Growing up, my dad and his brothers built almost every house we lived in, built it according to the plan our mother drew out at the kitchen table (in the days before you had to have a bona fide blueprint) over cups of coffee and slices of pie. We loved seeing those houses go up. Loved seeing the slab poured; loved walking from space to space in the wooden skeleton, stepping through walls like superheroes, imagining what each room would look like when it was done, claiming this one or that as our own; loved the smell of fresh sawdust and sand and cement; loved the sight of our uncles grinning down at us from the scaffolds, their strong muscled arms glistening brown in the hot sun, slapping mortar on bricks and laying them in place so expertly; loved, loved, loved the smell of new. We children watched our houses form before our eyes.
I’ve been following Ann Voscamp’s Blog, A Holy Experience, for a while now, and I just finished reading her recent book, One Thousand Gifts. It was a wonderful and moving account of how, through the daily practice of gratitude, she made her way from despair to life.
Here are a few lines from one of Ann Voscamp’s recent blog posts. This will give you a taste of her lyrical writing style, but more than that, you will see what is important to her:
…there is never an escape from pain — suicide, drugs, alcohol, addictions, distractions — nothing on this planet eradicates pain. You can’t escape pain — you can only pass pain on, or nail it to a Cross.
Until pain is taken to the Cross, until pain is absorbed into a cross, pain is always passed on…. passed back and around and on.
Someone’s got to take up a cross. Someone’s got to take it to Jesus.
I love Brene Brown‘s work on vulnerability and have just finished reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. This morning I started my day watching part 1 of Sunday’s interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Among so many powerful comments, there was this quotation from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
That is so, so good.
I am so encouraged (continually encouraged) by reading Anne Lamott’s work. Just now I’m reading (for the second time since Phil gave it to me for Christmas) Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Good grief – I love her writing so much. It is funny, genuine, insightful, thought-provoking, unpretentious, and wonderful. There is another writer whose work I also love, Sheila Vamplin, who blogs at Folk, Flocks, and Flowers. Her willingness to engage fully in life through times of both pain and joy, to reject vain pursuits, to own her emotions, and to connect with God lends her writing a depth and peace for which my heart hungers.
May I be as honest and as gentle as these two unsuspecting mentors of mine.
My dear friend and colleague, Jason Parrish died early yesterday morning, New Year’s Eve, after a 3 month bout with cancer. It is difficult to describe such a loss, but these words by Alfred Lord Tennyson (thank you, Jimmy, for sending them my way) seem appropriate:
Forgive my grief for one removed
Thy creature whom I found so fair…
Jason and I have worked together for eight years, and it is just hard to imagine life without him. He could make me laugh when no one else could, he talked me off many ledges, helped me process frustrations, gave me perspective when I had lost mine, listened, encouraged, entertained, and was one of the kindest and most patient men I’ve ever known. He was a yo-yo champion, a sci-fi fan, an avid reader, a movie buff, a gadget guy, an anxiety-prone hermit of sorts, a consumer of all genres of music, more knowledgable than Google, and beloved by too many people to count. I am honored to have called him friend.
Image credit: Kevin Reed
It’s been so cold here that I haven’t been out to take pictures in a while. It was cold Saturday as well, but it was also Aaron’s wedding day, so I did manage to get off a few shots before we headed to the church. I chose not to take my camera along to the ceremony. I wanted to enjoy every moment of the occasion and leaving the shooting to the professional. Pictured here are my husband Phil and two of our guys: Keith & Aaron.