{ Soul (DAY 492) }

DSC_0064.JPG_effected.jpg_effected DSC_1017.JPG_effected.jpg_effected IMG_9923This blog has certainly been a mishmash of my life.  More and more this little space is becoming a journal to document my days and love for children in India as well as to challenge myself to grow.  I want to write words that are true, the honest kind where I know I’ve shared my heart.  Certainly I try to do that every time but it’s a developing thing.  Many times it’s hard to know the difference between over sharing things that are just for my close friends and being open, vulnerable, and raw.  There is a craving in my heart for authenticity.

I love pictures of people.  I love looking at them as well as taking them and it’s something I want to do more often.  When I post pictures on here I want you to see realness.  Sure I like beautiful pictures but I also want them to have soul.  Two of these pictures on here today are quite special to me and so I wanted to share them with you.  One is of my dear friend Rachel and when I see this image it brings up one of the loveliest summer memories I have from this year.  We were just two sisters hanging out and taking pictures in my back yard and laughing our heads off.  You can be sure it was just a bare bones “photo shoot” creating pictures to “show our children someday how mommy looked.”  Laugh if you will but we just took a piece of fabric and draped it over the clothes line and sat ourselves down on a broken stool.  There was minimal makeup and untamed hair.  Moments in time were frozen and our very selves leak out of these photos because we let ourselves just be.

The other photo is my niece.  At the tender age of 5, going on 30, she’s a precocious soul and always on the move.  This photo was one captured of over a hundred I took, again in our backyard, one night that she came for a sleepover.  It was spontaneous and she wore my clothes.  Shirts on me because dresses on her.  We laughed and she gave me all of her looks and a dream of mine was fulfilled to do a “photo shoot” with her.  This photo of her and her sunshine smile isn’t perfect but it is to me because her color seeps through even on a black and white.

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. but when you photograph them in black and white, you photograph their souls.”   Ted Grant

I’m real, you’re real.  There’s too much pretense and “fake” if you will already in the world.  Let’s create honest moments.  What are some of the things you wish people would be more real about?  I want to hear your thoughts.  Pretend you’re sitting here with me on the couch. (If you need a visual my hair is up in a wacky pony tail and I’m wearing crazy socks AND purple plaid pj bottoms and a red sweater. Haha!)  What’s on your heart and mind lately?

SIDE NOTE: If I haven’t responded to your email it may very well be because I haven’t received it. Please send it again! Things have been going to junk mail and getting deleted. :(  I’m checking there now!

(Top and bottom photo by me.  Middle photo taken and edited by Rachel.)

Posted on October 28, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Happily Ever After (DAY 491) }

photo(64)And they lived happily every after…if that isn’t one of the most common Disney endings then I don’t know what is.  I love happy endings.  In fact I like them so much that I don’t want to watch sad movies where people, especially characters I like, die. You’ll find me in the comedy section of the movie rental store.  Yet for all that I find “happily every after” so cheesy.  Which makes me wonder why.

Lately I’ve been watching a show set in the 1950’s.  Life during that time wasn’t easy which is putting it lightly.  People die in this show frequently, characters that you like….a lot.  Babies die.  It’s gut wrenching but I can’t stop watching.  Interlaced with the drama of everyday life are these beautiful moments that leave me on the couch oooing and ahhing.

Why do I long for happy endings?  Why can’t I stop watching something that makes me ache with the pain the characters experience?  The reason I long for happy endings but think the movies give me cheesy ones is because I was created for a happy ending.  But it’s not really an ending.  In fact I was created for a happy beginning that will go on and on and on.  It will never end.  It’s called heaven.  And the reason I can’t stop watching movies and shows that have the nuances of pain and suffering and joy all messy and wrapped up in one is because they articulate life.  Yes, they speak to what we all go through and feel.  True the circumstances are different but human emotions are the same.

In my own life I can’t always see why I need the messy and seemingly bruised spots of life.  When I view these things wrapped up on screen though in someone else’s life I much more clearly see how the bruises make the overall fruit that much sweeter.  Maybe your life doesn’t look like “happily ever after” right now.  What I want you to know and hopefully feel is that the story isn’t over.  Heaven is coming and then our dreams of joy here will pale in comparison to what we will experience at that beginning.  Keep your chin up, love.

Posted on October 21, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }

{ Help! (DAY 490) }

Hey everyone! There’s a reason (or two or three) why I don’t usually post video blog posts with me talking but I hope you can hear my heart in this one.  Please forgive the quality…I filmed this on my phone…. Anyways you guys are amazing! xxx

Oh and an UPDATE! $89,244  :D  Getting there!

Posted on October 14, 2014 by | Comments { 3 }

{ Art from afar (DAY 489) }

IMG_9833 IMG_9838 IMG_9843It’s funny how connections are made.  Actions of seemingly little consequence add up to things that leave you amazed.  A few months ago I was scrolling through the followers on Instagram and I realized that one of them was an amazing artist.  I followed her back.  Her amazing drawings and painting kept coming into my feed and every single time I wanted to have them.  They were so beautiful.  Finally it got to me enough that I left a comment and asked her if she sold her prints.  Sadly I found out she did not but she was incredibly sweet and offered to send me one.  To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement… After corresponding back and forth via email about what print I would like (I asked her to please surprise me) Damaris said she would be shipping something my way!

Weeks later when it came I got a text that made me giddy, “You have a package….from the Philippines!” Yep, Damaris lives halfway across the globe from me.  Every little piece of the package had been thoughtfully attended to in the prettiest manner.  Holding her art in my hands was very exciting.  Both of the pieces were absolutely flawless and gorgeous.  Damaris is crazy talented and one of the nicest people I have ever written to.  The second picture with the girl and the balloon had this inscription on the back and it made me tear up: “This illustration was inspired by one of the outfits you wore for your 1 dress 100 days challenge.  I loved how chic and elegant it was and thought it would look great against a Parisian background.” :)  Not only did she pick one of my favorite pictures from the project without knowing it but she also put me in Europe.  One of my dreams is to travel to Europe and see Paris so this picture left me speechless and very happy.  It was the best surprise.

You should all go follow Damaris here to see more of her talent! Damaris, you are just lovely in every way.  Thank you for giving me these precious and stunning pieces.  I will treasure them for the rest of my life.

Also I want to mention in this post that if you have ever wanted to be a part of the project to help orphans in India now is your chance!  I’m looking for my 2014 fundraising team and since there is only 11K left to raise I’m hoping we will finish up the final goal by the end of the year.  So don’t miss this chance to experience fundraising for amazing young people who have lost so much and yet live life so gratefully! You can email me about this at misselaini [@] gmail.com (remove spaces and brackets).

(Paintings/Drawings by Damaris C.)

Posted on October 7, 2014 by | Comments { 4 }

{ Mountain Top (DAY 488) }

IMG_9753 IMG_9772 aspen IMG_0923 IMG_0940 IMG_9805 IMG_9780 IMG_0922When we were in Colorado two weeks ago we had the joy of traveling up to Breckenridge for a few days.  To be surrounded by the mountains was a comforting feeling, hardly claustrophobic and entirely magnificent.  Late one afternoon we took a ride to see some of the first aspens turning.  We got a little lost and ended up on the rockiest “road” that went up and up.  Finally we reached the top and it was breathtaking.  Views like that don’t just happen every day.

I stood feeling the cool air tingle my skin and my eyes grew bigger as I tried to soak it all in.  Pictures can never do these moments justice.  At times like this the veil between heaven and earth feels thin.  So thin that if you were to breath too heavy it might rip through.  Yet you have to inhale deeply as if to make even your pores open up to this beauty.

I think life can be a lot like my journey up this mountain.  It’s often rocky and jolting.  It bounces you around so much that you feel your bones may break and your head needs more oxygen than the thin air suggests.  While there is beauty all around if you choose to see it it you are also climbing.  It’s arduous and gorgeous and the two aren’t separated into sections but go hand in hand.  Ahh but in the end that panorama will leave you in awe.  It is all worth it for the mountain top experience.  Someday I will reach heaven and look down into what were my valleys, rough patches, flower finding moments, laugh silly at the screaming squirrel moments, colorful leaves moments, and so many more and it will all fit.  It will all makes sense and it will all add to the glory of the journey.  For now I’m happily taking each step for I have tasted of that end view and nothing can ever persuade me to live without it as my purpose.  I hope you will walk with me heavenward.  I hope you want to know Jesus because he is the most glorious thing I have ever experienced.  When I stood at the top of this mountain and was amazed it was just a taste.  Because the Creator is always more awesome than the creation.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Posted on September 30, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Chihuly (DAY 487) }

IMG_0834 IMG_0866 IMG_0835 IMG_0849 IMG_0873 IMG_0882 IMG_0881A week and a half ago I had the joy of attending my cousin’s wedding.  It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been to.  I freaked out when I discovered that the artist being shown at the Denver Botanical Gardens, where the wedding ceremony was held, was none other than Chihuly.  Since I’ve been wanting to see his work in person for a while now I was ecstatic.  Despite the freezing cold weather after the ceremony I was determined to see as many pieces of Dale’s work before I had to leave for the reception.

The colors alone were enough to leave me dancing but then the shapes and the sizes of the glass work just stunned me.  Part of what makes his work so unique is that it is a team effort.  I love that.  By himself he could do amazing things but by working with others he can do something that looks impossible.  To me that seems like an excellent life lesson.  Not to mention that the orange and red fire burst one Summer Sun takes a team of people 5 days just to assemble!  It boggles my mind how the 2,000 pieces intertwine but avoid hitting one another.

If you ever get a chance to see one of his exhibits I highly encourage you to do so…it’s inspiring and beautiful.  Do you have any favorite artists I should check out? Let me know in the comments below!

Also UPDATE!!!! $89,129.19  Alllllllmost to the 90K mark! Are you interested in being part of the 2014 fundraising team to help the sweet orphans in India?  If so shoot me an email at misselaini @ gmail.com (remove spaces)

Posted on September 23, 2014 by | Comments { 3 }

{ Seeing Through The Bagel (DAY 486) }

photo(62)The hole in my bagel helped me see right into the situation. Less poetically but just as realistically my bagel reminded me of some really important things. See here’s the thing, I haven’t had a bagel in years. It’s not because I don’t love them. As a little girl I can still remember begging my mom to go watch the cake lady decorate her cakes in swirls of frosting when we were by that part of the store. Then upon completion of my moms grocery shopping and my talking the ear off the cake lady I could choose a bagel. My bagel of choice was usually the blueberry one. Since those days though I don’t remember having may of those delightful rounds. Somehow my body decided it didn’t like wheat….and a host of other food too.

Here is “the list”: No wheat, cow dairy (hallelujah I can still have butter though!), soy, sea food, most sugars, nuts (I can die from them…), peas, lentils, and some beans.

Because I’ve had to eat a certain way for so long it doesn’t really phase me anymore. I love watching other people enjoy foods I can’t. Every once in a while, like when I ate this bagel, I’m amazed at some simple things. There’s the fact that I not only live in a country where I can find food that I need but that I live in a city that is all about gluten free this and sugar free that. I’m wasn’t born in India where my kiddos are and I’m pretty sure part of that is because God knew my body was going to be weaker. That’s down right humbling and amazing.

Because everyone’s lives revolve around food in some way it can be a very unique thing to have to eliminate certain ones. Some days it makes me feel like a huge inconvenience. Going to people’s houses for dinner becomes complicated and I feel terrible having to bother anyone. (For the record I actually can eat quite a bit and do. And I’m happy to bring my own food wherever I go!) Eating out is always an adventure and I swear that there are some sweet waiters who must think I’m so picky but kindly oblige my strange requests.

I don’t feel sorry that I can’t eat certain things. At this point it is a lifestyle (that I have to adhere to) and so it’s not a big deal. It’s just life.

This was illustrated when I read a beautiful verse that spoke to my hungry heart. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!” Taste!!! While a few foods this side of heaven are off limits for now the best thing is not. In fact I’m encouraged to try and test the flavors and quality of Jesus. He is never off limits to me. I can chew on his words and lick my tongue over his sweet promises. My face can pucker at the things I don’t understand, the things that seem sour. I can sink my teeth into meaty passages. This is grace. Jesus denied himself and came down to earth so that I might taste the most magnificent thing there is to taste. I will savor it.

When there are days it is hard to deal with food I can smile because I know that the marriage feast of the Lamb promised in heaven is going to be that much more amazing. Meanwhile I’ll be tasting the goodness of my God and enjoying my gluten free, sugar free bagel. It’s a gift.

Posted on September 9, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Crown Point (DAY 485) }

DSC_0069.JPG_effected DSC_0062.JPG_effected DSC_0048.JPG_effectedSome things are so delightful that they must become traditions.  My dear friend Rachel is in town again and so we decided to head back to one of our happy places.  Even though we have traveled to awe inspiring places we still think this is one of our favorites.

We’d heard that in Brazil when the sun goes down the people stop to watch and clap as it slips below the horizon.  While they clap to the glory of the sun we stood on the edge of a cliff and clapped to the Creator of it all for the stunning canvas of sky he painted.  The sun winked at us and then we gazed for a long while at the colors melding together.  Smudged terracotta pressed into the clearest of blue made me stop and feel the air.  We stood awed.

Some things need silence and when the whole world glows gold and the air kisses your cheeks rosy that is exactly what you need to do.  Standing there with Rachel was amazing and I’m so thankful that we have had the chance to do this again.

Last year was all about the fashion and the right pictures but we’ve both changed a lot this year.  So this year was stress free and much more of a live in the moment feeling.  Our conversations revolved around deeper topics.  Beauty like we were watching demands attention.  In the calm of dusk deepening blue we noticed that our setting sun was someone else’s rising one.  For all the people experiencing beauty and joy there are people in pain and suffering and vice versa.  It’s a reminder to soak it all in.

Posted on September 5, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ A New Normal (DAY 484) }

IMG_9384Some of you may or may not know that when I was 16 1/2 I got very very sick.  So sick in fact that I ended up spending the better part of four years in bed.  To this day we still don’t know exactly what happened and I have some residual challenges.  I’ve chosen not to talk about this on my blog for various reasons.  The main reason being that I’m just not ready.  I started writing a book about it but into chapter 5 I just had to stop.  Yet today I want to let you in and tell you something that I’ve wrestled with for years by myself until recently.  Talking with other friends I’ve realized I’m not the only one that has gone/is going through this.  That shouldn’t be a big surprise to me but when you go through grief you can feel very isolated.   I want to talk about the aftermath of trauma today because it’s more important than I could have imagined.

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.” J.R.R. Tolkien

 No one tells you how to pull the pieces of your shattered and broken life back together. There isn’t a manual and you really can’t just go back to where you started and work from there. You have to find a new way of living when everyone has moved on. It’s an in between zone that’s tricky to navigate and sometimes down right exhausting. The reality was that my sickness had changed me.  Trauma has changed my friends too.  I hear the desperation in my friend’s text when she writes me about living with intense and chronic pain and how now that she’s feeling a bit better she doesn’t know how to carry on a normal conversation anymore.  I hear her telling me that she’s not sure what normal should look like now.  All I can do is tell her I know exactly how she feels.  That I’ve been there and that some days I’m still there.

Yesterday at church I was discussing all of this with another friend.  She knows grief in a way I can’t even imagine.  When she was just a teenager her mother passed away.  Loosing someone has to be one of the worst possible forms of grief.  There are no words for that type of trauma.  Her insight into this conversation was so enlightening.  She told me how she has to figure out normal in every season that comes along.  Figuring out a new normal months after her mother passed away was not the new normal she had to learn to live with during her wedding season.  In the future she knows she’ll have to adjust to another normal when she has children and her mother isn’t around for that.  My heart rips in two when I hear these stories.  Pain is so darn personal.  Yet while my new normal is different than what my friends have experienced we are bound by the common fight of it all.

I see it on Instagram with the people that I follow and the stories I hear.  People who have lost babies and parents and I watch as they try to figure out how to live in this world without loved ones.  There is no manual for living life after intense pain whether it be emotional or physical.  Just because you’ve had you’re life turned upside down doesn’t mean the earth stops spinning.  No, life keeps right on living.  My mom sent me an article today that expressed so well this conversation I’ve been having.  The woman, Julie Lowe, had watched her house burn to the ground.  Since she sums up what I’ve been feeling perfectly I will share some of her words below but please read the rest here.

“We were simply hurting. What did we need? What does processing loss look like? We needed to find the ability to grieve and find comfort in the Lord. To shed tears and still trust. To be confused but know our hope was sure. To hold onto both sadness and belief. This, I believe, is the complexity of living with loss. Sorrow couched in hope.

We needed people to understand, to help us think clearly when we were incapable, and not to judge us unfaithful when we struggled—and we did struggle.  This reminded me that God calls each of us to empathize with other sufferers—those who have lost a child, a spouse, survived a tragic experience, lived through a war or genocide. As believers and biblical counselors, we must walk alongside and offer ourselves as sufferers process and heal. It takes time to understand, to listen, and to help survivors find comfort and hope. Tragic losses aren’t overcome in a few weeks, or even a few months. With each new life event or season, the loss is experienced at a new level. This has definitely been my experience.” Julie Lowe

If you’ve read this far thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to listen to my heart.  As I wrestle with my own process and try to comfort friends in the midst of this I’ve come to realize just how important it is to just be with people.  Let them know you care.  It’s important to know that there are no quick fixes.  It’s important to realize that some things change people forever and while painful it isn’t all bad.  There is always hope.  For me I wouldn’t change a single thing I’ve gone through but I speak only for myself in this.  If you have experienced trauma and loss my heart goes out to you.  Please know you are not alone.  Please don’t beat yourself up because you don’t know what life should look like as you try to thrive and not just survive.  Dear ones there is still meaning and joy in life.  There is still purpose and light.  Your life matters even if doesn’t fit in a mold.  It’s going to be okay.

If you don’t have the hope of heaven I pray that you will know it soon for there lies great peace and comfort knowing that in the end if our trust is in Jesus all wrong shall be made right.

Posted on August 26, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Just Listen (DAY 483) }

IMG_2695Over the past two years I’ve wanted to write this post but timing was never right.  Now it is.  So here goes.

One day I was sitting talking with a friend when she opened up and shared something very important to her.  Maybe it was the fact that she was moving away that allowed her to be so open but regardless of what prompted the conversation I will forever be indebted to her for what I learned and took away from that time.  Our talk on the subject lasted for hours over two tea times.  We disagreed.  Yes, as in quite a bit it seemed.  Even though we didn’t hold the same position I left energized from that conversation and grateful and so did she.  It was amazing and so beautiful.  We both commented on it.

Since then I’ve had other really challenging conversations with different people but rarely have they gone so well as that first one did.  It made me stop and wonder what was different.  You’re bound to disagree with people throughout life if you’re not a pushover so why do some situations end up being damaging while others leave you grateful and grown?

I observed some interesting things that occurred from my time with that sweet friend who let me in (even though I believe she was hesitant about what I would say).  The first thing that happened is that we listened, both of us.  We genuinely cared about the other person and so while we didn’t seem to have the same view on the topic we took the time to really hear one another.  We humbly shared and asked good questions in non threatening tones.  We tried to see it from the other person’s view.  We talked about terms and words so that we were on the same page.

Guess what happened.  Even though we both still didn’t fully agree we found that we both actually agreed a lot more than we imagined.  I got closer to her side of the topic and she to mine.  We both felt challenged and thoughtful and it was incredible.  It was because we took the time to consider what the other one had said.  Yes, we did advocate for our views but we didn’t jump to defend our positions in a this-is-the-only-way type of way.

Some people just wont take the time to listen and have a conversation about differences but when they do, if you’ll listen, you might grow in profound ways.  Being challenged about your ideals and path for life and ways of doing things is never ever easy or pleasant but it can yield a depth of character and learning that you won’t find elsewhere.  I have so much to learn and apply still from that first conversation from two years ago with that lovely lady but I’m so thankful for how it has affected my life.  How I pray that I may be humble enough to listen to hard words from others and may I lovingly be willing to start a conversation about things that aren’t always easy to say but can cause a blossoming of character.  Neither side is fun to be on but if you both choose to look at both angles you may gain perspective that you never had or even new beliefs.

A year after those coffee dates I wrote this to her: After some interesting conversations I’ve been reflecting on the ones we had before you left. A simple thank you is not enough. You punctuated a valuable lesson for me. That regardless of whether or not we believed the same things we can still be humble enough to listen to other people. Our talks and your willingness to be genuine and open were a gift. While I may not agree with everyone, hearing their side and reasons for them is still important. Taking the time to consider another persons thoughts and positions can be rewarding either way. So thank you for being humble enough to listen to me and for sharing your perspective. Thank you for letting me in. I’m grateful for how you handled yourself and for how you let me be myself too.

Listen and you shall hear.  You may be changed too, in a good way.

Posted on August 19, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }