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Posted on 17. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
I sit across from one of my favorite friends, having coffee and watching the people. I am suddenly aware of all of them. The lady in green across the way is listening to her friend with great intention. She seems to be an amazing listener. She makes me want to open up to her too. The people next to me are talking about God. I can hear their words because of their close proximity and I am moved by their openness to talk about God in a public place. One of them is asking earnest questions of the other, and his friend is endeavoring to answer them well. The cadence of their voices soothes me. It is the conversation of friends.
The three men at the end of my table are obviously good friends. The one in the middle seems to be the extravert. Everyone at his table is drawn to him as he speaks. His eyes are kind and he uses big gestures with his arms as he tells his stories. One of them has a photography book and I am intrigued. It’s an old one, not like one you would find in a modern book store. It is weathered and well-used. The gentleman in the center catches my eye and grins so broadly it feel as if the sun just came out. He can tell I am studying them and welcomes me into their conversation. I instantly feel at ease. He introduces me to everyone he is with and he is no longer a stranger. They are all now acquaintances, and possibly someday, friends.
The thought strikes me (and I share this with my coffee date-friend) that every single person there is loved deeply and intimately by God. Every one of them has a purpose in the earth. Each one has a story. The man who seems stressed at the bar, the woman in green with the listening eyes, God made them and loves them deeply. And possibly, if I open myself up to him and ask, he might just have some things for me to do in the midst of them. It’s an extraordinary thought, and a different way of looking at a crowd of people.
It’s scary business though, opening up to people. They can hurt you just like that. However, I believe it is worth the risk.
I confess, I love people. I am an extravert who spends too much time alone in a house in the country these days. When I get to be with people, I can feel my cup filling up. I love to hear their stories and find the threads that connect us. I get this honestly from my mother. When I was a little girl, she talked to everyone. Everyone! She would embarrass us to no end talking to strangers at the grocery store. “Mom!” we would say, trying to control her. She never flinched. She just kept right on talking to them. She also loves people and they seem to adore her in return. She used to say that she ” had never met a stranger” and I thought this to be a ridiculous statement when I was young. Now I am just like her. I talk to everyone, and most of them talk to me. I am proud to be like my Mama.
You never know who needs a kind word. People are often hurting. Most of us are lonely to some degree. You would never know it on the surface because we don’t show it, but we are all in need of some thoughtfulness or just to be noticed. We need to know we matter. Today, I felt this keenly. I didn’t want to go home to an empty house after church. Chris stays all day, and our little house can feel too quiet on Sundays. I stopped by the local bookstore to linger a bit longer among people. I was standing in the paperback section when a nice woman walked up and began chatting with me about the titles on the table. Just out of the blue. Before long we were talking about the recent death of both of our fathers and I didn’t feel alone anymore. We were immediately connected by our grief. Amazing how strangers can become friends just like that if you let them.
And the men at the end of my table that I spoke of earlier? They let me take their picture. The one in the middle, Terrell Clark, is a photographer too. Turns out we had a lot in common. I would love to photograph more people I do not yet know. It’s a wonderful way to make a friend.
“A stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet” ~ Will Rogers
Romans 12:15 ~”Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” ~ The Message
Posted on 16. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Remember how the snow fell and it was magical? It felt like mercy falling straight from heaven, soothing our inconsistencies into grace and peace. I loved the expectation of it. When we heard it was coming we were like children anticipating being snowed in and held captive by beauty. Leaving behind our daily schedules seemed enticing, even if it was just for a little while. We built fires and gazed out windows at the wonder of it. We tucked the horses in the barn and gave them fresh hay. They also ceased from their grazing and rested happy in the stalls. I tried my best to capture it with my camera, to hold it with my heart.
I wanted it to stay. I loved your constant company.
Johnny brought his friends home to get snowed in with us and we had the laughter of kids in our home again. We gathered around hot stew and corn bread and asked each other about the highs and lows of the day. Most agreed the high was the hot stew in front of us. And the corn bread. I knew the high was us, all of us being together. The boys built ramps in the front pasture and sledded down on tubes after dark. I took pictures and marveled at the beauty. I loved every moment. You were always there. Your gift is your presence.
But my favorite moment? The one that imprinted itself upon my heart forever is the one that came after we sledded with boys, and after you helped me get my focus for every picture (by holding a flashlight to your face). It came after you lent me your warm gloves to cover my freezing fingers and after you encouraged me to go down the hill on our old sled ”one time just for me”? It happened on the way back to house as we trudged through the deep snow dragging that old sled. My toes were numb and I felt so tired. You turned to me and said, “get on”.
You put me on the sled and you pulled me home.
All at once I was gliding. My heart filled at the sensation. I didn’t have to try anymore. All at once I was sailing over the places that once felt impossible. Because of you. This is what love feels like — to be lifted over the difficult surfaces by someone stronger, by someone who would take me home. Even now when I remember it, I exhale relief. I am a young girl again, awash in your strength and chivalry. You are my home.
Thank you for loving me so well, my husband.
You are my favorite memory. You have shown me what God’s love is like. How can I ever thank you enough for that? I have seen him through your sacrifice, your sheer determination to put me first (and pull my weight behind you).
When I remember this snow, this snowpocalyse, this snowmageddon? I will remember us– you stalwart at the helm, and me floating in the soft silence of a winter’s night.
I love you.
Ephesians 5:25-28 ~” Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. ” The Message
Posted on 14. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Hello and happy Valentine’s Day from the farm! I am behind on my 365! Yesterday our wifi was out all day and I could not upload anything. Anyway, I will have to post two today, or take it another day into January 2015.
I am happy to announce the winner of my Valentine portrait giveaway. Thank you to everyone who nominated a woman in your life. It was such a blessing to read all of your entries. Just FYI I used random.org to come up with my winner because I could not choose this on my own and I wanted it to be completely fair.
The winning portrait goes to Salena Donnelly’s mom, Cathy Averill.
Here is her precious entry about her mom.
“I want to nominate my amazing mother, Cathy Averill. My mom has loved and cared for me tirelessly ever since I was born! She has always encouraged me, supported me and been that shoulder to cry on when I needed it. She serves without ever expecting anything in return. In the past 6 months or so, she has been faced with trial after trial. She admits it hasn’t been easy but her faith in God has kept her strong and moving forward. My mother is humble and kind. Although I don’t think she believes it, she is one of the most beautiful people I know. I would love for my mom to get some much deserved VIP pampering! I think it would give her a great sense of confidence and understanding just how beautiful she is, both on the inside and out!”
I am so excited to spend some time with Cathy, and we will be sure to post images from her day.
Blessings and have a wonderful Valentines Day.
Posted on 13. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Today was an amazing day–snow, a house full of boys, chicken tortilla soup and sledding after dark all made it very special. In preparation for a our big snow, Johnny invited his friends to stay with us. He knew it would be more fun with friends and it has been. We ended a fun day with some sledding and photography. I had to work for these shots though. The sledding hill is a good walk from the house and I lugged my gear out there only to find out I had forgotten my light. I trudged back to the house and back again and then my portable battery for my studio flash died. That was three trudges (not a noun) from the house to the front pasture in the deep icy snow. I was about done and told Johnny we might not get the shot. “It would be so much fun for you though” he encouraged me. He was right, and I also had Zack Arias in my head from the workshop I went to two days before. He was saying “do you want the shot or not?” Yes, I wanted the shot. I had the opportunity for an epic photograph and I was considering trading it for a warm fire and a cup of tea. I changed my mind. I would improvise and go get my flash and mount it on a stand. Improvisation is something every photographer has to learn. Things rarely go like you plan them.
So here we are, and I have these fantastic shots of these boys making memories and having the time of their lives. All because I went back one more time. I stayed out there until my fingers no longer functioned and then came home to a warm fire and comforting tea. Much better scenerio.
Look at these boys. All great friends. All boys I would have in my home any time. I love the laugher and comradery they share. They are shaping each others lives for the better, just by being together. So glad we all go snowed in together.
Good day. One of the best in the long string of days I have been given by God. So glad I captured it.
Proverbs 27:17 ~”As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
Proverbs 18:24 ~”Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”
Posted on 12. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Okay this was fun. Today we had a wonderful snow and I wanted to have some photography fun with it. I put on Facebook that I was looking for a snow model near my home. Within ten minutes three amazing young women replied. They all lived just a few minutes from me. (In the country that is saying something.) I knew them all but they did not know one another. We met at my studio and piled into my car to find the snowiest location. They immediately bonded, the three of them laughing and chatting together. This warmed my heart. Women can often feel in competition with one another and keep their distance, especially in circumstances where they do not know each other. This was not the case with these three. They were fast friends and it became apparent this little shoot wasn’t about the shoot at all. It was about connecting some precious girls who are needing friendship and fellowship.
They are all stunning and brilliant women with hearts open to the world. We had fun shooting in the snow, and as per my usual, I lay right down on the ground. (Oh and that is the proper grammar on lay. I checked. My dad was an English professor. However, this is the improper use of parentheses.)
Back to my story…
I got soaking wet! We carried lights around, my gear got soaked and my fingers stopped working about 20 minutes into the shoot. We were all freezing, but we didn’t care. I tried some of my new lighting techniques, (still working on it) and we just played. All the while they were talking and getting to know one another. On our way back to the studio they exchanged phone numbers and talked about getting together. Again, my heart warmed at this. So wonderful. Also, once again I am blessed to photograph women and show them their beauty right there on the back of my camera. That is the best feeling.
That’s my first day of the our winter storm. I hope to get some great pictures again tomorrow. Johnny will be snowed in with his friends at the house if all goes according to plan (wink wink). No promises but I hope to get some of them together too.
Blessings and stay warm! Enjoy some more pictures of these fantastic young women.
Psalm 133:1-3 ~
“How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.”
Posted on 11. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Today I had the honor and privilege of taking a workshop with Zack Arias. What a day! My head is swirling with information tonight but before my head hits the pillow I wanted to write out a few thoughts.
I cannot say enough about investing in your craft, whatever it is. It is life-giving and inspiring to go find someone who is a master in your particular medium and learn from them. I have wanted to get into one of Zack’s workshops for years now. He is famous for his One Light Workshop where he teaches light techniques through one light first. I can attribute most of my knowledge about off camera lighting to that very workshop. I have the dvd and I think I have it memorized. (I highly recommend that dvd). However, this time I got in to an actual in person workshop. I was so excited I could hardly think about anything else.
He began by asking us all what we wanted to learn the most. He then took the whole rest of the day to address our different concerns and and conundrums with lighting. It was fantastic being put in these situations and having him right there to answer my questions. Zack is a natural teacher. He loves to see the light go on in people’s heads when they figure things out. He does not judge, he just teaches. There are no stupid questions. I love that.
My main question for him was concerning the creation of the moody portrait. (Some of you may have read my moody cabbage post.) He helped me with that today and I plan to practice what I learned during this 365 project. I am inspired. I will be calling on a few of my blog readers to be subjects. Just you wait.
I loved this quote that Zack shared by Edward Weston, a photographer from the 1920′s. It resonated with me concerning the short attention span of our age, and yet he said this almost a hundred years ago:
“The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don’t know what to do with it.”
I often feel that way. Just when I am starting to get my rhythm in learning something new and feeling some satisfaction in it, I see what someone else has or is doing and hastily leave my current post to chase theirs. I need stay with a skill until I have mastered it, knowing it backwards and forwards.
I am so excited to learn some new things and techniques to practice. It feels like a breath of fresh air. I am grateful to Zack for teaching us today, and also to his beautiful and generous wife Meg, who made us all a delicious gluten-free meal after our session. Isn’t that a happy thought?!?
Proverbs 22:29 ~”Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone.”
Here are a few more images from my day with Zack.
Posted on 10. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
When I was a little girl my daddy was a pastor. I remember filing like ducks with my three sibling into our family car every Sunday. I dreaded it. I just wanted to stay home in the warm sunshine. I much preferred being barefoot to wearing Mary Janes and tights. Church always felt stressful and stifling to my younger self. It was itchy and confining. I found it so difficult to sit still and the pressure was intense with my dad in the pulpit. You know that feeling when you want to laugh so badly but you simply mustn’t or a spanking is involved? Some days I just couldn’t hold in the giggles.
I went to church because I was told to. It was a decision my parents made for me, and not one I would have chosen. As I grew older I began to see the value of church for myself. When Chris and I were married it was exciting to find a place to worship for us as a couple. For the first time in my life I felt like I was going because I wanted to. We found community and learned how to worship God in a whole new way. I bonded with women who helped me as I began a family of my own. One of them was even present at Katie’s birth. Chris was able to play guitar in worship. The separation between my real life and my church life began to dissolve. It was just my life with God. He became more tangible to me in this experience and I loved it.
Fast forward 25 years and I am taking the photo above. Chris and two of our kids are on stage together for worship at our church. I don’t have to hold in the giggles anymore. In fact I think I laugh more in church than I do anywhere else. I laugh and I sing and yes, I dance in church now. (We have a lovely dance team.)
I love my church but even more than that, I love that my children are happy there. They have all made solid friendships within their community and they look forward to going every week. Each one has been able to share and grow in their abilities through our church.
Believe it not, this is not an advertisement for 12Stone but an encouragement to find a place of worship of your own. Not every church is for everyone. Some people fit better in some than others. The good news is, we are blessed to live in a place where there are so many great churches to choose from. We need to have a community of people around us to do life with. We need to raise our kids together with people who will help us care for them.
Gone are the days of itchy tights and shushing sunday school teachers. Church is wonderful. It is both sacred and joyful; it is a place of peace and laughter.
I am so grateful for my church.
Hebrews 10:25 ~” And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Here are a few images from my home church.
Posted on 08. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Today was a difficult day. Johnny and I are both sick with a virus that has left me unable to do much but sleep. Even the sunshine seemed to hurt so I closed my curtains and curled up in my bed with Janey for most of the day. I found these lovelies at my local grocery store last night. I had gone in to get the ingredients for chicken and dumplings (aka medicine), and I saw them warm and shining from the corner of the store. They looked like summer wildflowers to me. I picked up three bunches but put two back after discovering their price. One was enough. They were just what I needed.
Today when I got up and shuffled though my kitchen they were smiling at me from the table. Summer in a vase. I felt awful, but I knew I needed to get their little faces in my lens for a few moments. I took them out to the back porch and set them on the turquoise floor that I painted last summer. I felt better already, just looking at the fresh colors. “Thank you” I said out loud to God, who always knows just what I need. When I looked at them through my lens with the light passing through their delicate frames, I said it again. “Thank you”. Their soft lines and sweet features brought cheer to my soul and I was grateful.
After a few minutes of this, I laid my camera back on the table and went to bed. Sometimes a short visit from a friend is enough to encourage our hearts. No doubt tomorrow will be a better day. But even if it is not, God is with me and that will be enough. He is always enough.
I am thankful to find treasures like this even on the hard days.
Psalm 68:19 ~”Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
Posted on 08. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Here I go, playing with my food again. Today was a sick day, so I stayed in my flannel pi’s and practiced my food photography with these lovely heirloom carrots. I found them at my local organic market yesterday and made magical plans in my mind immediately. Those plans were not as easy to carry out as I thought, however. I have said it before and I will say it again, food photography is difficult for me. It is truly an art. All those gorgeous photographs you see in magazines like Kinfolk were carefully planned and executed by talented and skilled someone.
But for me, on a sick day? I just played with my food and that’s okay. This is a 365, where I capture as best I can the beauty I find in each day. Today it was carrots.
I do want to be excellent in what I do though, so I just practice practice until I get the shots the way I want them.
Today it kinda went like this:
1. Place carrots on brand new cutting board I bought just for this. Hate it. (Fuss at myself for buying a new cutting board)
2. Get down another cutting board. Arrange carrots and the light is all wrong.
3. Move carrots and cutting board to the back porch with dogs following me.
4. Shiver and work faster. (Yes I am sick working outside with carrots in my pajamas)
5. Text my friend Holly (the food photographer) a picture of them, ” What am I doing wrong?”
6. Rinse and repeat with bowls and other accessories.
And so on. This goes on for an hour. I am playing with carrots for an hour. But I love it. I finally find my angles, my light. I finally feel like I can show someone else my photos and they will see how truly beautiful these carrots are. I can see their color and their textures just right in the frames. They are beautiful. Just as gorgeous as they were when I saw them in the market and my heart jumped a bit. I guess it sounds a little crazy to say these things about carrots, but look at them! The rich colors! Have you ever seen a purple carrot? The variety and textures! I swoon.
Just like I did over the cabbage in the grocery store. I guess that’s okay.
In the morning these lovely carrots will get in my belly via my new juicer to help me get over this cold.
Genesis 1:31 ~”God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!”
Posted on 07. Feb, 2014 by maryanne.
Tonight my three came home for dinner. We had it on the calendars for weeks and I could hardly wait to look into those familiar faces around our old oak table. How I love these now adult children of mine. Just look at them. But we are not a perfect family by any stretch. Sometimes when we are not together for long periods of time it takes us a bit to get our rhythm right. Tonight was one of those nights. There were more than a few tussles at the Morgan Family dinner table.
This is hard on a mother’s heart. I remember it from my own childhood. My mama would call from the other room when she heard the sounds of squabbling going on. “You all love one another!” Love one another. We want that for our kids not just because we want peace and quiet when they are little (which we desperately do), but because we know instinctively that broken threads can turn into holes that cannot be repaired. We know it from our own growing up, from the aches and bored out holes in our own families. Please. Love. One. Another. Our hearts are begging.
They see the concern on my face. Thankfully, their story does not have to be my story. As the night moved on I watched them find paths meandering back into each other’s hearts. There is always a way. It’s the laying down of pride, and showing the soft of underbelly of ” I really value you. You are part of me”.
The fastest way back into love is to lay yourself down.
Before too long, we were dancing in the den again just like old times. I took this image just before they headed back into their separate worlds. “Just one here by your picture on the wall?” They indulged me once again. So sweet.
How I love them.
Philippians 2: 5-8
”In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”