A Perfect Gift

Today began with grace. For the first time in six years, I woke up without the significance of the date weighing heavily on my heart. Though, this time last year, I could not imagine that I’d be mourning the the loss of another sister, I also did not imagine that we would welcome my sister Karlette’s first grandchild into the world.

Our Little Angel

And it is her beautiful presence that brightens today and gives a bit more of Karlette back to us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. –James 1:17a

See You “in the Morning,” Sister-Girl

Lori Ann by Tapman Media

My guys and I traveled to New Orleans the weekend before last–to lay eyes on and touch my sister Lori, to love on her and pray over her. Even though she could not verbally communicate with us, she was responsive. She even opened her eyes briefly. In our prayers for a mighty miracle, we also submitted to Divine Wisdom. There was so much light in her, still so much fight that we walked away, hopeful that we’d see her again the following weekend.

That was not to be.

My sister, Lori, took her last breath a few days after our return, Wednesday night, September 12, just before midnight. And now, I feel like I’m holding my own breath…again.

I am angry. Disappointed. Hurt. Grieving miserably. I wish I could sit this one out and not go through it at all. I draw parallels between Grendel, the monster of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, and cancer, a horrible night-crawler that catches us unaware and snuffs out lives. Jealous over our happiness, our relationships. Our very humanity. And that horrible beast took Lori from us, like it took Karlette five and a half years ago.

One of my nieces texted me yesterday expressing her utter disappointment and anger about Lori’s passing. We were all praying that her desperate situation could become an incredible story of Divine intervention. I assured her that I share her feelings, and encouraged her to give full vent of her anger to God. He can handle it. Furthermore, He’s well acquainted with our grief and He’s just as hurt and angry as we are that we are going through this…AGAIN.

I read and reread the following quote almost daily for several weeks and finally shared it with my mom and sister:

God didn’t set this journey in motion. He’s just as angry as you are that you have to walk this road. But He promises you this: He will walk this road with you. And He will be there for you when you reach the end of it. God loves you.  –from the television series Touched by an Angel

God is a compassionate, loving Father, cradling us and weeping with us. His amazing grace, the blessed hope of Christ’s return to take us Home, preparation for the biggest family reunion ever, and a heavenly future without the suffering and pain of illness and death rescue me from the darkest depths of despair.

I already miss Lori like crazy. She was a good person, who welcomed all into her life and loved them deeply. She loved giving gifts, finding just the right thing. Like Karlette, she loved beautifying her spaces. She spent so much time babysitting many of the nieces and nephews that we can claim she “half raised” them. Her guys and two little girls (her granddaughters) were her heart, but there was so much room for many more.

Though I grieve over the loss of her, I do so with an unshakeable hope, rooted in Christ:

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

“Lavender Tulips for Lori,” by Tapman Media

Walking in Amazing Grace…

This is what grace does […]. Grace gives us the faith to be utterly assured of what we cannot see […]. It connects us to the invisible One in an eternal love relationship that fills us with joy we have never known before and gives us rest of heart that we would have thought impossible. And that grace is still rescuing us…  –Paul David Tripp (emphasis mine)

“Amazing Grace” is a powerful hymn. Whether I’m singing along with a congregation, singing alone, or simply reading the words, the lyrics always move me to tears.

When I watched and listened to my beautiful colleague, Julie Moore Foster, and her equally beautiful daughter soulfully sing “Amazing Grace” this morning, I was stunned into meditative silence.

Even before I reached the end, which presented a short montage of Julie’s oldest daughter’s life, I knew their singing of this song was not “just singing” but a powerful story of God’s work in the soul–His amazing grace.

They lost Témar at the beginning of 2015, a loss they walk with every day.  I “knew” Témar briefly; she was enrolled in my British Literature class her last semester of college, the semester I lost my sister. Two years later, I bonded with Hannah, the daughter featured alongside Julie in the video below, over our mutual loss of sisters.  A question in my Shakespeare course led to an intense discussion of disappointment, loss, and coping with the “most difficult” challenges of life–a moving experience that I might have the courage to share another day.

I know what it is to be saved by God’s grace, not just from sin and the ravages of this world, but rescued from the deep, murky pit of grief and despair that can suffocate and rob a life of meaning and joy. But when my mother, Julie, any mother–indeed any parent–can stand upright and sane in this messed up space where parents have to bury their children, I see clear evidence of God’s grace walking and talking among us.

Notes on the song/video: “Amazing Grace” arranged by Kelvin Wooten, Wayne Bucknor, and Julie Moore Foster. Direction and videography by William Jenkins. Audio production by WoodaWorx Productions, Inc. The song is part of Julie Moore Foster’s first album, Soul Songs. To find out more see: Soul Songs Project.

Liberate Your Art 2016: My Photos into the World

Yesterday, I shared the postcards I received via Liberate Your Art 2016, so today, I’m talking about the postcards I sent for the swap. If memory serves me well, I sent four postcards out. Some older and some newer.

Lone Boat, 2004

Lone Boat, 2004

I captured this photo of a boat sitting in the water at the approach to Goree Island in Senegal.  I shot the original photo on my first “real” digital camera, an Olympus Camedia.  I’ve always liked the colors in the picture, and I have other photos of this boat and others like it. The boat’s colors drew me in.  I altered the photo in the Superphoto app for iPad.

Colored Pencil, 2011

Red Pencil, 2011

I read the “Broken crayons still color” quote somewhere and decided to make this postcard in honor of women in my life who feel “broken” by life and circumstance. I wanted each woman to remember to embrace the parts of herself that are broken and realize that there are ways to be broken and still be whole, healthy, and beautiful.

I shot the photo while playing around with the macro settings on my first Canon Digital DSLR (the Rebel). I added text to the photo using the Rhonna app.  It is stunning when printed on Red River Paper’s polar pearl metallic stock–every photo looks better on that paper, really! I was tempted to forgo professional printing and print the photos myself!

Blossoms Blanket, 2015

Blossoms Blanket, 2015

The fallen cherry blossoms are almost as pretty as the blossoms on the tree. They form such a beautiful carpet of soft pink petals on the areas surrounding the trees.  I captured these last spring while walking through campus on the way to lunch with a friend. I altered the original photo in Superphoto.

Sadly, I completely missed the cherry blossoms and pear blossoms this year.  I almost missed the dogwoods.

And lastly, I sent “Grace.”

Butterfly and Grace, 2015

Grace, 2015

This is a photo you may have seen before. I posted it last July with the title Everything Changes. Then, it was paired with a Frida Kahlo quote.  I can almost guess my state of mind when I added that quote, but as I contemplated the photo and how it was “achieved,” I felt that it would be more appropriately titled “Grace.”

The moment this photo was taken was “grace.” My camera and I have been on “vacation” from each other, but every now and then (like the afternoon this photo was shot), I experience a moment of reprieve and of artistic “blessing” in which the colors and the environment cooperate and allow me to exhale at a crucial moment. I’m not sure I’m particularly fond of the photo itself, but I love the combination of pink and green with a touch of yellow.  For me the quote makes this photo. Though I have altered versions of this photo that I actually like better, I decided to send the original for the swap.

So that’s it for now. See something you like? Let me know, and I’ll send it your way.

Stay tuned for a final LYA 2016 soon. I have a few side swaps in transit, so I’ll blog the “after party” when those come in. Until then…

Have joy!