Golden

IMG_2611 edit.jpgWhen you hear the word “golden”, what do you think of?

For my four-year-old right now, it’s anything metallic.  Silver, copper, gold, it’s all “golden” to her.  And since it makes me smile to hear her calling our humble everyday silverware “golden”, I haven’t gotten around to educating her on the finer points of metallic hue identification.

But for me?

I think of my wedding band, a circle of precious metal around my finger, a valuable gift that symbolizes a solemn covenant made to me by a beloved man.IMG_2598 edit.jpgI think of lamplight on aged pine walls, and candle flames dancing above brass candlesticks, and the color of faces gathered companionably around a fire.img_2616-editI think of the warmly lit hour right around sunset that a photographer lives for, that has been universally dubbed “the golden hour” for it’s unparalleled quality of light.IMG_2603 edit.jpgI think of honey drizzled on cornbread,

of foot pedals on pianos,

of the gilded edges of a new Bible,

of the rims of the plates I used to serve golden slices of pumpkin pie on Thursday,

of a palomino horse galloping in the sunset,

of the color of my daughter’s favorite hen and the yolks of her pretty brown eggs.IMG_2606 edit.jpgAnd I think of the splendid way that autumn ends up here in the northwoods, all the tamaracks ablaze with glory, making even the murky swamp waters glimmer with unaccustomed splendor.  If the sun is shining on it all, then it truly is a tiny glimpse of heaven on earth.IMG_2614 edit.jpgThis little taste of “heaven on earth” is my favorite of all, then, because it’s one fleeting golden moment reminding me of a golden eternity.

It’s that place I’ve never been where my homesick heart belongs,

where the streets, buildings, furnishings, dishes, and clothing are golden,

where the prayers of the God’s people are so precious that they are presented before His throne in golden bowls,

where all that splendid gold needs no sun to illuminate it because God is there.

I can hardly wait to get there.

“…the city itself was of pure gold, as pure as glass…and the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 22:5)

“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8)

Fall Color Tour 2018

IMG_1890 editThe leaves are changing, they said way too early in August—and they were right.  It started with a premature crimson splash here and there.  But soon the green of summer was transitioning full speed to yellow, orange, brown and crimson of autumn.  Fall was here.

It was a pleasant change, everyone agreed.  While there’s some debate about summer and winter, almost everyone I know likes fall.  No more sweltering heat.  No more weeding the garden.  No more mosquitoes.  There’s apple cider, favorite sweaters, the way the air smells, fires that feel cozy again.  We take slow drives down country roads to enjoy the daily-evolving color show. The piles we rake up in yards are better, in my kids’ opinion, than a MacDonald’s ball pit.  We press the most gorgeous leaf specimens between book pages to treasure.  What’s not to love?

Things are not quite so spectacular from the leaves’ point of view, though.  They turn gorgeous colors, sure, and receive more admiration at this time of year than during any other season—but the reality is that their doom is imminent.  As the crimson leaches down to their tips, their connection to their mother tree deteriorates and loosens.IMG_1991 edit.jpgIMG_2009 editIMG_1986 edit.jpgI drive down the road in a windstorm, and a rainbow of leaves swirls down from the sky like confetti.  This is their fate.  Magical to me, the end of life for them.

For them the change means letting go, falling, fading, shriveling, crumbling, crushing, eventually composting away into anonymity on the forest floor.  It is perhaps not quite so pleasant described thus, because none of us like those kind of changes either.  We all prefer the celebrating kinds, the weddings, new babies and job promotions.  Anything to do with rotting?  Not so much.

There are changes we seek, and changes we don’t.  Sometimes we get to pick the form of change, sometimes we have absolutely no choice in the matter.  Sometimes it comes sooner than we want, or much later than we’d longed for.  Sometimes we embrace it, run to it in gladness or relief.  Sometimes we fight it long and hard in vain.  Sometimes changes are slow, over time, barely perceptible.  Sometimes they are sudden and earth-shaking.  Sometimes change is short-term.  Sometimes it’s permanent.IMG_2544.JPGIMG_2383 editIMG_2004 editElusive as change is to nail down, however, there’s one sure thing about it, and it’s that change is as inevitable to life as autumn is to the circle of seasons.  It will come.  And sometimes that’s a fearful thing to us humans who like to map out our yearly planners months in advance and make our tidy little five, ten and twenty-year plans for success.  Even joyful changes can create stress by throwing off schedules.

That’s why serving a God who is unchanging is so incredibly wonderful and comforting.  I can’t guarantee you whether the next change in your path is going to be hard or happy, but I’d like to remind you today that though all may change around you, you have a Friend who NEVER will—and that’s a promise.IMG_1992 edit.jpg“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

2017 Favorites

It’s a fun tradition during the first week of the new year to go back over my posts from the previous year and pick out my favorites.  It’s also a bit of a challenge, so this year I decided to give myself some categories to help make the task easier.

Also, I decided to title this year’s round-up as “favorites” rather than “best of” as I have in the past.  My actual favorites are not always the photos that would be deemed my finest “works of art”, and that’s okay.  To determine what is my best work I’ve decided I’m quite content to leave to the viewer’s discretion; what is my favorite work only I can determine and, I suspect, makes for a much more interesting story.IMG_5073-1Favorite Bucket List Score: A non-blurry close-up photo of a hummingbird has been on my list for a long time.  If you know how fast these little beauties move, you know why I considered this opportunity a gift!  This wasn’t the only shot I scored, either—and you can check out all of them in this post.

IMG_2193Favorite Associated Memory: Not surprisingly, my favorites are often so because of the stories and memories behind them.  This photo reminds me of a happy walk in the golden glow of a late summer evening, that ecstatic moment when we realized the ditch we were walking along was studded with these ripe little jewels, and the mental picture of my husband down on hands and knees picking every one in sight.  And the taste, oh the taste!IMG_2929Favorite Travel Shot:  I really had a hard time choosing, but oddly enough, I ended up settling on this one that never even made it into a blog post!  (Thus, a bonus photo for you!)  My reason is solely based on the humor of the situation.  This is a wild turkey mama who apparently doesn’t believe in broadcasting photos of her family for the world to see.  She paraded them daringly along the edge of the road, oblivious to traffic roaring by—but when I tried to discreetly poke a camera lens out the truck window, that was a different story.  She has at least six chicks, who are down there in the grass by her feet hiding.  I’m really not sure if that’s a twinkle of mischief in her eye there, or a glint of suspicion, or just a look of triumph for foiling my designs.  She granted me this one cameo peekaboo shot, and that was it.

This is also memorable, because my husband is the one who spotted her as we were driving and turned around of his own accord to go back so I could take a picture.  Now that’s true love, folks.

IMG_1943Favorite Action Shot:  The story behind this one can be found here!img_4098-1.jpgFavorite Landscape:  The more you get into photography, the more you obsess about light.  The absence or presence of the right kind of light, outside of actual studio photography, is something you chase after, wait for, wish for, do your best to contrive for, but cannot ever completely control.  When you catch it, its a glorious moment.  I passed this roadside bed of fire weed many times this summer, but it wasn’t until just the right shaft of late-afternoon golden light hit it, spotlighting the blossoms against the dark backdrop of forest, that it actually became worth stepping on the brakes for.IMG_1076Favorite Car Window Shot: Hands down.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.IMG_4958Favorite Floral:  Obviously I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the cornflower blue of these bachelor buttons in my flower garden this year!IMG_5779-1Favorite Challenge (as in the photos I worked the hardest for): That would definitely be any photo containing otters.  Just don’t ask how many photos I actually took to secure those I deemed worthy to share with you (you can view a couple more in this post).  I’ve found that otters, like hummingbirds, don’t sit still very much.  This is the first year I’ve actually gotten decent shots of them, but I by no means consider the challenge over.  Next Bucket List item: otter close-ups!IMG_4861-01Favorite Nature Close-Up:  I love the contrast of this perfect autumn leaf from my parent’s maple-rich yard posing on their picnic table.IMG_1567Favorite Sky Capture: this alignment of the storm clouds and big round moon just after sunset was so stunning, and I enjoyed the extra fiddling with my camera required to expose those lunar craters just right!  It rated high enough in my small world to become my desktop wallpaper.  It must have appealed to you, too, because it also rated as the post with the most views for 2017!

A close runner-up to that one, however, was this stormy sky:IMG_2880IMG_2882This was the most magnificent sunset I have seen in my life, and the pictures (yes, they’re both from the same evening) hardly do it justice.  It was also the one redeeming feature of the most severe summer storm I’ve had to drive through in my life.  That was the road trip in which we missed half-dollar sized hail by a mere couple miles and because it was raining so hard could see nothing but the taillights ahead of us for what seemed like eternity (probably more like fifteen minutes).  It was unforgettable all around.

I was going to do “Favorite Wildlife”—but so many of those ended up qualifying for the other categories that it seemed a bit redundant!

These photos, along with all the others I shared with you this year, represented lessons learned, whether in the technical realm of photography or in the stunning world of nature, and always in the beautiful realm of our Creator’s goodness, infinite creativity and love.  I considered each opportunity to take a photograph a gift, and it is my prayer that each one, in turn, became a gift to you as well.  If the sharing of these images have even once shifted your heart from the temporal to the eternal, from worrying to praise, from self to God—then I rejoice right along with “the little hills…on every side” (Psalm 65:12).

Now, here’s looking forward to all the yet unknown experiences, encounters, lessons and photographs 2018 holds and looking forward to continuing to share it with you!

 

 

Fall Color Tour 2017

IMG_5309.JPGSince the leaves are mostly fallen now, I sat down the other day and sorted through all the autumn pictures I’d taken this year.  As I did so, I found it interesting to note the varied locations they were photographed in.  One was from our backyard, another across the front yard.  Some were along familiar trails, others along never-before-hiked trails.  Several were taken deep in the heart of  the Chippewa National Forest.

And then there was that random one taken from the patio of city bistro, along a busy street with multi-storied buildings looming around.  The sheer eccentricity of its location endears it to me in a way the others don’t, a hidden jewel found in a most unlikely location.

That’s kind of how it is with the Psalms.

Just as I generally expect to experience the most stunning autumn color in places like a national forest where trees abound, I naturally turn to the book in the Bible by that title if I’m looking for the most beautiful psalms of praise and comfort.  That makes so much sense, I sometimes forget that there are hidden psalm-like jewels to be found in the other 65 books of the Bible.

But there are, and this week I stumbled upon just such a one, incidentally quite fitting to accompany a post highlighting the changing seasons.  May it turn you heart in gratefulness to the One who orders the changing seasons, just as it did mine!IMG_5062.JPG“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might…
IMG_5335.JPGHe changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings…IMG_5122He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…
IMG_5238He reveals deep and hidden things, he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him…
IMG_5522To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise…
IMG_5125for you have given me wisdom and might.” IMG_4861-01.JPG And now here’s a little challenge for you, just for fun.  Can you guess 1) in what book of the Bible this passage is found (no peeking or Googling, now!), and 2) which photo was the one taken in the city?  I’ll send a free signed 5×7 print of one of my photos to anyone who provides both correct answers!

 

Design

IMG_5091.JPGThe masked faces of the dental surgeon and his assistant seemed to float above me.  She braced my chin; he pushed and pulled.

“That one’s being a little stubborn, huh?” she asked.

“Well, they’re not really designed to come out,” he responded.  “Hand me 105 please.”  He was trying to be discreet, but it wasn’t hard to guess what “105” was code for.  The whine of a tiny saw buzzed inside my mouth, cutting the stubborn tooth in pieces.  I closed my eyes, breathing deeply of the laughing gas that made it all seem like a dream, floating far, far away.

Maybe I wasn’t at the oral surgeon’s office having all four of my wisdom teeth removed, after all.  Maybe I was in the red leather rocking chair at home, dozing off while I nursed my baby.  Wasn’t that the whine of my dad’s saw down in the basement, painstakingly cutting pieces of flooring to fit in the grid of the space he was helping us renovate?

And wasn’t that his voice, using that word “design”?

How would you like to design the cabinet space? 

What design should the ceiling tiles be? 

How would you like to design these shelves?  IMG_5097.JPGI’ve been answering room design questions all summer, so you can hardly blame the word for having a decided ring of familiarity.  It started with how big the room should be, where the walls should go.  It moved on to how many ceiling fixtures there should be, where the light switches should go, how many outlets I wanted.  Then it was questions about door styles, and trim styles, and cabinet styles.  And stain colors, and wood types, and hardware styles.

And finish choices.  Satin, semi-gloss or glossy?

And paint colors.  You want white?  Which white?

And flooring choices.  How durable?  How water-proof?  How smooth?  What color?

And ceiling tiles.  Me:  Seriously?  There are choices of ceiling tiles!?

And so many measurements.  How deep should this shelf be?  How high should the counter top be?

Wait—about those measurements.  I still had to decide about that.

Perhaps I furrowed my brow as this realization floated through my foggy, wandering mind.  “You’re doing just fine,” the surgical assistant reassured me cheerfully.  I acknowledged her kind effort to encourage me with an unintelligible grunt around the apparatus bracing my mouth open in a perpetual yawn.  The unpleasantness of reality seeped in.  That’s right.  I was at the dental office, in a black leather chair, not a red one; not napping in the late afternoon sunshine while snuggling a baby, but beneath the artificial lights of surgeon’s office.  That wasn’t my dad’s saw whining, and it certainly wasn’t cutting anything as pretty as espresso colored flooring in pieces.

My mind sorted through all this, and finally circled back to one positive thought relevant to my current state: the surgeon’s passing comment about design.  I knew from our pre-surgery consult that the root of the stubborn tooth he was currently whittling out was dangerously close to a nerve, and I had received all the disclaimers about worse-case scenarios.  Teeth aren’t designed to come out; nerves aren’t designed to be exposed.  All these bad things could happen.  Et cetera.

But, in that moment, his chance comment brought peace to my heart.  My teeth were designed—and I knew the Designer.   “O Lord, designer of this body, protect that nerve that You created and designed, guide the hands of this surgeon and the blades of his saw.”  Right then, silently praying, I was grateful that I had opted out of general anesthesia in favor of the Novocaine and laughing gas that still left me vaguely conscious of the proceedings.  I had been granted the privilege of acknowledging the Creator whose hands had formed my body in a most unexpected moment.img_5093.jpgTwo weeks later, I sat at a picnic table beneath a canopy of gilded autumn leaves, and took a cautious bite of the bread tucked in next to my bowl of wild rice soup.  Smiling ladies and a few husbands milled through the woods nearby, cocking their heads to admire the dozens of stunning quilts suspended among the graceful white birch trunks, commenting to each other over steaming cups of apple cider.  I chewed slowly, careful of the still tender incisions in the back of my mouth, then swallowed.  And marveled.  After two weeks of smoothies and soup, I was chewing again!

I cannot fully express how satisfying it was to finally be back to productively moving my jaws and swallowing without pain.  While the teeth had not been ultimately designed to come out, God had designed my body to heal.  Can you imagine designing something so stunningly complicated as the human body?  Ha!  Considering the fact that I was feeling mentally taxed after designing one small, simple room in my basement, I guess not!  Certainly that particular design experience had given me a much deeper appreciation for the work of designers, God the Creator most of all.

Thank you, Lord, for your perfect design, I whispered in my heart.

Just then, a lady in a straw hat flashing a ready dimpled smile approached our lunch table.  She handed us tiny slips of yellow paper and pens, and warmly invited, gesturing towards the display of quilts:  “Would you like to vote for the best design?”

There was that word “design” again!

Off we went to wander critically through a maze of color, creativity and splendid design.  Would it be the whimsical bicycle with the Dresden plate wheels and meticulously fussy-cut floral basket?    The mesmerizing log cabin in which squares made of stripes became stripes made of squares?  And did you see that dizzying-ly magnificent portrait of a snowy owl crafted of thousands of tiny squares?IMG_5100IMG_5085-1IMG_5110

I voted for the bicycle on paper.  But in my heart?  The human body—and the One who designed it—won “Best Design”, hands down.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.(Acts 17: 24)

 

An Autumn Hike

 

IMG_5179Where do you look when you are hiking through the autumn forest?

Do you look up at the soaring arms of the great pines raised to the sky in praise?  At the sunlight filtering in soft curtains of light down through the crimson and salmon maples?IMG_5190.JPGDo you look straight ahead, at the path winding mysteriously out of sight and beckoning you on?  At the receding layers of craggy barked tree trunks marching along its edges, with the occasional surprise mushroom accessory?  Or at the jaunty straw hat and satisfyingly fall-ish plaid shirt of a walking companion ahead?IMG_5193Or do you look down?  Down at the dainty trailing vines between the tufts of orange pine needles, and the tidily capped wee mushrooms springing whimsically up along the damp mosses of aging stumps?  At the calico of autumn leaves softly layering over the creeping cedar and wintergreen?IMG_5187While I was hiking with relatives recently, we talked about this, and discovered that our answers differed.  Some in our hiking party were more inclined toward one than the other, therefore each bringing their own unique perspective to the commentary that enlivened our exploration of the forest.

As I was thinking about this the next day, I realized that it was actually a pretty accurate picture of the body of Christ, particularly that living, breathing organism that is the local church body.  We walk the same trail as believers, reading the same Bible, loving the same Savior, but our perspectives can be astonishingly different.

Some are more likely to look ahead, seeing with vision and wisdom.

Some watch the edges and condition of the trail, wary of spiritual pitfalls.

Some are more likely to look up, calling attention to heavenly perspectives when other’s eyes waver toward the earthly.

Some look down, noticing the details that others forget or overlook, like the lonely newcomer or the overflowing garbage can.

IMG_5146 IMG_5181The Bible calls these things gifts, and they are.  Sometimes, though, I think we can lose sight of this in the nitty-gritty of real life.  It can be easy, for instance, to get annoyed with that other person who is always worried about mowing the grass (looking at mushrooms) when you’d rather be discussing the accuracy of the latest Bible translation (looking down the path)—or vice versa.  However the fact is that each perspective is valuable and needed, and they’re all meant to weave together in harmonious balance, not at odds with each other.

Or sometimes, even if we do appreciate the unique contributions of each person, we just forget to say so.  So since I’m being reminded, I’d like to say thank you myself.

Thank you for being you.  Thank you for the very special, irreplaceable gift that your gift is to your brothers and sisters as we walk with Jesus and endeavor to make Him known to the world.

Thank you for the things you do in private, the mundane and not-so-glorious, often unseen and unacknowledged.  Thank you for the things you do in public, against the odds of criticism, embarrassment, and greater scrutiny.  Thank you for speaking out to say the hard things, the kind things, the wise things.   Thank you for the quietness of your inner prayers, wordless hugs, silent generosity.  Thank you for perseverance when you’re misunderstood, for faithfulness when no else is.

And if you’re one of those hiding shyly in the corner, hesitant to use your gift, perhaps afraid to share it because it’s different or less popular than someone else’s, I hope this will be a gentle encouragement to you to be hold back no longer.  Please, in love, let it flow out for the enrichment of the Body of Christ, because it surely will.

We need you!IMG_5205“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If someone’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8)

“And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

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Farewell, Golden Autumn

img_8161This was a November unmatched for beauty, as autumn lingered gloriously long—and these are the quintessential pictures of it in my mind.

The landscape awash in rich browns and golds…img_8002the rustle of drying grasses in the gentle breeze as the sunlight gilded it all to royalty…IMG_8121.JPG the frosty mornings…img_7920img_7911followed by warm and golden days…img_8119But kind as it’s been to us, November is still a month of transitions as it must be, a split personality, if you will, bridging the gap between autumn and winter—and “they say”, whoever they may be, that the time of the inevitable change is at hand.  There’s a winter storm warning for the weekend, and it’s time to finish that project of putting small girls’ mittens on strings that I’ve been putting off because we just haven’t needed them yet.

So, gladly anticipating the approach of a new season and a world of white on its way, I take a moment to bid one last adieu to autumn.  It’s been lovely—see you next year!

“O God…You have established all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

(And the seasons in between—and I’m grateful!)


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