He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastes 3:11
Ecclesiastes 3:11 is one of the most beautiful verses of Scripture to me. On the heels of the popular “To Everything There Is a Season” poem of the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3, this verse reminds us that everything serves an ultimate purpose and happens when it should.
I’ve spent many days wrestling with God over the the whys and why nots, so I understand this knowledge is not always comforting, especially when we face horrific circumstances. The last part of the verse acknowledges this limitation of our humanity—our inability to comprehend God’s ways–and gets us off the hook of trying to explain the unfathomable. We need only trust His providence, long-range divine vision, and Sovereignty.
I find the middle of this Bible verse most potent. God has set eternity in our hearts. This explains our thirst for water from an unearthly well. For we were never meant to have all our yearnings satiated in this life. We were created in the image of God, created to commune with Him “in the garden,” and, therefore, with the innate desire to spend “our always” with Him.
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
Sadly, the only cure for grief is to grieve. —Mark Lemon
This was spring break week for our university. Thankfully. I desperately needed time to “just be” and sit with my grief.
I needed to sleep as much as my body would allow. I needed to escape the usual colors and sounds of life because at the moment everything seems too bright and too loud. I needed to take one-day-at-a-time and not bear the weight of grief through meetings, planning, students, and other interactions. I needed to call my mom in the middle of the day just to hear her voice. I needed to clear my desk and shoot a million photos of the sunflowers friends delivered along with gift cards to Olive Garden because no one feels like cooking or even deciding on a menu. I needed to draw sunflowers and tweak the poem I wrote about my dad five days before he passed. I needed to move through my day without purpose. I needed to feel safe in my grief and not feel the need to excuse myself or apologize for being inattentive or not completely present. I needed to look through family pictures and savor the memories. I needed to listen to the same Daryl Coley song over and over and over and over because it is the only song that soothes my soul right now. I needed to sit in silence with God and be filled by His presence.
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now how comfortable it will be to touch the earth instead of the nothingness of the air and the endless freshets of wind? And don’t you think the trees, especially those with mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come–six, a dozen–to sleep inside their bodies?
After this week’s rainy start, autumn graced us with sunny skies and cooler temperatures. Those of us who dwell in the Deep South appreciate the respite and the acknowledgment of the season, but we know in a matter of days—or even hours—we will be back to mid-summer heat and another season of storms.
I take three or four 5-15 minute walks throughout the workday. I walk to ruminate, to reset, and [especially] to move my body—which suffered much during the year and a half of Zoom. Lately, during my walks, I’ve been noting the subtle but sure transformation of the trees—the changing colors creeping into the dogwoods and maples, the thinning canopy of the black walnut and the oaks.
Today’s tree comes from one of my just-before-autumn walks. It’s not the most striking tree on campus, but there is something arresting in its stance against the cloud-filled sky.
We are some weeks away from the fullness of the season. We will blink one morning and find everything bursting in autumn glory and blink again and find only the bare structure of trees. This tree represents the in-between, a tree dreaming. For once, I am appreciating the slow change, and not rushing toward the glory.
We survived another week and made it to the weekend, y’all! Pat yourself on the back for not completely “losing it” during another week of life during a pandemic.
When I arrived at work Monday–by the hardest–I wasn’t sure if I had the strength to get to Friday. I thought about leaving work at 10 a.m. that day and starting over next week. There was nothing particularly challenging about Monday–or this week for that matter. It’s the weight of all the stuff we’re all carrying. I feel it. You feel it. Everybody’s feeling it, and we’re doing the best we can.
That we made it to today is a magnificent feat, so yes, applaud yourself and treat yourself to a big bowl of chocolate almond ice cream or whatever decadent treat your heart desires.
I had a different plan for today’s list, but since that list will take energy I do not have, I decided to postpone that post and close out the blog week with a list posted by Blessing Manifesting some days ago, “Seven Things to Remember When You’re Overwhelmed.”
You’re allowed to step back and take a break. (Yes, even when there is so much to do)
It’s okay to ask for help.
You can get through this.
You are more capable than you know.
Just take things one step at a time.
Don’t underestimate the power of closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. (I mean a really deep breath. The kind you feel moving through your whole body)
You don’t need to have everything figured out right now.
About the Image: The adorable card above came from Rhonda R., one of my former students. It was given to me many moons ago, but I rediscovered it recently while organizing my “to be blogged” files. The image is from Endless Dream by Kim Anderson (pseudonym/brand name of Bertram Bahner). The collection features 100 [previously] unpublished photographs of children.
About the Image: This photo features vintage postcards my Love Notes friend Fran B sent last year. I am in awe of the handwriting and the well-preserved ink (and postcards themselves) after so many decades. If you look closely at the postmarks, you can see the postcards were written and mailed in 1950, 1944, and 1909 (112 years ago!). I will eventually write a longer post about them, but for now, please enjoy the photo with an appropriate line from an Emily Dickinson letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
I always want to talk about important subjects, but with hope. Music is supposed to heal people. — Fatoumata Diawara
At the beginning of the year, I thought I’d focus on developing my monochrome photography skills, but life got in the way. Before I pressed pause on that venture, though, I was able to coordinate and complete two “Monthly Monochrome Mayhem” swaps in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.
Through the swaps, I made another photographer friend, Betty H., from the United Kingdom. She does a lot of concert photography, so she shared photos from a show at Birmingham Town Hall that featured Fatoumata Diawara and Staff Benda Bilili, singers from the continent of Africa.
Diawara is a Malian singer-song writer and actor whose music:
draws elements of jazz and funk into an exquisitely sparse contemporary folk sound – refracting the rocking rhythms and plaintive melodies of her ancestral Wassoulou tradition through an instinctive pop sensibility. At the centre of the music is Fatou’s warm, affecting voice, spare, rhythmical guitar playing and gorgeously melodic songs that draw powerfully on her own often troubled experience. –from Fatoumata Diawara’s Facebook Page.
Diawara opened for Staff Benda Bilili, a group of disabled street musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The group consists of:
Four senior singer/guitarists sitting on spectacularly customized tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication, are the core of the band, backed by a younger, all-acoustic, rhythm section pounding out tight beats. Over the top of this are weird, infectious guitar-like solos performed by a [young] prodigy on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. –from Staff Benda Bilili’s Facebook Page
The name of the group translates roughly to “see beyond [appearances].”
Betty says the musicians were “a joy to photograph.” I can tell! There’s so much energy in the photos that I can feel the good vibes.
The spark is even more apparent in the original color photos.
Aren’t the photos spectacular? Betty confessed that she frequently converts concert photographs to monochrome because “working around the choices of the lighting technicians” can be challenging. I see her point, but I love the mysterious aura of the color photos too.
As Diawara points out, there’s a lot of difficulty in life. There’s also hope, joy, and laughter, which make the tough stuff bearable. I feel all of this in the music of Staff Benda Bilili and Fatoumata Diawara. Don’t you?
in a world of one color
the sound of wind
Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)
The “Winter Scene” card above was crafted by my mixed media photography art “inspirer,” Diane W. (midteacher on swap-bot). She sent it to me two years ago, but it has been hiding in a pocket in my Traveler’s Notebook. Now, that it’s been “found,” the photo creation is an able companion for Bashō’s haiku.
One of the things I love about New York City is that the city is constantly moving. I can stand in–or walk through–the same location for hours and watch hundreds of stories unfold. I’m convinced NYC never runs out of stories–and that the story is rarely what it seems.
I captured the photo above several years ago as I walked through or near Union Square [I think]. Though we are naturally drawn to story of the couple in the foreground, the more interesting stories take place beyond them.
What words–or stories–do you have for today’s photo?