The New and the Old

IMG_7295 editI always enjoy spending the first few weeks of a new year reflecting back on the old.  I read through the my journals and scroll through the pictures I took, reminding myself of what I’ve learned and experienced over those 365 days.  I note the highlights and the lowlights, what was the same and what was different, what was new and what was old—and this is what I found for 2019:

There were wonderful old things—

Old friends to catch up with…

The faithful, breathtaking repetition of seasons…

Old favorite vacation spots from our childhoods, revisited with our own children…

Time-worn traditions and celebrations honored once again…IMG_7921 editAnd not-so-exciting old things—

The same old piles of dirty dishes every day…

Bigger quantities of the same old cycle of laundry: wash, dry, fold, put away, repeat…

Vehicles aging, old parts needing replaced…

Old habits struggling to be broken…

But in the midst of all the old, the good and the bad, His mercies were new.  Fresh, marvelous and breathtaking every day, breathing life and purpose and wonder into the sameness and drudgery of life.img_3173 editThere were also wonderful new things—

New faces to become friends with…

New recipes tried, new books read…

New ways I was challenged and uplifted spiritually…

A new baby to carry, birth and nurture…IMG_4074 editAnd not so fun new things—

New goodbyes to be said this side of heaven…

New-to-me levels of sickness and health issues, and need for help as I went through them…

New things to forgive and be forgiven for.

But in the midst of all this, the good and the bad, His mercies were old.  Not old and worn out, but old and timeless and sure.  Unchanging, firm, and the same, an untold comfort in the midst of change and uncertainty.IMG_4063 editAnd now I’m three weeks into another new year,

days adding to days without stopping to wait while I reflect,

already colored by the un-calculated quantities of baby spit up on my shirt, giant snow storms and unexpected events.

And I’m here to say that I’m already discovering that the same old story from last year is on repeat in the new:  His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  May you discover the same, in abundance, in the upcoming year!IMG_3148But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

P.S. Featured here are a few odd pictures that I never got around to using from 2019!  Also, I know I’ve been absent from this space for awhile, but I’ve had good reason in the form of one tiny adorable little man who arrived to change the landscape of our family forever in October.  To those of you who have inquired with such kind interest as to the future state of this blog:  Thank you for your patience as I’ve taken a long break from here to focus fully on adjusting to life as a family of six.  Lord willing, I do hope to get back to more writing and photography as this new season permits!  Meanwhile, you’ll find me taking baby portraits and writing in his baby book about first smiles and that time he slept eight hours….

 

Superior Dawn

IMG_3089 edit.jpgPerhaps the best thing about winter is that you don’t have to wake up in the wee hours to watch the sun rise.  For instance, you can roll out of bed at the usual time, spend half an hour bundling yourself up, stumble your way around the pre-dawn perimeter of an unfamiliar hotel building, risk life and limb to bump your way in sitting position down the steep bouldered bank to the shore—and still make it in time to watch the entire show at leisure.

Now this (all hazardous icy rocks at the bottom aside) is a photographer’s dream life.IMG_3092 edit.jpgIMG_3100 edit.jpgIMG_3114 edit.jpgIMG_3126 edit.jpgIMG_3123 edit 1.jpgimg_3146 editIMG_3127 edit.jpgThe wind off the big lake was so surprisingly mild for December, and the sound of the rhythmic waves so pleasant, I found a non-icy log to perch on and paused from my photography long enough to pull out my phone and find my Bible reading plan for the day.  And this, totally unplanned by me, was what popped up:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” (Isaiah 9:2)

IMG_3152 edit.jpgIt was like God whispering into the stillness of the dawn that these photos I was taking were really pictures of Him.

Warmth creeping in to melt the cold.  Black fading to blue, then pink, then blazing gold.  Light flooding into darkness.  It was all just an echo of what He had done, what He is doing, and what He will yet do.

For me huddled on a rocky shore with a hat hastily pulled over my un-brushed bed hair.

For the receptionist in the lobby counting down the minutes until she got off night shift.

For the person in the car across the bay pausing from their work commute in the marina parking lot to watch the same thing I was.

For all the people waiting for Light, all over the world.IMG_3159 editIMG_3166 edit.jpgAs I picked my way back along the sun-kissed shore, pondering this, I looked up and spotted a different trail up the bank.  It was a safer, gentler route, one that I couldn’t see in the unfamiliar, un-mapped darkness, the way I should have taken on my way down.  I headed up, the sun warm on my back, relieved to walk confidently and upright instead of clambering awkwardly.

Again, I saw the echoes of His love, as what was once hidden in darkness was illuminated by light.  Funny how much easier it is to find the best way in the light, just like it is to find the only Way in the true Light.

“Who among you walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD; let him lean on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)

“I will turn darkness into light before them and rough places into level ground. These things I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8)

Mosaic

IMG_3079 editI clearly remember the first time I saw a mosaic portrait in real life.IMG_3078 edit.jpgOf course, I’ve long been familiar with simple mosaics.  There were the tile floors I helped my dad grout, and the bathroom walls of a favorite coffee shop studded with bits of broken china.  I had sewn colored squares of fabric into the mosaic of a quilt or stitched a myriad tiny x’s to make a cross-stitch pattern.  I once taught an overview class on mosaics to 7th and 8th graders, which concluded with making our own of tiny pieces of colored paper on black poster board to line the school cafeteria walls.  But on this day, I knew that I had previously known next to nothing about mosaics in comparison to the piece of art before my eyes.IMG_3042 edit.jpgI was drawn to the portrait because, unlike the oil paintings around it, it shimmered with light.  That was the only difference from any distance.  I actually thought it was a painting until I walked up to it and read the placard beneath, which identified it as a mosaic—and it was only then that I looked closely and realized that what had appeared to be a painting was really a myriad tiny pieces of glass painstakingly composed into the tender likeness of a mother and her child.  IMG_3080 edit.jpgIt was Mary, cradling the baby Jesus, of course; a truly breathtaking masterpiece.

What an appropriate medium for such a daunting subject, I thought.  How, after all, does an artist depict the faces of people we have no actual likeness of?  Perhaps a thousand tiny beautiful pieces is the best way, because when you think about the birth of Christ, it is indeed a figurative mosaic of epic proportions and complex plot.IMG_3070 edit.jpgHundreds of prophecies over thousands of years, each piece coming together flawlessly in the grand unveiling of God’s masterpiece plan to save mankind.

Secular decrees by pagan emperors made so that at the perfect time and place, a baby born in a stable to a God-favored mother and the God-fearing man who would fill the role of earthly father, from exactly the right kingly lines.

At the perfect time, in exactly the right place in the sky, a star appearing to be seen by exactly the right men who understood that it was not just any star, an epiphany so definite they would traverse the deserts to find the source of such celestial celebration.

Angel messengers.  Angel hosts.  Angels in dreams.

A miraculously-conceived yet-unborn infant leaping in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Christ he would pave the way for.

The list could go on and on.IMG_3074 edit.jpgSo many intricate pieces.  Such flawless, artful and epic execution.  But the thing that really floors me is this:

God is still crafting that mosaic.  Christmas was only the beginning of the greatest story of all time!  And it doesn’t even end at Easter.  It hasn’t ended yet.  What we see is stunning, masterful, breathtaking…but yet incomplete.  There are yet prophecies waiting to be fulfilled, trumpets waiting to sound, hearts and battles waiting to be won before it can be framed and signed by the artist.

And if you have let Him win your heart, you get to be a piece of that mosaic.  Yes, YOU, like a shimmering little piece of glass, skillfully shaped and precisely placed into that epic Christmas mosaic that stretches back through the corridors of time.  You, a mosaic within a mosaic, all the pieces and parts of you forming a life that can matter a lot and shine bright in the grandest scheme of things—if you have faith and are willing.IMG_3044 edit.jpg“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

by grace you have been saved— 

and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-8, 10)IMG_3064 edit.jpgPhotos: beneath the Ghost Bridge, Lake Superior, December 2018

 

GPS

IMG_1282.JPGIt all began with a few simple needs that could be easily taken care of at a Walmart.  It would be a quick errand, I thought.  The only (small) problem?  I didn’t know where Walmart was in this unfamiliar city.

But that’s what GPS is for.

“Take me to Walmart,” I said to my phone as I contemplated the less-than-exciting but unavoidable prospect of backing an awkwardly long truck out on a blind curve.  “Okay, go now—FAST!” my husband shouted from the curb.  I stepped on the gas and watched his eyes get big as I came to a halt on the other side, mere inches from a signpost.  IMG_1311.JPG“After 50 feet take a left turn onto 8th Street,” the confident feminine voice instructed.  Still rattled from the close call with street signage, I sailed right past, missing my very first turn.

“In half a mile, take a right onto Center Street,” the voice calmly redirected.  At the intersection of Center Street, I found myself facing a road under massive construction.  I didn’t really want to go down there, so I picked a different road, hopeful that the voice would redirect me around the construction area.  No such luck.

“In one quarter of a mile, take a U-turn at the stoplight,” the voice instructed, not to be dissuaded.  I got to the stoplight, where two things became clear.  1) This big awkward truck was not going to be making this U-turn, and 2) getting to Walmart in an unfamiliar city was going to be a lot more complicated than I’d ever imagined.IMG_1303.JPGBut we eventually got there, that big truck and I, surprisingly all in one piece.  We went around the block to get back on track instead of making the U-turn.  We survived the road construction.  The voice from my phone carried me through, calm and unruffled through all my missed turns and second-guesses.

“Destination reached,” it informed me cheerfully as I pulled into the big store’s parking lot.  So, it really had known where it was going.  Well, that was a relief!  Now was the time to admit that I would have gotten there a lot faster if I’d paid closer attention and trusted it more implicitly—but what can I say?  I may be a millennial, but I’m still a little distrustful of allowing a robot to tell me what to do.

IMG_1355.JPG IMG_1406.JPGIMG_1380-1.jpgSometimes, the right way to go in life is a little like that, too.  You know, not quite as direct and smooth as we’d like?  And sometimes, even if you’re asking the right One for directions, it’s easy to mistrust and question whether He really knows where He’s taking you.  Sometimes we even go so far as to strike out on our own, hoping He’ll change his mind to suit our preferences

But if we know God and His Word, we also know that, unlike a GPS system, He doesn’t fail or make mistakes.  Our human feelings and inclinations may tempt us to question, and even lure us off track, but His ways are perfect and He remains faithful.

And loving.  Loving enough to patiently, persistently reroute us in the right direction after every foible.  Loving enough to stay with us every step of the way, right through the missed turns, road construction, and awkward U-turns.

It’s the ultimate GPS system, really: God’s Positioning Service

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:3-4)

(P.S. Photos not taken while looking for Walmart.)

Vacation Vignettes: Peninsula

IMG_3667.JPGWe chose a destination on the map, a place with a name hard to wrap our tongues around, that neither of us had ever been to before.  We took an entire day and took our sweet, winding, whimsical time and way to get there.  We found places we’d spotted on maps and in brochures.  We found things that no map or brochure can point you to, small and not-so-small details that delighted and surprised us. It was the perfect juxtaposition of the expected and the unexpected, a true adventure. And so, as the grand finale to this little series of vacation photographs, come have a little glimpse of the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula with us.IMG_3680IMG_3551.JPGWe took the roads labeled “scenic” and “shoreline” as much as possible, for obvious reasons.  It’s the same great lake whose waves we’ve seen pounding the shore of our own home state, but it was no less breathtaking here!IMG_3467We peeked hopefully beneath the leaves of these thimbleberry bushes, and were mocked with loads of not-quite-ripe berries.  So we bought thimbleberry jam instead at…IMG_3474.JPG…a fairy-tale bakery that smelled of gingerbread, surrounded by magnificent fragrant rose bushes.  I never thought I’d meet a bakery that smelled as good outside as it did inside, but I was wrong.  The fact that the delicious muffins we also secured here were baked by kind bearded monks in long black robes only added to its charm.IMG_3497We climbed a red wrought iron staircase, which wound tightly to the top of…IMG_3505IMG_3528…a perfectly picturesque lighthouse with a shiny red tin roof.IMG_3651IMG_3663 IMG_3607We picked wildflowers, ate the most delicious fresh lake trout right in view of the great lake it was caught in. and explored a historic fort.   IMG_3698.JPGIMG_3709-1.jpgAnd then, as a fitting finale to the day, we drove right to the top of Brockway Mountain to see for miles in every direction, and join other happy people who were also taking time out of their busy schedules to watch the sun as it slipped like a giant copper penny into the lake spread out below us.  IMG_3714.JPGAnd then that magnificent sunset chased us all the way down the long road home.  The tired little people nodded off to sleep in the back seat, cheeks rosy with sunshine and sticky from after-dinner mints, and the great dark dusk engulfed the rugged shape of the peninsula as it rose to meet the twilight sky behind us, as the music played, softly and fittingly:

“Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above…” (Irving Berlin)

 

 

 

 

Vacation Vignettes: Beach

IMG_3052.JPGCome with us to the beach!  You know, that one that kind of seems like our own little secret, since you have to drive around a giant mud hole to get there, and then try not to get stuck in the sand while parking where the woods end and dunes begin.  The other people sharing it with us are so far away we can almost imagine that the only creatures we have to share it with are the stray seagulls eyeing our cooler in hopes of handouts.  The sand is so hot it scorches our bare feet and the water is cold enough to leave your body tingling deliciously after a single dip.  It’s perfect.

Come run races down the hard-packed sand at the edge of the waves that go for miles, sending splashes sparkling to the sky, as hard and as fast as you can.   Come make snow angels in the sand, face down, so the sun can soak your back.  Come stand still and contemplate the art show where wave and sand meet, ripples and layers in constantly shifting patterns.IMG_2992.JPGIMG_3829Come wander amidst the white bleached driftwood, polished smooth by a thousand relentless waves.  Come find smooth silvery bits to tuck into pockets as souvenirs, leaving behind the charred bits that are lovely memories of sunset beach fires and happy gatherings.IMG_3841IMG_3840Come toil up through ankle-deep sand to smell the wild sweet peas clinging to the dunes, trailing tenacious vines along the heaps of shifting soil beneath the nodding grasses.IMG_3002.JPGCome watch a little blue sailboat slowly unfurl its white wings as it heads out to sea.  Come watch the children with sand for freckles who build endless castles, never tiring rebuilding what the relentless waves erode.  Come beware of children with mischief twinkling in their eyes and that bucket full of fresh cold lake water they’re saving for when you’re back is turned (it will be refreshing).IMG_3039.JPGAnd when the sun and the wind and the splashing and the dunking and the running and the wandering has produced an appetite that seems as boundless as the blue waves reaching to the horizon, come and eat.  There are slices of cold turkey, pickles and Jarlsburg wrapped in pretzel rolls or soggy sandwiches accidentally dropped in the lake, whichever you prefer.  We have rosy-cheeked Ranier cherries and sandy granola bars for dessert, to hold us over until we drive past the ice cream shop that stocks Mackinac Island Fudge on our way home.

And perhaps our humble meal shared on a stretch of sand will remind you, just the tiniest bit, of another picnic on a beach thousands of miles away, a couple thousand years ago.

“The other disciples came ashore in the boat. They dragged in the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw that a charcoal fire had been prepared, with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus told them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

“Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said to them… Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.” (John 21:8-13)

And since this a vacation, after all, we’d linger even longer and read the whole chapter.  This day we shared at the beach was pretty wonderful, but that story?  It’s my favorite beach story of all time.

 

Vacation Vignettes

IMG_3724There are two things that cause writer’s block for me: having nothing to say, and having  altogether too much to say.

Coming home from vacation last week has been the latter problem for me.  I saw so much, took so many photos, thought so many thoughts and every time I sit down to try to wrap it all up in some neat little package of an essay, the sheer volume of it all overwhelms me.  After trying for a week, I’ve even considered not sharing any of it and just continuing on with regular local posts as though we never went anywhere.  Many of you would be none the wiser.

But then you would never get to see an endangered species of turtle.  You’d miss what the sunset looks like from the top of Brockway Mountain and the way the spray on your face feels like at Bond Falls.  You’d miss the warm sand between your toes and the feel of smooth polished bits of driftwood in your hand.  That hardly seemed right.

So, rather then lump them all together in one post, I’ve sorted all my photos into virtual piles and I’m going to give them to you one chunk at a time, as themed vignettes that will, altogether, sum up our golden little time away beautifully.  After all it was Jesus Himself who said…

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

If they can serve as a tiny vacation for your soul, too, I will have counted my time well spent.  Stay tuned!

Along the Winter Shore

IMG_2077 editIf you’ve ever stood on the shore of Lake Superior on a summer day, you know the feeling. Waves crashing on the rocks at your feet, sending spray high into the air, vast expanse of water stretching to meet the sky on the horizon.  It’s big; you’re small.  It’s a magnificent feeling.

The great lake in the winter is no different, I discovered recently.

Colder, yes.

Very differently framed in a muted palette of ice and snow that somehow manages to shift the highlights on the waves from gold to silver.

But certainly no less breathtaking.

While our husbands were skiing the mountains one afternoon, my friend and I took advantage of the grandmas willing to babysit our little people and went down to a lakeside resort to pick up cross-country ski passes and get information on trail conditions.  The moody gray sweep of the lake was just outside the big windows lining the front of the lodge, and when we stepped outside after obtaining what we had come for, we looked at each other and agreed.  The water was calling; we couldn’t leave without getting closer.

IMG_2053The trail was very icy, so we didn’t go far.  Instead we went along cautiously until we found a spot with a good view, and then stood still to take in the magnificence of it all.  I couldn’t help thinking of Psalm 93 as I watched to the blue-gray waves crash on the rocks below us.

“The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;

indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.  

Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity..IMG_2063 edit…The seas have lifted up, LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves…IMG_2058 edit.jpgMightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the LORD on high is mighty.  Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.”  (Psalm 93)

Amen!