Archive for July, 2012

The Illuminated Word Project (July): Thirst

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This year, I am participating in a group project with other photographers across the country. Once a month, we each select a part of the Bible and represent it some way visually through our photos.

We are a diverse group of seven women with different beliefs, and I am looking forward to an ongoing conversation with these photographers and with the people who read these blog posts.

Welcome to The Illuminated Word Project!


***After taking a look at my post, please check out all of the other photographers participating in this project. The next step is Denean Melcher. Just click HERE.***

This parched and brittle corn plant brings Psalm 63 to my mind:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

As I read this psalm, I am exposed. My soul doesn’t thirst for God often. I don’t see my surroundings as a “dry and weary land”. Instead, I think that the stuff around me can quench my thirst. I don’t think about myself regularly as one who desperately needs God for life—just like this corn is in desperate need of water.

I reject my God, and I try to quench my thirst with lesser things. I don’t think God’s love is better than life. I think that life is better than God’s love.

I am thirsty for the admiration of others. I am thirsty for people’s love. I am thirsty for efficiency and order. I thirst for a crossed off to do list. I am thirsty for beauty. I am thirsty for my kids to behave well. I am thirsty for an easy and fun life.

Admiration, respect, order, beauty, family and comfort are all good things. However, the problem arises when I desire these good gifts more than I desire the Giver. Sprite got it right; you obey your thirst. And although I’m not bowing down to statues or golden calves, I’m bending the knee to the often less tangible gifts of creation.

The idolatry in my heart is nothing new.
Listen to what God says to his people in Jeremiah 2:

Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah calls these inadequate thirst quenchers “broken cisterns”.
C.S. Lewis calls them “mud pies”.
He writes, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

I don’t want to settle. I want to experience thirst and be quenched deliciously by Christ. I have a lot to learn. I want to grow.

So are you thirsty? Or do you feel satisfied?

Where do you go to quench your thirst? What are your favorite “cisterns” of choice?

Do those things really satisfy you in the end?

If you follow Christ, how is your loving God showing you that your broken “cisterns” cannot hold water? When God shows you the holes in your “cisterns”, do you thank Him?

My Beliefs
I think it is only fair to tell you where I am coming from. We are all religious people. We are all trying to find life, meaning, value, and purpose somewhere or in someone. What matters is what or whom we believe. This is what I believe. What do you believe?

This is what I believe: WHAT I BELIEVE
This is what I care about: WHAT I CARE ABOUT
Think Jesus Christ is irrelevant to your everyday life? JESUS CHRIST CHANGES EVERYTHING
Want to get fancy? GETTING FANCY
Have no idea where to start? Want to teach your kids about God? START HERE


Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Emmie started taking ballet last summer.

There were certain things I had observed about Emmie that made me think that ballet was a good fit for her. Turns out, I got this one right.

Emmie took to ballet pretty quickly. Sometimes, she got frustrated with herself, but Mrs. Connally helped her through it. Mrs. Connally get Emmie, and I appreciate that.

This summer, Emmie had her first ballet recital. She loved every part of it. She enjoys the beauty and elegance of ballet. She works hard. She enjoys the girly culture of ballet. And she loved her first opportunity to wear makeup.

Emmie led out her group of dancers. She said she was nervous, but “the music told [her] what to do.”

The recital was full of many beautiful dancers. Emmie loved watching these “big girls” during the second act.

My favorite part of the recital was seeing Emmie enjoy herself. She seemed comfortable on stage.

This is the girl who now dances in our kitchen and dances in the grocery store aisle.
I hope that Emmie continues to enjoy dancing for many years to come and that she gets to share it with other people.

Swim Lessons

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

We’ve been hitting the pool a lot lately. All the kids have been taking swim lessons.
If you don’t swim well in SA, you melt in the summer.

My kids wouldn’t be the swimmers that they are without the help of some great teachers. This is Kent. He was the perfect match for Emmie and Carter. They both really looked forward to their time with him, and they learned a lot.

A little butterfly action . . .

Chris encouraged Harrison to take breaths while swimming so that he could go further.

This takes guts.

Emmie kept pulling back at the last minute and jumping in feet first. Hopefully she’ll be diving more and more.

I love running into friends and neighbors at the pool.
I’m grateful to Ann (the director of the swim school) and all of the hard working teachers for doing such a great, consistent job each year.

Good, Clean Fun

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Our new friend, Tito, turned 8 recently. The kids and I got to celebrate his birthday with him. We had a wonderful time! It was great to get to know his family. And the super tall, inflatable slide and bubble tub that they rented were so much fun!

Carter was dishing it out.

Retaliation. . .

Thank you, Tito, for having us at your party. We are looking forward to getting to know your family better.

Karen Russell, Part Four (Art Books)

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

After our long morning together in Ashland (see HERE and HERE), we searched high and low for a place still open for lunch. We grabbed some Mediterranean Vacation sandwiches with Greek goddess dressing. We also did some “research” at a make your own cupcake bakery. I ordered a vanilla cupcake with ganache filling, cream cheese icing, and a drizzle of salted caramel. I wish we had shot some of these stories of the two of us together, but sometimes you are too busy talking and living. . .

We spent the late afternoon in front of the computer looking at some of our own images. Karen had a list of questions for me. And I had a list of questions for her.

Josh and the kids came home from a fishing derby. (For those of you from Texas, a fishing derby is apparently what we would call a fishing tournament.) The derby wasn’t a success. They were cold and tired so they got in comfy clothes and watched some America’s Funniest Home Videos:

Josh read some in Courtney Lee’s hanging chair. This chair made me smile because of all of its overconstructed, super-safe, able-to-withstand-hurricane-force-winds hanging mechanism. I’m married to a guy who would have done something similar.

I gave the kids some little thank you gifts for sharing their mom with me–not just for this weekend but in the past as my teacher. I know Karen has many students who are grateful to this family for sharing their wife and mom.

Josh and Cole started wrestling.

I think Cole lost this round because he ended up with a hand drawn mustache on his face.

Annie wasn’t afraid to defend her new coloring book. . .

The girls followed Josh Downs’ lead and drew mustaches and beards on one another.

I wonder if these mustaches and beards were still on their sleeping faces as I boarded my flight very early the next morning.

Josh Downs, I can see that you love your wife well in many ways. Thank you for watching the kids during the weekend so that I could spend time with her.

Cole, I love the way you think about life and the questions you ask. I love how you are sweet to your mom.

Courtney Lee, thank you for being willing to give up your room and share with me. I enjoyed hearing about the risk that you took and the fun that you had at camp.

Annie, thank you for my artwork. I have it in the nightstand beside my bed. I had fun doing arts and crafts with you. Thank you for making me smile.

Karen, thank you for helping me to become more of the person whom God has made me to be. Thank you for letting me get to know the real you and some of the stories (that didn’t make the blog) that have shaped and are shaping you. Karen Downs the person is even better than Karen Russell the blogger/photographer. And I always knew that the blogger/photographer was extraordinary.

Karen Russell, Part Three (Me)

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

On day #3 of my weekend with Karen Russell, she was kind enough to take pictures of me. I don’t love being on the other side of the camera, but I knew I needed some updated photos. She made it easy for me to relax. Here are just a couple of “appetizers” that Karen took of me in Ashland. You can see more by going to her blog HERE.

I love all of the photos that she took of me. She doubled the current photos I have of myself in one hour. Thank you, Karen!

Karen Russell, Part Two (Bio Pics)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I’ve already talked about my first day with Karen Russell HERE.
The next day (Friday), we spent a lot of time at the computer. We each edited the same four images and swapped tips. We looked at some of the work of other photographers. We talked and talked.
I got to meet Courtney Lee and Cole who returned home from camp. All 6 of us enjoyed dinner at a local pizza place. I shared Karen’s 2nd (!) run of the day with her. She ran that morning, but I was wiped out from the prior day’s travels. She had enough gas in her tank to enjoy a shorter (for her) jog around Grants Pass.

Saturday, we ate breakfast on her front porch. She introduced me to almond butter with chocolate on toast. Yum!
We prettied ourselves up and headed to Ashland to take photos of one another. The weather was shifting constantly. We got some brief moments of sunshine. . .

. . . but the rain encouraged us to head indoors to the Black Sheep. We enjoyed some great fries with blue cheese sauce and some drinks. We picked an out of the way spot next to some good window light and popped open a reflector. We shot, snacked, and talked. Shot, snacked and talked. Karen wasn’t afraid to practically use the head of a stranger as a tripod to get a few shots of me. I realized she is as crazy as I am.

I like the yin and yang nature of the two above shots–one colorful and happy, the other b&w and moody but with a similar composition.

Karen and Josh Downs’ first date was at the Black Sheep (above). They also had their wedding reception there.

Here are a couple more keepers that I took before the rain. . .

I see a lot of beauty inside and out in my new friend.

I’m happy that Karen liked this outtake from the shoot and doesn’t take herself too seriously . . .

Karen Russell, Part One (Annie’s Puppet Show)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Q: Know what it feels like when someone you’ve admired wants to spend time with you?
A: You feel like the giddy school girl who has just been asked out by the boy she’s had a crush on.

Q: Know what it looks like to shoot over the shoulder of someone who has helped to make you the photographer you are?
A: Check this out:

Last weekend, I traveled to Oregon to spend time with Karen Russell, my former photography teacher. I had wanted to meet her ever since I first saw her blog and signed up for her class. That desire to see her in person increased after I completed her class and grew as a photographer. Karen’s husband, Josh and my husband, Greg took the load off of us in terms of parenting to make this weekend happen.

And so I got to say “Thank you” in person. We hadn’t even talked on the phone before. We had just emailed and blogged, yet Karen was willing to open up her life and let me get to know her as a person–not just a blogger or a teacher. Annie and Karen picked me up at the airport. I was greeted with enthusiastic hugs and this drawing that Annie had made for me:

After lunch, I got the tour of Karen’s house. Annie let us take some pictures of her playing on her bed. She did a puppet show for us with the puppets she had made that day. I wanted to shoot with both Canon and Nikon. Karen shoots with Nikon, and I still struggle with my Nikon camera.

One puppet lost its tongue. Annie thought that was hilarious. (I think she was also hamming it up a bit for me since I was “new”. . .)

Annie demonstrated how to turn a doll into a mermaid using a blanket:

Karen and Annie showed me a hand clapping game (that I remember from one of my favorite images of the two of them together). The clapping and rhyming ends with a round of paper, rock, and scissors:

Karen does a way better job of getting in photos than I do, but I still tried to add a few more images that include her to her collection.

Later, I got to meet the famous Josh Downs.
We wrapped up our first day together with dinner at Karen’s favorite Thai restaurant in Jacksonville. We each took turns telling some of our story and talking about photography.