Photography, Time for Art

Creating With Light and Memories

Preperation

 

Cyanotypes – Printing With the Sun 

Lazy summer days. These are the days I long for. Summer days hold the most beautiful treasures. Summer is slow and hot. Sometimes it brings the adventure of long-awaited vacation, sometimes endless days of boredom. And somewhere in between something magic happens. An unexpected new interest pops up.

Summer memories linger and stick together and ask to be seen and thought of in a different way. Those moments of lazy boredom mixed with adventure become inspiration for new creations.

Three summers ago I picked up a sun print kit when my family and I were camping along the shores of Assateague Island State Park  –a long and beautiful barrier island off of Maryland and Virginia, with wild horses! You may know her famous sister island from Marguerite Henry’s children’s book Misty of Chincoteague.

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Since that trip three summers ago, I’ve wanted to experiment with the sun print . The alternative photography process is called a cyanotype. Paper is treated with an iron solution which is light-sensitive. Here you can place an object directly on the paper and expose it to light, creating a photogram or essentially a negative image. You can also use  large format negatives to create a positive image.

For my first experiments I opted to order Cyanotype Paper from B&H Photo Video  and create my own photograms.

 

I grew up in the days of film and I miss creating this way. Photography in high school and college was a full hands-on experience in creating art. There was a slowness to the process which necessitated a lot of thought; selecting–and knowing–which film to use, loading the film into the camera, being limited to 24 or 36 frames, and thinking about each shot as a single image.

Once the shots were taken, a delicate and particular process began to even be able to see what you had selectively captured.

As I type this I can’t help but think of the time spent for a single image and how much I enjoyed that process.

The process of photography itself felt like a meditation in creation.

Now when I head out with my camera–whether it’s with my always-with-me and most accessible iPhone 7plus, where I share my photos on Instagram, or my Canon–I am no longer limited by the number of photographs I take. The way I interact with each image has a vastly different feel. I no longer spend this meditative time with a group of images, unless I am purposing to use them for a specific project.

A few weeks ago I found a local artist who was offering a workshop making cyanotypes. My summer start making sun prints had left its mark. I couldn’t wait to sign up and learn and create.

The process of creating cyanotypes brought back those memories and feelings of just starting out in photography.

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We mixed chemicals and waited.

I looked at each object I wanted to make an image of, I considered the paper I had and cut it to the size I wanted for each image, I brushed on the chemicals in a darkroom and waited for my paper to dry. I then composed my image in the darkroom before bringing my paper out into the sunlight.

 

I waited for the sun to expose the image and then brought the paper back into the workshop to wash and stop the developing.

 

This process was slow and unhurried. We met from 12-5. Those five hours flew by. I could have stayed in that space for hours more.

Now I can’t help but dream up ways to take over and convert a small portion of our own  house into a mini darkroom and get lost in the creative process of making more cyanotype prints.

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What is it that you love to create? The thing you could spend hours doing and it feels like no time has gone by?

 

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Books, Review

Brave Beauty Review and Giveaway!

A Book Review and Giveaway!

*Winner Robin H. –Congratulations!

“Lord, I’m looking for something good.”

This was my short prayer offered up a few weeks ago. When I came home late that afternoon a little package of something good was there, just like that, waiting on the doorstep.

In it was Lynn Cowell’s book Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You

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In recent weeks, our family has faced trials and storms. My little girl, my brave beauty, has weathered them right along with me –My big brother passed away and fourteen days later we lost a close family friend. In the midst of the grieving, school stopped for a week as we prepared our home to evacuate hurricane Irma. It seemed as though the storms just kept coming.

And so, my prayer for something good…

What a gift of love to receive Lynn’s beautiful book of devotions. A call for daughters to be brave in this world, no matter what trials may come or what questions they face in life and in faith.

Brave Beauty is 100 mini chapters broken up into three sections:

  •             Section: 1 I Am Loved
  •             Section: 2 I Am Brave
  •             Section: 3 I Am Confident

Lynn’s mini chapters are comfortable and inviting. I like how she describes these as “100 moments”. She talks to young readers in an easy conversational style with real life stories and examples. At the end of each chapter she has a space for your daughter to engage her thoughts with what she’s read. There are getting to know you quizzes, scriptures and prayers, an action to take called Becoming Brave, and space for your daughter to journal her thoughts.

This is a book just for her.

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I love the topics Lynn chooses. She breaks down her sections in the book even further with topics like, I Can Do Scary Things, I Can Stand Up For Others, My Purpose, I Am Loved… There is so much to choose from. Your daughter can read straight through, do one chapter each week, or pick a topic section she might want some encouragement in. There are no dates written on the page, so your daughter can go through the book how she likes.

This is an excellent resource for young girls navigating life and learning to be confident in who God made them to be.

Here’s to Lynn and brave girls becoming brave women!

 

THE GIVEAWAY! HOORAY!

A GIFT for Your Daughters! I received one beautiful book for review and one for a giveaway!

  • Leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy for your daughter, niece, or granddaughter. The contest will run Saturday, October 14th at 12pm through Saturday, October 21st at 12pm. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook for an extra entry! I’ll announce the winner here next Saturday.

 

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An Unfinished Story

Winter. And Spring.

When I first started writng about my brother David, I put those posts in a category called An Unfinished Story –my bother finished his story here on this earth on August 19, 2017 and entered the beauty of his new life and story in heaven. And while this part of his journey is over, I suspect I’ll still be writing and reflecting on his precious life here…

These are the words I spoke at his memorial service this past Saturday evening, August 26, 2017:

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There’s so much I want to share with you about my brother David. But I decided the one small thing I’ll share with you this evening is what I saw this past spring when David was in the ICU.

This fall will be twenty years since I moved away from northern Virginia to south Florida.

Only a few short months after I moved, I experienced my first winter in Florida –Palm trees, warm weather, blue skies, and the evergreen and tropical landscape. What a strange and wonderful sight.

After a few years, the strange and wonderful sight of the ever-present summer of south Florida replaced the experience of the four seasons. A perpetual summer became common-place and familiar.

I’ve traveled back to Virginia a few times in these twenty years, but in the familiar green summers or colorful leafy falls.

This year was different, I traveled back here on the cusp of spring.

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David was fighting pneumonia in the ICU at Fort Belvoir Hospital and I knew I needed to be there. I remember my drive with dad to the hospital on a Saturday morning and taking in the sights of spring, blossoming trees and perennial flowers sprouting up from the ground. It was an incredible sight. We rode along familiar roads and hills into Fort Belvoir, even though it was familiar it also felt strange. I saw forests on either side as we entered the base. There were some flowering trees starting to blossom, but the oaks, and maples, and sweet gum trees were nothing but brown branches, “Are those trees dead?” I asked dad.

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“No, no. All this will be green soon.”

We arrived at the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ICU with mom and David and Heidi and the girls. I was afraid of seeing him with all the tubes and machines hooked up, but David has a way of making these things seem unimportant. I could still see the smile in his eyes, and despite it all, he even gave me a genuine smile when I came over to his bed and held his hand.

We sat by his side while he rested. We talked and prayed together and talked with all the nurses who came in to care for David. Dad brought in a package from Aunt Jan and we shared all the photos and letters from when David, Heidi, and I were little.

For so many years my family has prayed over David. I can remember my prayers for him as a child. I expectantly waited for God’s miracle healing of my brother. This struggle with faith, and with trusting in God, and with questioning pain and suffering – all of it has been with me through the years. But also through the years, I know God has heard my prayers, and He gently shows me his love, for my questioning self, and for my brother –in the midst of his trials and despite his trials.

What I’ve always longed for was David’s complete healing. I’ve often heard the words, “we don’t know whether healing will come here on earth or in heaven.” And in my true childlike and selfish nature I would want to throw a fit at God and say, “That’s not the miracle I’m looking for. We’ll all be whole in heaven.”

That doesn’t count.

And then God gently reminds me again…

He showed me on a walk with mom outside David’s hospital. We walked along a tree lined path and I saw more flowering trees blossoming and more oak trees standing bare against the blue sky. I asked her too, “Mom are these trees along this path all dead?” And her answer was of course no.

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I was only there four short days, but on Monday when I said my last goodbye to my brother I walked outside among the trees and I saw on those brown branches little buds beginning to appear.

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In the ICU We faced death all around. Outwardly we saw it. The doctor and nurses spoke of it. Yet God showed me, this is not all there is.

 

He shows each of us. Reminds us through spring and these full green summer trees, There is life again.

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2 Corinthians 4:10-12 and vs 16-18 says:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I walked along the Fort Belvoir hospital path again this morning, This time with my dad and uncle Bob. The path was lined with full green oaks, paper birch trees, southern bayberry and thick grass. I saw and heard the new life all around. I couldn’t see it in the trees in the early spring. I could hardly imagine this pathway so full of new life. But new life has come.

 

In April I could only see David’s broken and dying body. But now new life has come. The miracle of healing I’ve been praying for is his. I can hardly imagine!

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Inspiration, Photography, Weekend Wonder

Sunflowers

Weekend Wonder

YELLOWIMG_5576My father in law always shares his newspaper with me when my family and I come up for a visit. This particular visit there was an article about a farmer and his sunflowers. Five acres in bloom. Only a few days remaining for the golden-yellow field.

I knew I had to go and see.

We follow the route on the GPS to the sunflower farm, past store fronts and restaurants and busy grocery stores. The road seems to empty as we drive on. We turn and follow a bumpy dirt road. The houses here aren’t inches apart, they’re acres apart. Clouds of dust rise up and we’re passing farms and horses in pastures.

It’s amazing how these beauties in life exist down roads near by, but somehow far away at the same time.

I think we’re coming upon a secret treasure–

A couple of miles down the dirt road, we near the entrance and looking up from the dust we see the cars. It’s not a secret. Many have read about the sunflower field. The funny thing is, no one seems to be expecting this hidden country life tucked back only a few miles from the city. As we’re trying to navigate our way into this crowded little oasis, I see women in heels trying to step lightly in sinking dirt and a family trying to dig car tires out of deep sand.

There are photographers and families and women picking armfuls of fresh flowers for bouquets.

We all came to see this beauty growing up from the ground.

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Walking in a field of golden suns,

lifted high upon green stalks.

Yellow blooms and petals reach,

like sunbeams through morning clouds.

—LAM—

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My daughter and I with the sunflower farmers (Father, Son, & Grandson!) and their cute board book, Sunny & The Sunflower Maze written by Raj Sinha and Illustrated by J.C. Plitt                                                                       –Check out Liberty Farms in Florida and New Jersey 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Beach, Birds, Photography

Shore Birds

Noisy, playful, insistent, curious…

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I’ve got an idea in mind for a new book. And in this little book is where a seagull lives. I needed to get to the beach and  find my seagull. Thankfully this weekend was a perfect beach day kind of weekend. We packed all the usual, sunscreen, towels, body boards, and beach buckets.

My family picked out their spot on the sand and before I could even lay out my towel I spotted a group of my little shore bird friends, in between beach umbrellas and ocean waves. Shore birds and snow birds basking in the Florida winter sun.

Here are some of the images I captured

Shore bird study:

Flight

 

 

Poses

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Not seagulls, but so incredibly cute! Seriously.

 

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Happy little seagulls!

 

Ring-billed Gull

John James Audubon was a fan of this gull…

Or at least according to my interpretation of my Reader’s Digest Book of North American Birds– “John James Audubon himself called it ‘the great American gull.'”

 

The Flock

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These are the birds with the long beaks and bright orange coloring. The lower bill is longer than the upper bill and skims the surface of the water as they fly above it. They look as if they love nothing more than to fly just for the joy of it. Maybe it was the morning I was there to see these birds, but they did not seem content to sit still for long. They would take off, rise and fall in synchronized harmony out and up over the ocean– up, down, around, land, repeat.

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Picture Books, TBTPictureBooks

Election Day (Peanuts Style)!

Grandpa

Happy Election Day!

Ok, so it isn’t really Thursday yet. It’s Tuesday, November 8th, 2016.

And it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a throwback picture book, but this one is too good not to share a few days early.

So here’s a little light-hearted distraction to bring you a smile as we wait for all the poll results to come in.

The Peanuts Platform

Illustrated by Charles M. Schulz

Hallmark 1968

 

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A few of my favorite campaign promises from the Peanuts gang:

“No homework on weekends! (For anybody!)” -Charlie Brown

“Full rights for women!” -Lucy

“A good-neighbor policy!” -Snoopy

 

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“And Happiness for everyone!”

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Love, Weekend Wonder

The True Story of a Common Grackle

Weekend Wonder

My daughter and I were spending the afternoon together, a little bit of me time and a little bit of her time. Our day included coffee and doughnut treats, antique shops and thrift stores, and volunteering together at the cat rescue (this one in particular for my little animal lover’s soul).

We were just walking back to the car when we both saw the little black bird in the median. It was pecking at a wrapper on the ground next to my car door.

“Mom, is the bird trying to open that?”

I unlocked the car and we walked closer. The little black bird hopped back a bit to wait for us to go about our day so he could go about trying to open the little cellophane wrapper on the ground. I looked down and saw it was fortune cookie.

“Mom, we should help! Can we open it for him?”

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I bent down and picked up the fortune cookie, opened the little bag, crushed up the cookie and spread it on the ground for our new little friend. And then I saw the thin slip of paper lying there. Of course, it’s a fortune cookie. I reached down to read the little bird’s fortune,

“God looks after you in a special way.”

Amazing isn’t it?

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I’m writing a bird book and this little fortune is a gift from God. A gift to me and my beautiful girl. One I just had to share!

On the back of the book I’m writing I’ve included a verse;

Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns. But your heavenly father feeds the birds. And you know that you are worth much more than birds.  ~Matthew 6:26

Whenever I read this verse it reminds me of my Grandma Annie in Michigan. She has always cared for the birds around her home. When I was young and would come for a visit, she would fill up the bird feeders with seed and the bird bath with fresh water. We would go inside and watch from her dining room window.

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After I was married I visited her with my own children. She drove her great-grandson down to the market with her to get more seed for the feeders and even some corn cobs for the squirrels. We filled the feeders together and watched the colorful birds enjoy their meal.

God cares for the birds by bringing the worms up from the ground after a rain, or through a grandma who puts out fresh seeds and water, even in a winter-frozen Michigan backyard, or through the heart of a little girl who notices a common grackle trying open the wrapper of a fortune cookie.

Yes, God looks after the birds in a special way. Even little birds who are called common.

Always remember, God cares for you even more than that!

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Books, Inspiration, Time for Art, Writing

Why Write?

Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2

“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”

I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal.  Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.

I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.

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Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.

The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.

But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?

What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?

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The question remained: Why write?

And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.

We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.

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I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”

She answered me quickly,

“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”

Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.

As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.

Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…

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I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.

I have a goal now for my little board books.

That’s what they are. No permission needed.

 

If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.

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Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM

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Fear, Time for Art, Writing

Time Is Ticking

Thoughts on writing, fear, and time | Part 1

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I saw my friend and fellow writer, critiquer and encourager, Belinda at church. She told me she had sent her second query out to an agent. We attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference together this year. Since the conference she was the first to send out her work. And now she’s sent out her second query. Belinda two. Me zero. She’s on a mission. I’m still nervous to hit send.

Later that day I headed out to the beach for some time with my family. They were here for a visit and their lovely condo was right on the ocean. A week of beachfront lazy days together was in order. At least that’s what I envisioned for the group.

My husband had a different idea in mind. Somehow he and my son decided an hour jet ski rental would be great fun for the whole family. Aunt Heidi, the cousins, little sis, my husband and I, gliding across the surface of the ocean at reckless speeds.

I was terrified.

Listening to the safety rules and ocean regulations didn’t help calm my fears-

Don’t get too close to the swim markers, best to stay a hundred feet out since swimmers don’t pay attention and often go beyond the markers. Don’t pass the buoys. Don’t go over the reef. Stay 300 feet away from scuba divers and other boats. If you flip over, stay calm and try to turn the jet ski back over before it sinks. If you ride over too much seaweed you need to be able to hop off and reach your hand under the jet ski and pull the seaweed out of the intake.

Riding a jet ski is the opposite of relaxing at the beach.

My husband and son rode first. Next was our daughter. Then we switched drivers and my sister took her two girls. We still had time. She came in and Mike and I went out. Our guide steadied the jet ski for us while we were getting on.

“Hop on!” my husband says. I do, but completely nervous I try to hop on the back.

“No, you’re driving. Get up front,” he says.

“No, you drive. I’m not getting up front.”

“Yes. Yes, you are. Get up front!”

And then our guide chimes in, “Time is ticking!”

Whoa. Really? Who does he think he is? We’ve already paid for our time. I can take a few minutes here. If I want to waste part of our time being afraid, I can.

And then I realize just how stupid that thought is. Our ride is paid for. Just one hour. Time really is ticking and then the opportunity is gone.

What about life? Time ticks here too. We just don’t readily see it. I’m busy being afraid to hit send on a dream because I want my query to be just right. I don’t want to fail.

But time is ticking.

I hopped on the driver’s seat and adjusted to holding down the throttle. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t graceful. I hit a few waves. I screamed a bit. I drove the jet ski though. My husband and I ended up switching places somewhere out over the water. I got to see what fearless driving really looked like! It wasn’t so bad…

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And we all made it back to shore.

I’ve read about other artist’s journeys, I’ve listened to podcasts on fear and productivity. These were good, but not a kick in the pants kind of good that I needed. Who knew all I needed to do was drive a jet ski? The thing I fought against doing was the thing which taught me the greatest lesson. I’m thankful for the kid who steadied the jet ski and reminded me time is ticking.

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What fear is holding you back?

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Weekend Wonder

Catching Lightning

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Weekend Wonder

I’m often driving somewhere when I look up at the sky and wish I had my camera in hand. This usually happens when driving the kids to school in the morning. How many times I’ve said, “Oh! Look at that sky! Don’t you wish we could keep heading east and watch this sunrise from the beach?” My kids usually respond with, “Mom, you say that every morning!”

But Sunday was different. Sunday was evening. I was headed to my car again, but I was stopped in my tracks by this sky. The storm clouds billowing up. Lightning rolling around inside the swell.

This Sunday show was a gift. There was no downpour, no window-rattling-thunder, just beauty and light. The storm was close but distant. This time I  went back and grabbed my camera and tripod and my son came along.

“Bye! We’re going to go catch lightning!”, he called out as we headed out the door.

The two of us walked west onto an empty golf course under the night sky. We  watched this mircale light show for twenty minutes…

and we tried to catch the lightning.

    Stop and notice God’s miracles.
 Do you know how God controls the clouds
    and makes his lightning flash?
Do you know how the clouds hang in the sky?
    They are the miracles of God, who knows everything.

-Job 37:14-16 (icb)

 

 

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