Sacred and Still

It’s been a month since I’ve shown up in this space. To say something; anything.

And in real time, it’s Saturday morning. In mid-July. A dreary one at that. I’m breaking all of the rules of blogging by posting on such a day, but I couldn’t let this sacred and still moment pass.

Because some gifts were meant for sharing.

To acknowledge that we walk this life together. To encourage each other to press on and press in.

And this is one of those gifts.

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I stepped out on my back deck this morning (one of my very favorite places these days), just outside the sliding glass door to avoid the slow and intermittent falling raindrops, with coffee in hand, and recognized the gift of quietness for what it was. A breath of fresh air. A pause. A sacred and still moment carved out of the emotional rollercoaster of this week.

In other words, rest.

For my body and soul.

And as I continue to lean further into this truth – rest – into this word full of grace and peace that is somehow meant to characterize this year of my life that in many ways feels anything but restful, I’m filled with gratitude.

Toward the One who sees me and knows the deepest parts of me.

Even the parts that I can’t quite name or understand.

Even that parts that I’m not proud of.

In the very moments that I fear I’m just going through the motions of my faith, that I doubt my own sincerity, I can’t deny the intimacy that comes from simply drawing near to the presence of Jesus Christ and staying there. Not because of anything I am or do, but because of who He is, because of what He’s done.

It’s in that place of nearness – through all of the hurt and uncertainty and restlessness – that I acutely feel the Spirit of Christ ministering to me in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. It’s deeper than words can express.

But it’s there that I feel myself learning to trust all over again. Learning to depend on His grace instead of my ability. Learning that only Christ knows and understands me in the way I so desperately long to be known.

And though He knows every good thing along with every horrible thing about me, He still loves me and He still claims me as His own.

I don’t deserve it, but I’m tired of fighting against it.

So I begin to walk forward in confidence once again. Not because of anything I bring to the table, but because of who He tells me I am in the seat He’s already prepared for me there.

And as the sun begins to peek out between the clouds on this day, out of the sacredness and stillness comes newness and possibility and hope.

iPhone Only Photography

I’ve been following David Molnar’s photography for quite some time, and I’ve been looking forward to his “iPhone Only Photography” book ever since I first heard him hint about it on instagram. I mean, his photos – even the ones he takes/edits with his iPhone only – are GORGEOUS, so when he started talking about sharing his tips and tricks in a book, I was sold.

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So of course when the opportunity came up to read an advance copy and write a review, I jumped on it! And I’m SO glad I did!!

I absolutely LOVE this book!

It’s no secret that photography has become a fun and creative outlet for me. And while I love learning more about my DSLR and how to take better photos – both from a technical and artistic perspective – I also tend to leave the “good camera” at home more times than not simply because it’s not convenient.

But I still value good photos. And that’s where this book comes in.

I pretty much ALWAYS have my iPhone on me, and with the incredibly helpful tools and tutorials in “iPhone Only Photography” there’s no reason why I can’t capture the look and feel that I want even when I don’t have the DSLR with me. When I’m out with friends and want to remember the moment or when I’m with family and want to document how we relate or when I happen across a beautiful landscape and want to remember how God reveals Himself through creation.

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This is a photo of my grandfather completely in his element going through genealogy documents and family photos. It was a simple, ordinary moment just spending time with him and my mom around the dining room table, but I’m so glad I have this photo – even if it wasn’t perfect – because we’ve spent countless hours around that table just being together as a family, and those memories are precious to me. But by using several steps from David’s tutorials, the edited version much better reflects the feel of that particular moment, and I love it!

The tone of the book is so friendly and welcoming that reading through the chapters felt like David was literally sitting in my living room and helping me understand the technology in my hand and how to use it to my advantage. I’ve had the Snapseed app (one of several apps suggested in the book) on my phone for over a year and have used it on occasion, but I had NO idea it could do so much!! I might have even said “shut the front door” right out loud in the middle of one of the chapters when I realized just how much the app could really do. Which may or may not have been followed by a strange look from my roommate…

The step-by-step tutorials are SO GOOD and walk you straight through the photo from start to finish – from taking the photo to the final edit and everything in between. And beyond the super practical tips and easy-to-follow tutorials, there’s also an inspiration feature where David introduces you to other great artists on instagram. Such a great idea and a definite highlight!

I can’t wait to get out and experiment more with all of the new things I’ve learned, and I am quite certain I will be referring back to this book over and over again!!

If you’re at all interested in improving your iPhone photos, I would definitely recommend that you get a copy of this book. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn something useful and it will be more than worth it. Click here for more info!

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*by the way: while I did receive a free copy of this book to review, these are just my honest thoughts on what makes it so helpful. and it was my idea to write a post about it. :)*

Real Life Lately

This may go down in the books as my worst blog post ever, since I’m pretty sure I’m about to ramble and be all over the place, but I wanted to say something in this space. And sometimes this is just how it goes…

In case it’s not obvious, I’m still on what was at first an unintentional (but I liked it so much that I decided to continue with it) break from my photo of the week 2014 project.

Life has been full lately.

It would exhaust both me and you to try list the specifics of everything going on this side of the screen. Some good things, some not as good things. But overall, just full.

Full of uncertainties and unknowns and changes.

Full of just barely hanging on or just hanging in there for one more day.

Full of so many friends hearing less than stellar news (cancer can just go away. can I get an amen?).

Full of blessed moments of fun and celebration and lightness and rest.

It’s been intense and consuming and draining and exhausting.

And it’s required more of me than at times I thought I had to give.

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And typically, my response to this sort of fullness would be to process through writing. And naturally, some of that writing would end up here. In this space where I try to intentionally process and download and think through what it looks like to walk out the truth of the Gospel in my everyday life and encourage you to do the same.

But this time?

Part of me has wanted to write, to say something, and sometimes that part of me wins, but the other part of me that’s been winning most of the time lately doesn’t really want to sit down and write at all. I’ve been choosing other things in its place … things like reading, cleaning, organizing, and painting nightstands.

And you know what? It’s been good.

That photo of the week project was (and maybe will be again…) all about learning to see and understand and identify and somehow creatively represent rest. True rest. Soul rest. But as I mentioned briefly before, it was beginning to feel very un-restful. It was beginning to feel like a chore. And when your creative outlet becomes less of a challenge to express something creatively and rather becomes just one more thing that should be done, it’s time to step back.

I’ve already learned so much from more intentionally seeing rest. And as I continue to lean further into this season of intentional rest and as I continue to learn as much as I can about what that really means, I may have more to share. But for now, a couple of themes have repeatedly stood out in my photos: home and nature.

And I don’t think either is a mistake.

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As I looked back at this photo that I posted on instagram several weeks ago (a sort of behind-the-scenes of one of my photos of the week), I realized that I hashtagged four words that mean even more to me now than they did then: quiet, simple, creative, rest.

Those words say much about me and the season I’m currently in. And I almost didn’t recognize it.

Sometimes slowing down is a challenge. But I’m grateful for the slow and simple moments. And for the soul space they allow.

And the truth is, I’m feeling a strong pull towards more of those slow and quiet and simple and small moments. And my posting here may continue to be sporadic for a while.

I’m not sure.

But in the fullness of real life, I find myself being ever more careful with my words and my thoughts. And I don’t ever want to force content here just to follow some arbitrary rule of blogging.

So in the midst of the fullness that is this life, I’ve just been hunkering down and holding on and reading a whole heck of a lot.

Because what else do you do when your world quits making sense? Read stories that resolve. Read other stories that don’t. Read novels with happy endings and memoirs with sad ones. And realize that you’re not so alone and most certainly not the only person on the planet.

(Not to mention there’s some really great writing out there!)

There’s a history full of people before you who lived and existed and had lives full of purpose and meaning, but in the middle of their worst days, they didn’t know how to make sense of it all either.

And there’s a future full of bright hope and certainty because there’s eternity with Christ. And likely some more living this side of heaven before we get there that promises to be full of HIS good purposes and plans.

Life is sometimes hard and often full of unknown, but with my head down, I’m still fighting and moving forward.

And I know this fight that’s being renewed and swelling within me isn’t me at all. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit in me and it’s the power of prayer at work.

Because if it had been up to me, I would have quit fighting for light and truth in the murky darkness weeks ago.

But by HIS grace and power and strength within me, I’m still here.

And it is only by the power of the Spirit in me that I keep walking. That I don’t give up, that I don’t give in.

And just to be perfectly clear. This is what was promised. Not that life would be easy, but that those of us who have new life in Christ would never be alone and would never be without hope. And that’s real life.

5 Things I Learned in May

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1. Sanding and painting furniture isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It probably helps that my amazing roommate helps with all of the things I’m most uncertain about and simply lets me paint. And for the record, chalk paint is awesome. And for the curious, yes, I will post a photo of the finished product (a nightstand) soon.

2. Sometimes capturing rest for a photo of the week project looks like taking a month off from said project when it starts to feel less like creative rest and more like a chore that has to be done out of duty. And then not worrying about it and just letting it go. (My blog, my rules, right?) I honestly haven’t quite decided if the photo of the week project is coming back for June or not. The good news? I’ve got two whole days to decide. And to those of you who sent me YOUR photos representing rest, THANK YOU!! I loved loved loved seeing your perspective and hearing about what rest means to you. Y’all are the best!!

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3. When you help your grandparents downsize to move out of the house they’ve lived in since 1959, you might come across your uncle’s old toy trucks in the attic. And even though your mom (his sister) is convinced he will never part with his fire truck, if he loves you a lot (I love him, too!), he might let you convince him that you should have them. And it will probably make your day. Because ALL the excitement!! My future children are grateful, too.

4. Confidence in my own confidence means absolutely nothing. Confidence in my secure identity in Christ means everything.

5. I suspect that this year of rest will become less of a season with an arbitrary time limit and more of a lifestyle. I’m learning so much on this journey into intentional rest – physically, mentally, spiritually – and have so many thoughts on the subject. But I’m taking my time and processing things slowly. And I’m genuinely ok with that.

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*linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as we all share different things we learned in May*

An Elephant Themed Baby Shower

Life has been full lately. I won’t bore you with a list of all the latest life happenings (though I am working on a post for next week to somewhat explain my absence from this space. and yes, there will most definitely be a five things post the last Friday of the month. I know y’all like those posts!), but I wanted to at least give you something lovely to look at in the meantime.

My crazy talented sister-friend-roommate, B, threw a baby shower for one of her friends at the end of April, and I got to help out behind the scenes a bit and then take photos of the event. I mean, how amazingly adorable and thoughtful are all these elephant details???

And although babies are no where in my near future, I’ve already made her promise to paint some cute canvases for my someday nursery. Grin.

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