REMEMBERINGS : SACRED MOMENTS IN AFRICA

11-africa(Image collection from my post on Vagabond Original)

As Jeff mentioned in his post a few weeks ago, my travels and experiences across Africa were some of the most important times in my life. As significant as they were, I still sometimes dread sharing my experiences. How do you casually share a story about something that changed the entire course of your life? How do you share about the tragedy, the suffering, the simple pleasures, and the overwhelming joy – and explain how all those things could possibly exist in the same moment? I was often in the midst of an internal battle to reconcile and balance the combination of polar opposite emotions that usually accompanied every situation.

Even now as I write, my eyes well up with tears as I remember a tragic, and yet very sacred moment. It was 2005, my first time in Zambia, and only a few days into our trip. My fellow volunteers and I traveled to a nearby teaching hospital to visit our friend, the head nurse of the NICU. After she and her staff showed us around the few sparsely equipped rooms, we were free to wander the ward, assisting where we could.

Toward the back in a dimly lit room, I found rows and rows of tiny, quiet cribs. There were so many babies whose mothers had either abandoned them on the hospital steps or had died in childbirth. Too many of the babies were close to dying themselves; some did while we were there. They were so tiny and weak that they didn’t cry, just lied and waited. They had to drink formula from a cup as they were too frail to nurse from a bottle.

africa-nicu

While the other volunteers busied themselves changing diapers and talking with new mothers, I felt the need to be with those babies whose time on Earth was hours from ending. Surrounded by loneliness and tragedy, I felt my heart numb as I subconsciously tried to protect myself from the overwhelming sadness. I didn’t want the trauma of what I was witnessing to define my time with them, so I slowly began to shift my focus. Instead of being overcome and wanting to distance myself, I wanted to honor them and their short time of life. I knew cognitively that I could transform this heartache into a holy moment and I was determined to do so. I held them and sang to them and prayed for their quick return Home.

Since that time, I’ve had numerous experiences when life is too overwhelming and I find myself retreating into the numbness. Through my experience in Zambia, I know that not only are you not protected when you distance yourself, but you miss out on empowering, sacred moments. When we build fortresses around our hearts, we really only wall in sadness and hurt. It is through our vulnerability that we find healing and beauty in life’s most brutal moments.

And so it is through my vulnerability of sharing these most holy moments that I hope to chip away those walls and encourage you to do the same.

africa-sunset

 

Words to Live By: Stars

I HAVE LOVED THE STARS DESKTOP

This quote is often incorrectly attributed to Galileo. It was, in fact, written by English poet, Sarah Williams in the mid-nineteenth century as a part of her most famous work “The Old Astronomer.”

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

Ever since I was little, I remember my father continually instilling in me awe, wonder, and curiosity about the universe. He would tell me about the times when he would skip school in order to watch the shuttle launches on TV, and I did the same in the 8th grade when John Glenn made his return to space. Some of my favorite memories with him are of watching movies and documentaries about the space race, moon landings, and early astronomers.

In recent days, Jeff and I have been watching the series, Cosmos, and I have been surprised that with the upbringing I did, how little I really understood about galaxies, super novas, nebulae, and so many other things too old or gigantic to fully comprehend.

But instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all, it just increases my curiosity and desire to learn more. We’ve made special trips to star gaze near a mountain lake, see the recent Blood Moons, and spent hours waiting for a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis that never showed quite this far south.

I made this design as a gift for my father and thought I would share it with you as well. Feel free to save it for use as a desktop background. Enjoy!

Words to Live By: The Love of God

could we with ink

I happened upon this hymn the other day while browsing through my Tumblr called The Love of God by Frederick Lehman (although there are other authors who contributed to it). The first of these authors, Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a Rabbi from Germany penned this beautiful verse in Aramaic as a part of his poem, Hadamut, near the end of the 11th century.

Many centuries later, Lehman was seeking inspiration for the third stanza of his hymn and remembered a poem someone had given him. As he read the words, he knew this was exactly what he had been searching for. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:

“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love – whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”

As I read these accounts, it reminded me of some of my favorite scriptures I came to love in high school,

Romans 8:31, 35-39
If God be for us, who can be against us?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

This image is free for you to use for a desktop background or it would make a lovely gift as a card or fridge magnet. If you use it, I’d love to hear about it, so leave me a note in the comments section. Enjoy!

 

Words to Live By: Listen

This beautiful quote is oft attributed to Shakespeare or George Santayana, but only recently was it discovered to be written by an unknown poet, Reginald Holmes, as part of his poem, The Magic of Sound.

I’ve heard the soft whisper of wind in the pine trees,
The silvery ripple of brooklets at play;
I’ve heard the low voice of a sweet singing mother
As she sang to her child at the end of the day.

I’ve heard the faint rustle of sails in the sunset
And blue waves caressing the wild, rockbound shore;
The whistle of trains as they cross the green prairie
And mountains re-echo the cataract’s roar.

The notes of the organs in ancient cathedrals,
Where hearts of the faithful are lifted in song;
I’ve heard the gay laughter as children were playing,
The chatter and buzz of a large, happy throng.

The earth has its music for those who will listen;
Its bright variations forever abound.
With all of the wonders that God has bequeathed us,
There’s nothing that thrills like the magic of sound.

Isn’t that last part lovely? Now that it’s finally Fall here, I’ve spent more and more time out in the wilderness, and I think of this quote often. I wonder how many gifts that have been bequeathed to us, go unnoticed only because we fail to really listen. How much time do we spend distracted, worried, anxious, busy, angry, unforgiving, self-absorbed?

I wonder what would happen to our hearts and souls if when we pray, if we ask God to help us ‘listen’ more to the blessings that are being showered upon us, instead of only just asking for things we need and then hoping they show up in exactly the way we asked for it (why do we always think we know best?).

I think too often our prayers are answered in a way we don’t expect, and because we don’t recognize it, we keep praying and over time feel unheard, unloved, or bitter. It would do us well to add that listening part to our prayers, and I think we’ll be surprised how abundantly we are answered.

For a helpful reminder to always listen, you are welcome to download this quote for use on your desktop background. Enjoy!

Design by me. Photo by Joe Floyd

 

Words to Live By: Dream

All-the-Dreams-of-the-World

I’m a dreamer. I always have been. I was never the kind to absentmindedly daydream in school or at work, but my imaginings and inventing was more a part of my active creative process. That once child dreamer has turned into an adventure-seeking, wanderlusting vagabond with little hope of ever wanting to just settle down in the traditional sense. But luckily the restlessness isn’t from avoiding real-world, adult stuff (okay, maybe a little bit), it’s more about knowing there is so much happiness and beauty and wisdom all over the world and wanting to be a part of it.

This feeling is captured in one of my favorite quotes and so they seemed the perfect words to create another (faux) hand lettered image to inspire me. Jeff and I were talking about how my calligraphy practice is coming along last night, and he asked if I would start branching out to creating letters like the ones above. I wish that came as easily as the calligraphy which is just an extension of my already good penmanship. But hand lettering is fundamentally drawing, you just happen to be drawing letters. I was always terrible at drawing. I’m not sure why, but I feel particularly deficient in my spacial reasoning skills, so because I never felt good at it, I never practiced. Maybe if my hand lettering obsession continues, we’ll see if it becomes important for me to learn, but I think I’d rather let the talented professionals stick to it.

Words to Live By: Sigh No More

After my recent post all about hand lettering, it happened to be my birthday and I requested some very handsome, hand drawn fonts for my presents. With them I created this image with words from one of my favorite Mumford & Sons songs, Sigh No More. It took a little while for me to post this project and in just a week, I’m already so much better at manipulating the font shapes, using better backgrounds and overlays, and overall composition. Even though it’s not my best work, I absolutely love these words. So many of Mumford’s lyrics ring true for me, but this especially moves me. If you don’t know the song, click on the link above to listen.

I think some might read these words and only see the message as eliminating everyone from their life who doesn’t give them love exactly as they want it. But I think with those sort of expectations, you’re setting yourself up to be really lonely. I definitely think purging negative relationships from your life is necessary. But what if every parent of a teenager did that or every couple that got in a fight? I’m not talking about abusive, co-dependent, or other severely dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships. I’m talking about normal, sometimes it sucks and is hard relationships and if you’re expecting this kind of love from someone else all the time, you’ll be majorly disappointed. You’ll begin to see the negatives and deficiencies and your needs not being met. But if you are the one with that kind of love, then it makes discerning what relationships to nurture and which ones to severe more clear. It makes you more peaceful in the relationships you have because your expectations are about loving others, regardless of how they reciprocate. But the more you love, the more love you invite into your own life which helps gets your own needs met. It’s not about changing our circumstances all the time so we don’t have any hardships. It’s about changing our perspective and understanding that we can be happy no matter what comes our way. 

Love – it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.

SIGH NO MORE