Tuesday, November 10, 2015

two moments

Two moments.

They are the only ones that continually affirm and confirm.

My husband's presence, sharpening into focus. His voice, his thoughts, his hands. The one whom I have memorized over and over again. Yet, his uniqueness strikes me in the moments I enter into my existence with him, not distracted by the cares of life or the routine of the day. It's a startling new, yet consistent reminder each and every time. This man, I am called to love. This man, I call husband. This man who six years ago was just a name I had heard of is now mysteriously and intricately bound in me and I in him. We're both tangled up in the disorder of one another's humanity.

In such moments, I know I'll continue to walk any and every path with him. It's a surety, a confidence, a deep-settled purpose that I have in marriage with him. How is it possible to be so terrified of this path and, yet, so brimming with courage to continue this lifelong trek? What changes will we continue to experience? What events will continue to humble us? The questions fall when I consider this...

I wonder, like any human, what is my great purpose here on earth?

Nolan Thomas.
Walking him to Glory.

So every day I am surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which is you.
// Mary Oliver /

The second moment is one I have re-lived for most of my adult years. I pick up my guitar to strum a tune, to play those old cadences that made up most of my college years. That ordinary moment becomes magical. The vibrations in my fingers as I play seem to connect to my own bodily frequencies. I begin apathetic and, then, within minutes a hidden cry seems to break free from me. All my longings bound up within those melodies that I have played so many times. How did I overlook this before? All I sense within this time frame is me, my guitar, and my Lord Jesus. Everything and everyone else fades from me. I experience a sensation of becoming like a child again, renewed wonder and joy. They aren't necessarily worship tunes that I always play. Some days, it's a Jazz lick from my classics songbook. Other days, I'm finger-picking some traditional Irish tunes. Sometimes, I'm playing those ridiculously romantic love songs I wrote. Each one, whether it's my own creation or the songs that I have carried nearby through the years, is my heart. It's me. How else can I describe it? They unveil my identity, personality, temperament, thoughts, emotions, and eccentric nuances of who I am. When I play these varied songs, I am playing me and I feel a freedom and a release in every note. I can literally feel my Father smiling with me, delighting in me. 

 And for that one moment, while the music plays, you know who you are and everything you wish to be.
// Kellie Elmore //

I don't necessarily need to publicize my songs or make sure my creative skills are being put to use within a church, ministry, or wherever. In the moment I am playing my guitar, my purpose is fulfilled. I erroneously once thought I wanted my skills to be used in a great ministry-type way. I thought I would never be content until that big moment happened. I was waiting all these years for that revelation of my purpose in this. I unexpectedly discovered that purpose has been fulfilled again and again each time I play. I am living it in full color with each string I pluck and every chord and note my fingers form.

I am a big-vision dreamer type of girl, but over the recent year or two I have discovered that part of myself wilting. I couldn't dream anymore. I felt as if I lost that inherent ability forever. I kicked and screamed and refused to accept such a reality! Then, I became really quiet and grieved.

Abba woke me up again.
And He woke me up in these two moments.
He spoke warmly, You are living the dream, My dear one. Come celebrate these moments with Me.

I celebrate with Him in my husband.
I celebrate with Him in the music.

It is tempting to look towards the horizon and wonder what's out there. For 26 years I have waited for that with excitement, awe, fear, and anxiety. I wondered if there was a locked door out there with all the purposes for my existence tucked away behind it. Now I know that my fulfillment is not waiting to be unleashed in one grand moment, but has existed this entire time in each day I am given with my husband and in each song I have collected and written to play. It's a happiness not like fireworks in the sky, but like the babbling of a cheerful brook in a faraway forest.

Friday, October 30, 2015

autumn in the mountains

As I type this post, the last of the autumn leaves are falling and frost greets us in the mornings. What magic has transpired here in the mountains with the changing of seasons! It's a treat to experience very precise seasonal transitions.

September was a very long and grueling month. On top of adjusting to my new job, my health seemed to fail me nearly every waking hour. My anxiety and moods were a roller coaster and I felt pretty darn desperate for answers! It was during my time at a gloriously relaxing local massage center that I experienced an answer to my health struggles, which then led me to a chiropractor here in town by the beginning of October. Five chiropractic adjustments later, I have experienced that tingling of fresh hope. Some of the inflammation in my body has become a bit more manageable and my chiropractor says I'm a little easier to adjust each time I visit him. Apparently, I've been a locked up in my upper back/chest, with a misaligned pelvic/hip, and a great deal of inflammation across my entire back, chest, and neck. This has affected my adrenal glands, kidneys, my ability to function through small daily tasks, and probably more that I'm not aware of. I'm trying to be mindful of my physical limits, as well as work on building strength in my core and arms. As I've come to accept, there is no one to blame for this but myself as I have pushed myself beyond my physical and emotional limits these past two years. I have done things I should have never done. But I could not have foreseen this as I had lost myself for awhile there...indeed, I nearly gave up on hoping. I was caught in a cycle of surviving and completing daily tasks as a means of coping through my losses and heartbreaks. Now, I'm trying to regain strength in my overworked physical body, but also in my heart and spirit. It is still a long road to travel with becoming healthy again, but now I have found something I could not see before: Hope. 

Life can be devastating. But it moves forward, almost mercilessly at times. Yet, we need it to keep moving forward, to continue its usual mundane course. We need to know there will be a tomorrow, the sun will rise, and the seasons will change, and all will continue on its usual cycle. After loss and repeated hard circumstances, the human mind becomes wired to expect the end of a thing. There are no new beginnings, there are no second chances. The mind only anticipates the end. And that is all I have expected out of everything good. A new job, a new living situation, a positive change....it doesn't matter, I just anticipate that it will be taken away, that nothing is permanent. In truth, there is no permanence here on earth, but we're not meant to live in dreaded anticipation of this, as I have been. As I have watched the seasons change here in Durango, I feel an odd mixture of sadness and comfort. The transformation of summer into fall has reminded me that there is a permanence and purpose to the rhythm and order of the changes. There is consolation in the fact that seasons come and go again and again. That order is a reminder that there is a time for everything under the sun. And through each of those times, no matter how long or how short, everything is and will be made beautiful by the hands of our Creator.

I've really needed stability in my life again. Stability of a place to call my own, a job that gives me a routine, relationships that aren't always marked by emotional highs and lows, and a chance just to live life where I am planted without any traumatic hindrances. I am not promised stability from anyone or anything on this earth. For years, I did assume the stability of my early life would continue on as it always had. The waves of life have thrown me against the Rock of Ages, but not without dragging me out to sea again and again, engulfing me in its cold and desperate torrent, thrashing me over and over with its force. And I, becoming more and more limp with each wave, not even bothering to push myself towards the One who stood in the center of it all. The physical pain in my body has been humbling in that I have crumpled beneath the force of my self-will and am, once again, in very small ways, wanting to trust my Father again. I am not quite sure how long my state of humility will last (haha!), but I am trying to trust Him in my own way. He, always whispering, "My child, in whom I am well-pleased. You make Me so proud." I know that's all I need to hear each day, over and over and over and over again. All my bitterness aside, I wonder...maybe in all those years of wanting to be great for Him, to be an exemplary Christian and prayer warrior that is well-studied in the Word, to live the "victorious" Christian life, I completely and utterly overlooked the small for the great. That would seem very much in my character. I was told that as a baby, I wanted to walk before I could barely crawl. My parents sensed an impatient and over-achieving nature in me from a very young age and it has only increased over the years. I do wonder now that all those things I listed above, those "great" things I thought a Christian should want to be, are, in fact, not even what our Father wants for us. I feel so stupid to ask Him this now, but maybe that's the best way to approach Him - in my own stupidity. Father, who do You want me to be? What do You have in mind for my life here?

These days, I am beginning to view life a lot more simply, to not take myself so seriously, and to focus only what I am capable of focusing on here in the present. I suppose I find a stability and security in this simplicity of focus. It feels good, to be honest. I'm beginning to not expect more out of myself, others, or God. I'm slowly (very slowly, ahem!) learning to rest even in my restlessness, if that makes sense! 

I'm not the same young woman I was nearly two years ago when I said goodbye to my home of 24 years in the Phoenix valley. Personality and unique personal quirks don't change much, but minds can be stretched, hearts can be broken, and bodies can become worn down as mine have been. That will change one's inner spirit, attitude, and mindset. Sometimes...well, many times, I have thought I have been changing for the worse. I will often endure many circumstantial and outward changes for a long time, but when it's my inward being that begins to experience monumental transformations, I am not quite so accepting of it. Watching and feeling myself becoming something other than what I was has been the most terrifying process. There are days still when I mourn the loss of who I knew myself to be before all this. It's not that my husband, family, or God have not been accepting of me...quite the contrary, they have loved me with open arms! It's myself that has not accepted. Long story short, I am learning a proper view and relationship towards myself. It sounds odd; I can't quite explain why I am this way. I can only ascribe it to that little over-achiever in me that wanted to always be something different and beyond who God made me. A little girl who just wanted to be so beyond great and talented and perfect. It's strange and humorous the patterns you begin to recognize in yourself. 

The end of this autumn season brought a most wonderful gift to me this past weekend - my sister and cousin (aka my second sister)! A wedding of a mutual friend united us for a short weekend and it was pretty grand (even through lost sleep and my aching body) to just have our usual "trio time" (as we call it, hehe!). In addition to this, my job as a preschool teacher aide has been going well and becoming more of a routine. I have been asked to consider becoming teacher qualified for the preschool and I sense some good (albeit challenging!) things are on the horizon in my work there. At home, my husband and I are still navigating through work stresses, the ups and downs of it all, and discovering ways to settle into our new life here in Colorado. We're at a place in our marriage where we more quickly voice our needs and are more honest in an up-front, but gentle and firm way. We've been through a lot in our almost 3 years of marriage. It feels like we took a high-speed intensive learning course on conflict, communication, and resolve - haha! In reality, we just sank deeper into Grace and that has meant everything in how we relate to one another. :) He and I are also experiencing the blessing of making our apartment a home we enjoy coming home to at the end of the day. I tend to dwell quite a bit on the hard days we've experienced the past few months with all the stresses and transitions, but when I am being honest with myself, there is nothing that brings me more satisfaction then my husband and I praying together at the end of the day. That is happiness.

A few weekends ago, we took a day trip to Silverton (my first visit there!), which was one of the most laid back and quiet little towns I have ever visited. We dined at an old saloon bar that welcomed us in with ragtime tunes being played by a gentleman on a very old piano. I don't know if Colorado is my "forever home," but it's pretty grand here. Never have I met so many compassionate and empathetic people in one area. From my massage therapist, chiropractor, herbalists, shop owners, to my coworkers at the preschool...I feel accepted here! That is something I am so grateful for. It's not even that I have made friends with these people, yet. These are just individuals that I run into or see on a daily or weekly basis. I feel comfortable with them because they are so non-judgmental. It is pure refreshment!

I close with some of my captures from this past month - taken with my new 50mm lens, which I am absolutely enjoying!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

familiar earth

I know why the landscape of Colorado awakens my senses to the feeling of arriving home. It's the scale of the mountains cloaked in green, hugging the valleys and roads at every corner. It's the density of the pines and firs, rich in emerald, populating the curves and jagged cliffs of mountain sides. It's the embrace of it all, welcoming you in and asking you to rest. It's the creeks and riverbeds and springs supplying refreshment and abundance. It's the wildflowers greeting you as with the smile of children, the deepest hues of joy and innocence. It's the subtle blue mountain peaks, hazy and endless, scattered across the distance, reminding you that this beauty does not cease, it goes on and on. It's the open, velvet meadows that seems to shout, "Run to me! Run through me!" All of these, the curve of my body seems undeniably fashioned to be held by. My senses, alert and synchronized to the rhythm of this landscape. To not only be invited and welcome by this verdant place, but also accepted in my truest self. There are no masks here, only the swelling of an honest heart. To be naked in all respects and to know nothing but affection, favor, and rest. I think, the first man and woman once felt this. And that is the great return, the destination I have sought since I entered this frail and familiar earth. A return to a place, a people, a family, a Father that I have never once experienced with my human senses but will have known and memorized this entire lifetime. Even now, I am aware of their presence and also ache in longing for them.

Soon, my child, soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

transitions, adjustments, and simple blessings

What a month of transitions August has been! I am presently making some mental adjustments even as I type this. I have worked three full weeks as a preschool teacher aide and substitute. I have worked with two different age groups in two separate classrooms. While my hours have been very sporadic these past weeks, I will settle into a permanent schedule beginning this coming Monday. One thing is for certain: I'm going to need a daily dose of Thieves oil to make it through this job. I spent my entire third week battling a pretty bad head cold and am still recovering. Thus, I am blogging to take my mind off the fatigue and stuffy nose. Even still, I am thankful for the chance to expand my experience by working with children in a classroom setting.

Earlier this month, Gungor released their much anticipated first album, One Wild Life: Soul, of their upcoming trilogy. Personally, their last album, I Am Mountain, didn't resonate with me as much as Beautiful Things and Ghosts Upon The Earth, which I still obsess over. I appreciated the new musical and lyrical styles on I Am Mountain and there are a few songs that really stay me, but overall I can't say it is my favorite. I do enjoy that Gungor is not afraid to explore new terrain and try different things, but I was super thankful to see them return a bit to their originally sound on One Wild Life: Soul. The songs are all very personal and any listener can pick up on the difficult life experiences that led to the creation of this album. I love art created from a back-breaking journey. Soul perfectly encapsulates the grief and the joy of this life. Gungor may create a lot of controversy with their music and their social media presence, but I deeply respect Lisa and Michael for their genuine hearts. In my opinion, they model a vulnerability in their faith that I rarely see among Christians. To doubt, to question, to think and say things that aren't deemed as "Biblical" in most church circles. While I don't agree with some of their view points, I appreciate that they aren't pretending. This life in Christ isn't about black and white language and clear-cut rules for life and theology. Many of us who have been touched by tragedy and the frailty of our flesh need room to stretch and to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ. None of us are assuming that we have "arrived" at the ultimate answers and, yet, we know, after all of our questions and presumed conclusions, we know He is the final answer. Thank you, Lisa and Michael, for songs like Us For Them.

Us For Them
When the lines are drawn
When you’re in or out
When it’s us or them
And we shame the doubt

It is all a lie
All we ever really need is love
There’s no need to shed more blood
Look upon the cross
Look upon the cross

See the face of Christ
See the mercy in His eyes
Every valley shall be lifted high
Now our enemies are blessed
The heavy laden rest
For His judgement is love
His judgement is love

There is no more guilt
There is no more shame
All our darkest sin
All our deepest pain

Blessed are the poor
All the lonely broken lost and torn
See a kingdom comes to us
A war that’s fought with love
Our only war is love

Prepare the way of the Lord
Wielding mercy like a sword
Every mountaintop will be made low
Know, He holds the earth like dust
And His judgement comes to us
And His judgement is love
His judgement is love

We will not fight their wars
We will not fall in line
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them

We reject the either or
They can’t define us anymore
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them

Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them

Prepare the way of the Lord
Wielding mercy like a sword
Every mountaintop will be made low
Know, He holds the earth like dust
And His judgement comes to us
And His judgement is love
May our judgement be love

Autumn is in the air. The verdant green of the trees here aren't as lush as they were in July. I haven't experienced this sudden of a seasonal change before. Phoenix, quite obviously, only has about two defined seasons. Albuquerque definitely had four seasons, but the changes were more subtle and gradual. In Durango, this more obvious transition into Autumn is a very interesting phenomenon to me. I'm not sure if I am ready for cooler weather yet, but the change is coming whether I am prepared or not. Life is like that, too.

I spent a day picking through my in-law's garden earlier this month. Ripe berries, chunky cabbage and cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onions pushing through the earth, and more. I took it as an opportunity to document my time harvesting the fruits and vegetables.

Last Sunday, Nolan and I packed up our boat and essentials and headed out to Lemon Lake. We spent over an hour on the water. The quiet was so therapeutic. I teased him as he rowed us to the opposite side of the lake. I, the princess, and he, the oarsman. I don't like to work too hard, you know. It's nice to have a husband who is your chauffeur for every activity, especially when he is as handsome as my man.

Storm clouds rolled in over the lake. Instead of returning home, we drove to Vallecito Lake and stopped in a local café for a most delicious lunch. The back of the café had large windows with a tremendous lake-view. We watched the rain move through the little valley as we dined. A perfect way to end the last month of summer.