When This Isn’t “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you were drawn in by the title, either because you are feeling bombarded with all the “cheer” while not feeling the happiness that others expect you to feel during this time of year, or because you are curious as to why anyone would not see this as the best month of all 12.

No matter which position I have found you in, I’m asking that you relinquish all expectation of what this post is about and be present as your eyes scroll the words and your brain processes the thoughts.
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It’s everywhere. The way we “should” be feeling. How we “should” be thinking. What we “should” be buying…

So what do we do when none of our feelings encompass all of the “should(s)” placed on us, and the last thing we feel is “cheerful“?

I have been given the gift of “burden bearing.” I haven’t always thought it a gift and at times tried to mask or ignore it all together. It has only been recently that I’m learning to embrace it and see it as a blessing rather than a curse.

The transformation started several years ago when Katie was 14 weeks pregnant with her 3rd child. Her baby was given the fatal diagnosis of Trisomy 13. On December 19, 2011, at 10:45 a.m., Hallie Lynn Green was born. Weighing in at 4 lbs.15 oz. and stretching 18.75 inches long.

On December 24, 2014, Hallie passed from her mama’s arms back into the arms of Jesus. Katie wrote on her blog that day, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be Hallie’s mother. Although losing you, Hallie, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I would carry you and love you all over again in a heartbeat. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. I love you.”

It is Hallie’s life and Katie’s willingness to learn how to walk in the dark that moved me from a place of empathy to action. In 2012 I began my journey, through my lens, into other people’s pain. That’s a strange way of wording it, I know, but it’s the only wording that makes sense to me.

I have been invited to document the sacred moments between life and death. There are days when I will experience the beauty of life and the gnawing sorrow of death, all within a matter of hours. I stand witness to a wide spectrum of emotions, at times, with people I’ve only just met.

The way to deal with painful emotions is not to get rid of them, it’s to sit with and in them, making the darkness conscious. Knowing that there will once again be light. Being able to experience emotion is key to paving a path to peace. To suppress it is toxic. The further we push it down, the more it festers until one day we can no longer bandage the gaping wound. Some cannot believe that the light will ever return. But it will. Healing is possible. I’ve watched it happen. However, to come to that place, one must be willing to wrestle the angel of darkness.

It is helpful to remember that grief is unpredictable. It shows up at the most inopportune times. It often comes without warning, when there are no Kleenex anywhere to be found and you didn’t apply waterproof mascara. It’s presence is often uncomfortable and frustrating. Even so, each time it appears there is something to be learned. Though the uninvited teacher, pain is not our enemy.

For those friends and family feeling helpless, may I offer some encouragement? There are 3 things you can do to help the one you love.
~ Be Present (Don’t avoid reaching out or taking something by and leaving it on their doorstep or in their mailbox)
~ Listen (I wish we could be more comfortable listening than speaking. It is a learned behavior. When wanting to make someone feel important, listen intently to them.)
~ Be okay with “uncomfortable silence.” (Silence is beautiful when we consciously befriend it.)

If you are currently learning to walk through the darkness, may I speak these truths into your heart?
~ You are not alone.
~ The Creator of the Universe knows you by name. He formed you, piece by piece and therefore sees you and hears your cries.
~ Jesus himself promises that those who mourn will be comforted. (Matthew 5:1-14)
~ You have permission to lower the bar.
If you don’t want to go to that holiday party, don’t go.
If you find your eyes welling with tears while walking down the grocery store isle, it’s okay to walk away from your cart and leave the store.

We must embrace the seasons of darkness just as we long for the seasons of light. To have one without the other leaves us lacking perspective and appreciation for either.

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Was this post helpful? Do you have anything to add about seasons of grief? How can we pray for you? How have you been encouraged through pain? Feel free to leave a comment and we will respond.

If you’re in need of encouragement, click here for a fantastic message from Joel Thomas.
To hear the song inspired by Hallie’s life, written by Casey Darnell, click here

5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.

 

5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com

Screaming through closed lips

I have the answer to the question all of us wrestle in the depths of our soul. I’m walking around with the key to eternal life. I have the ability to provide hope to the hopeless and shine light in the darkness. How can I not tell absolutely everyone I meet about Jesus? How can I not share that this week symbolizes the entire purpose of my life as a follower of Christ? How can I not be joyful always?

IMG_1946May I be honest with you? Today…I wasn’t joyful. Today, I didn’t emanate the light of the world. Today, I kept to myself, annoyed by most everyone whom I felt got in my way. Today, I made excuses and rationalized my weaknesses.

Jeff Henderson made a statement in his message on Sunday that will forever stay with me, hopefully at the forefront of my mind. He said,
God is not your punisher, He’s your rescuer.
Don’t miss this. Read it out loud.

God is not your punisher
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He’s your rescuer.

IMG_7819He went on to say, “If more people knew this truth not only would they not drift away from church or from Jesus, they would run to Jesus. They would run to their rescuer.”

Isn’t that a powerful word picture? Who came to mind when you pictured someone running into the shelter of the Savior?

This is big. Understanding of this one thing could change absolutely everything.

If I believe this, can I honestly look into the eyes of the postal worker stamping “certified mail” on my state tax return and not tell him about the peace that passes all understanding? When seeing the downcast demeanor of the girl behind the check out counter, how could I not tell her about my Jesus who rescued me from myself?

I keep within me this overwhelming gratitude for what my Savior did for me. Sometimes it’s so powerful I cannot contain it. I have to lift my hands or close my tear filled eyes and say out loud, “Thank you. Jesus. Thank you for saving me. I was lost, but now I’m found. Thank you for grace that saved a wretch like me.”

If grouped into categories, I would be with the worst kind of sinners. There are “Christians” I know who would not be associated with me in an effort to protect and promote their own reputation. And yet, the Savior of the world calls me by name and reminds me that I am his chosen one. Was I the only human being in need of saving, still he would have died the most gruesome of deaths to rescue me from eternal darkness.

It’s almost too much for my brain to comprehend. It certainly isn’t deserved or earned. I want everyone to know this God…the God of my rescue.

What if, just this week, we viewed him this way?
What if, just this week, we approached the throne of grace with a new-found hope and praise on our lips.
What if, just this week, we embraced the sacrifice and acknowledged that the maker of heaven and earth paid the ultimate price for our freedom because…He thinks we’re worth it.

The King has paid my ransom and by his wounds…I am healed.Face and Cross

To listen to Jeff’s message click HERE
To check out the entire series #WhyInTheWorld click HERE

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Miley and Me

Well after days of nothing but ridicule and criticism we can all agree that Miley Cyrus has received as much or more attention than her PR agents planned for. Quite honestly, I believe that they are the ones laughing.

You’ve heard the saying, “Negative attention is still attention.”

I saw only clips of her performance, but it was enough to get the picture. After realizing that I didn’t even know she had so drastically changed her appearance, or come out with a new song, it was clear that though her marketing team may not be working for longevity, they are rather genius.

Every time I scroll through Twitter (she reportedly received more than 300,000 tweets per minute during her performance), turn on the news or radio or google anything, I am bombarded with the comments, still shots and derision aimed at Miley. She’s everywhere and those of you complaining of her openly risqué behavior and wanting to guard your children from her influence, are the very ones promoting it.

Why do we care so much? Why can’t we move on? We have experienced the shock factor from many artists, athletes, actors and actress’. We sure do love a “train wreck” as was stated several times in social media. Then it hit me. The people responding to this with such disdain come from 3 different places…

ReligionHide your husbands and sons! Look away! Don’t be tempted to look on the sinner lest you be influenced and driven to stumble!

Stop using God as a reason to verbally dismantle someone who His son died for. I don’t think He’s cool with that.

Jealousy – (I would pair gossip and drama in this category too) Well I would (i.e. could) never look like that, sing like that, feel free enough to express myself like that, so it must be wrong!

The green-eyed monster is a tricky one! Look out! All the while you’re going along with the flow not realizing that it is you acting the part of the foolish one.

JudgementLook at her, up there, grinding on that married man! I’m sure her parents are really proud! It’s disgusting!

Careful! Be ever so careful when pointing out and enhancing another’s seemingly bad decision. Tomorrow, next week, next month, maybe next year, something you are keeping in the dark will come out into the light and you will think back to the moment you said hurtful things about someone else out of your lack of willingness to understand their circumstances.

Miley and I have many similarities. I’m not a celebrity or millionaire. I don’t know what it’s like to be unable to walk into the nearest grocery store without being mobbed by paparazzi. I could never pull off the outfits she wears. That being said, if I looked the way she does there’s no telling what I would proudly accentuate myself with?

However, everyday I ask the world around me through my words, behavior and responses to things, “Do I matter?” “Am I good enough?” “Do you like me?” “Can I make it in this life where everyone is disposable (or so it seems)?

* I retweeted a picture yesterday of Will Smith with his family and their reaction in the audience during Miley’s performance. Will SmithI wish I had thought through that a little more.

Reason being, if my insides were viewable from my outsides, I would receive the same reaction. Maybe your thought life is as pure as the driven snow, but mine is not.

Whether it’s road rage, envy, disappointment, you name it, I am constantly praying throughout the day, “God, please direct my thinking.” I have burned this image of the audience into my brain as to easily access it in my memory when I am thinking or acting ridiculous.

Jesus doesn’t play the shame game. So why do we? I wore shame far too long before I exchanged it for forgiveness and grace. I thank God everyday that social media wasn’t what it is today when I was going through my time of “discovering myself.” My life would be very different.

For those of you saying, “I will never tell my daughter that Hannah Montana is Miley Cyrus.” I think you’re just silly. We all forge a path. Some of us walk in the steps that others have made while some create new tracks. Mistakes, well, it’s all part of the journey.

I don’t know Miley’s definition of mistake, but she leaves no room for question that she is no longer a child and wishes not to be treated like a child.Miley then
Miley now

If you ask me, we all have a little bit of Miley going on. It may not be visible on the outside, but it’s no less there.

all media was taken from my good friend Google
* The picture of Will Smith and his family’s reaction to Miley’s performance was later corrected as their reaction to Lady Gaga’s performance, as you can see in the bottom right corner. This is a wonderful example of how cut away shots can be paired and used with anything.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

Anticipating the tide.

Palm kissed sunset

All lit up

To play along or see other great interpretations of this weeks theme, click here