What really mattered in January

What really mattered in January

Here’s a little January 2018 fun fact for you. Did you know that we started the month AND ended the month with a full moon?

The full moon setting on the morning of Jan. 2

This doesn’t happen often, which is why it’s called a “blue moon.” The moon wasn’t blue at all this morning. But it’s only “once in a blue moon” that we have two full moons in one month.

Instead of being blue in color, this month’s full moon actually appeared more red in color than usual, which is why it was also a “blood moon.” (Here’s a photo of the last time we had a blue moon, blood moon back in 2015 .)

I ran out quickly this morning to snap a photo, and realized that not only was it a blue moon and a blood moon, I was actually looking at a lunar eclipse. So, there you go. It was a blue moon, blood moon, super moon, lunar eclipse, and I only took this one barely focused photo.

What really mattered in January

That kind of feels like a description of my entire month, now that I think about it.

I began my month with my resolution of LESS doing and MORE being, but I still couldn’t help myself when it came to creating a habit tracker to work on a few things in the month of January.

The only good habit I created was listening to the Bible on audio book (almost) everyday. I even gave up on coloring in the little squares to track my habit. I missed a few days on the weekend, and had to catch up the following day. But I’m officially up to date on my plan to read — I mean listen — through the Bible in a year.

My other main goal for the month of January was to stop eating sweeteners. It’s funny that even though I’m still on a strict version of the Paleo diet, I can find ways to overindulge. I don’t eat any refined sugars, but that doesn’t stop me from baking up grain free, dairy free, sugar free breads and puddings made with maple syrup. And I’m completely addicted to my Matcha Green Tea Latte, packed with raw honey and full fat coconut milk.

I gained three pounds over the holidays, which I really wanted to eliminate. I made it back to my goal weight for about 25 seconds, and then I gained FOUR pounds. I think my goal for February will be to stop weighing myself.

Honestly, January was a heartbreaking month. A friend’s husband died unexpectedly, and it really rocked me. At times like this, it seems we should be able to hit a pause button for a few days and just put everything on hold. It feels unkind to go about the daily business of life when someone is in so much pain.

In the whole scheme of life, I realized it didn’t matter if I lost three pounds, made my bed everyday or drank eight glasses of water. I’m thankful for some moments of introspection when I was knocked out of daily task mode and into a realization of how short life really is and what actually matters.

As I sat at my friend’s husband’s funeral, I was amazed at her strength and courage, even though I know how her heart has been shattered. Inevitably, I thought about how I might react in her position. And then I confronted the fact that every single one of us WILL be in that position at some point. We are all going to stand beside someone we love who is no longer living. And at some point, we all will be the person who has gone on to the next life.

I’ve been thinking about a few things I want to do better.

  1. I want to know people and be known at a deeper level. Let’s not wait until a funeral to share the stories of our lives.
  2. I want to let people know how loved they are while they are alive.
  3. I want to take care of the things that matter, even when they are hard. And I want to stop focusing on the things that don’t matter. I know for sure that at the end of my life, I won’t wish I had watched one more show on Netflix or owned one more pair of cute jeans. I want to invest more in people and less in stuff.
  4. I want to trust that even in the darkest moments of life that God is good. He has a plan and a purpose.

It seemed fitting to watch that lunar eclipse this morning. Sometimes life feels so heavy and difficult to bear. Then, you look out in the sky at something as unusual as a “blue moon” that’s also a blood moon and a super moon and at the same time, you see a lunar eclipse. And in that moment, you realize that if the God of the universe can create something that amazing with such perfect timing and accuracy, that you also can trust Him in the daily moments of life.

**

How did your January go? What did you learn this month? What were the things that really mattered?

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The truth behind the beautiful moments…

The truth behind the beautiful moments…

If you’ve read my blog for long or if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that I’m obsessed with taking photos of the full moon.

I have an app on my phone that tells me the stages of the moon and the time it will rise and set each day. “That’s just WEIRD, Mom,” our 7-year-old daughter recently informed me.

On the one day of each month when the moon is perfectly full, it makes its way onto the horizon just as the sun is setting directly on the other side of the world. The sun shines a spotlight on the moon, making it look bright red or orange as it climbs over the horizon. The moon also looks exceptionally large if you can catch a glimpse of it right as it’s making its debut.

No matter how many photos I’ve taken of the full moon, I still want to go see it that one evening of the month when it’s at its fullest. For several days beforehand, I start thinking about where I might go to photograph it. I like to pick different settings to give it perspective.

 

But sometimes, like last night, things don’t work out as planned. 

A few weeks ago, I took a photo of the crescent moon as it was setting behind our house. Our 14-year-old son has taken an interest in photography so he was out shooting some photos, too. I saw him standing there and realized it would be the perfect time to shoot a funny perspective photo of him “holding” the moon.

 

This photo inspired with some other fun ideas I wanted to use last night with my daughters holding the full moon.

But, alas. The sky was super overcast. You can only see the moon at its fullest when the sky is clear, so I knew it wasn’t worth dragging them outside for a photo shoot. Instead, I headed to the grocery store.

Of course, I made sure all of my camera equipment was packed in the van, just in case. As I was coming home, the moon was glowing brightly through the clouds. I couldn’t believe how radiant it was. Even though the cloud cover was significant, the moon was shining like a beacon.

I drove to one of my favorite photography spots and pulled over. Right in front of me, I could hear a loud, “Whoo-hoooo. Whoo-hooooo.”

No way.

Perched right on the light post in front of me, sat an owl. What could be better than a photo of the full moon with an owl in front of it?

I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the van. It was pitch dark at this point, and I didn’t want to use my flash because I might scare the owl. I kept moving my ISO higher and higher to try to get my camera to be able to “see” the owl.

I fired off several shots, then ran back to my van to adjust the settings. By about my third attempt, the owl flew away, leaving me with only this super noisy, dark, grainy, unrecognizable photo.

Oh, well.

I turned to take my photo of the moon, and it was gone, too.

The clouds had completely shrouded it.

I got back in the van, and kept driving.

I was almost home when I saw the moon peeking through the clouds again. I stopped and jumped out.

I knew I didn’t have long, so I tried to grab a shot without my tripod. My ISO was too high, so I missed all of the detail on the moon. I ran back to the van so I could use the interior lights to adjust my camera settings.

Now, my ISO was lower, which meant my shutter speed also needed to be slower. I couldn’t hold my camera steady enough to get a clear shot.

I ran back to the van to get my tripod. The top piece can twist all of the way off, and this had happened last time I used it. I was scrambling to get it back together. By the time it was all set, I looked up at the moon, and it was gone.

Dang.

So, this morning, I got up and walked downstairs to see two of my kids staring out the window. 

“Look at the moon!” my daughter exclaimed.

There it was. Huge and red as it was setting behind the houses on the other side of the prairie.

I ran to the van to grab my camera. I was back in about one minute. But by then, this was all that was left. Just a tiny fragment of that beautiful moon.

What’s the point of all of this?

It made me realize that this experience is really closer to real life than many of the photos I like to post. Behind every beautiful moment, you will find a dozen frustrating, blurry, sad or anger-filled moments that no one sees.

This is true in photography and life.

I decided that maybe it was good to post some of my photography bloopers for a change. Sometimes it can be refreshing just to know the true story. Life is so much more than the edited, filtered, cropped and manipulated moments that we see on social media.

And that’s OK. I still loved hearing that owl. I loved seeing the moon shining through the clouds. And the red moon setting this morning was an awesome sight.

I can only share my failed photos with the world this morning. But maybe those are the images that you needed to see. I hope they are reminders for today that every moment doesn’t have to perfect. And every image doesn’t have to be beautiful. Just enjoy what you are given.

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Chasing the moon

Chasing the moon

The moon is making me crazy.

You might remember reading back in June, this post about how I became fascinated with the moon. It probably sounded like one of my fads. Just a momentary interest that I would quickly forget. Like leg warmers or acid wash jeans, I would be all over it for a little while, but it would quickly lose its appeal.

Oh, no. I guess you could say, the moon and I are in a bit of a contest.

I just want to take its photo. I want to catch that big, glowing orb right as it’s coming up across the horizon. I want to see it in its largest, fullest glory as it is rising for the night and it looks larger than life at the edge of the sky.

What I’m finding is that it’s not easy. And the more difficult I realize it is to accomplish my goal, the more I want to try. Yes, the moon is making me crazy. And I’m crazy about the moon!

I mean, taking a photo of the sun is so simple in comparison. Every day at nearly the same time, it rises and it sets. It’s always huge and glowing. Depending on the weather and your location, the sunset is gloriously different every day. And that alone, makes it a wonder to capture in a photo.

But the moon? It’s complicated.

First of all, you only get one day of the month when it is truly a full moon. Sure, you have a few days before and after when it looks almost completely round from down here a million miles away. But on that one day when the moon is full, it rises and sets at nearly the same moment that the sun is coming up or going down. This is your best chance to take the best photo because the sun is shining its spotlight directly at the moon straight across the horizon.

Just figuring out when to catch the moon as it comes up takes effort. The time of the moonrise changes by almost an hour from one night to the next. I don’t want just a photo of the moon high up in the sky. I want to catch it right as it’s coming up over the horizon. At that point, it gives the impression it is way larger than usual. And to catch it, you have to be ready. In the perfect location. Tripod set up. Camera ready to shoot.

Finding a great location where I live is nearly impossible. The best spot is somewhere away from the city lights. The terrain needs to be as flat as possible. No trees. No houses. No hills. Not even a cornfield.

Around here, that means driving about 10-20 miles away from the suburbs to a farmer’s field. The problem is that once you find the perfect spot, it’s someone’s private property and there’s no where to park. I went on a moon watch back in July and ended up pulling over onto a little road that went into a bean field. I had been sitting there about five minutes when the farmer came driving down the lane in his pick-up truck from the house across the street. He pulled up beside me and asked what I was doing.

I was preparing myself to see him pull out his shotgun, as I hastily explained, “It’s a full moon tonight… and it’s a super moon… and I just want to take a photo… (and, yes, I’m completely nuts).”

Then, once you’re there on the right day at the perfect location and the perfect time, you still have to think about the clouds and the smog. Even though I was completely prepared, I couldn’t see the moon until it got to this point in the sky. I had my compass to make sure I was staring at the right spot. I was watching the sky. Looking at the time. Checking my compass. Then, it started to appear. Just a faint orange ball at first. After a few minutes, it started to materialize.

I sit there with my camera thinking of our family living on a farm in southern Illinois. I bet all they have to do is step outside on the right day and they can see the moon coming up over the horizon. I get jealous of people living in Wyoming or on a beach who probably get an amazing view without too much effort.

This month, it was far too rainy and overcast to see the moonrise on the day it was full. But the next morning, I realized maybe I could catch it when it was going back down. I drove for a little while and finally found a spot where I could pull over and get a few shots.

Right now, the moon is beating me. It keeps moving through the sky. I keep chasing. One of these days, I will plan a vacation to a perfectly flat destination in the middle of nowhere, and I will get my photo of the moon. Until then, I always  have next month.

Watch out, Moon! I’m watching you!

**

Any other moon watchers out there? Leave me a comment and let me know!

 

 

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Reflections on the moon

Reflections on the moon

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the moon lately.

It all started about a week ago when my husband and I read about the Super Moon. Last Saturday night, the moon would be closer to the Earth than usual, making it appear much larger than normal. It also was going to be a full moon that would emerge over the horizon at almost the exact same time the sun was going down, causing it to glow in the sky even brighter than usual. In fact, this Super Moon was supposed to be so super that it would be an opportunity to see the moon looking larger than it has in 10 years.

My husband and I both started reading photography blogs to find out the best way to shoot the Super Moon. We wanted to know what settings to use on the camera. We planned out the best spot to see the moon. And we had to figure out the timing.

What time does the moon rise anyway? That’s when my fascination with the moon really began. I printed out a chart showing all of the times of the moonset and the moonrise in my area for the year. As I looked at the chart, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Many days of the month the moon does not rise and set at night at all. Sometimes, the moon makes its appearance during the day and then also sets during the day. What?!

How is it possible that I have lived on this planet for 44 years, and this entire time I thought that I could count on the moon to come out at night? I knew that sometimes I could see the moon during the day. But I thought it had to do with the sky being exceptionally clear or some other factor and that the moon would still be hanging around when the sun went to bed.

I decided I must be reading the chart wrong. How could there be days when the moonrise was at 6:07 and the moonset was at 20:52? I must be misunderstanding military time because in my book, the moon should not be coming out at 6:07 a.m. on some days, just to go back down at 8:52 p.m. What about the rest of the night? This was rocking my world!

I even did a Google search asking the question: “Does the moon always come out at night?”

I found more charts confirming the first one, and many detailed explanations about the phases of the moon and its cycle around the Earth. Then one writer summed it up quite simply: The reason many people don’t understand the pattern of the moon is that they don’t spend much time looking up at the sky.

Hmm.

That statement has been on my mind ever since. Most nights during the last week, I have been awakened in the middle of the night for one reason or another. I find myself going downstairs and opening the front door and sitting outside on my front porch. I don’t care that I’m wearing my PJs. I don’t care if someone sees me. I want to find that crazy moon. Thankfully, since it’s still at the end of its “Super Moon” stage, it’s been out this week in its fullness, glowing brighter than ever.

I sit there at night marveling at the moon.

I realize that I don’t spend enough time looking up at the sky.

In fact, I’ve been spending way too much time looking around me lately. I suppose I could blame it on the moon, since they say a full one can make people a bit crazy. But I’ve been in a funk lately.

I’ve just been tired. Tired of cooking and cleaning and doing laundry. Tired of working so hard and running so fast. Tired of organizing things and planning. Tired of trying.

I keep looking at all of the people around me, and everyone else seems to have it so together. The other moms have these nice personalities that people seem to love. They are prettier and happier. Their houses are cleaner. They get invited and included. They are funnier and wittier.

They cook healthier food and make fruit juices and smoothies and protein shakes. They are in better shape. They run gazillions of miles. They read books and go to interesting places.

The other bloggers are more popular than I am. They have successful blogs that people actually read. The other photographers take better photos. The other people who have jobs like mine build better websites and design better images and write snappier e-mails.

In fact, I’ve kind of wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it and just disappear for a few months.

But then I go outside and look up in the sky and the moon has been helping me put things into perspective.

It reminds me of the bigger picture. It’s so easy to get caught up in the sameness of the day-to-day. It’s so easy to focus so much on where we need to be and what we need to do and how we will get it all done, that we forget about the bigger purpose. It’s so easy to keep going through the motions of living life, that we forget that our time here is limited. That there’s a reason that we are here.

I’ve been looking up and standing in awe of what I’m part of. This enormous planet. The complex galaxy. The moon and sun with their precise placement and schedules that keep the planet stable and allow plants to grow and keep us from burning up or freezing to death.

I think about the One who created all of these things and how it was done with so much thought and care and creativity. I think about that same maker who cares about me. Who shows me grace when I don’t deserve it. Who loves me despite all of my faults and weaknesses.

I think about His plan for my life. And my purpose on this planet.

I printed out the chart of all of the times of the moonrise and the moonset and put it on the refrigerator. It’s my reminder to go outside and look for the moon each day.

It reminds me to spend more time looking up.

 

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