Seeing so many community neighbors suffer the heartbreaking loss of irreplaceable personal items this week prompted us to take inventory of our own special collections. Friday night, it was all about organizing a couple of dozen CD-ROMs full of pictures spanning the past 10 years and backing them up via flood-proof measures.

The process transported us back in time to relive mental scrapbooks of memories. Sometimes it seems hard to believe there’s ever been any season but the present—and yet, the richness of these camera-captured moments can instantly captivate me. I see pictures of my children when they were a little younger, and it’s fun and tear-soliciting to view the early stages of who they have become. One disc even had a short video clip of my oldest when she was the same age that my youngest is now, and it was the same voice. The days are long but the years are short, indeed.

I also plowed my way through some discs containing a plethora of Word documents, the vast majority of which I no longer need. One caught my attention for several minutes; it was a collection of emails and journal entries I wrote during the months following my decision to take a leave of absence from pastoral ministry and transition into the marketplace. It was interesting to re-read some of those thoughts and see emails from others as well, and in general to tap into the spiritual wrestling match and confluence of guilt and hope that flowed through me in those days. Six years have passed since those writings, and so much has happened, so many relationships have been built.

Each of these photographs and writings is an integral part of me that outlasts any form of media that contains them. The impact that the subject matter of both artistic expressions has had upon my life is significant, and continues to shape me even as we snap new photographs and I write down fresh thoughts.

The learning journey that is life frames every moment with beauty and stretches out like a scroll awaiting the ink of new prose and poetry. Nothing tangible is ever truly lost if it becomes etched into one’s soul.