honest hallelujahs

eucharisteo Tuesday


6,685. work + worship running together

6,478. mothers who want photos taken during hard seasons

Last night we took family photos with their whole clan. After the nine grandchildren were back inside, and the sun was quietly setting, Andi asked if we could finish with some portraits of her and Josh that somehow acknowledged and honored the difficult season that they’re in.

I’m sorry the past year or two has been a little dark, friends — but keep holding onto one another, and keep looking towards the light. Please see yourselves as others do — full of strength, courage, faithfulness, goodness, and beauty.

“Photography” means “writing with light,” and that’s what I wanted to say to you both with the fading light of yesterday. I hope you feel all of that when you see these photos — but if you need the translation…there it is.

Thank you for trusting me with your portraits, Rays. Bless you.

an honest hallelujah

kiss b.jpg

My mother’s parents.

I think about them and their story this time of year, because his birthday was February 12th, and now she spends her February 14th missing her sweetheart.

He died three Aprils ago, and my grandmother told some stories that no one had ever heard before. Nothing really shocking - the most surprising one was that she turned him down the first time he proposed. Just sweet, funny things, that made us all smile and that my songwriting husband wove into a song called “The Ballad of Donnie Gene.” Which, without fail, made me cry the first one hundred times I heard it.

It’s on Spotify, by The Arcadian Wild, and I whole-heartedly recommend that you listen to it — but really why I’m writing this, is because if you’ve already heard it - I wanted you to know that it’s true.

A couple weeks ago I met two sisters who drove from out of state to see the Wild play, whose favorite song is “Donnie Gene.” I talked with them afterwards, and I loved getting to share with them the meaning behind the lyrics, and brag on my grandparents’ loyalty and goodness.

Donnie, don’t give up on her — she won’t give up on you. This is their story in one line.

He first asked my grandmother to marry him when she was 16 or 17. But unlike most girls, she was not easily swept off her feet, and said - thank you, but I don’t have any business getting married yet. But she thought about the facts. The facts were — he was really kind. And handsome. And he really liked her. And he had a real job in Nashville. And she didn’t think she was going to get any better offers. So — I don’t know if she waited until he asked again, or mustered up the courage to tell him she had changed her mind. But she married him when she was 17, had my uncle at 18 and my mother at 20, and spent the next 50 years doing the very best she knew how to do. They both did.

Not long after their 50th anniversary, it was clear that he had Dementia. If you’ve seen a loved one walk through that - you know how heavy it is. She took care of him at their home the entire time, even though nothing about it was easy.

Donnie, don’t give up on her — she won’t give up on you.

I told all of that to those sisters I met who love this song. I wanted them to know it isn’t just a sweet, romantic song, but the very real story of two very real people who shared fifty years of beautiful and ordinary and hard moments. It’s a story of faithfulness and commitment and courage and doing the right thing, easy or not. That’s why I like hearing it. That’s why I’m proud to have it on my family tree.

It’s a great song. Listen below, if you’d like.

an honest hallelujah

"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers

Than those of us who are willing to fall

Because we have learned how to rise.


"With skinned knees and bruised hearts;

We choose owning our stories of struggle,

Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.


"When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we run from struggle, we are never free.

So we turn toward the truth and look it in the eye.

"We will not be characters in our stories.

Not villains. Not victims. Not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.

We write our own daring endings.

"We craft love from heartbreak,

Compassion from shame,

Grace from disappointment,

Courage from failure.

"Showing up is our power.

Story is our way home.

Truth is our song.

We are the brave and brokenhearted.

We are rising strong."

-- Brené Brown's "Manifesto of the Brave & Brokenhearted," Rising Strong

The good news is that she and I are learning how to rise strong - from Brené, from Mary Oliver, from Michelle Gardella, from Flannery and Joy and so many others. 

The honest part of that is - you have to fall down before you can truly learn to get back up. 

Honestly - she and I were both hurting. We found ourselves facedown, bruised and unsure, and looked around and said - "You too?" That's what fortified this friendship.

But hallelujah for this friendship. 

 And hallelujah that she and I are learning, and growing into braver artists, more merciful people, more faithful followers of Jesus. 

Hallelujah for this beautiful, strong friend of mine, who starts a new year of her life today, in more ways than one. 


Also - I have to thank and credit Michelle Gardella for teaching me the power of going to the River for portraits. She is the creator of River Stories, and is a force of empowerment and truth. Her work stirs my soul, and Melissa's, and we took these photos because we had to. I had to show Melissa the power and the beauty I see in her. Whether she knows it or not, Michelle helped create these photos, and I want her name written down with them. www.michellegardella.com