Our visit with my niece and her brand new baby is coming to a close. For the past week my daughter and I have been helping out with the new baby and her toddler big sister. The miracle of new life is awe inspiring. So I was drawn to this amazing art by my friend Nicole. Our fragile bodies are made of the same stuff as the stars. We begin as a hope and a prayer, because two people love one another. Through that love, God allows us to participate in his creation and a new soul is born. Nicole captured this miracle in her art. The Divine Feminine breathes in stardust and breathes out the beauty of creation. The mystery of birth plays out in the dance of mixed genes, creating one beautiful combination after another. This baby is very different from her older sister. She favors her father’s looks while her sister favors my niece. The shape of their faces and their coloring is different. Yet just when you think you have figured it out, another feature catches your eye. I see my daughter’s feet, and perhaps our family’s ears. Yet in the end, this child, along with all our children, belong to the Creator. Just as we are all called to be stewards of creation, parents are called to be stewards of God’s children. As parents, our job is to guide our children into the path God has prepared for them. Children are not meant to follow our dreams or complete our unfinished business. As I hold this beautiful baby, I pray for blessing and protection over her while I pray for wisdom and discernment as the days and years ahead unfold. May God give me the grace to be present to her growth, opening my heart and mind to see her through God’s eyes, rather than my own. Text by Connie Chintall©2016, Art entitled ‘Blooming Beauty’ by Nicole Mischo©2016, All Rights Reserved.
31 May 2016 2 Comments
05 Apr 2016 Leave a comment
Nature is a tonic to my soul. Almost twenty five years ago, we moved to Warrenton, VA, hoping to escape the urban sprawl of Fairfax County. I frequently commuted to work through Manassas Battlefield, a beautiful park that preserves nature in commemoration of a Civil War battle. I figured I would have something to look at if I got stuck in traffic. So I was drawn to this photo of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, taken by my friend Timothy on his way to work. Timothy turned aside to take notice, to take in the scene, rather than rushing into his day. As for me, I can’t say I always took the time. In the early days the traffic on my commute would often come to a standstill. I must admit I was rarely as present to my surroundings as I would have hoped. On the way into work, I would run my to-do list over in my head. On the way home, I would worry about picking up my daughter from daycare on time. Yet every so often, there was a glimpse of beauty that penetrated the fog of my daily grind. Usually I had turned off the engine after sitting too long, then lowered the window to get in a bit of fresh air. I would hear a bird, or spot a deer, or notice the redbud has just begun to bloom. In short, I would turn and take notice of what had been waiting for me all along, day in, day out. My heart would ache with awe as the wonder and beauty of nature stripped away the busy-ness of my life. Yes, I know ‘take notice’ is an old fashioned way of speaking, an old fashioned way of being. We can’t be bothered with focusing on one thing at a time. We definitely can’t be bothered with letting down our defenses long enough to allow creation to melt our hearts and seep into our souls. Notice is something we ‘give’ rather than ‘take’. Notice is how we quit a job, once we have stopped being treated as an individual, as someone of worth, as truly unique. We give notice when it is time to move on, rather than simply fade into the sea of sameness and allow our souls to shrink a bit more each day. What if we each took just few minutes each day to ’take notice’? What if we stilled our minds long enough to listen to the beat of our hearts? What if we traced each breath, each gift of life, as it passed through our bodies? It’s time to take notice, here and now. It’s time to turn aside and soak in the everyday miracles rather than rushing on into another busy day. It’s time to take notice before you find this precious life giving you notice and ebbing away one day at a time. Text by Connie Chintall©2016, photo entitled ‘Morning Light’ by Timothy Miller©2016, All Rights Reserved.
02 Apr 2015 1 Comment
I often find myself caught in my own little world. I miss the obvious because all I can see is what I already know. My mind fills in the answer before the question is asked. This photo really brings home that message. For a long time, all I saw was the veins of the eye. I worked on lasers in the military, so part of my annual physical was a photo of my eyes. Each year the powers that be had to determine if my eyes were still intact. The doctor would shine an awful light into my eyes then take the photo. My medical records contained writing on the right, and a photo of my eyes on the left. It seemed part and parcel of every doctor visit. Fortunately for me, my friend Jeanne took this amazing photo of a tree with the moon in the sky above. I can imagine her lying on the ground to get the proper perspective. I wonder if she used a flash, or if a street light has lent its glow. I love the depth and intricacy of the branches, the way the tree divides and then divides itself again. It seems the tree is inviting us into another world, a world of our imagination, a world separate from our earthbound reality. On this Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the humility of our Lord. Christ washes the feet of the disciples, despite the protests of Peter, despite everything we are and were and will be. God draws us in, again and again, relentlessly seeking communion. After countless rejections of his prophets and angels, God sends his own Son to reconcile us to him. God becomes man to be one with us, to experience all that this life offers. Make time today to step out of the comfortable. Let go of the familiar and let in the annoying, the perplexing, yes, even the startling. Hold open a space that makes room for growth and greater understanding. Lie down when you would rather stand up. Step aside when you would rather rush ahead. Look up and around rather than keeping your head down. And always remember, when we open our minds before we open our eyes, we embrace the relentless intimacy and endless possibility of our all loving God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015. Photo entitled ‘Heading Home’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/
06 Nov 2014 5 Comments
This time of year always gets so busy. From now until after Christmas our time and attention become more and more divided. We lose the ability to enjoy the here and now. Before we know it we have become numb to the core. So I was drawn to this photo of my sister Lana on a recent trip to Sedona. Her husband Rob caught the awe and wonder of the place. That’s Cathedral Rock in the background, but perhaps the true sacred space is where they are standing. Such beauty stops us cold and demands our attention. Our hearts burst open with joy, warmed and nourished by the wonder of creation. God could have made a world out of black and white squares, yet instead, choose to create beauty, stunning, awe inspiring beauty. When our daughter Tori was a toddler, she started the Lord’s Prayer like this, “Our Father, who does art in heaven, Howard is thy name”. We started to correct her, only to realize her mistake reflected a greater truth. Perhaps this wild, wonderful beauty is a reflection of the divine nature of God and the eternal light of our souls. Grace abounds when we hold open a space, make room for mystery, cling fast to hope. That grace is often unpredictable, arresting, surprising, and yes, transforming. We need time apart in wild places to be reminded of who we really are, children of the Most High. John Muir says it best.
‘Keep close to nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.’
Make time today to look beyond those lists and appointments, and allow yourself to become lost in wonder at God’s creation. Take a walk in a local park or a paddle on a local creek. Keep a photo of a recent trip on your desk or as the wallpaper on your computer. Open your heart to that experience today when the rush and routine becomes more than you can bear. And always remember to look at nature through the eyes of a child and give thanks to Howard for the art. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, photo entitled ‘Pierce the Heart’ by Rob Sarchiapone ©2014
03 Mar 2014 6 Comments
We are expecting a very cold, very clear night after another long day of snow. It’s been a brutal winter and I long for spring to arrive. So I was drawn to this magical photo by my friend Tomasz. I love the velvet green pastures and the winding road that leads us to the edge of a sleepy village. Without street lights to wash out the sky, the stars seem so bright that you could just reach up and grab a handful. The cedar of Lebanon shelters the home in the foreground, so much more prominent than anything man has placed in this scene. Yet even this vast and majestic tree cannot compete with our attention for the stars in the sky. Perhaps we yearn for the stars because we are made of stardust. Yes, literally made of stardust. It’s not a line from a poem or a fanciful notion. Every atom except hydrogen has been created through the nuclear fusion of the stars, stars that came into being at the creation of the universe and flung matter across the galaxies light years away. The early universe expanded after the Big Bang for only 3 seconds before it cooled to a state where subatomic particles assembled into atoms. Science and faith may be odds for some folks, but for me science fuels my awe and reverence for the Holy of Holies. The Creator gave us a beautiful and elegant universe where the tiniest of the tiny parallels the largest of the large, light that is both wave and particle, bodies that contain flesh and bone and soul. Is it any surprise that our bodies as God’s temples are made from stardust? Would anything less serve as a fitting vessel for the immanent God that dwells within us, as close as our breath yet as vast as the universe? Make time today to soak in the elegance and beauty of creation. Bundle up and venture out into the cold, clear night to gaze at the stars, to wonder at the majesty of creation, to humbly give thanks for our bodies and souls. Turn your eyes and your hearts to the source of simple blessings, warm homes, dry beds, full bellies. And always remember, when the vagaries of this life consume us, the night sky remains to remind us we are precious Children of God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, Photo entitled ‘Star Gazing’ by Tomasz Huczek ©2013, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/, or check out the video “We are Stardust” – A Symphony of Science at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g4d-rnhuSg
24 Oct 2013 2 Comments
It’s a rainy morning on South Bass Island in Put in Bay, Ohio. I am visiting a friend I’ve known for years, visiting and enjoying a break from my daily routine. My car, and my cares, are safely tucked away in a parking lot on the mainland. I boarded the ferry with just enough for the week, crossing the channel to a time and place apart on this delightful little island. Most folks have left for the season, or are in the process of packing up to depart. The restaurants take turns offering dinner, rather than compete for the business of those who remain through the winter. Life slows down as the weather cools and the wind roars across the water. The island is small enough to traverse by golf cart, so Mary and her dog Gabriel have been taking me to the out of the way corners of the island. On Eastern Point, we found a spit of land often covered by water. There are no tides on Lake Erie, so the strong wind I lamented on arrival extended the shoreline and offered us this beautiful view. I chose this photo not because it was the most picturesque, but because it captures the feel of this place the best. The vastness of the water and sky seem at odds with the intricate details of rocks and broken shells. Waves and waves of seaweed have been gracefully sculpted by the harsh weather. Then right smack in the middle, there is a block of concrete, a symbol of our meager human efforts as compared to the vastness and unending power of the Divine. I was overwhelmed with a sense of being apart, of stepping aside, of emptying of self to make room for the grace and mercy of the Almighty. I don’t know about you, but too often my life can become a constant drain, an endless list of things to do, a drudgery rather than a joy. I forget to fill myself first, to listen before I speak, to rush ahead before discerning a clear direction. After the Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the 5000, our Lord boarded a boat with his disciples. He drew away from press of the crowd, rather than rushing on to the next in a series of miraculous good works. If the God Incarnate required time apart to rest and refresh, how much more do we need to make time apart? Perhaps we need to board a ferry and separate ourselves long enough to plant a seed of peace. Perhaps we simply need to make time in our daily lives for prayer and reflection. Perhaps it’s a little of both. We may take home what we learned while away, nurturing a newfound sense of a God that abides, a steadfast love without beginning or end, a healing that leads to wholeness in this life or the next. Make time today to be filled with the power and grace and mercy of the Almighty. Allow the Alpha and Omega to soothe your soul. Rest in the Cradle of Life, letting go of what weighs you down with each breath out, drawing in the Well of Healing Light with every breath in. And always remember, as we plunge headlong in to the busy-ness of this life, our God is ever present, waiting patiently for us to rest, to reflect, and to renew our weary souls. Text and photo entitled ‘Wind Swept Glory’ by Connie Chintall ©2013
25 Jul 2013 1 Comment
I’m grateful for a cool, breezy morning after a long and stifling hot spell. For over a month, one sticky, wet day has followed another. It has been too hot to even go to the pool. As a child, we would often choose to boat on the river rather than to swim in the pool, trolling along the shoreline to linger in the shade of the overhanging trees. So I was drawn to this unusual photo by my cousin Patty, of a crane wading in the shallows. I love the abstract quality of this image, making it difficult to nail down. I see layers upon layers, many cranes and many rivers, rather than just one. I grew up on the Delaware River in New Jersey, and spent time on the water as a child. We never owned a large motor boat, only a canoe, then later a Jon boat with a five horsepower motor. Both boats were small and light enough to strap onto the top of the car. We frequently filled the motor with fuel from the change kept for toll roads. Instead of boating being a major expedition, it was a simple as going to the movies. On the river and the many creeks in New Jersey, I often saw these majestic birds, sometimes so still they looked like a statue, other times slowly and deliberating raising and lifting their large feet. Then as a young woman, I worked as a surveyor for Federal flood insurance. The best days were spent in hip waders or small boats. The sense of awe inspired by these birds never diminished. I often felt like a clumsy, ugly duckling next to such elegance. Yet what I remember most forty years later was a sense of hospitality and grace. While I may have been startled by their presence, the cranes happily shared their space. Perhaps we have lost this simple sense of hospitality, making a visit into an ordeal for all concerned. We worry about the stack of magazines in the corner, or what we can offer to eat or drink. We expect each social encounter to be a Martha Stewart moment, instead of a meeting of old friends, friends who could care less about the housekeeping or provisions. A friend stops by to see a friend, to sit and talk, to pause from the busy-ness of life and make time and space for one another. A graceful host opens their heart, not just their home, setting aside their concerns to listen to the concerns of guests. Make time today to offer grace to those you encounter, your family, your friends and those who cross paths with you. Let go of your expectations, and allow the Holy Spirit to open time and space for you to truly be present to one another. Pray for wisdom and discernment, to see others with God’s eyes, to hear others with God’s ears. Move over to make room for easy conversation, conversation that deepens to the core of our souls and the bottom of our hearts. And always remember – ubi caritas, et amor, ibi Deus est – where love and caring are, there is God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Elegance and Grace’ by Patty Steiner ©2012, All Rights Reserved
02 Jul 2013 Leave a comment
It’s another cloudy day in Virginia, with thunderstorms expected to roll through this afternoon. While we have a forecast full of rain, the folks in Colorado and Arizona remain parched and dry. As one fire is brought under control, another begins. These fires hop and skip in a way that is hard to describe, consuming one home and leaving another unscathed. So I was drawn to this lovely photo of the early evening sky by my friend Ryan, capturing the view from his kayak on the Shenandoah River. I love the watercolor quality of the water and the sky, framed by the bend in the river just ahead. The sky is overcast on one side, and all but clear on the other. I wonder what lies around the bend, how long he paddled before setting up camp for the night. I can imagine him lingering on the water until the last wisps of color faded away, perhaps missing his planned stop. In my youth, I worked as a surveyor for the Federal Flood Insurance. I spent many long days on the water, charting creek cross sections and discovering places that could act as a dam in a flood. There were grey days when we knew only the instruments and data, then other days when the water and sky would demand our undivided attention. The whole team would fall silent, in awe of the scene laid out before us. At times we might see birds or fish, but most often the beauty lie in the scenery itself and the changing light. It was inconceivable how such beauty could be transformed into a force for destruction. I felt that same sense of peace hiking in the Rockies, the same Rockies that are burning out of control. Beautiful forests will remain charred and burnt for years to come, growing back all the more slowly at altitude. Make time today to soak in the beauty that surrounds you with a loved one. Resist the temptation to put ‘real world’ priorities ahead of a few moments of peace and grace. Seize the chance to create a memory today that will last a lifetime, and perhaps sustain you through a difficult if not impossible challenge that lies around the bend. Allow the Holy Spirit to kindle a fire of love and compassion, of gentleness and kindness, of patient and grace. And always remember, when we make time to stoke the fire within, we will always find a strength we did not know even existed, a strength powerful enough to defeat the wildfires of this mortal life. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Shenandoah River on Fire’ by Ryan Wick ©2013, All Rights Reserved
25 Feb 2013 Leave a comment
It’s been a tense morning, home with a sick child. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor, concerned as always that my daughter’s asthma complicates what would be a simple stomach bug for others. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Steve. This image of winter trees was taken using a fish eye lens. I can imagine Steve lying on the cold ground until he got the optimal perspective. But what really drew my interest was his comment about this photo. Steve said the trees look like the retina, so I began to ponder what we mean by the word vision. Our ability to perceive our surroundings is a complicated and nuanced gift. Those of us blessed with good vision often take it for granted, and can fail to understand the struggles of those with poor eyesight. I recall one of the first arguments my husband and I had after we married. He had moved my eyeglasses, and I was unable to locate them. I needed to wear my glasses to find my glasses. Yet what I found the most frustrating about the situation was how little he appreciated my plight. So I asked him to wear my glasses. He was astounded by how blurry the world seemed. I replied that what he saw was my world without my glasses. He needed to see the world through my eyes to understand my perspective. Like Steve’s photo, that took a bit of discomfort, but the view was well worth it. Make time today to give thanks for your ability to soak in the beauty of your surroundings. Recall the smile of a small child, or the bulbs pushing up through the soil. Consider the world through the lens of another, someone with more expertise or experience, someone who lacks what you take for granted, someone who yearns for more but is uncertain where to start. And always remember, when the wintery trees begin to block the view, all you need to do is look up. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fisheye Winter Trees’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved
06 Oct 2012 1 Comment
Life is rushing by these days, filled with more activities than are worth mentioning. Like the leaves falling from the trees, my to-do list is never ending. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of a dragonfly by my friend David, taken in Connecticut last year. I can almost feel the motion as the dragonfly glides above a tranquil pond. Yet that glide is powered by rapidly beating wings, so rapid that the wings blur in this photo. Dragonflies have always amazed me. During the most frantic periods of my life, a dragonfly appears. I’m talking about times when I always need to be somewhere else, and invariably get caught in traffic. Times when I burn dinner while on the phone longer than expected. Times spent on the computer while vacationing, jotting notes before a dance performance, trying to solve a problem long distance to avoid a trip. Perhaps I have wandered around the corner of a building, looking for a bit of privacy, only to find a dragonfly briefly balanced on the top of a sign. If I remained calm, that dragonfly will linger long enough for me to marvel at the colors and intricacy of God’s creation. If I listen more than I talk, respond rather than react, stop instead of rushing ahead, I am able to embrace the vastness of God’s power, without beginning or end. If we allow the frantic pace of life to overtake us, everything becomes one big blur. We turn into human doings, instead of human beings. All of life loses its luster, becomes drained of color and zest. Take time today to pause and soak in the world around you, to make room for Almighty to work in your life. Give the Holy of Holies your time, your worries, your past, your future. Let go of what weighs you down, what burdens your heart and consumes your joy. Soak in this instant, and accept the gift of life one breath at a time. And always remember when life gets frantic, trust in our Creator, who glides us over our obstacles and smooths our path ahead. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by David Buckwalter ©2011, used with his permission. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotography.com/