When times are dark and bring inconsolable grief and despair, we trust that the light of hope will shine again.
We trust that we will not feel helpless and alone forever.
We trust that we are not alone for even one moment, although many may feel solitary.
We must trust, even though we do not understand.


gratitude this week

I'm bringing you my gratitude post a day early this week because today is November 30th and my month of blogging every day is done and I plan to take tomorrow off! (Based on the lack of comments on the posts this month, I'm pretty sure I've been talking to myself anyway.)

November 24: The good thing about coming home from the beach before the holiday weekend was over was that I could get the Christmas decorations up. Last year, we didn't get the house decorated until the weekend before Christmas and that was a disaster. My very favorite decoration is our creche. If I put nothing else out, I would be fully satisfied. (That's foreshadowing for our home after the kids are grown and moved out.)

November 25: But since you have to put the other stuff out, you might as well be thankful for it. The tree is a comforting sight each night, that is for sure.

November 26: Of course, the best part of the tree is the lights. They are what really bring the Christmas shine to things.

November 27: My sister and I had our own tree growing up filled with angel ornaments. When we married and left home, my mom let us have half of them each and I still love putting them on the tree each year.

November 28: The other ornaments that mean the most to me are the ones that my kids made (or their daycare teachers made for them) when they were little.

November 29: Not a strictly seasonal entry for this day, but I really do love the bare tree branches that are starting to show up all around as the leaves are going, going, going.

November 30: My pastor gave me Watch for the Light (an Advent devotional) several years ago. I have read it each year since then and there are always new words for my heart to hear. I can't recommend this book enough.


that time of year

The Christmas season is very hectic...more so than I remember things being when I grew up. When the calendar turns to December, we will have three very busy weekends leading up to the holiday. Three dance activities, one band activity, and one Christmas cantata. By the time we make it to the last of the dance events, I will be very tired of the auditorium at the high school where three of those five events will take place. 

BUT, the first of the events of the season is the city Christmas parade and I just love it. The weather looks to be great this year and the studio has another cute dance they will be performing along the entire parade route. Hope to see some of my local friends there this Saturday. 

Here's last year's parade performance to the coolest song ever (my Lizzie is the third girl back in the left hand line):



One good thing about failing eyesight is this, I suppose: sometimes a picture turns out to be of more than what you thought you were capturing.



I thought I would share with you some quick, free Photoshop actions that I have in my bag of tricks for photoediting and show you what a few of them can do with one photo.

Here's my unedited photo of sunrise on our last day at the beach last week:

The first action is from Addicted to Design. This is a sample of one of the variations of their free Lomo action:

I don't remember buying an action, but I also have their Velviator action, so I guess I did. This is the highest impact of the versions that come with that set:

Now, those two actions are great and all, but, as you can see, you get some very dramatic effects with them. Usually what I am looking for in an action is one that can just tweak some contrast and color so that I have pictures quickly fixed up for digital scrapbooking. This is where The Pioneer Woman's free actions simply rule. I often use one called Boost to just fix up a photo a smidge. Another couple of the many great actions in her sets are Fresh & Colorful:

and Lovely & Ethereal:

These are especially nice because you can run a couple of them and use different opacities and get just what you want. 

If you want to learn more about Photoshop and what all it can do, try some tutorials instead. A couple of my favorites are this HDR tutorial, which gives real dramatic results and will teach you a few things in the process: 

and this Dave Hill tutorial, which is not as impressive on scenery as it is on people*:

So, those are just a few of my tricks. I'm not telling which combination of these and/or other bits of knowledge of mine were used to get the results at the very top of the post. It's not that I'm holding anything back...it's just that I'm not sure what combination of actions and other tools I used to get there at this point. That's the way it goes with these things. You need to use everything at your disposal to get just what you want. That's kind of a good life lesson, actually.

*I don't recommend this on people over 30 or less than 80, by the way...not too flattering.


light of love

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.
-Ruth Carter Stapleton


one year

Today marked the completion of the first year of a service I have had the privilege of serving in at our church. It's a small service with usually no more than twenty attendees outside of those of us serving in worship. It's a quieter, slower paced service with more scripture readings than in our other services. We do not use the screens to guide the parishioners through worship. Instead, we use the bulletins and the hymnals just like the good old days. The service isn't afraid of quiet moments and pauses to let everyone find their place. We have communion every single Sunday and, because we are small in number, we are able to serve people while they kneel at the altar rail. 

This service feels like home to me. The additional scripture readings, especially the responsive reading of the Psalm, along with using the hymnal and bulletin to navigate through service reminds me of how church was growing up in the Lutheran church. And, kneeling at the altar rail is the very best way to take communion I believe. I miss that so much and I wish our church could offer communion that way at every service. 

This morning as I was getting ready for the service, the lights in the sanctuary went out. The breaker had switched off and it was clear from the heat coming off of the fuse that it wasn't wise to turn it back on. So, we had worship in a dimmer sanctuary. The altar, decked out in white for Christ the King Sunday, was aglow with several candles, making it the brightest spot in the room. It was an unexpected lighting scheme, for sure, but it was just beautiful. 

It seemed a fitting way to close out the year and to look toward Advent, a time of waiting for the light of Christ, which shines so brilliantly on Christ the King Sunday, to enter the world again upon the celebration of his birth. 


gratitude this week

This week we took a vacation, so that naturally figured into my gratitude journal.

November 17: The trip home from Auburn includes journeying over roads that I have travelled since I was little, including the I-65 bridge north of Montgomery which makes this bump-da-bump sound and makes the car rock as it goes over it. I love that feel and sound. It reminds me of trips to see family for Christmas and of those same trips coming home.

November 18: RENT is one of our favorite plays and we were excited to see it last weekend at University of Montevallo. When Collins sings as he mourns Angel's death, I cry. Every time. Big production or small. (If it's a really great production, I cry when that song is introduced near the beginning of the play.)

November 19: It was just an ordinary day, with an ordinary entry for the gratitude journal. Pictured is the best fast food hamburger around. Not pictured is the Frosty which I consumed before even making it home.

November 20: Half days at work are almost as good as whole days off. Not gonna lie.

November 21: Sunsets at the beach are just spectacular. Thankful we got to see some this year.

November 22: Thanksgiving was so different this year being at the beach with just the four of us. Different...and wonderful. We ate our Thanksgiving fixings for brunch on the balcony. Sweet.

November 23: Of course, sunrise at the beach is also wonderful. Got up early the last day of our trip to catch one.


not a moment wasted

We were fortunate enough to grab a small vacation for ourselves in Destin, Florida. We left on Tuesday after the kids got out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday and returned home today. Just three nights away before the chaos of the Christmas season starts.

I took with me grand intentions of working on the papers I need to get written before the end of the year. Must make the most of every moment, you know.

But instead...I laughed with my family...I snuggled with my husband...I walked on the beach with my daughter...I watched my son play in the sand...I sat at the pool...I took pictures of the sun setting and the sun rising...I finished a book...I ate good food...I fell asleep at 8:30 watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

And, now back home with papers that still need to be written on top of the house to decorate, the cards to address and mail, the presents to be bought and wrapped, and the dance and band performances to be attended, I declare all of that time spent in such lazy familial pursuits perfectly used.



Just an iPhone photo, cropped and framed...no other editing. God's work simply doesn't need any help.


king of the road

A driver is a king on a vinyl bucket-seat throne, changing direction with the turn of a wheel, changing the climate with a flick of the button, changing the music with the switch of a dial.-Andrew H. Malcolm



Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.
-Samuel Smiles



Allow me an odd comparison for a moment. First, Phillipians 4:7:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Second, Death Cab for Cutie's I Will Possess Your Heart:

How I wish you could see the potential, 
the potential of you and me
It's like a book elegantly bound, 
but in a language that you can't read just yet.

You gotta spend some time love,
you gotta spend some time with me 
And I know that you'll find love,
I will possess your heart
You gotta spend some time love, 
you gotta spend some time with me 
And I know that you'll find love, 
I will possess your heart 

 There are days when outside your window, 
I see my reflection as I slowly pass 
And I long for this mirrored perspective, 
when we'll be lovers, lovers at last 


I will possess your heart I will possess your heart 
 You reject my advances and desperate pleas 
I won't let you, let me down so easily, so easily  

I know. I'm weird. But, I just connect things like this sometimes.

I hear in those lyrics words of a God who pursues us and wants us to spend time with Him. I hear words of a God who wants to possess and guard our hearts. It's strange connections like this that deepen my understanding of a love that passes all understanding. 

I challenge you to put on some headphones, lay back, listen to that song, and think about the words as if spoken by God to you. Here's a link to the full eight plus minute album version video* of the song. Just spend some time with Him. 

*After watching the video for the first time just now, I find it to be very appropriate for what I've said here. I love when things work like that. Synchronicity. Sweet synchronicity.


gratitude this week

A very movie-centric week of gratitude, plus a couple of introspective items. Here goes:

November 10: Daniel Craig is a great Bond and this movie was the best of them yet. Easy to follow, the movie has stunning visuals (we saw it in the IMAX) and a cartoonish villain played to Bond perfection by Javier Bardem. Highly recommended.

November 11: The executive ministry assistant does a beautiful job of decorating the altar in our traditional sanctuary. This week (and for the next several) the decor is Thanksgiving oriented and is warm and truly lovely.

November 12: I have the best mother-in-law in the world. You can't convince me otherwise. Happy Birthday, Barbara! I love you!

November 13: Already covered my love for Twi-soundtracks earlier this week.

November 14: I chose to say "no" to something on Wednesday. It felt good. And, in trying to portray it for my pictorial gratitude journal, I realized that when you say "no" you end with your mouth pursed not unlike in a kiss. I thought that was fitting because, in this case, saying "no" was a big kiss on my own cheek, respecting my needs at the moment over other things that might have led me to saying "yes" instead.

November 15-Another item already covered in a blog post this week.

November 16-The Twilight saga came to a close this week with the last installment hitting the big screen. I have loved every page of the books and every minute of the movies. Yes, every overwrought emotion, every cheesy line...regardless of terrible wigs, bad special effects and moments that seemed funny when they weren't supposed to...I truly enjoyed. Now, on to regular scheduled programming.


things that make me laugh

You know what is my favorite thing in the world? Laughter. I LOVE to laugh. Ask anyone who has had to sit in a meeting with me. Me? Serious? For more than fifteen minutes? Not likely.

So, today, I would like to share a few of my favorite You Tube videos.

Just for laughs.

Psych is a good, clean mystery show our whole family loves to watch. My favorite thing about it: the nearly non-stop pop culture references. This scene, which basically parodies an entire genre of 70's shows, is a classic.

Everybody Loves Raymond, featured this scene which at about 1:25 in is so funny I don't even have to get that far in to start laughing.

I thought, for a few episodes, that The Big Bang Theory had jumped the shark with the addition of Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler. Scenes like this one have proven me oh so wrong.

The Amazing Race featured this scene a couple of weeks ago. Now sadly this clip doesn't show what was so funny. The guys stand there and shove that ice cream down and then turn to the vendor and open their mouths as wide as a crocodile to show that they ate it all so they could get their clue. Thing was...that was the wrong ice cream stand. Just imagine what the vendor was thinking about the crazy Americans. (Don't even get me started on how funny these same two guys looked trying to dive into a swimming pool this past Sunday.)

And, just to prove I do know about things other than TV...I know about practice. Practice? PRACTICE?!?



Today my husband was in an art gallery getting a gift for his mother and while he was there he asked the owner all about what she would need to put up some of my photography. To have my work validated by him in this way was a huge lift to me. After I sat down here to share this, it struck me that recently a lot of things in my (unquestionably very good, full, productive, and contented) life have left me feeling a little bit drained and a whole lot under-appreciated. So, what my husband did and said made this day different than a whole lot of other days leading up to today. For that, I'm very grateful. 

And, I'm going to take this as an important "a-ha!" moment and am going to make a point to lift at least one other person else up tomorrow with words of praise, recognition and kindness. Tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the day after that, in fact, until it's engrained in my hard heart. 

Which reminds me of a verse I found convicting when I was on a retreat earlier this year and which I made a personal prayer for that day and some days after.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
-Ezekiel 11:19-20

It's time to return to that prayer. It's time to renew my prayers to have my heart softened, to be transformed, and to then move in His will in this hurting world. 

And, now, after plowing through this thought process only after making myself sit down to do my obligatory NaBloPoMo post, I can say that I have learned the value of daily blogging. Validation indeed.



To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. -George Santayana


twi these out

As uncool as it may make me, I love Twilight. The last soundtrack came out today and, as usual, it's full of great alternative music. I put together an 8-tracks* set of music from the movies and from the artists that have contributed to the movie soundtracks. Enjoy (if you dare).

*Why, yes...there's an app for that.


fallback post

Days like today make me think that signing up to blog every day for a month wasn't exactly the smartest decision I've ever made. (But, hey, it's far from the worst decision I've ever made either.) Please enjoy a picture from my archives taken on a cheery November day three years ago. In the spirit of the one-minute whine rule, I'm going to end today's post at that and promise to be back tomorrow fresher and with more to offer.


none other

We allow farther, that the use of all means whatever will never atone for one sin; that it is the blood of Christ alone, whereby any sinner can be reconciled to God; there being no other propitiation for our sins, no other fountain for sin and uncleanness.-John Wesley, "The Means of Grace"


gratitude this week

This week's gratitude journal entries had a couple of pharmaceutical entries. Not generally a sign of a great week, but I look back on it and can't complain too much in spite of those.

November 3: I got our Christmas cards designed and ordered last Saturday. I love the process of taking the kids' picture, editing the one I like the most and using a few of my digital scrapbook goodies to make a card that will be uniquely ours. I love it so much, that if any of my local friends are interested, I would be happy to meet you and yours at one of the many good local choices for family photos some Saturday or Sunday, take a few pictures and edit it for your use in one of the many great options online* where you can drop in a photo and have a set of cards in a week or so. 

November 4: On Sunday, I woke up with some sort of bite on my arm. Steve likes to think that I got the bite while I was out on a trail walk on Saturday. That's possible, but I think it's also possible some spider got me in our bed...which is just too scary for him to think about. 

November 5: For weeks, I have had to wait in my car when I get to the trail for my run because it is too dark to get out when I arrive at 6:30 or so. Not this week!

November 6: I can not tell you how glad I am that the election is over. I won't even try because thinking about it makes my head hurt...

November 7: ...and speaking of which, on Wednesday I had a sick headache. By the time I got to my Disciple III class (which I facilitate), it was hard to focus on Jeremiah's prophesies for the stupid thing. Two ibuprofen once I got home fixed me right up. 

November 8: I wrote about this earlier this week. Pretty cool when you come home from work with a good idea for daily living.

November 9: I met Steve for lunch yesterday at a Mexican restaurant that has these punched tin star lights all over. I adore these. I envision one over my computer desk at home. It would make me smile just like having my PostalPix strung across a bulletin board at work and my Instacanvases on the wall there do. 

*I use Shutterfly for all of my printing, cards and scrapbooks, and highly recommend them. Christmas cards are now 40% off with the code HOLIDAY until November 14. If you spend $30 or more on your order, there is a free shipping code, too (SHIP30). 


nice ______

I came across this picture of myself today. After I edited it to the point that only my eyes are discernable (and my wrinkles and gray hair are not), I thought back to a meeting of my Artist's Way group. We were sharing some answers to a fill-in-the-blank exercise and the answers told a lot about how far we each were from being able to really accept and love ourselves. One particular set of answers was so funny that a year later, one member brought them up when we were in the midst of our second study together.

"I have nice __________________" was the item in question.

One answered: I have nice friends and family.

Another answered: I have nice intentions.

I answered: I have nice eyes.

How many nice things about yourself can you list before becoming really uncomfortable? Give it a whirl. Share some here in the comments if you would like.


one-minute whine rule

Our CEO today said that he had implemented a one-minute whine rule in his office. If you want to come in and complain about interest rates or government regulation (these are the things that wear on an insurance executive's mind), he will be a compassionate listener...for one minute. Then, he says, we need to move on and deal with things.

I'm getting a stopwatch.



Spend 20 minutes or so listening to some music. Just music without vocals. (I recommend this collection of tunes: Clair de Lune, Adagio for Strings, and The Ash Is In Our Clothes.)

Notice the rests (the pauses in the music where there is pure, unadulterated silence).

Notice how these moments of silence give these pieces beauty and poignancy as much as any note does.

Now consider: where do you have moments of rest in your day? In your life?


living water

Rather than putting my lips to the fresh stream of living water
provided for me anew every day,
quenching my thirst,
reviving all the withered and dead parts of my heart that have grown hard,
I go back to a cistern of water,
collected over time,
from the living God still,
but stagnant,
unmoved with only occasional new pieces of understanding or insight added.

It has powerful knowledge in it
--of passion
and sacrifice,
of a call to serve and love--
but it does not have the life-giving, inspiring HEREness
that a stream running fresh each day,
a fountain bathing you anew,
a quenching water filling you from the inside and flowing over with His fruit,
can give.

This is a NOW relationship.
A living, breathing relationship.

a reflection on Jeremiah 2:13


her father's eyes

My daughter has her father's eyes...clearly those of her earthly father who has these wonderful hazel green eyes. And, I hope time will show she has those of her heavenly Father as well.

She's got her Father's eyes, 
Her Father's eyes; 
Eyes that find the good in things, 
When good is not around; 
Eyes that find the source of help, 
When help just can't be found; 
Eyes full of compassion, 
Seeing every pain; 
Knowing what you're going through 
And feeling it the same. 
Father's Eyes-Amy Grant

I hope I have them, too.



Something hit me recently. Most of us expect to be healthy, wealthy and happy as we make our journey through life.

Was Jesus? What was his life focused on? What did he expect? What did he do with his time on earth?

He served. He taught. He sacrificed. He loved.

He still does.


gratitude this week

I've been keeping a photographic gratitude journal this year. I thought maybe during this month of daily blogging I would share with you my entries and a little background on them on Saturdays.

October 27: We attended the Auburn-Texas A&M game and as soon as I saw it was Military Appreciation Day I was excited for the pre-game show because I just knew it would include a flyover. I videoed it and yelled like a big redneck as they flew over.

October 28: Sundays are usually pretty low-key and my posts on those days are sometimes hard to come by. (Remember, I've been doing this for over 300 days at this point and each day is something new and different.) This Sunday, I was playing around on one of my favorite photo editing apps, so it became the day's entry.

October 29: Revolution is one of the few new shows Steve and I are watching this year. It has a strong, compelling story that twists you through flashbacks as effectively as Lost ever did. And, it has Bella's father in it. Team Charlie all the way.

October 30: Ellen DeGeneres is simply one of my favorite people. This week the show where she was given the Mark Twain Prize aired. They aired a clip of Ellen when she first spoke to Gladys on her talk show. I laughed so hard watching Ellen laugh that it was clear it was Ellen's turn in my journal.

October 31: This may have been the last Halloween both of the kids trick or treat. (I've said that each of the last two years as well, so what do I know?)

November 1: I have a terrible time finding headphones I can run with. I've had several pairs that hook over my ears because I can't keep earbuds in even if I am sitting still. My latest pair of those over ear jobs were falling out, too, and I picked up these great Bluetooth headphones on Amazon. Greatness. They stay in place, the sound is fantastic and no wires for me to inadvertently yank them off my head with.

November 2: Grandma Macie's birthday was yesterday. She's not really our grandmother, but Steve and his sister adopted her as such many, many years ago. Love this woman.



Not too long ago, Steve and I had a conversation about Alabama. He commented that he didn't have a great sense of pride in being from here anymore.

I still do.

I understand fully the points he made when he said it. And, I get that maybe the reason I think this is a great place is because this is the only place I've lived and our families are here.

No, you won't stand out for being a Christian here. But there is still plenty of kingdom building to be done here.

No, you won't be able to make a difference politically here. But you can still make a difference in your community and in your family.

And, no, you won't be able to see any of the top 10 or 20 places in America that are "must see" destinations here. But I can see places of beauty* within walking distance of my home or work every single day and I can drive a few hours to see many more within our state borders.

Why romanticize someplace you don't live when you can just love the place you do? (There's a similar commentary to be made about human relationships in there, by the way.)

Alabama may not be the most beautiful, most exciting, most cool, most wonderful place in the world. I totally understand that. But, it's enough for me and I will be happy as can be to live here for the rest of my life.

*No comment on whether Vulcan's backside is a place of beauty or not.


using it all up

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'.-Erma Bombeck

I started this blog in March of 2011 when I was working through The Artist's Way with a group of women at my church. I have had a blog...or two or three...for several years now, but this one was inspired by my work in that book which encourages us to find our inner artist and to let her thrive.

If my friend Kelley is reading: you can stop rolling your eyes now.

Anyway, after some thought I decided I wanted a place to share my photography and my writing. I was going to break away from an earlier blog I had diligently written for years but which was of no interest to any one other than myself since all I did was drone on and on about my fitness and diet ups and downs.

Please notice, I'm not sharing the link to that snoozer of a blog anywhere here.

When looking for a name for this blog, I found the quote above by humorist Erma Bombeck. Honestly, I was surprised to find such a serious quote from the woman I had previously admired for this witty observation:

They say you can tell how exciting your life is by the hour you get into your nightclothes. 
Sometimes we have to change our pajamas because we dribbled our dinner onto them.


The quote for which my blog is named truly resonates with me and the path I have been on for the last couple of years. I'm really striving to inventory the gifts God gave me and figure out how He would like me to employ every one of them. 

And, let me tell you, it's a challenge when you realize that you are such a strange collection of things. (An accountant and a photographer? Really?) I'm starting to appreciate this set of gifts, though, and can truly start to say:

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! You workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it.
-Psalm 139:14 (NLT)

NaBloPoMo November 2012
I am taking part in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo this month...30 straight days of blogging.
Join me, won't you? There are prompts to get you started and everything.



A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. -Jean De La Fontaine



I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. -John Burroughs



Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God. -George Washington Carver



happiness is somewhere i have been before
a blurry photograph that i have since ignored.
i'll carefully adjust the aperture once more,
until i set the record straight.
i'll brush aside the dim, make room for the bright.
i'll be an editor, no, a curator of light.



If in our daily life if we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work. -Thich Nhat Hanh




For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.-Psalm 62:1



I knew, of course, that trees and plants had roots, stems, bark, branches and foliage that reached up toward the light. But I was coming to realize that the real magician was light itself. -Edward Steichen


once upon a time

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little stream that meandered through a busy little town.


day 30: best ending

I sort of remember Life of Pi as ending like the movie The Usual Suspects...it made me want to flip right back to the beginning and read it all over again, this time with the encryption key I needed to understand it completely. The best thing was, just like with The Usual Suspects, getting the decoder ring at the end didn't make the time spent with it the first time through any less enjoyable at all. It made it more wonderful.

How wonderful will this be to SEE on the big screen in November? I can't wait.


day 29: book I plan to read next

Actually, it's now the book I am reading next. When I finished Catch-22, as I always do after reading a book on my "must read" list, I looked for something lighter to read. Physik is just what the recently-bogged-down-in-a-black-comedy-set-in-a-war ordered. Physik is Book 3 in Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series, which is a series that should appeal to any child or adult who loved Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Magic. Action. Thrills. Odd characters. Good vs. evil. All the great stuff, in other words. Start with Magyk. I'll loan it to you. Just give today's YA fiction a try. It's worth it.