Thursday, December 3, 2009

Love, Actually.

It seems like the world today is full of uncertainties. The future is filled with more question marks than periods. Wars and rumors of war echo about us. Glimpses of life are fleeting around us. This blog, even, has laid dormant over the months. Accruing visitors both random and regular (thank you, Google Analytics), perhaps wondering what the journey has brought to Leia and I. We've graduated from Divinity school, and while still best of friends, laid our cameras to rest to reflect with a different lens for a while. We love photographing weddings. But, vocationally, we aren't wedding photographers. Not in the business model sense. Not given some of the things we've been graced and called to see. And, well, not in this economy!

But there are moments in life that are certain. In the midst of tenuous footing, there are people we can hold on to. Stories of hope that warm the very lifeblood of our hearts. Gifts of mercy that stir our imaginations. Notes of laughter that dance through our souls. And, actually, love.

The love of our friends, Jara and Kenley, has been great cause to dust off the shelves of the blog. Since they were, in effect, blog-stalkers prior to our working with them, it seems the obvious thing to do. Their story is one that has unfolded for the past five years, and it is one that we are honored to have captured in its unfolding into eternity. We were gifted by them, not only with ebony pashminas, soul kitchens, new friends and old friends, family, purple flowers, red doors, and much dancing (just to reference a few key memories), but with an opportunity to be reminded that love, actually, is patient. Is kind. And does prevail.

So, here's to wonderful Jara + Kenley, who did indeed "Thai" the knot. To read more about them, check out Jara's wedding blog at ... You will also notice that Jara has dedicated her time to serving so many through her advocacy work at Word Made Flesh. To learn more about her work and her support needs, click here.

A few lovely details ...

Meet Jara :)

And, meet Kenley, who gets incredible air ...

Kenley's witnesses (also known at the UN):

And, not to be outdone in air time, a peek at Jara's gorgeous witnesses:

A sweet moment coming down the aisle and meeting her mom:

Yep. It's really happening ...

Don't be tardy for the party.

Introducing the Mr. & Mrs.

Those eyes are appropriate for married men and their wives ...

Bling Bling.

Escalator of Love.

A sweet moment together ...

And of course, a toast to the real thing.

Congratulations Jara + Kenley ... may you continue to prosper in an amazing life together!! :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where In The World ...?

Greetings, friends!

It has been quite some time since we have been able to touch base. We made our way safely home to our theological studies after a powerful, amazing summer. Nothing of our belongings got lost, except perhaps our hearts, which are forever buried in the depths of the amazing women and men we encountered in Kolkata, India, and all around the world. Come to think of it, we don't suppose that our hearts would exactly count as belonging to us, anyway ...

Ah, yes.

Well, as many of you have been pining for pictures, know that they are coming. From the Middle East. From South Asia. And from some of the awesome and amazing shoots we've had over the past few months with friends and family who have supported us. While we have been swamped with all of the work and the expectation of returning so quickly to a hectic pace of school, work, and business (yes ... I intentionally left out "social life," *smile*), we have not forgotten the amazing love and support that we felt from you all along this journey!

That said, be on the lookout for lots of posts and announcements and information and updates! We promise!

Amey and Leia

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On Christ and Cookies

Beams from the scorching Indian sun mercilessly sent familiar beads of sweat careening down my face. I again attempted to wipe the monsoon season humidity from my dirtied cheeks. My effort was futile. We inched further along one of the muddied side roads of Tangra, a slum in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. This day the monsoon rains had brought the frequent flooding not uncommon at this time of year. What normally was a 10-minute walk now took a half hour, and my impatience mounted with the palpable heat.

I focused intently on my own feet. Avoiding the assortment of trash notoriously strewn about the streets. Avoiding the puddles of water that floated raw sewage in the aftermath of the afternoon showers. Avoiding the crowds gawking at my foreign features.

I was ungrateful. Exhausted from the heat. Annoyed that the hem of my pants was soaked. That mud and God knows what else had seeped into my shoes and made a home between my toes. That people didn’t point or laugh inconspicuously. That the smell of curry mixed with stench of street trash and holy cows made me nauseous.

Until I saw her. Rather, she saw me. A little girl no more than four or five. Stringy hair matted with dust. Distended belly displaying malnourishment. Simple shirt worn through with holes that barely covered the top of her thighs. Her circumstance was the picture of poverty, but her smile was the picture of joy. She was standing on the street, eating a tiny cookie, the crumbs of which freckled her pudgy cheeks. She stood frozen, peering at us through doleful brown eyes.

I half expected her to run back to the crowded room that was obviously home, crying from behind the knees of her mother. Instead she offered us her hand. It seemed casual, but our approach unveiled reality. This little girl was offering us her cookie.

Myriad thoughts flashed through my mind, first of disbelief, then through the flood of grace no monsoon could measure. My heart raced to the story in Luke of the widow’s offering:

[Jesus] looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4, NRSV)

This little girl was offering me, a stranger, all she had. As I shook my head, sure this was a mistake, the girl gestured again her pleasure in offering to us what may have easily been her daily bread.

Christ speaks of righteousness in terms of those who give to the least of these, “for I was hungry and you gave me food.” Suddenly in that moment I faced my own poverties, of compassion, justice, commitment, love, faith, and hope. But that little girl, with the physical offering of her tiny biscuit, spiritually invited me to the abundant banquet of Christ, to taste and see the Lord is good.

God is good. God is good here in Kolkata. In the midst of broken realities, from slums to sex trafficking, the love of Christ is that much more sweet. Not because foreigners are here, or even because Christians are here. Rather, because Christ has always been here.

That little girl was Christ to me. I thought that my momentary suffering justified my attitude. I thought that my love, sometimes my food, too, was the gift to be offered. But that little one reminded me that we, the Church, the body of Christ, rely on each other. That we need those who represent the wounds in that body for the working of our salvation. That there is so much left for us to receive.

My eyes have been opened to the heart of God for the poorest of the poor in the world. In response, I pray I am as willing to give my life, my possessions, and my love as freely as that sweet child saw worthy to give unto me. Amen.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Kingdom of Kolkata

(from Leia's journal)

Most days I walked with my head down. At first I told myself it was so that I could watch my steps as to avoid tripping and falling into the compost lined streets of Kolkata. And even though there is validity to this argument, it’s not wholly true. Kolkata’s streets are lined with beggers. Men, women, children, all homeless, jobless, hopeless. I stared at my feet, yes, to concentrate on each step, but more so that I wouldn’t have to concentrate on my surroundings; so I wouldn’t have to think about, or take in what I was having to see, having to smell, and sometimes even having reach out and touch me.

I discovered my reasons on the Metro, the subway line in Kolkata. Here, those who can afford this luxury, travel throughout the city. The train is usually filled with middle class Bengali’s headed to work, school, or shopping. It is here that I truly discovered the real reasons for my downcast head. Sitting just across from me were two other Indian young ladies. Much like any other day on the train, just about everyone was staring, some whispering, some pointing and even laughing. I held my head down, and realized that when I did so, I didn’t have to see my own objectification. Staring at my feet allowed me to escape the task of bearing witness to it. This was my escape from the world around me.

In this city, I am the rarity. People stare at me, sometimes puzzled, sometimes disgusted, sometimes just stare, at my western clothes and failed salwar attempts, at the strange coiled locs that are my hair. They stare at my mouth and gawk at the weird accent and strange words that come from my mouth. Yes, here I am the rarity. How strange for me this is. How strange indeed for my western eyes. Here, in Kolkata, India, in the State of West Bengal, where every boy has the same hair cut, every man the same mustache, and every women the same hairstyle, the African American with western clothes and the southern accent is peculiar.

But for my western eyes, when they were ready to see, saw this world much differently. My downcast head only allowed me to escape momentarily. Soon, looking down forced me to witness children sleeping on the street. Infants playing only inches away from raging traffic while their parents rested on the concrete that I use as a sideway and that they use as a home. My lowered head forced my eyes to see the brokenness of elderly women, probably widows, with tattered clothing and missing limbs, unable to stand, unable to walk, unable to work, unable to eat, only able to sit on the fringes of life and death. And when I closed my eyes, feeling tired and betrayed by myself whether morning or night, still I was unable to escape my surroundings. My dreams were filled with them. And in the mornings, during my breakfast, I could hear the cries of a child, wails from the depths of his empty belly, the same hour I filled mine.

How strange is this world that we live in. How strange indeed. Here, I am odd, a foreigner, a stranger, a phenomenon, while poverty, begging, homelessness, and disparity remain the norm. Here the African American and her western garb are displeasing ascetically, while the tattered clothes and dirt covered innocent faces of children are the rule. Here my presence is continually queried while the perpetuation of the continued commodification of the bodies of women of all ages goes unquestioned. How strange is this world that we live in, how strange indeed.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Checking in ...

... it feels like it has been so long since we've had a chance to reach out, connect, reflect here. Internet seems sparse, and when it is available, our tiredness and fatigue seem to so insubordinantly rush in.

Needless to say, the last few weeks have been amazing beyond words, phrases, or pictures. Here is the blowby version, though, of what is burning in our hearts and minds these days ...


In Chennai, our hearts were broken as we walked through the memorials of the Word Made Flesh children who have passed from life into eternity. Their headstones, tangled among the hundreds of monuments in the cemetary, were stone monuments of courage and conviction. These children died with dignity and with love. And yet, we can hear their cries from beyond their graves, echoing in the eerie silence we found lurking within the cemetary walls, on behalf of their brothers and sisters, our brothers and sisters, who are the among the poorest of the poor in this world. Who will care for them? Who will respond? Will we? Will I?

As we sat in silence, with thoughts and prayers and emptiness, a small hearst pulled into the dirt drive. As it passed, the open door revealed but a glimpse of the tiny coffin within. It was a child ... someone's beloved. Another who walked through the valleys. Another who reminded us of the gift of life, if we choose to give it. If we choose to share in the sacrifice that brings about abundance ...

Later that day, as we travelled with "Arthi" and "Devi," sweet sisters and dear friend, I again saw abundance. Arthi noticed I was scared of the raging traffic on laneless Indian roadways. I've almost been hit. I've been in a car that hit someone. I've seen an accident happen. I've had dinner with an old man who is recovering from a hit-and run. I never said a word, but Arthi noticed ... as we winded through the city streets, and were preparing to cross yet another road, I looked up to see her wide smile beaming at me. Her tiny hand grabbed at mine and, positioning herself between me and the traffic, led me across the street.

Once we had made our way, she continued to squeeze my hand, laughing graciously, not letting me go. Even though I didn't "need" it in the moment, she still held on to me. Even when I felt comfortable, she still remained. Something akin to the Holy Spirit ...

Arthi and Devi didn't just touch me then. They begged Phileena Auntie to take them to a dress shop. Never before had they asked her for anything, and she eagerly obliged. As it were, the dress-shopping was a hoax. The sisters has planned the entire thing to get P into the dress shop to buy for her a salwar. P pleaded that they wouldn't ... that it was too much, too costly ... that she should be the one lavishing upon them.

But as I watched, I saw in their eyes the hearts of worship, the love of God within them. As they poured out their love, like the most expensive and fragrant of perfumes, on their dearest Phileena. As they sacrificed, in the most logical and rational of senses needlessly, from their version of an alabaster box. What grace, what love, what power in their gifts ... more than the tangible or practical items of clothing, this was a sign of extravagant love, of abundance, of grace in a world where scarcity menancingly looms. To have the heart that Arthi and Devi have for us, but for those who are most despised in this world ... to lavish our love upon them ... to be the light of Christ in darkness ... these are the lessons slowly, painfully, meticulously etching themselves upon our hearts ... God is here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

An Unlikely Cross

The worn plaster, tinged ever so slightly pink, formed the unintended shape of a Cross. Perhaps, in reality, it didn't -- ay random insterection of the rough interior facades could have formed the simple, perpendicular symbol that, for me, held so much meaning.

I found myself glancing at its unimpressive speldnor regularly. Just left of the single threadbare lightbulb that dimly lit the dngy walls we didn't completely wish to see. As things often go when traveling - as UNexpected - we had found ourselves hot, tired, but expectant in the city of Chennai. As we rode through kilometres of laneless traffic free-for-all, we found ourselves at our supposed residence ... but with no reservations.

Disheartened, we settled for a guest house a short "auto" ride away -- a place that Chris would describe as "really local." A place I was inclined to describe as a bit of a dump. The sipid heat only encouraged our disappointment - our new home was, even by missionary measure, filthy.

We set about, though, in high hopes, false as they perhaps were. While we were prepared to live simply, our exhaustion did not give way to the stark reality that we would now be "roughing it." Still, with electricity (when it remained connected - it failed without fail multiple times a day), a Wester toilet (of sorts - but still a luxury), and a television that blared Bollywood, we were still living as royalty compared to most of the city's population.

The cross on the wall took shape.

With each day, I could feel my body slowly adjusting to the stifling heat. The swelter of cobwebs and ants somehow began to go less and less noticed, even when one morning's sun awoke us to their infiltration of our packs. I slowly began to appreciate the tacky stickers, hidden by day, that illumined in day-glow green the paths of unknown stars and planets across our crumbling ceiling. We strung up simple rope, tied at one end to the decorative iron gate that guarded our second story window, coiled tightly at the other end to the protruding socket of our single light bulb. A makeshift clothesline, upon which we hung the assortment of "quick-dry" belongings harbored in our single packs, their colors providing a welcome interruption to the blank mauve walls of our small cell.

As we met more and more family and friends in Chennai, our own small room became more and more our sanctuary, our home. Amidst the busy Anna Nagar street, incessant beeping of traffic, blaring music arguing with the announcements of prayer from the miniaret of the nearby Mosque, the ringing phone always left unanswered, locks and chains and doors and rumbling fancs in a cacophony of opening and closing and keeping cool - somehow, in the midst of it all, we found peace.

And while the dim light from our lone lightbulb did little to keep the shadows of our tucked-away home at bay, it perfectly outlined the cross that became increasingly more clear, in my eyes and in my heart.

"You are the light of the world ..."

Hot. Sticky. Sweaty. Salty. Dingy. Dull. Dirty. Protruding. Inadequate. Low-Watt. But abundant to make clear the cross of Christ - that beautiful sign of hope and love in the midst of suffering and brokenness - strikingly clear in the place we'd least expect.

Psalm 23

"The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing."

Psalm 23:1, as displayed at Saint Thomas Mount in Chennai, India. What a difference, in context, a translation makes ...