Just A Sub


In August of last year, I began a new job.

I am a para-educator at our local high school and I love it. I have wonderful co-workers and I really enjoy working with the kids I am assigned to. (More on this in future posts).

However, I wanted to touch on just one thing that really struck me today.

In my World Literature class, Mr. H (the teacher) shared that after he graduated from college, he worked for a year as a long-term substitute teacher at a high school.

At one point, he was asked to stand in for an English teacher. This particular teacher was well-known for following  a dry, clearly-defined schedule that did not allow for hardly any creativity and certainly no spontaneity. When you are teaching Shakespeare to high school students, this is a major problem. ( I was an English major in college and half the time, I barely understood what he was talking about).

One day, the teacher was absent and Mr. H was allowed to take over the class. He is very passionate about good literature and being the free spirit  that he is, he set aside the prescribed lesson plan and did his own thing: which was to bring Shakespeare alive to these students and make what they were reading relevant to their lives in small town America.

The class was a rousing success. The kids became ever more animated as they discovered that while the language may be foreign to them, Shakespeare was  simply (and brilliantly) writing about the human condition: love, pain, joy, sorrow, jealousy, life, and death. They could relate to all of these things and the literature allowed them to connect the dots to their own situations.

Mr. H was absolutely electrified. He had connected with the kids in a powerful way and they with him.

A new and surprising revelation dawned: he wanted to be a teacher. After years of wandering and wondering, his destiny became crystal clear and he felt reborn.

The next day, the teacher returned.

She was absolutely furious to discover that her sterile lesson plan had been so casually tossed aside. She barely listened to Mr. H as he enthusiastically described what he happened in the class.

When he had finished speaking, she turned on him with a ferocity that stunned him.

“You’re JUST a sub!” she sneered contemptuously. “How dare you do what you did!  am the teacher!”

And just like that, those cruel words could have crushed Mr. H’s new-found dream.

But they didn’t.

He chose not to let the words of one miserable , small-minded person  who was filled with her own inflated sense of self determine his destiny.

Today, he is a high school teacher and one of the very best in the district. I was amazed as he made Shakespeare come alive for me…the English major who literally suffered through every Shakespeare class I had to take in college. It was a minor miracle that I actually enjoyed Hamlet!

But more importantly, he inspired grand ideas, lively debate, and excitement among the students. It was a wondrous thing to behold.

After today’s class, I thought long and hard about the words of that long-ago teacher:  “You’re JUST a sub!”

How dare we dismiss anybody as JUST an anything?!

There are no ordinary humans. Each one of us is made in the image of God Himself and before we made our entrance on earth, we existed in His mind.  We are eternal beings, which makes every single person you see infinitely precious.

We should never lose the wonder of this fact.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has talents. Everyone has dreams.

As we go into a new year, let us never see anyone as JUST an anything.

Let’s certainly never speak words of negativity when someone works up the courage to tell their dreams to us.

Let’s not be protective of “our” territory. It’s a big world. There will always be people who are better than we are at what we do, who have different ideas about how things should be.

Don’t be threatened by that. Decide instead to learn what you can from everyone who crosses your path, all the while doing the very best you can do.

Think long and hard about anyone in your life who you are tempted to see as “just” an anything.

And by the way, YOU are not “just” a (fill in the blank) either.

It’s a big world.

Make your mark and allow other people to make theirs.

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment in the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two plus two is four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?…We should say to each of them, ‘Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you…you may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything’…If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”—Henry David Thoreau 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Day My Life Changed (Part 3): Things I’ve Learned


(Parts One and Two of this series can be found here).

The sunshine after a storm.

Needless to say, Julia’s accident changed my life. The terror of nearly losing a child has left a permanent scar on my heart.

It has also broken my heart for the people I know personally who have had the horrific experience of burying a child.

In fact, the day that we brought Julia home from the hospital, their faces flashed across my mind and I wept for their desolation.

I looked in the backseat at our daughter who was sleeping and alive and knew that I would never stop thanking God for sparing her life.

Here are just a few of the things I have learned throughout this entire ordeal:

1) Jesus is real. 

This may sound like an obvious thing for a blogger who is a Christian to say, but I have never felt His Presence more strongly than I did that night and  during the days that followed in the hospital. His Presence was as real to me as my husband’s was. His peace literally filled my heart and stilled my churning emotions. I knew that I was being held in the palm of His hand in what felt like the midst of a category 5 hurricane. He gave me the strength to face this situation unflinchingly and with raw courage that could have only come from Him.

2) My faith is the real deal. 

This is hands down one of the biggest gifts that this awful situation has given to me.

It is so easy to play church. To say that you believe God’s promises when the sun is shining and life is happy. To sing praise songs in a church service and quote Bible verses.

It is a whole different animal when your life seems to fall apart before your eyes and you can still praise Him and trust Him wholeheartedly. 

I did that.

The past two years have been extremely difficult ones for my family. There has been much heartache, many unanswered questions, dashed hopes , betrayal, copious amounts of tears, and tremendous pressure. It is unlike anything we have ever dealt with before; so much so that we have often wondered if there was a conversation in heaven similar to the one that opens the book of Job where God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servants Doug and Susan?”

As Doug and I stood in the lobby of the ER that night, our daughter behind locked doors and out of our reach as she fought for her life, I looked at him and said, “All hell has been unleashed on our lives.”

It was true.

But this I knew, in a moment of wondrous clarity: MY GOD IS GOOD.

No matter what happened with Julia, I trusted Him with all my heart. He can do no wrong. How many times had I read Job 14:5 which declares, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live and we are not given a minute longer.”  Or Psalm 139:16: Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” 

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Julia’s days—just like mine—were numbered by an all-knowing, all-loving sovereign God. If she were to only live 17 years, there was a reason and I would trust Him, even though my heart would have broken and nothing would have ever been the same again.

This was astonishing to me.

It does not get any more real than standing before the broken body of your child who is restrained in her hospital bed and KNOW that you have not just been playing church.

I realized that all the heartache of the past two years, where I have literally had to make the choice to  believe God’s Word above my circumstances, to cling to His promises, to keep wrestling with Him when I didn’t understand, to simply refuse to let go of Him as the enemy screamed in my ear, “He has abandoned you!”…ALL of that had brought me to this place.

The place where I believed my God and trusted Him with the life of my precious child. 

The enemy does not bother with those who are no threat to him, In a way, all our trials and tribulations were a badge of honor. It was a personalized invitation from Jesus Himself to not only show us the reality of our faith but to strengthen those areas in which we were weak and didn’t even know it.

The enemy has failed to move us on all fronts: Our marriage has never been stronger. Our needs are met. We are still in our home. Our relationships with our adult children are good ones. There has been forgiveness over a family betrayal (though things will never be the same again there). We have not surrendered to bitterness. We are not weaker but stronger. Joy abounds in our lives even though circumstances remain hard and mysterious. Laughter rings within the walls of our homes and we have been blessed by incredible friendships.

And if the end result of living through these tumultuous years has brought me to this place of my witnessing my faith being continually strengthened and the enemy of my soul utterly defeated, then I truly do get what James meant when he wrote: “Consider it pure joy …whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4).

I can honestly say that without the trials of the past couple of years, I would not have been prepared to be in that place of watching my daughter fight for her life. It might have broken me because I would not have learned how to fight. Instead, it has made me strong and I am so grateful.

3) During a time of crisis, meals are extremely important.

When my friend Marj walked into our kitchen holding a steaming hot dinner after we returned from the hopsital, complete with appetizer, salad, and dessert, I nearly wept with gratitude. She was truly the hands and feet of Christ to us that evening; the Bread of Life bringing us much-needed nourishment.

On a good day, I am a terrible cook. Throw in a broken air conditioner during the worst heat wave of the summer, the sheer exhaustion of getting about 12 hours to total sleep over a 48 hour period, and a tight budget,  and we were desperate for meals.

I will never again underestimate the importance of bringing a meal to someone who is in need. There is something so comforting and soothing about a friend taking the time to prepare a meal for you when you are hurting. It lessens the blow that life has dealt and smooths away the rough edges.

A meal is a tangible expression of love and friendship.

So, the next time you hear of someone who has endured a tragedy, make a phone call. Send a text or an email. Make a meal. And if you can’t cook, pick up a dinner from a local restaurant and deliver it.

It will mean more than you know.

4) Life is fragile, precious, and beautiful, even in the midst of sorrow. 

Eternity is closer than we dare believe.

None of us know how long we will have breath and situations like Julia’s accident dramatically illustrate that fact.

For me, it heightens all my senses and ironically, makes me feel more alive. I notice everything, especially the little things that take on added significance.

*The first night in the hospital,  I sat in the chair beside Julia’s bed and looked out the  window to see the stars twinkling and glittering like diamonds against the black velvet sky. It was a moment of beauty and grace.

“He counts the stars and knows them all by name.” That familiar Bible verse ran through my brain and it gave me tremendous comfort. Since Jesus knows the names and location of the stars, He knows and sees me sitting in that hospital room beside my daughter’s broken body.

*Simple acts of kindess means so much.

On the Dartmouth campus, there is an oasis of comfort called The David House. It is a beautiful Victorian mansion that allows exhausted and frightened parents the warmth of home amidst tragedy by providing delicious food, hot showers, and lovely private bedrooms for blessed rest, mercifully free of the beeping machines and constant hovering of medical staff.  This is all free of charge.

The first night I showed up there, totally exhausted and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, the woman who met me at the front desk offered me a warm smile and a hug. She gave me the tour so I would know how to find what I would need and then showed me to my room, leaving with a reassuring pat on my shoulder.

After getting settled in my room, I headed to the kitchen to grab something to eat, as I was starving. Someone had baked cookies for the residents and left them on a brightly decorated plate with a sign that read: “Help yourself and God bless.”

When I finally stretched out on the bed in my room to try to get some sleep, I listened to my phone messages. One of them was from my friend Mary, who had recently moved to Colorado. Hearing her sweet voice from across the country, so full of love, concern, and prayers made me weep with gratitude.

Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed to another human being. The sheer beauty of such things shines brightly in the midst of pain and can make all the difference. Reach out, even if it is outside your comfort zone.

*My sister-in-law Leslie and her husband Tony came to visit us at Dartmouth and they brought me a large iced vanilla coffee with extra sugar and extra cream from Dunkin Donuts,  just the way I like it. It was heavenly.  Such a simple thing but it was a wonderful break from hospital cafeteria fare.

*On the drive home from the hospital, I was able to appreciate  the sun-drenched small towns and fields of wildflowers. I had no idea what tomorrow would bring for any of us, but today was ripe with possibilities and new beginnings.

Our entire outlook on life has changed.

Every day that is not spent in a hospital is a good day.

I don’t have time for silly drama.

I do not put off doing things with family and friends. Now is the time.

There is no time to waste.

There is no way to not sound like a cliché to say that every day is a gift…but it truly is.

Gratitude overflows in my heart.

I still have my girl.

Go and find the ones you love. Let them know.

Time is precious.

 

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The Day My Life Changed (Part 2)


You can read Part I of this series here.

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My husband and I practically ran into the Dartmouth ER where we were met with grim news.

Julia was not waking up.

The doctors had removed all sedatives from her system in the hopes that she would begin to awaken, but thus far, she had shown no signs of doing so.

The doctors were awaiting results of the MRI , CAT scans and X rays to ascertain if she had suffered internal bleeding, broken bones, or brain damage.

She was still intubated and alive, but we didn’t know what that meant yet.

I stood next to my daughter holding her limp hand and prayed as I had never prayed before.

Now let me preface this next statement by saying this: I am painfully aware of the fact that there have been parents, husbands, wives, sons and daughters who have stood next to the bedside of a relative and prayed for a recovery  that never came. All prayers are answered but not always in the affirmative.

This time, our prayers were answered in a wondrous way.

Julia began to wake up.

Her hands suddenly flew up to the tube attached to her throat and she began to claw frantically at it.

“Julia, honey, it’s okay,” The attending nurse soothed. “We’re going to remove that tube for you in just a second.”

Within a minute, the tube was removed from Julia’s throat. Coarse coughs wracked her body and she started to cry.

“Julia, it’s Mom,” I bent down to whisper into her ear while Doug stood over my shoulder. “It’s okay. You are in the hospital but we are here with you.”

“I just don’t know what’s going on,” she said in a small voice, the tears streaming down her ravaged face.

Those words were among the sweetest sounds I have ever heard in my life. My girl was speaking! She had come back to us!

The good news came in quick succession.

Julia was able to respond to all commands. All tests for internal bleeding, brain damage and broken bones came back negative. She was breathing on her own.

The only broken bones she sustained were that every bone around her left eye was shattered, but they would heal on their own over time.

While her left eye was  gruesomely, completely and tightly swollen shut, there had been no damage and her sight would be fine.

There was only one word for what had happened and it came from the mouth of one of the doctors: ““This is a MIRACLE!”

And it was.

Within two days, we brought Julia home.

She had a severe concussion that would take at least a month to heal.

The left side of her face was horribly swollen and would take several months to return to normal but she would not need any plastic surgery.

Her left eye would open in two weeks.

Her two friends who were in the truck with her that night would be fine.

To say that we were grateful is an understatement.

However, life would not be without challenges.

Julia would not be able to attend college as planned and would have to take a gap year.

There was no way her concussion would be healed in time to be able to navigate the rigors of being a brand new college student the following week.

So. Many. Tears. Cherished hopes were dashed into a million little pieces.

As a 50 year old woman, I know through painful experience how fragile life is and how things can change in an instant.

It was heartbreaking for me to see my 17 year old daughter come to this realization. However, as much as we as parents want to shield our children from pain, this is impossible. All we can do is stay by their side, love them unconditionally, and pray our hearts out on their behalf.

Julia spent most of her time in the weeks that followed her return home sleeping as her swollen brain worked hard to repair itself. She wore an eye patch to cover her horrific eye injury so as not to alarm her friends who visited for the short amount of time that she had the energy to receive them.

The day after her return, Diana’s parents drove her over to the house because the girls needed to see each other. Diana had been greatly traumatized. (Unlike Julia, who had no memory of the accident, she remembered everything in terrifying detail).

She had been in the room next to Julia in the ER and heard everything: Julia’s sharp cries of pain, the frantic activity of the doctors and nurses who were trying to save her, the tears and shock of Doug and me as we struggled to deal with this tragic new reality. Like us, she felt helpless as her best friend fought for her life just feet away from her.

Like shell-shocked refugees, Doug and I stood in our living room with Diana’s parents, as we all shared tears for what could have been, as well as thanks for the blessed fact that we still had our girls with us.

The familiar laughter of the two best friends was a much-needed balm for our souls. I had spent the past four years listening to that sound and was incredibly grateful that its joyful music still rang out loud and strong through the walls of our home.

Over time, Julia began to share bits and pieces of her heart with us.

***She had no memory of the accident itself. Her last memory was of her friend Izzy who was driving the pickup truck pulling over on the side of the road right before they started out to their destination.

“Let’s put on our seatbelts,” she had said, “I don’t feel like dying tonight.”

Prophetic words indeed: without seatbelts the odds are very small that any of them would have survived the impact.

*** “The instant I woke up and for days afterward,” Julia told me one afternoon, “I kept hearing the chorus of a song you always used to play, Mom.”

It was a Chris Rice song entitled “Life Means So Much.” The chorus goes like this:

Every day is a gift you’ve been given
Make the most of the time every minute you’re livin’.”

“I know I’ve been given a second chance,: Julia said in a quiet voice. Her beautiful blue eyes held a maturity that is only gained through enduring a challenge beyond oneself. “I also know that that song was a message to me from Jesus.

Those words were music to this mom’s ears.

From the time my best friend Tracy died suddenly when we were in our mid-20’s, I have known that life is precious and fragile and have shared that so often with my kids as they were growing up. They often (teasingly) accused me of being sentimental and to an extent they were right. Yet, I spoke the truth to them and now Julia understood.

We are not promised tomorrow.

***My daughter has a group of incredible friends. The love and support she received from them in the aftermath of her accident was amazing. She is deeply loved.

***Julia rediscovered her passion for music. Once her healing had reached a certain point, she pulled out her guitar and started singing again.

You have no doubt heard the saying that there are people who sing like angels. Julia does. Her voice is so achingly beautiful and every time I heard her sing, it brought tears to my eyes, and  I praised God that her voice hadn’t been silenced.

She is working hard on her music and plans to share her gift with others in our area in the spring, performing at local Open Mic nights.

I am sure that I will embarrass her by being in the front row for every performance. :)

Alas for those who never sing
But die with the music still in them.
—Oliver Wendall Holmes 

Julia did not die that awful night and for that, I will thank God for the rest of my days.

She is still here to share her music, her bright light, her contagious laughter, and her joy.

Sometimes I think the greatest beauty is born from pain.

In the next post, I will share the lessons I have learned over the past few months.

Thank you for reading.

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The Day My Life Changed (Part I)


August 19th, 2015 was the worst day of my life.

On the hottest day of the year, our air conditioning broke. Then the well pressure tank broke and our basement was flooded.

We hadn’t seen anything yet.

Since we wouldn’t have any water until the next day, my husband and I checked into a local hotel.

Our daughter Julia was at a sleepover with two of her best friends. It was a last hurrah before they left for college.

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We were incredibly grateful for air conditioning and a shower and had just settled down to sleep when my cell phone rang.

It was 10:30 at night and Julia’s best friend Diana’s name flashed across the face of my iPhone.

My heart stopped.

It is a mother’s intuition. This would not be good news.

“Mrs. Brown, it’s Diana.” Her voice was high pitched and shaking. “There’s been an accident.”

She took a deep breath and then the words came out in a torrent.

An old pickup truck, a dark night, a dirt and gravel road in the country, a driver going too fast, all ending with a sickening crash into a tree.

Julia was unconscious for a few minutes. She was in the middle and since there was only a lap belt to restrain her, her face hit the dashboard with full force.

She woke up when the ambulance arrived and was able to state her name and answer the questions of the EMT’s.

It was at that point that Diana called us, so we headed to the hospital thinking that she would have a concussion and that would be that.

Wrong.

We were kept in the ER waiting room for over 20 minutes.

We would find out later that was because they were desperately trying to get her stabilized. Julia had decompensated fairly quickly after the ambulance arrived. She was extremely combative  and stopped breathing several times on the ride to the hospital.

When the ER doors finally opened, the head doctor met us looking extremely serious.

“Your daughter is in grave condition,” he said. “We believe she has suffered severe head trauma and you may be looking at long term care.”

And then: “If she survives.”

He gave us permission to see her for just a few moments.

It was heartbreaking.

The first thing I noticed was that she was intubated. There was an enormous patch over her left eye and there were angry cuts on her forehead. Dried blood was streaked through her beautiful strawberry blonde curls. Her legs and arms twitched in agitation. On a pile beneath her bed was her favorite outfit in a heap, all cut up.

“Talk to her,” the doctor encouraged us. “She may be able to hear you.”

Through many tears, Doug and I took our places on either side of our daughter’s bed. We took her hands and took turns saying that we loved her. I have never felt so helpless.

I was in the same room with my daughter but I could not reach her.

To our horror, she began to decompensate again and we were rushed out of the small room as the curtain around Julia was closed decisively.

We held each other and wept. Julia had just graduated from high school two months before. She was due to leave for college the following week.

My brilliant, beautiful, creative, musical girl might be gone forever, replaced with a shadow of her former self.

The thought was more than I could bear.

Life had suddenly become extremely terrifying and I felt like I could not breathe.

After what seemed an eternity, the doctor told us that they were transferring her to Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital via ambulance, as the fog that night precluded a life flight.

“Can I go with her in the ambulance?” I asked.

He shook his head. Her case was serious enough that the ambulance would be filled with staff. Doug and I would have to drive ourselves. But before we could leave, he instructed us to leave our cell phone numbers with the ambulance driver…so that he could call us if Julia did not survive the ride to Dartmouth.

With heavy hearts, we headed out into the middle of the night and began the hour and a half drive to Dartmouth.

I spent much of our drive looking at Julia’s Instagram and Facebook pages on my phone.  Just two weeks before I had done a photo shoot with her and her friends on the beach. Seeing the photos of Julia drenched in sunshine, smiling and laughing made me weep.

At one point, I looked up from my phone and straight ahead into the dark night lit only by the high beams of our SUV.

“If Julia doesn’t make it,” I said in a small voice, “I cannot stay here. I would want to take whatever we need with us, mail the keys to the house back to the bank and leave this town forever.”

They were not idle words. I meant every one of them.

Doug agreed.

When we finally pulled into the ER parking lot of the hospital, we both looked at each other and the tears flowed.

Our cell phones had not rung.

Our girl was still with us.

To be continued…

 

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A Sweet Summer


This summer has been one of miracles and joy.

****Our daughter graduated from high school with honors, marking the end of an era.

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Doug and I did it. Just like that (so it seems), our formal parenting journey is over. Both kids have graduated. Josh is now a sophomore in college and Julia will begin her freshman year in August.

Time races on like a raging river. I am so grateful that He has taught me how to slow down and savor each day, quietly counting all the gifts I have been given, an overabundance of riches spilled into my life on a daily basis by my very good God.

*****In one wonderful day, Doug and I experienced an outrageous, amazing, and totally unexpected outpouring of His grace. It was a sheer miracle, one that we will never forget as long as we live. It was yet another reminder that He does all things well, that He has resources we know nothing about, that He is faithful and trustworthy no matter what, and that He always honors faith.

We still  have more questions than answers, but our future is not a mystery to Him and we rest in that.We have been on a wild journey where we are walking only by faith and not by sight and it has been the adventure of our lives.

He’s got this.

****We were able to go to Washington DC for Julia’s college orientation. It may have been one of our last road trips as a family and I treasured every moment of it. (Well, I suppose I didn’t treasure the extreme humidity on the first day we were there when it was 105 degrees!).

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The entire time we were in DC, I found it surreal that we were there to prepare for Julia’s freshman year of college. It was exciting and a bit sad all at once. But mostly exciting.

****Due to the generosity of sweet friends offering us the use of their cabin, we were able to visit Acadia National Park in Maine, which is absolutely one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen!

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It was the desire of my heart to be able to go on one last family vacation this summer, but it just did not seem possible. However, two of the sweetest words in the world are, “But God….” Not only did He grant me my heart’s desire of having one trip, he gave us two. Incredible, lavish GRACE!

Next summer, both kids could conceivably be taking summer classes or working in the cities where they go to school.

I thought about these things as we drove home from Maine. At the cabin, there was no Wi-Fi, so we were gloriously unplugged. We talked, read a lot, played a game or two, slept in, explored. It felt like a magical time.

And as we sped toward home, tears filled my eyes because I wanted time to slow down. I knew that once we hit our driveway, the rest of the summer would travel at warp speed. Josh will be 700 miles away, Julia 600 miles away.

From the recesses of my mind, a William Blake poem that I had studied as an undergraduate came to my mind:

He who binds himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Kiss the joy as it flies is excellent advice for this time in my life.

****I have had the great joy of having my son work for me this summer as my second shooter at all my photography events. Before he came home from his first year of college, he texted me and told me he wanted to spend the summer learning photography from me. Music to a mom’s ears!

We have worked together at the prom, weddings, anniversary parties, senior portrait sessions, headshots, etc and I have had the privilege of helping him make some fine art pictures.  He has a razor sharp artistic eye and wild creativity and I have loved having him by my side. To know that he has my back and will consistently produce quality work has been invaluable.

Seeing him with his lovely red Nikon makes me all kinds of happy.

Acadia-90*****I decided to do a Golden Hour series of photographs, since it is my favorite time of day, as well as the most magical. I started in my own backyard.

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Golden Hour-46For the rest of the summer, I will roam all over my small  town during the golden hour and be “a hunter of beauty” with my camera (as Ann Voskamp says in her book 1000 Gifts).

Summer is the most enchanting season. There is so much beauty everywhere. I hope you are searching for it in your neck of the woods.

Then followed that beautiful season…Summer
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
—-Longfellow

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Walking In The Rain


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Yesterday afternoon, my son Josh and I decided to take a walk into town, even though it had rained on and off all day.

The sky was unsettled, bright in some spots, dark and gray in others. The air was thick with humidity and steam rose up from the pavement.

We decided to chance it.

The scents, sounds, and sights of summer were all around us. Huge water drops clung to brightly colored flowers and shimmered like diamonds. An owl flew over our heads, causing Josh to wonder aloud why an owl was up and about in the afternoon. Birds sang to each other and we could hear crickets deep in the woods. The smell of clover wafted through the air as we passed a neighbor’s freshly cut lawn and the wind rustled the bright green leaves of the trees. Old pine needles carpeted the sidewalk as we headed toward the lake. Every once in awhile, I would catch the scent of pine, which reminded me of Christmastime.

A soft rain started. Still, we continued our walk.

The thunder had chased away all swimmers, except for two middle aged lovers who had the swimming area to themselves. They were completely oblivious to the fact that we were walking on the road above them, so wrapped up were they in each other. They kissed and splashed and laughed and swam with utter abandon and joy. I marveled that a woman who had, shall we say extremely generous curves, could be so completely comfortable out in  public wearing a bikini.  I have never known that kind of security in my own skin.

But maybe I am beginning to.

Years ago, I would never have taken a walk in the rain. I would have considered it impractical, uncomfortable and possibly unsafe, especially if there was a rumble of thunder.

Yet here I was, steadily getting soaked. I was not wearing a stitch of makeup. An old baseball cap covered my hair and I wore workout pants and an old T-shirt. I didn’t even have my cell phone with me.

And I loved it.

As the rain intensified, Josh pushed away the hood of his raincoat and lifted his face up to the weeping sky with a big smile on his face.

Then he looked over at me, not quite believing that his mom had agreed to do this with him.

We both laughed.

Even as a little boy, he was fascinated by storms and loved to play in the rain.  This has never changed.

The second year that we had moved up here to our little town in the mountains, the Fourth of July fireworks were rained out. We ran for the car to head home and as we pulled into our driveway, the first thing Josh noticed were the enormous puddles that had formed right in front of our garage.

“Can we play in the puddles?” our 11 year old son asked excitedly.

“Yeah! Can we?” asked his 10 year old sister, always anxious to follow her big brother’s lead.

Why not?

Once we gave permission, they scrambled out of the car and for the next thirty minutes their screams of laughter and squeals of joy reverberated through our little cul-de-sac as they jumped with all their might into puddle after puddle. Doug and I just sat in the car and watched them through the rain-spattered windshield, smiling wide and soaking it all up.

In the summer of his junior year, Josh asked me to take some photos of him jumping in puddles while it was raining, which I did from the safety of the inside of our garage.

Josh-Rain-0106-1-2

And here we were again today, walking together in another rain storm.

There was a certain freedom in not rushing for shelter, not trying in the least to stay dry, not hurrying our pace. or worrying over the fact that we were by this time completely water-logged.

We were living fully in the moment, and making a memory and I was filled with joy to be in this place, spending this time with my son.

By the time we turned around and headed for home, the rain had picked up considerably and the thunder rumbled more ominously. We continued to talk about dreams and plans and the importance of art, interspersed with much delighted laughter. The amorous couple had left the water and there were certainly no other pedestrians. Only a few cars drove along the lake, their headlights reflecting on the shiny wet road, the drivers no doubt shaking their heads at the two loons who were taking a stroll in such weather.

As our home came into view, I looked over at Josh, who had not stopped grinning. His red hair was darkened to a rich auburn by the rain and big droplets clung to his impossibly thick eyelashes. I tried to take a mental snapshot of him that I would always remember: my beautiful boy soon to leave his teen years forever behind, smiling wide, full of life and dreams and brimming with creativity.

I thanked God for this moment and for granting me the precious gift of time with my son.

Later as I took a hot shower, I shuddered to think of what I would have missed if I had decided to do the practical thing and stay warm and dry inside.

So much of real life is lived outside of the box and very often, that is the place where the deepest joy is found and experienced.

By the time I had showered and changed clothes, the sun was pouring through the windows, the rain over and gone. My husband called my attention to the amazing sky that the storm left in its wake and I grabbed my camera and ran outside to capture the image at the top of this post.

A benediction to a magical walk in the rain.

My heart was full.

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He Is Still God


Photo credit: New York Daily News

As everyone in our nation now knows, a troubled, hate-filled person opened fire on a group of unsuspecting Christians who had gathered for prayer and Bible study in their South Carolina church last week.

I am sure that those nine souls who entered eternity that evening never imagined that in the span of an hour, they would leave this world and be gazing into the face of the very One they had come to worship.

The bullets that stopped their hearts ended their earthly lives but ushered them into a world more beautiful and glorious than their deepest imaginings. They are Home and they are forever free of this broken world.

As C.S. Lewis has said, “All their adventures in this world…had only been the cover story and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”—The Last Battle.

How much would it change things if when we walked into church on Sunday mornings, we behaved as if we might see the face of our Savior before we left that place? If when we showed up for Bible study, we faced the very real possibility that the Author of those precious pages could usher us into His Presence at any time?

We should live all of life that way because we are incredibly fragile and the number of our days on this planet are known only to the One who created us. We dare not take our hours and minutes and seconds for granted. This life is not a game. Our choices in this life have eternal and fixed consequences in the next world.

It has been said that the gunman had hoped to start a race war with his heinous actions. I imagine that we are all very glad that his demented hopes were a pipe dream and a miserable failure.

This Sunday morning, the doors of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were thrown open wide and the Rev. Dr. Norveel Goff Sr. gave a hope-filled, joy filled sermon that rang out loud and clear and gave notice to heaven and earth, angels and demons and every person within the sound of his voice that our joy in our risen Savior is defiant and blazing, triumphant in even in the face of the greatest acts of evil.

Our joy is not dependent on circumstances.

Our joy cannot be contained, no matter how fierce the opposition.

Our joy cannot be silenced.

Our joy is not wispy but solid as a Rock.

Nothing that happens on this broken, fallen earth can touch our joy because our Joy IS the Person of the risen Christ. He is the very eternal personification of joy and He offers it to us freely.

And we can never lose Him.

Rev. Dr. Goff shared that this morning (and indeed, every morning), he praised God for the fact that he woke up to live another day and that he spent his life in praise and joy, daily thanking God for the gift of his salvation.

When we choose to live that way, we, too, are living in such a way that we are ready to come face to face with the risen Christ at any moment.

He reminded his congregation that this world is ever-changing and our hope must be in God alone.

Thunderous applause greeted his declaration that “The open doors of this church say, “NO weapon formed against us will prosper!”

Then he ended his sermon with these jubilant words: “We are serving notice on evil-doers who  think they have the victory: HE IS STILL GOD!”

Amen and amen.

This is what true Christian joy looks like.

Yes, there is weeping and there will always be questions that cannot be answered when such evil is unleashed.

But because of the cross, evil does not triumph. Hope and joy blaze brilliantly in the face of the darkness.

Love wins.

The Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it.—John 1:5

No matter what is happening in your life right now, no matter what headlines you read, remember this: His Light shines on.

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