Reflecting on Endings….

Blue Day at White Sands by Robert H Clark
Fog and rain have filled our days, the sort of cold autumn rain that chills you to the bone. Vivid leaves are plastered to the ground, a welcome relief from the grey skies and incessant downpour. It seems as though the rain began three weeks ago when my friend Ray passed from this life to the next. Our friendship spanned almost fifty years. I don’t know how to begin to describe a relationship like that. I don’t know how to begin to grieve. I do know I find myself laughing as much as crying. So I’m drawn to this masterpiece of a photo by my friend Robert of White Sands, a photo of a desert instead of drenched soil. The overwhelming blue mirrors my sadness, while the blending of the sand and the sky somehow captures the essence of my loss. There is a single point in the distance where it’s difficult to tell where the sand ends and the sky begins. I remember Ray and I riding our bikes to the bookmobile. I remember how we would read the same books and talk about them. No, not like we were in English class. Instead, Ray would make up new endings for a book he didn’t like, or extend the story for characters he couldn’t let go of. I suppose I was one of those characters, and the foundation we built so long ago sustained us both through the vagaries of this life. Ray was one of the few friends who knew of the miscarriages I had before my daughter Tori was born. My husband and I simply stopped telling others I was pregnant, for fear that we would have to tell them I had lost another baby. But I had to tell Ray. I couldn’t keep from telling Ray. He never said things like ‘It will all work out this time’. He simply told me he truly believed God would bring children into my life. He believed in a different ending and when I could not believe on my own I leaned on his belief. Ray was always challenging me, and all those he loved, to create our own endings. He saw no use for a script in this wild, wonderful life. If you don’t like it, make up a new ending. Make time today to open your heart and mind to the possible. Write your own story. Create your own ending. Let go of what is expected, or easy, or just plain comfortable. Build on what brings you joy, rather than allowing the essence of this life to slip through your fingers. Reserve time for your loved ones into your daily schedule, because we do not know what tomorrow may bring. And always remember, while this life may end, love such as this will never die. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, photo entitled ‘Blue Day at White Sands’ by Robert H Clark, ©2014, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Robert’s work, go to http://www.roberthclarkphotography.com/

Reflecting on Swirl….

The autumn skies have stopped me short the past few days. Dramatic clouds cover the bright blue sky and provide the perfect backdrop for the changing leaves and browning fields. It’s cool enough to enjoy a walk, yet not so cold that you can’t stay out as long as you like. So I was drawn to this spectacular photo by my friend Robert, of Ekala Falls in West Virginia. I love the contrast between the swirling water in the foreground and the water rushing over the rocks in the background. The swirl can draw you in, as though nothing exists outside of that little corner of the world. It’s easy to hang onto a hurt, or allow a setback to lead you to despair. A minor flaw or misstep can distort our view of progress, or cause us to think less of ourselves or others. We turtle in, rather than taking another risk, rather than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet like this swirling water, our isolation only serves to collect fallen leaves and broken branches. When we turn in on ourselves, we fail to notice the vibrant life that rushes past us, the abundant life we are promised by the Architect of the Universe. We become separated from one another and separate from our Creator. I don’t know about you, but I need another to help me find my way back. I must first trust the visible before I can take the leap of faith and reach for the invisible. I must be coaxed back into the fold, encouraged to take a chance, to allow myself to be vulnerable, to give myself permission to try, and perhaps fail, once again. And every time I find myself back in that rushing water, I am sure I will never fall prey to the swirl again. Take time today to be vulnerable, to make room for the Almighty to work. Pause to give thanks for those God has placed in your life, trusting a friend or family member to nudge you out of your comfort zone. Take one baby step, and then another, until you can manage that leap of faith. And always remember, God welcomes us back with open arms again and again, no matter how many times we lose our way. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Robert H Clark ©2012, used with his permission. To see more of his work, check out his blog at http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/

Reflecting on Freedom….

It’s a quiet, rainy morning here in Virginia. The first signs of fall are emerging, as the children return to school and my husband is immersed in his work. The many shades of green outside my window are part of what I love about Virginia, the green of the grass, the clover, the trees, the flowering shrubs. Yet as the autumn approaches, I long for the flaming skies of the desert, the many sunrises and sunsets I saw, reflected in the sand, especially after a storm. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Robert, taken in Death Valley. Robert took five photos to capture the beauty of this scene, using a variety of filters. Now you may say the result does not represent what Robert saw that day, but I must respectfully disagree. Our eyes are such miraculous organs, capable of such a wide range of perception, that our technology can only grasp what our eyes automatically see in smaller increments. Robert seamlessly stitched these images together to capture the awe and beauty of the scene, the majesty of God’s creation. Just as one photo cannot hold the beauty of this scene, one life cannot hold the vastness of true freedom. We are blessed to live in a free, democratic country, ruled by the people and for the people. That freedom is something many take for granted, failing to understand the full meaning of living free. To embrace that promise, we must accept that we are more free together than any of us choose to be individually. One person may choose to live in the midst of skyscrapers, while another longs for open spaces. Our careers are matters of choice; we are free to push ourselves as much or as little as we like. Most importantly, we are free to choose how we express our faith. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism – all are free to worship the Author of Creation in their own way. Freedom means accepting others are different, accepting that those differences are what make this nation great. We are truly free when we honor and respect the faith of others, in the same manner we would hope they would honor and respect our faith. When I pledged to serve my country in the military, this is the freedom I sought to preserve, even if it meant laying down my own life. Take time today to give thanks for your freedom and what that means in your own life. Seek to understand another who is different from you, listening and learning what their choices mean for them. Embrace the promise of freedom for all, not just a select few, seeking to serve others less fortunate than yourself. And always remember to keep your eyes open, because it takes much more than one look to see beyond our own backyard. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fire on the Flats’, taken in Death Valley National Park by Robert H Clark ©2012, used with his permission. To see more of his work, check out his blog at http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/.

Reflecting on Risk….

The rain seems to be moving on, leaving behind heavy fog. This morning you could only see what was right in front of your face. So I was drawn to this photo of the Shenandoah River taken by Robert, a friend of a friend. The rocks and leaves jump out at you, in sharp focus, while the trees in the background are shrouded in mist and fog. I was particularly struck by the foliage growing on top of the rocks. These plants must be some tough stuff. I would imagine growing on a rock in the middle of a river is not easy, or particularly safe. Yet these plants seem to be thriving. Risk can be synonymous with peril, danger, jeopardy, or adventure, chance, challenge. When we assume risk, we take a chance on losing, but often a chance on gaining as well. We leave behind the familiar and assured to become vulnerable to the unknown. The most prudent risks involve the heart as well as the mind. We feel a need to step out, to give it a try, because we feel compelled to take a chance. My father was a good listener and wise counsel. I sorely miss him when facing big decisions. He asked questions, to understand where you were coming from and the choices you were facing. We would comb through what we did know, and talk through the possibilities. The questions varied according to the decision, but there was one question he always asked. Will you regret it if you don’t take the chance? I would picture myself as an old woman in a rocking chair, and ask if I would have regrets if I played it safe. When my heart and mind agreed, I would assume the risk, hoping to gain while being willing to lose. Take time today to consider taking a risk, becoming vulnerable to the unknown. Examine the possibilities with your heart, and mind, and soul. And remember what seem to be misty, far off possibilities will be in sharp focus when you take a chance. Photo by Robert H Clark © 2011 – Check out his photo blog at http://networkedblogs.com/olJt6

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