why I might like summer a little

We all have our favorites, and that’s ok. My favorite TV show is Food Network’s “Chopped.” My favorite sound is that of quiet, if quiet can qualify as a sound. My favorite season is Fall, followed closely by Spring and then Winter. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever been a big fan of summer. I don’t particularly enjoy hot weather; 70 degrees is as warm as I’d like on any given day.  But some snapshots over the weekend may have changed how I feel about summer, at least just a little bit. Each season has its own emotional attachments, its flavors, its appropriate behaviors. I suppose in Southern California more than anywhere else, you could go to the beach in December and it might make just a little sense. But only a little. Every Christmas, I always tell myself I should just slowly buy and wrap gifts throughout the year and avoid the mad crunch in December. So practical, but it just wouldn’t feel right to wrap a Christmas gift in April. We are people shaped by seasons.

And so, from a non-summertime gal, here is my ode to the joys of summer.

Summer is a season for bubbles, lots of them!

Summer is a season for outdoor crafts.

Summer is a season for boys being boys.

Summer is a season for stealing moments and sharing secrets.

Summer is a season for eating cake shaped like fishies in an ocean because pumpkin pie is for Thanksgiving and classy cakes are for Christmas. But cakes shaped like fishies in an ocean, those are especially reserved for the summer, of course!

What is your favorite season, and why?

clasped

There are moments that come that just make my heart really, truly glad.

There was the moment my patient’s parents finally received news about the MRI’s results. The mom was exhausted from lack of sleep due to nights spent consoling her inconsolable child, afraid of the strange tubes and lines and the strangers who kept coming at her with a mix of unpredictable comfort and pain. The surgeons were able to get the entire tumor out. No translator was needed to explain the cry of relief, that unstoppable strong clasping of the surgeon’s hand from an otherwise shy and reserved family. They could breathe and hope and plan again. Maybe they will see their daughter get married one day after all.

There is the moment every morning when I see my neighbors go for their walk. He with his old, soft, black hat, his hunched back, and his walker. She with her large glasses, soft smile, braided grey hair, hands quietly clasped behind her back. She always walks just a few steps behind him, just to make sure. They walk patiently around the block, no sadness or fear or shame about them, just glad to be out for their daily walk, together.

There is the moment when I’ve pulled into the driveway and open my car door. I can already hear my sweet silly dog barking that particular bark he lets out when he knows one of us is home. It’s so endearing, how he already knows by just hearing our cars. That sweet moment when I walk through the door and he scurries over, tail wagging, tongue hanging like a goof in expectation of me dropping my bags and smothering his furry head with kisses. His collar clasp jingles against his dog tag as I rub his happy round belly.

Sometimes these are all the moments we need.

A Terrible Evil and a Multiplied Joy

It was my thing. My therapy. My place to retreat to when I was empty of anything meaningful to give to others, and needed to take in by way of my camera lens what was simple and good again.

I have never had an overwhelming desire to make anything professional out of my photography.  I was already receiving all that I wanted from it. The few paid jobs I have done, while certainly enjoyable in their own right, have not given me the same kind of satisfaction that I receive from my spontaneous, quiet, unpressured walks exploring old and new places alike. Perhaps this is partly due to the expectations of other people that come along with paid work. It was wonderful to have something I could do purely for the personal joy I could gain from it.

The thought that came to me out of nowhere one evening was, then, very unexpected. But incredibly compelling. If I were to offer my prints for sale, and give the proceeds to fight child trafficking through ZOE Children’s Homes, an organization that my husband and I know and love deeply…what would happen? What could happen?

I had to give it a test run. I quickly assembled a collection of some of my favorite photos, and posted the album on Facebook with the question, would anyone buy these in order to help fight child trafficking? One by one, the requests began to trickle in with so much support, so much encouragement. This test run is still in a very early stage, but there is already an amount raised that can do a tremendous amount of good in a place where the US dollar can go so much farther than a $4 latte.

Then the temptation came. Keep some of the profit for yourself. The temptation was strong. Do some good with it, but hey, keep some for yourself too. Nothin’ wrong with that. True, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But I’ve got a full-time job and I’ve got everything I need. Any excess income would just go towards buying more excess. And I don’t need any more excess. These kids at high risk of being sold into the human trafficking market due to the vicious cycle of poverty, however, do need safe shelter. Food. A healthy, loving environment. With Christ as my example of what it looks like to give oneself away in love for those who are broken, I am convicted and therefore making myself publicly accountable that anything I gain from these photography sales must go 100% towards helping others. The love of Christ compels me.

Suddenly, my joy in my photography has multiplied. Tremendously. The vision runs deeper, the purpose is greater. I understand Christ’s words a little bit more now: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Edmund Burke once said, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” I want to stop doing nothing. I want to do my part, for His glory. I think this could be the beginning of something kind of amazing.

the world comes alive

There is something about photography that causes a deep place in me to come alive. I inherited my father’s serious, at times overly somber personality. But when I have my camera in hand, my heart beats with the anticipation of finding beauty:

Wonderful, hopeful, surprising, delightful, simple beauty.

I can feel the transformation in my heart when I take pictures for this simple quest for what is good and lovely. My eyes look past facades. They look for something that is beyond cliche. I don’t want the easy pictures, the generic pictures, I want the real thing. My eyes search out corners, cracks, expected places, unexpected places. There is no end to what can be found in any time and any space when my heart and eyes begin to search this way. A new way of seeing what I thought I’d already seen. Seeing what I had never seen before.

Wonderful, hopeful, surprising, delightful, simple beauty.

Abbot Kinney Road, Venice, CA

courage is a curious thing

Sometimes, we throw around phrases without really knowing what we are asking of ourselves or of others. Take courage. I have had a number of friends use that word courage with me in recent conversations.

It takes courage to live in community.

It took a lot of courage for those parents to withdraw life support.

That patient was so courageous in his years of battling his disease.

Courage is a curious thing. It is not quite like strength. It is more pliable, more dynamic. Strength takes on a more solid form regardless of its context. Courage, however, can take on new skin as its circumstances change. For many of our patients and their families, they take courage for weeks, months and years as they fight for the patient’s life. They take courage to undergo surgeries, to tolerate the debilitating side effects of strong medications, to endure agonizing hours of rehabilitation. But for many of these same patients, there sadly comes a point when they are challenged with what can feel like a complete undoing of courage itself. But in reality, it is simply a transformation. Going from the courage to live, to the even greater courage to die. Some families in our unit struggle deeply with this, and become stuck. Part of the reason, I believe, is because there is a moral aspect attached to courage, particularly in the context of a pediatric intensive care unit. (Or at the very least, there is a social aspect, because typically in situations where courage is required, other people are affected.) Purported courage without wisdom can easily slip into recklessness. Courage with wisdom does not come easily.

In another context, my artist friend Chia has a tagline on his business card, “Creativity takes courage.” I never fully understood this until I started becoming more aware of my fears. In my creative life, I began to notice that moment of hesitation, that quiver in my stomach whenever I finished a piece of writing, finished processing a set of photographs, or sat on the verge of playing an improvised melody. In the lingering seconds before opening these up to the world, I would feel those surprising yet familiar trembles in my gut. I began to realize there is a certain vulnerability that you open yourself up to when you share expressions of yourself to others. You begin a certain kind of dialogue with others when you begin to share your creative self, and in that dialogue, the door to criticism opens, whether you ever actually hear that criticism or not. But so too opens the door to exhilaration, encouragement, self-discovery, and growth.

It takes courage to live in community. This is not to say that we all need to become socialites, as Adam McHugh articulated so wonderfully in his book, which is gospel to introverts like myself. But introverted or extroverted, living in community requires creativity because we must learn how to define, accept and express our unique selves in the context of relationship. And creativity takes courage.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” True courage can feel, at times, terrifyingly elusive. But when it is found, its beauty and value are beyond measure.