Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Sunday, December 16, 2012

No Answers

Tragedy seems to have become all too common in recent U.S. history. The torture and murder of the American Ambassador and his defenders in Libya, on the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, and now, a horrifying and gut-wrenching murder of innocent first grade children in a school in Newtown, CT, are just 2 examples.

Leland and I have been comparing this time we're in, to the events that took place in the 1960's--the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy; the cold war and threats of nuclear devastation--when people in America were terrified and dismayed by what they were witnessing.

I was only one year older than those first graders, who were murdered on Friday by an insane gunman, when President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, TX. I still remember it vividly--the teachers crying, the reporters on TV, watching the caisson rumble down the streets, the horse without a rider and stirrups with backward-turned boots, and JFK's son saluting as his father's casket passed.

No doubt I remember much about November 22nd, 1963, because of the yearly reminders throughout time, that are now American history, but there were no reporters at Tecumseh Elementary School to chronicle what happened there. Those frightening memories were burned into my brain and have stayed there.


I wonder how much the surviving children of Sandy Hook School will remember about that horrible day their school was terrorized. My heart aches for them.

School, theater, and mall shootings. Planes full of innocent people flown into buildings full of innocent people. Murder by plane, car, firearm, knife; even a hammer, I read today. No reverence or respect for human life.

Do you wonder how we got here? Do you wonder why God allows such awful tragedy? Do you blame God for the evil that is part and parcel of life, since the beginning of human existence outside Eden? 

I don't have answers. I have theories--possible explanations based on observation of human behavior, modern American culture, and what I read in Scripture. I won't bother to pontificate because it will not bring back 20 first grade children. It won't relieve the unspeakable grief the parents endure as they prepare to bury their precious ones.

When I allow myself to imagine being in their places and having my children's lives (or my 3-year-old granddaughter's) suddenly and senselessly ended, I am sick to my stomach. And I pray, which is all there is left to do now, for God to pour his love, peace, and presence upon those who remain to live with the aftermath. As they seek him, this is his promise:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Change Of Season

Nature is an amazing teacher. So much of it reflects our inner lives, and the lessons abound.

With the fall season came brilliant colors and delightful weather for our enjoyment. It is my favorite time of year, hands down.

Pre-ride grooming--he's already excited
When I owned horses, it was also my favorite time of year to ride. I would get to the barn every chance I could, excited to ride out and see all the vibrant colors and feel a cool breeze as we galloped through the grass. Pep was anything but the deadhead, bomb-proof stereotypical Quarter Horse gelding. He was the smartest, most energetic and athletic QH I've owned or known. Born and bred for cutting, he loved having a job to do, but he also loved fall trail rides as much as I did. That first cool breeze up his nose would have him walking at nearly a trot pace, ears forward, spooking at leaves blowing across the ground. There was nothing dull about my best friend.

Fall is also a tough time of year for me, since I am currently not riding. It's ingrained in me to head to the barn and ride out, and then I remember--not now. It's another part of me--the equestrian I am at my God-created core, from my earliest memories--that I surrender to God's timing.

In characteristic fall style, the weather is widely variable and difficult to predict. It can be downright heavenly and alternately dreary and cold. So it is with our lives this year.

This fall, amidst some dreary days of life's challenges, we have been blessed to welcome a new family member; our son-in-law, Ross. Laurie, my youngest daughter, married her Starbucks crush, on October 20th. The day could not have been more beautiful, from the setting on a northwest Virginia horse farm to the beautiful couple, ceremony, and their guests. What an absolute joy and blessing!

That weekend, we learned our family has grown even more, with the announcement of (daughter and son-in-law) Alison and Chris's baby on the way!
Parents-to-be, Alison & Chris
Since that weekend in October, we've faced the challenges of a week down with flu, losing a lucrative photo shoot, and a costly home repair due to water damage; alternately, with some great business successes. Leland and I continue to move excitedly toward our business partnership.

Nature tells me that winter and the quiet stillness of dormancy is right around the corner. In our lives, however, we feel as though spring is appearing and life is stirring again. Buds are appearing, along with the hope and promise of renewed life. I pray this is our season:

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, 
to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.
Deuteronomy 28:12

Sunday, October 7, 2012

While We Wait

We see things happening, but still, we're not where we envision ourselves to be.

While we wait, we endure.

While we wait, sometimes we get angry. Sometimes, we cry. Sometimes, we laugh.

While we wait, we persevere.

While we wait, we do what we have to do, over and over again. While we wait, we endure seemingly endless trials.

While we wait, we trust.

While we wait, we surrender. Sometimes we are encouraged. Sometimes, great things happen. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with this earthly life.

While we wait, we grow. 

While we wait, we become spiritually attuned. Sometimes we get disconnected. Sometimes we are as near to heaven as we can ever be this side of the veil.

While we wait, one foot here in the physical; one foot there, in heaven itself.

While we wait, heaven waits for us. 

While we wait, and heaven waits, we dream. Sometimes, in our dreams, we catch a glimpse of the reality that awaits us.

While we wait. Bodies here, spirit here and there; one day to journey no more.

Someday, to be, home.

"Path" by Akiane Kramarik
In order to choose the right path, we do not have to figure out the wrong one ~ we just need to follow the light. --Akiane

Friday, October 5, 2012

So Much Good

Good is everywhere, despite the uneasiness we have felt. Believe it.

It's time to share the good stuff happening in our world of late. [Yea God!]

Leland On Location Photographic Images, Inc. has seen a consistent uptick in business since the second quarter of this year. In addition, we adjusted rates and are enjoying a new level of clientele that are very professional and respectful. In particular, we were thrilled recently to have had the privilege of shooting an event for Coca-Cola Refreshments--a big development for us.

Me, all business-like. ©Wray Photo
The legal wheels are turning (thank you for your diligence, Heather Wright) to acquire certification as a woman-owned business, increasing our likelihood of being booked for shoots with the big guys, who have minority quotas to be concerned with.

I'm looking forward to this more than you know. Here's why:

I've experienced a lot of loss in my lifetime; one of those being a job, victim of the company's financial cutbacks. As a result, I started a consulting business in 2006. I discovered I loved being an entrepreneur; being invested in something that was my own rather than working in a corporate culture where hard work goes unappreciated and where you're invisible, until you make a mistake. Fast forward to the recession. My primary client (and others) disappeared as they struggled for their own survival, and I closed the business.

It excites me to think of having ownership in a business again--to partner with my husband--not just sit on the sidelines watching, or take an occasional role here and there. I will be showing up every day on purpose, committed to success; financially, as well as in quality and client satisfaction--as is our usual practice. I'll be invested in something again.

Let me tell you right now, when God decides it's time, things move.

His time, not our made-up time. 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. --Psalm 13: 1, 5-6

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Uneasy Times

For several days I have felt a very disturbing uneasiness--a foreboding.

This is a time, I want to say, that is unprecedented in American history, but since I am not a scholar of that history, I can't really declare that with accuracy. I can accurately say, however, that this is an unprecedented time in my history as an American.

America is on the edge of a dangerous precipice, that, if the re-election of our current President occurs, will push her over into the abyss of tyranny so many have shed blood to protect her from. 

We will no longer be the country of the Declaration of Independence. It will be as Thomas Jefferson warned when he wrote, "The Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those willing to work and give to those who would not."

If there is no Democracy, what then? The tyranny of big government. The reason for the American Revolution.

Have you ever had your house broken into? Have you been robbed? Have you been mugged on the street for anything of value you might have? It leaves you feeling violated and fearful, doesn't it?

Government will mug you, take what you worked for, and leave you feeling violated. Nothing new, right? Just wait.

To add to that, Muslim terrorists chose the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack to invade the American embassy in Libya, torturing and murdering the ambassador, along with 3 other American servicemen. No one in our current administration wants to call this an act of war though.

Is it because not enough Americans were killed this time? Is it because the attack was not within US borders? Is it because we have an ineffective leader in the White House? You bet we do, and apparently he knows that's how Americans feel right about now.

Word got out a couple of days ago that the Obama's have a Hawaiian retirement mansion, valued at $35,000,000, available January 2013. Nice friends the Obama's have, to redistribute their wealth and buy their friends such a fancy gift. If not for them, the moving vans would be heading from the White House, back to Chicago.

So we have the ruination of the country of the Declaration of Independence, and rampant radical Muslims on an insane mission to kill people that disagree with them (after their Friday prayers, of course) and that no one in our government seems to be willing to do anything about; not even protect its own people.

Stop a second. You know what's worse than all this? People I know and love are fighting cancer. In a couple of weeks, our friend and my husband's cousin are both undergoing bilateral mastectomy in the battle against breast cancer. And Leland, who has previously had malignant melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, had 2 more skin biopsies last week. Thank God, they were benign, but unnerving to both of us, nonetheless.


Fear. All around us, prowling around, looking to consume us. I feel vulnerable; hyper-sensitive to the negativity all over the world.

Stop. Breathe.

Listen. There is a quiet voice within, God's spirit, speaking the truth.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... -I John 4:18

...set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. -Colossians 3:1-2


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding -Proverbs 3:5

And when we step back out into the fray, I suppose we might do well to take Mr. Jefferson's advice along:

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”  

Peace to you--have a blessed weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I'm Still Here!

To say, it's been busy, is an understatement. What a great thing to be putting into words!

It was just a month ago I was listening to the deafening silence, waiting.....

Since then, Leland and I have made some business decisions, consulted our attorney regarding those decisions, and have seen a dramatic turn in the type of client and work they have brought to us.

So, here are the reasons I have not been consistently blogging here:

  • I am now partner in Leland On Location Photographic Images, Inc., soon to be legally so, we hope. I am taking an active role as CFO, co-creative, and chief troublemaker. Okay, so that last one isn't a new role for me...shut up.
  • I've been blogging HERE, and have made our company blog my top priority. Since I believe so strongly in my husband's talents and abilities, it is really fun for me to choose a photo and blog his story around it. He rocks.
  • I'm still working part-time in retail hell. Counting the days until my $8/hour (before taxes) wage no longer makes a significant contribution to the family finances. Angel choirs will sing. 
  • I'm in wedding countdown with my daughter, Laurie, and the rest of the fam. We're SO excited!
  • On a more somber note, Leland and I have a good friend, and a cousin, both diagnosed with breast cancer and both undergoing bilateral mastectomy in just a couple weeks. This has so unnerved me (imagine how they feel) that I've found it hard to concentrate and focus.

Here's the story on that breakthrough I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Last week, we traveled to the Charlotte area to photograph a power generating facility for an international client. This is such an answer to prayer for several reasons: we have been praying and working toward winning a higher caliber of clientele; they had a dream shoot list that included aerials, exteriors, and interior shots; they respected Leland's talent enough to book him out of town and to pay his fee and travel expenses, without argument.

We are turning a corner, friends! God is faithful, he cares about our little lives and what happens to us.

This has been my purpose for blogging our personal journey all these months--to encourage someone else and to give God a broader audience to the proof of his faithfulness.

Good night, and God bless you!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Musings And Ponderings

I have several days away from my part-time, hopefully (now that our business is running at superspeed) temporary job, to consider all that has happened there--and most importantly, what it has taught me.

  • The work has been of some financial benefit to us, even at $8/hour and 20-something hours/week. All work has value. 
  • I've cleaned public bathrooms, been patronized, belittled, and unappreciated. I've been humbled and I have had to look to God for the strength to accept it.
  • I have witnessed some fairly hideous drama among the co-workers. I confess I have been a participant in some instances, but in some I have chosen to simply put distance between me and it. In all instances, I have sincerely desired to do my job to the best of my ability.
  • Power hungry people exist on even the most menial of job levels, as does poor leadership. 
  • I enjoy the horse community, for the most part; especially those who are beginning or returning riders. Their enthusiasm is easy to identify with and sharing in it is happiness. 
  • Some co-workers, like family, are alternately a joy and a challenge for me to be unselfish and loving.
  • I can push myself through illness, exhaustion, and pain. God made me strong in my weakness. 
  • I don't do my job for anyone's approval, but to honor God. 

I'd like to share a brilliant quote, by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf: "You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it." All of my jobs that I can rank as having had the worst leadership, as awful as the experiences have been, have taught me such valuable lessons on how to lead people. Perhaps, one day I will have the chance to put my lessons into practice again, but my fondest hope and prayer is that my partnership in business with my husband, and my modeling career, will soon be my full-time pursuits. 


For the most part, this short message contains simple truth (the point of this journey through life is to learn from the unhappy parts, so don't run from them). I am committing it to memory because, while I have oftentimes failed to live it, I desire to.

Life is too short. We should all be living like we're dying. We are. I have simply to remember those I've lost to cancer, as well as those who are in the battle for their lives, to want to do everything I can to live a God-honoring, abundant life--not simply survive.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 

Everyone have a wonderful, happy, and blessed weekend!

Breakthrough

I said months ago (here) that I would be blogging about the very difficult and personal journey through our financial crisis because I wanted God to have an audience. I wanted people to know God is faithful and true to his word, and how he would work out our dilemma.

I also wanted to walk through this and get it right. It's been my sad pattern to blame God and get angry for all the negative things that have come into my life. Really, the reason for the anger is simply because I didn't get what I want. This time, I intended to turn toward him and not away from him.

In a sense, my readers have been my accountability partners in my struggle for faith.

That's the recap leading up to my update: I want to tell you how God has suddenly turned things around for us.

Last week, the business email and phone started blowing up to book Leland. Some of this is the usual local stuff, which is great, but one of those clients is different.  It is a huge, international company. We're excited to be traveling outside our little territory and going out of state for a few days to shoot aerials, exteriors, and interiors of their facility.

To get the point across, this is HUGE!

Our calendar doesn't have a free day on it for over a week. We've even had to tell a client that there was a conflict and thought the job was lost. Leland even offered to refer to another photographer, but this client changed their date to book when he's available!

Every day we are amazed by how things have changed, but please don't get the idea I'm boasting about something we did. We actually quit doing all the usual things to drum up business; mainly, networking functions. When all our efforts amount to nothing, what else is left but to get on our knees? We trusted, we prayed, we agonized, we wavered, we waited........so that we could boast not in our own efforts, but in God alone.

These breakthroughs are like coming through the cold winter into the promise of spring and renewed life. They are a glimpse of what is possible, and it's simply amazing to us!

Our goals all along have been to make more money, to be debt-free, and to honor God with our abundance. Please continue to pray for us to achieve these goals.

Praise God for his goodness!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Waiting....

Here I sit, figuratively speaking, drumming my fingers on the table, waiting. Can you sense the boredom?

Leland and I still have conversations born of frustration and a sense of urgency, in which we try, once again, to think of any way possible we might relieve the circumstances that weigh on us so heavily. Inevitably, we find ourselves going in verbal circles, sighing, and resigning with a hug.

Waiting 

Since I've had a couple days off from my part-time job, I've been thinking about what it means to wait on God. I found some interesting reads out there on the interweb (gotta love Google).

I've discovered just about everyone is waiting for something, which should come as no surprise, but still, it was some comfort to realize (or shall I say, remember) that fact.

I read Isaiah 40 and a lot of commentary that accompanied it. [Bear with me while I hop down a rabbit trail.] Let me just say, being no stranger to academic writing, I find scholarly exegesis to be as useful as reading Chaucer in high school English Lit class--without the explanatory notes. You can grab bits and pieces but it's laborious reading. That said, there were some practical bits to take away, such as this:

Wait, but do so expectantly. Here's a visual:

This...
Daughter, Alison, waiting for her moment

Or this...


I wish I felt like a bride anticipating her wedding. How exciting! My daughter, Laurie, is getting married in 2 short months and I feel such a sense of happy anticipation for this event.

Look at them...so sweet...I can't wait!
(c) 2012 Leland on Location Photographic Images, Inc.
But there isn't that happy anticipation for my and Leland's lives at this moment.

Why?

Because I'm tired and faint. Because so much time has gone by and there's so much...quiet. Because we're getting, well, old. Time is ticking!

Look up at the sky! Who created all these heavenly lights?
Why do you say, ..."The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me?" Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy. Even youths get tired and weary; even strong young men clumsily stumble. But those who wait for the Lord's help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles' wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired. Isaiah 40:26-31

Circumstances can change, or not, but with this kind of help--wisdom, strength, power and energy--what more could I want?

I'm ready. Bring it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Don't EVER Give Up

That's right, the one who has given up on her dreams on more than one occasion is here to tell you just that.

Shall I go over it all again--all those excuses I had for giving up on modeling and throwing myself a pity party?

Being post-menopausal and all the crap that comes with it.
The Great Recession.
A persistent back injury.
Being uncharacteristically anxious at casting calls.
Financial crisis.
Blah, blah, yadda, yadda. 

Better than giving up entirely and pouting, I decided that I would be open-minded to what it meant to be the person God made me to be, with all my inherent abilities and heart's desires, and still be willing to let him guide me on my path. Or even send me down rabbit trails.

I believe that's what happens when you come to the end of yourself and all your striving. You tell the God who loves and made you, this is who I am, this is what I love to do, but I'll do whatever you ask--just show me.

Release.  Surrender.

In May, I was booked for a shoot for Piedmont Healthcare. I had no idea when I showed up at the beautiful location how big this campaign was going to be. It's big--TV and movie theater spots, print ads, web. The crew was wonderful; the "work", pure joy. And here is the result.


There are several beautifully creative videos; all of those with the word "Garden" in the title, as well as "Better 60 Movie" are the TV spots that I am grateful to be part of. [Be sure to take note of the credits, not the least of which is Talent Soup and Head Chef, Radford Harrell.]

For whatever reason, this is who I am. I love playing a role, getting outside of myself or being myself, forgetting the camera or playing to the camera--whatever I'm asked to do--and being in the moment.  

And I get paid to do this?

Yes, but the money isn't my primary motivation (shhhh, don't tell the potential clients). It's knowing that I am being true to myself and my Creator. When I glorify him, I am fulfilling my God-breathed purpose.

Bliss.

I realized recently that 2012 has brought a spike in submissions and modeling work. My dreams are still a living part of me; although I will continue to hold anything of this world loosely. Bearing these things in mind, yesterday, I decided it was time. Time to believe again; not just in how God made me, but in the fact that he is much bigger than I give him credit for being. I decided to embrace all this and I upgraded my online portfolio to Pro. In doing so, I put into action my faith and trust in a big God who is able to do big things with tools like a Webcomp. Now, I have more features that allow me to show clients searching for someone in my category a better representation of my work. As a bonus, I've found it has given me a great boost in attitude.

These words I used to speak rather doubtfully have gone from my head to my heart:

I am a Pro.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The "P" Word

Patience. 

It's so hard to master, and at this point in my life I'm not sure I ever will.

Waiting for word of my booking on a cruise line shoot has been a great opportunity to master patience. No problem, at first. Then days turn into weeks. My nerves have become more raw with every passing day from thinking over and over, I would love to have this booking, Lord. You know how much we need the money this would bring. It would be a dream come true.

I feel like a sprinter trying to be a marathon runner. Yeah, it's not working out so well.

I know, everyone with a Bible is going to quote Hebrews 12:1 right now: "...And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  

Easy to say because you're either on the sidelines watching this race or you're running it at a fantastic pace, and enjoying it.

 
At this point in the marathon, I'm gasping for breath, trying not to face plant on the road. My side aches, I need water, and I'm digging down to my core for another scrap of energy to turn into a few more strides. People are passing me as though I'm not crumpled along the curb; as though some metronome in their head is clicking off every step. 

Some people aren't runners, so don't judge me for stopping to catch my breath, walking a few strides and maybe even picking up the pace to a run once I have recovered a bit. I'll finish the race, same as you. Well, maybe not the same, but you get my meaning. 

Today has been the stop-to-catch-my-breath day.

Dear God, when is SOMETHING going to change for the better?  

The dinner hour had come and was quickly passing, so I went to the kitchen to see what Leland was up to. Mahi mahi burgers was what he was up to. I decided to make Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and garlic. I broke out the pretzel chips, hummus, and poured a glass of Don De Dieu (sorry, all you unfortunate people who have not tasted this nectar--get to Total Wine before it's too late for you and you settle for another American can of you-know-what). Pretty soon we were singing Inagaddadavida baby, don't you know that I loooooove youuuuuu...

Lo and behold, something had changed for the better. 

God is in the little things, and we are reminded again that blessings are right under our noses.

Friday, July 6, 2012

TGIF Y'all

I've actually used that charming term, "y'all." Cue the banjos.

It's Friday, which means 2 days off are ahead for most of the working world. For me, that means I get to enjoy today off and work all weekend. I'm counting on the crazies and meanies being too tired to shop after all their full moon antics of late. 

This week, all the kids, spouses, soon-to-be-spouse, and the granddaughter packed up and drove or flew to the far reaches of New York State to spend the 4th of July on Grindstone Island with my ex's family, and attend their grandfather's memorial service.

The view from one of the family cottages. Photo: Natasha Brooks
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this gem of real estate and are now searching your data bank's geography section for clues, Grindstone is a large island in the chain of Thousand Islands that dot the St. Lawrence River.

Shiny wooden boats, swimming, water skiing, boating of all kinds, warm days and cool nights, shoals, BUGS.....all make up the wonderful experience of visiting this vacation spot.

I know they had a blast. And they felt so far away. They're all on the way home, or will be soon. Back to the heat and humidity of the South, kids!

Here in Hotlanta, the week has been busy for Leland; not so much for me. The store manager has hired a few new people and my hours have been cut back. I had been working nearly full-time, so I'm not complaining about the break. Leland had lots of time in the office doing post-production. Really, both of us were just trying to escape the brutal heat.

We have several things to be grateful to our Provider for, among them:
  • After invoicing, invoicing again, and then calling several clients, they're going to actually PAY!
  • New bookings for Leland.
  • I received unexpected income: a check for renewal of a commercial I filmed in Miami in 2009 (the gift that has been giving every year), and a check from my late father's trust fund's interest income (long story......we won't go there because it involves a step-monster). Money is good.
  • Out of the wild blue, I received a call from an agent in AL that I hadn't spoken to since my last week in Miami, March '09, saying he was submitting me for a cruise line shoot. Not just any shoot, this one is in New Orleans, all expenses paid, is worth a lovely 4-figure rate, and will significantly boost my professional resume...not to mention, it will be FUN!
  • Leland and I are keeping the "4 walls" up, meaning we are living indoors, have transportation, food, and clothing. 
  • Our small group continues to bless our lives. We're happy we didn't do what most groups do, and break for the summer.

We are so grateful for all of our friends and family (maybe, even strangers) who have been praying for us, and for God's love, mercy, and provision. Please continue to ask God for the ability to pay our creditors and achieve financial freedom without bankruptcy, and pray for the cruise line shoot to go from submission to booking!

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Temporary vs. Eternal

I've been silent on the blog awhile, a bit on purpose, a bit not. 

Honestly, words have escaped me, having grown weary of nothing new or happy to write about. If reading another post here is boring to you, imagine how it feels to be in these flip flops.

Everything in our lives feels tenuous and temporary. 

Why is it such hard work to be grateful and content with what is? What's wrong with me?

Enter Guilt. 

I should be better than this by now. 

Why the word "tenuous" came to mind, I'm not sure. I don't normally use this word in the course of conversation, so out of curiosity I looked up Merriam-Webster's definition.

ten-u-ous: having little substance or strength: weak, flimsy: shaky

No wonder. That sounds pretty spot on as a descriptor of my world. 

Tired...no, exhausted...and weak. Plodding through every day feeling as though we're on the shaky precipice of a very tall cliff, always one minor thing from a major meltdown, my soul bleeds easily and the tears flow without warning. 

I try to mentally shake myself out of it.

It could be so much worse. Be grateful. You can walk, talk, see, hear, and feel. The kids are all healthy and prospering. Laurie's and Ross's wedding is coming up. Your husband loves you. Stella brings sunshine and laughter where none seemed to break through. You have friends who care and pray for you. 

Gratitude is being overshadowed and wearing thin. 

First cousin to tenuous is temporary.

tem-po-rary: lasting for a limited time 

My daughter, Jennifer, writes a fantastic blog about her family's adventures, titled Jen and Jon Plus Kate. 

Coincidentally, she blogged recently about her sense of everything in her life being temporary. Her words mirrored my feelings in many ways. For example:

Being so far from our families and the places I hold dear stretches my worn soul too far some days.

And even though Jennifer's daughter is just 3, she is already realizing what I did as her mom:

Her childhood is fleeting. My job is temporary.

And as though she had crept into my mind and read the thoughts there:

Today, my heart is crying out for just a tiny taste of permanent.

What would it feel like to know on a gut level that something wasn't going to break or wear out or die? That I could be with my people and my dogs and that wouldn't change? 

I'm craving eternal tonight. 

eter-nal: having infinite duration; everlasting

Jennifer shared this verse:

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I want to fix my eyes on what is unseen, but the seen is all that's in my face. All I see is the seen. I'm away from my people and places I love. I miss having a horse and riding, now more than ever. I love my friends, who live more comfortably than I can dream. I work myself into the ground for grocery money and a dose of everyone's drama, while I put a smile on my face. Everywhere I turn, the seen feels eternal, and I scream inside,  

I can't do this anymore. 

But I have to. I have to keep on keeping on. I have to choose this one thing, one more day, with my last ounce of strength:

God, I trust you. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

It's True

Nothing stays the same.

The longer one is in unpleasant circumstances it is tempting to believe they will never change, and I admit that I'm guilty of this, and so much that goes along with it: worry, despair, hopelessness, etc.

Because there is a certain tension that Christ followers deal with every day--the tension between the natural and the renewed spirit--we struggle with what is, in the physical, and what is our spiritual reality.

So while the facts that present themselves on a daily basis in this world occupy my thoughts and seem to enjoy generating all the negativity they can, the Spirit plays a recording of God's promises.

Interestingly, the negativity shouts at me, while the promises whisper calmly.

And then, something, no matter how small it is perceived, changes. Such has been the case for us, recently. Following is an update on how God continues to place his unmistakable hand on us:

  • When we returned home from Florida, we found an anonymous gift card in the pile of mail. 
  • Two friends rang our doorbell at different times the same day last week. They wrote checks and gave them to us. Of significant note here: we had never spoken to these people about our financial crisis. 
  • Leland has received extra work assisting a friend who is an HVAC contractor. 
  • A full-time employment opportunity I had applied for fell through (the expected interview never happened), but the next day, I received a call from the manager of the tack shop I had applied to over a month ago, offering me temporary work at her store. 

We're still living indoors, and we're eating well. We're being provided for, and I am keenly aware of one fact:

He never changes. 


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. --Hebrews 13:8
And my God will meet all your needs... --Philippians 4:19

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Back To Reality

The beach is so much nicer than Atlanta. Way nicer. Since being home from our Destin vacation, reality and the contrast of life at home and life on the beach--and in my dreams--has really struck me.




The week at the beach was paradise, but if I lived at the beach I would probably dream of a farmhouse, crisp fall days, brightly colored leaves, and a roaring fire in the fireplace, as I looked out the window on my pasture full of contented horses.




Humans are predictable creatures. Whatever is our every day experience, we always want what is not. We usually walk around not really seeing the pros of our every day life, while a short film of our "ideal" plays in our heads.

I don't think I will ever stop dreaming of my horse farm. It's my fondest dream. But while I'm day dreaming I often forget to be grateful for what is, right now.

The dream is so big

The bank account is so small.

I understand that contrast is part and parcel of life; without it we would never dream; never desire better. It's true in the physical as well as the spiritual. I am not the person I wish to be, yet, so I desire to be better. I have not realized my dream of a horse farm, yet, but I keep my favorite dream close, and say to myself, Wouldn't it be nice............ 

My dreams, as well as my desire to become a stronger spirit, temper the contrast of the present, as does the most important element: gratitude.

Being with my family for an entire week filled me with so much gratitude to God for the wonderful people I have in my life, coming home to all that is the mess of our lives was suddenly different.

The mess has literally lost its power. 

Gratitude, and the sense of wealth I have in people and relationships, not things, has been a welcome respite.

I am rich.

I like this reality.

Monday, April 30, 2012

D12: The Sequel

Back to The Hole.

I recall the hole digger's wife (her initials are Alison Mothershead) was fairly irritated with her husband for this act of ridiculousness. Jennifer did not like the fact that The Hole ate up shady space under the canopy.

Who would have guessed that such a thing would result in so many laughs and so many creative ways to use it? Take 10 slightly crazy adults, throw in a 2-year-old who loves animals and likes to imitate them (along with her 28-year-old uncle), and you have a pretty silly, video-worthy episode.

video

In the end, the critics saw the error of their thinking. Chris actually got kudos for that hole.

Kate was dancing at every opportunity; even while trying to keep an eye on the ladderball game.


We spent almost every waking hour on the beach, taking lots of pictures during the week.  This about sums it up.

A quiet moment with Ali and Kate

Keeping warm

Kate busting out in vacation stance

Kate color coordinating ladder balls. She got the organizing gene.

The McCalmont Family

Group vacation stance

Pretty mommy and daughter, Jennifer and Kate

My crispy crew!

Kate with Aunt Tasha and Uncle Justin

The 2 Entertainers

Attractiveness and Cuteness - No Charge

More Cuteness

The Lovebirds, Laurie and Ross

And the cuteness continues with Chris and Ali

Love

My proudest accomplishment and the best job I ever worked myself out of, being their mom.
The "Old People"

Kate decided to brave the ocean on our last beach day. She ventured out onto the sand bar with her parents and other family, net in hand, hoping to catch some critter or sea shell. You did it Kate!





The view from our table
Lastly, I have to mention the sweet gift Leland and I received from everyone; a wonderful dinner at Louisiana Lagniappe. Justin told us to be ready at 6:15. He picked us up in his very large, black SUV--limo style--and dropped us off at the restaurant. He had pre-arranged a table overlooking the water, and had chosen a bottle of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, which was presented after we were seated. It was beautiful--delicious seafood, atmosphere, and relaxation that we rarely seem to get at home.

How can I adequately put into words how God has truly blessed me, and not make it sound cliche or trite? I am honestly, to my core, grateful beyond my ability to convey, for my beautiful family. They make me proud every day of their lives and I love them with all that a mother's heart can hold.

Please, can we do this reunion thing again next year? I don't think it will take much arm twisting, right everyone?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

D12: Family Reunion

If I were to make a movie of our week in Destin, that's what the title would be.

And here is the movie poster photo:

Left to right: Kate, Laurie, Natasha, Justin, Jennifer, Jon, Leland, Me, Chris, Alison, and Ross 
When Leland and I arrived at our fantastic beach house for the week, the first thing to do was get our hug tanks filled. The next occasion was to greet our son-in-law-to-be, Ross, when he and Laurie arrived. Sidebar ---> Welcome to the craziness, Ross!

There was so much laughter, so much fun. The weather was perfect. The beach was perfect. The water was beautiful shades of blue and green, and clear--like glass. There were even waves, much to Leland's surprise.

It was almost this deserted while we were there--so relaxing. Photo credit: Jon McCalmont
This sand bar was a favorite spot. Photo credit: Lynne Holder

Kate had never seen the ocean before and it was wonderful to watch the awe on her face as she took it all in for the first time--the sight of a vast, blue ocean, the sound of the surf, the feel of the soft, white sand on her feet, the seagulls, and sandpipers scurrying along the edge of the water. Being the nature girl that she is, she loved the birds, and was fascinated by the starfish Aunt Ali found in the shallow water.

The ocean was a little overwhelming for her, so her place for most of the week was a safe distance from the water, in her beach chair.



The rest of us made camp under 2 canopies, with all the necessities of beach lounging: chairs, towels, sunblock (still, red stripes were abundant), coolers stocked with drinks, and tunes. Ladderball was the most strenuous activity of the week.

Kate decided to ref for Justin and Chris

I think Chris might have gotten bored with all this relaxation at one point, because he started digging a hole under our canopy. It got big, then bigger. Kate had a great time disappearing and popping out of the hole.

Photo credit: Lynne Holder

The hole continued to grow, until it got big enough for Justin to fit into, so he decided that he would hide in there and surprise Kate when she returned from her potty break. Here's video of the surprise. FYI, the elephant noise Justin made was one of Kate's favorite things. He did this all week and she never got tired of it. I was pretty amused by watching him decide whether or not his drink was worth consuming at the end, as well as with Kate's reaction to finding Uncle Justin.

video


There were so many funny things going on all week that kept us all laughing ourselves silly: reciting movie lines from all their favorite movies (Kung Fu Panda was the movie of the week--Skadoosh!), Kate dancing and everyone dancing with her, vacation stance (you had to be there), body surfing sand rashes (Chris beat Leland, with the bloody forehead). And there was the unbelievably sweet gesture from the kids, treating Leland and I to dinner at Louisiana Lagniappe.

In an effort to keep this recap a reasonable length, I will post "D12: The Sequel", soon. More to come!

How blessed am I? L to R: Jennifer, Laurie, Justin, Alison, and the happiest mom on the planet.