Archives For My Life

Samson The Faithful

June 2, 2014 — 7 Comments

399819_10150494028011993_1921053131_nTwelve years ago, on this very date (June 2), an almost-family of three (still two Durhams and a Berdine, as the wedding was still two months away) drove way out into the countryside and brought home two six-week old golden retriever puppies. One of those puppies would not live past her second birthday. Lila’s death marked one of the first very sad moments in the life of our new family.

The other puppy would grow into a funny, handsome, loyal, very good dog who would give us and our guests lots of fodder for dinner table conversation, lots of reasons to giggle and lots of reasons to love life a little more.

Sam14

Of all the things Sam is, however, faithful describes him best of all. When I am home, even in these last days, he is by my side. When I get up in the morning, he gets up too. When I go to bed at night, he follows behind me and lays down by my bedside. When I go from room to room, cleaning or getting ready to go, he follows me around until he finally gets tired of my constant room switching and lays down in the hallway at the center of the house where he can monitor my activity no matter which way I go. When I watch TV or read a book, he lies down at my feet. When I eat, he stands by hopefully (unless Jason’s eating too–he knows his odds of getting a treat are much greater if he stands by Jason in that case). When I take a shower, he takes a guard position outside the bathroom door. Often, to get him to go outside, I have to go outside too just so he’ll be convinced to stay there long enough to do what he needs to do.

I wish I could say I’ve been as faithful to him. I keep insisting on leaving him behind as I go to work. to Zumba, to the store, out with friends, on mission trips and vacations…I always make sure he’ll be cared for while we’re gone–his list of family and friends is long and wonderful, but I always have another place to go.

Unfazed, however, no matter how long I’m gone–one week, one afternoon, one minute–when I return there is he is, waiting for me so he can greet me, tail wagging, and be by my side again.

1460239_10151751307016993_1563665155_nHe’s a dog, but he’s not just a dog.

He’s been in our family for twelve years today. This Thursday (June 5), we will take him to his vet for the last time and I will stay by his side and say goodbye.

When you get a dog, you don’t hope he’ll outlive you. There’s always the realization that one day, hopefully many years down the road, the time will come to say goodbye. It’s been almost four weeks since we first took Sam to the vet to have his mouth checked out. So many of you have expressed your sorrow and care to us countless times. Sometimes, it seems a little embarrassing for this to be such a drawn-out experience or to be sharing it and updating about it and “making” you express sympathy and concern.

Yet, I know that your care comes not only from our friendship, for which I am grateful, but also because many of you have loved dogs and cats and goldfish and turtles and parakeets and even snakes that you’ve lost and missed or that you dread losing and missing one day. Thank you for both your friendship and your empathy. And thank you for indulging a final blog entry about our very good, faithful dog.

Sam4

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SamWe received some bad news about our dear, sweet retriever Samson on Friday. A rapidly increasing growth in his mouth is most likely (the vet is very certain, but there’s not been a biopsy yet) jaw cancer (osteosarcoma). We are heartbroken, but will work with our vet to give Sam the most pain-free, comfortable, joy-filled end of life possible. The treatment available is jaw removal, which is very painful and would extend his life 6-12 months. We’ve decided to forgo treatment. We’re not so sure about a time frame, although we’ve heard 1-6 months. For now, twelve year-old Sam is energetic and active, not skipping any meals and still hopefully trailing Jason to the kitchen in case some food might fall his way. He raced to the fence this morning to bark at the neighbor dogs and rolled around in the wet grass before he came inside. So, although this post may invite your sympathy, it’s not quite time yet. Know we appreciate it if you choose to pray or think good thoughts for Sam and for us, but also know that we’re still scratching ears and rubbing his belly and feeling grateful for his still wagging tail.

The Tuesday Ten today is a re-post from October of 2010. There are things I could add or change, but I’ll just leave it as it is.

At Jason’s request, ten things about our dear dog, Sam (who by the way is feeling under the weather today).

1. “Sam” is short for “Samson.”

2. Sam is the only suriviving dog from his litter (we had his sister, Lilah, for two years before she got a nasty infection and died). He was the runt of his litter.

3. We got Sam after we bought our house and before we got married (June 2002).

4. Sam loves bread. He loves it so much, we have to keep the bread in a plastic, lidded container on the kitchen counter. He’s eaten whole loaves. He’s also eaten refrigerated biscuit dough.

5. Sam walks backwards in order to keep us in his sights. Like, he’ll walk backwards down the hall just so he doesn’t have to turn his tail to us. Trust issues, maybe?

6. Sam will be perfectly well-behaved and quiet…until I get home. Then he barks when he can’t see me and follows me from room to room, needing to be in on whatever I’m doing.

7. When Jonas was smaller, he and Jason (and probably Sam) looked forward to good snowfalls. Jason would put Jonas in a sled and Jonas would hold Sam’s leash and Sam would slide Jonas all around the neighborhood. We have hours of video of this.

8. Sam is terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms and vacuum cleaners and tile floors and when people wave their hands in his face and about a million other things.

9. Sam can catch and kill mice. He can catch bugs in his mouth as they fly by (like a frog).

10. Sam is not entirely obedient, does not know a bunch of tricks, and in general is kind of on the less smart side of things. He is loyal and friendly and snuggly and gentle and pretty/handsome (which is all better than obedient and smart, I think).

A Life Update

May 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

So.

It’s May 2.

May 2? Wow. Wasn’t it just last week that our living room was filled with loved ones cheering in the new year of 2014? Seems like it. But Derby Day is almost here and next weekend, we will put plants in our newly tilled garden and the week after that, I’ll turn 36 (and seriously I just had to think for a moment and do math and make sure I had my age right, which used to seem like the oldest thing a person could do–forget how old she is.) and watch two more youth group students graduate from high school (one of them, the flower girl from our wedding).

competent communicatorIn the past month, I’ve officially enrolled at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. I’ve read six books. I’ve completed a few scholarship applications. I’ve started pressing my coffee. I’ve helped our New Jersey mission team raise all the money for their trip. We went camping. I preached two sermons. I made pizza using cauliflower for the crust. I achieved Competent Communicator status in my Toastmasters Club. It’s been a busy month.

Things are quiet around here, with Jonas spending time at his mom’s house. Sam and Simon have brokered a peace treaty and greet each other each morning by touching noses before turning in opposite directions and heading to their own territories. It’s Jason’s camping and backpacking seasons and he’s preparing for trips to the Appalachian Trail (Grayson Highlands in Virginia, where the wild ponies run), the Medicine Bow Mountains in Wyoming and the Boundary Waters in Minnesota/Canada. I’m preparing for vbs, mission trips, and a quiet-as-possible summer before my first semester of seminary.

It was just over a year ago that I wrote this.  A lot can happen in a year! (A lot can happen in a month, even.) I’m sure that’s been true for you, too.

I’m a day late with this list! I was still thinking about this until this morning, actually.

According to this, it’s electronic devices week!

“Are you going to have to unplug your night lights?”  a friend mused after reading the post about my Lenten “challenge.”

Well, sheesh, if we’re going to count each night light as an electronic device, I’m in trouble.

Also, if we’re going to count every appliance we own that makes our house run in a modern way and keeps my neat-freak husband from losing his mind. I mean, if I had to count the appliances individually, I’d probably trade one of them in for my hair straightener because I’m preaching at a women’s gathering on Thursday and I’m apparently still too vain to just wash and go with my hair when it really counts.

Here’s the list:

1. my phone

2. my laptop

3. my hair straightener

4. the television

5. all of the major household appliances (dishwasher, stove and washing machine. Surprise–our clothes dryer broke before the weekend! If it gets fixed, about which I am hopeful, it counts in number 5.)

6. all of the lights.

7. [Left blank so far. There are 5-6 things I’d like to add to the list, but I’m going to try to go without all of them.]

Wait! Where’s the coffee maker? How could you not include a coffee making device?

A lovely family from my church is going on vacation this week for Spring Break, and the Mr. of the family read my blog and sent me a message: You can use our French Press while we’re gone so you don’t have to count the coffee pot! 

I mean, I was planning to include the coffee pot (part of why 7 is blank). But using the French Press has been fun!

Easter is coming, friends, and I am so glad! This is the point in Lent when I usually feel so weary. The practice of regular prayer has helped, but on this dreary, rainy morning I’m feeling it a bit today.

Easter. Is. Coming.

Photo Credit: Nibby Priest (taken in Church Fellowship Hall)

Photo Credit: Nibby Priest (taken in Church Fellowship Hall)

(…or any group fitness class.)

You probably know that for the last one and a half years, I’ve been participating in Zumba classes that are held at Presbyterian Church in downtown Henderson KY. Three instructors teach in the gym at the church on Mondays (5:30 p.m.), Tuesdays (5:30 and 6:35 p.m.) and Saturdays (9:00 a.m.).

Almost all of the participants are women. Many are mothers. Some bring their children with them to Zumba. Sometimes the kids play in an attached classroom, but sometimes they watch or participate in the class. The instructors are very gracious, and I think it’s great when kids are there.

Yes, it’s great because they are exercising and kids exercising is a “win.” Yes, it’s great because they are learning some basis dance moves (cha cha, mambo, salsa, single single double). But it’s also great because they are seeing something they don’t get to see everywhere: women of all ages and body types, of all abilities and inabilities doing something fun and healthy.

We worry about daughters in our society. The media available to them is often full of air-brushed and plastic body parts. We worry that they’ll try to obtain something that’s impossible–the perfection that only comes with personal trainers, personal chefs, personal plastic surgeons and Photoshop.

In my Zumba classes on Tuesday night (I took 1.5 classes on Tuesday), there were several children present. At one point, there was a part of a song where we were all facing the north wall of the gym and shaking it. I mean, that’s the instruction: face that wall and shake it out. Bodies of all types, created by God and beautiful in each one’s own way, shook and moved. Young and old, short and tall, thin and curvy, full of energy and exhausted after a day at work or at home. Women, who got up that morning and themselves may have looked in the mirror and made a face because what they saw was not the impossible perfection they wished the were seeing, were smiling and shaking and laughing and encouraging each other.

When you take your daughter to Zumba, she gets a different message than the traditional media gives. She sees real bodies,none of them completely alike, being strong and healthy. She sees real women, some of whom she may look like when she grows up, doing something fun and energetic. She learns that “normal” isn’t airbrushed, and “perfect” isn’t impossible. She sees that “healthy” involves laughter, that “strong” can mean trying something new and that no body moves exactly the same way.

When you take your daughter to Zumba, she may just be learning to love her own body. And that’s truly a “win.”

El Greco "Healing of the Man Born Blind"

El Greco “Healing of the Man Born Blind”

This is the text of the sermon I preached this morning at Presbyterian Church in Henderson, KY.

Where have you witnessed God at work? Every summer, as you may know, we join with three other churches in town for Vacation Bible School. Our theme, Scriptures and activities are always different from the years before, but one thread that runs through every VBS for the last several years are the “God Sightings.” We ask kids every day to go home and watch for God at work. We give them a visual reminder of some sort to help them in this task (sometimes a bracelet that says “Watch For God!”).

Here’s one thing we’re teaching (and learning ourselves) by doing this: if you are watching for God, you will most certainly see God. If you will seek God, you will find God. I remember growing up that my mom had a coffee mug—for some reason I seem to think it came in a floral arrangement—but either way, it said “Expect A Miracle.”

When we live in expectation of miracles, we see the miraculous around us.

The man in our story today, however, was not watching for a miracle. In fact, he wasn’t physically watching for anything and he had probably been taught over time not to expect anything miraculous, either.

JOHN 9:1-3

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 

Here we are in John 9. If we understand John to be happening chronologically, the following things have already happened: The calling of the disciples, the wedding at Cana, Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night, Jesus meeting the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Jesus walking on water, Jesus dealing with the situation involving the woman who was accused of committing adultery and was about to be stoned, and Jesus causing chapter after chapter of division and trouble among his disciples and among religious leaders. His teachings were hard and often hard to understand without further investigation and he certainly was not afraid of being called a heretic. He wasn’t trying to make friends or start a revolution. Jesus was doing the work of God and inviting people to take a risk and work with him.

So when we get to chapter 9, and the disciples turn an unsuspecting man into an object lesson, we should not be surprised at how it goes.

Hey, Jesus, here’s a guy who was born blind. Who sinned? Him or his parents?

The cultural belief was this: something bad happened to you? Must be because someone sinned. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Now, one who owns the entire canon of Scripture might point out that actually the Old and New Testaments are full of words that counter this belief, but either way, this was still embraced by the people of Jesus’ day.

The fact that the man was born blind seems to be universally understood in this passage, so I do wonder how the disciples thought it could be because of the man’s own sin. The sin that God knew the man would commit before he was born? That just makes my head hurt.

“Neither,” says Jesus. “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Wait, what? This man has lived his whole life without his sight, which in ancient Palestine was a trial in itself—he couldn’t work, he couldn’t have a family, he couldn’t participate in religious life—just so God could be glorified in him? How is that just or good? He’s spent his whole life on the outskirts just so Jesus could heal him today?

Yes.

I don’t like the answer Jesus gives, but I trust in God’s sovereignty. And I know that I’ve certainly seen God glorified in painful or difficult or unfair circumstances in my own life and in the lives of people I love.

Right now, this man is an unwitting object lesson, but he’s about to experience a miracle.

JOHN 9:4-7a

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). 

This lesson is fun to teach to kids. Jesus heals a guy with spit and dirt. Did you ever wonder why? We have lots of instances of Jesus simply touching people or declaring them healed without even touching him. Why did Jesus make mud?

It’s the Sabbath. The teaching is clear: kneading on the Sabbath—even kneading spit into dirt—is not allowed. Jesus is being clear: I’m healing on the Sabbath. Right before he mixed up the dirt, he told them why:

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” What Jesus is doing is time-sensitive.

What about the man who is at the center of the object lesson? Here he is, minding his own business, going about his usual day and all of a sudden, he’s surrounded by a group of people who talk about him like he’s not there and all of a sudden someone puts spitty mud on his eyes.

It’s a moment that changes his whole life and he wasn’t even watching for it. Literally. Or figuratively.

JOHN 9:7b-12

Then the man went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’

The man is healed. He returns to the place where he used to sit and beg and can see it for the first time. Can you imagine what that must be like? I can’t. It must have been incredibly overwhelming. He doesn’t really get to enjoy the experience completely because his neighbors want answers first from each other: are you sure this is the same guy? and then from him:  “But how were your eyes opened?”

JOHN 9:13-34

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’

 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.

This should have been the happiest moment of the man’s life. He doesn’t know how it happened, he hasn’t seen the man who performed the work, but he knows this: I was blind, now I see. It must be because God had a hand in it.

The Pharisees are one thing—we know they have a reputation for being skeptical, for trying to trip up Jesus at every pass, for driving out people who challenge their stance. But his parents? His own parents who have known him as long as he’s been alive, who raised him in his blindness, who had surely agonized over what his life would be like without sight…

His own parents reject him too, all because they fear that their church will throw them out if they accept him.

And then this man is tossed aside by his neighbors, his family and his church. In their failure to watch for a God who is much bigger than they have expected, they dismiss the possibility of a miracle rather than having to move their lines and consider that one has happened.

JOHN 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.

John 9 is a long chapter, but if you hang on this far you read the most beautiful part of it.

The man has no idea what Jesus looks like. Jesus has healed him, has given him a reason for hope, has given him a bright future and the man can’t recognize him when he bumps into him.

It was no accident he ran into Jesus, for Jesus heard what was happening and went to find him. What a mix of emotions the man, whose name we never know, must be. Joy for having sight restored. Anger and sadness for being rejected by all of the people who have ever mattered in his life.

Jesus, who has crowds following him everywhere he goes, went looking for just one guy–a guy he had already helped! When no one else wanted to stand with this man, when no one else wanted to acknowledge him or what this dramatic change in his life really meant, Jesus was there. This one person mattered to Jesus.

No gimmicks, no steps to salvation, no scare tactics. A simple question: Do you believe? A simple answer: Lord, I believe. Jesus’ miracle has changed this man forever…and gotten him exiled from his religious community. But he can see! And he is befriended by Jesus! And he devotes himself to his new Lord through worship.

But Jesus has one last word about sight and watching for God at work:

JOHN 9:39-41

Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.

Jesus uses a miracle involving physical sight to teach about spiritual sight. He turns the wisdom of the time on its ear, as Jesus often does.

To those who refused to consider the greatness of God or the possibility that God could be working here and now, Jesus says:

When you were blind, you were without sin. But now that you can see, and still choose to reject me, your sin remains.

The Pharisees, the neighbors, the man’s parents: they were so concerned about their understanding, their own place, their own teachings that they missed seeing God. They missed a miracle!

What about us? Do we ever do that?

Yes, I do. I have a feeling we all do.

When we close our eyes and hold onto our viewpoints and affiliations, we miss seeing God at work.

When we put other people into columns and categories, we do the same to God.

When we would rather be right than ask questions or seek answers we don’t know, we miss the chance for God to mold us.

When we refuse to seek God outside of the boundaries we’ve set up ourselves, we will likely not find God in unexpected places. Which is where miracles usually happen.

Our Scriptures teach that you and I are created in God’s own image…yet sometimes it seem like we’re trying to make God in our image. We’d rather have a God who is like us. Who believes what we believe. Who hates the people we hate. Who respects the boundaries we’ve set. Like this man’s teachers, neighbors and family, we miss the point. We miss the miracle.

When we ask kids at Vacation Bible School to watch for God, we give them a way to record their God Sightings. Each day, they bring them to VBS and share them with their small groups. As we hear each other’s testimonies, one thing becomes clear: God works in big things and small things. Things I never thought of as miraculous or done by God’s hand are illuminated for me as a five year-old sees God at work in his grandmother fixing his favorite meal for supper or an eleven year-old recognizes God working in a conflict she’s had with her best friend. A seven year-old sees that God is present with her uncle who is battling cancer and a teenage crew leader gives thanks for the beautiful clouds God created.

When we open our eyes, we can see. We should see.

Watch for God! Amen.

K TP DonationThis week, my challenge is to donate seven things each day (or to collect seven things to donate each day. I did not actually donate the things I collected yesterday–yet. I will.). Here are some suggestions if you’re looking to lighten your life a little bit.

1. Donate old towels to an animal rescue (In Henderson, New Hope Animal Rescue).

2. Take excess blankets to a local homeless shelter.

3. Donate books to a drug or alcohol treatment facility (in Henderson, WARM).

4. Donate toys to a local Children’s Advocacy Center.

5. Donate new stuffed animals, toys, blankets, pillows to an organization that helps children transition to foster care (in Henderson, Bags of Love).

6. Donate magazines to your local library (the Henderson County Public Library will sell them).

7. Donate non-perishable food to a local food pantry (in Henderson, Christian Community Outreach).

8. Donate eye glasses you no longer wear to your local Lion’s Club..

9. Donate household items to a Habitat for Humanity Restore.

10. Donate toilet paper, feminine products or personal items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant to an organization that provides monthly care to families and individuals in need or senior citizens on fixed incomes (in Henderson, that’s also Christian Community Outreach).

What would you add to this list?

Kayak Opening Day

March 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today is the day! Spring is here, and despite the threat of snow (again) midweek, we’re getting the kayaks out to paddle them around Audubon Lake this afternoon. Here’s hoping for sunshine and mild temperatures!

Other things happening:

I filled out my enrollment paperwork for UDTS. First day on campus: August 2!

I’m two months wheat free (or mostly wheat free…there was Fat Tuesday when I hate pizza and last weekend when I ate some breaded shrimp on Friday and some dutch oven corn bread on Saturday)!

I get to see Jenny, Zach and baby Samuel this week while they are in Jenny’s hometown visiting her family.

We scheduled our dog, Samson, for surgery in less than two weeks. He has a tumor that needs to be removed. We struggled with whether to put him through surgery at his advanced age, but we’re going to hope it improves his quality of life for the years (God willing) he has left.

I filled out a bracket for March Madness. After yesterday’s games, I’m at 37.3%. Ohio State lost and Harvard won and for some reason I thought Virginia would lose their first game. Basically everyone else in my bracket challenge group picked Virginia to be national champions, so apparently they know something I do not. And I know nothing, actually. It may as well have been a monkey pointing at team logos for all the knowledge and sportiness that went into my bracket.

Wearing the same 7 items of clothing all week has not really bothered me. I am tired of wearing the same pajamas every night. Go figure. Also, my zumba shirt smells like a campfire this morning because I wore it when I sat at the fire pit last night. It is ridiculous that I have over 300 items of clothing in my closet, considering that I sincerely do not spend a lot of time worrying about my clothing. I’ve been working to pull items to donate and box up items to save.

I’m floundering in the EmptyShelf Challenge. I’m mid-way through so many books. I need to finish some and move on!

In addition to kayaking this afternoon, tonight we are grilling out for the first time this season.

Hope you have a sunny Saturday, wherever you are!

What’s a Picture Worth?

March 17, 2014 — 1 Comment

I sat on the back of the borrowed four-wheeler, leaning into my husband as we pulled to a stop.

“Cut the engine,” Jerry, the driver of the second ATV advised. Four of us (Ashley was the fourth) sat in silence for a moment.

It was twilight in Pike State Forest and the landscape was beautiful. The day had been full of sunshine and the afternoon had not required a jacket. We could see the sun setting and the moon rising. The land also rose and fell all around us. We were at a high point and we could see a good distance.

It was a beautiful. More beautiful than I would have expected when we went off road just half a mile back.

Jerry broke the silence. “They call this place [explicit name for a specific sexual act] Hill,” He explained. “And if you want to know why…”

The quick reply from the rest of us was, “We don’t!”

The ride was bumpy, too fast in some places, too slow in others, muddy and fun. We ended up at the banks of the Patoka River. We stood together, shooting the breeze, talking about what it was like there in summer (overrun with mosquitoes, apparently) and telling stories about toboggans and weird dreams the full moon brought, of all things.

At some point, we decided to head back. Both vehicles required headlights for the return trip. Over tree limbs and through mud puddles, in and out ruts forged before us, up and down hills to the main road, where we sped through the darkness faster than I was comfortable riding, but not fast enough to keep up with the vehicle in front of us. Taking the wrong turn at a fork in the road, we found our way to an old fire tower. Realizing our mistake, we turned around and headed back the other direction and found our way to our friend James’ house.

Several times during the hour or so we were gone, I thought, I wish I had a camera. I had left my phone behind because I didn’t want to break or lose it on the bumpy ride. It’s not every day…or any day except this one, really, that I get splattered with mud riding on the back of a four-wheeler. Or that I have such a beautiful vantage point at sunset. Or that I get to spend an hour holding tight to Jason while we ride around river bottoms.

What is a picture worth, anyway? I think about how important our cameras have become. Yes, they capture memories, but they also get instagrammed and facebooked so we can let our friends (the world) know what we’re doing. I love sharing pictures of fun moments and interesting things and I love seeing the pictures and interesting things that are shared by others.

Every time I thought about my left-behind camera, I stopped myself and soaked up the memory and thought about what I might miss by looking at the evening through a camera lens or fooling with photo apps on my phone. I love photographs and the memories they secure…but sometimes I think about the things pictures can’t capture. Those are things I don’t want to miss.

Breathe deeply. Enjoy where you are now completely. Live life in all its muddy grandeur fully.

Here’s the thing. I feel kind of ridiculous. I chose a Lenten practice that requires a lot of explanation…not really something I did on purpose.

That’s kind of anti-Lenten fast, right? Jesus said, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

So, ridiculous girl over here. But I like to finish what I start, so I’m just going to keep this short and simple.

Food week went well. I did a lot of thinking about food: where it comes from, what it means to be able to choose it, and what it is I normally eat that is unnecessary, wasteful and excessive. I still love all of the items on my food list, but I did miss eating other foods.

It’s clothing week. I’ve chosen 7 items of clothing, not including undergarments or shoes. Jeans, dress pants, work out pants, t-shirt, two sweaters a dress, a sweatshirt/jacket, a sweater and pajamas.

I plan to clean out my closet this week and get some items ready to donate.

I do hope you’re each having a blessed Lent!