Misty Garrison » Gathered Fragments

A few years ago, I attempted 30 days of gratitude but had my computer go kaput with only a week left in the month. In that same spirit, I have decided to share 30 days of “thin places.” Because, as I have shared here before, they have the power to stop me in my tracks and force me to my knees in humble praise and thanks.

Basically, these will be some of my favorites from the year that are accumulating on my computer along with a few that I take during this month. My prayer is that you will come to “see” that imperfection, and failure even, can speak volumes to our hearts if we would only provide ourselves protection from the pressure to perform.

I will also be writing more of our story together, but the focus will be on the pictures for now.

That time I was trying to get a shot of sisters sitting on the couch, and right after I was in position and in focus – she turned…

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When I started this conversation, I really didn’t know what I was going to talk about. Oh, I wanted this month to be 31 days of community so I could preach one of my passions. But, we are in a bit of a communal slump right now in our personal lives so it felt a bit hypocritical to go to town on that when we haven’t been living it ourselves lately. However much we may want to be, we just aren’t. Plus I really didn’t think I could keep it up for that long without going really deep and scaring you all off permanently. (Delicate balance between writing your heart and keeping the “fans” happy – and remember I’m told that I am too much. A lot.)

All that to say, I was somewhat surprised by how much I wrote about the farm, because that was not my initial plan. But then again, I’m not surprised at all, because God knew that I needed to write that story so that I might have the courage to actually live it. You see, when this month started I was still deep in the clutches of doubt and desperately searching for a way out. A different piece of land, a house on a acreage in Catoosa so we could live near the Shaffer family because they seemed like they might be our friends someday given enough time and opportunity.

“Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years).

But with each telling came another dose of certainty. Until the cancer of doubt has been defeated. For now. Because, in reality, she sleeps just under the surface of my skin. Remission. Which means, dear reader, there may very well be a relapse. And then what?

Then you. And the power of story, yet again. His story and how it collides with mine both in the pages of The Book and on the pages of my heart. So, when doubt shouts (and it will) I’m going to need you to whisper faith to me. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Remind me of the stories of our faith and what they teach us about who we are in Christ and, more importantly, about who He is. Remind me of the miracles of our spiritual ancestors. And yours and mine.

“And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt” (13:16).

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

Remind me of the hawk. Remind me of babies born of another woman and my own uncooperative womb. Remind me of surviving the pit of hell before those babies came. Remind me of losing the bid yet buying the farm. Remind me of salvation, and really, how could I ask for more?

But, you know, in order for you to remind me of something I must have told you about it first. Which is why it is so vitally important that we are willing to share our stories with one another. Even the hard chapters. Heck, especially the hard chapters. Not just the ones that have finally ended well and gone to print. On our hearts. But also the ones where the ending is still in production and we are afraid we might not make it into the final script.

Please, please, please don’t suffer the revisions alone. Don’t cry for a summer anguishing over a potential move to Chicago without allowing someone to catch your tears in a bottle for safe keeping. Don’t feel your heart crack open agonizing over wounded children in your home without letting someone pick up the pieces and hold them tightly together until healing comes. Don’t feel God poking holes in your bubble of safety without giving someone permission to be your shield until you can find your armor for the battle. Don’t bleed yet another life away without permitting someone the honor of mopping up the mess, especially the one in your heart. Don’t bury a loved one without allowing someone to help carry the load of a lifetime of memories & a broken heart. Don’t walk the darkness of your winter without asking someone to share the warmth & light of their companionship.

How can I remind you of your place in the story if you refuse to share it with me? Sharing leads to strength and telling leads to triumph. Let our stories be bound together because courage & communion come when we are not walking these pages alone.

And I want to live a good story for His name sake. And I know that you do too.

“A story is based upon what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain” (Donald Miller).

Together the pain is more manageable, and we receive encouragement to embrace the unexpected plot twists with grace instead of bitterness.

Your story matters. To me. And to Him.

“I don’t wonder anymore what I’ll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city……..I’ll tell these things to God, and he’ll laugh, I think and he’ll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We’ll sit and remember my story together, and then he’ll stand and put his arms around me and say, “well done,” and that he liked my story. And my soul won’t be thirsty anymore. Finally he’ll turn and we’ll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there’d been nothing” (Donald Miller).

So for now, tell your story and live your story with every ounce of breath you have within you. And I will join you. Let’s ride off into the sunset together.

And our yesterdays and our years from now will be spent saying to one another, “Remember when……..and God showed up and showed off? Me too, friend, me too.”

What’s your story?

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So, did I ever tell you about the time that Steven and I drove to Enid and basically took a homeless, pregnant meth addict to lunch at Golden Corral? No? Well, it is an interesting story to say the least, but will have to wait for another day.

For now, just know that we were in the car for 2 hours each way which meant plenty of time for talking. One of the topics that came up was the name of farm. And, who knew that naming a farm could possibly be more difficult than naming a child? We spent most of the way there brainstorming ideas. We had the general notion that it should be called something that communicated the purpose of the farm or a feature of the farm or some combination of both. We wore out the thesaurus on our phones looking up synonyms for words like: refuge, sanctuary, safe haven, rest, respite, etc. And we visualized the features of the farm like: the oak, the creek, the pond, the blackberry patch, the magnolia, the farm house itself, etc.

We tried for a long time to get a word combination of some sort to work with “The Mighty Oak” because, people, she is impressive. Magnificent, even. But we just never could come up with something that flowed well or would look good on paper, typographically speaking. So, eventually we came back to “The Magnolia.” Funny story before I continue. When my dad and I walked the property before the auction while Steven was gone, I took one look at the oak in the backyard and said, “She alone is worth a bid of $15k.” To which my dad replied, “Your mom would detract that $15k once she saw that ginormous magnolia over there.”

And, she may have a point since they are messy and can be a bit stinky & attract bee type creatures. But, I have never seen (in person) a magnolia tree as majestic as this one is. She is as tall as the house with a girth to match. Albeit, she is unkempt and kind of wild. And, over time she has become one of the girls’ favorite things to do on the farm. They fall out of the truck and immediately fly to her branches. Climbing & exploring for hours while experiencing the most exciting exploits. She is like a fortress or the gateway to another world. A world of adventure and peace, providing both shelter & intrigue. An escape from the surrounding reality. Where both the most amazing flowers & imaginations bloom. Which makes her a pretty darn good candidate for the symbol of our farm. And the life we hope to provide for sojourners there.

So we settled on magnolia for a while and tried to find some fancy schmancy name for farm to go with her. But, in the end, we realized the beauty of the juxtaposition between the elegance of “magnolia” and the commonplaceness of “farm.” Not to mention how well they would dance on paper. One with lots of flourish and the other simple & crisp. Like a strong man leading a delicate lady. It’s like a graphic designer’s dream. Which lead to us renaming the “bunkies” to “cottages.” Because, really, who wouldn’t want to come stay in “The Cottages at Magnolia Farm”?

So, it felt decided. And, also a tad bit familiar. Like I had heard it before somewhere. Of course, there is a good chance that multiple places in the world would have the same name, so I wasn’t too concerned about it. That is, until I started watching this show on HGTV called Fixer Upper and fell deeply in love with Joanna and Chip Gaines from Waco, TX. Because they are by far the most likable and amazing couple on TV. The perfect combination of cool, nerdy, talented, silly, charming, hilarious, hard working and just plain genuine. And their work makes my heart sing. Which is when it dawned on me that I recognized the outside of their house and their kitchen, because I had pinned them in my farm house files on Pinterest months prior to watching the show.

And the name of their farm, wouldn’t you know, is Magnolia Farms (which is named after their real estate/construction business, Magnolia Homes). So now the quandary of whether or not we can name our place after a farm that is kinda famous in HGTV & internet land. I didn’t mean to copy. Honest I didn’t. But obviously my subconscious remembered hearing the name when I first stumbled upon their place on the world wide web. What to do? What to do?

Well, what I really want to do is hire them to come renovate the farm house. So, if any of you, dear readers, have some sort of connection with the Gaines from Waco, please, please, pretty please put in a good word for us (because, you know that I have already tried contacting them myself). I don’t care about being on the show, I just want JoJo to get her hands on my house. And, possibly give me her blessing to name my farm after hers…

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Apparently writing every day can be hard. Like when this almost-40 body sees 4:30 on the alarm clock and just plain refuses to get up. Or when little sister stays home sick from preschool. Or when daddy gets home late from work. And big sister requires a lateish run to wally world for school paraphernalia. Never mind when that all happens in the same day. If nothing else this experience has been an exercise in grace (but really it has been so much more). And yet again, I digress. Back to the story at hand. And the giants in the land.

What would it take to give them faith to possess the land?
…freedom from 40 years of slavery
…walking through the Red Sea watching their enemies drown
…being guided by God in a cloud by day and a pillar of smoke by night
…shoes that never wear out
…water from a rock
…manna from heaven and then meat when they grumbled against the manna
…a promise
…and on and on and on

What would it take to give us faith to possess the land?
…20 acres & a farm house for the price of a luxury lot in town
the hawk & the peace
…another’s funding falling through
buying the land after losing the bid
the dream becoming the plan
…a promise
…and on and on and on

Miracle after miracle both in our hearts and in this story. And what turns a land flowing with milk and honey into a land of giants? Why suddenly was the perfect location for ministering both to the poor among us and the ones God would send to live with us on the farm now a dangerous place of uncertainty & a bad decision? Why had the money we saved in buying the land become too much for us to spend on a life there? Why did I now think that the God who had provided this land would not be able to provide a bridge to cross the creek and cottages for the least of these? And really, how could I turn the hawk into a grackle? And what about the feeling that I get every time I step foot on that property? Like it is mine and I belong there. I just need to truly possess it. By making it my dwelling.

Why do we see with the eyes of the 10 spies instead of the eyes of Caleb and Joshua? Perhaps because we are so focused on what lies before us instead of the God who stands beside us and the miracles He has performed behind us. It is a perspective thing. And we get to choose. Fear and doubt. Or faith and trust.

“Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome” (Numbers 13:30).

I want to be Caleb & Joshua, but what will help turn my fear into faith and my doubt into trust? This past month of writing. And you. But first, this place probably needs a name. Don’t ya think?

And, does anybody want to share about conquering their own giants or possessing their own land (whatever that may be in your life)? Or maybe your own wrestle with fear and doubt? Or your own walk in faith and trust?

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  • Tasha - Hum… I’d like to be creative and share, but I’m oh so sleepy as I read. I’m waiting on my hubby to finish a project related to getting the hot water to work in our shower that I had hoped would have been done 25 minutes ago. So, I’m sorry but there are no giants to share other than desiring sleep and trying to keep some self control at the delay in getting to bed. Since after all, I can’t brush my teeth with the water being turned off and all…ReplyCancel

So, I ended the story of buying the farm with a little teaser that “it only took 6 months for the doubt to creep back in…” And I am just now getting back around to telling you about it. Partly because it is hard to admit and partly because it is just plain hard to explain.

For the first few months after the miracle, we were on a spiritual and emotional high. We took our family Christmas photo in front of the old barn. I dreamed of a large tree in the entry of the house right in front of the amazing staircase. I went to sleep every night with visions of chickens running around the garden while the girls checked for eggs and I scrubbed dishes in my farmhouse sink overlooking the mighty oak in the backyard. And I would wake up to the thought of neighbors gathered down at the barn sipping sweet tea while watching the sunset over the pond. So we met with the landscape architect to create a concrete plan for the dreams floating around in our heads. We began discussions about renovating the house. And all this sustained us & our excitement through the dark months of winter. Even while we continued on with our life here in the burbs.

And then Spring came and with it the opportunity to begin exploring the land across the creek (poison ivy and all). Many weekends were spent going on adventures in the woods and down by the pond (or “Hop Frog Pond” as Eliza likes to call it – from Little Bear, of course). The girls became proficient at spotting good walking sticks from a great distance. And the work of cleaning out decades of trash in the old lean-to’s and cellar began. Creepy carpet was removed to reveal hard wood floors. Dumpsters were filled and hauled off. A tree swing was installed and then a sand box was built. To help keep littles busy while mama and daddy “worked the land.” Leaves were burned and ginormous limbs were dragged to the burn pile. And it was hard. And good. Our hearts and bodies were becoming “farm strong.” All the while dreaming of the day we could share it with our friends, new neighbors and the mystery guests seated around our table.

Then the months of searching for a tractor. And buying chain saws, more work gloves and muck boots. Saturdays became filled with mowing, weed eating and brush hogging. And the rusty, old chain link fence came down. But not without a fight. Then the flags were marked for a new fence. And we could not have been happier than “playing farm.”

And then we began to get serious about deciding what to do about the house. The initial plan was to just renovate the existing structure, making a few layout changes in the process. Like expanding the teensy, tinsy kitchen. And she’s pretty rough as she stands. Leaning a bit here and there, but she is sound. There is also a bathroom situation to address – like a toilet tucked under the stairs in the current living room (don’t’ ask). And, of course, the dreaded lowered ceilings & lack of closet space. But after months of working outside while collecting ideas on Pinterest, we began seriously entertaining the idea of adding on to the structure as well. Which lead to a meeting with a builder friend of ours so he could help us draw up a rough sketch of our ideas. Which then lead to a discussion of $$$. And suddenly everything got real. A little too real.

We were no longer “playing farm,” but instead were risking 18 years of marriage worth of accumulated equity not to mention a substantial chunk of savings in a place that would not guarantee a return on our investment (to say the least). And the permanency of the decision became very heavy. The dream began to fade from my vision. The wheels of momentum came to a screeching halt. And the voice of reason began to drown out the certainty of faith.

And really, how could we ever doubt after receiving such a miraculous blessing? It was like we were the Israelites in the wilderness or something…

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Have I told you about my friend, Jess? Oh, yeah, I have pretty much referenced or quoted her in almost every post recently. Well, she is bearing her soul and mining for gold over in her corner of the blogosphere. And she could not be writing my heart any more clearly about authenticity, vulnerability, community and all things hard when it comes to accepting our identity in Christ while connecting with other broken humans. She is passionately preaching the great melting of all the pretty plastic people & the smashing of the stained glass masquerade. And I could not be more proud to call her friend, sister, teammate, kindred spirit and fellow prophet.

Not so funny story about that though. When I first asked her to join me in this 31 day writing challenge, I had no idea about what her side of the conversation would be. So when I started reading her conversation I was so taken aback by her ability to weave words into beautiful tapestries of truth that I allowed her gift to make me feel unworthy of writing myself – a bit like Isaiah & his woe is me of unclean lips. I was tempted to quit my own endeavor. I even took a break from reading her words which were encouraging exactly the opposite response & action than the one I was choosing.

And it astounds me at how easily I can become entangled in the insecurities I wrote about earlier. Even as I rage against them in my head and my heart and mourn the the ways the insecurities of others have hurt me so deeply in the past. And I cannot help but think that if we allowed ourselves a closer look at our beloved friends instead of always gazing from afar or on the other side of the screen, we would come to realize that we no longer covet their gift once we have seen clearly how much it costs them to carry the cross chosen for them.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24).

“And he went out carrying his own cross” (John 19:17).

Which reminds me of this entry in my favorite devotional, Streams in the Desert:

“There is a poem called ‘The Changed Cross.’ It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose another instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. ‘Ah, this I can wear with comfort,’ she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.

Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.

At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.

God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own” (Glimpses through Life’s Windows).

So, sisters, I choose not to covet your cross. Or compete with you. I will not feel less than in your presence. Instead I will join you in the burning of the corset of shame & comparison and in the celebrating of each other’s gifts & successes. Because they do not threaten my existence or my worth (unless I choose to let them). Instead they have the power to bless me and free me to walk in Truth. And in that I will trust the One who is writing my story and fashioning my cross to choose His best for me. And for you. I will add my chapter to yours hoping that in our unity & vulnerability, He might be praised.

I will cheer you on and even lend a hand when you stumble under the weight of your own cross.

Might you return the favor?

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  • Tasha - Well, I haven’t touched my blog (http://ktgjournal.wordpress.com/) in nearly a month. I have taken a few photos here and there, but don’t worry about me comparing my blog to yours for tonight. I’ve struggle with comparison in the past, but for tonight I’m simply blessed to read your blog. Maybe I’ll get to mine again soon once things continue to settle from our move.ReplyCancel

So, I apologize if I seem to be all over the place lately. But I knew when I started this conversation that I would be catching you up on my thoughts from the last 2 years in which I have kept primarily silent. Mainly because of what I will share with you below. I also knew that the farm story wouldn’t take 31 days even though I still have a few more things to share on that as well. All that to say, I began this writing challenge by making a list of possible topics. And I am marking them off – one by one. But then I read what my friend Jess has been writing in her own conversation along with something she shared in our photography group on Facebook this week, and she reminded me of something I wrote for a class back in August of 2013.

It echoes what I shared in this post. And seems to be a recurring theme in my life. The one that the enemy uses to silence me from time to time. And why I disappear from this blog for months on end. My personal struggle against allowing my gift to be marred by my desire for validation.

I wrote these words after the conclusion of a photography workshop called Soul Shooting. Our first homework assignment was to unplug for a week. No social media whatsoever, and this is what I learned.

Lessons from Unplugged:

I am a harlot chasing after the approval of “man.” Doesn’t help matters that my love language is words of affirmation, so I constantly find myself falling back into my adulteress ways. And wouldn’t you know that I started reading Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick on the plane ride to Seattle and the workshop?!?! What a powerful combination. Unplug for a week and read about the idols you have created. I am exhausted. And refreshed! And released in so many ways.

I first realized that I had a problem when I saw that many of my online photography classmates seemed to be connecting & were commenting on each other’s photos on Instagram, and they were not even following me much less making comments on my “work.” I became a churning hot mess of jealousy and girl drama inside. I wanted so desperately to belong with fellow photographers and have them validate my efforts that I became a slave to social media, obsessively taking & posting photos of my precious ones & commenting on other feeds hoping to catch someone’s attention.

So busy documenting my story that I forget to live it. So busy watching someone else live their story that I forget to live mine.

All that time online and comparison began breeding discontentment & feeding my insecurities. Stealing my joy. Stifling my creativity. Sucking the very life out of me, not to mention the time I have with my family.

After this week of media fasting, I feel a sense of freedom. Like a huge weight has been lifted, and I can live again without fretting about documenting every moment of it. Yes, I spent this week living.

I walked the streets of Seattle with my Beloved without fretting about taking pictures of every thing. I talked to him over meals instead of “processing” & “posting” – just one more photo or one more peak at my feed for comments. I read more books with my littles. I gathered around the table with precious friends. Instead of peddling my life to mere humans hoping for their attention and approval, I lived it. And I lived it well.

And while I do still hope to connect with like-minded photographers someday and share this wonderful part of my life (none of my close friends are interested in photography), that longing has taken its rightful place in my life. A happy blessing if, and when, it happens to me.

And if it doesn’t, I have real flesh and blood loved ones in my life. And they deserve the best of me, not the left overs. Like a precious neighbor down the street who is starting back to work for the first time in 7 years of mommy hood. She could use a visit and perhaps a glass of wine….

Or the dear friend who is fighting for the right to be a little girl’s mommy. And yes, I cut my hands when I scooped up the broken pieces of her heart and carried them, and her, to the altar on Sunday morning, but that is real. Life. Shared and sacred.

Or the lovely spirit who just got the report that her Daddy’s cancer is spreading. Too much time online will keep me from calling her. Or keep me from my responsibilities so that I do not have spare time to sit with her. Just sit. In person. And be. Together.

I could go on and on. People. Real people who need me. And I need them right back. And while the Internet is full of flipping wonderful, incredible, fantastic, talented people who could undoubtedly bless my life and my work, I am pretty sure none of them will sit across from my Emmylou with eyes full of tears as she tells her how proud she is that Lou got right back up on her bike after a really bad spill. And then a tear falls as she gently reminds Lou of Someone else who is pleased with her as well.

The idols are falling, ladies. Making room for life. And that is where real creativity & inspiration flows.

“Discontent will never change the world. If you want your work to have a lasting impact on the world, define yourself with gratitude.” ~ Rachel Jankovic

As I read these words from over a year ago, I am discouraged at how quickly I forgot those lessons. How often even now I refresh Facebook & Instagram after posting one of these conversations. Hoping for a response. A like. Something. Bleh. And even more disheartening is how often I fail to come through for the real people in my life.

As Jess shared, “I feel ill when I think about all that I know is true about me, all that God says about how he loves me with this fierce, jealous, passionate, never-ending, never-giving up love and that I so easily cast it aside for a digital hit of affirmation. What is it that keeps us looking for validation outside of who our Creator says we are? And isn’t a bit tricky that part of the way we experience his love and affection is through the love and affection of other human beings??

Would love to hear your thoughts on your own struggle with this. But I will not base my worth on whether or not you respond. I will not. I hope…

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  • Tasha - We’ve moved to a different side of town that many avoid. It has been incredible to watch God provide so many helpers in this process as we cleaned, packed, moved, unpacked, and start to meet our new neighbors. It will take me awhile to catch up on your blog, but I look forward to it! Thank you for sharing about idols. I went through a Bible study a few years ago on Isaiah, and boy that book has a whole lot to say about the evils of idols.ReplyCancel