Three Things…

I am one day away from spring break, but I’m hanging on by the thinnest thread. Before the madness of catch-up begins in a few moments, I’m taking a break to look at the pretty postcards I received for Love Notes 22.2 (Round 22, Prompt 2).

Prompt 2 was as stimulating as prompt 1: Three things I want you to know. I received inspiring and encouraging lists from each sender.

Debbie L, my assigned partner, sent another pattern postcard:

William Morris: Arts and Crafts Designs. “Orchard Pattern” William Morris and Co., Ltd. London, England, before 1917. Wallpaper sample book. Brooklyn Museum.

Debbie wants me to know:

  1. Laughter can fill our heart with smiles. Sharing it will give smiles to those around you.
  2. Openness will lead to unexpected journeys.
  3. Optimism will help drive you to the next step even when you think you can’t.

An ibis graced my mailbox carrying the three things Christine B wants me know:

“Ibis Crossing,” Photo by Christine B.

  1. I love your art and words.
  2. I admire your dedication to family, friends, students, and your work.
  3. Love is there for the taking.

Signed with peace and a green star. ūüėČ

From Lori W, a wintry Wisconsin scene:

“Wintry Wisconsin,” Photo by Lori W.

She wants me to know:

  1. Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers.
  2. The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
  3. Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction.

Eileen V sent a brilliant waterfall postcard brimming with wisdom and encouragement:

“Waterfall.” Photo from Image Bank/A. Edwards

  1. Believe good things will happen and they will!
  2. Kindness matters.
  3. Feel life!

Life is full of happiness; be strong and have faith. ¬†–Kareena Kapoor Khan

Litsa L sent a postcard from my favorite woman-centered collection, Women in Science:

Mae Jemison, Astronaut, Educator and Doctor

As you can see, it took quite a beating as it traveled, but the counsel on written on the back was left  unblemished:

  1. You know you best, so trust your own wisdom.
  2. Within fear lies great courage. We need to be gentle with both.
  3. Even when you are at your busiest, take a moment to hug your loved ones.

Kindness, laughter, and love seem to be the common threads. Since I can’t carry a thousand postcards around with me, I reprinted the lists and placed them as one list in my planner. Whenever I need a little love, kindness, or encouragement, I can just open my planner.

Until tomorrow…

Things to Carry: Hope, Love, and a Sense of Wonder

Love Notes 22 ended recently. As I reviewed the cards I received for the first prompt, I realized that we are less than two days away from the third month of the year. Eek!

In case you’re new to Pics and Post,¬†Love Notes is a postcard project¬†coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff that “encourages slowing down, getting back to basics, and connecting through handwritten notes sent through the mail.” ¬†Participants sign up for the swap on Jennifer’s website and then she¬†assigns partners who correspond¬†with each other for three weeks based on a prompt she provides each Sunday. The swap is hosted a few times during the year. Postcard writers can respond to the prompt in any way they choose–sentence, paragraph, poem or list.

Love Notes 22, prompt 1 required a bit of introspection and forward-thinking about the possibilities of 2018: As you step into 2018 carry…[one word here]…with you. And know… Because…

I, again, received postcards with heartfelt messages from my assigned partner and a few of my Love Notes friends.

From my partner, Debbie L., I received a pattern postcard in the colors of autumn and a message of hope:

William Morris: Arts and Crafts Designs. “Autumn Flower Pattern” William Morris and Co., Ltd. London, England, before 1917. Wallpaper sample book. Brooklyn Museum

As you step into 2018, carry hope with you. Hope will give you strength to open your eyes when you feel you can’t, smile when your lips are weighed down, and laugh from your belly when you feel that all that is left is to cry.

Christine B. sent a photo postcard of lilacs with a similar message of hope, sealed with her signature green star:

Lilacs. Photo by Christine B.

As you step into 2018 carry hope with you. There has to be hope. Possibilities for change.

Lori W. kept my mailbox happy with an elegant photo of a window flanked by purple wisteria. Her message was a reminder I needed:

Window with Wisteria. Photo by Lori W.

As you step into 2018 carry love with you. And know that you are loved. Because you matter to me.

And finally, Eileen V. ¬†kept the purple theme going with her luminous “super moon” set against a purple sky.

“Early Super Moon.” Photo from Image Bank/A. Choisnet

As you step into 2018, carry your sense of wonder with you, and know that being curious will open new doors to experience because when we are open-minded…miracles happen!

Hope, love, and a sense of wonder. Wise counsel as we face uncertain days, difficult people, and cynicism from all directions. The postcards are beautiful, but I’ll carry the words in my heart throughout the year.

If We Love Each Other…

I read something this morning that nearly brought me to tears–a comment written in response to a blog post about God’s love for us. The post, written nearly two years ago, had few comments, but one comment in particular caught my attention. It was written by a man who for several years dealt with a series of really¬†bad circumstances and came to the conclusion–after a lifetime of belief–that God does not love him. The saddest thing, however, is that the comment sat beneath the blog post with no response for a full year before another “random person” stumbled upon the post and read the comment.

A full year.

Even after the “random person’s” response, neither the author of the post nor the Christian organization that hosts the site responded. In nearly two years.

If it hurt me, imagine how much it affected the man who so bravely and desperately cried out. He needed an answer. He needed a virtual hug and assurance of God’s intimate concern and love for him.

He got crickets.

The thing that keeps me sane and walking upright in this world is knowing that God absolutely loves me, but I first experienced God’s love through others.

It is God’s love for and in us that allows us to love sincerely and deeply; it is His love that permeates our being and generates love action.¬†It’s nearly impossible to experience or “possess” Divine Love and not be transformed.

Loving God and understanding His love for humanity results in reaching out to hurting people, living out His presence in our lives, and showing the world who He is–through acts of love.

Without human manifestation of God’s love, His love is simply theory.

Love. Shoot. Love.

Three months ago, my hubby and I had the honor of shooting the wedding of the daughter and son-in-law of one of my dearest friends. When asked, I was hesitant–wedding photos are serious¬†business,¬†and I didn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s tears or regrets re: wedding photos.¬†Since the hubby agreed to shoot with me, I figured¬†together we could get a few decent photos. Besides, I couldn’t say “no.” We’ve known the bride since she was growing in her mother’s womb,¬†and her mother, Tee, is my sisterfriend (we’ve been holding on and praying each other through for 25 years now).

Inwardly, I “chickened out” a thousand times and tried to talk my hubby into doing it alone, but once we were on the road to Atlanta, I knew there was no turning back. Besides, I value my life, and I’m pretty sure Tee would have forgotten she is a child of God had I shown up at the wedding sans camera.

I’m convinced we prayed through every single shot. We wanted the photos to reflect the love between the couple as well as the love flowing from others to them. The wedding was work, but it was also fun. Hubby and I tag teamed, worked the bride and groom, their families, and guests concurrently, and coached each other through.

We ended up with thousands of photos, and¬†surprisingly,¬†there were¬†more than a few good ones. In fact, there were a lot¬†of great ones. We were pleased. The bride and groom were pleased. Most importantly, the mother of the bride was pleased. ūüėČ

Here are a “few” of my favorite shots (You’ll have to forgive my partiality to black and white photos):

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There were really many beautiful and emotional moments, and fortunately, I was too busy for tears. There were so many times while shooting the wedding and reception that I remembered the little girl who explained to me the difference between Disney heroines; the preteen who argued persuasively while we walked the DC streets why kids would do a better job at running the U.S. government; and the teen who thought she would have better luck convincing me that she should go to boarding school than she had with her mom (I sided with her mom, but eventually she won).

Although I had just met the groom, his love for his bride was palpable and that was enough for me.

Following Wasps and Finding Hearts

I was sitting in my backyard an hour ago, clearing the clutter of the day from my mind, trying to feel human again–talking to God, listening for His voice, affirming His promise of peace.

As I was lost in thought, a wasp flew by and I absent-mindedly followed its path to a log I found interesting enough to photograph. As I poised to take the shot, the wasp changed its course and led me to this beautiful gift.

“Found Heart”

A found heart! The second one for the day!

My day started with a found heart my penfriend Christine posted on Instagram this morning.

Christine’s “Found Heart”

The hearts are¬†reminders¬†that no matter how utterly mired in the muck of life we find ourselves, love is the fundamental principle, the basis from which we should operate and the truth we must walk in. It is the thing we must cling to in the face of all the stuff tossed our way. It¬†is what¬†keeps us okay–sane and whole.

In the crazy rush of doing and getting it is easy to forget love, so I wish to remind you as I must remind myself from time to time:  You are indeed loved.  Be sure to take some time each day to bask in this knowledge and let it fill you to overflowing.

Hugs and hearts…

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year. ¬†The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here. ¬†Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love. ¬†Moving us beyond ideas¬†of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates. ¬†And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we¬†experience¬†a finished¬†work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to¬†place¬†the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others. ¬†Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves,¬†we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum. ¬†Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly. ¬†On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from. ¬†I was honest with him. Some¬†base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man¬†could behave¬†this way suggests that he needs my prayers,¬†not my tongue. ¬†In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God,¬†check myself, and recognize in the offender¬†the¬†child of God whom I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love. ¬†Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity. ¬†The artistry and mastery of¬†love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.¬† It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we¬†immediately see.

Just as it¬†takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense¬†soul work and an intimate and constant¬†connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.