Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent when we celebrate the hopeful cry, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”  It is an interesting proclaim as we are in the middle of Advent’s darkness, isn’t it?

How many of us, while in darkness and question and pain want to proclaim joy?  For me, joy is not the go-to emotion while wandering in darkness.  Joy is not what I usually ask for.  I usually ask for relief or rest, but never joy.  And yet, Advent reminds us- here, now, in the middle of the dark nights of the soul, joy is there.  She is waiting to surprise us.

So for this Gaudete Sunday, I am sharing with you two poems that have met me while I have been in a dark place and they gave me hope, and with hope came the little surprise of joy. I am pairing these two poems with images from my Japanese Magnolia, that blooms in the middle of winter.  And although I first edited these in purple, my small homage to Advent, today I give them to you in black and white, as a reminder of the darkness each soul must journey through.

First, John O’Donohue’s For a New Beginning.

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

And then Mary Oliver’s The Hermit Crab.

Once I looked inside
the darkness
of a shell folded like a pastry
and there was a fancy face—

or almost a face—
it turned away
and frisked up its brawny forearms
so quickly

against the light
and my looking in
I scarcely had time to see it,
gleaming

under the pure white roof
of old calcium
When I set it down, it hurried
along the tideline

of the sea,
which was slashing along as usual,
shouting and hissing
toward the future,

turning its back
with every tide on the past,
leaving the shore littered
every morning

with more ornaments of death—
what a pearly rubble
from which to choose a house
like a white flower—

and what a rebellion
to leap into it
and hold on,
connecting everything,

the past to the future—
which is of course the miracle—
which is the only argument there is
against the sea

May joy surprise you this Advent.

 

 

my hope tree

Each year the Japanese Magnolia blooms in late January or early February and each year I document it with both my digital and film cameras.  I love my hope tree, who right in the middle of winter and while empty of leaves, blooms the most glorious large white flowers.  The symbolism isn’t lost on me.

Hope is an odd emotion.  Poems have been written about it and songs have been sung. When you speak about it, it evokes positive emotions of contented expectations.  And while hope can come with bits of joy or eagerness, you don’t usually get to hope without going through despair.  Despair comes in and breaks your heart and tries to crush your spirit and just when you think all is lost, hope tiptoes into the room.

For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.

John O’Donohue

“Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.”

Meister Eckhart

While my tree blooms once a year, hope is something we need to hold in our hearts all year long.  Life doesn’t bring us pain and regret once or even just twice, it comes again and again and again.  If we stop and listen carefully, we can hear the light steps of hope come in and bring us a taste of lightness and rest.  We can feel the warmth of spring’s sun in the middle of winter’s cold.

Is your heart in the middle of a long winter? How do you find hope in the midst of despair and sadness?

 

 

 

 

*All images were shot with my Hasselblad 500CM on Ilford XP-2.

tree of hope

My tree is blooming and is covered in pink and white.  I am not sure I have seen her so full. She must be loving all this rain.

I am reminded each year, as she blooms in the middle of winter, that when life is at its darkest the most growth can be done.  Hope isn’t seeing a tree full of leaves and knowing it will bloom, but instead, seeing a tree of sticks and still believing it will bloom.  To have hope in the darkest of days is the work of the brave.

bloom17-11

Risk that the mystery of your being is trustworthy. ~ Gerald G. May

bloom17-13

Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.  ~Thomas Merton 

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I was recently introduced to this very simple prayer.  I have been praying it several times a day.  It brings my heart hope and reminds me I don’t need to count on myself.  bloom17-7

Lord have mercy. 

Thee I adore.

Into Thy Hands.  

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And I leave you with Rabbi Kook.  This little poem reminds us that our present circumstances are not tomorrow’s circumstances.  Life is fluid and change does come.

Nothing remains the same,

everything is blooming,

everything is ascending,

everything keeps increasing in light and truth.  

 

 

quiet beginnings

This morning I went out to check on my tree.  She is beginning to bloom and in the soft pink light of the morning, she is beautiful.  As I was outside capturing her first blooms, I reveled in the quiet and the stillness of the morning.  I took deep, healing breaths.  I inhaled the new and freshness of the day and exhaled the worries I was trying to bring to it.

And with each breath, I felt God there with me reminding me of his care, his love, and his delight in my delight.

startingtobloom

There is nothing magical about solitude
that makes God suddenly appear.
God is everywhere all the time.
It’s just that most of the time we are so busy
with everything else that we don’t notice.
But by practicing the discipline of solitude,
we are creating a space in our lives where God can be with us.
~John Michael Talbot

startingtobloom-3

With all the misunderstandings, yelling, fear, and outright hate that is circulating our country right now, we are all in need of some quiet and stillness.  I wonder what would it look like if we were grounding ourselves in love.  Each day, I am discouraged and feel an anger at injustice rise up in me.   I must remind myself to find a place of quiet and inhale hope and compassion and exhale contempt and fear. And while I don’t want to live in a cloud of denial, I do not want to allow hate and fear penetrate my heart so that my heart is full of hate and fear.  I want the fight for justice and righteousness to be backed by a great and sound love.  While I am surrounded by cowardliness and ignorance,  I want my heart to remain strong and kind.

startingtobloom-5

This is not something I can do on my own.  I must have the help of the Great Mystery to protect my heart from hate and fill it with an unending love.  I go to back to him again and again and ask for help.  Help to keep my heart resilient, soft, and gentle while facing wickedness and iniquity.  Help to keep fighting for those that are meek and poor in spirit while also being a peacemaker.  Help to speak out against injustice while also being merciful.

startingtobloom-2

I beg of you, my Lord,
to remove anything that separates
me from you, and you from me.
Remove anything that stands in the way of
my seeing you, hearing, tasting, savoring and touching you;
reverencing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as possible, enjoying you.
This is what I ask for myself and earnestly desire from you. Amen

St. Peter Faber

I have been praying this prayer from St. Peter Faber.  It has helped me start each day with some stillness and grounding.  And from these secure foundations, I continue to fight on the side of love, for love, and with love.

 

brave love

Like many around the world, my soul has been mourning the horrible shooting in Orlando. I am weeping for the families and friends that are grieving the unimaginable loss of their loved ones. I am saddened for my LGBTQ friends who seem to be in a neverending fight to simply be themselves. I am frustrated that in this day and age there are people who still don’t know or recognize the difference between a kind and loving typical Muslim and demented soul who distorts a giving and peaceful religion into a hateful one. And while I have seen a great outpouring of love from so many, I still hear whisperings and sometimes shoutings of hate and hostility and even a call for more violence.

And as we were all still mourning the loss of 49 precious souls, there was yet another tragedy in Orlando when an alligator drowned a helpless toddler. I can’t imagine how the parents must have felt. They must still wake in the middle of the night with dispare, while replaying the tragedy in their mind. And while we once again saw an outpouring of love, we also saw people judging and blaming the parents for their sweet boy’s death.

island

Yashica LM | Kodak Portra 400

Why do people react with judgment and hate when tragedy strikes? Is it fear? Do they truly believe that if you live a “perfect” life that horrible things will not happen to you? Do they believe that they deserve the comfortable and worry free life they have? And even if they do believe these things, how is it that they can not have compassion for people when life is cruel, harsh and unfair?

It seems as though we are so busy trying to avoid the pain and injustice of life that when we see it happening to others we know a response is needed.  I think this where a soul choice needs to be made.

When faced with this choice, there is a group of  people who will blame, shame, and scorn. They will point out why others deserved their horrible fate. They remind the victims that they should have made other choices and that if they had, life would be kinder and easier. They turn their backs on the pain and remind themselves, falsely, that they are safe from all harm because they are doing everything rightly. They don’t step outside of themselves and want to learn and understand more about the world; they instead want to make their world smaller hoping that that will make it safer.

Or, there is a group that puts themselves fully in the shoes of the pained and try to understand and hold the injustice with them. They mourn when death happens because most have felt the sting of death, and know it isn’t something you easily let go. They don’t judge a tragic accident because they remember the many failures of their own life. They hold and help carry the burden of the broken hearted, knowing that brokenhearted is an emotion we will all feel once or twenty times in our lives. They bravely go into a hurting world knowing understanding and compassion won’t necessarily bring safety, but that it will bring wholeness.

island-2

Yashica LM | Kodak Portra 400

I want to believe that most of us want to help carry the pain and injustice so that others do not need to hold the full burden of life alone. We want to reach outside ourselves. However, to live being fully in the world, holding the injustice, and hoping in hopeless situations takes bravery, and a great letting go of the belief of how things should be. It is brave to love what you do not know or understand. It is brave to put aside our own fears and hold the pain of those who lived through fear and tragedy. It is brave to let go of the idea that life will be gracious and kind if you live it just right.

island-3

Yashica LM | Kodak Portra 400

Richard Rohr wrote, “There are two things that draw us outside of ourselves: pain on other people’s face and the unbelievable beauty that is other human beings at their best.” We notice the world when it causes pain and when it shows us brave, bold love. What are we going to do with that knowledge? Are we going to point fingers, yell and ask the world to do it our way, and believe the injustices of this world are really some type of righteous justice? Or, are we going to let go of all of our fear and go boldly into the world, knowing it can be hard and unreliable, but help each other with compassion and graciousness regardless?

island-4

Yashica LM | Kodak Portra 400

I pray I can let go of all fear, let go of all misunderstanding, let go of all self-righteousness and bravely, without question, love this broken, unjust world. As I see it, it is our only hope.

I am writing on the topic of letting go with some brave women. To read more on the topic, start with Cissy’s blog and then click on through the blog roll. 

at the end of the day

I knew I wanted to get my 5pm for The Hours while away at June Lake. I had my Mamiya 645 loaded up with Fuji Reala and waited for 5pm.  My sweet husband was driving me to a spot I had seen the day before. There was one problem.  We were in a huge fight.  Not the kind where there is a small misunderstanding and we can work it out quickly with some patience and explaining.  The kind where old wounds are rubbed raw and we both are sitting in pain.  We needed one of us to be brave and vulnerable, but stubborn suffering wasn’t allowing any heroes.

When Andy finally got me to the location I wanted to shoot, I was in tears.  I didn’t want to shoot while so upset at him. I didn’t want to look back at my 5pm and remember this moment. However, my image was due when I got back into town and I had no other choice.  So wandered the area, shot a few frames, and got back into the car. The short time away from each other had allowed both of our hearts to be softened.  We talked.  We understood. We apologized.  We held each other.

Last week at my compassion class my teacher read this poem.  It reminded me of my 5pm image. I had not loved perfectly, nor was I loved perfectly.  Still,  I know the freedom that comes from a real and vulnerable relationship. I know the beauty of being completely known and completely loved.  I know that I have the grace not only from my husband, but from my God.  I know that every day that ends with pain, I have the hope of a new morning.   I decided my 5pm wouldn’t just remind me of the pain and imperfection of that day, but of the love and grace that was given.

May this prayer bless you as it has blessed me.

fall

I seek your presence, O God, 

not because I have managed to see clearly

or been true in all things this day, 

not because I have loved perfectly or

reverenced all those around me, 

but because I want to see with clarity, 

because I have tasted freedom, and joy, and healing

and I desire to love as I have been loved. 

leaves

Renew my inner sight, 

make fresh my longings to be true

and grant me the grace of loving this night

that I may end the day as I had hoped to live it, 

that I may end this day restored to my deepest yearnings, 

that I may end this day as I intend to live tomorrow, 

as I intend to live tomorrow. 

From the book “Sounds of the Eternal”, by Philip J Newel

stacikennelly5pm

To read more on prayer, visit Susan’s blog.

5 on 5: June

June was an interesting month for me when it comes to photography.  I have never taken so many pictures.  Sadly, many of them had to be destroyed and deleted.  I was a photographer for a camp for foster children this month. It was amazing and painful and beautiful all at once. All pictures that can identify the child cannot be shown to the public.  We had them printed and made scrapbooks for the children, but then all the files had to be deleted.  All photos that were not used in a scrapbook had to be shredded.  The photos that I could keep and that the camp will use for promotional purposes are photos that you can not identify the children.

Of those, these two are my favorite.  We had a therapy dog at the camp.  He was so sweet to all the kids.  They quickly fell in love with him.

RFKC-2

We also had a big birthday party for all the children.  There were cupcakes with their names on them, balloons, party games, a big bubble pit, and presents.  It was fun to see so much joy happen all night long.  I was so happy when one little boy came out of the bubbles and I was able to catch it.  The bubbles cover his face just enough that the camp will be able to use it in the future.  However, I can still see his little eye and I know who he is.  It makes my heart happy.

bubbles

I came home spent and tired.  I also felt hopeless about all that I had seen.  How were there so many children in the foster care system and I didn’t know?  That next day Andy and I had a job scheduled. It was to capture a celebration party for a Gotcha Day for two sweet twin girls.  It healed my heart.  I was nice to see that some stories end perfectly and beautifully.

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At one moment at the party, I stood by their peach tree and cried.  I knew I had to do something.  I didn’t know what it was, but it something needed to be done.  I took a picture of the tree to remind me of my promise.

peach

I have found a program that will train and equip me to be an advocate for on child in the foster care system.  It is a small thing… but it is something we all can do.  For more information on how to serve in your state, you can find the link here.

My last photo is of my baby.  When I was twenty, I found myself pregnant with her.  At first, I was going to put her up for adoption.  I was young and unmarried…. and scared.  I made quilts that I hoped could go with her.   One day, early in my pregnancy, I had some complications and needed to go into the hospital.  They did an ultrasound and I saw her little heartbeat.

That moment…. she was mine.  I knew I wasn’t going to be the greatest mom nor was I going to be able to give her everything she deserved…. but damn it, she was mine.  It was one of the most selfish things I have ever done.  She turns 21 this year.  We took a few photos of her for her party invite.  I love her and am so thankful she is mine.

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I am honored to be doing this blog roll with some amazing photographers.  Head on over to Vanessa’s beautiful blog next, then continue on through.