I’m sure you would expect this post to be coming next. I’m busy doing all the regular things: washing the clothes, planning the meals, counting the days ’til the last day of school. I’m also doing some not-so-regular things: caring for family members who aren’t well, preparing our guest room for a last minute visit, comforting our girl over some unexplained anxiety. All the while, there is a cloud of sadness that I can’t explain, but I understand.

And I’m learning, again, what it means to abide in Christ in the midst of the same and the not-so-same. I’m thinking of them and of us and of all the land and water in between. I’m shocked at my ability to compartmentalize. I grieve it. And yet, I question if that’s what this is. People here need me, and so I carry on. But I do not forget. This foggy sadness tells me so. Music helps a little. Prayer helps more. I wash the dishes and whisper short pleas, small longings, and lots of questions into the silence.

As I continue to process, I’m sharing with you a little piece of happy today. These photos are from the wedding I shot before I left for the Philippines. You know, the I-can’t-hold-it-together-so-I’ll-just-pray-over-the-SD-cards wedding? That one.

I look at her lovely face, at the way the light hits her just so, and I think of new beginnings, of life just starting and keeping on, of a God who offers hope and a future. I think of every good gift coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights, and how marriage is a good gift.

I think of the posts I’ve written on art, over 40 of them by now, and I consider how pursuing our art in some ways feels extravagant when you consider the mother living from meal to meal in a one room shack.

But we don’t stop living simply because others live hard. Seeing them could shut us down if we let it. Or it could open us up. It is not for us to feel bad about where we live, what we were born into, what we have been given. But it is for us to reconsider the gifts, that perhaps they are just that: gifts. Not entitled, not owed, not earned. But gifts.

They have gifts too, ones called grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. Sometimes those of us who have much have to dig through all our provisions to find peace and contentment sitting small in the bottom of the bucket instead of holding grace with simple hands, embracing the nothing, and feasting on Jesus.

Life keeps right on, and we celebrate because there is much to celebrate. We swallow down joy in big, breathless gulps. We must. And then, we grieve when it all gets to be too much, and that is as it should be.

But if the grieving begins to linger too long, it can be good to circle around to the gifts again; to whisper thanks, to receive the blessing, and to turn ourselves outward. Grief closes us in. Gifts spin us around to thankful, and thankful opens us wide for the giving.

I have to keep coming back to that, the life raft of thankfulness. I have to believe in a God who knows things that I don’t, in a faith that is bigger than the shadows it casts, in the simple beauty of life–even when it’s hard. And I pray with open hands for the Lord to use the art of words and pictures to spin you and I back around to His goodness, ready to give however He may ask.