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Recently I had a cool opportunity to share about creating portraits for my sweet friend Julie Holly’s sermon serie, The Faces of Jesus, at Canterbury United Methodist Church here in Birmingham.

Now, my nerves were threatening to get the best of me as soon as my den was overtaken with a big ol’ camera, a bunch of bright lights, and I got hooked up to a microphone. But thanks to the kind cameraman, I did my thing as best I could.

I hesitated to share the video, you know how we humans pick ourselves apart, but they did such a good job making it, and it’s not everyday you get to share what you do in a video, so here goes nothing:

Wide World: Epiphany

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 16, 2014 — 1 Comment

My apathetic, weary fog was lifted at one of our strangest stops: the Charterhouse in London.

photobombNot completely sure why we were there, we sat in the carved wooden choir stalls and began listening to this elderly man who bent a bit and closed his eyes while he spoke. With his sidekick Bob, these dudes became hilarious and one of my favorite parts of the trip. Maybe it was  delirium from so many days of travel, maybe it just is what it is. I LOVED him. I even photobombed with him just so I could have a picture. I was about to explode with silliness. Once again on this trip, I couldn’t contain myself.

These two gents live at the Charterhouse and gave us a tour dotted with pretty comical moments. My favorite was when our main man asked “Are you all on a schedule? I’m not. I’m here till I die…”

We saw the rooms, the old Carthusian monastic area, and listened to them talk about who knows what, with a renewed pep in my step.

Later making our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, I sat on the steps with a flapjack and coffee, Mary Poppins’ “Feed the Birds” playing in my head (I may have sang it once or twice…maybe).

Prepped with a renewed outlook, this is where I had my unexpected epiphany.

After attending seminary, working in church, choosing not to work in church, coming through so many different phases of religion, my attitude towards church has been a little rocky, a little conflicted. Sometimes when you change, it’s hard to know how to replace, rework or renew old understandings. It’s a muffled area that causes me sometimes to cringe, sometimes to hide, sometimes to ignore, occasionally to explore.

Sitting in the beauty and grandeur of the great cathedrals of Europe, I alternately marvel at the historic significance and immense perfection of the sanctuaries, and squint at the funding and imperiousness of the buildings. A little skepticism, a lot of admiration.

This time, we sat in the center of St. Paul’s cathedral ready to participate in the Eucharist service. My loaded feelings reared their ugly heads and I tried to wash the slate clean and just experience. A mental tug of war ensued.

And then came the epiphany.

June 25, 2014

“We worshipped at St. Paul’s, up front, smelling the incense, watching the light shine on the gold and mosaic tiles. The music filled the space and echoed in my heart. The boys sang like angels and the kindness in the faces of the priests warmed the room and softened my cynicism. The sermon came and took me by surprise. I even cried a little, which is rare. 

The huge sanctuary became like a warm home.  What I expected to be impersonal was very much personal. 

The priest spoke of John the Baptist, saying that God isn’t found in our structures, but in the wild places. I saw my mountaintop in the hills of Northern England, and my busy home and messy yard. The priest spoke of change, and called us to stop just slithering through life and instead to shed our old skin. A tear rolled down my right cheek as he spoke, and I felt my eyes open. The disjointed puzzle pieces of my life and experiences moved into place and connected for one glorious moment. As my stomach burned with the shared Eucharist, I recognized a turning in my life. I am excited to follow its mystery, as my eyes followed the clouds of incense moving into the light.”

That may sound silly; it may sound fluffy or verbose. But it means something to me, and I have a small, clear step to take. I’m planting a kitchen garden in my front yard. There are numerous small reasons and numerous small expectations. It all fits together in my head, even if it is largely unexplained. I’m prone to “whims,” so you could consider it a directed whim. It is what it is, and we’ll see what it becomes.

“Today more than ever, we need to recapture a sense of ‘place’…. As Wendell Berry put it in his Hannah Coulter, ‘Love in this world doesn’t come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place.'” -excerpt from our trip sourcebook

Charterhouse & St. Paul's, London, ink doodles

Charterhouse & St. Paul’s, London, ink doodles


Wide World: Age

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

As twilight fell, the hour was late.

By a river we walked, a thin path columned by tall grass and soft Queen Anee’s Lace. My hands fell gently upon the white flowers, as they bent in the direction of my steps. Searching for a bridge we never found, our stomachs full on roast and yorkshire pudding, we wandered past mossy tombstones, a sleeping country church, steep cliffs and quiet trees. Across the stream, we could see the glowing facade of Willersley Castle, the manor house in which we slept for the night, windows open to the cool night air.

We’d been to York and Epworth earlier in the day. We stretched our heads back to take in the tall magnificence of Yorkminster Cathedral. We felt the echoing organ fill every corner of the beautifully cavernous sanctuary. We climbed high and walked the ring atop Clifford’s Tower, looking down upon York with it’s ancient streets and yellow bicycles, banners and window displays preparing for the upcoming Tour de France…a city full of color and life, people walking, laughing and eating ice cream.

Epworth, EnglandIn Epworth we walked through the peacefully frozen house of John Wesley, preserved and restored like a snap in time. I touched the leaves of the garden plants and smelled the lavender on my hand. The quiet street was only interrupted by the call of a raven and the bleating of sheep. Near a church, we found a green field and a short path between trees. Exploring it’s ending, we found a spreading field of barley.

Such history preserved.

Again I lost sense of space and time and felt sucked backwards to earlier days, an immersion in ages past. When people gardened and read and walked and lived without such haste and stress. When life took more effort, but probably saw more of reality.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it encouraged me to slow my pace, to open my eyes and to work with my hands.

The next morning, with mist still rising, we walked down a quiet street to St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth. Inside, young children rode on bright plastic push cars, drank juice from sippy cups, played and laughed and cried, filling up the old stone space with the sounds and activity of today, of new life. Outside next to a blooming hydrangea and 15th century tombstones, I met a mother from Vermont and her baby girl. Now living in England, she shared my appreciation for the rich history and beauty of the place. Like I was trapped in a bubble, our easy, American conversation was a reminder of the present. The present living in and among the ancient. It’s something we are not used to, living in our young country across the sea.

St. Mary's Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle

St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle



Mary Liz Ingram —  July 16, 2013 — 2 Comments
Chair with apple, graphite sketch

Chair with apple, graphite sketch

Sunday mornings are made for lounging, an always calming day of rest. 

We’re always on the go: working, playing, living. It’s important to me to also stop. To rest, to reset, to pause and refresh.

Some might say that Sundays are made for church-going, especially since we live in the southern U.S., aka “the Bible Belt.” My husband works at a Methodist church, a published and well-known youth minister (!). The kids and I get up and go fairly often, but not in a rush or in perfection. It’s taken me awhile, and much attitude-adjusting, to go without stress or pressure or guilt, to go without feeling a burden of expectations. This is also part of the South.

I’m just beginning to go in restfulness, often meaning my hair is still damp, my dress is comfortable, and I’m there with my family in peace. It’s hard to add another place to be, and sometimes staying home in quiet is most needed.

This past Sunday we didn’t go to church. We rested well together. We loved and laughed and lived. We learned about bugs and plants, we ate three meals at our table together, we built forts and unloaded the dishwasher together, and we took care of one another.

These things are important too.