Forget Not His Benefits

IMG_5257 editSometimes, when you’re sick in bed, watching the world go by without you outside your window, it’s good to do something other than focus on how sore your throat happens to be.  Or maybe, for you, it’s more like sick in heart and focusing on how deep your hurts happen to be.  Either way, they can end up feeling pretty similar: discouraging.

I’ve found myself in both shoes at various times in my life, but for the past couple weeks, it happened to be in the physical realm, when my body decided to ignore all the items on my to-do list and important things I had on my schedule and sent me to bed instead with barely a voice to ask for a drink of water.  This was not in the plans, not to mention how many well-laid plans it managed to throw awry.

These are the times, I’ve found, when it’s time for a good dose of Psalm 103 right along with all the Vitamin C:

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (vs. 2)

It’s called turning my focus from all the things I’m missing out on to the gifts I have been given, which are many but too easily forgotten in the trouble of the moment.  Sometimes I think that’s one of the main reasons I even take pictures: so I can look at them later, remember, and be thankful.  That’s also one of the main reasons I keep a journal.  I think everyone should have some tangible way of remembering the little and big things God has given them, even if it’s just a running list on the counter.  Because we are oh, so prone to forget, but what incredible healing and uplifting there can be in the remembering!

So from my sick chair one afternoon, I scrolled through my photo files for the months of June and July, and remembered some of His benefits.

I remembered how we held our breath, waiting for the strawberry blossoms to turn to tiny nuggets of red sweetness in the canopy of the field grasses,

and how the butterflies danced amidst the short-lived lilacs, then moved to the field flowers.IMG_5210 edit.jpgIMG_5199 edit.jpg IMG_5768 editIMG_5809 editI remembered exhilarating cannonballs into cold lake water on a sultry day (or timid tiptoes in, as the personality went),

how we welcomed the first clouds of dragonflies zooming in to bring welcome relief from too many mosquitoes,

that day we swam with turtles.IMG_5726 editIMG_5702 editIMG_5887 editI remembered the spotted fawns trailing their mamas, stopping to stare wide-eyed at us from the edges of the forest,

watching from a respectful distance as a brave mama turtle left her eggs to the fates of nature,

that morning we got fresh doughnuts from a bakery and stopped to watch goose families paddling down a winding green river.IMG_5360 editIMG_5339 editIMG_5279 edit.jpgI remembered how the wild roses bent along the lake edge to almost touch the lapping waves,

the day I sat on a lake shore in a gentle rain of mayflies and thought how wonderful it was to be covered in bugs that didn’t bite you,

the day I and a three-year-old chased a brown-eyed cottontail through the field grass.IMG_5751 edit.jpgIMG_5559 edit.jpgIMG_5676 editI remembered the fish we saw, and the fish we caught,

the evening we celebrated our first summer birthday girl,

and waking up in the middle of the night to hear the loons yodeling and see the fireflies dancing outside my window like a thousand elusive stars.IMG_5763 editIMG_5457 edit.jpgIMG_6022 editI remembered eating ice cream in a shop that smelled of vanilla and waffles,

tiny birds carefully held by a small girl with a hole in her smile,

the way dandelions gone to seed look in the sunshine.IMG_5389 edit.jpgIMG_6062 edit.jpgIMG_5271 edit.jpgI remembered climbing among quiet pools and granite boulders along the Bigfork River,

the day we finally found the robin’s nest’,

and watching the full moon rise up over the flower garden.IMG_5851 edit.jpgIMG_6124 editIMG_6118 edit.jpgAnd, as is often the case, it was easy to go on from there and remember the things I didn’t have photographs of, like…

healthy baby kicks in my womb,

soothing tea with honey,

and my husband and dear friends who washed my dishes, cared for my children, and brought me food and medicine while I was down.

And you know what?  I wasn’t healed when I was done.  I was coughing as much as ever.  But in my soul, there had been a healing shift from the mentality of “poor me” to “wow, look at all my blessings”—and sometimes, I think we actually need that kind of healing more.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; all that is within me, bless His holy name…

He who forgives all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion,

who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103: 1, 3-5)

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!

 

 

Twins

IMG_1076It was almost as good as Yellowstone National Park when a bear is sighted along the road.

The cars were lining up.  The phone cameras were clicking.  People were leaning out their windows, smiling big.  Nobody was out of their vehicles snapping closeups while foolishly ignoring the unpredictability of wildlife (aka a protective mama doe), but I won’t deny that I considered it.  (But did you see the look in her eyes up there?  That was pretty much enough to keep my hand off the car door handle and be satisfied with just rolling the window down.)

And these two tiny fawns, so new they were still wobbly, stood at the edge of the highway bracing their ungainly long legs and staring at their audience in wonder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first time they had ever seen cars or humans, let alone been on an outing.

Awww!

IMG_1074Mama hovered nervously in the woods nearby, snorting, stamping worriedly.  They bleated back like tiny lambs as if to say, “Whatchya so worried about, Mom?  See?  These people like us.”

And it was true.  Cause, well, you know, for all the tulips I’ve ever suffered the loss of to other members of their species (it happened again this year, ahem!), how can you not be utterly charmed by a newborn baby fawn—especially when there are two of them staring at you with their big, innocent dark eyes at the same time?

Who cares about tulips, anyway.

“Do you observe the calving of the deer?  Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth?  They kneel down, they bring forth their young, they get rid of their labor pains.  Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; they leave and do not return to them.” (Job 39:1-4)

 

Baby Time

IMG_4726.JPGThis week, our resident swan pair debuted their newest brood of offspring, parading them very proudly all the way around the lake (for all the neighbors to see, I presume).  There are six cygnets, which might be their all-time record for family size!

There is a shy doe at the edge of the field, who acts very nervous whenever we come near.  I know there’s a tiny fawn hiding in the swampy raspberry thicket beyond where she lingers, though we have yet to actually see him.

After three known unsuccessful attempts (including inside the exhaust pipe of my husband’s truck), last year’s swallows have finally settled on a place to build a new nest.  Incidentally, it’s in the exact same place as they built the last one.  Silly birds.

A mother rabbit went bounding off from my parent’s garden when I was visiting there earlier this week, scared by the dog.  She left this wee cutie, with brown eyes almost as big as his ears, crouched obediently close to the ground.  He didn’t move a muscle, even when I took this picture:IMG_4752.JPGIt’s been baby time everywhere we look outside lately—and then, finally, at 6:45, just after the pearly gray dawn of a Wednesday morning, it was our turn.

A tiny baby voice cried out for the first time in the little house on the edge of a lake, while outside in the gentle rain the swan family paddled softly through the lily pads in search of breakfast and the swallows twittered busily around their almost-finished nest.

A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Praise the Lord!

Always Be Ready

doe nursing fawn / rejoicing hillsfawn / rejoicing hillsPhotographing wildlife is all about three essential things:  1) being in the right place, 2) at the right time, 3) with a camera in hand.  Any two components without the third = no picture.  I must admit that the times when I’ve had all three work out at once have been rare.  But they’ve been all the more exciting as a result—and these two photos are some of my favorite examples.

If you look closely at the first photo, you’ll see it’s really an action shot—that’s a pretty mama doe nursing her fawn, eyeing me warily even across the field.  This was shot from my car window, on a day when I just randomly happened to have my camera in the seat right next to me.

And the second photo was a breathtaking close-up chance encounter in a wild raspberry bramble.  I was out walking, camera in hand for a wildflower shoot, and came upon this little one’s mama suddenly, sending her leaping frightened off into the woods.  This little guy was probably not more than a day old, still wobbly on his feet, but he followed the instructions she left to the letter:  he dropped to the ground and didn’t move a muscle even when I stepped a little bit closer to take his portrait.

The lesson here is that one should always be ready for the unexpected.

As in, never leave the house without a camera.

Or in other vastly more important ways like this:

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  (Matthew 24:44)

(For more information and instructions on how to be ready for Him, read the whole chapter and the following one as well!)