Juxtapose

I’m sitting at a coffee shop across the street from my therapist’s office, waiting to go over there in about a half an hour. I go every two weeks. Nothing quite shows me how full my life is of all sorts of activities and drama like having therapy every couple weeks.

Before I go I have to try and think through all that has happened in the last two weeks so I don’t waste that time in therapy. And there’s always so much. What do I even choose to talk about?


The end of the school year is an emotional time. One of our girls graduated high school a little over a week ago. The night before graduation I gave her a heartfelt nine page letter that I had written for her with thoughts and insights and wisdom. (Much of which I have learned from Fred Rogers). She took the letter and immediately went into another room to read it.

She came running to me after she had read it and gave me a huge hug, sobbing into my shoulder. It was a touching moment, for sure. A meaningful one.

But about 24 hours later she left our home, once again with hugs and tears. But she left with plans of going out with a couple of her friends, their boyfriends, and her own boyfriend, a boy that we had tried to keep her away from during the school year. Someone she knows that my wife and I most definitely do not approve of her being with.

It’s hard to know how to handle that sort of situation. The seeming gratefulness, respect and appreciation that she showed us for taking care of her, for loving her, for pouring our lives into her, and then flat out doing something she knows we’d strongly disapprove of.

It’s the juxtaposition of the two (or more) faces of these teenagers that is hard to work with. We’ve had to learn to not take it personally, and to expect that this is usually how it is.

Does it change how we care and love for them?

No. We do it anyway. And we’ll be here when she stumbles, falls, or fails and needs to be picked up again.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/juxtapose/

 

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Core

Perhaps the greatest harm the church has caused in me was to teach and train me to see people as naturally sinful and in essence, evil. That from birth, due to our inherit nature, we are enemies with the Creator God. That the God who is infinite in his goodness, his power, and his knowledge sees us all as souls worthy of eternal damnation.

I still struggle with this every day. It affects my attitude, my words, my worldview, my behaviors. But I believe to see people in this way is the worst way to interact with other people. It’s the worst way to view ourselves.

We all want, for the most part, to be people of integrity. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone has inside of them a deep sense of goodness. Deep down in the core of who we are as a people is a sense of grace. I believe this because I believe that everyone has the image of God – the Divine – in them. I have recently learned that I have to speak to that part in a person for me to really connect with them. It takes courage because I have to be vulnerable myself to actually speak to that part in a person.

I first have to believe it, however.

We are all constantly living in the space of struggle. There’s all sorts of things pulling and tugging at our hearts. It’s easy to forget as we interact with others. Especially if they are being particularly unpleasant. But there is that sense of an inner-child within us all, I think. It’s that part that I am constantly trying to look for.

It’s my belief that this is the way that God sees us all the time.

Fred Rogers once said this:

I remember one of my seminary professors saying people who were able to appreciate others—who looked for what was good and healthy and kind—were about as close as you could get to God—to the eternal good. And those people who were always looking for what was bad about themselves and others were really on the side of evil. “That’s what evil wants,” he would say. “Evil wants us to feel so terrible about who we are and who we know, that we’ll look with condemning eyes on anybody who happens to be with us at the moment.”

I encourage you to look for the good where you are and embrace it.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/core/

Rapid

In two weeks two of our eight girls will move out of our home.

One girl is graduating from high school, and the other is leaving successfully to go back and live with her mom and siblings.

I have a whirl of conflicting emotions twirling and swirling within me. I am happy for them. But I am also very nervous about their success. I pour my life and my heart and my soul into these girls. I root for them. I cheer them on. I have the hard talks with them. I tell them things that no other person has told them in their entire lives.

I love these girls. I want to see them to leave from our home and make good decisions. I want them to choose good friends. I want them to know how incredible they truly are on the inside, and to live out from that part of themselves.

These last few days are already moving at too rapid of a pace. I’m trying to cherish each moment.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/rapid/

Sleeve

Pause for a moment.
Look around you.
I want to ask you some questions.

Where are you? What do you see?
Are you near a window? Are you in a basement? Are you at a coffee shop?
What kind of light do you see? Is it a sunny or cloudy day? Are you in a room with mostly artificial or natural light?

How does that light make you feel? Where are the shadows? What is the mood?

If you were to take out a camera, or even your phone, what would you take a picture of to capture the mood of where you are right this very minute? Of how you are feeling? What story could you tell with the light that is present?

Pay attention to the light around you throughout a day. See what it reflects off of. See what it shines through. Notice the warmth or the coolness of the light. Notice if it seems harsh, like direct sunlight in the middle of the day, or soft, like the last hour of light around sunset.

These are the details that we are aware of, yet they still go unnoticed most of the time.

If you’re out and about, notice how light falls on the faces of those around you. How it reflects in their eyes. How it illuminates their hair at just the right angles.

There are stories already surrounding you. They are written by the light. We just have to notice them. Capturing them is what photography, to me, is all about.

Add human beings to the mix and we have infinite stories all around us. Lives intertwined with one another. Sometimes only for fractions of a second, and for some a lifetime of moments and memories.

And time ticks on. Moments pass. We all grow older. Emotions come and emotions go. And so do the people in our lives. Babies are born, while others leave us.

Meanwhile, we carry around with us a device that can stop time. It captures the stories provided to us by the human soul’s dance with light.

My challenge to us today is to try and notice the stories around us. And then maybe try and capture a moment that tells a story. It doesn’t have to be anything remarkable. Just a moment that you happened to notice in your day that you wanted to capture. You don’t need to clean up your desk. You don’t need to make your bed. You don’t need to put on makeup. You don’t need any special lighting. You don’t need to know all the technical details of your camera. Let everything be real, as it is. It’s good enough.

If you really want to push yourself, look for an emotional moment you want to capture. Photography allows us to wear our heart on our sleeve without ever saying a word. Because photography shows us and everyone we share our photos with the moments that we notice. The stories that speak to us. Photography therefore allows us to express our true emotions. It allows us to be vulnerable. If we let it, it helps us to be whole and live into our true selves.

If you’re willing, share some of your photos or even your Instagram with me.
I’d love to see what you notice.

Here are some moments I noticed last evening on a walk with my two sons:

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

Ezra in the trees

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT

a nice day at BT


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sleeve/

Astonish

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks or so digging into photography techniques, methods, and approaches. I’ve been reading photography books and websites, watching documentaries, and learning from professionals on YouTube.

I’ve been learning about the craft of photography – literally “light writing” – as well as the art, which to me is all about capturing specific moments in time. Through this process I’ve learned a lot about myself and the style of photography that resonates inside me the most.

I have always been impressed with great studio portrait shots. Professional shots with incredible lighting with gorgeous models or celebrities. The glitz and the glamour. Magazine shots. I could look at them all day. However, those photos don’t inspire me to go out and shoot photos of my own. They don’t really even inspire me to go out and get great lights and rent studio space to take photos. (Although I did find a great deal on a backdrop on Facebook Marketplace recently and had to get it.)

What it comes down to is that I’m not moved by photos with artificial lighting and great flash placement. I strongly prefer natural lighting. And when I see portraits shot in natural lighting, I’m desperate to go out and shoot photos.

But even more than that, I love candid photography. I love photography that captures the moments in time that maybe not everyone notices right away. The moments that go unnoticed, but that are still special. We live our lives not always being appreciative of the experiences we have on a daily basis. Even the most basic of routines are actually special to us without realizing it because they are regular parts of our lives. When I see a picture of my oldest son from when he had a toddler bed, and was wearing diapers, and still needed a non-spill cup, a flood of memories and emotions come rushing into my brain. The photo is wouldn’t astonish anyone through it’s lighting or composition or it’s post-processing. It has nothing to do with those things. I’m thankful for that photo purely because of the moment in time that was captured.

We too often take the routines and everyday moments of our lives for granted. For me, photography is a practice that challenges me not to take for granted the the experiences of my daily life, even the most tedious of routines. Time is always ticking ahead. The only way we can stop it is through art. And that’s what photography is. We sometimes forget that.

People like to complain about how phones have cheapened the art and craft of photography because now anyone can pick up their phone and snap away. It’s an incredibly amazing tool we have in our hands or pockets all day. People wax eloquently about this all over the web, so I won’t here. But I do think we’d all benefit if we were more thoughtful with the photos we take.

  — 

I’ve not written on this blog quite as frequently because I’ve really been digging into photography for a bit. So many of my upcoming posts will probably be related to photography in some shape or form.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/astonish/

Vague

So it ends up that the changes I’ve made in my life recently are only chapter one in my journey to make healthier routines in my life. I

Get up and out of bed when the kids get up.
Write at my desk each morning in my office as they play together.
Attend individual therapy twice a month.

Those have been good, but they’re clearly just the start.


My wife has been making positive changes in her life, too. She’s been on a diet in which she eats very little sugar and almost entirely natural foods. She’s been doing really well with it thus far. She’s also been going to the gym everyday and attending classes and working out.

That has been a huge step for her. She’s really proud of her progress, and so am I. It’s been quite impressive to see her devoting herself to these routines.


As Sarah has been at the gym, I’ve been taking time to learn photography techniques and read about the history of photography. I recently got a roll of black and white film for one of my film cameras to shoot while I’m out and about. I also got a backdrop stand with a couple fabric backdrops for portraits.

I’m getting more comfortable with my confidence as a photographer. Knowing what I like. Knowing what my style is. Knowing how a picture will look before I take it.

Hollywood Candy

Phone booth

Hollywood Candy


Over the weekend I decided that I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made thus far, but much more still needs to be done. I like specific achievable goals. I’m not really a fan of vague or general goals that don’t have measurable successes.

So I decided that there were some significant changes that I needed to make in regards to the time that I spend with my wife. Because my wife and I are co-workers working in our own home boundaries are blurred between our work life and our personal life. But it’s been more and more clear to me that our time together has been very much work-centric. And that has made it hard to have quality personal time with each other. And then we end up getting into arguments or disagreements about what should have gotten done during the day or who should do what.

I just need to be wiser with how I budget my time.

I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. And although I have for years fought against people just stopping using it because it truly is an amazing tool to connect with others around the world, I decided that it was taking up too much of my brain energy and time, especially during the times I’m with Sarah.

So I disabled my Facebook account completely and deleted my Twitter account off phone, which is the only place I really use it.

I’ve also decided that I need to get more sleep by simply going to bed earlier. After a long day I feel like I deserve to stay up and do some things that I want to do before bed, but then I end up staying up to midnight or later. My kids often get up before 6:00 am, so that’s a draining schedule to keep.

I’m a better person if I just go to bed earlier.

Lastly, I’ve decided that Sarah and I need to discuss our schedule at the start of each day so we know who is doing what, when it needs to happen, and how. So that we don’t blame each other when various things don’t get done.

These three things I think are a good chapter two in my journey of changes and healthier routines. We’ll see how they go!


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/vague/

Authentic

I went to Space Camp when I was in fifth grade. I brought a plastic Minolta 35mm film camera with a little slider that allowed the cheap lens to zoom in and out a bit. I used the whole roll of film within the first day I think. Only a couple of the pictures were of my friends. Most of the photos I took were of the rockets and planes they had outside on display. But I took pictures of them from all sorts of different angles, in an attempt to be creative. I didn’t really think it through all that much. It’s just that I had this camera and wanted to take some fun photographs, rather than pictures of my friends making peace signs and sticking out their tongues. (I’m still that way to this day.)

After my trip, I had my film developed. I remember showing the photos to my mom and dad as soon as we got home. My dad told me that he was really impressed with my photos and that they were taken from very creative perspectives. He told me that I had an eye for photography and that I was a good photographer.

Now, up until that point I’m sure I had received a number of praises from my mom and dad about various creative endeavors. For instance, my dad signed me up for piano lessons because I was playing the melodies on our piano by ear that I had heard in commercials or on the radio.

But for some reason the praise I heard from my dad that day stuck with me in a way that caused me to believe I was a good photographer. It empowered me at age 10 or 11 to believe that a photographer was a part of who I was as a person.

I clearly needed that sort of validation. It was life-giving. And when I think about how a statement like that has affected me all these years later, it really shows me the power of the statements we make to one another, especially children.

My dad telling me that I was a good photographer when I was in fifth grade took root deep down inside me. That belief in myself helped nurture a need to create, a need to capture the beauty that is smiling all around us. It has helped me to stay curious and imaginative. To be child-like.

There are little metaphors in all the situations and settings around us. There is sense of humor that lingers in and around our life’s days, if we stop to notice. That’s what I look for in my daily life to inspire me, to help remind me of my place in this world, and how the universe seems to operate. The constant flow and dance between the way of nature and the way of grace. Grace always is present, even if it seems hidden.

Now, it isn’t super obvious about how that connects to photography. But it is an underlying element of what drives me to create. Because I have to notice the hidden layers of grace in the mundane and even in the brutality of the violence and hate of our worst selves as human beings and as a society. It’s when I notice those moments in my life that I feel a sense of authenticity and a drive to be creative. It’s about being both present in the moment, but also recognizing each moment’s place in the greater arching narrative of grace in this world.


I recently bought my a camera for my youngest’s fourth birthday. I’ve carried on the tradition of encouraging the creativity of my son. I do notice that he has an eye for design and how things work and fit together. And I’ve encouraged him to take pictures of those things.

Here are some pictures he’s taken of me:

My first picture

daddy

Mommy and Daddy

daddy at the bookstore

Flowers


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/authentic/

Fret

I like to think of the definition of an adult to be having something you need to do, that you don’t want to do, but doing it anyway. Or perhaps even having something you want to do, but probably shouldn’t do, and deciding not to do it.

I have recently been reading quotes and watching videos of Fred Rogers. I am continually awestruck by that man. He was unflappable. He was consistent. He was driven by a sense of courage, love, and discipline (in that order, says his wife).

Recently I was having a discussion with a group of men about “authentic manhood.” The topic of delayed adolescence and men being “childish consumers” came up. (A childish consumer being understood as someone who plays video games incessantly while ignoring his family, for example.)

During the discussion I was thinking about all the things I had read and watched about Mr. Rogers. He was a man, perhaps the ideal man in my mind, and yet he was child-like. He was drawn to children over adults. He said that almost everything he had learned, he learned from children. He saw that a very good thing.

I think that the wise seek out the difference between what is child-like and childish. They understand and learn to live into what it means to be child-like.

To be child-like is to have a sense of wonder and curiosity, an innocence. A lack of judgment. A deep sense of trust, faith, and joy.

Children simply live with the understanding that they are dependent. Once we grow older, independence seems to be the goal. And in a way, it is. But at the same time, we need to remember that we need one another. We can’t do it all on our own. We need friends, mentors, communities. We need people to give us a sense of connection and belonging, not simply fitting in. Otherwise it wears on our soul and we become desperate and childish.

To be childish is to be short-tempered. It means constantly being selfish, jealous, and needy. It means trying to make everything revolve around you.

I’ve watched probably a dozen or so interviews with Fred Rogers. He always comes of so…childlike. So much so that people don’t know what to do with someone like that. Audiences often laugh at his perceived naiveté. But he is unfazed by their laughter. The interviewers are often put back on their heels. He speaks directly to that part in them that is their inner-child. And it’s almost like the interviewers are stripped of their clothes and appear naked. That’s how genuine and confident Fred Rogers was.

I don’t know about you, but I am incredibly inspired by that level of confidence, courage, and self-awareness. He believed the things he told the kids about being unique and special. He believed that about himself. He didn’t fret over whether people liked him or not.

Every morning he got up very early. He had a time of quietness and silence to prepare himself for the day. Then he always went swimming. And then he started the rest of the days tasks. But that’s how he always started off each day. That too is very inspiring to me, and gives me hope that I, in small ways, can attempt to become the sort of man that Fred Rogers was.

I am very excited for the documentary about him that’s soon to come out. If you haven’t seen the trailer, I highly recommend it:

Mr. Rogers helps me know that I am loved, and am capable of loving.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fret/

Churn

Outside my window the sky is a wonderful shade of blue. The bark and branches of all the trees are glowing orange with the warmth of the morning sun. Yet, despite what it looks like, it is not warm. In fact, today broke the low temperature set in 1899. It is fifteen degrees.

Easter has come and gone. Eggs have been hidden and found. Hymns of hope and faith have been sung. But the signs of resurrection and life remain dormant.

The few flowers that courageously followed the calendar have been punished for their excitement. Their short lives have been snuffed out by the bitterness of a winter working overtime.

So I wait.

I let the longings for new life sit uncomfortably in my belly.
The desire for warmth, for color, even for soggy earthwormy mornings churns in my being as I look at the extended forecast.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/churn/

 

Explore

Right now I’m trying to explore some of the negative voices within me, especially the ones related to parenting. I am constantly on edge of being judged for my parenting. At the root of that fear is a deep-seated voice that I tell myself:

“You are a bad parent.” 

I am at the beginning of this exploration, and it is a task that has been given to me through my conversation with my therapist yesterday.

I like to think I have control over the various elements that make up my daily life. The thing about having a four and a five year old is that they are wildly unpredictable. Anything could set them off. They are energetic balls of curiosity. Add the fact that my five year old has special needs which impact his personality, temper, and ability to cope…well, things get out of control very easily.

And that is nerve-racking for me.

Going out to eat is a stressful activity for me. Keeping them sitting down, quiet, eating their food is a chore and a half. And I find myself comparing our kids to other family’s kids who are sitting like little angels eating all their food as if it’s the greatest meal they’ve ever had in their little lives.

I can get my kids calm by letting them have our phones to play games and watch weird YouTube videos of kids unboxing toys or something. But society tells me that if I do this too often my kids will grow up to be sociopaths, 2+2=17, and that the sky is green.

So I feel guilty when I let my kids use my phone to control their behaviors and attention. But I feel miserable if they are not sitting down quietly.

So shame, guilt, perceived judgment, and self-judgment are all swirling in one nice mess in my soul. And I carry that around. I feel like I have no good options.

When my son Micah, who has a rare genetic disorder, struggles with his behaviors out and about I feel like I want to defend him, (or maybe it’s me), that it’s because he has sensory issues.

I’m at the beginning of this journey. Some of what is going on is obvious. Some is not.

Dealing with the emotions and the tantrums of my seven teenagers is much easier and than dealing with the emotions and tantrums of my two preschoolers.

Anyone else think preschoolers are harder than teenagers? Or maybe by the time your kids are teenagers you’ve forgotten just how hard it was to have preschoolers.

Anyway.

Pray for me y’all. Appreciate it.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/explore/