Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

It’s hard to believe December is already here! You are reading this on December 2nd, but I’m writing it on December 1st. Already this morning I have initialed and dated school assignments for my daughter and was mildly alarmed at the fact that I was writing 12/1/17 on the page. Where has the year gone? Before we know it, this month will end and a new year will begin.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle that is typical of the Christmas season, I am thankful for the theme for this week’s photo challenge. It’s good to pause, breathe, and remember the serene moments of life before returning to the busy schedule on the calendar.

What is more serene than a quiet afternoon on the porch swing with Grandpa and Puppy Love?

swinging with grandpa

“Princess” Alysa with Grandpa and Puppy Love

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Cee’s B&W Photography Challenge: Fences

With so much to do today (this entire month), I simply had to take a few minutes to pause and participate in Cee’s black-and-white photography challenge: Fences and Gates. In all honesty, I was hooked by her photo of the squirrel on the fence. Since I often sit outside write—with my camera handy, of course!—I happen to have quite a few photos of birds and squirrels who just happen to be on the fence. So although there are other photos I could share for this challenge, I decided to keep it simple by focusing entirely on the squirrels. (This gives a whole new meaning to “ADHD—squirrel” doesn’t it?)

Squirrel hopping 2

Caught this guy in mid-jump from one fence to another

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

One of the best things about purchasing a new camera is getting to experiment with the many settings. My camera could not be considered “new” anymore, since I’ve had it almost a year, but I may never stop learning the various features and capabilities that it possesses.

Experimental 1

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 200, exp. bias -0.7 step, focal length 300 mm

A few weeks ago, while sitting outside on the back porch, I took a break from my writing to look around me just to see what I could see. Standing next to our patio is a tall, though young, oak tree. This time of year it is dropping scores of leaves and acorns on the concrete slab that serves as my outdoor office floor, so my broom is getting a lot of use. But that day I happened to look up, and my eye caught a bit of color. I put the zoom lens on my camera and pointed it at the bright spot in the tree, getting as close as possible. It looked like a flower, but it’s more likely to be a cluster of new leaves, coming in to take the place of the old ones. This is northwest Florida, and last year (our first year here), the oak tree was never barren. So I suppose that’s the way it is in a moderate climate such as we have here. The amazing thing about our climate is that we see spring, summer, and fall all at the same time. Even in this photo, there are brown leaves, green leaves, and the brand new yellow-gold leaves.

 

Experimental 2

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 125, exp. bias -1.3 step, focal length 300 mm

Since my glasses desperately need an upgrade, I needed a good quality photo in order to see what I was looking at. I decided to experiment with some of the manual settings on my fairly stationary subject, and I ended up with 57 shots, but only 6 of them are here.

Experimental 3

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 500, exp. bias +0.7 step, focal length 300 mm

Experimental 8

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 250, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, white filter

Experimental 9

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 320, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, blue filter

Experimental 10

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 320, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, red filter

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Life is all about experimenting. We experiment with recipes, with hairstyles, with clothing fashions, and even with friends.

God wants us to experiment with Him too. He invites us to “taste and see” that He is good. I have tasted of His goodness, and I am here to tell you He is all that! Do I always get what I want? No. Do I always understand His purposes? No. Do I always get an answer to my prayer the moment I lift up my petition? No.

But such things don’t happen in life either. And things certainly didn’t always go my way as I was growing up. Sometimes the choices my dad made were hard for me to understand. Sometimes he made me wait for an answer to my questions. And sometimes the answer was ‘No.’ My dad did what he did according to what he believed was best for me and for the family. My heavenly Father is just like that—only He never makes any mistakes. He always knows what is best for me. I trust Him.

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed [happy] is the man who trusts in Him.

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Photos taken in my back yard, 2017

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Temporary

There are perhaps a gazillion ways to illustrate temporary situations, for even the things we think of as permanent will pass away at some point in time. Babies quickly grow into childhood, then adulthood, and then they pass off the scene. The long weeks of recovery from a serious injury may feel like forever, but when the crutches are set aside at last, the swelling is gone, and the therapy is over, all the pain and misery is forgotten. Pregnancy is like that too. Baby teeth fall out and permanent teeth take their place, but sometimes even the permanent teeth have to be replaced. Meals that take hours to prepare are consumed in less than twenty minutes. We anticipate a special event for weeks, but in an hour or two it is reduced to a memory. Fireworks explode and vanish in the blink of an eye. Sunrises and sunsets, though they appear every day, last for but a few moments each time. Rain storms, even when they last for days, do eventually come to an end. Laughter turns to tears, and sadness to joy.

While I do have many photos of babies, children (even toothless ones), grandmas and grandpas, graveyards, smiling faces, rounded bellies of expectant mothers, laid-aside crutches, rainbows and fireworks, sunrises and sunsets, and plenty of delicious meals, there is something else entirely that I’d like to focus on today: temporary dwellings, and in particular, tents.

tenting-in-kentucky

It was Stacie’s turn to cook dinner for the gang.

 

Our family loves the outdoors, and while we do sometimes stay in a motel while on vacation (especially when just passing through a place), and we have also stayed in resorts, there is nothing more fun than tenting. Of course, sleeping in a camper or cabin is nice too, but for now I’d like to recall some of the times we went tenting.

tenting-in-the-rain

With the food prep area and clothes line protected from the rain, time to relax.

Both photos above were from a home school field trip to Kentucky. Three ladies, including myself, took a group of about twelve teens to see the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Since we were close to Cincinnati, we also went there to see some other sights including the Harriet Tubman House. It rained every day that we were there, and the teens learned a very important lesson about not touching the sides of the tent while it’s raining, and about keeping the entire fly closed, even across the bottom! Let’s just say that the air mattress under the women’s (our) sleeping bags became a raft during the first night and was the only reason we stayed dry. The poor girls, who had the other side of the tent, spent the rest of the night in the van. But the flooded tent situation was temporary, because the next morning when the rain stopped, we bailed out the water and got everything as dry as possible. As you can see in the second photo, the young men did an excellent job of installing coverings for the cooking area and another area where we could hang our clothes and towels to dry.

 

Here is a tent of a different sort. This one helps to keep us cool in the Florida sun and dry in the Florida rain. On the left, we had just purchased the tent and set it up in the front yard, mostly to be sure my daughter and I could do it on our own, since she is my chief assistant at craft fairs and art shows. In the photo on the right, though still in Florida, that particular day was neither rainy nor hot. It was early fall, but a cold front had come through and we were thankful for every minute we got to spend in the direct sunlight.

By the way, here’s a short commercial break. If you would like a closer look at the things you see on display in the photo above, go on over to Etsy, where you’ll find Encore! Old Pianos. You can also view more photos and read stories about the art on my website.

New York 2006

Family reunion in upstate New York

This camper is parked at my brother-in-law Billy’s house, and we stay in it when we go up to New York to visit my husband’s family. This particular year, the boys wanted to sleep in their tent. I slept out there with them the first night. Though it was summer, the temperature dropped down to the 40s during the night, but they (we) had nice sleeping bags and stayed toasty warm all night long. If that looks like a lot of food, it is. 🙂 And it’s not the half. My husband comes from a large family.

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Many people in Bible days lived in tents, including Abraham and Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob, with their wives and children.

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but he himself never took possession of it. He was a stranger, a traveler, until the day he died, as were his son and grandson after him. It would be four hundred years before his descendants would take possession of the promised land. Why? Because God was painting a picture for us.

All of us who know God as our Father are strangers and pilgrims in this world. We may have our name on a title to property, but in reality it all belongs to God, and we are His stewards. We are not here permanently, we are just passing through on our way to that heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God. Everything here is temporary. The only thing permanent is our soul, which will live somewhere forever.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

I mentioned this verse last week, but it is just as appropriate this week. My “permanent address” is for a brick home, not a tent. But one day this brick home will no longer be my home, and one day it will be gone. The home Jesus is preparing for me in heaven, that home is permanent.

Where is your permanent address?

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Photos taken in Upstate NY 2006; Petersburg, KY 2010; Milton, FL 2017; and Fort Walton Beach, FL 2017

 

The Lord Knows ~ Psalm 37

bodie-island-lighthouse

Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the LORD,
and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the LORD,
trust also in Him,
and He shall bring it to pass.
And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light,
and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD,
and wait patiently for Him…
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those that wait upon the LORD,
they shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
But the meek shall inherit the earth,
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

The LORD knows the days of the upright,
and their inheritance shall be forever.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time,
and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
Selected verses from Psalm 37

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Fret Not

This has long been a favorite passage of mine. In fact, I would venture to say that verses 1-8 of Psalm 37 are my life’s verses, and I claimed them when I was but a young girl. Take a look at the commands given to us here:  Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peek

 

Sherman Tank (5)

Imagine getting to peek inside the barrel of the gun on a Sherman tank! My son noticed the tank parked on the side of the road and wanted to stop for a photo shoot. He and I took turns with the camera, and when we were back on the road, I went through the previews to see what we had come up with. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I came to this stunning photo, for which all the credit goes to my 19-year-old son.

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Our Incomprehensible God ~ Psalm 36

 

breathtaking-nc-mountains

Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains;
Thy judgments are a great deep:
O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast.
How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house;
and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.
For with Thee is the fountain of life:
in Thy light shall we see light.
O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee;
and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

Psalm 36:5-10

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Rounded

Cats (2)

Browsing through my photo collection, I saw quite a few rounded things, but this cat took first place today, not because it’s my favorite photo, but simply because it’s nearly Halloween and his chair happened to be decorated for the occasion. Below is the same cat curled up on a lovely bench and enjoying an afternoon nap in the sun. Even the bench features a fair amount of rounded shapes.

Cats (1)

Changing gears just a bit, I’d like to continue with the rounded theme, but show it with food rather than cats. Several years ago I made a cake for my daughter which featured a character from her favorite anime, Fruits Basket. I painted the girl onto the fondant-covered cake using food coloring. The birds, flowers, and leaves were made from fondant with a mold. I enjoyed the challenge, but not the cost, and have never again made such an expensive cake. But this one was fun.

Mary's birthday cake

Last year’s mincemeat pie, made at Thanksgiving, afforded me an opportunity to get creative with the top crust.

Food, Mincemeat pie 02

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The cat in the photos above is resting, with not a care in the world. Our God gives us that kind of peace too—when we ask for it, that is. Troubles will come, that is certain. But we can choose to worry, or we can choose to rest in the Lord.

Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: fret not because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass.

I cannot look at these photos without thinking about Psalm 4:8.

Psalm 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for You, LORD, only make me dwell in safety.

What is your sleep like? Are you able to drift right off, entrusting your cares to the God who loves you and cares for you? That’s what Peter meant, you know, when he said to cast your cares on the Lord.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you.

God is not sitting in heaven, cold and distant, heartless and unconcerned with the affairs of men. Oh no! He cares about each and every one of us. He created us! Jesus Christ gave His life for us so that He could redeem us from sin and destruction. Of course He cares. And He alone has the strength and grace sufficient to sustain us in our cares. He bears our burdens with us, making them bearable.

Knowing I am not alone in my burdens makes it easy for me to sleep each night. How about you?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Glow

 

Pool, Fountain Lights (23)As the sun goes down of an evening, the floating fountain fills the pool with a glow of colors. It is hard to escape being mesmerized by the changing scene as it rotates through the reds, yellows, blues, and greens.

Today I am publishing from WordCamp Birmingham! It’s exciting to be here, and I’m learning so much my head is about to explode. (That’s a good thing that has nothing to do with migraines. No migraines here today.)

 

 

There was a man in the Bible whose face quite literally glowed after he had spent time with God. His name was Moses. He had been up on Mount Sinai, receiving the Law directly from God while Joshua waited a little further down the mountain, and all the rest of the Israelites were camped in the valley below. When he came down, the Bible says that he did not know that his face shone.

Exodus 34:29-30 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Out of consideration for the people, Moses wore a veil when he spoke with them, but he took it off whenever he went back up onto the mountain to speak with God. Moses had an incredibly close relationship with God. In fact,  Exodus 33:11 says, “And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

Moses was not more special than you or me. He was also a sinner saved by grace. You and I can have a close friend-to-friend relationship with God just like Moses did. Isn’t that wonderful! Consider this blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

God told Moses to confer this blessing upon Aaron and his sons. Aaron! While Moses was upon on the mountain communing with God, Aaron was leading the Israelites in idol worship, telling them that a golden calf, a creation of their own hands had led them out of Egypt! What a failure, right? But aren’t we all failures? Even Moses failed. When God told him to speak to the rock, he struck it in anger. Yes, we all fail. But that’s what makes this blessing so much the more precious. God is the God of second chances.

Tell me. When people look at you, can they tell that you have spent time with God?

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