WEEK 4 – Creative – Quiet Moment. A bluebird day in February is an invitation to take a drive. The sky was unbelievable. The air sparkled. One on of the back roads near here, a little flock of Canada geese were enjoying the relative warmth of Battle Creek, which steamed in the frigid air. The sunlight caught in the mist and in the golden grasses, and gleamed on the fresh snow. Hardly a breath of wind, not a disruptive sound. All was quiet, except for the quiet murmuring of the creek.
WEEK 3 – Technical – Full Manual.
Since I always shoot full manual, I had to decide which photo opportunity to use for this week’s challenge. (Well, last week’s challenge. I’m a little behind in posting.) Although it isn’t the greatest photo, I chose this picture of my uncle burning a slash pile, and then also had to throw in one of the actual pile – it looks so toasty. Last Sunday, we had enough snow cover that we were able to burn seven slash piles, a couple of them fairly good sized. I wasn’t there for the igniting of them, but I helped chuck later that afternoon – that is, consolidating the piles by “chucking” in the edges, after they have burned awhile. This reduces risk of the fire spreading by pulling in all the fuel from the edges, and also makes the burn more efficient with less leftover.
Nothing like playing with fire on a cold afternoon. And everyone who is available gets in on it, making for a productive and satisfying family afternoon. I love the heat, the work, the camaraderie, the snowy pine needles sizzling, the sparks whizzing up, the brilliance of the hot spots beneath the bigger logs, the smell of smoke, the soot. One of my favorite parts about living on a registered tree farm. Too bad burning doesn’t happen more often. Just plain fun.
And just like that the New Year was here, and 2017 became a memory. I can’t believe we are already 2 weeks into January! And it is way too easy for those memories of the previous year to be filed away and not fully appreciated. There are two things that I find helpful and edifying at the start of a new year. One is to look ahead with hope and optimism and make a list of goals for the year. The other is to look back over the last year and count the blessings. It is not our natural inclination, but it is so good for the heart and soul.
2017 was another year of changes or transitions. It seems that ever since I graduated highschool, life has been one transition after another. Just when I think I’ve settled in to a routine, things change dramatically. Highschool to the junior college, junior college to university, university to South Dakota, odd job to odd job, then starting a small business, and starting another small business, this to that, one wild idea to another wild idea. And God has been so good through it all. There has been fear involved, fear about what could happen, fear of failure, fear of looking like a fool – But God is God and I am not, and His plans will not fail. Mine might – So my businesses could tank. We’ll see. But His plans won’t. So if my businesses tank, then for some reason that is what God has planned for my good and His glory. (That said, I do hope they don’t tank.)
2017 was a year of adventures, some smaller, some bigger, and seeing new places. I can safely say I’ve never experienced a year with this many adventures or this much traveling! The biggest adventure, of course, was my Alaska and Yukon trip, and the joyous time spent with my extended family up there in the Last Frontier. On a number of smaller trips, I got to see Boulder, CO ( for a photography workshop), Bozeman, MT (for a Biblical counseling conference), and Douglas, WY (for the total eclipse), all three places I’d never been before, and Montana and Colorado states I’d never visited before. It is about time I visited my neighbors. The eclipse was, of course, a huge highlight – what a divine, majestic, wonderful event! What a testimony to God’s goodness, creativity, and power. And camping in the bed of my truck was just plain fun.
2017 was a year of growth and encouragement. My piano studio grew, which was a joy. Teaching is something I always adamantly said I’d never do, and ironically God is now using teaching piano to transition me out of full time work at the clinic to full time self employment – and He, amazingly, has given me a contentment, an enjoyment of it, and even a love of it. While I can say with some certainty that teaching is not what I want to do full time, or even long term, it is something that is useful, productive, and is allowing me to continue to think outside the box. And then photography – I had my first official clients in 2017, and did a number of portrait sessions for friends as well. Again, what a blessing to have found something I love that is able to provide some income! I am optimistic that this endeavor will continue to grow! I was also delighted to see an article of mine published in Country Magazine, another little boost of encouragement, for those times when I look at what I studied in college (music) and where I want to be or what I want to be doing (not music), and can get a little discouraged wondering what my options are, short of going back to school. I’m learning that I do have options – I just have to think outside the box.
2017 was also a year of admonitions and humbling. I was reminded again and again how much I need my Savior, and how little I often value Him, how often my attention is trapped by other things and my heart tries to put something else on the throne that belongs to Jesus Christ alone. While those are never comfortable facts to be confronted with, on the one hand, I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on me when my love for Him grows cold. Instead, He puts people and books and sermons and struggles in my way, to remind me, to admonish me, to humble me, and to draw me back towards Him.
I look forward to 2018 and the plans God has in store for this New Year.
WEEK 2 – Composition – Color Harmony. Winter coziness. A cup of hot tea and a good book. Nothing else is needed.
A lot is sacrificed for the sake of convenience. And certain conveniences, I’m more than happy to enjoy. For instance, a vehicle that runs and actually has heat in the winter (no air conditioning in the summer, I’m afraid) is a convenience I enjoy. And having a piano in my house rather than in the Miner’s Cabin, that’s a convenience I enjoy. Having quick access to hiking trails, that’s a convenience I enjoy. But I’m afraid that living close to town is not a convenience I enjoy. It isn’t a convenience I want to enjoy. And I am so thankful to God for having gifted me this opportunity to live in the place I love the most. This was my drive to Custer yesterday to teach piano. Highway 244 is scenic already, but with clouds and fog drifting in and out of the spires and trees, shrouding and uncovering the landscape, it had a feeling of mystery. It is a 45-minute drive that is never a chore. In moments like these, with views like these, with winding highways and granite spires lost in the fog and soaring views of valleys and further peaks, that I am drawn in thankfulness to the reality of God’s goodness. He created all of this beauty! He didn’t need to, there was no requirement that he do so, and yet he did. And I am so thankful for inconvenience. It would be convenient to live closer to a town, no doubt about it. It would be convenient if I tried to fit myself into a normal 9-5 job routine, rather than doing multiple things on a part-time basis. It would be convenient if I didn’t have to drive a minimum of 35 minutes one way to get to church or work or Bible study or the store. But how much I’d miss. How much I’d terribly miss.
WEEK 1 – Vision – Look Ahead.I look ahead at the beginning of this year, and I see a stretch of my road clearly, complete with all the challenges and hazards and beauty, and then the road disappears out of sight. It is intimidating on the one hand, but that is where the adventure starts. What happens next? I also look back at the old year and see things I want to fix, heart attitudes, habits, and disciplines that I want to mend, establish, or strengthen. So with optimism and faith, I turn my eyes back to the New Year, with trust in God’s grace to teach me what I need to be taught and to strengthen me for whatever trials He allows, and with confidence that God will work all things for my good and for His glory.