About week ago, I woke up and looked out my window, only to find a dense fog. My daughter had to go to Forest School (which means 2 hours outdoors) and the temperature was -4 degrees celsius. Not a good way for me to start my day. I stressed even before I had my requisite cup of coffee. I am from South Africa, I grew up in warm weather and sunshine. Winter meant a brollie and a fleece, in temperatures in the mid teens. I start to dread winter in the UK almost as soon as the summer starts. Waking up to -4 is not a good start for me. In fact, I could quite happily hibernate for 3 months every year.
A little while later, however, I dropped my daughter of in the forest and saw that it wasn’t merely fog that had greeted me, but a freezing fog, which means that as the water touch any surface, they freeze. So 30 minutes later, my son and I ventured out into the freezing weather. It was too beautiful not too! The area around our apartment had been transformed into a crystal palace. It was enchanting. While out in this icy scene, I had the thought, “Every season is beautiful in its own way”. I then realised how profound that thought was. My family are facing some pretty big challenges for 2013. It isn’t an easy season up ahead, but if we look closely enough, if we focus on the Source, I am sure we will find that even this season is beautiful in its own way.
Christmas isn’t always an easy time, for many reasons. So as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I pray you find beauty in the season you are experiencing and that you are blessed abundantly in 2013.
Yesterday, we noticed that the first of the season’s blackberries are ready to be picked. It happened so quickly, they were small and green one minute and now they are ready for harvesting.
The trouble with blackberries is that while they are abundant and produce tasty berries, they are covered in thorns and prickles. I think this is a fine example of creation mirroring truth. Often our best fruit comes with thorns. No person is immune to suffering in one form or the other. Life is full of hardships. Surprisingly, these times of hardship are often also our most fruitful. Maybe not at the time itself, when all we can do is hold on with everything we have, but when we look back we can see the blessings along they way. We can see how the experience has helped shape us into the people we are and has given us the skills/empathy or giftings that we needed.
I personally, don’t choose the thorny times, but when they come, I hope that I can take heart in the fact that they will be redeemed and blessings will come from a difficult time.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5 : 3-5
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8 : 18
This morning, I was woken up at 4.45am by my baby, who is unwell. So as we set out to take photographs this week, my head was not feeling altogether sharp. The sun was shining, which is always a bonus in the UK, but we had missed the good light. To say I was struggling to find inspiration would be an understatement. I prayed that the Lord would speak to me as we walked along the towpath. The leaf buds are just starting to poke their heads out from the branches, as spring sets in over here. A few people were out walking their dogs. It was a wonderful morning. I was walking along feeling a sense of peace and His presence, but not much photographically.
At the end of the walk, I climbed up a little hill thinking I had finished with the shoot. When I saw that the boat I had been photographing was in a much better position to shoot. I felt the Lord say to me that sometimes we just need a change of perspective. We need to go up to Him and look at the world and our own lives from His perspective. Sometimes we just get stuck where we are, up, close and personal. The questions I am asking Him today are: what situation in my own life needs heaven’s perspective? Where does my outlook need to change? What are His thoughts on these situations?
I know that the Kingdom of heaven belongs to people that are like little children. I know that simple faith is what is required. I love to hear my daughter pray to Jesus about all manner of things and yet, I am always slightly taken aback when her prayers are answered. This happened recently when she prayed that Jesus would help her find new friends (we have recently moved country and it has taken a while to make in-roads). The answer to her prayer was a formation of a new group and she now has a better social life than I do, she is 4. And a half.
I know all the theory about faith, trust, simple prayers, our father providing all our needs and yet in my heart I feel that I need something more. Something bigger. Maybe longer prayers with more verses quoted or maybe a powerful feeling of the Holy Spirit before my prayers are answered. I think I need a SOZO and certainly I need to do some business with a few spirits (poverty and orphan come to mind).
My own lack of faith has been confronted, not by my daughter’s simple prayers, but rather by God’s ready answers. He values her prayers. He delights in her. She is not less in His eyes and He certainly isn’t waiting for her to grow up. He loves spending time with her and she approaches Him and spends time with Him just as she is, knowing that she is loved and accepted. She will sometimes go to her bedroom and make up songs to Jesus all on her own. I have no idea what these songs are about. She isn’t doing them for us. The Bible is her favourite book, she loves asking questions about Jesus, God, Heaven, you name it. She even made a Valentines card for Jesus! I need to take a leaf out of her book and watch and learn. And pray with expectancy.
|And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3
I took this photograph this afternoon. I was visiting a cousin in hospital. 3 days ago her daughter was born and she became a first time mother. There is something uniquely precious about a new life. It truly is a miracle. The whole shebang: the child, the birth and what happens inside the heart of a parent when they see their child. Your world changes, your priorities change, your fears change and life takes on a whole new dimension. It is the best and most challenging experience and no one can prepare you for it.
God is amazing. I always leave these early days encounters (of other peoples children) with much joy and awe. I find it hard to express the words.
I used to be a physiotherapist. I am comfortable in hospitals and have worked in many. Today was the first day that I walked into one with my tripod (previously I only took a camera). It felt different, for the first time I felt like an outsider in an environment where I was in control. It was strange, but somehow, holding my camera and capturing those first few days when everything is so new, was more meaningful than being a member of staff. The hardest part was having to leave when visiting hour was over.
Sometimes being a full-time mum has its challenges. Being on constant call can be stressful. Wanting to take photographs while the light is doing exciting things on the sea, while you push your child repeatedly on a playground swing, can be excruciating to say the least. Yesterday, I proposed a family day out and took my camera and tripod as part of my current photographic project. Despite saying to myself that I must spend time with my family, I spent at least half an hour feeling miserable as the light slowly vanished from the waves. I found a gap and march grumpily to the beach with my tripod and camera. The next 15 minutes I took some of the worst images I have ever taken. Boring, flat, dull, uninspired. A bit like the beach I was standing on.
I took a breathe, changed focus, took a few shots of beach houses. Then decided to call it a day. Family must come first. As I was walking to the playground I saw this boat zoom in, I quickly took the shot. It was my favourite image of the day, mostly for its moodiness and the yellow colour of the boat injects just a bit of life into the shot.
I learnt a few things yesterday. Family is what is important, most important. Sometimes you have to just watch the beauty before you and thank God that you can experience something so lovely, even without a camera. Photography is more about headspace than completing a project. It is about recognising and revelling in the world around us. Grumpy people can’t be easily creative. Motherhood sometimes involves sacrifice. Yellow boats can pop out of nowhere and make your day!
My father-in-law is an avid Teddy Bear collector and has enlisted me to photograph is collection of bears. This is not exactly a serious artistic endevour with deep and meaningful images that move the viewer to contemplate life, the universe and everything. It is a lot of fun, though and a great way to enjoy photography from a different level.
In the process of taking these photographs, I have learnt a few “How to photograph Teddy Bear tips”
- Get into the character of your bear, let your imagination run riot a bit and give them a “life”.
- Make sure their eyes are free of fluff and can be seen
- Eye contact helps give them character
- Experiment with different formats, crops and viewpoints
- Eat or drink whatever food or drink you have photographed afterwards
- Have fun