NPM | Black and White | Joyful, Faithful, Patient

butterfly joyful in hope

For this third week of National Photography Month (NPM), I am sharing some of the monochrome photo inspiration “cards” I made during Sheila D’s September 2021 Creative Gathering. I divided the month of creativity into thirds—days 1-10, abstract photo art; days 11-20, doodle art; days 21-30 black and white photography. The common thread was scripture. I shared one of the photos for a #ThursdayTreeLove in January.

In light of the recent racial violence committed by one individual against Black citizens in Buffalo, New York, I am sharing images that feature Bible verses that can provide solace and hope. I will not comment (much?) on them. Sometimes the world is so absolutely crazy that I am convinced we need only the voice of God. Everything else is just…noise.

 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. –Romans 12:12

Two Poems for Your Monday

Agape Review published two of my poems last week (yay!), so I’m dropping in to share them with a just little background on both.

Unlike the Musings from My Younger Self I share far too infrequently, these poems were written in my adult years.

I wrote “Word Made Flesh” in 2017 after an exchange with a student in which we talked through the intense grief of losing our sisters. A third student entered the conversation halfway through and offered comfort and her own insights on life and grief. Though the interaction occurred four years after my sister [Karlette’s] death, it was the first time I had ever expressed my feelings over the loss so vulnerably. The title of the poem comes from John 1:14:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The second poem, “God, You Are,” was written about 20 years ago. I scribbled it on a notecard and tucked it inside one of my journals. I rediscovered it a year or two ago, typed it, and added it to my “works in progress” poetry folder with the intention to tweak it. However, I made a split second decision to submit the unpolished version of the poem because that raw expression felt poignant in the moment.

Click the links below to read each poem:

Feel free to leave a comment there or come back here and comment. I look forward to your feedback!


About the Image: The photo art above features a moment of solitude and reflection at Green Mountain this past weekend. If time and energy permit, I’ll share more photos later in this week.

Daddy’s Gifts

Daddy by Darius T

“Daddy Second Lining.” Photo by Darius T/Tapman Media

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  —John 16:22

My dad passed away February 12, 2022 at 86.5 years of age, and I have been struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words. When my own words fail, I go to poetry. Having endured so much grief, the poem that speaks to my heart in this moment is Mary Oliver’s “Heavy.”

I adapted the poem for my purposes, but you can read the original poem here.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
has his hand in this,

Still, I am bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

is nowhere to be found.
Then I remembered my father:
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I’ll go about practicing.

One day you’ll notice.

the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth.

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply.

This poem speaks to me not only because of my own grief, but because as I read it, I thought about the fact that my father had a lot of hurt in his life. To look at him–to even know him–you wouldn’t see it. Every now and then, it would eke out in small ways. He’d tell us about a painful memory from his childhood, a hurt that stung all his life. He wrote in the autobiography he started about being told the word “no” so much that he did not want his wife or children to hear that word. Despite the pain and disappointment he endured, my father found his way to joy. And his very soul was steeped in an infectious joy.

He never forgot those painful moments from his childhood. I believe he carried them with him his whole life, but “it’s not the weight [he] carried, but how [he] carried it, how [he] embraced it, balanced it, carried it when [he] could not, would not put it down.”

He parlayed all of that weight into beautiful gifts for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and for generations to come.

They’re found in the music he gave us, the Sunday morning listening to everything from jazz to blues to ballads and everything in between that makes much of the stuff churned out nowadays intolerable.

The gifts are in the lessons about grit and hard work and striving for excellence, about making no excuses and owning our mistakes and allowing them to prod us toward growth.

The gifts are in the sometimes uninvited–a little too straightforward–but sound counsel that pushed us to do right and be better.

They’re found in the celebration of the good that life offers in all its forms, in the beauty of a deep, abiding appreciation for life and grace and a recognition that everything we have is gift and grace.

The gifts are in the joy in spite of circumstances.

The gifts are in his many unanswered questions about God and eternity, questions for which he left us to find the answers.

The gifts are found in the love with an answer, the way he loved and did life with our mother, a love not superficially crafted for social media, but one with deep roots and the abiding presence of the Divine. That autobiography I mentioned earlier, doesn’t start with “I was born.” It starts with “I began to live when I married my wife.” While I am incredibly grateful for my father’s joy, I know the love for our mom is the greatest gift he could have given his children. That love–that love with an answer–has made all the difference.

Sleep well, Daddy. We look forward to the “loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God” that will reunite us for eternity.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18


Written 2.22.22 for my father’s memorial service. Shared here for those who have asked for copies.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Simply Rest

Rest


About the Image: I designed this image for Day 23 of Sheila’s 30-Day Creative Art Gathering (September 23, 2021). January has been trying [understatement], so as we head into the weekend I am heeding the scriptural counsel to simply rest.

I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

100 Failures in One Year!

Heart's Desire 2I had a full, productive first day back at work, and though I have not completed the task list (unsurprisingly), I feel good about relaxing for the rest of the evening. I thought I’d drop in with a little inspiration for the new year.

I stopped formulating New Year’s goals and resolutions some time ago. I use my birthday (October), instead of January 1, to reflect on the past year and consider my goals for the next 365-day cycle. However, at the beginning of the year, I do take stock of my progress and consider methods I can use to achieve my goals.

One of my forever goals is to get things out of my head, onto paper, and into publications. My life is crazy-busy, but if I’m not writing, I’m dying inside. So I write a LOT! I have journals and notebooks full of writing. And last year, after attending Tara Gray’s Publish and Flourish workshop, I started writing every morning (for a minimum of 15 minutes). I took a break from the practice, because in just a few months, I had drafted several articles and needed to take the time to edit, integrate research where necessary, and consider publications. 

And that’s where many things get stuck. That’s the time-consuming part, and because of all my other responsibilities, those things get put on the back burner. But, I think it’s also the scary part. Finishing can be daunting because it means I have to put it out there and deal with the possibility of rejection.

That’s what I’d like to push through this year, and Kim Liao’s article on failing best, “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” provides the antidote. In the Lit Hub article, Liao shared advice a writing friend she admired offered her:

Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.

I read the article late last year and decided that starting January 1, 2022, I’m going for the goal—100 rejections in a year. Yes, this will be mortifying for my soul, but the goal is not really the rejections, of course. The goal is to keep writing and to keep submitting. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m writing and submitting subpar material just for the sake of rejection. If I go for 100 rejections, that means, I am getting good writing done, crafting proposals, putting my work out there, and not sitting on the fence waiting for the publishing gods to find me. 

I like the idea of pushing for the loss instead of the win. It removes the pressure and anxiety and frees me to write authentically. So, that’s my one “big” plan for the year. I’ll let you know by December 31, 2022 how it goes. 😉

You can use the same principle for your goals. Try your hand at 100 new recipes; create 100 new clothing designs; visit 100 new places; read 100 books; create 100 masterpieces, or even perform 100 random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, go for it!

For now, this is my prayer for you:

May God grant your heart’s desire and renew your plans. — Psalm 20:4

Just remember to put in the work!


About the Image: This is one of the 10 pieces of inspirational “doodle art” I created for the 30-Day Creative Art Gathering. I think another round starts next month.

November Chaos | A Moment with the Willow

Anxiety to Joy

We are halfway through November, and I’m finally making my first post of the month! Gasp!

I had this month’s posts planned since September, but after I realized how chaotic this month would be, I “aborted” the mission–to daily share a piece of art I created in September for Sheila’s Creative Gathering. I will share those pieces as the “Spirit moves” and let November be what it will be. [Many prayers, hugs, and hearts for Sheila who is seriously ill and in the hospital].

Today, I am moved to share one of the 10 “abstract” photo art pieces I created for the Gathering. It captures my time with one of the weeping willows at the Unity Pond on campus. However, it is the Bible verse I paired with the photo that compels me to share–a verse of scripture I meditate on frequently and one I often repeat to others as they grapple with anxiety and stress these days.

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy. —Psalm 94:19

We have been dealing with a bit “too much” over the last 19-20 months. In the early months, we realized and appreciated our need for the slowing down the pandemic required. Now, instead of seeing this time as an opportunity to do things differently and better, we are trying to force an old norm that no longer serves us. I’m convinced that besides the loss and trauma of this moment, much of our sense of overwhelm and anxiety comes from our rush to normal—exacerbated by our not taking time to sit with and process our grief.

It seems everyone I encounter these days is overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious. I have this horrible sense that if we don’t pause or slow down, we’re headed for an even bigger crisis.

Perhaps, you’re feeling all those things too.

I hope a moment with the willow and these words remind you there is relief. Thankfully, in God’s presence we can find comfort, peace, and joy, even when life makes it difficult to pause or slow down.

May you carry that with you.

Creative Prayer with Maya Angelou

No Weapon

One of the most beautiful books in my extensive collection is Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter. In the collection of short essays, Angelou, ever the sage, dispenses wisdom and inspiration with snippets from her life and experiences.

In a passage entitled “Mt. Zion,” Angelou reflects on the precious moment when she realized that God loves her:

There was a possibility that God really did love me. I began to cry at the gravity and grandeur of it all. I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things. I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me, since one person with God constitutes the majority?

It is always amazing when we enter this moment of knowing God is absolutely enamored with us. Nothing can thwart our purpose when we encounter that profound love and allow it to possess us. We can walk in confidence that “come hell or high water,” through the Divine, we will win every.single.time.


About the Image: I promised myself that I would participate in Sheila Delgado’s 30-Day Creative Gathering this month. I create doodle art or photo art to “highlight” a passage of scripture [almost] daily, so to make my participation in “the gathering” easier [and more likely], I decided to pair the daily verse with my “art of the day.”

Today is Day 1.

I thought of Angelou’s words when I read the “Verse of the Day” in the Bible App (YouVersion) this morning. They seem connected to me.

Creative Prayer and Divine Power

Snapseed 63

The last couple of days were crazy-stressful.

I always become a little anxious around the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but when a major storm hit Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of that storm, it felt like a little too much. I spent much of the weekend stress-creating (Saturday) and stress-working (Sunday) until I tired myself out.

My family in NOLA did not/could not evacuate, so when we lost contact due to power outage and sketchy cellular service, I had to constantly remind myself to remain calm.

I read the scripture featured in the doodle art above early last Thursday, and it offered calm assurance near the end of a strangely chaotic week. Soon after, I learned of Ida’s threat to the Gulf Coast and the unlikelihood of its veering in another direction or “dissipating into nothingness.”

The full Bible verse reads:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. —2 Peter 1:3 NIV

My heart needed the first phrase, so I wrote it in my journal and planner to remind myself that God has given me everything I need:

  • to tackle the endless list of tasks
  • to deal with challenging situations that pop up during the day
  • to exercise patience when my urgent questions aren’t answered
  • to overcome fatigue
  • to remain calm in the face of adversity

“To remain calm…” through Divine grace and power. That part.

My friend Cy relabeled my weekend art “creative prayers.” I think I like that phrase better.