Reflecting on Frozen….

Ice Bubbles By Sarah GulickLife is full of twists and turns. Sometimes I wonder how things got so mixed up and other times I am simply grateful to have survived. Yet as I ponder my younger days it seems to me I rarely knew the difference at the time. My friend Sarah caught that sentiment in her photo of ice bubbles under the ice. Sarah is out of on the water regardless of the season. She takes amazing photos of the scenery she finds, but most often these close ups are what really inspire me. She pauses to capture the beauty in the details that so many others simply pass by. Her photos often take me back to my youth. I recall deep resentment and frustration at the smallest offenses that led to moody days and restless nights. I recall plunging headlong into the deep end, then wondering how I had gotten in over my head. The only consistent theme I can name is an unwillingness to give up. I forged ahead, certain I could make it all right, certain there had to be a brighter future just around the bend. Yet that stubbornness came at a great cost, not only to me but often to others around me. I would push ahead, push others aside, push myself beyond my own limits. Then I would end up flat on my back in bed, sick in body and spirit. Perhaps God got my attention by making me stop and look up, instead of rushing ahead. It took more time than I care to admit to understand God was there all the time. I simply was too busy to stop and listen. Over the years I learned how to pace myself better, to listen more than I talked, to be more considerate of others. But most of all, I learned that I can only escape repeating my mistakes through prayer ad reflection. I can only gain hindsight if I look back with a heart seeking transformation and redemption. Make time today to consider how your past informs your future. Allow the Holy Comforter to crack through the frozen parts of your heart and soul, to heal you and equip you for the path ahead. Trust the Holy of Holies to set the pace and to guide you along the way. Pray for God’s answer rather than your own, for a way ahead that works for everyone, not just for you. Trust that God works in all things, even the worst things, for the good of those who love Him. And always remember, when we step back to see more than just the ‘I’ in the picture, we allow God to make us better instead of bitter. Text by Connie Chintall©2015, photo entitled ‘Ice Bubbles’ by Sarah Gulick©2016, All Rights Reserved. To learn more about Sarah’s creative work, go to http://www.studioup.com/portfolio/

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Reflecting on Migration….

Bad Year to Skip Migration by Sarah GulickThere have been many times in my life when I chose the less traveled path because I equated different with better. And sometimes it was, but not always. Snow is piled upon snow after the latest winter storm. I spent more time than I care to admit clearing the driveway, even with help from a neighbor. About a block away, a flock of plastic flamingos is stuck in a snowdrift. The birthday party is over, but the weather has delayed their retrieval. So how could I help but be drawn to this photo by my friend Sarah? I wonder who placed this flamingo near her snowed in car. Perhaps her friends had left for warmer weather, leaving her behind. Right now I feel more like a penguin than this lone flamingo. My husband is enjoying warm weather in California; friends are off for the season, or at least a vacation, to Florida. They send pictures by the pool, or of the beach. Somehow it seems I missed the cue to migrate. We really don’t understand what causes birds and animals to migrate. At the appointed time, they head to warmer weather. Without maps or an endless string of arrangements, whole flocks of birds find their way. Yet we find it difficult to meet up for a quick cup of coffee without endless text messages or reply-all e-mails. There are times when we need to make the effort to connect, and times when we need to separate ourselves from others. It can be difficult to listen to our inner voice when it seems drowned out by the voices of others. We need to withdraw, just as Christ withdrew into the desert before his triumphant arrival in Jerusalem. He fasted and prayed, faced his demons, and gained strength for the challenges ahead. Make time today to migrate toward the true warmth of God. Lift up solitary prayer from the depths of your soul. Trust in the new growth of spring beyond the relentless winter. Lay your deepest fears and heaviest concerns at the foot of the cross, relying on God’s strength rather than your own. Open your heart to new possibilities, take more time with uncertainty than is comfortable, allow God to surprise you. And always remember, when we listen with the ears of our hearts even the deepest snow melts away. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015, written during the snow storm last week. Photo entitled ‘Bad Year to Skip Migration’ by Sarah Gulick ©2013, to see more of her work, go to http://www.studioup.com/portfolio/

Reflecting on Certainty….

Kayak on Slush by Sarah GulickCold winter days offer time to contemplate what perplexes me the most. Over the years I have struggled against a desire for certainty, a desire to fix whatever is wrong. Sometimes that includes fixing other people, which rarely works well for them or for me. Before long, I find even my best laid plans falling apart. So I was drawn to this photo of a kayak on the edge of Lake Anne in Reston, VA by my friend Sarah. The crack is off to one side, a crack that could be easily missed depending on which way you are looking. You could slip into the boat thinking the ice would hold, only to find fractures all around you. Of course, it’s a boat, and boats float on water much better than ice. Yet like our desire for certainty, that fact gets lost in the shuffle. We may fear tipping over and falling into the cold lake, or worse yet, getting caught under the ice. How many awful outcomes do we imagine that keep us on the shore? How often do we delay a decision because we don’t know enough? Perhaps we fear getting it wrong, so we avoid the decision all together. Our need for certainty imprisons us, restricts our choices, prohibits us from taking risks. We lock down the answer to feel safe, only to find life passing us by. We did in fact make a decision when we failed to decide – we simply remained frozen in time and space. In her book ‘Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith’, Anne Lamott says “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty”. Faith is a place of mystery, a place where we let go of our fear of uncertainty. Faith takes courage, because courage is not the absence of fear; courage is deciding something is more important than what you fear. Faith calls us to grow, to venture into the unknown, to hope for what we cannot yet see. Faith holds open a space for more than human effort, trusting God to fill in the cracks of our lives and the lives of those we love in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Make time today to venture into the unknown, trying something new and different to feed your heart and soothe your soul. Let go of the need for certainty; embrace your faith in the midst of doubt. Ask others to pray for you and with you, as you pray for them. And always remember to look beyond the surface, thankful for the cracks in this life that lead us to beyond the ice to deep living waters. Text by Connie Chintall Connie Chintall ©2015, Photo entitled ‘Kayak on Slush’ by Sarah Gulick ©2014, to see more of her work, go to http://www.studioup.com/portfolio/

 

 

Reflecting on Wilderness….

Summer is drawing to a close, on the Friday prior to Labor Day weekend. Leaves are already falling and the nights are cool. I love to hike or boat this time of year, when the days are still warm but not muggy. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Sarah Gulick, of her trip to the Amazon last year. This photo offers a haunting beauty, a hint of what that trip might have been like. I often ponder a photo for some time before writing about it, and began to wonder if this photo would ever offer up its secrets. Then a few days ago, Sarah posted a video about hiking in Death Valley. Both the photo and video make you yearn for the wilderness, to let go of the every day, to reconnect with the elements. There is a vastness in God’s glory we can so easily lose sight of, an infinite grace reflected in the Psalms.

10 For the LORD God is both sun and shield;
He will give grace and glory
11 No good thing will the LORD withhold
From those who walk with integrity
12 O LORD of hosts,
Happy are they who put their trust in you!
Psalm 84:10-12

We live on top of one another, crowding out the beauty that God’s creation freely offers. Even in the midst of decay or apparent desolation, we are struck by the bounty of nature, a bounty waiting for us to discover. We find hidden recesses, life amidst decay, creeks that may have changed their course. When we share these experiences, we create lasting bonds, an abiding legacy. We learn about one another in ways we never thought possible, and discover places lost deep within ourselves. Take time today to discover a patch of wilderness in an unexpected place. Look for birds and animals on the edge of a pond, or in a stand of trees along your commute. Walk to work rather than driving, or invite someone to walk with you during your lunch break. Get away this weekend, to hike or boat with family and friends. And always remember, even if you can’t get away, you can take time to see the world through Sarah’s eyes. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Sarah Gulick ©2011, to see her cinematography in the video entitled ‘Wilderness Hike, Death Valley’, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dClNiEy7Hj0

Reflecting on Fog….

As one rainy day follows another, our morning fog rivals the fog we met in the English countryside. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Sarah in the Amazon. I love how the tree in the foreground stands out, so distinct in contrast to the misty scenery in the background. I can imagine certain sounds being muffled, while other sounds are amplified or distorted. The boat seems so inviting, offering a chance to float aimlessly on calm waters. Fog offers an invitation to turn inward, to let go of the long view and soak in the here and now. My grandmother used to say that fog was a blanket God used to cover a corner of the world. It’s almost as if God is inviting you to pull up the covers and hit the snooze button one more time. Yet there is such temptation to rush out of the house and through our day. We speed up only to be caught at the next red light along with everyone else, or cut off someone to get a parking space a few feet closer to the door. We want everything to add up just so, for all the facts to line up and make perfect sense. The true essence of life defies such simple bookkeeping. Our hearts are regulated by a more subtle and complex arithmetic. The greater truth lies in embracing the mystery, and accepting that our view is limited, and often obscured. Only the Most High sees all and understands all. Take time today to turn inward, to lead with your heart rather than with your mind. Allow the mystery of life to enfold you, and thank God for your blessings, for those who fill your life with love. Feel free to pour out your heart in prayer, knowing that the fog that surrounds you is simply a wonderful, mysterious blanket of God’s love. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Food….

The temperatures dropped into the 50’s last night, making for good sleeping weather. The frogs and insects are serenading us in the early evening, their last songs before the cold weather sets in. Summer is not all that is ending here in Fauquier County. So I was drawn to this photo of chickens at a family owned farm taken by my friend Sarah. These chickens don’t have much in common with the Dolly Parton variety often sold in the supermarkets. No growth hormones or strange chemical cocktails for these chickens, just their feed and some scraps of vegetables. I like knowing the farmers that grow our food. Our family eats locally grown food as much as possible. We believe that buying local and eating local is one of the best ways to be good stewards of creation. We support our neighbors and friends, and reduce the distance from the farm to our dinner plates. Folks talk about conservation, and neglect to consider how much fuel goes into their food. Local produce in the grocery stores sometimes means grown in the US, not grown in your county or state. Even the farmer’s markets include trucked in produce to meet the expectation that any and all fruits and vegetables should be available year round. So I am sad to say that a farmer’s cooperative that greatly aided in our quest to eat locally is closing. Farmergirls.net offered a way to easily purchase food from a variety of local farms and kitchens. This service was web based, with vendors posting what was available each week and customers using an online shopping cart to choose their purchases. Our local food was then sorted and bagged for pick up. Farmergirls.net sought to connect people with local farms, and they have succeeded in doing just that. Many customers now deal with the farms directly, rather than going through the cooperative. Many families now purchase more than their produce locally, buying meat, eggs and dairy from local farms. But not all of us have time to stop at half a dozen locations, and Farmergirls.net will be sorely missed. Take time today to consider where your food was produced, and what went into it. Learn more about buying local and eating local. Start small, perhaps with apples this autumn, or some local honey. If you prefer to eat out, learn more about your favorite restaurant. Support your local farms and learn what a difference it makes to your dinner table. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Choice….

Clouds keep blowing through, threatening rain but not delivering it. Both the crops and our comfort are crying out for a storm, to soak the ground and cut the humidity. So I was drawn to this photo of clouds at sunset taken by my friend Sarah in the Amazon. I love how the sunset is reflected n the clouds, creating a real life watercolor. I imagine the colors changing moment by moment, as Sarah and her group floats down the Amazon in boats that ride low in the water. I particularly like how the clouds are mirrored in the river, slightly distorted by the ripples on the surface. It seems like they could see forever, until the clouds came to a point in the distance. The way we see this sky is a lot like how we view our lives. Here and now there are too many options, an illusion of infinite choice. The further we look toward the future, the less we can see or even imagine. Our view becomes obscured, or limited by what we see now. Perhaps we feel so overwhelmed that we are unable to make any choice. We float along the same path, hoping life will be different although we simply do the same things, again and again. Yet if we turn inward, and pause to reflect, we know the path ahead, deep inside of our hearts. We understand that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him. All paths lead toward God, who sees and knows the innermost workings of our heart. Take time today to look inward, to allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and guide your soul. Then take that leap of faith to follow your heart, trusting that God has prepared more for you than you can imagine, or even hope for. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Hospitality….

We seem to have a bit of a break from the heat, so I am motivated to get things done today. Sometimes the smallest irritations can become obstacles, an ache here, a pain there. So I was drawn to this photo of a woman in the Amazon, taken by my friend Sarah. These toes belong to the woman that prepared lunch for Sarah and her group at they traveled along the river. The woman made everything from scratch on a low platform. She worked in a crouched position that reminded me of one of the yoga poses I strive to attain. Yet it was this photo that caught my eye. Look at her feet. No two toes seem to face the same direction. Her feet may ache, but those aches and pains don’t prevent her from making meals. She continues to offer herself to others, making delicious and nutritious food for travelers that come her way. What she offers is as much about hospitality as about food. The Bible is full of restrictions for other parts of our bodies, warning us against speaking out when we should be silent, or curbing our various physical appetites. Not so for our feet. Our feet are meant to be free. Perhaps her bare feet are a reflection of her heart. She doesn’t dress up, or wait for the perfect moment or occasion. She is simply present to those she meets. Take time today to consider what hospitality means to you. Open your home and your heart to others, for a cup of tea, or time to share. Simply be present to those you meet, and free your heart, and your feet. Photo by Sarah Gulick

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