Tuesday, December 11, 2012

lean into the discomfort

brene brown reminds me that we social workers say, lean into the discomfort. 

what that's always meant for me was leaning into other people's discomfort. i can do that all the live long day. but lean into my discomfort. that's a whole other story. it takes being okay with not being okay. i've discovered that i'm okay with not being okay. but i don't want other people to know that, especially those closest to me. i don't want to lean into that discomfort or lean on others because that's vulnerable and scary. 

i was reminded this weekend that a trait common in my family is avoidance. conflict, guilt and shame all signal alarms inside screaming "avoid, avoid, avoid". so you can just imagine the sound of conflicts being resolved in my family,


 oh right, they aren't being resolved. i see this trait like a neon sign in some members of my family. i see the hurt that avoidance has caused my family and the ways it has affected me. and i think, oh right, I too, avoid conflict at times. i don't want my action or inaction to hurt other people the way i've been hurt. knowing this, i've been trying so hard not to run from conflict. the thing is, resolving conflict requires vulnerability which is scary. 

for me, vulnerability is wrapped in fear and sometimes all i can do is repeat an inner script until it's all okay. "don't put up your walls. don't put up your walls. don't put up your walls." it's similar to my inner-script when i'm faced with my other fear, throwing up. "don't throw up. don't throw up. don't throw up." and most of the time, in both cases, they work. it's not comfortable. it's not easy and i hope that someday it becomes second nature someday  but until then, there's always the inner script.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

These days

So...it's been a bazillion days since I've blogged anything. I was going to blog about some deeper ponderings of the heart, but i'm going to save that for another day and just ease back into blog world with some current happenings.

Life these days has been filled with much photo editing as I finish up wedding season. I do realize that wedding season has been over for a good month in portland but editing kind of drags behind, kind of like trailer taking turns every which way. I do love this one from my dear friend's Mark and Allison's wedding in september.

I love taking pictures and capturing moments for people. It's such a privilege to be a part of someone's life in that way, even if it's just for a day. I feel the same way about social work and crisis counseling. it's always been a privilege to bear witness to another's life and struggle, to walk through life with them for however long I'm able.

It's officially fall, or maybe I should say it was fall and now it's basically portland winter, with all its rain, wind, and cold. In the winter I get out of bed and it's freezing and I'm mad that I have to get out of my warm bed and angrily brush my teeth and ever so slowly wake up. Whereas, in the summer and fall, I wake up with the sun, the colors are glorious and I'm just excited about life and getting coffee. I already miss the sunshine and the fall, it sure was delicious.

I've been reading a lot more lately, blame it on the cold weather that makes me want to curl up and read and drink coffee all day long. It's been an interesting change for me. My usual approach to reading went like so: go to Powells, buy six books, start reading all six books at same time, finish one book six months later. Fail. Turns out some people (okay most people?) read just one book at a time and then finish in a timely manner. I'm trying to be one of those people. It's good to finish things, especially a good book. My favorite book of the summer was hands down The Art of Fielding. I know it's good if I start rationing my reading to make the book last longer; some characters are so hard to say goodbye to. I'm currently loving Cutting for Stone. I already love the characters so that's a good sign.

I've started running a bit, which for anyone who knows me, knows that I kind of hate running most of the time. I usually find myself running when I've had too much coffee and the energy just has to go somewhere or it's a rare beautiful fall day and I want to run in the brisk air and look at pretty trees. That was kind of the case when I went running in Colorado a couple weeks ago with my friend Mel. We ran around Wash park and it was a beautiful day, the trees were stunning and there were a lot of other runners out. I loved it (minus the altitude factor which had me fighting for breath after a 100 yards). I came back and found myself wanting to run (rare) and choosing the treadmill over other machines at the gym. The other night, the tv screen on my treadmill was broken and I just stared at my face for a half hour, which I don't generally do.. It helped for a bit though, because I pictured myself as being in a running commercial, like a Nike ad, where the girl is running for days through the countryside, the mountains, the trails, just running for-ev-er. I even had the focused face too, haha. I haven't been running very far or very long but it still feels good and the little part of me that has always wanted to love running is jumping for joy.

I'm loving the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel. I love the energy of their music and their lyrics, gah, I love their lyrics so much. I catch on the them slowly too. I'll love a song and then a week or two later realize a few of the lyrics and right then and there declare my love for the song ten more times. The song that did it for me this week was their title track, Babel. So good.

i press my nose up to the glass around your heart
i should have known i was weaker from the start
you'll build your walls 
and i will do my bloody part to tear, tear them down
and i'm gonna tear tear them down

This here blog is starting to run on and on and on, so I'll leave you here for now. 


Friday, March 30, 2012

love anyways

It’s kind of amazing to me that you can know someone your whole life, even be related to them, yet know so very little about them.

As I sit here at my laptop this evening, full of red wine and pasta, I remember that today is my dad’s birthday. Or is it so I think. Every year I second guess myself, is it the 30th or the 31st? Tonight, I took to googling my dad and finding that there is a record of my dad being 66, which would make his birthday today. Great, problem solved. I send a text shortly after wishing him a happy birthday and wonder about calling. The fact that I wonder about calling my dad on his birthday makes me so very sad. I hardly know him. He hardly knows me.

My heart sinks and I know this is not how it’s supposed to be. Family is a tighter unit, at least my definition of it is and I wonder how this piece of my family has drifted so far. I was thinking about a sermon I heard a couple weeks ago. Our pastor talked about the love of God as being a love that initiates. I have such a hard time initiating love. How will I know that my love will be returned? What if I am hurt? Those are the questions that stop me from initiating love and the very ways in which I wish I could love more like Christ loves. I guess that’s where I am for a reason and that is precisely what I am learning these days in this here rainy city. How do I love despite the great risk. It’s easy to love when I feel confident of someone’s love for me but impossibly difficult to love in a moment when I doubt or question that love. I am thrown back to the beginning. Love anyway. Trust anyway. Love because you were first loved, not by a mere human, full of flaws and imperfection and fears, but by a mighty God who knew He would be rejected by many and yet, still He loved.

Instead of hoping for a fatherly love that initiates. I want a heart that will love anyways, that will love first, even if it feels impossible.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sometimes, you just need to see the ocean

The ocean has always scared me. I love it but it scares me.

I love the water. I can’t live without it. I’ve always said, I would never live where there was no water nearby. I grew up on an island surrounded by water in the middle of the Puget Sound with coves and coastlines every which way. However, the Puget Sound never scared me*. It was a protected body of water or at least confined by cities and towns. It wasn’t unpredictable and wild like the ocean.

The ocean, I have always loved from afar, or merely from the shore, just my toes in the water. The giant waves and stories of rip tides and jelly fish always terrified me. It was all very unknown and unpredictable. Even now, the ocean scares me, but I still need it; I still crave it. I have days, fairly often too, when I wake up and I just need to see the ocean and be near it. When I can, I just jump in my car and go. I don’t know what exactly it is in me that needs to see the ocean, but seeing it up close soothes me. Maybe it’s seeing nature in all its fury and power, being reminded that this life is not mine to control and resting in a power much greater than myself.

I woke up the other morning with this quote running through my head.

“Love is tricky. It is never mundane or daily. You can never get used to it. You have to walk with it, then let it walk with you. You can never balk. It moves you like the tide. It takes you out to sea, then lays you on the beach again. Today's struggling pain is the foundation for a certain stride through the heavens. You can run from it but you can never say no. It includes everyone.” –Amy Tan

That part about being moved like the tide, being taken out to sea and laid on the beach again, that resonated with me all day. Love is just like that. I am finding parallels more and more often lately between the ocean and love and God. I love the ocean. I love God. I love love. I need those things but at the same time I fear them with all that I have in me. I can’t predict any of them. There is a power in all three that I can’t ignore and it scares me but at the same time I find comfort in knowing it is not my role to control them. Each one has the power to take me out to sea and lay me back upon the shore. Just like there are times when I need to see the ocean, there are times when I need to be loved and I there are times when I need God (which let’s be honest, is all the time).

It's not easy being moved by something more powerful than myself and it's scary. I can't predict when the tide will pull me out or lay me on the shore. Yet, I still choose it. I hope I always do.

I trust that it's building something greater in me and shaping me more into the woman I am created to be.

"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." Grace Murray Hopper

*Though, I will forever be terrified of the largest documented octopus in the world, which is said to live in the Puget Sound (shudder).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Short and sweet story for you today; it made me smile anyway.

I was working at the coffee house this morning, not totally thrilled to be working, but I was hanging in there. In walks this cute old man. I have a thing for old men- they are so sweet, usually in stylish old man attire and filled with random bits of wisdom. I just eat it up. Anyway, he ordered his coffee and out of his old book, peaked a new page of stamps. I also have a thing for stamps, I love going onto the USPS website and ordering cool stamps because that just tops off a hand-written letter, making it THE coolest thing, sure to bring a smile to the recipient's face. I commented on his new stamps and my love of stamps and how cool his were. We shared our love of stamps and talked about whether it was the year of the dragon or not while we poured his coffee. He went and sat down to his table of envelopes and letters and wrote away. A little while later as he was packing up his belongings and stamped envelopes, he walks over to me and holds one stamp out to me with a big smile and says "for you!" I smiled big and questioned, "for me? really??" and he smiles even bigger and says "presies!" I probably smiled as big as I could because this cute old man was giving me one of his cool stamps AND just said the word "presies" (short for the word presents, if you're late to the word shortening game).

Oh my goodness. He made my day.
Folks, it's the little things.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

to persist in love

"And when you get down to it, Lily,
that is the only purpose grand enough for a human life.
Not just to love but to persist in love."

Could there be any truer words?

I think about this a lot. And given that it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd write some thoughts on love. As I hear story after story of love lost or just plain given up on, I can't help but find myself heartbroken over and over again. Once that feeling of "in-loveness" is gone (and it will come and go as all feelings do) relationships are just left behind and it makes me so sad. I was talking with my best friend (of 25 years- nobigdeal) over wine last night and we talked about how one can make that feeling last, how to keep the intensity and passion. I thought for a moment that of course it can last but I only let the idealist in me believe that for a fraction of a second. Of course that intensity of "in-loveness" can't last. We'd all be crazy fools in love, surviving on 10 cups of coffee a day and bumping into things and day dreaming all day. It would be crazy to think one could sustain that intensity of feeling and emotion (any emotion for that matter) for the entirety of their lives. Ha, I mean we would never get anything done. All of our other relationships and work would suffer and we'd never sleep a wink. Just because that "in-loveness" goes away or comes and goes in waves does not mean that love is gone. Love can be very much alive and strong but in a quieter deeper sense of the word. A love rooted not just in feeling, but in trust and commitment, grace and forgiveness.

That's when choosing to persist in love comes in. When we make the decision to love not just because we feel like loving someone or because we feel especially loved in that moment, but continuing to love when it's hard to and in moments when that feeling of "in-loveness" isn't felt.

We should all strive to love, to be in love and to persist in love.
And always, always, always be grateful for it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On love and letters

I read this article a couple nights ago that a friend had posted on her facebook wall. John Steinbeck, one the most well-known authors was also a prolific letter-writer. A book of Steinbeck's letters to family, friends and the like was just published called Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. I love letters, especially those of the handwritten variety, but I took to this letter especially. It's a sweet response to his eldest son, who had confessed to have fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan while at boarding school. I couldn't love Steineck's response any more, we could all use these pearls of wisdom, I know I can.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Monday, January 16, 2012

fear is a beast

Wouldn’t you know that just days after I write about my yearly resolution to be brave, I am reminded that to become brave you first have to be scared. Brennan Manning writes about people that aren’t prepared for their prayers to be answered. He says people pray for humility but they don’t prepare themselves to be humiliated. Every time I pray for courage and bravery, I forget that we don’t just receive these things, we learn them. We experience things that cause us to encounter humiliation or fear in order to learn humility or courage.

Fear is a beast

always lurking around every corner and always present in my peripheral vision even in my most contented moments.

After all this talk about how I feel a little more brave, I’m reminded that I have much farther to go and I am learning still.

Fear steps in, steals my breath, hollows me out and leaves me with just enough energy to close the curtains and lock the door. I am amazed at how quickly I throw my walls up when fear enters the room. I’ve had a lifetime of training in self-preservation and turns out, it’s not so easily unlearned, go figure. Once I feel that fear, it’s hard to choose courage; my words, my actions, my demeanor all turn themselves over to fear. Everything in me desperately fights to protect itself-and it gets ugly.

I’ve found that half the time I don’t even know the root of the fear in the moment. Fear knows my weaknesses and my wounds and knows just what will trigger that automatic response to sound the alarms. I’ve buried those things away. I have to dig and dig until I get at the root of the fear. It’s then that I have the choice to be hurt by it and bury it away again or I can acknowledge it for what it is, feel the weight of it and let it go. There’s a quote that I love that reads,

“the rain of grace pounds the dirt until life breaks through the mud and reaches for the sun”.

I just love that. It’s digging down deep, finding the root of the fear, letting grace in and allowing life to come out of it. It’s work. It’s not easy. It’s like soul gardening; it requires using mental muscles that I never use or haven’t used in years and at the end of it, I’m left feeling sore and tired, much like real life gardening. But, what I love about gardening is that sure I’m sore and tired and dirty at the end of the day but I can step back and look at the progress I’ve made. I can see something grow where I once thought nothing could and that is something to be thankful for.

Monday, January 9, 2012

this is the new year

And cue, Death Cab for Cutie’s song…this is the New Year. It’s funny how different markers in life or the year almost warrant a reflection, a mandatory looking back of sorts. I always feel that way anyway. I like that though. I am a reflective person and any excuse to look back on where I’ve been and where I’m going refreshes me. In fact usually when I sit down to journal, without fail I spend a majority of the time re-reading old entries and transporting myself back, remembering how my heart was at a certain moment in time.

What did I learn this year? How did I grow? What did I do? How did I spend my moments? So many questions that I ask myself-maybe one or two that I actually have an answer to off the top of my head. Without fail, every year I am just amazed at how much can happen in a year. It’s been a really hard but really blessed year. If you had asked me a year ago what the year would look like, I could not have predicted or forecasted this year in the slightest. Time goes so fast but so much life and healing can happen in that amount of time.

This year I was a bridesmaid in two of my dear friend’s weddings. I went to Haiti for the third and fourth time to complete a portrait project and teach a trauma support seminar. I co-founded a non-profit for Haiti. My best friend and I held our very first photography show together in Seattle. I showed my Haiti photography at the Dragonfly and shared my love of Haiti and photography with my community in Portland. I started my own photography business. I started dating and am still dating the most amazing man I’ve ever met. I shot five weddings. I helped shoot a destination wedding in Mexico and rung in the New Year shooting a dear friend’s wedding in Spokane.

Every year, I make the resolution to be brave. Perhaps not the most specific resolution and most of the time if one doesn’t make a specific and achievable goal, it’s just not going to happen. But you know, even with my vague resolution or prayer, I feel a little more brave. Brave in work, brave in relationships, brave in faith. I In those little or big steps toward bravery, I’ve found that it’s worth it. A year ago I would have stayed safely where the risk is minimal or the reward assured and that only takes you so far. I always fall back on the quote, “may you always do what you are afraid to do”. The best things in life are a little scary because there’s risk involved which means it’s worth something. I think back on this year and think of all the amazing experiences and people I would have missed out on if I hadn’t said yes to those opportunities. This year has been rich and full and I am so very thankful for that.

“But in the books again, great joy through love always seemed go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain– if indeed, they went together. If there were a choice– and he suspected there was– a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths." (A Severe Mercy)

As I look ahead to next year. I can’t tell you what the year will look like, I was never any good at making a plan anyway, but I can tell you that it will surely be really rich and full, full of both joy and sorrow as our days always are, I just hope that I keep a thankful heart through it all. Here’s to the heights and the depths.