Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Abbreviated Love Story: Heart Ponderings of the Year After

I decided to write a book the day our story ended. This man that changed my perspective and turned my world upside down, is now the main feature and a silent main character in my new book. I won't give much about the book away but I decided after much deliberation that I had to tell another story about the life I am living now and the impact his presence in my world made.

I have two amazing photographers that worked with me on this book and I have to say that this book would be just another written work that would leave the reader wondering what the characters looked like, felt like, etc. But God really impressed on me to utilize the visual representation through art and music how my life was transformed. The impact was felt in more than a verbal or literary way. The impact was felt in what I saw, what I listened to, and where I went. I wanted all of it documented. It is more than a book of essays.

It is a road map to a a journey we all at one point or another have to embark upon when faced with the loss of someone we love.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Photographer

Last night I sat down with one of the most creative and amazing photographers that I have had the benefit of meeting and getting to know. I have seen him around town, taking pictures at various events and parties, and I wondered who he really was and where he had really come from. I mean, yes, we all come from a physical place. We are all born somewhere after being conceived like every other human that has walked the earth. But the part of us that is not created from dividing cellular molecules, is the part that is birthed somewhere else, truly conceived in the mind and heart of God.

What part of God did he come from?

Then I attended a Photo Party, invited by a friend of mine, and he was the photographer. Of course, I knew that, as the friend that invited me is his cousin. I knew that he would be taking the pictures of the women that were there, hoping to feel beautiful for just one night.

I went and participated in what was probably the best night I'd had in a long time. I did feel physically beautiful. There was a professional make-up artist, all kinds of backdrops and chairs, poses and lights. I felt like a model (albeit, a plus sized model), and the pictures turned out gorgeous. While taking pictures was great, I was more interested in seeing the man behind that camera. I took the opportunity at that event to get to know him. I had made a declaration that I would not let another chance to meet and get to know amazing people slip by me. I had done that already and paid a great price for it that I can never undo. That is the point of the third book that I am getting ready to publish, but I will get into that in a later post.

I met with him last night, a couple weeks after the party, to discuss a proposal for a photography session for said book, and we ended up talking for a little more than two hours about art and writing, his career as a photographer and my career as a social worker/writer/artist. I was able to pick his brains about his "obsession" as he called it and now I have dubbed it. He is obsessed with taking pictures, capturing moments, making art. When I thought about what he does in relation to what I do as a writer and an artist, I am so totally not where I should be in terms of emotional investment.

I think I have lost that "thing" that made the magic come alive. I have been too busy trying to subdue the creativity within.

His very words of calling what he does an obsession challenged me to take a look again at what used to be my heartbeat, my breath, my life. I was a girl that never went a day without writing or drawing something just because. I did not go without reading a book, getting lost in words and imagination. I sang every day. I looked for the poem in the mundane. I sought out the music in the mediocre.

He said he has an obsession.

I am just starting to wake up to the real identity of who I am meant to be. I am meant to be obsessed with something greater than myself - first starting with God and then ending with the purpose He put inside me to make a lasting impression in the universe. What's the point of living if you never leave a mark? What's the point of inhaling and exhaling if no one knows you have creative breath in your body? Your whole existence breathes when you create something, when you pour out of yourself, when you manifest the dream of what God intended.

The book I read during my time with God this morning talked about purpose, about staying within God's purpose for my life no matter what. I thought I was obsessive about the written word, about drawing for the sake of feeling the pencil slide across the manila paper, about sculpting clay into beauty. I think now I was only obsessive about talking about it and had shied away from actually jumping in so deep that wave after wave after wave of God's creativity washes over me again.

I was not getting up and going out to see the sunrise, just to take the newness and transform it into a poem or a painting. I was not pulling over to the side of the road to capture the essence of the scenery that demands that I stop and take pause at the world God has created for us to enjoy. I was not stopping the work of getting through the dangerous monotony of JUST making the donuts, JUST earning money to pay bills, JUST tolerating life while knowing life is really just passing me by. I was not doing the very thing that made my childhood fertile soil for growing up - those things that kept me alive when everything around me was dying.

He said he has an obsession.

He said he has to take pictures. Sometimes he gets tired of taking pictures of people, so he has the inner discipline (I believe) to always pay attention to what is going on around him. He isn't just hustling this thing - making money or rather letting the money make him. That would cause him to lose the "thing" that is giving him the motivation to lift that camera one more time. He is becoming who he always was, even when he didn't know it. But God knew it. And now he is flowing in it.

We are all blessed because of it.

So what part of God is he?

If we are part of Him, created in His image, then we bring a special part of Him with us when we grace this earth with our physical presence. This photographer is the part of God that is so needed in this earth.

He is the part of God that sees what is deeper than the superficial reality we all co-exist in. He has God's eyes. He looks at the forms around him - human, animal, plant - sometimes clothed in the finest of coverings and sometimes in the rawest of forms and captures it all before it escapes back into the matrix. Those eyes pull out the details of raw emotion - fear, anger, sadness, hurt and transform them into the beauty, truth, joy, and grace we overlook. Sometimes, it is too much to look at; most of the time you fall right in to the vision as he sees it.

I like that he is not able to confine himself into a mode of being just one kind of photographer. His dexterity with the camera reminds me that artists, writers, musicians, and really any creative being cannot afford to be afraid in this day and age of being anything less than free in their craft and abilities. Our talk made me go home and re-think what I have allowed myself to be transformed into it.

I know how to DO creativity - put on that creative flair. But have I lost how to BE the very essence of spirit, of creativity? Have I lost me along the way, bordering the fence of true ability/raw talent and commercialism?

He HAS to capture the life that we all take for granted, so we will learn to look closer. I think deep within him is this passionate heartbeat for the mystery underlying the accepted fantasy we call living, and he has an eye that has always been able to REALLY see the things the rest of us have grown immune to.

I have no doubt that he will be able to make my book come alive, make my words spring to life. The pictures will tell the story of the words that tell the story of the life that is a living story written and read of men.

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." Genesis 1:3-4

Monday, March 5, 2012

Five Years Later

Dear Dad Nichols:
Everything is so different now. I cannot believe I have not seen your face in five years. Life has continued on as if the world never stopped turning when you left that March afternoon. I am not sure of anything except that I wish you were still here. Your wife and daughters, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren have gone on but you are never far from their thoughts, their heartbeats, their longings. You are certainly never far from mine.

I wonder if you can see me. I wonder if you miss us too but just have a different perspective on everything, in a way that we don't have yet. I wonder if you are proud of me, of us, of the way we have not let your absence overwhelm us to the point where any of us have given up on life. There were days when your family members contemplated it. I saw them struggle through the loss of you in their world and prayed for them all. I want you to know that I have tried to stay present in their lives, never going far, though things have changed. Such is life.

There have been other losses that I am quite sure you are aware of since those who have gone after you are likely sitting right next to you in the grandstand of Heaven, worshipping the King with you, seeing the face of our Beloved Father. It has been immensely difficult to say goodbye to them as well. It was especially difficult for me to love and say goodbye to your brother...the man that held my heart in his hands. But we keep going. We endure because Jesus conquered the grave over 2000 years ago. It changes the end result, though our tears wet our faces today. One day all tears will be wiped away.

I believe that more than I've ever believed anything in my life.

But just so you know, five years later:

(1) Your wife has not aged. She looks like she's 38. Truly beautiful as she always was in your eyes and in all of our viewpoints. She is walking in her call in a way that has yet to be seen. She ministers to so many people, even through her own brokenness at times. I still admire her, as much as I did when I was "wet behind the ears", "with milk on my breath." I still think she is the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

(2) Your daughters are walking into their callings, despite the way life has tried them. They are learning more and more about God in the midst of the pain they fight through. They are still are my she-roes, just like your wife. They are my sisters and will always be. They couldn't get rid of me if they tried (and sometimes I think they have). I am going nowhere. So they can forget it. I love them too much.

(3) You have a beautiful 4 year old granddaughter that has won my heart in every way. She reminds me of you when she smiles. But she is so much like your wife with her charisma and charm. I cannot wait to see who she will be when she grows up.

(4) Your older grandchildren are becoming adults - more and more independent as the days pass. Nick is larger than life and is such a great man, a great father, a great son. He is striving to be more like you and one day he will be. He admired you so very much. Ari is a mommy and loves her baby more than her next breath. I watch her hold her girl in her arms and I hope one day to hold my own with as much love and protection as she exhibits. Brit is attending college and is finding out who she is as a woman, which is a joy to me as she steps into her future with the gait of a model. Donyell is graduating from high school this year. When I met you all she was only 3 years old and now I watch in awe as she conquers this world. She is destined to run something, to be in charge of something, to impact. Jalan, your best buddy, is a 10th grade football playing gentleman, that has grown up from being the baby to being a great young man. He still reminds me of your daughter...the boy version.

(5) I still live in Port Huron, though probably within 6 months I will be returning home to Grand Rapids where you found me one day - a sullen 19 year old, wondering what my life would turn into. I have written one book, in your memory. You were a great example of what a father is and I wanted the whole world to know that. My second one will be released in early summer.

(6) I work as a foster care worker and a licensing worker, impacting lives and watching mine change before my very eyes. I wish we could still talk about things like we used to. You listened to me and made me feel like my thoughts and my tears and my smiles mattered. I miss having a father in my life.

It was five years today since you went home to be with the Lord. Five years ago, you hugged Jesus as a Friend and Savior. I am so glad that you got to see Him and time has evaporated into eternity. I cannot wait to see Him myself, to see you again, to laugh with you again. Missing you has become the norm for us all now. I cannot say that this will change. You were so important to so many people, so many lives. You were important to me...you are important to me, five years later.

Thank you for still living in my memories.

I love you, Dad.