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ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; 
For the beauty of this earth, for the love of family, boyfriend, and friends, for time spent together.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. 

And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. 



Love grows perhaps the greater.

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. 

(JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

It was just over a week ago when I got the text from my sister. It said that my cousin had been hit by a car and was in the hospital. Please pray, it said.

My parents came and picked me up twenty minutes later, and we all drove out to the hospital.

Two days later, my cousin died.


I can't find words to make sense of this grief. It still feels unreal, unreal enough that the days do not feel burdened by a dark heaviness, like when my grandfather died, but instead feel grey with sharp flashes of grief. I go about doing the every day tasks and am surprised to find myself sobbing or crying at a memory. I keep on reliving a sense of complete helplessness when I see those I love grieving even deeper than I am — my sister, my mother, my aunt. It hurts.

And yet, love mingles with grief. We felt it together in that hospital waiting room when we first heard the news of my cousin's condition. We felt it when we finally left the hospital after she had died. We left in a huge crowd, crying and holding on to each other. I feel it through the prayers, texts, and many facebook messages I have from those I love, even those I do not know very well. The constant reminder that I am not alone is enough to bring some light and hope to these days.

Love mingled with grief.

This will not be an easy season, and I know the grief is far from gone. But tomorrow, we will be together for Thanksgiving, and it will be a beautiful, hard time.

And who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Please, grant us peace.


rose and thorn (i)


On Sunday, I felt lost and lonely. My parents were with my uncle and aunt, my sister was working in the nursery, and I was trying to juggle my dad's responsibilities at church, my own, and keeping an eye on my youngest brother. And so, during grace and peace, when one of my best friends came up to hug me, I fell apart and sobbed and cried on her shoulder. She held me tight and didn't let go until I was ready. So thankful for her.


I forgot the weariness of grief.
How the body echoes the soul
Broken and alone.


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To carry this candle against the wind

I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it come from Thee.

Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.

(Wendell Berry, I, Sabbaths 2005)


Simple Thanks (II)

(somehow, they consistently get my name wrong)

For a Dad who, despite a long day at work, takes me to urgent care at 1 in the morning and sits with me during the two hour wait in that cold, sterile waiting room.


Simple Thanks (I)

I'm finding it hard to put words to this semester. Mainly because my practice of journaling has narrowed down to one or two scribbled lines written before I fall asleep with pen in hand. Sometimes I can barely decipher my own writing. But busy though these days may be, I want to make the time to write simple thanks for the small graces of each day.

For today: thanks be to God for sunsets reflected in windowed houses with waiting walls.


"Teach us to sit still"

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

(TS Eliot, Ash Wednesday)

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On Photography

This week, I received my very first DSLR camera. I have been waiting for quite awhile to buy a camera as my last one died two years ago, just before school started. At its core, photography is a simple process, but I wanted some time think a little more deeply about the camera and photography in general.

Disclaimer: I don't want to portray a glorified image of 'the artist' or of photography. Sometimes photography is just fun, and it is very wonderful just like that. But there's more to photography than simply pressing a button, and I want to acknowledge it as the art form that it truly is, regardless of whether or not I live up to being a good artist.

Initially, photography makes me think of slowing down. It takes time to see and to learn how to see. I am just now in my first photo class and am loving every minute of it. But I'm also grateful for the past four or so years that I have had learning photography outside of the classroom.

Photography gives the chance, that moment of grace, to stop, breathe, consider the world around you. More than simple consideration, the camera invites the photographer to see the world more clearly and go from mere thought to an opening of eyes. Of course, that clarity can go many ways - contemporary photographers in particular seem drawn to seeing the cynicism of this world rather than its beauty, to find the ugly, the pain, the tragedy because it is undeniably there. But that clarity can also be used towards finding the corners and shadows of light that fall between branches and in-between doors. It can help our eyes see the shadow of the image of God that is in every face around us. To see the beauty that is in every way as deep and real as the pain and tragedy around us.

Somedays, it helps to think of photography as a gentle insistence on beauty.

Photography has been means of grace in my daily life. It helps me see the beauty in the mundane rituals of life, in sweeping my house floors and doing my bed. And the more I learn this art and learn to love it, the more I realize what beautiful grace this is.


"Something filled with light"

Do you have a creed or a motto that as an artist you live by?

I do. Life is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do with my life is to bring something new, something beautiful, and something filled with light into the world. I try to think of that every day so that I can remember why I am coming to my studio.

Excerpt from an interview with Ross Blecker, from Inside the Painter's Studio by Joe Fig


Two Poems

Morning Reflections

Peace -
held in the rhythm of those sleeping birds,
in the crooked crevices of trees,
in uneven reflections on the water.
Peace -
to go or stay,
as you will,
come what may.



Brilliant together, gold,
beating in one rhythm.
Sunsets pierce, the wings unfold,
beating in one rhythm.
The high sets low, and mountains fall
to purples, dust, bright slivers.
Our breaths, our steps, our wayward hearts,
beating with one rhythm.



 The school year has finally started. And although we have had long, hot days instead of the crisp, cold air of fall that one normally associates with the beginning of school, there's a newness to the air and even to the feeling of time that revitalizes me.

My professor began my first class of the year, Advanced B/W Photography, with a quote from Henri Nouwen. It was the most perfect quote. I'm starting this school year much more exhausted and sick than I have been. Nothing dreadfully serious, but still, my pain keeps on increasing, and for the first time in a awhile, my anxieties and depressive tendencies have come back. It's strange not having control over my emotions. And honestly, it scares me.

On the first day, I made the commute to school while listening to Bach's cello sonatas. I neared campus, but my anxieties were so bad, I drove around campus three times before actually entering it. I parked and prayed. Finally, I got out of the car and left towards class.

So, here's the quote. It might be strange to choose a quote about rest for the beginning of a school year that promises hours and hours of hard work. Wonderful, yes, but definitely hard. But actually, this might be the perfect starting point for this school year. Simple, beautiful, gentle. And so we begin.

Take my tired body, 
my confused mind, 
and my restless soul into Your arms, 
and give me rest, simple quiet rest.


A finding place

"So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is.

It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place."

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?


Juxtapositions: A Dialogue of Sorts

Strength demanded that seems too much is just strength enough given. (TS Eliot)


"Tell me something, Stamp. Tell me this one thing. How much is [a man] supposed to take? Tell me. How much?"

"All he can," said Stamp Paid. "All he can."

"Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?" (Toni Morrison, Beloved)


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At least to pray is left, is left.
O Jesus! in the air
I know not which thy chamber is, --
I'm knocking everywhere.

Thou stirrest earthquake in the South,
And maelstrom in the sea;
Say, Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
Hast thou no arm for me?

(Emily Dickinson)


O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
   My eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
   too great and marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul
  like a weaned child with its mother;
           like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
    for this time and forever more.

(Psalm 131)


Packing Night

We're all in the living room. My sister has a huge blue suitcase in the middle of the room, her clothes scattered on various couches and chairs. She leaves tomorrow for her first trip to Europe. And we're all so excited for her. From our enthusiasm, you would think we were all travelling together. The five of us - my mom, sister, and two friends - are lounging on the empty chairs and couches. Her plan is to stay up all night, so that she can sleep on the long flight. Our plan is to stay up with her until we drop off to sleep. So far, she has outfits planned for two of the five weeks.

Outside, the streetlamp struggles to stay awake. It flickers on, off, on, off. Pause. Then back on again.

Our spontaneous laughter fills the room. We have music playing in the background, along with the quiet sounds of my brother (or is that dad?) snoring in the other room.

Two hours later, we've moved from sitting upright to leaning on each other, now we're all rather squished together on the long, blue couch, lying down and hearing the sounds of each other's breaths. The music takes up more and more space. The suitcase is half-full, and all the clothes is now organized into neat piles. It's hard to believe she's actually leaving to travel in Europe, just like we dreamed about when we were little. We're so, so happy for her and just as happy to share these times of packing and planning. I love sister-nights like this.


Ever-changing landscapes

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(from my travel journal)

I'm learning to see all sorts of greens here in Oregon: bold, vibrant greens at the tops of trees and tall plants, pushing forward toward the sun, the quiet somber greens content to lay low and cover the earth with broad leaves. Then there are the light mint greens that pair themselves with purple lavender and soft pink roses. And the greens that stand by yellows and reds.

I marvel at this infinity variety of color.

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"This heart-stopping transition"

Who could ever tire of this heart-stopping transition, of this breakthrough shift between seeing and knowing you see, between being and knowing you be? It drives you to a life of concentration, it does, a life in which effort draws you down so very deep that when you reface you twist up exhilarated with a yelp and a gasp.

Who could ever tire of this radiant transition, this surfacing to awareness and this deliberate plunging to oblivion - the theatre curtain rising and falling? Who could tire of it when the sum of those moments at the edge - the conscious life we so dread losing - is all we have, the gift at the moment of opening it?

Annie Dillard, An American Childhood


Chekhov on Being Alive

"You must know why you are alive, or else everything is nonsense, just blowing in the wind."

From the Three Sisters


Listing Joys

Mrs. W has a delightful list of things that she loves up on her blog and listing things that I love sounds like a great way to spend this evening.

And so! Here's a list of things I love.

1. The smell of sea-air
2. Jane Kenyon's poetry (especially this poem)
3. The heaviness of a camera in my hand
4. Laughing with my sister and Mom
5. Long past-midnight conversations about art with my roommate
6. Andrei Rublev
7. Finding letters in the mailbox
8. Reading Shakespeare plays aloud
9. Sight-reading new Debussy and Ravel piano pieces
10. Playing Regina Spektor while baking lots and lots of scones
11. Golden light falling through leaves
12. Vonnegut short stories
13. Long, creme Victorian-esque gloves from my aunt
14.  Driving through downtown Los Angeles
15. My grandmother's ring
16. Evening prayers from the BOCP and candles
17. Dancing barefoot on sun-warmed concrete
18. Random happy texts and phone calls from friends
19. Long, quiet resting times with friends
20. Sun-summer dresses
21. Blocks of light on wood floors
22. The smell of roasted jalapeƱos
23. Ducks in the park
24. Conversations about ducks in the park
25. Dinner parties under the plum tree with mozzarella/avocado/tomato salad, pad thai, and eclair cake with chocolate shavings
26. 25 cent books at the library
27. Looking forward to people coming home
28. Touching and feeling tree bark
29. Playing hide-and-seek with my youngest brother
30. Hearing him laugh
31. Singing with my two year-old cousin
32. Huge, wide expanses of land and trees
33. Feeling small and child-like
34. Summer weddings
35. Starting to take a photo a day again
36. Learning to love surprising and completely unplanned things in life


Starting Small

I have been meaning to write again for far too long. But every time I start a post, I tend to write a few thoughts down, only to realize the thoughts are not complete. So, I bookmark the ideas in my head and save it for conversation with friends or professors. But no more.

And so, in an effort to at least begin writing, here's some writing that is readily available from my journal.


[June 3]

His name is Walter. Alexis said he was Peter in disguise and that the blue jacket had to be hiding underneath a cabbage leaf. Unlike most of his kind, he followed us around the yard, sitting when we sat, moving when we moved. On the drive home, Mom said, "That is one classy bunny."

[April 1]

Morning prisms of ever-shifting light. Bread dough: warm, smooth, silk. A joining of families, too long kept apart. I can hear the boys laughing in the back room, exchanging jokes and sports team preferences. In the living room, the lower tones of the adults' more serious conversation happens over cups of coffee and hot tea. Flour covers my hands and spots on the kitchen floor. The small ball of dough sits, rising, in a small silver bowl.

[April 19]

Surprising grace filled the day. Crashing waves and cloud-filled skies, rolled-up jeans and rocks half-hidden in the sea. Climbing, laughing, then sitting still. Such beauty and wordless gratitude. We passed through traffic-ful lanes, wandering til we reached streets familiar and a city known.



Sometimes it amazes me that this blue -
filtering through the almost empty soap container
and the plastic cup that has two thousand twins -
contains the same depth, same strength, same light
the same beauty
as the blue that filters through
the stained glass window
of a church.



She's back from Afghanistan, safe and sound. And we were all together, even if only for a little bit. I love all the real smiles in this picture.



The raindrops form bright, clear pieces of glass on the dark branches of our trees. We have had strange weather lately: rain and grey skies for the mornings and most of the afternoons, but just around evening, it all clears up to reveal skies and colors that take my breath away. The sun causes a faint, gold glint in the windows of my neighbor's house. White clouds leave long trails on the hills, and hints of the snow-capped mountains can be seen. I watch as the sky slowly changes from the deep oranges, reds, and purples of sunset to the cold blue of dusk. My siblings are all home by now, either reading, emailing, or doing last-minute homework. There's a quiet around the house. I step outside for a moment and watch my breath make small clouds in the air around me. Here, at least, there's peace.




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