Breathing With Both Lungs

meditations, photography, poetry, prayers

Lungs. A place of life and death and vulnerability…


Breathing With Both Lungs

I once heard it said
Our lungs are where we hold our grief.
When I inhale sharply, to remember
Why does it hurt to breathe?

Lament happened so long ago
Or has it been only a moment or so.

How fully has my memory constricted.
Can I locate the dull ache I long to forget.

Who’s counting? My breathing,
Your breathing, Our breathing. Exhale.

Is the level measured by exhales
Do our inhales even work anymore?

Can we fill our lungs with Presence
Or is it far too late for that now
Now that absence is all we know
Will it always hurt to breathe?

If I practice, will I remember how it was breathing with both lungs?




A few reflections:

This minuscule invader, the virus we are all shellshocked by, attacks the lungs severely.

The two people closest to me who I have lost, months and years ago, both succumbed in part to pneumonia.

My own lungs are the weakest part of me, bronchitis dozens of times as a child, often out of breath more easily than I’d like.

And this day of Good Friday, the crucifixion… this torture meant they die of asphyxiation. A horror many are living now.

Here we are, together in this great collective gasp. Anxiety is stealing our joy breath. Sadness saps our life breath. God whose breath once went out, You suffer with us and for us, and we suffer with each other. Teach us how to breathe again.

~ Janelle

A pair of Patron Saints for creative entrepreneurs and family life

Janelle's artwork, photography, prayers, saints, the creative life

Through Alençon lace and watches, a family of saints was established.

Louis and Zélie were an entrepreneurial couple raising a bunch of girls in the middle of 19th century France. She ran a successful lace-making business, he was a watchmaker with his own shop. Skilled artisans who ran their own small businesses while raising a family of five… a family which just so happened to include a daughter, their youngest, who would one day be called “the greatest saint of modern times”… Saint Therese of Lisieux. Therese has long been my very favorite saint, and has proven over the years to be a tremendous spiritual sister, mentoring me through her radical trust and confidence in God and His goodness.

She was declared a saint in 1925, and ninety years later her parents were also declared to be saints, both of them together. Louis and Zélie Martin.

The watchmaker and the lace-maker.

Today, July 12th, is their feast day.

A few years back I made these photographs of antique handmade lace and a grandfather clock at half past four. Around the time this lovely couple was canonized I connected these images to them and their work and came up with the idea of making a holy card. You don’t see holy cards with photographs on them, but I wanted to try it out.

Since my graphic design skills tend to be rather pathetic, I haven’t come up with a design I like yet, but I’m working on it. A larger size than usual is what I have in mind, 4×6 or 5×7. Definitely printed on fine art paper, even as thick as watercolor paper (and a resounding no to laminated cards, thank you very much). What I would love to see is a card printed in letterpress, with the writing embossed. Must experiment with that someday. Collaboration, anyone?

As Louis and Zélie have more recently come into focus in the past decade, more is being written about their lives, and their story is dramatic, tragic and beautiful. From their meeting and marriage, to their very human and faith-filled family life, to Zélie’s early death from breast cancer and a humiliating onset of dementia for Louis, there is so much to be moved and inspired by. And then there’s the legacy of their daughters…

As I long to one day have a marriage as alive and deeply centered on Jesus as theirs was, running creative businesses while raising a family, I ask for their prayers to live my own faith with intention and generosity and to share my craft with skill and heart, just as they did.

Here is a prayer I wrote for their feast day:

Louis and Zélie

Intercede for me in my creative work

that I may meet it with perseverance and integrity

that the gifts of my mind, my hands and my heart

may bless and enlighten, encourage and strengthen.

Intercede also for me in my family

that my presence may bring peace, joy and freedom

that we would support and sustain one another through trials and difficulties 

and live united under the gaze of God’s tender love and healing mercy.

Amen.