Like Him…

A person who claims to be continuing in union with Him ought to conduct his [her] life the way He did. –1 John 2:6 CJB

This morning as I was meditating on 1 John 2:6, I was struck by all that it means to live in union with Christ and to live as He lived while He walked this earth. I usually journal my explanations  and/or responses to scriptural passages, but instead of paragraphs, a list rolled onto the page.

Live in Him = live like Him.
Live in Him = speak like Him.
Live in Him = walk like Him.
Live in Him = listen like Him.
Live in Him = trust like Him.
Live in Him = pray like Him.
Live in Him = worship like Him.
Live in Him = heal like Him.
Live in Him = share like Him.
Live in Him = empathize like Him.
Live in Him = give like Him.
Live in Him = think like Him.
Live in Him = challenge like Him.
Live in Him = serve like Him.
Live in Him = shine like Him.
Live in Him = love like Him.

This is where my pen stopped, but I’m sure I’d have no problem adding more acts to this list. And that’s just it–this is a list of action verbs! Can you imagine how long [and daunting] this list would be if I had added stative verbs?

Walking in complete union with Christ is work. We are imperfect, fallible beings, so even if this work isn’t impossible, it is certainly exhausting! It is challenging to love and shine like Him when we add all the variables of our daily encounters with others.

But doing this work is worth it!

Through such soul work and through “living in Him,” we are crafted into His likeness, and that is a beautiful thing.


About the Images: I captured the sunset sky images above last month and shared them on Instagram. They “wanted” to be shared here on Pics and Posts too. 🙂

Hungry for the Sun and Trees

It’s gray and a little rainy today, but earlier this week we had a strong dose of sun. As soon as I had a break [Monday], I raced out my office, soaked in the sun, and basked in the therapeutic presence of trees. I’m so glad I did because I spent most of Tuesday in meetings!

I shot the photos in this post with my phone camera while the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds.

I have been a little “off kilter” the last few days for a variety of reasons, but the brief visit with trees provided calm and perspective when I needed to tune out and tune in.

so hungry
for sun
it sheds
its clothes
and stretches naked
branches toward the sky

“Winter Tree,” Laura P. Salas

#ThursdayTreeLove | …with a Bit of Sky Love

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.  –Kahlil Gibran

For today’s tree love, I’m sharing photos that are [somewhat] equal parts sky and tree. I love trees, yes, but I also love the sky. There’s something about a tree-lined sky that always reels me in, especially when the clouds are showing out.

You’ve probably figured out that these photos really aren’t about the trees, but I hope you have a bit of sky love in you too!

About the Images: The first two photos were shot on the way home from work yesterday [iPhone]. The next three early one morning a couple of weeks ago just before an 8:00 a.m. class [Canon, iPhone}. The final photo is a random shot from some random day on the way from some random place that I randomly found on my camera while searching for photo #3 [Canon].


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Shades of Night: Early Evening Sky Shots

Although I had at least a dozen blog posts semi-drafted for the week, no matter how simple or complex they were, I could not find the words to complete any of them. All week long I’ve been admiring the sky. Then, as I was returning home from errands early this evening, I took the opportunity to pause and appreciate the sunset and the sky’s early transition to night. Such beauty needs no words.

The sky grew darker

painted blue on blue

one stroke at a time

into deeper and deeper

shades of night.


THE SKY GREW DARKER, PAINTED BLUE ON BLUE, ONE STROKE AT A TIME, INTO DEEPER AND DEEPER SHADES OF NIGHT.
HARUKI MURAKAMI, DANCE DANCE DANCE

In the Moment Stories

I’ve wanted to blog all week, but “crazy-busy” wouldn’t let me, so after photographing flowers Thursday morning, I opened the Instagram app to post a photo with a few hashtags. Then, I remembered “stories.” I’d never posted a story before, but I discovered immediately that they are perfect for sharing “in the moment” photos or thoughts when a blog post is out of the question:

Like when you’re driving along and the flowers on the side of the road require some time with them.

Or when, at some point during the morning drive, you look up and the sky deserves more than a glance.

Or while you’re sitting in your car waiting for a meeting to start and you notice dogwood blossoms not too far from you, when everywhere else (as far as you know) the blossoms took leave weeks ago.

Moments like these often sit in my camera or on my phone unshared. There are thousands of them (literally). I’ll do better.

I plan to “flesh out” these particular experiences some time soon with more photos (and words), so stay tuned.

Enjoy your weekend!

Rest. Reflect. Reset.

I lived all week for this moment, for this period of contemplation and rest.

We run ourselves ragged by going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny, but all aspects of our health require that we pause, that we tune out all the noise and allow ourselves to repair from the daily wear and tear of the week past.

For the next several hours, I am pausing to…rest, reflect, and reset.  Maybe, you’d like to join me.

NaBloPoMo 2017: To Blog or Not to Blog? [Black and White Photo Challenge]

I spent the last few days trying to decide if I should participate in Na(tional) Blo(g) Po(st) Mo(nth) this year. I found no information about NaBloPoMo 2017–not even from Blogher, which normally hosts and offers prompts and support for participants–so I decided NaBloPoMo would be a no-go for me this year.

The blog goddesses had other plans.

Just a few moments ago, I received a message that someone added me to the NaBloPoMo support group on Facebook, so here I am…with an almost last minute post for the first day…because I can’t miss day one.

Have you seen the seven-day black and white photo challenge on Facebook? The challenge is simple: Someone tags you to post a black and white photo daily for seven days. You must tag a different person every day. There can be no people in the photos and there can be no explanation. Easy-peasy, right?

My brother, Dennis, tagged me, so of course, I had to do it. I completed the challenge yesterday, so I’m sharing the photos here with “brief explanation” (since I suppose the rules do not apply to blogs).  [With the exception of “The Birds,” the photos were shot with my iPhone].

Day 1:

Day 1: Look Toward the Light

I captured “Look Toward the Light” as I was leaving work one day, weary and ready for bed. The clouds were dark with promise of rain, but the sun burst forth and gave me the energy I needed to get through the evening.

Day 2:

Day 2: “Bearer of the Keys”

While waiting in the carpool line for my son to get out of school, my eyes locked on my favorite keyring. I bought the keyring almost two decades ago in England (which has the cutest teddy bear items). This bear has been carrying my keys ever since.

Day 3:

Day 3: “Out to Lunch”

The Instagram page “I Have This Thing with Bikes” (which features amazing bicycle photos from all over the world) has me hooked on photographing bikes whenever I see them. I caught this one on the way to pick up lunch from the Market on campus. Its owner was obviously “out to lunch” too.

Day 4:

Day 4: The Other Love

This camera and I are still getting to know each other. The shot is the result of my waiting for a program to end. I placed the camera on a chair next to me and we sat quietly studying each other.

Day 5:

Day 5: Love You Always

This is the top of a box filled with goodies from Aleta, one of my besties. She loves giving gifts and she takes so much care with presentation. Her signature style involves enclosing gifts in decorative boxes that can be used for storage and/or display.

Day 6:

Day 6: The Strength of an Elephant

This little baby elephant is part of my little one’s elephant collection. The day I shot the photo, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and weak–my to-do list was exceptionally long and I was not feeling well. The elephant reminded me:

You were born into this life because you are strong enough to live it.

Day 7:

Day 7: The Birds

I stepped out of  my office yesterday to take a quick walk and get some fresh air. What I encountered felt like a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. There were hundreds of birds on the lawn a few feet away. When someone walked near the birds, they (all) took flight in a seemingly single move. The photos show they were not as uniform in movement as they appeared, even from a slight distance. But the sound of hundreds of birds suddenly moving “in unison” was a bit unnerving. After watching the birds for a few minutes and capturing a few photos, I decided to take cover in the safety of my office, just in case the birds had other ideas.

This is a fun challenge. If someone tags you, go for it. It’s a nice distraction from the everyday normal.

First day done, 29 more to go. Eek! Let’s see if we’ll make it to the end this year.

“We Need a Little Silence”

We have had far too much tossed at us the last several days–natural disasters, the escalating rhetoric on race in the U.S., the criticism of peaceful protest while validating violent protest, the invalidation of one the most basic rights of U.S. citizenry, dangerous political venom spewing from heads of state. In response to all of this, Larry K, one of my former students, wrote in the middle of a semi-lengthy Facebook post–

The world needs a little silence.

I feel this need with every fiber of my being as I am struggling to navigate the chaos.

We are assaulted with a barrage of traditional media and social media commentary all day long and we are not filtering and processing. This leaves us burdened. And weary. And (maybe) cowering in a corner.

In my writing courses, I tell my students that whenever we read an article, a social media post, a work of fiction–anything–we are entering a conversation, and with all conversations we must hear/listen, ask questions, respond, and add to the conversation. Conversations should be healthy and productive and should lead to growth in some way, no matter how small. The problem lately is that there’s been a lot of noise but little listening. We’re all talking at the same time and few are hearing the unspoken. And we’re just becoming more and more angry and frustrated. We’re screaming at each other. And the earth is mad and screaming too–through hurricanes, earthquakes , wildfires, and everything else.

We “need a little silence,” Larry says, “like when you’re angry at your mate and you just retreat to your corner.”

We do. We need to walk away from the fight. Retreat–in both senses of the word.

I urge you to take care of your mind and spirit and tune out the noise, regroup, and take strategic steps to filter what is unnecessary, what is not beneficial to your soul.

Photography: Finding Love Notes, Naturally

I’ve been “finding hearts” a lot this summer–when I look up, when I look down, when I’m simply enjoying my surroundings. Here’s a sampling of the hearts I “found” and photographed this summer.

❤ ❤ ❤

After seven years of faithful (and perhaps too much) shooting, my camera died on me late one April afternoon while I was shooting Magnolia blossoms. I was heartbroken. One of my good friends offered to purchase a new camera for me in return for a small favor. I would have done the favor anyway, so I resisted until I read a quote about not denying others the gift of giving to us. It finally convinced me to allow her to bless me in this way.  (And yes, I have amazing friends).

The camera arrived on a quiet Thursday afternoon. I unpacked it, took a shot of it straight out of the box with my phone, then stepped outside to give it a test run. The sun was a bit too much for my eyes, so I decided to shoot the heart I “found” a few months ago–I had to cast my gaze downward, which wasn’t as harsh on my eyes.

But what did I see when my eyes adjusted to the brightness of outdoors? Another heart! The heart affirmed my acceptance of the gift (because “truth be told,” I still had a problem with accepting it).

“Affirmation,” June 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

While my guys and I were walking through Ditto Landing a recent Saturday afternoon, my little one pointed out the heart (below) carved into the pavement–a natural symbol of the love embodied in our little family.

“Etched in Stone,” July 2017

I found a second heart during our walk, but I’m saving that one for another post. 😉

❤ ❤ ❤

My neighbor’s mini sunflower “patch” has been my happy place over the last few weeks. As I fretted over one thing or another one morning, I decided to visit them (again). This sunflower was a double reminder to turn my worries over to God and embrace His all-encompassing love, which will carry me through my difficulties.

“First Visit,” July 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

Just a few days ago, as I was again attempting to declutter and destash, I ran across an envelope filled with “found hearts” I received for a swap some time ago. The sender, Kelly (aka Mugsie), also loves found hearts and she sent several of her original photographs. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Kelly finds hearts everywhere. If this small collection doesn’t convince you, take a look at her “naturally found hearts” site where you’ll find many more.

❤ ❤ ❤

It’s always a pleasure finding hearts when I’m out and about and it thrills me to share the hearts with friends and family. The photos serve well–in quick “thinking about you” notes, as “love posts,” and even as Liberate Your Art selections. The hearts “appear” when I need them most and reassure me that my world is okay.

What about you? Do you “find” hearts? Or is there some other symbol you “find” or look for when you need a particular message?

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!