Category Archives: Photos and Quotes
Today I am choosing to see, to look beyond the ordinary for the extraordinary — the breath of God in every moment, His love infusing every breath, His still, small voice echoing in every heartbeat.
Will you join me?
Let’s encourage one another to see, to really see, sharing in the comments where we each see the extraordinary just beyond the shadows of the ordinary.
Encouragement from the One who created you,
who knew you before the beginning of time,
and loves you beyond all human understanding,
the God who gave up His life for yours,
to redeem you and every hour the locusts have eaten,
who forgives you again and again and again, forever,
who pours out grace upon grace upon grace
every moment, every step, every breath,
waiting with arms wide open to welcome each beloved child home.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10
Some moments touch our hearts. Some leave us in awe. Some are sweet and tender and refreshing, some intense and raw, some painful, and some so beautiful they are forever etched into the fiber of our souls.
A few years ago, I experienced such a moment. We’d been hiking for hours in the Colorado Rockies, my husband and I and our five kids, and lunch was long overdue, so we’d stopped at a local restaurant eager to eat. I ran in and checked to be sure they could accommodate our son’s special diet. “No problem,” the manager had assured me.
Fifteen minutes later, we began to order, and our son’s choices dwindled to a plain hamburger patty on a plate. No bun, no fries, no veggies. Just a plain beef burger on a plate. I watched Sam’s face, knowing he was hungry and felt guilty I hadn’t brought more food on the trail, hadn’t had packed anything extra in the van.
It was our first vacation after Sam got sick, and while he almost never complains, I could tell by the resigned slump of his shoulders that this was hard. He was tired and hungry. After taking his order, the waitress looked toward our oldest son, who simply said, “I’ll have what my brother’s having.”
“A plain burger, no bun, no fries, no veggies?” she asked.
“Yes,” he nodded.
One by one, our three daughters ordered identical plates.
And my mama heart burst in my chest.
I couldn’t speak, I could only nod and order one more plain burger on a plate. No bun. No fries. No veggies. For there could be no greater love.
On this, the Lords’ Day, let us love one another deeply from the heart…
Because it matters. Every. Single. Time.
“Love Bravely” quote above by Kevin Adams
For almost seven years, I’ve been writing down the moments of my life — the good, the hard, the funny, the profound — moments when the veil thins and I glimpse the holy, breathe in the eternal, humbled and awed and incredibly blessed.
I’ve been writing for most of my life. It’s how I think, process, begin to understand what I feel and why.
But it was Dottie Schimpf, pastor’s wife and parish nurse, who invited me to write an article every month for the church newsletter, North Shore Church News, in November, 2007, who unknowingly opened the first door of this journey.
Months later this blog was born through the mad, angst-quenching, technical skills of Ross Mongin, after a late night brainstorming session with my cousin Susan, who’d quietly registered the domain name before I could change my mind.
And the second door opened.
Along the way, I’ve been encouraged by organizations such as Christian Writers, The High Calling, and Tweetspeak Poetry. I’ve written for We Used to Be You and Servant Sisters, and had an article published in The Congregationalist Magazine.
I’ve shared my photography with The High Calling and a number of beautiful online communities. And recently, I’ve joined Outside the City Gate to provide photography for their new e-book, and with Beth at Simply Beth to provide images every few weeks for her Sunday community.
God began unlocking the last door at For the Love, where I’d unintentionally hijacked a conversation, realized, and apologized, and Kelly tenderly said, “No. Don’t apologize. Your story’s inspiring. Thank you!”
Inspiring? I thought. I’d have used almost any word but inspiring.
Later that day, Erin had looked across the table during a breakout session and said, “You love words.”
Yes! I thought. Yes! Yes, I do love words.
For almost two years, the words had clogged in my throat, the emotion a little too close, a little too raw. So I’d spilled into image what I’d been unable to pour into words.
I’d come to For the Love in part because I’d longed for validation as an artist. Longed to know if my photography was just a “great hobby” or might one day be good enough to sell. Uncharacteristically, and with all the courage I could muster, I’d asked Jeremy, owner of Jeremy Hess Photographers if he would take a look at my work, just a few pieces, and give me his honest opinion. He did. I wish I remembered his words. They spoke life and surprised me. In a good way.
Yet while I don’t remember Jeremy’s exact words, I do remember that moment, the encouragement, his challenge to grow in intentionality, to “ask God what He wants you to see in this image,” to become as proficient with each of my lenses as I am with my macro.
There at a photography workshop in the rolling hills of Oregon, I remembered how much I love words. And something broke loose. Maybe the words weren’t gone. Maybe the photography was more than a hobby. Maybe they were two pieces of the very same puzzle.
Light began to glint from all edges of the door.
Then last night, my friend Pamela, who’s been encouraging me to write a book for years, suggesting options, possibilities, and opportunities said, “You need to write your story. It’s powerful. You have so much peace. Your life is hard. I can’t even imagine. And yet you are so filled with peace. Why do you think we all want to spend time with you? The harder your life is, the harder you lean into Jesus, and it’s beautiful.”
I sat across the well-worn, wooden table from my friend in tears.
And the door swung wide.
For nearly seven years, I’ve been writing moments. Stringing them together. Word by word by word.
The story of our lives.
A journey. Led by God. With light enough for each new step.
Moment by moment by moment. Word by word by word.
Life through a macro lens.
This morning, my husband, who believes in me far more than I have ever believed in myself wrote, “I wanted to ask for your prayers and encouragement for Cindee as she sets out on a new adventure. Because of the encouragement from a few [at For the Love] like Kelly and Erin about her gift with “words,” and the encouragement of a friend back here at home, Cindee has decided to finally — I’ve been trying for quite some time, but unsuccessfully, to get her to — write a book…AMEN! Thank you to each one of you who shared your hearts, encouraged my beautiful wife, and gave her that extra bit of hope and love that she needed, and God so perfectly set in place.”
So…I’m writing a book.
Opening my heart and sharing the story of our lives. Weaving together the moments already written. Fleshing them out. Inviting you in. Living these next months intentionally, through all the lenses in my bag, and loving bravely!
When I’d first heard of the event, I knew I wanted to go. Maybe needed to go. Just because I knew a little bit of the artist’s story, enough to believe her life might speak to mine.
So I put a ticket on my birthday list.
I wasn’t going to ask any of my friends if they were going. I just wanted to slip quietly into the back and let the evening happen.
Then I thought of my friend. We’d attended this event together every year since her husband died. Even that first year, just weeks after his death, tear-stained, arms wrapped around each other, holding on, getting through.
I wondered if she was going. Felt a little selfish for not asking.
So I sent her a message.
She was going. With a small group of friends and relatives. “We’d love to have you join us. We’re going out to dinner first.”
“I think I’m at Children’s Hospital that day,” I messaged back. “Can I let you know?”
But the truth is that I didn’t want to go to dinner or be social or engage. I just wanted to sit quietly in the dark and breathe.
Tuesday evening, late, less than 24 hours before the event, a friend I hadn’t seen for a few of years sent me a Facebook message.
“Hi, do you know of anyone with extra ticket for tomorrow night’s event?”
“Why?” I wondered. “Was it sold out?”
“Yup. Two weeks ago.”
Immediately I thought of my ticket. My one ticket. All she needed. Yet somewhere deep inside I heard, “No, you need to go.”
“Let me check,” I messaged back, “and I’ll let you know.”
In the morning, I contacted another friend, because if anyone would know of an extra ticket to any event, anywhere, it would definitely be her.
She immediately texted back, “Yes!”
Moments earlier, in a staff meeting, a co-worker had mentioned that she had an extra ticket — one extra ticket — for the Laura Story event that night if anyone knew of someone who needed one. Wow!
This whole unlikely group met in the lobby that evening – my beautiful widowed friend, her friends who’d gotten there early to hold our seats, the friend who’d asked for an extra ticket, the friend who’d found one…and me.
God had ensured I’d be there that night, if for no other reason than to facilitate this ticket exchange.
For while I was retrieving the ticket from one friend, my sweet widowed friend was discovering that the friend who’d asked for a ticket, also a young widow, was there…alone.
God had brought us all together in that space at that time, on purpose, to lean close, grasp hands and cry together in the dark.
“It’s hard to raise sick kids.”
“Hard to lose your person.”
“It was hard and lonely and dark that first week. So, so hard.”
Grace spilled raw as we slipped through the doors and into the dark. Gathered in, leaning close, voices rising, tears splashing in the candlelight.
Hope flickering into flame.
Love washing over weary souls, long and deep and high and wide.
Wrapped in the arms of community. Beautiful. Perfect. Unearned.
And without end.
We love because He first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19
There could be no truer wisdom than that.
One love. God’s love.
However imperfect or skewed or misrepresented,
however conditional or grudging
whatever love we give,
whatever love we feel,
whatever love fills our souls
and seeps through the cracks
and shattered gaps
of these earthen vessels,
is one love,
holy and perfect,
before the beginning of time.
because God IS love,
and His love
is the one true love
in a sea of endless imitations.
I’ve had a hard time catching my breath these past few weeks, a hard time stepping away from the noise, pausing long enough to notice God, present in every moment.
Instead thoughts have snagged at my soul, tendrils of doubt winding round the fibers of my heart, anger budding, growing, ripening. For I’ve been turning away from God. Just a breadth. Not consciously or purposely, but a little bit more each day.
This is how I arrived on the banks of the Umpquah. Hands clenched. Life heavy.
The door swung wide to a warm embrace and I wanted to turn away.
As we broke into small groups that first morning of the retreat*, we were asked to share why we’d come and what we hoped to take away.
Tears spilled into my words, “When we’d registered, this had seemed like such a good idea. But now?” Pause. Sob. “Now? I just want to survive it.”
Tuesday morning dawned over rolling hills, fog painting a watercolor tree line, an eagle soaring over the Umpquah, robins bobbing in a pasture along with a cow and her calf and half a dozen wild turkeys.
“I just want to go home,” I’d told my husband through a torrent of tears, leaning on the bathroom counter.
God had opened the door to this place. Every step of the way. From a Google search, “Christian, photography, retreat,” to open registration to flights and hotels and a rental car, the pieces had easily fallen into place.
Here I was. Away. With time and space to breathe. But I was battling God, clenching my fists. Wanting nothing more than to turn and run the other way.
We stayed and later that day, after suddenly realizing I’d dominated a conversation, I quickly apologized.
“No,” she said. “Don’t. Your story is inspiring.”
I stepped away then, needing to breathe. Alone. In this wide open space amid rolling hills and roaming cattle. Needed to stand, still. And listen.
And in the quiet, in the still, I caught my breath.
For suddenly, light streamed through the clouds igniting the moss-covered trees. Colors exquisite. Mystical. Shape. Texture. Moment. Place.
Light stirring the embers of my soul.
I pulled the journal out of my jacket pocket and stared at the word I’d written hours earlier. “Light.”
We’d been asked to spend some time alone with God. To get honest and ask, “God, who do you want to be for me in this place that you can’t be to me anyplace else?”
I’d written, “Light. Light? Really, God? Light? You want to be light?”
Exquisite. Brilliant. Unmistakable.
Like this moment?
Yes. And for each step and every breath along the way, if only you’ll let Me.
I had stopped trusting God, and hadn’t even known it.
Maybe that’s why I was here. And why I needed to stay.
Later, Erin sat down across the table from me and said, “I had a vision of you. I never have visions. You were sitting at a desk in front of a large window, writing and light was streaming in, all this light…”
I stopped her. “That was my word,” I whispered. “Light.”
Light for this step and the next and the next. If only I don’t turn away.
Every step in the presence of almighty God.
To love. To tremble. To live.
*This was my first For the Love, and I left forever changed.