Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When Hope Looks a Little Crazy

While the blizzard of 2016 swirled around the east coast, Florida got gusty winds and the coldest weather of the new year. I grabbed a denim jacket and went to visit my dad in the hospital.

I stepped off the elevator and before I could even look for the sign to direct me to his room, I heard my dad’s voice.

He was walking the halls with a therapist, showing off with a few sprightly hops that he could walk perfectly fine on his own. I was surprised to see him up and around since my mother said the day before hadn’t been so good.

My dad spotted me from end of the hall and waved. The therapist watched him and then asked in a voice that clearly questioned his faculties, “Do you think you know her?” 

My dad looked at her like she might have a few screws loose. “Of course,” he said. “That’s my daughter.”

Hope sometimes looks a little crazy.

* * * * 

My friend Erin and I feel like we’re sort of related. Maybe it’s because we’re both Italian, maybe it’s because we’re both aunties of nieces, and maybe it’s because our sisters are our best friends. 

We get each other.

She was telling me how happy she was that her youngest sister announced she was pregnant, but she has some mixed feelings. Erin’s the oldest in a family of three girls and although she and her husband have been married the longest, it’s just the two of them so far. Her middle sister already has two girls and now her youngest sister was having a baby too.

She told me this might sound silly, but she’d always wanted to be the sister that had the first boy in the family. It was kind of a dream of hers.

She laughed as she told me and said she was praying about her feelings. 

I felt compelled to offer her a worst-case scenario and said, “Well, you’d better prepare yourself just in case, because your little sister just might have a boy and steal the show.”

I didn’t even realize what I’d done until days later.

I was a hope-squasher. A dream-killer. I threw cold water over the heartfelt words a friend shared with me.

I know what it feels like because I’m there too.

{And maybe you are too?}

I have a few things buried deep in my heart that seem practically impossible. They look absolutely dead at times, but every so often things look up, and there’s hope. 

Then it’s bleak and cold again.

I’ve sat across the table from my friends who were excited with me at first. Cheered me on. But as time dragged by, {for God's timeframes are always longer than we expect} they'd ask for the latest update and start looking at me like I'm a little crazy for hoping.

“I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance of this thing reviving,” one friend told me, although she dropped her eyes and I knew she really thought it was more like zero.

“I wish you’d get closure with this so you could just move on,” another friend said, as she moved on to another topic.

“I can’t understand it,” said another, shaking her head. “I just don’t know what to tell you.”

My friends meant to be helpful, but their words stung.

I desperately wanted someone to say, 'I don’t understand what God’s doing either in your life, but I’ll stand with you and pray with you and hope with you.'

Then I remembered the unasked-for opinion I was so quick to give to Erin a few weeks ago. I realized I’d said the very discouraging words that so many have said to me. 

I grabbed my phone and sent her a text and told her I was sorry for the words I'd said without thinking and I wanted to pray with her for this desire of her heart.

* * * *

As I sat in my dad’s hospital room, my phone buzzed with a text. It was from my friend Erin.

Her sister’s having a girl.

I left the hospital as the wind gusted around me on my way to the parking lot. I decided to stop at a store on my way home in search of some cozy pajamas for this coldest night of the year. 

At the far end of the store I spotted it. A pillow with words as plain as the letters on a typewriter.


Standing stark in gray and cream. In the colors of my new bedspread.

I carried the pillow into my house as my mother texted me. All the hospital tests came back clear and my dad could go home.

Even when it’s cold and bleak and sometimes when it looks a little crazy  {and maybe because that’s when you least it expect it} hope shows up.

Don't give up hope.

I'm having coffee with my friends Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Join me there for more posts from my blogging friends!

And here's a little invitation for you: Beginning Feb. 15, my friend Heather at Recollected Design and I will get together via a Facebook group to study Angie Smith’s Seamless, to see how the people and promises of the Bible fit together and what they mean for our lives. Get a copy of the book here or here and come join us on Facebook! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shedding Some Light on the Subject

I work a 9-to-5 corporate job {in addition to this blogging gig} and they both require some photography work.

At my day job, I’m part of a communications team. We stage an event every year where my assignment is to accompany the professional photographer for the evening

As we shoot photos and conduct interviews, I pepper him with questions about lighting and setting up shots. 

He tells me about his new camera and all the amazing things it can do.

Even after four years of shooting photos for my blog, I’m still confused about shutter speed and light settings. 

I just put my camera on AUTO and almost always turn the flash off. 

I tell him the flash gives my photos a strange yellowish cast and I don’t know how to fix it.

He’s incredulous and tells me I’ve got it all wrong. 

The flash, he says, is my friend.  

I'm not so sure about that. 

After all the time I've spent with my camera, there's still so much of it that's mystifying to me. 

And after all this time, there's still so much that's perplexing about life. 

The questions I can't quite figure out, doubts that make me wonder if the road I'm on is really taking me where I want to go, and fear that rises up that things will never change.

{Can you relate?}

Maybe you've had emotions of jealousy or anger stirred from a circumstance that didn't go as you wanted it to. Maybe you're facing a disappointment and loss of hope. 

Maybe it's sadness from a broken friendship or relationship, or maybe just a letdown from the holidays or something you'd been looking forward to.

I'm thinking that maybe I just don't know how to use these things that show up in my life -- and sometimes stay long past their welcome.

Have you ever had God illuminate your life for a few minutes? 

What I mean is, like a flash, I can suddenly see what's going on from God's perspective. 

What he's doing, how he's moving, how the pieces of my life fit together. How he's weaving the past into the present for something beautiful for the future. 

I see the hurt turned into hope, the pain made peaceful, and the loss look more like love.

Then it goes dark again. The thought isn't as clear anymore and soon I doubt what I saw in the light.

But maybe it's those illuminating flashes that we should hold onto and know that God's using all the pieces of our lives . . . for them, for us, and for him. 
You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. - Ps. 18:28
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. - Ps. 36:9

So as my photographer friend advised, I'm going to try to use the flash more often with my photos {because you can see how they turned out when I tried to shoot at night last summer when I was in Italy}.

He took the photo {below} of Brittany {my blog's social media manager extraordinaire!} and me when it was nearly dark.

Thanks to the flash, you can still see us.

And who knows what kind of photos I could take when I start making friends with my camera.

A little invitation for you: Beginning Feb. 15, my friend Heather at Recollected Design and I will get together via a Facebook group to study Angie Smith’s Seamless, to see how the people and promises of the Bible fit together and what they mean for our lives. Get a copy of the book here or here and come join us on Facebook! 

I'm having coffee with my friend Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Click the images for more posts from my blogger friends!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Looking for the Greatest Spectacles on Earth

2015 was the year of the glasses. 

I spent more time than I could have ever imagined on eyewear. Choosing, returning, adjusting. 

And I spent even more time regretting.

When I ordered new glasses during the summer, I didn’t know it was just the start of a three-ring circus that continued to the very last day of 2015, as I raced across town to have the frames adjusted before the optical store closed for New Year’s Eve.

It all started in the summer with a pair of eggplant metal frames that I chose in a hurry at my eye doctor’s office. 

I didn’t like them when they arrived and corralled my sister to help me pick a replacement pair. I tried on every frame in the store and with her approval, finally chose a much more expensive pair of Gucci frames.

I was quite confident I would love them, because well, I love designers. 

But apparently Gucci couldn't sway me because I didn’t like those glasses either. 

I'd catch a glimpse of them in the mirror and all I could see was the eighth-grade version of myself {that I had no desire to ever meet again} with clunky clownish frames looking back at me.

The store refused to exchange them again so I just chalked up my losses and moved on.

To a pair of DKNY frames at a completely different optical store {where no one knew me and probably wouldn't suspect I might be a bit glasses-obsessed}.

But the first night I wore my new glasses, I noticed they were scratched. No problem, the store said, they’d order new lenses. 

When they arrived, the technician flipped the old lenses out and when he pushed in the new ones, they fell right through. Too small.

They ordered me a whole new pair, but when they finally arrived, they didn't fit like the first ones did and I spent weeks making trips to get them adjusted. 

Too loose, too tight, I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks when nothing seemed just right.

If only I could have gazed a little longer at myself in the mirror before committing to a pair of glasses, maybe things would have turned out differently.

Then I found out about Warby Parker

The company that ships you five frames to try on at home for free. 

What a spectacular idea to get five days to glance, gawk and get a glimpse of yourself doing all the regular things you normally do and then send them back. 

And the return shipping's even on them, too.

Their new collection of frames taking inspiration from the bright colors of the circus, is a sight to behold.

And I just love a company that makes a difference, too. 

For every pair sold, Warby Parker distributes a pair of glasses to someone in need and they’ve already given away over a million pairs of glasses.

Sometimes only after a long quest, does a new frame of reference emerge. 

That suggests there might be more here than meets the eye.

I don't know about you, but maybe a fresh colorful vision to start the new year is all I need to see things differently.

{And of course, a new pair of glasses to bring things into focus can't hurt either.}

So I'm eager to put the glasses circus of 2015 behind me. 

And I’ve even donated the Gucci glasses to someone in need {sort of}. 

My mother's been thinking about new glasses so I’ve told her they might be perfect for her with some new lenses.

What do you say we come one, come all, with faith and hope that 2016 will be the greatest year on earth, for all of us? 

I think that might just be quite the spectacle.

I'm visiting with my friends Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Join me there!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

When I Have No Words

I’ve decided not to choose a word for this year. 

That makes 2016 feel a little exposed and risky, but I'm going to brave it. 

It seems as if I'm not part of the in-crowd of word-choosers because I really do love words and choosing one to reflect on for the year always captures my fancy. 

For the past few years, I’ve rummaged through all of my favorite words — words like lovely and glossy and dazzling. Like contestants at a beauty contest, I’ve selected the top contenders and then awarded one of my favorites with the title, WORD for the YEAR. 

But to be honest, it feels like I’m looking for a word that’s more of a prediction for the new year. And the word that’s uppermost in my mind these days is not really a word I’d like to focus on all year. 

It’s fear.

Fear of what the year may bring. 

I’m afraid that my life will change. And I’m afraid that my life won’t change. 

I’m afraid that everything will stay the same. And I’m afraid that things won’t stay the same.

{Have you ever felt this way?}

I’m not sure I could have imagined all that the past year held, with last summer’s trip to Italy for a faith and art retreat as the centerpiece of quite a remarkable year. 

But what was most extraordinary to me was that my sister traveled this year, too. 

She went to New York over the holidays because she wanted to. Usually she travels only if she has to.

It seems laughable to me that I’ve traveled to New York, Paris and Italy, and not my sister. 

She’s the adventurous one, not me. I’m the bookworm and she’s the social butterfly.

Our last trip together was 15 years ago when we jetted off to Los Angeles to visit one of her friends for a week of movie-star-gazing, dinner-clubbing and hill-climbing beside the Pacific.

Then she decided that she no longer liked to travel because she doesn’t like planes or elevators or skyscrapers or tunnels or bridges. 

And she doesn’t even want to think about a trip requiring flying across an ocean.

So she stays home and when I travel without her, I feel like a piece of myself is missing. 

I stood under the Eiffel Tower, wishing she were beside me to experience the awe of it. 

I walked through the Plaza in Manhattan and knew she’d love the rich history we’d read about in books.

I scanned the menu in Italy and saw her favorite pasta, gnocchi, and wished she were there to sample it.
But over the summer, she told me she and my brother-in-law were praying more fervently, more intentionally about her fear of travel. 

I prayed too because I have a dream only God could orchestrate that someday we would travel together. I want us to see all the places we've read about in books when we were little girls. Because there's no one I'd rather share it with than my sister.

In the fall she said she was experiencing something quite strange. She couldn't explain it, but she really wanted to travel to New York to visit it at Christmas.

I think sometimes to push fear to the edges of our lives, we need a faith that completely transforms us. But so often that faith asks us to stir, to rouse ourselves and move in a direction that seems unnerving. 

It’s a bit risky and it’s no ordinary journey, but as we move, we are changed. 

As we look at our lives through God’s perspective, fear loses its power. 
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Is. 41:10

My sister and brother-in-law spent the week before Christmas in New York, watching the Rockettes, taking my niece and nephew to see Stomp, taking a carriage ride through Central Park, walking through Wall Street, eating at Sardi’s and visiting the iconic Plaza in Manhattan. 

She said she had an amazing time. 

She said she felt free.

So this year I don't want to box myself in with just one word. 

Maybe this year is meant to live without borders or boundaries. Wide open, expansive, limitless. 

I want to greet whatever this year brings with anticipation, not afraid but knowing that even what’s hard can hold treasure, with an invitation to know more of God. 

So I'm hopeful. For all the days in this year ahead of me.

And maybe someday I’ll find myself in Paris, chocolate croissant in hand as I walk along those famous streets, and I’ll look over at my sister as she catches her first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

And I'll know what she's thinking without her having to say a word.

A little note: thanks to my 12-year-old nephew Nate, who took all the NYC photos.

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Click the images to read more posts from my friends!