I love tulip tree blossoms. The flowers look like dancers to me, limbs outstretched and curving into elegant stillness. Their sweeping wisps of soft pink appear to be part of some sweet choreography. I find them in the parking lot at the mall and abandon the crowds and commerce to partake in the best gift of all. God is there in those blossoms. He is also there within me drawing me into his joy. I sense his presence there at the far end of the lot with cars rushing past me. Some slow to see what I am doing there. I smile giddy and turn back to my treasure.
Spring is coming into her glory and the tulip tree blossoms are beginning the beguine. Shall we dance?
Yes, I am ready. Let us dance.
Psalm 65:9-13 ~
“Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this! Drench the plowed fields, soak the dirt clods With rainfall as harrow and rake bring her to blossom and fruit. Snow-crown the peaks with splendor, scatter rose petals down your paths, All through the wild meadows, rose petals. Set the hills to dancing, Dress the canyon walls with live sheep, a drape of flax across the valleys. Let them shout, and shout, and shout! Oh, oh, let them sing!”
Hungry and tired, I rushed out of the grocery store pushing my cold, wet cart to the car. The brisk air seemed to blow right through my thin red coat. Chris was waiting for me at home and I wanted to be there already. I practically threw my groceries into the trunk in my haste. When I finally got into my car and closed the door, I was pleasantly surprised by this sight.
All at once I was in a magical place. The rain pitter pattered softly on the roof of my car as I just sat there, taking in the beauty. I exhaled relief. It was so lovely and just what I needed. Fortunately I had my camera in my bag, and I took a few images to remember the moment. This one is my favorite.
It often seems that I am just a breath away from wonder. Stress, worry, hurry, they all melt away in his presence. The I Am is in the right now. In this moment. Right here.
In that spirit, I have decided to take Sundays off for my 365. I need a day to rest. This will either make my 365 not a 365 at all, or take it into the year of 2015. Either way, I am okay with it.
May you find wonder in the simple things today. He is always present.
Breathe him in.
Psalm 65:8 ~”The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”
This lamp stays burning in Katie’s now empty room. Every time I pass her room on my way to do laundry, it catches my eye. I don’t need its light to remind me of my girls who have moved on into adulthood; they are always on my heart. I keep it lit to hold my place in this house that grows larger by the day.
This has been a difficult season of transition for me. When I did a 365 project in 2011, all of my children were still at home. There was much life in this humble farmhouse. There was dancing in the kitchen and laughter around the dinner table. Now two have flown and one will be twenty-one in two weeks. This project seems to highlight those now empty places. What’s a previous homeschool mom to do? When my kids were small, I never dreamed those days would fly by so soon. I also had no idea that my identity was somehow becoming intertwined with being their mom. So when the day-to-day mothering abruptly ends, whats a Mama to do? Who am I again? They were with me around the clock for so many years. Sometimes I find myself walking laps around this quiet house and when I pass Katie’s lamp I remember that I was– I am, a mother. The anchor of motherhood dropped deep within me. It will not be dislodged and why would I want it to be? Love causes the heart to grow large and soft, making it more susceptible to pain.
I am still finding my way on this path called being a grown up. I swing like a pendulum between crying in my kitchen and trying to seek my own personal growth as an adult. I pray God will help me.
Annie once told me that my strength as a leader is my vulnerability. This blessed me. It is who I am — the mother who grieves in the empty kitchen because she has loved so deeply, and that’s okay. I gave them all that I had. This is what we mothers do. All of us. We give them everything as we should. I do not regret a day of it and I do not resent them for growing up. Its what I trained them to do. I know my birdies will fly back and forth between home and the world many times, and hopefully they will bring young birdies from their own nests someday. I hope to be there to guide them as they do.
The lamp reminds me of my mothering years; snuggly hugs and bath time giggles, bed time stories, pajama feet and sleepy faces. It is listening to teenage tears and having my heart break with theirs. It is prom dress shopping, and yes, photographs of everything. It is admitting that I don’t know anything at all and begging God to mother them better than I ever could. It is thanking him that he did and still does.
I will keep the lamp burning, along with my heart. Always lit and welcoming, warm and soft– this is a mother’s heart. A beacon to home.
Isaiah 49:15 ~“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
Psalm 18:28 ~”You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”
Since I was a girl I have adored horses. I lived and breathed them. It was all I could think about. The way they smelled, the sounds they made, the way they moved — I was in love. I drove my parents crazy asking for one when I was little. My Mama finally gave in when I was 11 and bought me a horse named Buttermilk. He was a creamy white half Arabian and to me he was the most beautiful horse in the world. I loved that horse. I cleaned stalls for that horse. I rode him everywhere. We were inseparable. I told him all my worries and concerns and learned how to be brave on his back. I believe with all my heart that he helped me to hold onto my childhood through the trauma of trying to grow up in a broken world.
Today I have a horse named Gunsmoke. He has to be the sweetest horse in the world. His whole demeanor says “teddy bear”. He follows me everywhere if I am in the pasture with him. Today, as I began my ride with him I led him to the front porch to set my camera down. As I stretched out to place my camera on the top step, he began to walk up the steps to the front door. I laughed and told him that we were not going in the house today. Silly Gunsmoke.
I needed this little ride today. We just went to end of the road and back a couple of times, but I found my bearings again on Gunsmoke’s strong back. How I love the soft clip-clopping of his feet on the pavement and his sweet snorting as he goes. He is a majestic creature. He bears the glory that God set aside just for horses. Don’t you feel it when you see one, be it in a movie or on the streets of the city? I never get over it. Even the Lord Jesus will return to us on a white horse. What a sight that will be. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”, and I wholeheartedly agree, but I would add “or woman” to that quote. I might even add “especially women”. In my opinion every young girl would benefit from time with a horse, and every horse would benefit from spending time with a young girl. They simply bring out the best in one another.
This is a gift I do not ever want to take for granted. I believe God puts desires in our hearts so that he can partner with us to bring them into being. He wants us to ask him for the things that make our hearts ache with yearning. He has plans for every little detail and he takes great joy in giving to his children. He is so good. Ever and always good.
Psalm 16:11 ~
“You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
I have had a headache for more than 24 hours now. I don’t know if it is the change in the weather or my lack of sleep, but I have decided to try and simplify things a bit to find some relief.
So, back to finding beauty in the ordinary. (Is there such a thing as ordinary?)
Tonight, after staying indoors all day with a tension headache, I decided to go night-hunting for some lovely Jonquils. Janey and I headed out to the far end of the pasture where Jonquil hill is still bursting with color and song, even at night. It was comforting to cut flowers in the cool night air, with the subtle sweetness of the Jonquils lingering. Janey lay down at my feet and the only sound was the snip-snipping of my scissors as I carefully cut the flowers at the bottom of their stems. I remember doing this as a little girl. In fact, Jonquil gathering is one of my favorite childhood memories. I had forgotten that until tonight. We would put food coloring in their vases and watch with delight as the flowers drank the color into themselves.
I had plans for these blooms tonight. I wanted to photograph them using my off camera lighting in the darkness. They have so much detail that tends to get lost in the brightness of day. On my kitchen table in the softer lighting I could see their delicate features more readily and photograph them. Aren’t they lovely? They seem more melancholy here, but still so beautiful. The deeper shades of their character are showing through. They are ever cheerful, but they seem more vulnerable in this light.
Yes, I am still talking about flowers. They tell me things about God and myself all the time. Today they are saying life can be difficult but we still carry the glory. We still shine because the light within us is not our own. We carry the light of God, and he is never weary. Therefore we must continue to open; we must continue to bloom.
Isaiah 40:28 ~”Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
Psalm 27:1~ “The Lord is my light and the One Who saves me. Whom should I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life.”
I love my job. This is Cathy, (the gorgeous grandmother) with her daughter Salena and granddaughter Catherine, her namesake. Cathy was the winner of my Valentine Portrait Giveaway that Salena nominated her for. So sweet. When I chatted with Cathy on the phone I asked her if she might like to share her shoot with Salena and Catherine to include a generational photo. She giggled with excitement when I mentioned it. I took that as a yes. Isn’t that what all mothers want? We want to include our children in everything we do, even in the things that were meant just for us. I knew that would be a blessing to her and that was my goal.
First we had Cathy spend some time in hair and make up with my fabulous make up artist, Dayna. Dayna knows how to pamper my clients and I love having her spend time with them before I begin my part of the shoot.
Then I spent some time with Cathy by herself. I had so much fun making her feel like the special woman she is. She has such a gentle and beautiful spirit. I wish every woman I know would do this. I love it and I believe we need to document our lives for our families. Mothers are always behind the scenes and rarely in front of the camera. They are so beautiful, all of them, but hardly any of them know this to be true. It is my pleasure and my joy to show them this very truth. Women, hear me. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
All of you.
Then I spent time with these three in groups and individually. We had such a good time!
This whole day was a joy for me. I know this is part of my calling, to help women know they are beautiful. Thank you Salena for nominating your amazing mom, and thank you Cathy for spending the day with me!
“Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
‘Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!’
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!”
From Proverbs 31 via The Message
I could hear their song long before I crested the hill at the end of my pasture. The Jonquils are in full bloom and singing their hearts out. I had to capture them one more time before they were silent and sleeping again. They are the first to bloom every spring. They are the bold, obedient ones who push through February’s frozen ground to welcome a spring they do not yet know. Their song is sweet and cheerful.
But there lurks an enemy in their midst.
It is no secret that I often get lost in my photography. Once I am behind the lens it is just me and my subject and I am often not aware of my circumstances. For example, last summer I stepped barefoot onto a wasp while photographing some roses on my back porch. If that weren’t painful enough (and it was extremely painful), I dropped and broke my macro lens and also ended up the ER because I went into anaphalactic shock. Yikes!
Today my enemies were fire ants. Lots of them.
If you do not live in the south, you have probably never encountered fire ants (and please count your blessings right this very minute). They are some of the most wicked creatures I have ever come across. Having grown up in Virginia, I had never met them until I moved to Georgia. I remember calling my dad to tell him about them after I was stung by them in the garden. He laughed. He could not imagine being frightened of an ant. His remark was “I just know one foot will kill a whole lot of ants”. I could see his smirk through the phone. He had no idea what I was dealing with. When Annie was barely one we took her to Stone Mountain and had a picnic. She was not saying sentences at the time but would say a word every now and then. That afternoon she kept saying the word bite. We thought it strange because she didn’t seem upset. She insisted again emphatically (like only Annie can),”Bite. BITE. B-I-I-I-GHT.” She never cried, but when we opened her diaper we found ants and bites everywhere. Bless her heart. She was a trooper. She laughs about that story now.
Today, as I often do, I lay down right in the middle of the flowers to photograph them. Leaning on my left elbow I took in the sight of the yellow flowers agains the blue sky. Lovely. It didn’t take long to feel the burning pain of fire ant bites all over my left arm. I know it well. Here is the thing about fire ants: they cover their victim quietly before they bite. By the time you are feeling pain, you are already covered in them. That’s when you do the fire ant dance, jumping up and down batting them off you and shaking out your clothes. At least that is what I do. It’s not my favorite dance.
So tonight as I look at these beautiful images of the happy Jonquils I am reminded to be more aware of my surroundings while taking photographs. My left arm is throbbing. Thankfully I did not have to go to the hospital this time. That is something to be thankful for. Focusing on the best parts of today.
When I texted Annie a photo of my battle scarred arm she texted back. ” Awww. Bite.” She remembers.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
I am posting a second post of Jamie in my studio for my 365 Project tonight. This is bending the rules a bit but I don’t mind. There were so many lovely images of her and they speak to the places I am in right now.
I nearly quit this project again today. This happens about twice a week now. I get exhausted and I teeter back and forth between quitting and staying in the race. I don’t say this to ask for encouragement, although that is always wonderful. I just need to be honest about my journey. Trying to balance the actual business of photography with a project like this is tough. I am adding considerably to my work load. I am not getting much sleep these days, so something has to give.
When I look at Jamie’s gorgeous images I see my journey in her movement. Her dancing is raw and beautiful. She dances authentically and beautifully. As she balances tenuously between joy and pain, she carries us with her. It is not easy to dance this line. In fact, there is nothing at all easy about it. Maybe that’s where the real beauty lies. We must keep our feet tethered to this earth while continuing to reach up to heaven where our hope lies. This takes us into an exquisite spin; with our feet planted in peace, our arms upright and eyes fixed on the light, we are spun around in the dance.
I must keep dancing. I must keep going. One more day, one more effort to count graces and offer excellence to God.
One more day. One more dance.
Thank you elegant Jamie.
Philippians 3:12-14 ~
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” The Message
Posted on 01. Mar, 2014 by maryanne.
My friend Jamie is an elegant creature. She is the very picture of vulnerability and grace. You can see it in her eyes and her smile. I love spending time with her.
But when she dances? The hands of the clock surrender and time stands still.
Honestly, it is true. She glides effortlessly across the floor and I cannot hear her feet touch the ground. I am so happy to photograph her. It is like trying to capture a butterfly as she lights from flower to flower. Jamie is dancing in my studio and I know that every place she steps those glorious feet, a burden is lifted from some heavy soul. Chains are unfettering. This is the power of worship. This is the exquisite beauty in Jamie’s dancing. The music changes to another song and I still do not speak. I am captivated. It is a precious gift to be present when Jamie dances. She reflects God’s glory and every shadow is chased away in the light.
For those moments in time we were suspended by grace. God drew near and we were on holy ground.
Thank you Jamie for christening my new studio space. You have helped to open the gates for much blessing to come.
2 Corinthians 3:18 ~”So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
Posted on 28. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Today was Shine a Light on Slavery Day sponsored by The End It Movement. To help raise awareness for the 27 million men, women and children trapped in slavery around the world, many of us wore a red X on our hands. I asked these young women to come represent those people for my project today. These are amazing women. They will fight for those in need. They were part of a dance team I led for many years and I know their hearts. They are warriors. I am so proud to know them and to have been part of their lives for so long. What a blessing.
I have seen these girls (who are now women) encircle those who were in trouble and lift them up to God many times. I have seen them dance upon the heads of their enemies with songs of praise in their mouths. Who better to fight for the downtrodden? You can find out more about the End It Movement at enditmovement.com.
Isaiah 61:1-3 ~
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.”