ring out the old, ring in the new.

sunrise
“the goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe to match your nature with nature.” ~ joseph campbell

i have mixed emotions about 2012.

i’m usually a bit sad to see the end of the year come, like i’m losing  an old friend. but i must admit, i’m more than happy to let my  2012 chapter come to a close. and, while 2012 has given me some wonderful, amazing moments & experiences, there are many moments that i would rather not ever repeat. of course, i know that i would not be where i am, who i am, and ready for the new year, without having gone through all the moments of 2012. but, still, it’s time to move on. and i am so ready.

so, you see. mixed emotions.

yes, 2012 was a crazy balance of fear, pain, and suffering; and finding something new & strong within myself. it was a combination of soaking up  life like i’d never done before & being afraid of my love literally losing her life. it was a time of discovering my bliss and at the same time discovering the depths of despair.

but more than anything, 2012 was a year that taught me the art of truly living one day at a time. and i learned how to truly do that out of the sheer need for survival on some days and out of the joy of sheer bliss on other days.

looking back, it all makes sense now. of course, life is always like that, right? it works itself out, or at least clarifies itself as time progresses. and i love where i am now. do i want to go through it all again? hell no. not the pain & fear of losing my love. not the months spent alone in sweden. yet, because of all of that uncertainty, fear, homesickness, loneliness, and anger, i have grown as a person. i have defined myself even more. i have fallen in love with my love even more. and i have learned that one day at time, life reveals herself as a beautiful, strange, difficult, and amazing journey.

me

now, there are only a few hours left in 2012. a few hours to spend with my parents & my love. a few hours to countdown the last moments of this year, and celebrate the beginning of a new one. yes, it’s time to look forward.

as one person i met in 2012 said to me & my love… “there is only one way. framåt! forward!”

yes, i am thankful (i say that with a twinge and  squint in my eye, because it is true, but still it is hard to say) for everything that happened in 2012, to get me to this day. but, it’s time to close this chapter and move on.

and i love that there are tons of new adventures on the horizon. i love that my love is following her dreams. i love that there is so much travel in my future. i love that i have found my bliss, that which makes my soul dance. i love that i will be sharing all of these adventures with my love. i love that i have dreams that i am working to make reality.

2013 is about making it happen. it’s about grabbing life, living it up, chasing those dreams down, living my bliss, and having one adventure after another. it’s about changes & opportunities. and those changes and opportunities are so welcome.

so, farewell, 2012. you have been tough on me and beautiful for me all at the same time. thank you for your gift of teaching me even more about what it means to live in the present moment. i bid you goodbye, and your chapter comes to an end.

tomorrow, i begin again with a beautiful, blank page just waiting to be filled with words, photos, doodles, and adventures.

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

― Alfred Tennyson

wishing you all peace & love & celebrations as you say goodbye to 2012. i hope that your year has taught you, changed you, and transformed you. i pray that you can leave it behind with a sense of accomplishment and peace.

all my love to all of you.

flying solo in december.

well, there are only 2 days until december begins. who’s jumping for joy with me? yes, i am super duper excited, even though it is an usually stressful time of the year for most of us. however, this year, i don’t feel as stressed as before. hopefully that says a lot for lessons i’ve learned and wisdom i have acquired with age. ya gotta gain something as the years pass, right? anyway, the holiday season is upon us and 2012 is quickly coming to a close. if we let it, the days can slip right past us and we might miss of all of the little joys hidden in every day.

one way that i try to ease the speed of time, the craziness of life, and the tendency to just stumble from day to day is to try (not always successfully) to slow down and savor the little things in life.

 in 2012 i decided to take pictures. to photograph ordinary things. through this discipline of following a photo a day challenge, having a promt, and seeking out a way to capture that word with an image, i have approached life with new eyes. i have created my own art. i have found a voice through my camera. and it has been so inspiring. i’m so bad at keeping a discipline going, but this, i actually have accomplished. go me.

i stumbled onto fatmumslim‘s photo a day challenge in the end of february and i have accepted her monthly challenges all the way up through october – making it through the dry spells & the feeling energized by the inspiring moments. and believe me, there have been ups & downs, moments when i thought i just couldn’t, or shouldn’t, continue. but, i hung in there. in november, i found another inspiring woman seeking to focus on positivity and life, and i joined her gratitude photo challenge. i have thoroughly enjoyed these challenges, and i thank these two women for letting their creativity be my muse in 2012.

of course i will be taking part in a december photo a day challenge. without it, the year would feel incomplete. but for this month, i am doing something totally different…

i created my own list!!

yes, for the month of december, belovelive has it’s own photo a day challenge. it just felt right to challenge myself and to close this crazy year this way. i have had a ton of fun creating the list, and i pulled out all of my creativity energy to help me get it done.

the list does have a christmas/holiday twist to it, but it is inspired by deeper theological & spiritual themes as well. it is something that one can pay attention or not. there is an intention with almost all of the words; words & themes i pulled from the christian season of advent (the days leading up to christmas day) and words & themes i pulled from other world religions. for me, the december photo challenge will be a spiritual discipline. a way to slow down in this hurried season & remember what is most important: hope, love, joy, and peace. it is a month for me to use my photos to look outward at the world, and to go inward & reflect on my place in the world, and my calling to make a difference wherever i am.

of course, the challenge is something just for fun too! it need not be something so deep. the words are ordinary words & can be interpreted however by whomever. that’s the beauty of art: it’s in the eye of the beholder. and everyone is an artist.

so, hang with me throughout december! join in the photo fun. reflect on your life – where you have been, where you are now, & where you are going. slow down & savor the magic of the season. and enjoy creating your own art. or just snap pictures for fun! do it however you want, but i’d love for you to join in!

here’s how you do it!

  • save the photo challenge list somewhere and check it daily. or bookmark this page so you can check back often.
  1. you can right click & save the image from this page onto your desktop.
  2. follow me on instagram at @lizslens & save the image to your phome
  3. follow me on twitter @elre74 & save the image on your phone/desktop
  • let the word of the day inspire you and snap away! use your mobile phone, your smart phone, or your camera.
  • share your photo: upload it to instagram, Facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog. wherever.
  • if you are posting to twitter or instagram, use the hashtag #bllphotoaday.
  • the red days are the weekends. i just wanted to break up the days a little & make it a little more colorful. hehe.

and here’s a little more about the prompts, if you need a little inspiration to get started. of course, these are my thoughts. interpret them however you want. take whatever pictures you want.  just enjoy while you shoot! make it your challenge!

  1. red – snag a pic of something red. it’s the color of the season & dec. 1 is world aids day. so when you snap, think & remember!
  2. hope – today is the first sunday in the season of advent. the theme of the day is, you guessed it. hope. take a pic of something/someone that gives you hope, or something you hope for.
  3. waiting – what are you waiting for? advent is a season of waiting, it’s the days leading up to christmas. shoot a moment of waiting in your day. waiting in line, waiting for a person, waiting for food, waiting on an elevator…
  4. tree – snap a pic of a beautiful tree. inside or outside. there are tons to be seen this time of year!
  5. message – did you receive a message today? do you have a message for someone? if you could give a message to the world, what would it be? write a message or snap one you received or see somewhere when you’re out & about.
  6. rock – find some rocks, create some rocks, is there a person who has been a rock in your life? rocks are obstacles in our way many times. is there something standing in your way? keeping you from following your dreams & being your best self? be creative with your pic!
  7. table – a sofa table, a dinner table, a decorated table. any kind of table will do – a place where people gather together.
  8. stranger – sometimes strangers can be the most inspiring & amazing people. snap a shot of someone who crosses your path today.
  9. love – it’s the second sunday in advent. today we focus on love. love that overcomes all obstacles, that loves everyone exactly as they are. love that has no borders. who do you love? how can you capture a picture of love? what is a symbol of love for you?
  10. candles – shoot some beautiful candles in your home, in a store, on a menorah, or wherever you find them. and remember that people of the jewish faith begin hanukkah today.
  11. daily news – what’s happening in the world or in your neighborhood today? sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we forget to look at our neighbors & see what is happening to them. today, take a photo of a current event, something happening, the newspaper.
  12. lights – we love lights at christmas! snap away!
  13. ordinary – here’s your chance to create art. look at regular things with new eyes. snap a picture of something is ordinary, and yet beautiful.
  14. celebration – are you celebrating something today? if so, take a picture of it. if not, create a reason to celebrate. and shoot it!
  15. gifts – take a snapshot of a gift you have received, or one that you will give away. or gifts under your tree. or gifts in a window display. or gift wrappers.
  16. joy – today is the third sunday in advent. a day of joy! even though there is suffering, darkness, & bad news in our ordinary lives… today we choose to be joyful. we choose to find joy. what brings you joy? how can you capture a moment of joy?
  17. listening – what are you listening to? what do you hear? what are people saying? what sounds do you hear?
  18. old/new – get creative and take 2 pictures today. contrast something old with something new. perhaps a tradition, or people, or whatever!
  19. carols – snap a shot of your fave christmas/holiday/winter song. is it an oldie? or something new? or take a photo of people singing carols.
  20. simple – the season can be so hurried & rushed. find something that is simple, calming, & beautiful today a shoot it!
  21. cold – happy first day of winter & shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere)! take a pic of something cold… snow, ice, your hands, water…
  22. elephant – hindus don’t celebrate christmas, but they do recognize jesus & celebrate a festival of lights after christmas. it’s a time to begin again & heal all old mistakes. snap a photo of an elephant, or something that reminds you of a elephant in honor of new beginnings.
  23. peace – today is the 4th sunday in advent. shoot a pic of something that brings you peace, or a way you work for peace, or a symbol of peace. what is peace to you? how can you be a peacemaker?
  24. silent – christmas eve is here! a day of last minute rushing, the beginning of family craziness, and busy preparations. find a moment to breathe. is there any moment of silence & quiet in your day? snap a pic late at night, or early in the morning, or at church, or just being.
  25. family – merry christmas!! happy holidays!! share a picture of your family today, whether it’s a big family or a tiny family, and any & every kind of family in between. let’s wish each other a merry christmas… from one family to another.
  26. black – in the states, african americans celebrate the cultural holiday, kwanzaa beginning today. take a picture of something black in remembrance of the fight for justice for all people all over the world.
  27. meditation – buddhism is known for its focus on meditation & inner peace. though they don’t celebrate christmas, buddhists do celebrate the spirit of christmas… generosity, community, love, peace. click a photo of someone or something that you meditate on/about. or whatever inspires your deep thoughts.
  28. role model – muslims recognize jesus as a mentor, a teacher, a prophet & a role model. who represents those things in your life? take a photo of him/her!
  29. nature – when native, tribal people celebrate christmas or any other holiday/festival, they celebrate with all of creation. shoot a snapshot of a part of nature you see today.
  30. memories – make a collage or snap a photo or share an old photo. share a memory with us – one from today or an old one from the past 12 months.
  31. you – shoot a self-portrait to mark the last day of this year. and make a promise to yourself to follow your dreams in 2013! happy new year!

there ya go, people! my very first photo a day challenge. i hope you join me in snapping photos through the month, documenting the memories & moments of life during this amazing, magical (and even difficult) time of year. if you have any questions or comments, i’d love to hear from you!

until then, enjoy your last 2 days of november and get your cameras ready…

happy snapping, fellow artists & photographers. peace.

i pulled an all-nighter.

i’m still in shock. i’m amazed. excited. overwhelmed. and so. very. thankful. oh yeah, and tired. hehe.

i’m thankful that this is the dawning of a new america, as some news sites are putting it. an america that chose yesterday community spirit over individualistic greed. an american that yearns to be a country, a nation of individuals working together, each using his or her own gifts to create an even better american, an even better world. not a nation build and run as a business. cutting of those who are not needed or not seen as equals.

and for me personally, hopefully, this is the dawning of a new era in my life, where my home country will begin to make a movement to recognize my marriage, to allow me to have the same rights i once had when i was married to a man.last night was monumental for minority groups (which are becoming the majority). today i excitedly celebrate the marriage equality victories in 4 states, the victories of women & lesbians who have been voted into government, and the defeat of the men who sought reelection under the premiss that rape can be “legitimate” or “god-intended”.

once again, i have hope. hope that we are on the road to equality for immigrants, for women, for LGBT people, for children, for african americans & hispanic americans, for the poor, for the homeless and jobless. i have hope, that, as obama has said, when we make our way out, or our way to the top, we don’t just keep on going, but that we reach back and grab the hand of someone who needs our support, and bring them along with us. that, i believe, is what it means to be a citizen of the united states of america. that in our beautiful, wonderful, colorful diversity, we still find that it is our humanity that unites us. that because of our humanity… within many, we are one.

pic from here.

thank you, fellow americans, for voting. no matter who you voted for, or what you believe, today is a day we can begin anew. we can reach across the aisle, across the street, into another neighborhood, or even another country, and grab the hand of another. we can agree to disagree, and still find respect for each other.

this, my friends, is the american way. the global way, to create a world of peace, diversity, and understanding.

and today, i have renewed hope and renewed faith, that we can be the change. we are moving forward.

one more thing… woo hooooooooo!!!!

peace & hope.

v.o.t.e.

20121105-220358.jpg

just a reminder for all you americans out there today… get out & vote! make your voice heard! you/we have a right and a privilege that so many others all around the world do not have, so let’s exercise our right & your privilege as an american. let’s make a difference. let’s stand up for what we believe in. you know, ghandi says that we must be the change we want to see in the world. what better way to “be the change” than by voting for the changes we want to see!

it’s an amazing day to be an american! go cast your vote!

and for all of you others all around the world… please pray, send good vibes, positive energy, or whatever you have to send to us americans… that may we vote for peace, for equality, and for a chance to keep moving forward.

peace & love. now, go vote!

an open letter and a plea to listen before you vote.

everyone is entitled to their own opinion. i absolutely believe that.

but there are some things i simply, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, don’t understand…

how is it possible to treat other people as second-class citizens? how are some people better than others, worth more than others?

yeah. in one way i do understand… all of us are afraid of what we don’t know. and many times we are afraid to get to know what we don’t know. sometimes it’s easier to be ignorant. but education is the key. openness is the key. however, education & openness mean transformation, a willingness to be changed. a willingness to think, to face your own beliefs & perhaps, let them evolve.

i didn’t want to get political on my blog. i really tried not to. i haven’t mentioned the presidential race yet & all the issues and policies swirling about… until now. but i can’t stay quiet any longer. it’s too close. it’s too personal. it’s too emotional for me. yes, how you vote is your business, and i’m happy you (we) have the rights & privileges, as american citizens, to express ourselves through our vote. it’s important that we voice our opinions.

but, truly, right now, how you vote affects me directly. so i’m writing this post. i can’t hold it in any longer. i promise, i really tried to.

watching an obama rally live from sweden.

now, i’m not trying to win over any votes to my side, not at all. i respect that we all have differing opinions, because that’s one of the freedoms of a democratic society, a democratic process, isn’t it? a society where every. vote. counts. it’s the one time that the playing field is leveled, that all americans share the same right and opportunity.

i really am not trying to convince anyone of anything (ok. maybe a little. hehe.). i’m just asking you to listen. i’m just sayin’ that your vote actually directly affects my life. how this whole thing pans out determines so very much for me. not that it doesn’t affect & determine much for everybody. but right now, i’m living in the middle of discrimination. and depending on who is elected as president determines if i am liberated or still held captive. as a woman in love with & legally married (in sweden) to another woman, the fact is, how you vote affects my future.

perhaps this is an open letter, a plea, to all of those out there who think that i am not worthy. to all of those who do not want me to have the same rights,  who see me as different, as weird, as an outcast. well, i am not different, weird (yeah, in my own way, i’m weird), or an outcast. i am me. who i love does not change who i am. it does not affect my personality. who i love does make me a better person though.

i was once married to a man. i know divorced and now married to a woman. could i be more of a sinner? yes. that’s sarcasm. being married to that man for 9 years affected who i am (for good & for bad), but it did not change who i am. the liz who was married to a man is the same liz who is now married to a woman. my characteristics, traits, faults, gifts, talents, crazy, funny ways of being me did not change. the only thing that changed was how i feel about myself & how i live my life – as in, more free, more giving, more loving now. my wife has affected me – she has challenged me to care about myself, to love myself, to follow my dreams. she stands by me, and i stand by her. we fight the hard fights of life together. we laugh. we buy groceries. we plan trips. we talk about the future. we enjoy lazy saturday mornings. we cry together. we encourage each other. we give each other a spark in life. we are best friends. and we fall in love over & over again.

for those of you who don’t understand it, please just listen. there was once time in my life i didn’t understand it either… until i met others who were fighting to simply be in love & still be accepted, until i saw the struggles and pain that discrimination caused, until i engaged & talked to people who were in same-sex relationships. and then, it happened to me. and then, i understood the freedom that love can bring, and the pain that discrimination causes. and then i understood what it meant to truly, wholly, share life with another. while the person i love may be a woman, the love that we share is simply love. i promise you. it is not different. love is love.

and to think that there is possibility that i will continue to be unrecognized in my own country as a married person, that my wife & i are not worthy of the same rights as other people who live their lives day to day, just like us, makes me sick. it terrifies me. it angers me.

on top of that, what if we want to move to the states? can we do that? no. i am exiled from my home country because i am in love. let me say this one more time, my life with my wife is no different from a man & a woman’s daily married life. we do the same things, have the same problems, dream the same dreams of  life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.

can you imagine how it feels to not be welcome at a meeting because of who you love? to be banished to the corner of the room as an onlooker, but not a participant because of who i live with? or how it feels to be called to a career but “because of the rules” you cannot work where you once wanted to work? or how it feels to know that the day that i desire to move to the states, i have to leave my wife behind? that the option of moving & living together as a married couple in my home country does not even exist? or how it feels to be judged on who i love instead of who i am? 

it feels like shit.

like it or not, it is the same thing as judging someone on the color of their skin, instead of who they are. or the gender they are, instead of what they do/are. or how pretty & handsome & popular you are, instead of who you are. you see, all those external things are not who we really are. gender, race, physical ability or disability, nationality, who we love – they do not define us. no, my friends, who we are comes from inside us. who we are comes from our souls.

so, as i see it, there are two choices in this presidential election. one who understands this & one who doesn’t. now, i don’t agree with everything from either one of them. and i know that there are tons of other very important issues & policies to responsibly consider; but i know that one candidate will make sure that i remain unwelcome and an outcast, not because i have broken a law or because i am a bad citizen, but because i am in love. and the other one… well, he gives me hope that things can & will change. he gives me hope that we will move forward.

and that one day i (we), and so many other like us, can come home.

feel how you want to feel about same-sex relationships. believe what you want to believe (and that’s a whole other blog post i could do from a theological/biblical perspective). but, just listen to my plea, my cry. i am not dangerous. i am not weird. i am competent, and i have a lot to offer. i am a writer, a photographer, a sister, a daughter, a theologian, a traveler, a giggler, a seeker. my wife is all these things too, and more. we are not scary. we are not horrible people. and we do not deserve to be outcasts.

vote however you want, but just be willing to listen to others. engage people who are different than you – all kinds of people who are different than you… the poor, the other race, the same-sex couple, the elderly, the homeless, the single mother, the runaway. meet them all. talk with them all. find out about them as people, not labels. and then, and only then, make your judgement. make your choice.

and make your voice heard.

many blessings of peace to you all, no matter who you love.

6 down. 6 to go.

how is it possible that today is the last day of june?! where has this year gone? we are halfway through 2012 already. it’s crazy.

well, because it’s the last day of the first half of the year i thought i’d do a little looking back (you know how i am about reflecting & reminiscing. i love it.). there  have been some really great things (a visit from a friend in the states, my job becoming a permanent position, plenty of cozy moments with my love), but it has also been quite a difficult 6 months as well. the past 2 months have given me a chance to reflect a lot, and i have realized that i have been in survival mode in some ways… enjoying & clinging to the amazing moments, of which there have been plenty. but, also fighting and surviving through some really difficult things. things that require much more fighting.

but, in some ways, i think that my survival mode has been what’s kept me sane. that, and my understanding that even though things are tough, there is something beautiful to be found in every day. still, i think that my instincts to be strong & fight get me into some kind of groove where i don’t realize how bad things may be. i am an eternal optimist. and a true believer in the idea that all things teach us something, all moments, all struggles can transform us if we allow it. and it’s good that i’m like that. but, if i’m honest, and now that i can look back, i have gained much more perspective. i can see all the amazing moments and all of the moments that i felt scared & defeated. it’s a little like 2012 has been oil & vinager. good & bad. amazing & heart-breaking.

i know i haven’t written much about the heartbreak & fear on my blog, but it is very personal. perhaps one day i will tell that story. for now, though, i am still in the middle of living it. still fighting, still adjusting to changes in my life, still clinging on to hope , still fighting, and still learning. it’s still too soon to write about it publicly.

but, as i embark on the beginning of the second half of the year tomorrow, i am poised and ready to keep fighting and to keep soaking up the moments of life. i enter the second half of the year certain of how strong i am, more in love with my wife than ever, humbled by the life that i live, and inspired to grab life by the horns and follow our dreams more than ever.

i thought i’d end with my favorite picture from the instagram photo a day challenge this month. i took it when i had some wonderful moments with my love. just being together. soaking up the sun (which has not been around that much this june) and simply enjoying a little stolen moment of peace & love… even in the midst of chaos.

so, today i say goodbye to the first half of 2012. i lay it to rest and close this chapter of the year. i am ready to embark on the second half of the year, with hope, strength, and more love than i could ever imagine for the woman i share my life with. and of course, i am ready to begin my instagram photo a day challenge for july. however, i’m only gonna post my pictures once a week this month. time to switch it up again.

i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again. this photo challenge has inspired me so much. boosted my photography stills. encouraged my creative side. and most definitely given me a chance to slow down each day and see beauty even in the most ordinary and dreary moments. yes, i’m beginning my 5th month of this challenge. perhaps i’m actually going to stick with it through the whole rest of the year?!

join me if you’d like! it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it. just snap a pic & post it somewhere to share with others on Facebook, instagram, your blog, twitter, pinterest. you’ll be amazed how you will begin to see things differently. here’s the list for july thanks to chantelle at fatmumslim!

happy second half of 2012, my dear readers!!

wishing you 6 months filled with love, beauty, happiness, strength, & peace.