focused on Glory...hope of new life

Short post this week...been watching {from a somewhat safe distance :)} the Brown Thrasher nest in our hedge.  It's hard to see, and even harder to photograph.  And as I mentioned in this post, Thrashers are extremely protective.  Having seen their beaks up fairly closely through my zoom lens, I do NOT want to experience a Thrasher attack, so I am always ready to bolt at the slightest sign of agitation on the part of Mama or Daddy Thrasher.  

I love watching the nest, though.  The nest is buried deep in the hedge for maximum protection.  Mama sits on her eggs in the nest, and Daddy often sits up in the top of the tree above, singing beautifully and watching carefully.  

I love the picture of the hope of new life in the nest.  I love, again, the amazing creativity of God seen in the design of the birds and their ability to carefully craft their nest.  Beautiful!

Be sure to visit Tauna's blog for her foG post this week! 


Thankful Thursday...Desires of My Heart...

Psalm 37:4 has been one of my favorite verses since I was barely in double-digits.  I remember being taught early on that this verse did not mean "Delight yourself in the Lord and all your selfish desires will be met," but rather that as we delight ourselves in Him, He will cause our desires to change, to be the things He desires for us.  

That verse came immediately to mind as I saw a heart's desire fulfilled today.

Six years ago, our world exploded.

At the time, I remember thinking that never, ever would this story be shared.  Ever. A few people had to know...outside of that, it would remain hidden forever.

Then I began researching...one of my immediate reactions to any crisis...searching almost desperately for help for Christian families dealing with the situation we now faced.   What I found was almost nothing.  I was devastated.

We were blessed in many ways.  God provided a tiny group of people who encouraged us and prayed for us and helped bear our burden during those days, despite the fact that they had never walked in our shoes.  And in the absence of resources or people who'd been there, He showed Himself to be our All-Sufficient Wonderful Counselor.  Much later, He provided some helpful resources, including a couple of books that hadn't even been written yet when we began this journey.

And as He worked in our lives, comforting and healing and teaching and growing us, He began to change my heart.

My heart began to ache for other families I knew had to be out there in the same situation we were, with even less resources.  At least Billy and I had our professional background to fall back on for a bit of help along the way.  God began to give me a deep desire to help other families in crisis.  And I began to realize that in order to do that, I had to be willing to share our story.

In six years, God has worked a complete 180 in my heart...from praying that our story would never be public to praying that nothing about our story would be wasted...that we would "steward our story well", as Mary Beth Chapman says.  My heart's desire is that God would get every ounce of glory possible out of our situation, and that He would use us to comfort and help others, as He provided comfort and help for us.  Some time ago, I began to actually pray that God would give opportunities for me to share for His glory and to minister to others.

One of the authors God used in a big way in my life during the darkest years was Mary DeMuth.  She says, "I write so people don't feel alone anymore."  That was my immediate reaction when I first read part of Mary DeMuth's testimony...a feeling that someone out there understood, even though I'd never spoken to her.

Today, God has used Mary DeMuth to help fulfill one of the desires of my heart.  She's allowing me to guest post on her blog, Live Uncaged, today and tomorrow, sharing a message that is heavy on my heart.  What an honor and blessing that is!  Humbling and exciting all at the same time.

God is so good to give us His desires for our hearts and then to fulfill those desires in amazing ways.

Please visit Mary's blog to read part 1 of We Can't Ignore Abuse Victims Any Longer.  Then feel free to share on Facebook or Twitter.  Someone on your friend list or among your followers may need to hear this message right now, either because they are in crisis, or because they know someone who is...or maybe because they need to be aware of the possibility of needs around them they aren't at all aware of.

Linking up with Laurie today for Thankful Thursday.  Stop by her blog to see what others are thankful for today!


focused on Glory...Creative Inspiration

I love photography.  I've loved photography and been fascinated by cameras since my grandfather bought a Polaroid Land Camera when I was a very little girl.  He loved gadgets, and went through several different Polaroids over the years.  And I have wonderful memories of time spent with my dad during my teen years...Daddy with his Canon AE-1 Program, and me with my Canon T-70...trekking through the city and countryside shooting roll after roll of film.  

Through the years, I've ebbed and flowed with the whole photography thing.  I took two years of photography in college...most of which I have long since forgotten, particularly since much of it emphasized darkroom techniques, and I haven't been near a darkroom since graduation.  When our children started coming, a new love emerged...scrapbooking.  I still loved to take photos, but what I did with those photos afterward became more the focus than the photos themselves.  I spent several years doing custom scrapbooking and teaching scrapbooking classes, and I even had a layout published in Creating Keepsakes magazine.  

In recent years, though I still love to scrapbook, photography itself has become a passion again.  The technical aspects of photography don't come easy to me, but I've realized that getting them down is crucial to doing the kind of photography I want to be able to do.  

That has led to frustration, however.  Apparently my experience is fairly common...a learning curve with the technical aspects that involves seemingly going backward (sometimes for a long while) before seeing much forward progress when working one's way off "auto" to full manual.  

I've really struggled with that lately, to the point that I fell into a very discouraged rut photography-wise recently.  There have been times I haven't even felt like getting my camera out of the bag.  

Then when we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago, we visited my friend Tauna.   Tauna has always been one of my greatest creative encouragers, seeing creativity inside me at times when I have felt like there was none at all there.  

She did it again on this trip.  She told me she couldn't wait for me to see my birthday present, and that it was something that only I would really appreciate.  I couldn't wait.  

Then she pulled out this box:

Now, you have to understand.  I love wooden boxes.  Any kind of wooden boxes, the older the better.  But this is much more than a wooden box.

THIS box is a genuine, original condition, Thase Daniel slide box.

The name Thase Daniel may not ring a bell to you, but she has been one of my heroes ever since Tauna first introduced me to her story.  She was an internationally-known nature/wildlife photographer of the mid-twentieth century.  Her interest in photography began well into adulthood, and she taught herself photography primarily by taking pictures of the birds near her home.  Although she never had any formal photographic training, her work appeared in National Geographic, Field and Stream, and Audubon Society books.  One of her best-known images was used in a major Kodak advertising campaign in the 1950's.

Daniel was a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University.  During my friend Tauna's years there, she became acquainted with Daniel's work as her entire slide collection had been left to the University when she died.   The collection of 58,000 slides (she only kept the best of the 250,000+ photos taken over her career) had to be completely re-cataloged by the library, after which they sold the original slide boxes.  A friend of Tauna's snagged a couple for her, and she then decided to gift me with one, knowing that I would truly appreciate such a treasure.

What she didn't know, however, was how timely this particular gift would be.  My birthday is in December, but she waited to give the box to me when we made our trip in April.  Little did she know that I was in a deep photographic rut at the time and needed to be reminded of Thase Daniel's story.  I needed to remember this great photographer who started out by years and years of practice shooting the birds around her home before a 30 year career as one of the greatest nature/wildlife photographers of her time.  

Although I have no aspirations of being one of the great nature photographers of our time, I do desire to be able to consistently take excellent, high quality photos.  I want to be able to show a glimpse of God's glory through my camera lens, and capture beautiful memories for my family and others.

Tauna said, "You can re-finish it if you want to...", but I think she knew that I'd rather leave it just as is.  It sits beside my desk now as a reminder and encouragement.   I'm thankful for God's perfect timing in sending an old beat-up slide box as a reminder that He is the author of creativity and art and that He can bless even the efforts of a back yard bird photographer.

I'm back to loving photography again.  I'm back to focusing on capturing glimpses of God's glory through my lens, and preserving memories for my family and friends.  And I'm snapping away at the birds, squirrels, and other backyard treasures, and plugging away at the "technical stuff".   What God's plan is from there, who knows?  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite (but very technically imperfect :)) recent backyard shots...

(Btw, if you want to see an example of Thase Daniel's photography, check out this brown thrasher photo, published in Encyclopedia Brittanica.  <3)

Be sure to see Tauna's foG post for this week at Creative Confetti.  She shares about her own recent "dry spell" and how God is working in it.  Love the story and pictures of her recent farm visit. 


Worth a Read (or a Listen)...

I posted this on Facebook last night, but decided it was worth posting here as well.  So good.  Here's what I said there...

Just used up half a box of Kleenex watching and listening to this. (I listened to the first half, then got impatient to get to the rest faster and started reading instead. :)) Our circumstances are so very different, and yet so much of what he says...especially about the theological journey...could have been my very own words. 
I had flashbacks to those days of wrestling...the days when the whole idea of God's sovereignty and goodness caused anger, doubt, and confusion...and how God graciously and lovingly brought me to the point where His sovereignty has become the comfort and bedrock Josh McPherson describes. Such a blessing to be reminded again that even though the experiences of the last few months have been hard...and still are hard...and will continue to be hard...the foundation God laid in the lessons of 6 years ago and the years in between has been firm, and the peace and comfort that has brought (when I "remember what [I] know", as Tom Stuart used to say :)) has been indescribable. (And I'm thankful for the people and things God uses every day to remind me of what He has taught me!)

If you have ever gone through suffering, if you are going through suffering now, or if it is possible you may ever go through suffering (in other words, "if you're sucking air", as Guy Penrod says :)), this is so worth a listen or read. (There's a short intro clip you can listen to first.)

Here's the link:

Josh McPherson's Testimony


At His Command...

Woke up this morning thinking about how amazing last night's moon was, but how much more amazing the Creator of that moon is.  As amazing as that incredible Supermoon was, it shines at the beck and call of our  Almighty Creator.  What a thought!  He's been reminding me today...through the Sunday School lesson I taught this morning, through the music and Bro. Kent's sermon in this morning's sermon, through what I've read and heard this afternoon and evening...of just how amazing He is.   And the most amazing thing is that we can't even begin to truly comprehend how amazing!  

I love this song by Isaac Watts, who was one of my Daddy's favorite hymnwriters and who is now one of mine.  Such a beautiful reminder of His awesome power! 


I Really Wasn't Going To...

...Really wasn't going to go shoot the Supermoon tonight, that is. 

It's been a long week, an even longer weekend, and the alarm will go off early tomorrow.  

And I'm exhausted.

But then I saw a photo on Facebook...

And then I thought, "I'll just run outside and look real quick..."

And then I mentioned it to Billy and he said, "Let's go look," and I grabbed my camera and we both headed out the back door.

And then we discovered that the trees and houses in our neighborhood seriously obstructed our view.

So Billy said, "Want to go take some pictures?"  

So we scooped up the littlest one (the big ones were all too tired for a late-night drive) and headed out. 

And I began to seriously wish I'd read up on photographing the Supermoon.

And I began to even more seriously wish I had a tripod. 

And three times I hopped out of the car and snapped a few.

The results aren't great art by any means, but it was fun, and I got a few I was pretty happy with, considering my limitations. :)


focused on Glory...the Brown Thrashers are Back!

"The Brown Thrashers are back," said my husband this weekend.  One of the treats of spring is the return of birds we haven't seen since fall.  We love our year-round birds...the Northern Cardinal, various types of sparrows, several varieties of doves,  "Ammah Grace's Blue Jays", and the occasional woodpeckers and owls, to name a few.  But it's always exciting to see those we've missed all winter. Two of our favorite returnees are the Brown-Headed Cowbird and the Brown Thrasher.  

The Brown-Headed Cowbird has been back for several weeks now.  I'm planning a post on this interesting bird soon.  However, this week's excitement has been the return of the Brown Thrasher.  Billy saw them over the weekend, I made my first sighting on Monday, and this afternoon I finally managed to snap a few pictures.  (I tried several times Monday and a couple of times on Tuesday before I was actually successful, much to my neighbors' amusement, I think, as I skulked around our front-yard hedges stalking the Thrashers building nests inside.  I missed a great shot yesterday of one dragging a huge piece of dried vine around the hedge to add to its nest.  I'm still sad. :))

I've said this before, but God's creativity in creating birds astounds me.  Seriously.  He could have made one, two, or even just ten species of birds, but instead He made somewhere around 10,000.  10,000 species of birds!  Not to mention all the other types of critters He created.  It's really a breathtaking thought.  

Not only am I amazed by the number of species He created, but I am amazed by the intricate design of each one.  Different markings, different calls, different personalities, different behavior patterns...as I try to learn the calls of even our familiar birds, as I try to identify different types of sparrows by their markings,  and as I watch their different behavior patterns, I am more amazed all the time at the Creativity of our amazingly glorious Creator.  

A few cool facts about Brown Thrashers:

* Thrashers are beautiful birds who seem rather shy compared to some of the other birds in our yard. However, they can be extremely aggressive, as one of our dogs found out last year when she got too close to a Thrasher's nest.  Brown Thrashers are serious about guarding their young, and they will attack dogs, snakes, and even humans if they feel the nest is threatened.  Their attacks are often severe enough to draw blood.  (Darcy and Wili beware! :))

* The Brown Thrasher population is shrinking somewhat, probably in part because of the decline of fencerows, hedges, and shrubby areas.  These are the areas in which they like to nest.  We have had them in our back, rather wild, fencerow, and in our front hedge.  

* Brown Thrashers are quite the songbirds.  They have over 3000 songs in their repertoire. No wonder I have a hard time ID'ing all the calls in our backyard! :) 

I am amazed at the attention to detail evident in God's creation of these fascinating birds.  

My first view when I finally managed to get out the door with my camera  without scaring one off.   I kept muttering under my breath..."PLEASE turn around, Mr. Thrasher."  

He finally did. :)

Digging deep for worms/bugs. :)

And down again! 

Brown Thrashers always seem to be strutting.

Posing in the sun...

Bonus for today's post...I found this article on Brown Thrashers written by John J. Audubon, and thought it was fascinating...perhaps some of you will as well. :) 

Be sure to visit Tauna's blog to see her focused on Glory post!  Can't wait to see what she posts on this week!