on me.  Like a pebble trapped in my shoe, I feel it every time we come back to walk around  in this angel-apparition season.  You know...angels showing up in dreams, in fields, and in the skies.    AND showing up to talk directly to people.

An angel appears to Zachariah and tells him that he and his wife, in their old age, are going to have a baby.  That same angel shows up about six months later to a young girl and tells her that she too is going to have a child.  The response of the old man and the young virgin are the same...."But how??"  The old man's wife is well beyond child bearing years, and the adolescent is a virgin.  Both situations make for impossible conceiving (and birthing) scenarios.

However, the angel gets mad at the old man, but not at the young woman.  Why?  THAT is the pebble-in-my-shoe question, and yesterday I shook out my sneakers and the rock came tumbling out.

I think one reason Zachariah feels the force of anger (and the resulting no-talking-for-nine-months) is because he should have known better.  He was a priest; he had studied the Hebrew scriptures and knew the stories.  He knew God had, in the past, produced biological offspring for people well out of their prime.  He walked blamelessly in the "commandments and the requirements of the Lord", and yet he was blind to what was going on right before him.  It is as if God said sadly, "Zachariah, you know better".

Was he too smart?  Did he know too much?  Had he made up his own story of what he thought God was doing, so there was no room left for what God was actually doing?  What made him blind and unable to enter into the wonder of it all?

Priests, prophets, pharisees, the really religious - those who studied the scriptures - all missed the point.  There was going to be a Baby born that would change the face of the planet.  And somehow a teenage girl, who still probably had lots of questions about how a virgin was going to get pregnant, shrugged her shoulders and said, "OK, I'll watch to see what You are going to do."

But here is the problem....I am a Zachariah.  I am well educated, versed in theology, know the codified systems that I think God should operate in, and am writing my own version of His kingdom.  How do I know that I will not miss the point?  That despite all my knowledge about God, I will turn a blind eye to what He is actually doing?  How do I open my eyes in wonder and not choose a "righteous" blindness?

I think my niece gave me the answer.  As she arranged the nativity, she did so intentionally.  (Can you see it in the picture above?)  No one told her to do this, but it seems she instinctively knew to make sure all the characters involved were to stand facing that Baby.  (Ok, except for the animals...they are evidently exhausted!)  Even though those people didn't understand everything, they were to keep watching Him in wonder and expectation (and thus fight off the epidemic of blindness).   My niece knew an answer far wiser than my sophisticated, educated ways...Just keep your eyes on that Baby!!

By the way, when He grew up, that Baby once said, "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.  You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to infants.  Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work." 

May none of us be in the know-it-all category, but rather find ourselves with two year olds and those folks who crowed around a manger, bewildered and confused...but full of wonder and with our eyes focused on the One laying in the hay.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Mat in the Snow {Unspoken Truth Spoken Everywhere}

I live a lie.  
It dwells in my mind, runs through my blood and stains my whole life with its color.  The problem is...I like the lie.  I nurture it and cling to it for all I am worth.  It goes unquestioned with those around me; it feels as though the fabric of the universe would come unraveled if I were to let it go.

That lie is this:  I am in control.

Nowhere has its fraudulence been more revealed than in the last two days by driving in the blizzard, snow and ice conditions with my sweet sixteen year old... 

Of course I want her to learn to drive competently in all weather conditions, so, as we've had lots of inclement road conditions lately, I knew I needed to let her feel what they were like.  The problem came as I realized I really prefer to be in the driver's seat, not the passenger's.  To sit in the passenger's seat is to give up all control.  It is to have nothing to steer nor the ability to slam on the brakes when I sense danger.  It is to be carried on by the moment and not brood over past mistakes or worry about what lurks around the next corner.  It is to sit and try to enjoy the ride.  It is to, (on some level), trust the driver.

As I took my place as a passenger in the car, a picture came to mind.  It was a picture of a yoga mat.  I remembered my teachers' words as we would start class sitting on our mats..."leave everything else at the door", "let go of all the stuff you think you need to attend to", "trust that the mat will hold you", "be present on the mat - not thinking about the past or worrying about the future".  In my words....create a space where I let go of needing to be in control, of believing I am in control, of WANTING to be in control and simply be in the moment and do what it calls for.

However, what may seem simple on the mat, is more difficult in the reality of our lived-out days.  I realized my mat-vision was also true of the place I found myself these last two mornings.  In the passenger seat I could practice the truth that I am not in control.  I could, in my mind, lay my mat down in the snow or on the seat of the car (and get on it!!) and remember that I am not in charge of the world...nor of the driving going on around me...and I don't have to be.  {I happen to give mental ascent to this being a true statement in every aspect of my life, but being in a car with a sixteen year old driver in extreme winter conditions just brought me squarely face-to-face with the fact that I don't really believe it!!} 

So these last two mornings I practiced challenging the lie that I am in control.  I sat in a space where that deep desire didn't get to have all the power.  The lie did not leave me (after all, it's kind of like a family member by now), but it did quiet down...and, it didn't have to drive me (did you see that pun??)

***By the way, no people were harmed in the practicing of the theory that I may not be in sixteen year old did a great job!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Story of a Family {Highlands Ranch Family Photographer}

I am privileged with getting to capture a little of each families' story when I photograph them.  I also have the distinct pleasure of usually hearing more of their story than I see in front of me.  I would love to invite you to enter into my world with a little of this sweet family's story....

and then here is a little more of that story (at least in pictures!!)...

Some of the extended family joined us....

Thanks for letting me capture a piece of your story, S Family!!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joy-Filled Family {Littleton Family Photographer}

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I like it best when families come to me to play and have fun...and I just get to capture it!!  I like families who don't always "behave themselves"!!  
And this family not only played and had fun....they were full of joy!!!

LOVE this!!!

Pretty sure they are jumping for joy because mom and dad stopped kissing!!

(for the image below...I couldn't resist...I just thought it was so beautiful!!)

Thanks S Family!!  I had a great time with you all!!  You are one amazing family!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mini Sessions Take 5 {Highlands Ranch Family Photographer}

These guys were just FUN!!!  And almost too well behaved!!!

Now THIS is real life....

Thanks J Family!!!  I really think you guys are amazing!!!