Savoring Summer #42: Last Light

IMG_1136 editNow may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

This benediction sums up my wish for you as much today as it did for Paul towards the Roman church.

It’s been such a good six weeks!  I hope you’ve enjoyed the daily views of summer through my lens, and digging deeper into the rich treasures of the book of Romans.  I’ve been challenged and encouraged by what I’ve read, and I hope you have, too!

If you’re one of the people who has joined me to read through the full study on SheReadsTruth.com: thank you!  It made it extra meaningful to know we were doing this together, especially during a summer when being “together” has been limited!  If you did, will you comment below or on Facebook and tell me your favorite photo and/or verse from the last six weeks?  There might just be a little something special coming your way if you do!

 

Savoring Summer #36: Cotton Candy Clouds

IMG_2488 edit.jpg“So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another…It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.” (Romans 14:19, 21)

There’s a lot that could be said about today’s passage, but I think the best thing to do with it is to set aside the excuses that so quickly rise, and read it prayerfully, asking the Spirit put His finger on how this might mean change or growth in your life.

I know I was convicted!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: I just have to say that one of my very favorite things about summer is the clouds.  

Savoring Summer #10: Evening Mists

IMG_0935 edit“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

When we talk about God forgiving us, it’s helpful to remember that we’re not talking about him forgiving us for some “minor” offense.  It’s not just some condescending little, “Oh, fine, I guess I can let it slide that you didn’t make it to church last week.”

There is no one against whom we have committed greater sin than God.  Think about that for a minute.  Think about the nastiest, most evil person in all of history, the one who you would personally have the very hardest time forgiving—and that is YOU before God.  You were literally God’s ENEMY.

Perhaps you did not deliberately set out to be God’s enemy, but the fact is that you were His enemy by association, just as all soldiers in war fall on one side or another based on which leader they are taking orders from.

And this is precisely why God’s forgiveness is so mind-boggling.  Under the circumstances (which He could justly declare unforgivable), really the most we could hope for would be something like: “Because of my great mercy, I’ll let you get by without the death sentence, but you’ve offended me so much I’m still going to exile you to an island for the rest of your life.” 

But instead, it’s this magnificent: “You were my enemy; now become my heir!”

He offers reconciliation that is full, complete, without caveat.  He wipes our record clean, and calls us up to the place of honor reserved for beloved children.

I think that reconciliation must be one of the most beautiful words in all the English language.

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #1: A Challenge and A Plan

thunderstorm at sunset“Thunderstorm at Sunset”

One of my favorite books of photography is called Looking for the Summer, by Jim Brandenburg, a renowned photographer of National Geographic fame, who just happens to live in Minnesota, too.  In it, he challenges himself to take one photo a day for an entire single summer, and the results are breathtaking.  If you want to drink up a lot of pure Minnesota-Boundary-Waters-themed summer beauty, it’s a book I highly recommend.

Now, I’m no Jim Brandenburg (all of his artistic work is top-quality, stunning and highly inspiring), but I thought I’d take up a similar but slightly scaled back challenge for myself this summer.  I’m going to attempt a photo-a-day for about six weeks!  This will necessarily be a project with a less writing, but instead I’d like to take you along on my other personal project for the summer: studying the book of Romans.  I’ll be sharing verses that stood out to me, and sometimes, as I have time and inspiration, thoughts to go with them.

If you’d like to join me, I’ll be using the free reading plan located at shereadstruth.com, which is a fabulous resource if you’re looking for ideas for Bible studies and reading plans!

Now, just as that great book of the Bible begins:

To all of you “loved by God, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

See you back here tomorrow!

 

 

Babies Don’t Keep

IMG_9991 edit.jpgI didn’t get out to walk as much as I normally like to this winter.  And for the first time in years, I didn’t even touch my skis, because by the time I got through postpartum recovery and felt up to getting on them again, the snow drifts were being measured in feet, not inches.  Even you avid skiers know how daunting breaking a trail through that is!

This is all the fault, of course, of a certain cute snuggly little guy who likes to hang out with (onto) me a lot lately.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have hard feelings about it.  If you’ve ever had the privilege of being graced by one of his ready smiles, or gotten to rest your cheek on his downy head, well, then you know what I’m talking about.  He was worth it, and hey, running up and down the stairs to wash extra loads of baby laundry is exercise, too, right?  But it did mean that I didn’t take as many nature pictures.

Winter photography isn’t easy.  The days are shorter, the light dimmer and fleeting.  With so many of the living, moving things in hibernation, hidden beneath the snow, finding interesting subjects requires extra effort.  That being said, I truly enjoy the way winter photography challenges and stretches my creativity, and this year, I missed the way it always renews my appreciation for the quiet beauty of the season.IMG_9711 edit.jpgBut circumstances are never an excuse for failing to find joy.

So when I was looking wistfully at my untouched ski boots, or watching the light fall across the fields in a photogenic way that I wouldn’t be running out to capture as I have in the past, instead of giving into impatience or frustration, I learned to intentionally shift my mindset in two ways.

The first was to gain a deeper appreciation for what I was restricted from doing, realizing how often I have taken freedoms, hobbies and privileges for granted.  When you’re missing something, it’s not okay to complain and give in to discontentment, but it IS okay to remember it with pleasure, acknowledge it’s value, and be grateful for it in a way you probably haven’t been before.  

And the second?  To be fully appreciative of and present in the fleeting circumstances that created this restriction, because babies don’t keep.  To relish the snuggles instead of wishing away the nighttime feedings.  Winter will come again, but my son will never be this little again.  The dimpled fists clinging to my shirt are going to stretch out into the strong lean hands of a man, the chubby round cheeks I love to kiss are going to turn to manly stubble, the coos are going to turn into sentences, the giggles to guffaws.  The days of him squealing when I peek over the edge of his cradle in the morning, or his downy little head nodding to sleep on my shoulder are numbered.IMG_9771 edit.jpgAnd I learned to really savor few opportunities I did have to snap a photo.  These were taken while…

Hauling the camera along to the chicken coop to get a shot of the beautifully frosted windows while collecting eggs.

Rolling down the car window on the way to town to grab a shot of frosted pine branches.

Pausing for a quick photograph of the icicles above my head while airing my tires at the gas station.

On a rare walk, spotting the tracks of the multiple coyotes who had yapped in the field the night before.IMG_9743 edit.jpgIMG_9988 edit.jpgThere are a lot of parallels here to the strange times we’re living in right now.  A pandemic is weird, strange and scary, and we’re all feeling the effects of it one way or another.  We’re chafing because we can’t go places when we want to.  We’re missing people and faces and fellowship.  We’re disappointed at cancellations and postponements.  We miss the days when you didn’t feel like you were hazarding your life and everyone else’s every time you walk into the grocery store.  We’d really like to have a normal conversation again that didn’t contain the words mask, CDC or quarantine.

But circumstances are never an excuse for failing to find joy.

I hope that, instead of giving way to impatience and frustration at the unusual out-of-our-control limitations put on us this year, we can look for the good when it all seems bad.  That we can be more grateful for the freedom we had before, and not take it for granted when it returns.  That we can be intentional about using all that extra time at home.  That we can more creative, less apathetic.  That we can appreciate the opportunity to build stronger relationships with immediate family members, and the blessed simplicity of being forced to slow down.  That we can learn to value the right things, and put less value on the things that don’t really matter.IMG_9972 edit.jpgNormal life will return eventually, but while you’re waiting, don’t miss the unique gifts and blessings that God may have for you during this pandemic.  When we look back on 2020 in years to come, let’s be grateful that we learned new good lessons and lived this strange and memorable year well, instead of regretful that we spent it chafing for it to end.

“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

Farewell to Winter

IMG_4065 editIMG_4046 editFarewell to watching the snow banks mount to the window sills and the thermometer drop out of sight,

to pulling elastic snow pants cuffs down over small boots,

to snow caves, snow men, and snow angels,

to a world that sparkles like a thousand diamonds in the sunshine,

to stepping in unexpected snow water puddles in stocking feet.

IMG_3886 editIMG_4176 editIMG_3888 editFarewell to the sometimes exquisite, always relentless work of the winter wind, 

to the battle for an open driveway,

to the endlessly shifting sea of snow dunes,

to snow banners off the shed roof.IMG_3911 editFarewell to rainbow sun dogs,

to silver moonlight on midnight blankets of snow,

to Orion, that great starry hunter,

and to the way he and all the rest of the host of heaven twinkles most splendidly on the bitterest of winter nights.IMG_3868 editIMG_4095 editFarewell to conjuring up baking projects just for the sake of making the kitchen cozy,

to scooping up great bowls of freshly-fallen snow to make snow ice cream,

to in-season citrus in the refrigerator drawer,

to rosy-cold cheeks bent appreciatively over steaming hot drinks.IMG_4056 editIMG_4048 editFarewell to the best and longest ski season in years,

to solo breaking trails through the sunset fields,

to swishing beneath the low-hung golden-green cedars while the swans murmur to each other along the banks of a laughing river,

to laughing with friends through the trials of sticky afternoon snow,

to the great frontier of yet-unexplored trails that must now wait until next season.IMG_2945 editIMG_3497 editFarewell to the long dark of winter evenings,

to dinners made elegant by candlelight,

to laps made warm by quilting projects,

to chapters read aloud by lamplight,

to games played late with old friends, and new.img_4154-edit.jpgFarewell to winter.

Welcome to spring.

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

 

On the Last Day of Summer

IMG_0145Farewell to shadows of bluebells on white chicken coop walls…IMG_9119Farewell to pleasant afternoons hanging laundry on the line in the company of friendly toads…IMG_0150Farewell to grasshoppers, and white trumpet vines, and all other such elegant pairings…IMG_9486IMG_0042-1.jpgIMG_9596Farewell to barefoot days at the edge of the lake……IMG_0433-1.jpgFarewell to the haunting serenade of loons…IMG_9160 IMG_1023-1Farewell to daisy bouquets made by small hands, and smoky sunsets, gifts from forests burning far away…IMG_0883Farewell to cumulonimbus, those splendid, tall ships sailing by in the sea of the sky…IMG_0467Farewell to restless, flitting warblers in green, green meadows…IMG_0445IMG_0439IMG_0443Farewell to lush gardens decked in the thousand diamonds of sudden morning showers…IMG_0319Farewell to the brief, warm nights, sparkling with celestial beauty and fireflies, humming with mosquitoes…IMG_9864Farewell to all the sun-ripened berries hiding under the leaves…IMG_9806Farewell to picturesque encounters on whimsical summer evening drives…IMG_9688Farewell to all the babies, now raised and grown…IMG_9426Farewell to dancing swallowtails in ballrooms of flowers…IMG_9611Farewell, sweet summer; welcome, glorious autumn!

On the Twelth Day of Summer…

 

…my camera gave to me,

Twelve suns a-setting.

It seemed fitting to end this project with the best kind of ending a summer day could wish for, which is, of course, a glorious sunset.

Sometimes I caught reflections; once I caught a pulse of lightening in a rising thundercloud (can you spot it?).

Some were snapped at the last minute, quickly, while swatting mosquitoes; others were taken at leisure on nice evening walks down gravel roads while savoring soft evening breezes.

Sometimes the entire sky was ablaze with color; once, between storms, there was barely any color to speak of.

But the most memorable one was from the time I went sunset chasing while on my way home from a long day in town.  (That’s like storm chasing, with considerably less risk involved.)  I took off down never-before-explored roads with no other goal than to find the perfect vista—and upon finding it, was surprised to meet up with other sunset-chasers.

We were all ordinary people heading home at the end of a long, busy day, who had mutually caught a glimpse of something splendid happening through the trees.  Each one of us had swerved impulsively off the highway, out of the stream of steady traffic, and chased the sinking copper orb down a tiny dirt road to this quiet little spot.  We got out of our cars, adjusted our respective phones and cameras, nodded companionably to each other.  One girl noted to me, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”-–but that was about all that was said, and that was about all that needed to be said.

I loved the fact that though we were complete strangers to each other, we were, for a few breathtaking sunset moments, bound together by a common love of everyday beauty.  I don’t know if each of us was also thinking the same thing, but I like to hope so, because for me it was something like this:

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!  From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:2-3)IMG_9668

 

 

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!

 

 

Declaring the Glory

IMG_5961.JPGIMG_5939IMG_5962-1.jpgIt was a long, happy weekend of giving thanks.  During family dinner as the silverware clinked on fine china, then again later as wedges of pie were passed, between friends, during joyful church services and into microphones, I heard people express gratefulness for so many beautiful things.

Some were humorously indicative of current life situations, such as…

“Getting 24-hour flu instead of a prolonged cold.”

“All the snow melting so I don’t have to plow.”

“Lefse.”

“Baby sleeping through the night.” 

Others were sweetly tearful, deeply emotional, such as…

“Healing.”

Long lists of volunteer services.

“A phone call from a long lost family member.”

“You.”

After all the feasting and gathering was over, I took an evening walk under leaden skies, picking my way along the the icy ruts of our driveway as I mentally added a few more things to the list, like:

“Cartons of freshly laid brown eggs in my fridge.”

“Homemade brown sugar hazelnut lattes.”

“The sound of little feet pitter-pattering down the hall.”

It was a wonderfully cheering thing to do on an otherwise drab evening.  But then this happened:IMG_5894.JPGIMG_5900.JPG The dim, dreary skies lit unexpectedly up with all this splendor that kept going and going and going and wouldn’t stop.  I paused to notice the first flush of pink, and then stopped to watch in awe as it spread and rippled and flamed across the entire canopy of the heavens curving over my world.  Then the coyotes started to yap far off in the forest, and I thought about the fact that there’s more than one way to make your voice heard.

People say it with words, the animals with their own unique sounds, the sky with color, each one declaring thanks and glory.  Yes, glory!

For the small things, for the large things, in all things.

To God, our Creator, Giver, Sustainer.

Because giving thanks really is just another way of giving glory.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

“All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You.” (Psalm 145:10)