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Stonestreet Family

November 11, 2009 6 comments

Yes, indeed, this is my beloved family. Late in the evening we had our first family photo shoot since 2001. Thanks to my self-timer, darling Grandma and friend Brittany, we got photos in before it was too dark : ) Christmas family cards, here we come!

Also note that most of these are outtakes… because we simply can’t take a serious photo together. And that’s okay by me.


(click for larger view below)

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It is also my parents 30th wedding anniversary this month. So, as my gift, they received photos from me. By taking their portraits, I learned more about myself and about who they were, how they mesh perfectly… how seasoned they are. What a gift. I’ve taken so many portraits of new couples — and that fresh, beautiful romance is captured on film. This, this was different. Seasoned, selfless, beautiful… love.

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Categories: Family, honesty, life, love

the hodge podge in my head

February 21, 2008 5 comments

When did this all suddenly become about me? We are all selfish by nature. Our hearts are foolish even though we long for them to be wise. We are all an aching people – needy, poor, filthy. I want to turn my skin inside out to see what lies underneath. I want to know my condition, I want to know what I am capable of, I want opportunity. There are so many voices that are uttered on the highest hill, the tallest mountain, the most rural roads, hidden places in dark alleyways, staircases in apartment buildings, closets in suburban homes – voices that have yet to be heard. It frustrates me that some of the most gifted people of our day will most likely never have a chance to be heard by the masses; they will most likely never have a chance to speak. It frustrates me that I can’t give them that opportunity. I hear it, I see it, I’m searching for it wherever I am. I listen for the voice in the alleyway, in the apartment sitting on the couch, in the ‘middle of nowhere’ when it is, really, somewhere so significant.

Who tells us that we are not important? That we are too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too awkward, too clumsy, too much, too little? Who are we listening to? Where are we finding ourselves? Who are we finding ourselves in? Where does our very identity lie? Who tells us who we are? Is there anyone at all encouraging, inspiring, listening and loving us? Who are “they” anyway? Why has it become so difficult to bring unity in a community? Why are we all so separated underneath our banners of hate, of insecurity, of loneliness – when there could be love, hope and a journey we can take together? Who told us that none of this was possible? Who did we allow to take our hope, our joy?

I, for one, am ready for a completely new direction – and I have been searching my soul and other souls for the answer. I am up late, sleeping little and waking early. I’m restless, I am at peace, I am in need of something new. Don’t give me the old answers – they won’t work anymore. There is something new on the horizon. I feel it in my bones. My veins quiver with a new, rushing blood of hope and urgency for the voices – the voices that have yet to be heard.

I think I’m ready to risk it all. That is by far not an easy statement. Notice the word, “think” is also adoring the sentence. I so desperately want to give it all. As I’m writing all of this, I’m painting movement in my mind – a beautiful forward and back motion – give, take, give, take… A healthy, balanced way of loving. But in this specific movement, it is easy to fall.

In dancing, there is not one movement you can do to be completely closed off to the audience. There are movements of mystery, of suspense, of intrigue – but you are always open. Your heart is always on the line. The gliding, sharp and poetic movements leave you feeling naked with moments of security. In dance, you can do nothing but leave your heart bare on the stage.

I liken love to dancing. Funny how everything I write somehow comes back to the way we love – but I’m honestly trying to figure out how. It’s a forward and back motion, a healthy give and take, easy to fall – but with practice, precision and trust in the other, you will remain standing. Even if you fall, those are the movements of disgrace, followed by another movement of grace – the movements where we learn humility and surrender. The movements where we understand the need of another. When loving, you lay bare. You lay bare on the stage of life.

When dancing, there is no movement where you can fully close yourself off to your audience. It is a freeing and whole experience when glimpses of your insecurities, strong points, hopes and fears appear before the eyes of others… and regardless if they are accepted, you have been honest, you have been beautiful and you are still just as beautiful when you exit the stage. Nothing has been taken from you. By risking, all you have done is strengthened and enhanced who you are. You have learned. You have aged. You have matured. You have loved. That’s what love does to you.

Life is as choreography. Each thought, each word, each decision, each emotion paints your story in movement. I choreograph so that others can actually have a physical representation of what life looks like – so that they can begin to answer the questions and walk away with a new outlook. I feel like photography and dance go hand in hand because it is also a visual art where you capture movement. And because I have felt movement since I was a little girl, I can feel when to click the shutter to capture it. My love for dance came first, then my love for photography. I am still trying to figure out how to do both – because I know that is how I speak. I speak through movement and still-captured movement.

All I want is to better others’ voices with my own. I want to bring attention to voices that have yet to be heard – or can’t utter loud enough for the mass media to hear (which is somehow our fault). We are focusing on the most ridiculous things and creating a society that the next generation will suffer in. They will suffer from never understanding sacrificial love, authenticity in everything and the virtue of humility. It seems that those who have the least actually have the most. I wish we could strip down society and begin again in so many ways. But, because that is simply impossible, there needs to be some major rebuilding happening. What are the cornerstones of our society – especially here in America? I’m afraid to even answer that question. Our condition is sick. At the same time, we can’t focus all on the bad, but also on the good. There is this strength of good in all of us that God placed there. We will begin to see change when we rightfully learn how to tap into that strength in the midst of our weakness as a people, as a community and as a nation. There is no good in us expect through Him by grace. But then I think, “how in the world do we communicate that to those who don’t know? They’ll think we’re crazy… all these ‘spiritual’ things we talk about – they don’t buy it. I haven’t been brainwashed, I’ve just been enlightened by truth.” Maybe that’s why I choose to put my faith into movement as well – God is way better at communicating anyway, we just have to learn to listen.

It’s certainly scary for me to let you see my condition right now. I am a struggling artist learning to love, working in whatever community I find myself in, learning to listen, learning how to have my voice heard and lead others to have their voices heard as well. I am tackling huge questions like, “how can I, of all people, change the world?” I think of so many great, influential people of our time and how they changed the world… and sometimes even more so after their death. Will I see the fruit of my labor while I’m still alive? Maybe, maybe not. I’m learning to actually let God lead my every step… which is a lot harder than it sounds. I’m diligently writing out my thoughts in journal after journal after journal – hoping to pass it on to the next and somehow help them along their way. I’m building onto the foundation of my thought and world view. I’m beginning to write a lot more, and sharing it a lot more. Why keep it to myself? What do I have to loose? My reputation? Heh – what reputation? : ) Everyone has a different opinion of me and those opinions don’t change the core of who I am. I am becoming more confident. I am facing my fears. I am taking deep breaths along the way, I am crying along the way, I am aching on the way, I am growing along the way and in the end… I am better. My life isn’t about all that I can do – but all that I can be… and what I do will flow from that. I used to have it backwards and got nothing accomplished. Well… honestly… it appeared that I got TONS accomplished, but really, all I did was continue to be empty. There’s been a huge shift and change in me. I keep saying that, I know. It’s still happening and I hope it will continue until the day I die.

I only have one life. I serve only one incredible God. I only have one heart. What is there to loose, really? I don’t want to sit in not knowing. As some say, “To risk, is to win.” And this time, I actually do believe in what “they” say because I didn’t take their word for it. Don’t take my word for it, either. Risk. Risk it all. Safe is a myth.

Compassion, Listening and Awareness

listen to: timeless.

A lot of things have been running through my head lately. Things I’ve experienced, things I’ve been through, hardships, good memories and bad, everything you can imagine.

While driving to Lowes and back from Lowes buying paint supplies for our unfinished basement (which we are finally finishing) I got to thinking these things again… and how I handle it.

I’m one when I go through hard things, I withdraw – from everything. I just go hide away for awhile for a few hours, or a few days… or even a few weeks. When there has been so much rapid change all at once, I freak out. This has happened frequently to me when I least expect it and has happened in the recent past (pretty much being thrown into the unknown and living in the unknown for months now).

When I drive, I like to watch people. My town is famous for traffic – morning traffic, late-afternoon traffic and evening traffic. If you catch an in between time, you’re golden. Anyhow, I intentionally glance at those behind me, driving past me on the left and sometimes unintentionally glare. I wonder things like, “I wonder what they’re thinking at this moment” or, “I really wonder if they’re having a good or bad day…” or something of that nature. Then, I glance in the rear view mirror and look at myself. I wonder what people see when they look at me. Someone who is going through a lot needing just a moment of your time and listening ear, or someone who has it all together or… well, there are endless possibilities. I just wonder, though… what I look like when I walk into Lowes alone thinking all of these thoughts of rapid change, wishing I didn’t naturally withdraw, etc. I wonder.

…and if I’m like this – just someone who needs a listening ear once in awhile – and I’m a 5 foot 10 inch dark-haired girl with a camera strapped around her neck most of the time and slip on ballerina-cut shoes with a scarf in her hair… I guess I don’t really look like the “type” who needs “help.”

Maybe this is why I wonder so much about what the guy in the drive-thru window is thinking when he gives me my food and barely looks me in the eye adding, “Mild or hot sauce?” I don’t know. Just something to think about. I think the people we least expect are the people who need something the most. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help those who are in apparent need, but we also need to try and look past the facade of those who appear to have it all together.

I find this to happen a lot in church. I’m not talking about one particular church, just the church in general (and God be with the church). But seriously, I hear too often mentoring the youth that I do, “I can’t say what I really feel because well, I’m the elder’s daughter.” This shouldn’t be so. People are people. We need each other.

I hate hearing/having the pressure of this “identity” we seem to invisibly have and if we let down that “identity” (that either we or others have given us) something bad will happen. Someone will talk about us (even more than we are now) or just change their view of us. The church should be one of the most safe places for anyone and everyone – and even if it’s unintentional, we glare sometimes at those around us wondering their thoughts… wondering if they could be going through something similar to us, wondering if maybe, just maybe, they would listen. Can we please become more of a listening, accepting people? Please?

I’ve also figured out today that I love working with youth. I thrive in it, even though it can be crazy and hard – but so rewarding. I’m striving to become a listening, accepting person – and I’m still far from where I want to be. I love those conversations in the car for an hour in my driveway, or on the back steps of an apartment building, or even in a witness interrogation room. No matter where you are, you are demanded (especially with youth) to be real. Up front they know I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll help them find the answers.

All I have, really, is a compassionate heart wanting to be that person who helped me through depression, who helped me through abuse, who listened when I called at 3 in the morning or on their work lunch break. I want to be that person who, when I drove to their house at midnight and knocked on their door to stay on their couch, they opened their home and their arms to me. I want to be that person. I am more than thankful having gone through what I’ve gone through. It has made me a better person today – a person who is more aware and sensitive… because I was the girl who they would least expect.

Categories: God, honesty, life, love