Keeping out the Light

The space was cool with an ancient, heavy coolness sunk deep into the stone floor, clinging to my bare feet and staying between the bones. The air was the slightest bit damp, holding that intriguing stony-musty scent of very old places.

But the light. It was the light that made me understand.

A room in a 13th century Italian structure, formerly an abbey, was our bedroom for a week. When I opened the thick wooden shutters to let the feeble indirect light into the dim room, the bedsheet’s crumpled folds were illuminated. My eyes instantly recognized those distinct lines and shadows. I saw the difficult, long-studied shading of fabric folds painted by the masters, while beyond, in the corner, shadows fell over the foreboding wardrobe of some deep almost-color. I saw what the masters had seen.

All those Renaissance paintings with their bright, sharp-focused subjects wearing rich colors, cool eyes directly gazing out of faces illuminated against dark shadow-velvety backgrounds: this is what every room looked like, then.

Because light was precious. Light barely made it inside.

There has been a thought stirring at the back of my mind since this summer journey to Italy. It is simply that 

whenever we construct something to keep people out,
we also keep out the light.

A village tucked away in a mountain range may feel unfindable and may deter unsafe people.  But because of those same mountains, the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier in that village–the day itself is made a little shorter for the mountains’ protection.

A fortress stout and strong will keep out invaders and make its inhabitants feel safe. But with windows narrow and closed, and walls high and impenetrable, the inhabitants will rarely feel the warmth of the sun–it will always feel like night inside, cool and dark.

Even an everyday bedroom curtain keeps others’ eyes from seeing you in a vulnerable state–but you cannot enjoy the light of morning until you pull back the curtains, taking the risk of being seen.

What I’m really speaking of
is the heart.

How many times a day do you hear the cold whispers–maybe you can’t hear them anymore because they’re such a part of you– telling you to “Be strong”? “Keep those walls up & keep your heart safely inside. Don’t let yourself get hurt again…”

When you shut out the risk of pain, you shut out so much more.

“I will remove your heart of STONE
& give you a heart of  f l e s h “

He doesn’t give a heart of diamond–

immaculate, sparkling, unbreakable.

He doesn’t give a heart of steel–

efficient, usable, tough.

Nor does He give a heart of paper–

easily bent to one’s will, easily thrown away.

He gives a heart of flesh.

Flesh is what composes living human bodies,
shaped by

God the sculptor,
God the engineer,
God the poet,

in His image, different from every other creature.
Somehow, we look like the One who is invisible.
And skin sets us apart–
we don’t have

a dragon’s myth-strong scales
or a bear’s wild-dense fur
or a bull’s stubborn-smooth thick hide

to protect us.

Fragile, vulnerable skin.

Flesh can be bruised, scratched, scarred. It can bleed. Flesh can feel so much pain.

But a heart of flesh is created to know and be known,
to love and be loved,
to speak and be spoken with,
to journey and be journeyed with,
to live and be tabernacled with.

It’s all that He has desired since the beginning.

Oh Jesus,

Crumble the defensive walls around our hearts
and teach our hearts to sing the songs of healing.
Create in us Your fearless vulnerability and ever-reaching love.

In the Name of our Wounded Healer who catapulted himself into our fragility–

to walk in our dust
and eat at our table,
to laugh with us
and weep with us–

our Warrior who came not wearing a suit of armor to protect Himself from us–

our pain, our anger, our rage–

but inhabited the ultra-vulnerable sweet-soft skin of a newborn
and lives to continually bear our flesh into His Father’s unapproachable Light,

Amen.

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Open shutters, San Gimignano, Italy, August 2017

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Grandmother observes the crowded street, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017

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Italian light, San Gimignano, Italy, August, 2017

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three photos for three friends

Once I become someone’s friend I am very loyal to them. This little post is my love for friends who will always live in my heart, celebrating the sweet family that they are. No matter the distance or time between our two little families, there will always be the same spirit of friendship & trust & encouragement.

❤ Happy 5th Anniversary, M & R ❤
May your family’s love always be light spilling from windows into the night,
inviting others in to the warmth you share.

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(^ Possibly my most favorite photo I’ve ever taken.) I believe this photo comes a little bit close to capturing how I see this woman, this dear sister of mine: a classic, essentials-only beauty full of life-giving love & true femininity

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I have glimpsed our Father’s love through this brother of ours & it is sweet sweet sweet

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You never know where the light is going to find you, illuminating beauty for a sweet surprise. I got this photo in the car on the way to the park (where we got the above photos) while this gorgeous, slightly-grumpy little star was strapped into her carseat. ◆

I stand at the shore of a language

I stand at the shore of a language foreign to me
Will I ever swim? I must dive in–

I could just stay in the shallows of greetings,
just get my feet wet with politeness—the ocean water is cold.

But the teacher pushes me in.
Phonemes and syllables and words crash over me,
leaving me gasping for which way is up,

and then comes the heavy rush of a salty sea swell,
rough with unknown grammar—suffixes, tenses, conjugations, and

further out I see them coming–breakers over mysterious depths—
nuance, emotion, history, and culture carried in sounds,
the story of a people in their own words.

I must wrestle the waves for some confidence,
and learn their rhythm in time.

As each wave recedes, hope is left in the sand,
a bit more beaten, a bit more polished.

I stand at the shore of a language foreign to me
Will I ever swim? I must dive in.

 

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One of my fears before coming to this new place was that I would fail everyone’s high expectations of me as a linguist learning a new language. It has been so good to finally be starting, to see months stretching ahead of us here & know that there is time, & that we are doing it together. & Even we together are not alone. The preparation for this place He has done for us, some of which we were completely blind to, blows my mind. For example, on the first day of language learning, we were told that French & Arabic are the largest influences on Turkish—the two languages with which I have spent the most time. This poem is what the process feels like, here at the beginning.

Hope caught in the bushes

Did the mountain’s ancient silence lay too loud for human ears?
Did the frantic inner struggle show as calmly chosen words?
Did the three-day climb in thin air steal their breath & take their strength?
Did the warm torch-fire’s steady glow whisper faithfulness & sight?
Did the boy’s handwoven garment bear his mother’s scent of home?
Did the well-known knife glitter strangely in the far-setting sun?
Did vision cloud & two hearts pound as unceasing nightmare flowed?

& They heard hope caught in the bushes,
Horns of power, crowned with thorns & pain.

We’re weary, searching for hope in the bushes,
Horns of power, crowned with incense & shadow.

Show us the hope caught in our bushes,
Horns of power, crowned with stars & praise.

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Last night I attended with a friend a worship service in a language I do not know. As the sea of unfamiliar syllables poured around me, my brain grabbed at them, trying so hard to ascribe understanding but, of course, simply could not. My craving for meaning was met in a stained glass window picture directly in front of where I sat on the floor: Abraham with the knife raised over Isaac. I thought I knew just what medieval cathedral-goers felt like: pictures speak every language just as the Artist does. It was there I found buried this poem; in my heart was buried this prayer. We are made to see you in our everyday every day, God. Open our eyes to the hope caught in our bushes. ◆

Maternity Mini Shoot: Dreamy Sunset Winter-melt

When family becomes friend,
when visits become stays,
when tears become hugs,
when memories become stories,
when sunsets become backdrops,

Roots of trust grow tough enough for any Winter’s scowl,
& love Springs constant, unfreezing through the cold ◆

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Seven lines, seven images. ^_^ These photos were taken in that Indiana sunset light that always captures me. Maternity shoots are a delight; so much beauty!  Dear A., you are going to be a wonderful mommy. You were made for it ❤ All words & photos by me, K Grace Collins.

Winter Portrait Mini Shoot: Wind-Dancing White Gold

Our boots punched through the crust of snow as we fought the winter wind to enter this field behind her childhood home. The cold stung our faces & the snow crept in between our hems & socks, shocking our ankles to numbness. But I knew it was all going to be worth it when I saw how the wind was dancing in her hair, turning it to a white-gold veil of fine lace strands,  drifting over her European-sky-blue eyes. Goodness! Lady C. is always so easy to shoot. In processing, I found that black & white emphasized that best. Enjoy!bw-claire-1-of-1bw-claire-1-of-8bw-claire-2-of-8bw-claire-3-of-8bw-claire-4-of-8bw-claire-5-of-8bw-claire-6-of-8bw-claire-7-of-8bw-claire-8-of-8

beneath her feet

Brick by brick she built up a tower of doubt & suspicion
Crowned herself with aspen fronds & mounted the stair
Looking down at the ancient ground, she said,
“Thou wilt not hold me; I must live here”

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Earth, too polite to say, “Hiding there, I hold you still…”,
whispered promises instead
“There is a scent you have known since the day of your birth…
The hills still carry the Breath of the One who stays”

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“But I know not this scent & I am too young
for promises predating the dust of my body,
intolerably infant for vows older than the sky…
Your goodness looks on everyone, how do you see me?”

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“You were born small to take part in this grandeur,
your body’s dust is holy for within dwells the Breath.
Why do you tether yourself with fear to your tower,
to this soil you’ll always be bound…

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“Come through richly folded hills of velvet crimson sunset,
quiet fields of graceful glory growing
Even through the deep, hushed lands of weeping
under your feet a steady path will be found

WM (1 of 7).jpg“Freedom awaits, if you would set your feet on the ground…”

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A note on these words’ germination: While hearing Audrey Assad’s song “Good to me” for the first time several weeks ago, the earthy savor of “Your goodness” was so tangible to me. It was only later that I realized there was a conversation taking place, concerning the effect of fear on our perception of the endurance & vastness of His Goodness. All photos & words by me.

The Most Obliging Butterflies

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Flying excited loops, distracted landings, erratic circles, 

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they say, “The flowers

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drenched in sun

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are the sweetest.”

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They tell us, 

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“Follow me!”

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“Come, scruffy robin, from the shadows!”

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“The earth is gold and though we are here but for a moment, we know it is worth savoring.”

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“Look and see! Do you know the freedom in the Gift? How wide, how deep, how far?”

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“The breeze knows it, the grasses know it.”

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“We know it. Our wings flirt with the sun, sipping earth’s dew.

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We land as jewels bestowed, undeserved. Do not refuse what you could never earn.”

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“Let us teach you

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how to say goodbye

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to this golden summer light

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and summer creations so frail.”

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“Caught, visible, for a season,

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time for rest is coming now.”

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“There is no need to hoard! You may gather all you can, yet there will always be more.”

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“We, the secrets in the light, 

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want you to know: it’s all for you.”

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“Our colors, which we are glad to give, will become your memories.”

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“Receive freely in surrender for the next season will bring more of the Gift,

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even if all the summers of time were fit into this day.” 

 These photos were taken with an experimental Lensbaby lens and its movable optic attachment. All the blur / tilt-shift-y-ness you see on my blog is from this lens!

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