A Little Babbling About Carrying Suitcases
***Just an FYI: I wrote this little ditty on my airplane heading West. I've since photographed a beautiful wedding, had an amazing time with friends and am heading back to to town soon. Still a fire burns, lighting up the room.
Summer can grow thick, quick. At first wedding season only gets the anxious side of me, but as the weeks go by, we prep each Friday evening to shoot our hearts out and love on people for 10+ hours come Saturday morning. Two months in, I'm no kind of nervous or anxious any longer. I've hit the groove. The one where I can show up, make my quiet jokes, watch for moments and take home pictures my clients will treasure.
But so often that doesn't feel enough. It always hits the same. Usually around the 4th of July, when we vacation to Michigan. When we sit around the fire outside and the mosquitoes eat up my flesh. I always find myself lost. Drowning in work? Yes, but that isn't it. I find myself wrapped up in myself. Wrapped in the motions. In the meetings. In the pictures. In the business. In the lack of time with friends. In the silence of my office late at night. In the selfishness of getting things done and marking off todo lists. In the lack of seeking and following the Lord's will in my life. But to get out of that place, I know I have to find rest. Not more work, or half rest - quiet stillness.
Now, I've tried to grow better at resting. At learning to take naps. At going to see movies. At sitting still on the porch with a plate of pie while the sun sets all the way down behind the field. It's these activities that irritate me. Now, in the wintertime, I can get behind a good movie or an afternoon-long siesta, but certainly not in my summer. The stillness tastes bitter and annoying. But the stillness brings me back to the centeredness.
That's the problem. I always forget that it isn't MY summer. The winter so often belongs to the Lord. I signed up for that routine when I made weddings and seniors my focus. That's the time I give the Lord to repair my weary self after Christmas passes and the orders have all been shipped and gifted. After we blow through half a hundred family sessions. That's when I spend time loving little children. That's when we vacation as a family. That's when I read and sit and write and pour my heart out and seek the Lord's will in my life. That's when I call my friends. When I sit at dinner longer than I should. That's when I wish for a piece of pie on the porch. Certainly not in my busy summer. Remember, that's mine. That sweet summer, I stitch it up and hold it tight with my to-do list of work. I rise early and I go to bed far, too, late. Carrying my to-do list everywhere I go. My tired face, too. Far too often I'm wearing it come my August birthday. But if you've spent time with me, you know I'm anything but tired and solemn. On my better days I'm bubbling over with wit, spunk and a quiet joy. We all need better days.
Well. I'm flying over America as I type. I've watched orange canyons crawl by below. Snow capped mountains. Giant squares of crops. Big rectangles of aqua water bordering orange water with dams between them. A watercolor of sorts. And then the perfect grid of suburbia. On to a smaller grid of farming and smooth, dry bumps of soil as I type now.
I've been sitting in my airplane seat reading The Help, pretending I live deep in the South working as a black maid, saying things like 'My wig been brushed out and put up, got my pink rollers in, already sprayed." My goodness, this book started with my middle name, Mae, spelled just the same and two paragraphs later followed with, "something is wrong with this situation." It speaks to my heart. And quiets me. And reminds me that though life is for living, life is for resting and drawing close to the Lord. And reading grows my heart again. Spending time with children, shaping babies into balls and having extra pie on the porch grows it, too.
So the rest. Monday, Nathan and I photographed some sessions in the Bowling Green area and I got to spend a minute with the young men from my photo project in college. They've grown as tall as me, have girlfriends and are excited to play football as high school freshman. It was the first time I started to feel a bit old at my twenty-three years. They were quiet and awkward at first, but a few rounds of orange juice and grits and we were rehashing the good times when we sweat together on the football field in the late summer sun and delivered turkeys to needy neighbors. I couldn't but help feel that little fire burning again while we talked. The fire that grows when I give my body rest and open up my heart. When I put down my to-do list and open up my suitcases of life.
You can't run when you're holding suitcases, ya know. And I fill my summertime with the carrying of suitcases. I back my car full of them into parked trailers, because I'm not living out the Lord's summer - I'm living mine. Suitcases full of to-do lists, of a heart for kids, of love for my friends, of my abilities and my dreams. But the only one I ever open is the volumes of to-dos and worries. Oh and pictures. I have suitcases of images for days. And that's fine. But there isn't a balance. No balance of living and loving and seeking and working. Though the first three make my fire burn bright as the sun, the last of the list is all that gets attention from May through December. And all of the attention. Oh, the balance. What sort of sense does that make? To not seek the maker of the fire?
A dear friend who has turned her life around asked me if I ever grew weary of doing life, of praying, of seeking after God. I giggled. Mostly because it wasn't a question unfamiliar to my heart. In fact, it's the question that rotates in my mind all summer long. It's the song in my heart late at night when I shut down the computers. It's the line the Lord reminds me of when I'm tired, spent and incontent in the selfishness my career can become. So here we are, flying over grassy mountains. My neighbor is playing scrabble and the small of my back is aching. But I feel the fire inside. I'm starting to feel that anxious excitement about the wedding I'll photograph tomorrow. I'm excited to spend Monday with a kind, quiet friend touring around Seattle. Coffee and breakfast by myself before I return home. And the plane rides back to the bluegrass with my Southern maids talking twelve kinds of sweet in the pages of this book. Lots of time in prayer about what crazy idea I'll be spending my heart on next. Certainly it must involve some small people. Small people with needs I'd never dream of having. We'll see where the Lord leads
If you've made it this far, perhaps you could say a prayer for my flippant heart to hear the Lord and for my friend. Oh yes, my friend who we've prayed for months over. She'll be clean from alcohol and drugs for 60 days today. I'm oh, so proud of her and amazed at the Lord's faithfulness in helping her get to this place. And the plethora of prayers answered in the last week. God is good. When I am busy putting out the fire in my soul like the suitcase carrier that I am, He's right there gathering sticks to get it back together, burning bright. He's sending clients in our doors at record speed and growing this business into something beautiful.
The Lord is faithful when I am so busy packing suitcases and locking the prettiest and most wonderful ones close til' the wintertime. Thank goodness. And thank you for making it this far. I'll be back soon, Shelbyville. Soon enough I'll invite you over for s'mores.