better off without it

our month-long “fast” on facebook and other social media is only about three-quarters of the way through, but already i’ve drawn some conclusions. already, and in spite of the fact that i haven’t been very pure in my keeping of this fast, i can see that my life is not made better by facebook or the reading of blogs. in some ways, it is probably made a touch worse.

i can see already that without it as a fall-back activity into which i rush at those moments when i’m not sure what to do next, i choose things that have more life and more fruit. i have been more creative in these last three and a half weeks. and more present. and my mind less noisy. i have made things, both good things to eat and things out of fabric.

i have been outside, eating meals or sipping a beverage on the front porch or in the yard, sometimes alone during hazel’s naps, sometimes the tree of us sharing a meal, and sometimes outside with friends. watering the garden and spending many moments examining the soil for the first signs of seedlings, which always thrill me to discover. outside holding my baby’s hand as she walks more and more like a big girl, side-by-side with me, up and down the sidewalk and through the grass.

and my business has not, i don’t think, suffered form my facebook absence. i’ve popped onto facebook here and there to address business messages, to update a business status, or to upload a photo. but i don’t think it’s made much of a difference. i am more confident in my identity as a creative artist now, more sure of the product that i offer and the heart that i carry into it that makes my photography its own, valuable thing. that tends to make me strive a little less to “sell” myself and my work. still, i’m not sure it is a prudent thing to ditch facebook and other social media altogether when one is trying to build and maintain this sort of business, so i know i won’t be giving into that unthinkable dream of going off the facebook grid.

and i have found that pinterest actually hold potential to enhance my life a bit. for instance, it taught me how to make my own deodorant and “beach hair” hair spray, both of which i did this week. and it’s brought me to many delicious and wholesome recipes that i’ve been trying out. and it has given me inspiration and guidance in making a crafted present for hazel’s first birthday. pinterest, if you actually step back and DO the things it aims to inspire you to do, can enhance life. a bit.

and blogs. well, there are probably only a small number that actually are worth sticking to. and they are the ones that talk to me about how to be a whole-hearted and present mom, and how to press into Jesus for each day’s needs. i sense that a purging of blog subscriptions might be in order.

facebook. oh, love and hate mingled! what an ambivalent relationship. but i’m thinking that keeping it within the confines of one, maybe two, days of each week will be the new normal. because i love the freedom of mind and time that has come from keeping it within bounds this month.

so there’s where i’m at. and here’s some of the beauty i’ve been indulging in and creating during this fast:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




this morning, with our wonderful little church family and some of my natural family, too, tim and i dedicated hazel to God. hazel’s little buddy lilia was dedicated, too, by hear parents ryan and alicia. (alicia and i get together each week with our girls. they are three months apart in age. so this was very special to do together).

tony and jeremy lead us through the event, charging us to take seriously the priviledge and weight of shepherding our girls’ hearts. remember always and most of all to pray for them, jeremy said, especially when we see God doing things in their lives that we might not understand. and tony exhorted our families (spiritual and natural) to love God before these girls, as that is what makes the biggest difference in terms of making Jesus desirable to children. tony and jeremy know us and they know hazel. and i could feel their affection toward us and commitment to us as they led us through this moment of dedication.

we shared some of our kingdom hopes for hazel, along with some scriptures we have on our hearts for her. i’m going to record here what we said, so that we can remember. and so that our Collier family who lives so far away and could not be present can also know. 🙂

Kingdom Hopes


  • that she would know Father’s love for her personally and intimately
  • that she would not carry burdens the world wants to put on her, but that she would dream far and wide, seeking Jesus’ kingdom as an outflow of that intimate relationship with Him.


  • that she be filled with supernatural joy and lead with that foot (water) and have a clear and bold voice of truth and discernment (fire)
  • that she learn to hear and obey her Shepherd’s voice from an early age, and walk by the Spirit her whole life


  •  “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:30-32 NLT)
  •  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

We presented the girls with hand-made bible covers for their Jesus Storybook Bibles, crafted by me and alicia. And then everyone clustered around us and prayed over our families. The prayers of our friends and family over hazel are so precious to me, not mention powerful and effective, i am sure.

And now, here is a little slideshow of some of the photos from this very special morning. It was really a beautiful time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

11 (thirty-two)

i turned thirty-two on monday.

i woke up in a really rotten mood. everything seemed wrong and the sky was grey and heavy with impending rain. we were supposed to go to the hytta for the day, which is one of my favorite places on earth. but we couldn’t leave first thing in the morning as hoped because we had a flat tire that needed to be serviced first. pouty, i said perhaps we ought to just stay home because we’d have to turn around only 4.5 hours after getting there. but we went anyway.

within 5 minutes of being there, everything with well with my soul once more. i don’t know how to explain the shalom that rests on that place, and how it ends up resting on your shoulders, too, when you step foot onto the property.

we didn’t do much. just watched hazel play and explore, ate some lunch and drank some wine, took naps, listened to the rain. but it was enough. it was just right.

then we headed back into town to have dinner with two other families that have both been dear friends of mine and are getting to know one another in recent months. our three families get together from time to time to have a world-class potluck and to pray about the dreams in our hearts. it was lovely to spend a bit of my birthday with these favorite friends. and they made me chocolate cake with espresso buttercream frosting. yes, it was really good. so was the salmon. oh my.

thirty-two feels a little more threatening than 30 and 31 did, however. it seems frighteningly close to Mid-Thirties, which scares me a touch. still, i’m much happier being in my 30s than i was in my 20s.

happy birthday, me.

6 (a lovely sabbath day)

in our house, saturdays are sabbath days. they are the days that we avoid housework and intentionally put ourselves to the work of resting. yes, i DO think that resting is work for most of us modern americans who are so accustomed to running around in endless circles of productivity and efficiency!

some weeks we do sabbath well. other weeks it seems we waste it. but today we spent it well, i think.

this morning we had cinnamon rolls. i haven’t ever made cinnamon rolls before. they were gluten-free. and we ate them after we had put hazel down for her morning nap, so that she wouldn’t grunt and wave her arms with demands to be allowed to partake (why taunt her with something she cannot have anyway?). paired with a particularly smooth cup of french press coffee made by tim, it was a real treat, and the end to our lenten fast.

we went to the tenderos house mid-day, along with the hammonds. our little played together on the floor while we talked about church and continuing in prayer, and the building of kingdom family and how to discern God’s guiding. it was rich conversation, followed by a delightful potluck lunch composed of fresh and real foods from three women who love to cook, then listening prayer.

this afternoon, tim and hazel and i went to Blandford and had a long walk on the Back 40 trail. the weather and the light were perfect. i left my camera at home because sometimes when i want to be the most present to my life, leaving the camera behind is best. we sat a while in the grass afterward, appreciating the quite of that space compared to our own backyard, flanked as it is by ally and street with many passers-by. hazel was so very content; being outside does something to her.

waiting for babies and celebrating my own

i am waiting for babies to be born. four of them, in fact. four babies due this month, one to my dear cousin in philadelphia, who is already 12 days past her estimated due date, so i can only imagine the emotional space she is occupying as she waits for little August to make his debut. another one is due to my cousins in the lansing area, and i will be going to the birth to photo-document it. and two more due to women i only recently met, but whom are allowing me the privilege of coming into their homes and documenting with my camera the miracles of small lives being born into their homes. i am carrying my cell phone close at all times, awaiting the calls announcing labor has begun, so that i can begin to pray and to pack my camera bag.

my own baby turned 9 months old on thursday. she is sitting on the rug in the living room right now, talking happily to herself and playing with her toys, stopping to look at me and laugh. she understands “can mama have a kiss?” and “where is da?” and “do you want some mama milk?” and “goodnight” and “more”. it’s incredible to see her respond to words, to begin to comprehend their meaning, and to respond accordingly. how does this happen?! it astounds me.

she has begun to take steps within the last two weeks. she’s getting rather good at it. i haven’t got a good photograph of her in action yet, because both of my hands are occupied with holding hers will she makes her way across the room. she wants to stand and to practice walking all the time these days, which is a lot of spotting and supporting work for me. still, she does not crawl. not even a bit; she just wails whenever she finds herself in the unfortunate position of being on her belly.

she loves thai food and roasted chickpeas, egg yolks and strawberries, and to drink water out of her own little cup.

her hobbies include pulling all the books off her bookcase, playing peek-a-boo by averting or covering her face then popping out with an expectant smile, being turned upside down over and over, dancing to music with strong hand-drum rhythms, eating food, and playing with toddlers.

what a miracle this continues to be.


a new creative project

a sample of what's involved in this creative project: daily diptychs of beauty in the midst of gritty

jointly undertaken with my dear jenn, who lives 0.4 miles from me.

it’s another year of mornings with a heart of gratitude for what’s beautiful in the midst of grit.

you can see us here. (don’t forget to subscribe).

9 of 101: date night at sardine

i like food. i like getting just a tad bit dressed up and sitting down to eat food that someone else made; someone who is a better cook than i. and so, of course, i put it on my list of 101 in 1001 to go to one of madison’s finer restaurants. i didn’t realize when i wrote that list, how soon afterward we’d be moving away from madison. so this one almost didn’t happen.

BUT, a few days before our move, we were given some gift money from two different wonderful people (you know who you are), for the sole purpose of going out to eat. we went to Sardine, which is funky and fresh and right by lake monona. oh, how wonderful to be allowed to go out to eat without counting up the total bill in your head while ordering. we could simply order what we liked, guilt-free. we still didn’t do appetizers or a salad course, but it wasn’t because we didn’t have money, it was because we simply don’t have room in our bellies for all that food!

here is a little photographic journey through our date.

and, how good to have this special evening with t in the midst of all our packing, loading, moving, and hosting friends….because for two weeks we are apart… until we can settle in together in Grand Rapids together for the long haul. hooray and amen!

waking up 30

and i woke up thinking about faces. the faces of friends who have loved me well in my life.

and then i thought about this website i’ve launched and all that implies about another season of a different sort of work. i send it out into the world with a prayer that it will return to me achieving the purposes for which God has sent it forth.

and then i thought about this house that we’ve put in an offer on today, even though the pathway to getting the necessary financing for it is laden with obstacles and a delicate balance of timing things just so. and i know that, if we get into this house, we will say only, “it is God who has done this, and not we.” amen.

and then i thought about my body and the decreasing energy and increasing softness of it. i thought that the days of getting by without exercise might be over. that part didn’t make me feel so happy.

but mostly i am very pleased to have arrived here at 30, with a decade of 20s to look back at with gratitude for all that i have been brought through and been given, and all that i have become.

here i am far more comfortable in my own skin than i could have imagined being at 23.

here i have a story to tell, and the fruit of years of wrestling with God to harvest and pass out to hungry spirits.

here i am a woman, redeemed by the Living One, with a confident step and clarity of purpose.

here it is 70 degrees and sunny, which is my favorite weather. and so i think i’ll get on my bicycle and go to the park.

my cup runneth over: a testimony of discipleship

we always talk over tea or coffee (like this)

on this day i feel like a cup dribbling over with abundance, abounding joy over the life of Christ in my three disciples. this job is the greatest job because i’m not doing anything at all, except to sit with them for a bit each week and try to keep myself open to the Spirit and then to remind them, a million times in a million different ways, to lean into the strong arms of the Father and to pause long enough, always, to hear Him. and to trust Him, trust Him, trust Him. this is the first thing. because when we finally throw our arms out to the sides and free-fall into that grace we are never disappointed and will not suffer shame.

and so this semester i’ve seen them all do that. and as a consequence, there are stories rolling in [like mighty rushing water on the low side of a dam] of how He has rescued, healed, rearranged, paradigm-shifted, transformed, and mobilized them.

C i learning let herself be loved, to hold her little cup out in front of her and let the drops fall in instead of shielding herself from their grace. she is learning to move in and to stick it out, to risk trusting. she is acting as a big sister with a fierce tenderness that protects and challenges. she perceives her community around her with uncanny clarity, mixed with patient compassion. and she is softer than she was before, and glowing.

L is falling desperately in love with the man of jesus, who astounds her heart with such regularity that she posts a litany of praises on her facebook wall. and the Father is parenting her because she’s letting Him, and as she does, we’re seeing the She that she really is emerge, brushing the dust off her wings and spreading them in the morning sunlight. she has courageously looked both herself and her God in the face, and has a glowing countenance to show for it.

and M is wearing a crown now and it’s called joy. and it’s consistent and resilient; it cannot be stolen. she’s tasted and seen and now knows by heart that she is Loved and more than Okay. and the gifts planted in her, which are strong and wise, discerning and disarming, are being worn with innocent confidence. she’s picking up her camera, opening her heart, and raising her voice… all offered as gifts to the rest of us.

so i am praising praising praising today the only God i know who can work miracles in the most intimate places of the human heart. the only God who can re-write psychological, emotional, and genetic make-up, who can accomplish more in 5 minutes of presence than i could in 5 years of counseling. the God who leads with a wisdom so profound it seems foolish; who knows when to take a thing away from us for a bit so that He can give it back to us rightly ordered. a God who is a father to the fatherless, a husband to the husband-less, a friend to the friendless, a teacher to the unknowing, and a guide to the disoriented. He is so very good at being God.

already in my personal story i have a zillion reasons to love Him, but when i also get to witness His faithfulness to my friends….

o. my cup runneth over.

this week in our life…

living with the poor reads more romantically than it is. i mean, we’re barely putting a single toe in the water, but even in choosing the intention of being available and responsive… interruptible… to the poor among us, it’s already sorta rough. like when phil down the street always forgets who we are and that he’s already tried asking us for money before, and we’ve turned him down, but now he wants to use our phone. so we sit on the front porch of  the dilapidated boarding house he calls home and talk to his housemate rio whilst he makes what seems like 15 calls on t’s cell phone, then asks for a ride somewhere. meanwhile, i really want to get in our car and drive back to the house where we saw a fantastic piece of furniture on the curb, up for grabs. but by the time we get away from the porch of phil’s house, it’s been taken by someone else. someone who didn’t stop to let a down-and-out guy use their cell phone. i’m more disappointed by this than i have any right to be.

dinner at the Winnebago house tonight had all the house inhabitants (minus jon, who left a homemade pumpkin pie in his place and the pences who are visiting family), plus me and t, neel and kaia, and jake’s brother pete. we sat around one long table and ate family style, which isn’t usually possible because there’s too many folks. but i guess lots of people were still away with their families for thanksgiving. harmony and eric made a mexican pizza, i brought some fried rice, and there were like 4 kinds of pie, 3 kinds of bread, veggie platter and frozen yogurt. anyway, all of this had a cozy family feel (we seem at ease with one another by now). i didn’t leave my seat all night, but had great conversations with the 5 friends who took their place beside me to chat for a spell.

t and i have been on our laptops too much today. there was lots of photo editing to do. and then photo-ordering (for frames in our apartment, for gifts for family, etc.) t has been tackling his email inbox with singular focus unusual for him. he seems to have forgotten that i’m occupying the apartment with him, so intense is his purposeful email sorting and deleting.

this is the beautiful face of claire, which i was staring at for hours today while i edited the photos i snapped of her on her 3-week birthday (for more, see here).

my SIL jess gave birth yesterday. oh, how i had hoped to be able to get in the car and drive over to Milwaukee to see her and daniel, little sam, and baby elijah hours after the birth. but, sadly, eli is in the nicu trying to learn how to breath, as he was born with fluid on his little lungs. of course, he’ll be okay, but i’m sad for jess and dan for this somewhat traumatic first two days, in which they aren’t getting the amount of bonding time that they desire and need. but here is little eli, with a shocking head full of dark hair and a nose that i think is undeniably collier-esque.

one of my Transit girls has left us. on some level, i know it’s normal for the second-guessing and temptation to leave to set in at about this point in their year. but it’s been extremely hard on me to watch her go, to see her decide for something else and, after a week of hard conversations and up-and-down emotions, to bid her farewell, praying for the best for her. the three remaining are standing in strength and a lot of mutual love for one another and i’m so very proud of them.

so now there is “chick church.” i know that e would rather i not call it that, only we haven’t found a suitable alternative yet. chick church is a handful of women whose names were each distinctly pressed onto my heart, who come to breakfast at our place on sunday mornings (so far only twice) and dig into one another’s lives and hearts, also studying the Word together and engaging in listening-prayer for one another. and so far it is very good.

yesterday i got to talk to a wonderful woman whom i’ve always short-handedly called w. there’s one particular thing that she said, full of truth, which i want to remember, so i’ll record it here: “God is always building something. either inside of you or around you.” yes! he is always building, even in those seasons that seem like so much dead space. i guess in the Kingdom there is no such thing as dead space; nothing is wasted.

i got some more things hung on walls this weekend, which felt nice. suddenly this area above our dining room table feels so much warmer. there is a hodge-podge of articles framed here. clockwise from top left: a prayer-room relic snatched from the SBR prayer garage last year, tim and WE International Founder/friend in the Sahara desert, an acacia tree photo inscribed with Psalm 1:3, Lake Michigan relics in a shadow box, and the Tendero’s dining room table.

so, we’ve said “no” to the offer to lead that trip to algeria in january, for no reason other than that we sat down and listened a while and heard Him say the word Stay. now we’re kinda camping out on that command to Stay… wondering what it’s about… for how long and in what way and where precisely to stay. does it mean buying property in our neighborhood, bearing children here, deciding no longer to waver about our role in the Madison Boiler Room, to abandon daydreams about our next move? (i’m reminded of jeremiah 29:4-7).

thanksgiving morning was sorta special in our family of two. i woke up before t did and whipped up some pancakes, which we topped with the leftover berry sauce i’d prepared as a topping of the homemade ice cream we ate with the Transit girls the night before. we had a french press and sat around the table a while lounging and talking casually. here is a scene that i love – t at the table, coffee mug in hand, bed head not yet corrected:

and after this we drove to Milwaukee to celebrate with the collier clan. what a spread of food and goodly number of people were present. we had roasted potatoes with kale (me), gingery apple-yam-plantain saute (me), turkey (linda), mashed potatoes (jess), wild rice (lisa), green bean casserole (linda), pumpkin pie (nathan), and orange salad (linda). sam was a little show-off. and, because they couldn’t be with us from Pittsburgh, we made flat versions of ben, lisa, and little sophia and took turns posing with them (missed you guys!).

no, i haven’t been cooking anything particularly interesting or amazing lately. (well, t might beg to differ, as he was terribly fond of that homemade GF pizza we had last night. he said that it was so good he wanted to punch something, which is his newest form of highest compliment).