It was a present wrapped in a simple plastic sack, handed over with a look of eager expectation the night before we left. Limited luggage space and yet she gave me a gift for my home in the East... I loved the sheer indulgence of it.
Few are blessed with sisters-in-law so sweet, and I've already been given three. (Four if you count the 5-year-old, but the relationship with her is quite different though just as precious.) Each of these women brings something unique into my life. One brings laughter and quick wit and the ability to be raw and honest in all things. One brings the comfortable and healing peace of family--someone who you know would make your children's baseball games and family reunions her top priority. And one who brings constant encouragement, a hunger for deeper things and a willingness to be authentic and vulnerable. This one often brings something else, thoughtful little gifts that she picks up "just because it reminds me of you" and passes out with abandon.
And on this day, wrapped in a simple plastic sack, came a present that belied the fact that she sees something in me that sometimes I don't notice.
"I picked it up in Santa Fe," her eyes sparkled as she spoke, "I thought of you as soon as I saw it."
I pulled out a large book of photography, its cover awash in the crimson red of an elderly Tibetan nun's gown and the burning light of six yak butter lamps.
I think I drew a quick breath; I already knew it would bring me to tears.
"Once you told me you loved photographs of people's faces," she said. We'd been driving up the twisting and turning road to the Great Wall, and I'd mentioned it as we passed yet another old farmer with wrinkled skin and a thousand stories in his eyes. She listens. She always listens. And she remembers.
But I forget.
With scheduled days and a full inbox... I'm always busy. With the blaring horns and the pungent smells... I'm far from home. With inconveniences and irritatons... too often what spills out of me is annoyance and impatience.
And forget how much I love them.
People, that is.
As I turn the pages, I see the many faces of humanity. And I remember.
Burqas and bound feet. Prayer shawls and saris. Brilliant blues and sacred reds. The colors of a world painted with an opulent palette. I love them.
In bold and striking color, it is the diversity of humanity; the reflection of a creative Father. I see His face in each of them.
As I take in the beauty of the photographs, I'm overwhelmed by His love... For me and for "them." For the nomads and the pilgrims. The shamans and the nuns.
For the lost and the found.
There are no limits; no restrictions; no pre-requisites to this Love.
Soaking the images in, I want to be filled up and spilled out. I want my cup to run over. I want His love to saturate me and all those around me. I want to remember that the reason I love is because He first loved me.
I want to love with no limits; no restrictions; and no pre-requisites. In the middle of the horns and the chaos and the discomforts and the irritations, I want love to be all that spills out of me -- lavishly, wastefully, unrestrained.
The picture book sits on my coffee table. I'm thankful for this silent encouragement, always present... right beside me when I prop my feet up at night. For me it is a visceral reminder that I have a higher calling than the daily muck I often wallow in.
To me, it is more than just a collection of photographs; it is art created by my Father. And taking it in is a holy experience.