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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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

 

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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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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Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

stone-mountain-north-carolinaYou may have seen this photo before on my page. I’ve used it on other posts, and it keep coming back to it because it’s one of my favorites. But to be honest, when I saw that this week’s photo challenge was scale, this was the first photo that came to mind. The children look tiny by comparison to the mountain to which they are headed.

It also reminds me of the greatness of God.

Isaiah 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

This, of course, is a rhetorical question. Our God is a great big God. Consider the size of that mountain. He made the mountain! Consider the size of the universe. He made the universe! He made everything that exists, and He holds it all in the palm of His hand. The only reason the theory of evolution exists at all is because man does not want to accept the existence of God, for then he must accept the fact that one day he will answer to God and give an account for his actions. But God most definitely does exist, and we most definitely will give an account to Him one day. He is to be feared, yes, but this is a reverential fear, not the fear of someone who cares nothing for your well-being. God created everything, He keeps it all working, and He protects each part—each person—even you and me. Why? Because He cares. When you have made something by hand, you take special pride in it too, don’t you? God made us in His image, and He is like that too. He created us. We are hand-made, each and every one of us, and He cares for us. That is why we all can say with the psalmist…

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Wow! Did you get all that? With God protecting us, what do we need to fear? Over and over again throughout the Bible we are told that the Lord is our rock. He can be trusted. Men will fail us, but God can never fail.

 

 2 Samuel 22:31 As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him.

A buckler was a form of shield that covered the entire body. So in other words, God will protect you completely, in every area of your life. Nothing can get past His perfect will for you.

Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

The longer I serve God, the more I learn that I can trust Him at all times for all things. I have failed Him many times, but He has never failed me once, and He never will.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

Today I learned a new word—or rather, a new use for an old word—pedestrian. This just happens to be the current photo prompt of the week, and so it has captured my attention for a moment. Prior to inquiring about the prompt, I only knew pedestrian as a noun, “a person who moves about on foot.” But when used as an adjective, this same word means “lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.” Imagine that! Synonyms for pedestrian as an adjective are boring, tedious, monotonous, unremarkable, commonplace, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, plain-vanilla. As you can see, I’m having fun with this. But now it’s time to add some photos.

James River Foot Bridge

James River Foot Bridge, Virginia, 2008

This was this photo that immediately came to mind when I saw the prompt. Back in 2008, my children and I spent four days traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, staying in primitive campgrounds, hiking trails, stopping at overlooks, and observing God’s creatures big and small. There were certain specific destinations that I had in mind, and the James River Foot Bridge was one of them. This bridge, located in Snowden, Virginia, is a part of the Appalachian Trail, and allows trekkers to cross the James River while avoiding the traffic of US 501. It was built on abandoned train tresses when the train track was rerouted and opened for hikers in 2000. While it is designed for pedestrians, the bridge is actually named after the man who spearheaded its conversion, Appalachian Trail enthusiast Bill Foot. This bridge, and the story behind it, are anything but pedestrian!

In fact, I’ve been hard pressed to think of anything I’ve already photographed that fits the description of dull, boring, and tedious. Perhaps that’s because I’m so easily impressed. I tend to be fascinated by little things and often want to stop the car to take a picture of this, that, or the other thing. So I think I’ll just stick with the noun form of the word pedestrian and show you a few more foot bridges that I’ve seen over the years.

Massanutten Storybook Trail Bridge 1

Massanutten Storybook Trail Bridge, Virginia, 2014

Waller Mill Park (2)

Waller Mill Park Bridge, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2014

Waller Mill Park (3)

Waller Mill Park Bridge, another view, 2014

A bridge is a passage from one side to another, crossing a body of water or some other substance that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to cross. Sometimes there are other ways. You could swim, take a boat, or fly. But none of those options are as convenient as walking across a bridge.

There is another bridge across another chasm. This one is the ONLY way across. I’m talking about the way to heaven, and the bridge is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said,

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by Me (John 14:6).

If there were any other way to come to God, then He would not have made His Son suffer the shame of the cross. But He did suffer that shame. He came to this earth, lived with us for thirty-three years, then paid the debt of our sins, though He Himself never committed any sin. And three days later He did what no one else ever did—He rose up from the dead of His own power. He is the victor over sin and death. That is how He can offer eternal life to you and me, because He already claimed it!

Then once you have come to the cross and your sins have been forgiven, then God shows you the way that you should go.

I am a pedestrian, slowly traveling through this world on my way to the next, and God directs every step.

Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning; for in You do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto You.

Jeremiah 6:16 Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls.

Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.