Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Morning

img_9137Stopping by the woods on this snowy day did not start out to be quite as idyllic and simple as Robert Frost first painted it to be.

The truck fishtailed the tiniest bit as I gingerly stepped on the brakes, just enough to send my heart into my throat.  A giant yellow semi bore down on me from the north, leaving the truck shuddering in the wake of its pass, and me clutching the steering wheel, as though I might hold the vehicle on the road by the whiteness of my knuckles.  An icy blast of sub zero air blasted my face as I rolled the window down, fogging the camera lens.  Was it worth all this?

But the way the tall smoothly scaled red pine trunks contrasted against the feathery spruce boughs, freshly highlighted in snow, had been catching me eye. Quiet beauty was calling to me from the edges of the road, right there in the midst of my hurry to get down the middle of it to check all the little empty squares on my shopping list in town.  Surely I had a minute or two to spare?

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”
The to-do list and ticking clock of the day nagged, but I pushed it aside.  I would stop, briefly, if only to save myself from driving off the road with all the neck-craning I’d been doing.

And after the roar of the yellow semi subsided, it was true:

“The only other sound’s the sweep, Of easy wind and downy flake…” 

img_9143For a few moments, I was still, and the woods were still.  There was not another car on the road within sight or earshot.  The long list for the day faded away to the back of my mind.  A tiny bit of sunlight twinkled through clouds above, kissing the forest in soft, warm light.  The beauty of creation, which in turn pointed my heart to the beauty of its Creator, steeped into my soul.  And I remembered this story:

“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind:

and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire:

and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

I am told that the term “a still, small voice” falls down somewhat in translation, that the idea is more that of a silence alive with His presence. It’s a truth supported elsewhere in Scripture, too, in other familiar lines such as:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God is not to be found in the rush and busyness and chaos.  God is to be found in the stopping, and in the still and quiet places.  It was true in my soul that morning. It will be true wherever you stop to listen, too.

P.S. Want to read this well-known poem of Robert Frost’s in it’s entirety?  Go here.

Best of 2016

It’s New Year’s Eve, a day for looking back, for remembering.

In that spirit, here are my personal top twelve favorite photos from the last year—and why!IMG_2524This photo of white birch represents for me a special effort to go out and find something beautiful to photograph on the most uninspiring of gray winter days.  Often my favorite photographic memories are the times when the perfect photo presents itself and I’m ready for it—but this picture is a good reminder to me that while not all photos come easily, I’ve never come up empty-handed when I’ve intentionally gone in search of beauty to capture.

IMG_3159I love this picture because it was completely un-contrived by mama (as we mamas with cameras sometimes do) and tells a true story.  The untold part of this story is that all winter this small girl was scared of snow—and then, after this last gorgeous big snowfall of 2015, the fear suddenly, inexplicably transformed to wonder and off she went to explore.  I grabbed my camera, followed behind—and this is where she led.IMG_3450This barred owl wins “Best Result of Being Ready For the Unexpected” award of the year.IMG_2925The swans have become such a beloved part of the rhythm of seasons here on our little farm.  Catching them in the air during this golden hour was a dream come true.IMG_4221IMG_4161My favorite shot from our family trip out west this spring is a toss up between these two.  I love the way the chartreuse green of budding cottonwoods is layered behind lavender lilacs against that magnificent backdrop of looming stone.  But that capture of a wild mare standing guard over her young foal?  Mmm…too hard to decide.  So you get a bonus shot.IMG_4752Another lucky capture, taken less than twelve hours before my own sweet third baby girl was born.  Perhaps it was the contortions I had to put my hugely pregnant self through to get low enough to the ground for this shot that sent me into labor?IMG_5607Flowers never fail to be an appealing subject.  This was my favorite floral capture from this year.img_6865I’ve been taking photos at the headwaters of the Mississippi ever since I owned a camera, but this one with it’s hint of movement and different perspective is a new favorite of a favorite spot.img_7055Nocturnal photography is still experimental territory for me, which is why the success of this harvest moon capture (and what I learned in the process) was truly a highlight!img_7544I discovered this glorious golden tunnel of a woods road on my birthday.  It brings back happy memories of a tub of tiramisu ice cream and a blissfully slow drive without another car in sight to mind my frequent photographic stops.img_7249I can never resist a good mushroom photo opportunity.  The wet autumn hike through an ancient forest that led us to these and so many others is a particularly lovely memory to me.img_8373And, finally, this shot, which is as close to a self portrait as you’ve been offered yet on this blog, and encapsulates everything I love about winter in Minnesota.

I’m so grateful for each bit of God-glory I’ve had the privilege to experience, discover and capture this year, and for the lessons learned and documented along the way.  What photos and experiences will 2017 bring my way?  Speaking from past experience, they’re rarely what I expect, but usually better than I imagined.  I can’t wait to find out!

“O God of our salvation…Thou crownest the year with thy goodness…” (Psalm 65:5, 11)

Praying that you, too, can look back and recognize that He has crowned your year with goodness, and that He will walk with you in the year ahead, gracing you with more and more, day by day.

 

The Light Has Come

img_8625“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined…

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Praise the Lord—because He came, we can each truly have a…

Merry Christmas!

 

First Ice

img_8327The ice is in.

We watched it form all day long yesterday as a snow storm whirled, the stretch of open water slowly but steadily narrowing throughout the day.  The otters were out having a Last-Day-Of-Open-Water party along the slushy edges and the swans trumpeted restlessly through the night, clustered to the creek outlet on the south end, instinctively knowing it would be the last spot to solidify.

img_8320Today, all was still and silent.

The swans are gone, probably to the river, and will likely not be seen here again until spring.  The otters are hidden away somewhere in a cozy den.  And so winter has placed its last seal on the landscape—and then in a brief, glorious five minutes before it set, the sun blazed out from behind a cloak of heavy clouds and kissed it with fire.

And there I was, standing on the shore, breathless with wonder that I was in the right place at the right time to see it.

“Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold.  From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen.” (Job 37:9-10)

 

And Then Came Winter

img_8273One day it was fall, the next morning we awoke to winter.  A world of brown suddenly transformed to a world of white.  Just like that.

My oldest daughter came walking out of her bedroom, eyes sparkling. “It’s SNOWTIME, Mommy!!!”

My two-year-old, upon being lifted up to a window so she could see, exclaimed in wide-eyed, sincere amazement, “Oh. My. Goodness.”

img_8270IMG_8260.JPGIt was wonderful.

I love how every year the beauty of winter manages to take me by surprise, evoking the same kind of childish wonder in my soul that I saw on my children’s faces.

I could hardly wait until later, when I was finally able to slip on my skis and go out into it.  I glided over the unbroken surface, daring to cut a crisp twin track through the artful riffles of drifting snow.   The evening star winked at me in the lavender sky above the snowy pines, and the lake, still unfrozen, glimmered pale gold and pink—and silently I breathed thanks for the glory of a new season.

img_8373And for something else, too, because there were two things to be thankful for, really.  The pure clean snow, yes—but, even more, how it symbolized the state of my heart.

“…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Once upon a time, my heart was stained with sin, glaring crimson as the most brilliant maples of autumn—but then came the day I gave it all to Christ, and the transformation was just as sudden and wonderful as this overnight advent of winter.

 

Farewell, Golden Autumn

img_8161This was a November unmatched for beauty, as autumn lingered gloriously long—and these are the quintessential pictures of it in my mind.

The landscape awash in rich browns and golds…img_8002the rustle of drying grasses in the gentle breeze as the sunlight gilded it all to royalty…IMG_8121.JPG the frosty mornings…img_7920img_7911followed by warm and golden days…img_8119But kind as it’s been to us, November is still a month of transitions as it must be, a split personality, if you will, bridging the gap between autumn and winter—and “they say”, whoever they may be, that the time of the inevitable change is at hand.  There’s a winter storm warning for the weekend, and it’s time to finish that project of putting small girls’ mittens on strings that I’ve been putting off because we just haven’t needed them yet.

So, gladly anticipating the approach of a new season and a world of white on its way, I take a moment to bid one last adieu to autumn.  It’s been lovely—see you next year!

“O God…You have established all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

(And the seasons in between—and I’m grateful!)


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Playing in the Reflections

IMG_8062-1.jpgIt was possibly the most gloriously beautiful November day we’ve had yet—and if the playful antics I observed this morning are any evidence, apparently the otters knew it, too.

There was a whole family of them, three frolicsome pups and their only slightly more sedate parents, all playing lively games of dive and chase together in the liquid reflections.  The surface of the lake roiled wildly with underwater fun, occasionally erupting into sparkles of splashes, and the curves and shimmers of sleek brown bodies.

As I watched their joy-infused antics with pleasure, it occurred to me that there is more than one way to compose a psalm of praise.  To some is given the gift to string words together and put them to music…

“All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing…
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” (Francis of Assisi)

But to others it is given to write their praises to Creator God by the way they live their lives.

For my sleek little neighbors, it is dancing through the water to make poetic ripples on a blue hole of a lake on a sunny day.  What is it for you?

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

P.S. Go here to hear a worshipful acapella version of the above quoted hymn and infuse your day with a beautiful note of praise!

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