It's the hap-happiest season of aaaaalllll

by Ellen in , , , ,

In the past 2 months, 4 of my dearest friends decided to marry each other, my boss had the sweetest baby in America, two beautiful people committed their lives to each other, and Sammy turns ONE on Monday, so I got to spend some time with some great families to do some photos. Everyone loves a good Christmas card (I know I do), and I was more than thrilled to help some really super awesome humans with theirs. Here's what I've been doing:

Sammy turns one!

Elise and Nate (and Luna) are getting married!

The Gardino girls are sweet as pie.

Anne Marie is born (and wears a Santa suit)!

Kind+hilarious+ridiculous=The Websters.

One of the most beautiful weddings I've ever seen at the Calv. Not a dry eye in the whole place, including mine.

Also, this:

Being busy is fun. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! And remember the words of Luna Lovegood--"Mistletoe: it's often infested with Nargles."

Not too shabby...

by Ellen in , ,

#Winning AND being published in the Commercial Appeal in the same week? I'm pretty sure I'm driving the bus to crazytown.

I realize I just gave myself a pat on the back. Sometimes I'm a tool. Also, I wanted to give the Calv a pat on the back, too. Ash Wednesday was a magical day. I'll get around to processing it soon.

I leave Wednesday morning for the North. Brrrrrr. I'm so excited to see Elise and Loonie and to say "hey, sailor" way more times than necessary. Anyway, if you want to know what I'm doing the whole time, follow me on the Twitter (elgwicole).


Fasting vs. Feasting

by Ellen in , , , , ,

OK. So, if you have ever read anything I've written, you'll have an inkling that this is my favorite time of year. Lent is here again, and if you are not familiar with the word, it's the season before Easter that represents Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Lent ends with Holy Week, and then Easter. I have an entire link to it on the right to show all the posts I've ever written about Lent.

I heard something great on Thursday. My friend Father John Pitzer was the first preacher for our Lenten Preaching Series, and he started it off with a bang. This is what he talked about:

Most people give stuff up for Lent. Chocolate, fried food, know, stuff that we all really enjoy, but are not so good for our health. Lent sometimes used to kickstart a diet. And that's great and all, we should really make it a point to be healthier, but what does it do for our spiritual lives? Lent is a season of repentance, of returning to the Lord. On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words "Remember you are God's, and to God you shall return" while we get ashes smudged onto our foreheads. Lent is a time of reflection, and making more room for God in our lives, whether it's being outside more or calling your deaf grandmother every day. The act of "giving up" seems to create a void for me; it feels empty. It's more of a discipline to take something on, which undoubtedly pushes something bad for me out of the way so I can spend more time with God.

But if you are fasting from something, what are you feasting on?

Father John talked about a lot of different examples of what this could look like. If you fast from being critical of others, feast on encouraging words. If you fast from gossip, feast on holding your tongue. If you fast from violence, feast on peace.

This is where he hit a home run with me: If you fast from fear, feast on hope.

I constantly live in fear. Fear that I'm terrible at what I do. Fear that people don't actually like me and are only nice to my face. Fear that there is no one on this planet who will willingly choose to spend their life with me. Fear that because of that, I'll never get to have kids. Fear that I'm doing EVERYTHING wrong. Fear that I won't get to do what I love forever because of money.

I realize all of this is completely irrational. Sort of. All of that is very real for me, though. While I know how much God loves me and that my worth is not found in being good at anything or being married to someone, I WANT those things. And most of the time, I have ZERO hope in them. Please keep in mind that I'm not an aggressive husband hunter, nor do I think success is measured by money or power. I love my simple little life. But I have found lately that I live looking through a lens of fear much more often than a lens of hope.

Just recently I sort of made the decision to put the photo thing on hold. I need health insurance, I need a full time job, I need a steadier income. I'm obviously not good enough to make being a photographer my full-time job, so I think it's probably better to look for a real job and make photos for people every once in awhile for close friends. I have no desire to promote myself and my "work," and I feel a little like a sell-out as an artist. I feel like an IDIOT for quitting my life almost 2 years ago to try and pursue whatever it was that I thought I was being called to, and I hate that I did it. I'm now in debt up to my eyeballs, live paycheck to paycheck, work like a dog to make ends meet, I don't sleep, and I have no time to run. Or talk on the phone with my grandmother. Or travel to see my nephews. Or spend real time with friends. This is not real life. I treasure the relationships that I have, and I want to keep them alive. So I've been secretly looking for jobs that even though I know I'll hate them, I'll be able to leave work at work and be able to run with Lily. I live in fear, under a guise of living in hope.


I received an actual call that changed everything I was thinking and feeling. A call that recognized me as an artist by another artist. A call that I never thought I would EVER get from anyone, and a call where God said to me, "girlfriend, you--We--did it!" This phone call does NOT validate my life, but it has made a difference in it. I am not going to be the same after this, although it does seem a little too good to be true. I keep waiting for a flat tire on my way to work or accidentally hitting a pedestrian (it's like one of my biggest fears) just to even out the awesomeness of this event.

I'm going to fast from my fear and feast on this nugget of hope-- this chance that I've been given to let the world know that EVERYTHING comes from God. We are small and God is big and shouting our names from the rooftops.

I entered into this contest fully knowing I had no chance of winning or even being seen. I entered it because Jason Mraz is the end-all be-all for me in terms of artistry, good humanity, openness, and creativity and cleverness. I am so thankful that my heart and head together can't even hold it all. I hope I get to tell him.

This Lent, I'm going to try to let go of this great fear, and feast on this abundant hope. It's there, I just haven't been grabbing it. And not just for Lent, but for life. I LOVE life, and it's the only one I've got. Lent is just a good time to reflect on how I can live into God's purpose for my life. I just have to remember that it's not my purpose, it's God's, and I'm just a part of it. HOPE HOPE HOPE. That word means so much it's not even funny.

So thank you God, Shelby and Brian, Jason Mraz, and Mike at Atlantic Records. Besides Ben and Sam, this is the biggest thing that's ever happened. And in case you haven't seen this image enough in the past two days, here it is:
I knew it was a little bit special the moment Fitty made the fake shutter sound and I almost fell off the chair I was standing on to get it.

Also, I'm doing one good image a day for Lent like I did last year. I won't be blogging every day, but the photos will correspond to the days I take them. I love a good challenge.

And if you need to reach me, I'll be over the moon STILL FREAKING OUT about this.

Kountdown to Kanuga

by Ellen in , ,

6 days. Timeout for an emo moment (sorrrry). Feeling a little bit nostalgic. I'm not much of a crier, but the dumbest things are making me think of this or that, or man I'ma miss this person that this cup of FroYo reminds me of. Also, I'm a tad more sensitive than I tell people. Tad= a lot, in real life.

If you're reading this, I'll miss you this summer. I have started this new life thing of saying what I mean, so I'm sorry if it makes me sound like a crazyperson. I wasn't this nervous about moving to California--and that wasn't even in driving distance. I've been thrilled and excited about this job, but now that it's getting closer, I can't help thinking about how Ben will be walking the next time I see him, and I'll have missed it. My sweetest friends will have babies growing in their bellies and I will miss seeing them get bigger. I'm thinking of all the pictures I'll be taking, but I'm also thinking of all the ones I COULD be taking of all the people who are most important. I realize they'll be here when I get back, but I don't want to miss these milestones.

Don't get me wrong, I feel so blessed to have this job and I'm so certain that I'm 100% answering God's call for me, which gives me great peace. I'll be in a beautiful place, with great humans, having lots of adventures=so much excitement. There are just a couple of people that I would not like to have to leave behind.

BUT it's only 3 months and I can't wait to see what God will do in that time.

And ohhhh babyyyyy pleeeaaase just stay the way you are so I don't miss anyyyythiiiingggg. Ooooo I love you more than anybody in the whole world.

Baptized baby!

by Ellen in ,

Oooo babyyy I want to kiss your bellyyyy

I swear I haven't gone missing, I just haven't had the internets. I also haven't gotten my film developed from the past 10 days or so.

This guy is my most favorite subject--last weekend, he got baptized, and it was very special. Brannon, Craig's brother, and everybody's favorite Uncle Bubba, was able to baptize him since he's a PCA pastor. It was lovely, and Benny loved his dress (he really liked to suck on the lace).

I just never want to leave this baby. He is perfect and I love him more and more everyday!

It's that time again

by Ellen in ,

Well, people, here it is. It's happening again, just like it does every year.

This year it has been minus the pancakes on Mardi Gras and minus the ashes on Ash Wednesday. That's today bee tee dubs.

Two of the major markers for creating a successful beginning to Lent. I hate to admit it, but the reason these things have been left out this year is that I cannot afford the gas to travel to receive the pancakes and the ashes. Gas is $3.45/gallon. I have only a part-time job. And bills to pay. It's sad, but true. And this poor, unfortunate soul can't afford to work in Collierville, live in East Memphis, and make it to church Downtown 4 times this week. I understand that a lot people make longer and more dramatic commutes daily, but I'm probably lazy. And if I run out of gas, I'm out of gas. It's not like I can just hop on a bus like I might be able to in another city.

So, I'm participating in Lent the way that the rest of the world does: by not being at church every single day. By literally keeping it to/with myself and God. Just because I didn't get to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday--wait wait wait--just because I didn't sweat over griddles on the stove showing kids how to make the perfect pancake (don't you dare squash it with your spatula. It's not a hamburger), string up gaudy Mardi Gras decorations, or eat my weight in sausage, doesn't mean that Mardi Gras was any less meaningful or fun. It was still the day to totally gorge myself on delicious treats in preparation for some sort of physical discipline for Lent.

Yesterday I was mindful of what I would like to be mindful of during Lent. And today, just because I didn't hear the words "Remember you are butt dust" and get a thumb full of ashes on my forehead doesn't mean that I didn't think about the temporality and shortness of my life. And since my life will be so short, why not spend it with God? Why not do the things that bring us together in a good relationship? Why waste time indulging myself with every little physical treat that I encounter, when God is there, waiting for me and loving me? Well, because I'm a human being. And this Lent, I'm going to focus on just that: what it means to be human. No "giving up" anything to supposedly make myself a little more divine. But really understanding my humanity, and why I was created to be a human and not a bird or a rock or a snail. More than that, I'd like to use this time to discern what I am created to DO. With my mind, my heart, my body, my spirit. I'd like to try some disciplines to come closer to that. Without forgetting that everything is spiritual.

I'd like to make one good photograph a day during Lent. By the end, I should have 40 good photographs. That's kindof a lot. I haven't felt good about a photograph in a while. I make a lot of them, but none that I want to look at for longer than a glance. I'd like to say that I'll blog each one every day, but I don't want to commit too heavily. Plus, I'll be using film as well as digital and I won't be able to post every day. But I want to take the time to be truly thoughtful about each photo I take, and even go out of my way to do that. Every day. Lately I've gone weeks without picking up my camera. And it has been months since I made a picture just because.

I feel like that's a pretty big discipline. So that's the Lenten action I'm going to stick to this year. I hope you might think about doing something that will be good for you and God, too, if you're into that. Or if you're not, just keep in mind that you are loved and since you are worth so much, it could be good to try and discover what it is about you that makes you so good. And human.

Here's a picture that I went out of my way to get. So here's to hoping I go way out of my way to get the good ones that remind me why it was worth it to not be able to afford gas.


by Ellen in , ,


This week, I've been doing a bunch of both. Heather gave me some great books for my birthday AND a week at her and Ed's house with Lady while they are in Disneyworld. It has been lovely to read and get to run around Midtown, where everyone honks at you. Not because they're weird, but because they are your friend and want to say hello while you're sweating.

Onto the reading. I read my friend Sara's book, Jesus Freak. It was sitting on the bedside table in my room, and I hadn't read it yet, so I picked it up. As soon as I read the dedication, I naturally burst into tears. It says, "For Paul, my Boyfriend's boyfriend." There, on that first page, were all my friends from church. They were singing and dancing and eating together, as they do every Sunday and as they will tomorrow. I could hear her voice narrating, see Paul's huge face as Sara described the funny things he says to her. I even knew the people whose names she changed... I have never read a book written by someone I know personally. I read her first book, Take This Bread, awhile ago, when I didn't know her at all. So this experience was entirely different. A lot in both books is similar, but it is weird to read a book by your friend. Even in those first pages, when Paul teases her about how she likes to put her hands on people to give them blessings, I let out a strange noise through my lame-o tears. My last memory of a Sunday morning in San Francisco consists of even more tears (unbelievable) with Sara as she put her hands on my head with a blessing to leave and come back soon. And a bunch of other stuff. But that's none of your business.

I love all my Episcopal friends. These days I'm thinking a lot about Carren and Charles and Sara and Paul and Lynne and Karen and Kristin. Magical, genuine, real, funny humans. I think I'm lucky that way--to be blessed to know so many of these kinds of humans. And that all the people that choose to be friends with me are like that. I think about all the great people I know while I run and while I read. Thanks friends, near and far, for making life so special and dear.

Sorry, no pictures.

Also: Dexter and Weeds are the greatest things ever written ever. The end.

With Gladness and Singleness of Heart

by Ellen in , , ,

Winterfest was wonderful (again). We always have the best time on the mountain, and it snowed this year, too. Sorry none of those pictures are available--my memory card deleted all 1200 of them, so that's fun. Hopefully they can be recovered.

It's always a blessing to see lives of kids transformed right before your eyes. We talked a lot about grace with a capital G, and I see God's grace at work through these kids. The way they interact with each other, the respect and love they give each other, and the respect and love they give God. They learn they are God's Beloved, and they carry that with them into the world. It's magical to be a part of it all. While I may not be spiritually leading young people full-time, it is no less amazing to be a witness to God's great work with them.

Here are some highlights that Fitty and I were able to capture:

Hike to Stone Door--always a crowd pleaser
Will's album cover
Eucharist on the mountain--one I will never forget
Errbody/Sing along with Cody
Errbody being silly
Mountaintop jam sesh
St. Mary's girls on the mountain
Pretty day
Just this guy in general.
Soul night
These 3 girls are Irish Dancers and they are INCREDIBLE
Lots of whippin' our hair back and forth
And dancing
And more dancing...
And LOTS of singing
Silent Supper
Also, this guy.
More singing
And Lean on Me
And then we had a sock hop
50s style
New Years dancing
What a good way to start the year.

My leetle church

by Ellen in

OK, so every time I go to this place, I love it more and more. It is the kind of church that I have only made up in my head...but it actually exists in real life. This place has all the things I like: humor, dancing, singing, love, food, realness. And BUTTONS! Everyone wears a button with their name on it. And everyone has a different colored button. You should see the button closet. I wanted to take a picture of it, but there was always someone standing in the closet when I wanted to take a picture.

Speaking of pictures, I finally got around to taking some on Sunday. They're not the best, and there aren't very many of them. I felt weird taking them because there was a weird lady who was visiting who took pictures the ENTIRE TIME we were in church. And her camera was loud and the flash always flashed. It was VERY distracting and rude, and I didn't want anyone to think I was like her. What a loving attitude towards someone you meet in church, right? She should have known she was being rude and been respectful of the service. Biiiig pet peeve of mine. If you're going to have a big, noisy, obtrusive thing attached to your face, please be considerate of others while wielding it.

Anyway, you can see that it's not very big, but where it lacks in size, it makes up in prettiness. It's this lovely wood building with the "dancing saints" painted on the walls...they all look very Byzantine and they range from people like Jesus to Eve to a guy in a wheelchair. I still haven't figured out that one yet. They are all dancing because dancing is fun and celebratory and we do it as our recessional. It's pretty fantastic. I feel like I'm at a Jewish wedding and that Hava Nagila will soon take over. Orrrr that I'm living out a dream of getting to sing and dance in a group on a regular basis.

Anyway, we start out around the altar...there's no service bulletin or anything. The priests and deacons announce what we're doing next. But if you've been going to an Episcopal church for a long time, you know what's coming next. Everything follows the liturgy, just with a little more singing and dancing and moving around. And sermon time is awesome because the preacher will talk for a little while, and then ask the congregation for a story relating to the Gospel. And only a opinions allowed. It's really quite moving. PS the people who run this place are HILARIOUS, and hearing them preach is so fun. And again, if you've been going to an Episcopal church for a long time, you know that this would normally NEVER happen. Traditioooonnn. Tradition!
I also really like this. "The only thing truly worthwhile is becoming God's friend."

See? Wheelchair guy on the right. I'ma find out who he is.

I'm a big fan of St. Greg's and feel so loved when I walk in there, as everyone does, I think. The people who are there are the real deal...trying to be an example of God's love.

Going to church in SF is very different than in the South. In the South, it's part of the culture to go to church. Everyone pretty much does it and if you don't belong to a church, people look at you funny. Here, people look at you funny if you DO go to church. Going to church is counter-cultural, which is how I think it started out. Something about it feels more genuine. Not to say that my church community in Memphis isn't genuine. Those people are my best friends and my family, and I don't know a more authentic crowd of people. Then again, I've always felt that the Calvary people ARE more special than other church communities. But I'm biased. They would love this place.

I love church, and I'm not ashamed of it. I love being in community. It makes the world go 'round, and I'm so glad that God has brought me here.

My favorite day at church

by Ellen in , ,

OK, so I just now figured out a way to upload my photos to my blog. Before, it would take FOREVER because the files are so big, but I have found a way around it, and from now on, I will be blogging like a crazyperson.

Anyway, today was my second favorite Sunday on our calendar (second only to Palm Sunday, which is my first favorite): The Feast of St. Francis. I mean, if you've ever read this blog, you know why it's my favorite. I LOVE ST. FRANCIS.

AND it means all the doggies get to come to church to be blessed!

Which means I thought about and prayed for this sweet angel ALL DAY(which makes it no different from any other day, really):
Please excuse the our rush to document how Luna likes to use humans as an arm rest, it came out a little shaky. But I love it nonetheless.

I know Elise was out of town this weekend, and I kept forgetting to remind her Auntie Grace to take her to be blessed since she didn't get blessed last year because Elise and I were both out of town. She needs to be's a very special day in an Episcopal doggie's life. Like Confirmation, but slobbery-er.

I miss my girl!

I NEVER bring my camera to church unless asked by someone at the church to take a few photos, but Fitty couldn't bear to miss out on seeing so many kids and doggies all in the same place, and hopped into my bag.

Sitting pretty.
Little girl, you better gimme that...
Woof, biotch.
Kiddies and kitties!
Does this face look like someone else we know?
Manning the table.
I LOVED this doggie's face. He is beautiful.
Bahahahaha. Cats are mean.
Except when they're kittens. I don't care who you are, this is the cutest thing ever.
I loved this girl.
Old doggie who would roll her eyes when all the other doggies were barking when the choir sang.
I just thought this was funny.

I loved St. Francis Day in San Francisco!

Next adventure: Tomorrow, I'm biking across the Golden Gate and up to Tiburon. I haven't actually ridden a bike in the real world in about 2 years. Spinning classes count as riding a bike, right? Well, pray I don't fall into the bay or off the side of a cliff. Hundreds of people do this everyday, certainly I can, too. Don't worry, I'll show you the pictures.

Also, I have a ridiculous project due on Tuesday. I'll post here when I'm done with it.