Easter won’t let me go…

It’s hard for me to go to church anymore. It’s hard for me to follow the church calendar, to find meaning in days like Palm Sunday or contemplate seasons like Lent. It just doesn’t reach me anymore, not now. Some of it never reached me… I never could quite accept a calendar when I wanted to celebrate all holidays all the time…I wasn’t good at following the guidelines, though I tried.

I’m currently reading Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar, and it’s been helpful to me as I process this unraveling period… she is helping me to understand that there is still something left after the house of cards comes tumbling down. (Though I know my shifting is intricately tied to the sudden loss I experienced two years ago and the abrupt upheaval of my life to the point where I didn’t really have a church community to “lose” anymore, the book and her stories are still helpful.)

Anyway, what I’m saying is… a lot of “religious” things have fallen away recently, but Easter keeps tugging at my heart strings. Easter won’t let me go. I’m going to go to church on Easter Sunday, or at least I’m going to attempt to do so. It’s still going to be difficult for me. But it’s a sunrise service, and there’s just something about sunrise church services that I can’t let go of.

I was trying to describe it to my friend, who graciously said he would go with me: “Well, the service doesn’t start at sunrise, it starts before. We start in darkness and we end in light.”

And that very concept is what I can’t shake from my mind. That, the whole darkness turning into light thing, is what won’t let go of me.

I wrote about Easter last year, about how I don’t know how to sing, “He is risen,” when death still feels so close and so painful, and yet I still want to hear that Christ is, in fact, risen. I still need to hear that death is not the final end, even as it feels so final and so consuming.

I wrote of eucatastrophe, a word I think of often but still can’t quite describe adequately. I don’t know fully what it is, but I find hope in its meaning, a meaning I can’t articulate. The good catastrophe, the sudden joyous turn. Like Easter, a eucatastrophe involves light reversing the darkness, but as Tolkien wrote, we can’t see it yet. It doesn’t always seem like a happy ending, “…at least, not what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end,” says Sam. We can’t see the glory on the other side yet.

I don’t know why I’m drawn to the sunrise and the symbol of a resurrection that I don’t understand, but I am… And I think it is only a light like this that will bring me back to a building that I don’t know how to or even want to be in anymore… just for one day. For one day, I can join in the singing. For one day, I can awaken the dawn. I can believe.

Light is coming. Let it reflect backwards through time, through space, through the “chinks of the universe.” Let it pierce this shadow, and let it kiss my face. Let me sing.

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when He is risen, but death still hurts.

Last year on Easter, I went to a sunrise service, had breakfast with friends, and then went to pick up my dad from the airport. We shared Easter dinner together with my aunt’s side of the family, and then I got to spend about a week with my dad before he flew back to Colorado. That was the last time I got to see him.

Last year, I had Easter dinner with my dad. This year, he is not here. How do I celebrate that death has no power, no sting, when its power overwhelms me and its sting still hurts?

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Christ’s tomb is empty, but my dad’s urn is still full. What does it mean?
“Today you will be with me in paradise,” Christ said to the thief who hung dying beside him. Not, “In the last days,” but “Today.” What does it mean?

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” 1 Corinthians 15:36. NIV. Or, “Every time you plant seed, you sow something that does not come to life [germinating, springing up, growing] unless it dies first.” -AMP.

On the night before He hung on the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Where is that joy? Why does it feel like death has swallowed it up — when in reality, death is the one that is swallowed up, destroyed, rendered powerless?

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The very day before my dad died, before I even knew it was coming, I went to church and listened to a sermon on Nehemiah 8. I wrote verse 10 in my journal: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” I continued writing, “What does that mean, God? Teach us, lead us. The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

I am looking for the joy of the LORD today. I found Him in the stillness of the early morning hours, in the dark sky, in the foggy mists, in the creeping dawn. I found joy at first light, as the world turned golden orange and the water sang.

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Then the day came on, the sun rose rapidly in the sky, the stillness turned to busyness, and the cool mists burned away in the stifling heat… And now it is dusk. The sun has gone down again, and I am still not any closer to understanding Christ, His death, His sacrifice; His resurrection, His victory. I am drawn to Him, to the dawn. I need His hope, but I don’t understand it.

What does Resurrection mean today? For me? For the orphan? For the widow?

It is easy to sing of Christ’s victory, “He rose and conquered the grave, He conquered the grave.” It’s easy, when death seems far away, when you haven’t yet felt its sting, or when that sting has faded to a dull memory. Today, though, it hurts. Today, I sing, “He conquered the grave” not with a shout of triumph, but with a cry of desperation. It has to be true. He has to be risen. Death is defeated, it has to be, or what else can I do?

This sorrow will not pass, but perhaps joy can mingle with it… perhaps “pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” I am looking for the eucastastrophe.

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Blossom in all seasons…

I’ve been thinking again about the change in seasons. I don’t know what to make of this winter/spring mix. As I was looking back through summer photos of the mountains to find aspen pictures for this post, and I was struck by how luscious and green everything looked. I found myself wondering if I’d even seen these photos before, because everything looked so new and beautiful. (I had seen them, I gone through them and uploaded them to Facebook, but that was right after I had taken them, in the middle of summer.) In the dry and dreary winter, I saw summer’s beauty and bounty and remembered that life would renew again.

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I want to remember the aspens throughout the seasons. The papery leaves, brilliant green in the summer, yellow in the autumn, crumbled and lost in the winter.

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March has been a strange season… Still no resolution. This month has left me feeling unclear about what to write here, but I know I must write something. I cannot let the time go unrecorded.

Sometimes I can go for days without thinking about my dad, or at least without despair. I can have days where I accept joy, and it does not come mingled in tears. Just the other day, I participated in an event that I had been working on and driving towards for weeks… It was a lovely day, and I had a lot of fun, but my dad never knew anything about it. He didn’t meet the people of Grey Havens. He didn’t know I had found a group of young adults to lead even nerdier than I am. He didn’t get to see their hilarious skit. All of these things happened after he died, part of the life I live now without his presence. But here’s the thing that scares me: I haven’t grieved about it. At least, it doesn’t seem like I have yet, anyway.

I do not know if I am numb, blinded by temporary happiness, or just reaching a new stage in the grieving process. I do not want it to be any of those things. I do not know what to make of this. What will spring bring to me? What will the tenth month bring? What will happen when I reach the anniversary date of the last time I saw him?

Lately I have been distracted from thinking about grief because I have been looking at the new blessings of my life. (Why do I feel bad about that?) I have a new job, praise God. I am getting to know new friends. I am growing closer to my nieces. I am finding things to enjoy in Colorado… And my dad won’t see it. Well, hopefully he will, but it won’t be in a way that I can interact with him about it. And it scares me that I haven’t broken down about it yet. I worry about what may be coming. (I suppose that’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I should be careful. I need to stop overanalyzing. Grief is grief, there is no formula.)

There are some days that still pierce me. I am struggling with churches and questions of faith right now, and I can’t talk to my dad about it. I know he would have listened. I know he would’ve held me when I felt so confused and alone. I miss singing next to him. I miss the way he loved to worship. I also miss learning from him. I miss hearing him tell me stories about our family, his childhood, about mom.

The white flowers on the tombs of the kings of Rohan blossom in all the seasons of the year, that is why they are called evermind, simbelmynë. They grow where dead men rest, and I am the simbelmynë. I am the aspen tree. I stand rooted through winter, spring, summer, and fall, with my scarred bark and my papery leaves, but still I stand, silver and golden in the sunlight. Because there is always sun.

I am the evermind. I grow where death has overtaken, and I bloom there bright and beautiful, a white eye in the grass, ever seeing, ever remembering. 

What I’m taking in these days… part 2.

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Back in July, I wrote a post about some of words I’d been taking in during my first month of grief. We are coming up on the sixth month soon, and here are a few more things I am taking in these days…

The other day, I watched the movie Shrink, and it was beautiful, I recommend it. In it, Kevin Spacey’s character, a shrink, undergoes a tragedy and still tries to help his patients while not really knowing how to help himself. When his friends get upset with him about the unorthodox way he tries to cope, he says:
“They want you to have some kind of normal response to grief. So they don’t have to watch. But it’s mine.”

Those words just really struck me, and I found myself nodding along in tears…

At the end of the movie, Spacey talks to another character in the movie, a young girl who also suffered a loss. The conversation goes like this:
Spacey’s character says, “It’s never going to go away, is it?”
And the young girl replies, “No. But we’re still here. That’s something.”

*   *   *
I’ve shared many times before how much I love The Lord of the Rings. I found Tolkien’s stories just before my mother died, and I’ve clung to them ever since. I feel such a strong connection to these stories written by a man who also knew loss, who also sought Christ–and found Him– in the midst of darkness. I’ve been rereading the trilogy for the past few months, and last week I finally made it to Mordor.

Sam cannot find Frodo in the dark orc Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Tolkien writes: “The torch, that was already burning low when he arrived, sputtered and went out; and he felt darkness cover him like a tide. And then softly, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing.” This is his song:

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In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done
nor bid the Stars farewell.

Then, in the next chapter, “The Land of Shadow,” Tolkien writes, in one of my most favorite passages in all of literature:
“Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of that forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope, for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.”

There is Light and high beauty forever beyond the Shadow’s reach, and because of that, we can walk unhindered in this darkness, knowing the Light will never truly fade.

*   *   *
I would like to share one more thing. After the deed is done, the ring is destroyed, Frodo and Sam return to the world of men, and Aragorn brings forth a minstrel to sing of all the terror they passed through and all the strength that kept them going to their victory in the end:
“And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

evermind. <3

True Story

It’s my 100th published post today everybody! Hopefully in the next few days I’ll take some time to reflect on my first one hundred posts and my journey as chronicled in blogging. Thank you so much for reading and following. I appreciate you, and I am grateful to be able to blog freely.
However, I’m going to use post number 100 to send you over to Small Still Voices today to read my latest contribution, entitled “True Story.”

True story: I am so foolish.
I make a lot of mistakes.
[I hate making mistakes.]
I worry a lot about those mistakes,
About possible future mistakes,
About whether or not I’m making a mistake right now, right this minute.
[I have trouble trusting myself.]

Click to read the rest at Small, Still Voices!

Some jumbled thoughts for you.

Well, folks, we’ve gone from three posts in a week to almost four weeks with no posting at all. I apologize for my inconsistency. I really want to try and keep this blog updated regularly, especially for those of you that have been supporting me in this journey and deserve more than a few sporadic updates. That being said, this post is going to consist of a few random thoughts and details for you, in no particular order. :)

Fall is almost over in Edinburgh and winter has already begun to set in; the smell of frost is in the air and Christmas preparations are well under way. I love it!

I’m currently working on my last three papers for the semester, and they’re all going to relate to Scotland in some way. (I know, I’m super clever and deserve extra credit.) Anyway, once they’re done, I’ll have two and a half weeks to enjoy Edinburgh without having to worry about school work, and then I’ll be on my plane back to America… It feels so surreal.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel pretty peaceful about my short amount of time here. I’m not freaking out about seeing the rest of the country or going away every weekend, and I’m not completely sure why, but I think it might be God telling me that I’ll be back here some day, that I shouldn’t feel rushed in Scotland because my time here isn’t over in December… That’s just a thought, but we’ll see where He leads.

One important thing I wanted to mention: The other day, someone from back in the States told me they hoped I was enjoying my ‘vacation.’ Now, they were joking, but it struck me and I haven’t been able to put that word aside. I’m sure most of you don’t believe that I’m in Edinburgh for vacation, but I just need to state it for my own sake — this is not a vacation. I’m not here to relax by a beach. (Although I imagine most Edinburgh tourists aren’t here to do that either.) This is not an escape, or a getaway, or a holiday, where I just go away for bit and then return to my normal life. This IS my life. I live in Edinburgh right now, I study in Edinburgh, I go to church in Edinburgh, and I’m here to learn what God wants to teach me. I’m grateful that I get to live out this season of my life in an amazing city that I get to explore every day, but please don’t call my life a vacation.

Anyway, putting all that aside, I just wanted to thank you. Thank you for reading this blog, for liking my facebook statuses and photos, for replying to my tweets, for praying for me and encouraging me.

Lastly, I just wanted to leave you with some words the speaker said at church today:
“God deems this fallen humanity as something worth fighting for.”
Amen. Our God is so good, may you see His glory on this wonderful Sunday.

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

Hah, I know, very creative of me to use that as the title of this post. I can’t help it if David Bowie pops into my head every time I think about changes. Anyway, the point is, you’ll probably be noticing some changes about this blog of mine… new colors, new layout, new title — I know, change scares me too, I’m sorry! I’m already starting to feel iffy about this font and the style of it, so we’ll see how long it lasts… I just wanted to update my layout a bit to make it easier to read. I also decided I wanted to change the title of this blog to something a bit more personal…

My old title was taken from a song, and it was good for a time, I connected myself to it, but it wasn’t truly… me. For more information about my old title and the reasoning behind it, you can read the first post on this blog here: The Songs that Spoke for Me.

For information about how I chose my new title, well, you can just keep on reading! Lucky you.

Originally, as in five minutes ago, this blog was titled “Chasing the Light.” The problem with that, though, was that it’s used by lots of photographers for their websites and photography dvds and things of that nature. Being stubborn, I chose the title anyway and started writing this post. I began explaining about how I just really like the concept of light chasing. You see, for almost all of my life, I’ve had this strange love affair with the sun and the way it shines. If you’ve ever gone on a photo-adventure with me, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with sunshots, and I’ll always be chasing the light to get the shots I want.

Then I began to say that if you’ve been checking out some of the other posts on this blog, you’ll notice my aforementioned affinity with sunshots, and how I love to relate sun, fire, stars, and all forms of light to God in some way. He is Light, the Father of Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. All my life, I will be chasing after Him, seeking Him, following where His light leads me. In this blog, I want to chronicle my journey as I chase after the Light of Life.

However, as I finished writing these words, I had a thought: Perhaps, I should call this blog “Chased by Light” instead? Because, you see, God is really the one pursuing me, chasing me, consuming me with the Light of His glory… Yes, I am a Light chaser, but I wouldn’t be chasing Him if He hadn’t first chased me. I have been caught and captivated by Heaven’s Light, the Light that will never fade.

When you chase the sun, it always flees from you, you can never quite catch it. You can capture a piece of it in time, but it will always fade away, below the horizon, out of reach.
But our God is not like that; His fire never fades. And instead of fleeing from us, He chases after us, taking hold and never letting go.

I am chased by Light.
I hope you enjoy continuing to read and respond to this blog by a girl consumed by the Light of her Savior. <3

Certain of what we do not see

In my last post, I commented on the beauty of the sun and encouraged you to enjoy the sun that day. I wrote the post in the middle of the night and the next morning (at least in my neck of the woods), it was cloudy and rainy. There wasn’t very much sun that day, or today either for that matter. And yet I encouraged you to enjoy the sun. …Did you still do it?

The sun is still there, you know, even if we can’t see it.

Right now, I’m writing a paper about Robert Frost’s “Storm Fear,” a poem about the storms of our lives that wall us in and beat upon our windows and cause us to despair. But, you know, the sun is still present, even though hidden behind storm clouds.

It’s still there, providing its energy that gives life. It’s fixed in space, it hasn’t gone anywhere, nor has the earth moved farther away from it. It’s just that sometimes we can’t see the sun as well as we’d like to. But it’s still there.

A lot like God, huh?

May you enjoy the glory of the sun today, even if it’s not obvious. May you bask in the steady pretense of the Son, even through the storm.

Today is the brightest, the brightest that I’ve ever known…


I have a thing for sun pictures…

In rays of golden light were the words you spoke
A witness in the sky was the promised hope
You’ll fly shining, you’ll fly shining
When the day breathed last in the cloudburst sky
I saw you like the sun in the shadows,
Shining, shining…

Today is the brightest, the brightest that I’ve ever known
I followed, I followed the sun all the way home.

You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. – Psalm 76:4

May you enjoy the sun today.

The lyrics above are from an amazing band called Courrier. You should check them out: http://www.courriermusic.com/. And as always, you can click the photograph above to see it in a better size. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to format things on here… Thanks for stopping by <3

Simple Beauty

I struggled to figure out what to post today. However, I did just spend an hour or so going through photos and editing them and having a really fun time being creative, so that was nice and definitely necessary after a stressful day. As I was processing the images from a spontaneous photo shoot with my friends, I found this gem:

(please click the image to see it at a better size, thanks! )

I’ve always loved images of plants growing out of rock. I think I just love the hope of it, the idea of blooming in all circumstances, finding room to grow no matter what tries to wall you in… Just respond to the sun (note – “Son” can also be used here) and push your way through. Break out and let your beauty shine…

I don’t know, sounds kind of cliche, but it’s also just simply beautiful, don’t you think?

Love it.