A Pilgrimage of Poetry: “You Are Not Alone”

A Pilgrimage of Poetry: “You Are Not Alone”

“Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.” So said Anna Elkins, as she led a poetry writing class at the Bethel Writers Workshop. I never had any desire to write poetry, but when I heard Anna share a poem she had written at the Welcome Session, the beauty of her words drew me in. I figured I would give it a go. Instructed to use our five senses to explore the world around us, we were sent off to find inspiration in whatever caught our attention, from the beautiful to the mundane. I knew instinctively where I wanted to go. I didn’t realize that the writing I’d create would affect me so much. Since when is poetry supposed to do that? This poem is for anyone who is facing uncertainty in life. In the middle of your circumstances, I pray these words will help you to find hope. And peace. You are not alone.   “Not Alone” by Lorraine Marie Varela   I walk the halls from my place of safety and step out into the world unknown.   The coolness of the halls brought comfort; their sights and sounds wrapped me in the familiarity of days gone by. My childhood was spent within the sanctuary of halls such as these.   I leave the coolness the chatter the peace and step out into the light the quiet the heat as I journey toward the unfamiliar.   Up ahead I know I will encounter dust and rocks. Dust and rocks.   But is there more?   The shade of the tree welcomes me to come and sit within its shelter.   In...
Finding Hope When You’re Facing an Impossible Situation

Finding Hope When You’re Facing an Impossible Situation

I love to use the Internet. “Information at your fingertips.” Sometimes it’s hard to remember what life was like before Google, Wikipedia, web browsers and search engines—all ready at our whim to dispense advice as we search for answers to our questions, from the meaningful to the mundane. This knowledge gives us power—or at least, the sense of control over our situation and environment. The answer to any problem that faces us is just a mouse-click away. If only it were that easy… This thirst for knowledge has been around since the beginning of time—knowledge that was passed down from one generation to another. Skills were taught from parent to child, a trusted pattern for survival. Until one day, the trusted methods failed to work, and instead of a positive outcome, an impossible situation loomed in its place.   Luke 5:1-11 The Miracle Catch of Fish   Simon Peter was a fisherman who faced an impossible situation. He’d been out fishing in his boat all night, doing all the right things—fishing in the right places, at the right time, with the right equipment, just as he had learned and done many times before—but he came up empty-handed without a single fish for all his efforts. Tired and frustrated, Peter was on the shore taking care of his nets when a Man got into his boat nearby. The Man said to Peter, “Let me use your boat.” The Man was Jesus. Peter got into the boat with Jesus and pushed off, so that Jesus could teach the people while in the boat. When Jesus finished His teaching, He turned his attention to Peter...
5 Unusual Ways Listening Better Will Immediately Improve Your Relationships

5 Unusual Ways Listening Better Will Immediately Improve Your Relationships

Listening is an art that is developed. It requires discipline and engages all that you are.” If you’re like most people I know, you want to be a good listener. Listening well is not always easy to do, especially with all the distractions that constantly compete for our attention. Even after fourteen years of practicing the art of listening—opening my Bible to read the Word and hear the quiet whisper of the Lord as He then speaks to my heart—it still is a challenge for me to be still. It’s difficult to turn off those internal and external distractions that cause me to lose focus. But I’ve found that this is often the key I need, so that I can listen well. This devotional, which is included in my book Powerful Moments in the Presence of God, was impressed to me as I practiced being still so that I could listen to God. It’s a message I’ve returned to many times…I guess because I need this reminder often, so that I can put it into practice. What I find most interesting is that when I am intentional to listen closely, it not only improves my relationship with God, but also with others.   Five Unusual Ways Listening Better Will Immediately Improve Your Relationships—With God and With Others You will receive deeper truth—revelation from the Bible that will impact your life. You will become sensitized to the needs of those around you. You will change your behavior. You will learn and grow. You will draw near.   Each of these concepts build on the other. It’s so cool! If you want to immediately...
A Step of Faith

A Step of Faith

*7 countries. **5 states. ***28 cities. These are the places I traveled to and photographed that ended up featured in my devotional book, Powerful Moments in the Presence of God. And as I look at those numbers, I just can’t help but think, “That’s all?” I have such a love for travel and adventure that doesn’t quit. Just ask my husband, Gabriel! But what a blessing this collection of images represents…the places we’ve visited and the people we’ve met have made a lasting impression on our hearts. Like this photograph of our sweet friends Natanel and Eliza with their boys. I’ve known Eliza since she was 17 years old. I photographed their beautiful, unforgettable wedding. I’ve taken more photos of their family than nearly any other. So when I wanted to get out and take some photos of people for my book, of course they immediately came to mind. There is so much I love about this image: the highest hillside in our area that gives a sweeping panoramic vista of Seattle and the Olympic mountain range, and the real-life moment of a family moving forward, each one traveling at his own pace—dad leading the family, mom making sure the kids are okay, the boys lost in the wonder of childhood. “No one starts his or her journey of life with perfect faith. Faith increases step by step, day by day.” (click to tweet) It is the words impressed on my heart by the Spirit of God, combined with the image, that gives this devotional so much depth of meaning to me.  Because just days after this photo shoot took place,...
The Making of a Book Cover

The Making of a Book Cover

We drove into Seattle on New Year’s Eve. I convinced my husband, Gabriel, that we could take some beautiful photos of the fireworks going off over the Space Needle. The night was warm and clear—definitely a treat for the Pacific Northwest, and something we hadn’t seen often in the years we’d lived here. Unfortunately, the idea came a little too late. By the time we entered the city, the streets were full and not a single parking spot was to be found for miles. We quickly turned around and set back for home, celebrating the beginning of the New Year in our car while stopped at a red light. That’s one way to do it! Not to be deterred, I decided that before dawn, it would be worth the risk to drive 70 miles in the opposite direction to see if we could see the sunrise over Mt. Rainier from beautiful Gig Harbor, Washington. It was a risk, because often the mountain is covered over by early morning fog, and you just never know if you’re going to be successful. This time, it was a risk that paid off! For 45 minutes, we stood in awe as we watched the most beautiful dawn break open over the Gig Harbor marina. The stillness of the water, the impressive mountain and the colors that unfolded had me mesmerized. I didn’t want to look anywhere else…until this caught my eye. I had never seen ivy shaped so distinctly as this before. Hearts on a vine, glistening with the morning frost. As I stood taking pictures, a woman approached us with her camera in...