Tuesday, December 30, 2014

365 People Photos: Number 99 ~ Whatcha Gonna Do About It?

On the day of her sister's 1st birthday party, Brielle was sent sent into the family's backyard during preparations for the birthday party. Eliana, who was ten, was assigned the task of watching the toddler. Unsuspecting Eliana soon learned how determined two-year olds are to test their boundaries. Brielle was enjoying an ornery game of 52-card pick-up.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

365 People Photos: Number 96 ~ Multigenerational Loving

One of the God-given glories of being an extra large family is that we already have grandchildren while still having young children. Here one-year-old Evelyn is getting some tender affection from her Aunt Eliana on the toddler's birthday. I remain amazed that if Eliana hadn't been adopted she never would have had nieces or nephews because she was an only child as an orphan. God is so good. she is the most attentive aunt imaginable!

365 People Photos: Number 95 ~ With Help

One-year-old Evelyn was able to open our family's birthday gift of Duplos with help from her daddy. The birthday girl received assistance in assessing the new toy from her intrigued sister, two-year-old Brielle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

365 People Photos: Number 94 ~ Catching a Few Winks

In the past couple of years as three grandchildren have been added to our family, we've discovered that holding a sleeping baby can bring on the most peaceful nap. Matt experienced one of those yummy siestas yesterday as he held his snoozing nephew Will.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

365 People Photos ~ Number 93: A Tired Teen

Recently our family had a long wait at an airport. One of our daughters and my husband were starting a journey to Zambia. Sarah was on her way work at an orphanage in the African nation. Because the two of them would be traveling internationally, the travelers had to arrive at the airport three hours prior to the departure of their flight. (Posts about Sarah's travels can be found at our family blog: Unto Him We Live.)

The whole family traveled to the airport to see the duo off, and we had a long wait after Jim and Sarah checked in. The kid's dad took advantage of the opportunity and read aloud to our kiddos in a quiet part of the airport. He managed to finish a chapter book he'd been reading to the kids during recent weeks. Our son, Matthew, wasn't able to stay awake during the read aloud time, but we all understood the reason. He had just started college and was still adjusting to the rigorous demands. Matt will turn 19 the day after Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Learning to Love by Listening

The longer I that I'm a wife and mama the more I realize that I'm far too skilled at talking. So often I should be listening instead. Rehearsing this verse daily is helping:

"The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on folly." ~Proverbs 15:14 (NASB)

Here's what I've written on the 3X5 index card I return to each day:

Seek to love.

   Seek to understand.

      Listen, rather than talking.

         Listen, rather than interrupting.

            Listen, rather than inserting your opinion.

                 Listen, rather than trying to persuade.

                    Listen, seeking knowledge.


                          Listen...trusting God with the circumstance.

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Source of Strength

"There is none like you, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your strength in might."
~Jeremiah 10:6

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

365 People Pictures: Number 89 ~ Irony

A stranger too busy on his phone to have time for a good book caught my eye as he walked by a renowned bookstore in London. We live in a strange time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

365 People Photos: Number 88 ~ Lissie and her Ladies in Waiting

This time just a favorite from the wedding of our daughter, Alison, last October. (We also call Alison by the nickname Lissie at times.)

The bride was resting during the photography that went on before the ceremony. As soon as Alison sat in one of the church pews, she was immediately surrounded by some of her sisters and dear friends. Out of the photo to the right and touching the bride with her hand was Alison's matron of honor ~ her older sister, Anna.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

365 People Photos: Number 87 ~ On the Move (With Photo Tip)

One of the suggestions which I've read repeatedly in my books about photographing children is to get down on their level. Obviously, I did just that to capture this picture of my granddaughter.

In this photo, I love the implied movement in the photo as Evelyn rises from her crawling position to a stand, emerging from under the family's kitchen table pushing a chair. I love the take-charge look on this one-year-old's face. I also love the wee bit of green on the far right in an otherwise pink-and-brown picture. Evelyn's parents do their best to keep older sister's crayons away from their little tyke because at this stage Evelyn's preference is to eat crayons rather than utilizing them to make art. This toddler must have felt like she'd found treasure when she came upon the "forbidden fruit" as she crawled under the table.

Photo tip:

For more compelling pictures of children, 
get down on the child's level.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Favorite Quote: Rethinking Productivity

I'm in the midst of pondering my use of time. My husband, Jim, and I are reading the FABULOUS book What's Best Next? by Matthew Perman to one another and enjoying leisurely discussions of our individual and family goals, schedules and general stewardship of time.

When I came upon this prayer in my time with the Lord yesterday morning, many of the sentiments struck deep as I ponder the shape that my days will take as this summer winds down. I'm going to paste this quote into my calender to read, peruse and perhaps even memorize during weekly and daily planning sessions. The Puritan who penned prayer 300-400 years ago this captures my heart's desire beautifully. I want the Lord to empty me of me. I want to do Kingdom work right where He puts me, day-in and day-out.

"God of My End,

...O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life
     is a spirit of holy watchfulness
     and godly jealousy over myself,
     when my soul is afraid of nothing
     except grieving and offending Thee,
          the blessed God, my Father and Friend,
     whom I then love and long to please,
     rather than be happy in myself!

Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper,
     worthy of the highest ambition,
          and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures
          and holy Christians,
     may my joy derive from glorifying
          and delighting Thee.

I long to fill all my time for Thee,
     whether at home or away;
     to place all my concerns in Thy hands;
     to be entirely at Thy disposal,
     having no will or interest of my own.

Help me to live to Thee for ever,
     to make Thee my last and only end,
     so that I may never more in one instance
         love my sinful self."

Valley of Vision, "Devotion", pg. 237

Friday, July 18, 2014

365 People Photos: Numbers 83-85 ~ My Princess

In May both our oldest daughters served as bridesmaids in the wedding of their dear friend, Hannah. More photos from Hannah and Jordan's wedding are soon to come, but I couldn't resist sharing these pictures of Alison getting ready on the morning of the wedding.

That morning in the bridal-preparation room, Alison just happened to sit facing into a window as she applies her make-up. This made use of that natural light which is a photographer's dream as I've mentioned in a previous post. In the glow of early morning flowing in through the window, even some thing so routine as putting on mascara took on an artistic beauty that made my mother's heart leap for joy in thanksgiving to God for the gift of such a lovely daughter.

I know I'm biased as her mother, but I think this young woman is a treasure. The best thing about Alison? She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She loves Jesus passionately and seeks Him fervently. That love of her Saviour transfers to a deep concern for people and a desire to serve others. I thank God for my second oldest daughter! What a blessed mom I am!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 82 ~ Lending a Hand

I've been near the inner workings of so many weddings lately. As a result I've come to realize just how many friends and family it takes to successfully carry off the big event. If a number of people don't pitch in to help, the event is at risk of flopping...or at least the mother-of-the-bride is at risk of a mental break down! 

At the recent wedding I attended in Houston, the bride's college roommates were staying with the family in advance of the big day when they would serve as bridesmaids in Ashley's wedding. I was impressed when I saw one of the young women, Chelsea, pitching in to washing dishes. I appreciated her servant's heart. As a people photographer, I also immediately noticed just how beautiful she looked in the morning light pouring in through the big window over the sink. I had my camera in hand and couldn't resist snapping a shot. Don't you love the glow around her face and the water droplets which are forever frozen in time?

I love people photography! You just never know where your next opportunity to record a special moment with appear!

Friday, July 11, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 81: The IT'S-ALMOST-TIME Wait

I recently posted a photo of this beautiful bride sitting in a chair in the bridal dressing cottage. In this picture Ashley is just minutes from being given the signal that it's time. I love Ashley's wedding-day glow in this photo. I love her ceaseless smile. I love how she's got got a grasp on the train of her dress, prepared to take the walk on her daddy's arm. I love the soft light pouring through the windows in the late afternoon. I love the illumination of the bride's veil and the flower girl's dress. This photo exactly what I most enjoy doing with a camera in my hands ~ capturing a moment that isn't staged or posed but will none the less bring back a flood or memories for those in the photo. I thank God that he enabled me to take this picture.

In this photo, Ashley's three sisters are to the left of the bride. Amy, in the long, gray gown served as her maid of honor. Shannon, is immediately next to Amy. These two lovely beauties are twins. They are also Ashley's older sisters by two years. Right next to Ashley is her "little" sister, Natalie, who was born when Ashley was 8.

The three young women on the right were college roommates. You may be guessing that the man in the picture is Ashley's father, but her dad was just out of the frame. The man pictured her dad's brother, Ashley's uncle. He is also the father of the flower girl. His assignment on the day of the wedding was to help the nervous petal-dropper muster the courage to walk down the aisle just in front of her cousin, the bride.

I felt so honored to be invited to take these photographs. I love any wedding, but this one was extra special to me. Ashley and her sisters were just a bit older than the flower girl when I first met them. In the late 1990s our two families were living in England as American ex-pats. At the time my husband and I had only had three children, and after we'd finish our home schooling the four of us would often spend the afternoon together. I hadn't seen the four sisters in many years so my joy was overflowing to get to spend time with their family and get reintroduced to them as young women. The God I serve is so kind to give me an opportunity like this!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Favorite Quotes: I'm No Hot-House Plant

As was moving books around today, I opened an old favorite to words I had highlighted about 15 years ago which really caught my attention again: 
"True holiness does not make a Christian evade difficulties, but face and overcome them. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hot-house plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us, like salt in the midst of corruption and light in the midst of darkness, which is the primary element of sanctification."

If I want my walk as a follower of Christ to cause Jesus to shine in the eyes of others, I must demonstrate strength and perseverence, while depending on and trusting in His daily gift of ever-sufficient grace. Christians don't give up and they don't give in. Christians can't give out and they can't give in. They are overcomers! I'm to be an overcomer! I'm to stare danger or discouragement in the face and keep right on walkin'.

I've found during the past decade and a half that scripture rehearsal is critical to my ability to just keep plowing on in the face of whatever daunting difficulties might come my way. I used to call it scripture memorization, but the truth is I'm not very good at memorizing. However, I've found that the process of reading a verse or passage that is written out on a 3x5 card many times and intentionally processing the intent of the words has the necessary effect of strengthening me. I'm also more selfless and ready to serve when I meditate on God's word every day. For me, scripture rehearsal (that might lead to memorizing the passage) is as crucial as eating. I've learned that I need the Bread of Life at least as much as I need food! After all, I'm to be an overcomer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Favorite Quotes: The Reason Behind My Top Priority Each Day

My second in my series of favorite quotes from books I've read is actually a continuation from Jean Stockdale's book Proverbs and Principle for Parenting Practically Perfect Progeny. (Hence a second photo of the same flower.)

I am a lover of God's word. As such, I find the words below both comforting and convicting. Her words remind me why the first thing I do each day is open my Bible.
"God's Word is not a rule book. It is not a list of external religious rituals that we are required to adhere to or memorize. God's Word is a love letter from a Father to His child. It is truth. It is full of promises, principles, and precepts. It contains God's warnings, His wisdom, and even His wit. It is His divine revelation and the riches of His grace. It reveals both humanity's ruin and God's remedy. It is the story of redemption by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is full of hope and heaven. It declares Jesus to be God's only begotten Son and the one and only way to be forgiven and reconciled with God the Father. Who would dare to deal with it casually or carelessly?" (pg. 16)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Favorite Quotes: Is My Bible Falling Apart?

We need to do some serious book sorting in this house. As I prepare to move books from one location to another, I've decided to record some of my favorite quotes. Right now, wonderful words that have wielded introspection over the years are locked between the front and back pages of the book in which they reside. I know it will do me good to see them again. The header to this blog states that it is my electronic journal. In the past, I stored favorite quotes in traditional journals. It's time to record these wise words here.

This first quote is one of my all time favorites, and it came from an unexpected source: a workbook called Proverbs and Principles for Parenting Practically Perfect Progeny: Timeless Truths from Proverbs for Training Tots to Teens by Jean Stockdale:
"For nearly 24 years I have been a serious Bible student. Early in my Christian experience I discovered that God's Word is His precious love letter to His church corporately and to His children personally. It is to be reverenced and cherished as the holy breath of God. It is to be studied, memorized, read, re-read, meditated on, and consumed with relish. Bibles are to be examined, studied, perused, scanned, wept over, underlined, marked up, outlined, dog-eared, worn out, and regularly replaced. If your Bible is falling apart, the chances are very good that your life is not.
"God's Word is not to be yet another leather accessory for your Sunday wardrobe. It is your sustenance, the foundation for your life, the anchor of your soul, and the song of your heart." (pg. 15)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

365 People Pictures: No. 80 ~ My Beloved Anna

This morning I had the rare opportunity to go out for coffee with my oldest daughter, who is now a dear friend. While we were out, we stopped in at a nearby garden that used to be a large estate in Cincinnati but was willed to the city in the early 1990s to be used as a park. This gave me the chance to take an updated photo of Anna Mackenzie. It seems as though it was only yesterday that I was taking her senior pictures.

I thank God for the sweet, trusting relationship we share. Anna is ~ and has always been ~ a blessing in my life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 79 ~ Elegance Personified

This weekend I was blessed to attend the wedding of the daughter of a dear dear friend of 16 years. I met Sheila during the years our family lived in England in the late 1990s. Her oldest three children and our first three were great friends during those years when both families lived as American ex-pats.

Again, I was granted the privilege of being invited into the bridal suite to photograph the process of the bride and bridesmaids preparing for the biggest day in Ashley's life. When this young woman was fully dressed in her champagne-colored gown, I was entranced by her elegance. What stunning beauty! The best part for me, however, is that after spending a few days with the family, I know that Ashley is as beautiful on the inside as on the outside as a result of her relationship with Christ.

Friday, June 6, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 78 ~ A People Picture?

You may be wondering why I've included this in my collection of people pictures.

However, if you look closely you'll spot a pair of farmer's legs between the second and third horses on the photographer's right.

Last year we drove through Amish country in southern Illinois at sunset. As we made our way west through the well-manicured farm area, we were stunned to see six mammoth workhorses tromping heavily toward us. We slowed down to nearly a stop as we took in this unusual sight. As we stared, we came to realize that behind several tons of horse one man had these staggeringly strong animals under control with just a set of reins! As we approached, the young man slowed his beasts to a near stop, waved and smiled. We rolled down our windows to compliment him on the beauty of his beasts. He thanked us and then told us he'd better keep moving because his team was hungry and eager to get home. We waved good-bye and drove on silently, our hearts filled-to-overflowing with the gift we'd received from God. The Lord abounds in lovingkindness!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 77 ~ The Wonder of Natural Light

In my last post I mentioned that one of the important ways to improve photography is to dish your camera's flash. Make use of window light instead! The result is a soft illumination. In this photo of my granddaughter, Brielle was right up against a glass door in a church foyer in which our family was attending a wedding. I was parallel to the window as I took this photo. A special detail in this picture is her chubby little toddler hand resting on the glass. Window light ~ without harsh sunlight ~ can offer magic!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

365 People Pictures: No. 76: Seeking the Right Light

Lovely, even light is thrown on baby Evelyn's face in this photo because of a window that was just behind me, which cast soft light on her face. Natural light is a photographer's friend. When indoors, making use of window light is the secret to flattering photos. On the other hand, using the on-camera flash will produce harsh, unflattering shadows. The first step to revolutionizing your photos? Turn that flash off!

Monday, May 5, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 75 ~ Embracing the Less-Than-Perfect

Like no other time in history, much of humanity now has access to a camera. While not everyone has a DSLR, many carry a camera with them nearly all the time in the form of a cell phone. And for many people, the ability to take pictures comes with a desire to grow in skill as a photographer. I know I've been bitten by that bug. And the desire to improve as a photographer puts us at risk for being quick to delete what we consider to be less-than-perfect photos.

However, with this post, I'm here to say *HURRAH* for some of those pictures we'd quickly label imperfect. They may be the very photographs that capture some truly significant moment. Let's put our eye on the milestone marked rather than being too quick with critical self-critique.

This photo of my granddaughter is one of those imperfect treasures. I took the photo on Thanksgiving day as our entire family of 18 was gathered in a small condo on the shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. The kitchen was crowded with folks preparing the feast we would share as we thanked God for His countless mercies in our lives. While all the hubbub was going on, 17-month-old Brielle, who was still a full-time crawler, raised herself to an unaided standing position in the midst of the chaos. Our nine-year-old Eliana called attention to the feat, and we all gleefully clapped for our little champion. Brielle who was, of course, delighted with our accolades, then repeated the stunt a number of times, each time to our happy cheers. In fact, she would rise up into her pyramid-shaped stance and clap along as we clapped.

For me, this photo reminds me of that important developmental step for Brielle. The picture also brings to mind the beauty of being a family that encourages and supports one another. Isn't that really the most important role family members can play in each other's lives?

All of this is captured in a photo that will never win an award. While the quality of the photograph is low, but the quality of the memories it holds and sentiments it carries is sky-high. So, as photographers, let's not be too quick to hit the delete button as we evaluate our work. Treasures can be quite imperfect!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Our Second April Birthday

Today our youngest daughter turned ten!

Eliana waited eagerly all day to find out what were in the gifts piled on the heart. 

She ripped...

...and tore...

...and dug to find her treasures.

At last, it was time to find out what the giant bag from mom and dad held.

To get the treasure out of this tall bag, Eliana had to dig and dig and dig.

Eventually, Eliana pulled out two dolls.

The new ten year old radiated happiness.

The hearts of the whole family were joy filled as we watched this thin waif of a former orphan relish the sense of truly belonging. Although she was adopted 3 years ago, Eliana continues to bubble with happiness when she is made the center of affection for a birthday celebration. 

Happy Birthday to our last little one! You richly bless each of us..
We thank God that He placed you in our family through adoption!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 74 ~ Quick Stop at the Grocery Store

Spring has spring in the upper midwest, and after dinner we made a quick trip to the park. We stopped at a nearby grocery store to get water bottles on the way. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the gang (three are out of town) in the colorful environment. I have the greatest kids ~ so patient with living their lives in front of a camera lens!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 73 ~ An Orphan's Dream Come True

When we adopted Kirsten three years ago, she communicated through our translator while we were still in her homeland of Russia that she yearned to have horses be part of her new life. We didn't immediately know how to make that happen, but we certainly knew out hearts longed to make her dream come true.

After we got home we started asking around and learned of a wonderful trainer. Kirsten began taking periodic riding lessons before she could even speak English.

Today I was blessed to have the opportunity to take some of Kirsten's senior pictures with the horse she rides for her lessons. Although this photo doesn't have the usual qualities of a senior picture, it is one of my favorites from today's shoot. Kirsten is a deep thinker and a courageous young woman. For this mama, this photo captures my beloved daughter's willingness to dream big dreams.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No More Sword Practice!

"There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 12:18 (NASB)

This is a verse that I have been rehearsing daily for about a year. I put it on a 3x5 card for review each day because deep in my soul I recognize a tendency to use words "like the thrusts of a sword." I yearn instead to have a tongue that brings healing.

As I've slowly memorized the verse (that's what the intentional daily rehearsing does for me), I've also meditated on the thoughts called out and pulled out a couple of resources for better understanding.

Some months ago, I looked up the word rashly in Webster's 1828 Dictionary: "Rashly--without due deliberation."

Ouch! I was convicted immediately by the now obvious understanding that I was to T.H.I.N.K. before speaking. Hmm...an all-too novel concept for me.

More recently I checked out what John Kitchen has to say about the verse in his insightful commentary, Proverbs,
"Here is the idea of one who unlocks the door of their lips and lets flow whatever the moment may evoke. There is no thought, no weighing of one's words, only reaction. When we speak like this, we wound, even kill relationships...Like a mad man flailing away with a sword in a crowd of innocent people, so the person who does not measure his words wounds many."
Even deeper OUCH! How many times have wounded those I love the most? After all I'm most likely to speak without thinking within the confines of my own home. When I react to circumstances and open my mouth without due deliberation, it is my beloved husband and treasured children who are likely to the victim's of my tongue's shrapnel.

My only hope? God's willingness to help.

Thus my new practice is to PRAY when I reach the card with Proverbs 12:18 on it in my rehearsal stack each morning during my time alone with God:
O, Lord, please keep me from speaking rashly today. I cannot do this without You. I am so wont to hurt others with my words. Please help me to think before I speak. Please help me to be like Jesus and only speak words which come from You (John 6:63, 8:28). Please mold me into a person whose tongue brings healing. I am completely dependent on You, Lord. Please help me!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 71: The Blues

This time...just the eyes.
Brielle was rolling around in her bedding as Oksana, our nine-year-old daughter, played with our favorite toddler in her bedroom. The blanket casting the yellow glow is her favorite. The birth-grandmother of Brielle's mama, Anna, made the blanket for Brielle. Adoption is creating the most beautiful legacy in our family! Thank you, Sharon, for your love for Brielle!

Friday, March 7, 2014

365 People Photos: No. 70--Painterly Pose

I honestly don't know how this picture turned out this way, looking as though it was painted. I couldn't begin to replicate it, but I will forever treasure how the photo captures 20-month-old Brielle in such a thoughtful moment. God so faithfully provides!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

365 People Photos: Nos. 65-68--The Power of Black and White

In one of my favorite photography books, Mamarazzi: Every Mom's Guide to Photographing Kids, author Stacy Wasmuth, owner of Blue Candy Phtotography mentions the power of black and white pictures to draw attention away from superfluous elements to the emotion of the moment.

Here my 81-year-old father's concentration as he fights the effects of congestive heart failure to inhale deeply enough to blow out birthday candles becomes the focus when I convert the photo to black and white.

In this photo, the black and white image seems to emphasize the sweet intimacy of the bride and her mom. When the image was in color the crowd behind the two women was the focus of the picture.

This is another favorite black and white from the same wedding. The bride's grandfather was widowed several years ago. Now, however, when his friend Jackie is at his side his smile is unending. Again, when this photo is in color, the emphasis becomes the busyness in the room rather than the happiness of this sweet couple.

This photo, was taken in a Tajik Teahouse in Boulder, Colorado, of all places. The room was full of beautiful Central Asian art. The many colors, however, distracted from expressions on the cousins' faces as they enjoyed ice cream on a hot August afternoon.

Some stunning black and white images can be seen at Marla and Shane Photography.