A blog post about friendship, climbing a hill and holding the moon

A blog post about friendship, climbing a hill and holding the moon

When Kent and I were first married, we were trying to get involved in our first church together as a couple. It was a large regional church, so we attended a meeting to get to know other people who lived in our community.

We lived about 25 minutes away from the church, and there weren’t many other families at the meeting who lived as far as we did. But one couple came up to us and struck up a conversation.

“P and G” were about 25 years older than we were. We didn’t have children yet, and they had four kids who were at the stage of entering college, in college or starting careers. They had spent most of their adult life serving as missionaries to a remote village in Bolivia. Their children had grown up as missionary kids. They had many fascinating stories to tell, and we were intrigued.

We ended up joining the same small group, which meant we met with them at least once a week to study the Bible together, pray and grow in our relationships. They lived within walking distance of our house so they would often show up at our front door without warning.

I was commuting into the city back then and working long hours as Chicago bureau chief for a chain of newspapers. Kent was getting settled in his job, which was about 20 minutes away. We didn’t have many friends, and we really didn’t have a good way to make friends around our long hours and our work lives that weren’t close to our home lives. To be honest, we wouldn’t have thought to seek out the friendship of a couple several decades past us in life, but these two didn’t give us a choice.

They became a faithful part of our lives that we could count on no matter what. I’m one who typically treads cautiously into friendship to guard my fragile heart from rejection or disappointment. These friends weren’t going to wait around for me to be ready for their love and devotion.

As the years went on, they became part of our larger friend group. We no longer noticed their gray hair because they bounced around with the same energy as all of us.

They helped us make tough decisions in life. They gave us advice even when we didn’t want it. They brought us meals when we were sick, and we helped each other with projects around the house and in the yard. When we started having kids, they would show up at the hospital and sit in the waiting room before the babies were even born. They became a third set of grandparents in the lives of our children.

They showed us by their example what it looks like to live in community.

Recently, a younger couple in our growth group gave birth to their first child. We got to know this couple before they were married. We’ve walked with them through the heartbreak and frustration of fertility issues. We’ve prayed with them through the pain of disappointment and waiting. And when they had their baby last week, I debated whether it would be OK to arrive at the hospital before the baby was actually born.

“Oh my gosh!” I said to myself. “I’ve become P and G!”

I made myself wait not quite 24 hours before making my hospital visit. But it made me realize how blessed I’ve been to have friends who never worried about pushing too hard into relationship with us. They didn’t ask permission to be our friends and mentors. They just entered in.

Last night, after months of trying to find a time that we could get together, we had them over for dinner. Our lives seem to have reached the height of crazy this year with college visits, teen activities and the ongoing volatility of my health situation. I’m always hesitant to schedule too much in one weekend, but decided that our get-together would never happen unless I let go of my caution.

After dinner, P was looking at a photograph I took of the full moon rising over a farm near our house. He asked me where I took the photo.

I told him it was only about a mile away… “Oh, and by the way, the full moon is going to rise in about 10 minutes,” I told him. “Do you want to go there?”

“Yes!” they exclaimed, just as I was about to start scooping Paleo cherry cobbler onto paper plates for dessert.

We all grabbed our shoes and jackets and sprinted toward the minivan.

I couldn’t think of any other friends who would have responded to my unusual suggestion with such enthusiasm.

Next to the spot where I took the photo is a huge pile of dirt that is overgrown with grass and weeds. It’s a steep climb up the hill, but I asked P, who is now in his 70s by the way, if he wanted to hike up it to get a better view.

OF COURSE, he wanted to run up that hill, despite the fact he was wearing loafers with a slippery sole and it was pretty much a straight climb up through dirt and weeds. The four of us, plus our 8-year-old, stood together, bonded by the awe that comes from people who can appreciate the awesome sight of the full moon rising over a farmer’s field.

I was amazed that we had friends willing to share the joy of that moment and so many others, willing to climb a huge hill of dirt, happy to pose as if holding the moon, holding steadfast in their resolve to be part of our lives for more than 20 years. And I was reminded how much I hope I can be that person in the lives of other people.

 

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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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shooting the moon

shooting the moon

I have a weird hobby. One evening a month, I drive out into the country and find an isolated spot, usually near an open field. I sit in my minivan with my camera, looking to the east. And I wait.

I look at my watch. Then, I stare at the horizon. I look at my watch again. I check to see where the sun is setting, then follow its path to the opposite side of the sky. I squint, and look at my watch again.

More often than not, I see nothing. After about 15 minutes, I go back home. But sometimes, I’m rewarded with an amazing sight. A hazy orange orb starts peeking its way over the horizon.

111316_moonfirstlook

There it is.

On this one day a month, when the moon is full, it makes its way into view at almost the exact same moment the sun is setting. It’s usually almost impossible to see the moon at this time of day because it’s still bright outside, and the lower part of the sky is typically covered in haze or completely overcast. But once in a while, when the sky is clear, the sun shines like a spotlight directly onto the moon. When it appears at the lowest point in the sky, it looks enormous.

111316supermoon

If you are planning to take a photo, you have to be ready. The moon looks like it is racing up the sky. You only have a few minutes to get this shot before it climbs over the tree line, ascends the houses and starts taking on a bright orange glow.

I try to find a spot to put its magnitude into perspective. This is harder than it sounds.

111216fullmoon

You can see the moon best on high ground with nothing to obstruct your view. Usually, these spots are somewhere along a country road, and they don’t exactly have parking spots. When we first moved out here, I would always be on the lookout for a perfect viewing spot that also had a place to pull over so I wouldn’t get run over standing next to the road with my tripod. These days, I also look for interesting scenery — a barn, a pond or a tree — that will add life to my photo.

Last night’s full moon was one of the best I’ve seen in the three or so years that I’ve been obsessed with taking photos of the moon. The sky was perfectly clear, and it was a super moon, making it looks 14 percent larger than it does normally.

111316moonfarm2

I have an app on my phone that tells me when the moon will be at its peak. When the day comes, I usually say to my husband, “Do you think I should really go out and take ANOTHER photo of the moon?”

He responds in his usual super encouraging way. “You have to enjoy the moment. You only live once. Go.”

I make jokes to myself about how I’m the official moon photographer for my friends on Facebook. My journalism training runs deep, and I feel some kind of need to cover my self-assigned “moon beat.”

111316moongeese

It only takes about 40 minutes for the moon to launch into the sky, and lose its supernatural orange glow. But during that time, I love watching the moon for a few reason:

It’s one thing in my life that is 100 percent predictable. The moon always comes up at the exact moment that it is supposed to. I don’t know why I seem to find this surprising, but it gives me some kind of reassurance to see it pop up over into the tree line at the exact moment that meteorologists said it would.

It gives me perspective. I’m always in awe to think I’m viewing something that is 238,000 miles away. It reminds me I’m basically a speck in a galaxy so enormous I can’t even comprehend its size. It makes me think about my awesome creator and how powerful He is to put all of the elements in place so we can even live on Earth.

111216_hanglidemoon

It’s a challenge. When I started taking photos of the moon, my goal was just to get a close up so I could see the craters and details of something so far away. These days, I like to find ways to frame it. I’m nearly giddy when a flock of geese fly across my photo or I can position myself so it looks like its hovering over a flag pole. On Saturday evening, this guy was flying his ultralite, probably enjoying the view as much as I was. When he saw me with my camera, he flew around in front of me so I could get a shot of him with the moon. I couldn’t talk to him or tell him “thank you”, but I have a feeling he was smiling just as much as I was!

I took all of the photos in this post the last two evenings. You can go ahead and laugh at me for being so geeky about my love for the moon. But I don’t mind. I will be right back at it next month!

 

***

So, what about you? Do you like looking at the moon? Did you catch a glimpse of last night’s super moon?

 

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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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