The one thing I love about the ocean, is the sunrise and sunset. Being on the East Coast, unfortunately we only get to see sunrises over the water. And we all know that along with a sunrise, means waking up early... But boy, is it worth it.
My family and I go to the beach practically every summer, and I don't usually relax and sleep in everyday that week--I get up for the sunrise. This year I lucked out, waking up to three of the most perfect sunrises I could've asked for. And of course, I took pictures of it! The first day I went picture crazy, the second day I had a plan of what additional pictures I needed to be satisfied, then by the third day I actually sat and enjoyed it (also taking some side pictures...). The sun popped up out of the horizon right at 6:20 a.m., where I sat and watched as a new day was beginning.
It was beautiful. God created it all. Which amazed me that one person could come up with something so beautiful and crazy and complex. Steve Maraboli says, "I love that this sunrise does not define itself by last night's sunset." I've always seen sunrises as a fresh start. No matter what has happened in your past, that does not define who you are today. It is never too late to begin a fresh start. Do no let the issues of yesterday, define you today. Nothing and nobody can define you. Lamentations 3:23 says, "His mercy is new every morning." God forgives us for our wrongs, so that we can start fresh. With that, He hopes we will then go into the world and shine His light onto others, so they can see His mercy through us.
As I sat there watching the sun fully rise above the horizon, a song popped into my head. Beautiful Things by Gungor. The chorus of the song goes "You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.", then in the background of the song, plays these lyrics "You make me new, You are making me new." All to be said, that as we watch the sunrise each morning, know that we don't have to live in our past mistakes or regrets. God didn't create us to be guilty and ashamed of who we are or what we've done. He created us to thrive and live our life to the fullest, proclaiming His name to the people around us.
He made beautiful things out of dust, like the sunrise and sunsets. He also created beautiful things out of us, so that we can live our lives in His image, reflecting His goodness. I may have lost a lot of sleep on vacation, but it was well worth it. Photographing God's creation is my favorite pass time.
Looking back at the date of my last post, compared to this post now, clearly it was a rough semester and I had no time to do anything but school! A lot happened this semester, and I can't do anything but thank God for it all.
In the beginning of the semester, my photography sessions died down, due to all the cold and snow. But I have a couple future line ups and current projects I'm working on, and spring photography is well underway!
So much has happened recently, I graduated with my associates degree, and I am currently in Texas for the Junior College National Track Championships. Of course, to get to Texas, we had to fly. I have only flown one other time in my life, so I was a little nervous stepping onto the plane. I had forgotten how beautiful it was flying. Of course, I was all about the pictures! Looking out the window and seeing the blanket of clouds, knowing that underneath the beauty I saw, was a dark and rainy scene to the people on the ground.
Lately, all we've had is rain. Cold, wind, wet. Anything you don't want to experience in May, is the weather we've had back home. When you look up at the sky, all you see is the ugliness of the gray clouds. But I had never thought about what it looks like above the gray clouds. Above it, is a bright blue sky, and white, puffy clouds. Beautiful.
It made me think about how things aren't always what they seem. It may be ugly and cold in our eyes, but if you break open the seam of the clouds the sun is shining and it is absolutely beautiful. Just because we experience ugly days on Earth, God has promised us beautiful and glorious days in heaven. When I'm up on that plane, and I see the beauty of being in too the clouds, I think about the promises God makes and how if we believe in Him, one day we will be up above the clouds, experiencing only beautiful days with the Lord. Don't let the ugly days get you down, have hope for the future and trust in Gods promises.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to do a 365 photo challenge. Everyday I take one picture, showing a piece of what I did that day. So far I've been very faithful to saving one photo a day, for each day. Doing this, reminds me of all the highlights I've had in each day of the year so far. It helps remind me of the things I'm most thankful for and the major blessings in my life. I cannot wait to look at all 365 photos at the end of the year and think about all the great things that occured.
We're almost half way through the year already... Are you happy with where you're at in life? If you're not, what can you do to not let the ugly days get you down? I pray that in the midst of our dreary spring season, that you find the break in the clouds and that you don't let the gray clouds bring you down.
I love going to my brother's games, because I get to take pictures the whole time! Yes,...I pay attention, but I'm usually focused on what I see through my lens. This season though, I’ve found myself getting caught up in the excitement of the game while he's playing. Since I end up not being focused on the pictures I’m taking, the shots I have of him shooting a basket or dunking the ball, are all the worst pictures. They're off center, out of focus or his whole body isn't in the frame. I can't stand that I do that, but I get so excited in the moment and I lose my focus through the lens.
This past month has been absolutely crazy. Long story short, after the holidays, I ventured out to Missouri for a Missions Conference. It was life changing, in multiple ways. But I won't go on about those stories! One night stuck out to me the most-- 16,000 people in an arena, holding candles, singing praise to the Lord. It was a moment, that as a photographer, I HAD to capture! It was so moving, I needed an image to remember it. I don't even think the picture comes close to justifying the feeling I had in that arena, but some things you just can't capture through a camera.
That week in Missouri helped me to refocus on God and listen to what He really wants for my life. It made me realize that sometimes we get caught up in the excitement (or stress) of life, which causes our focus to drift off to the side, as work to figure things out on our own. I had been so focused on thinking about what I wanted to do in life, that I kept forgetting that it is all about what God has planned for me. I needed to focus on what God wants for me, because His plan is the best plan.I can't do life on my own, so I trust in Him to guide me through.
Is there something you're holding onto that you are having trouble handing it over to God? Let Him take control, put Him in the focus of your life.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" Hebrews 12:2
Yesterday, I road out to a national battlefield where they were having an illumination ceremony, honoring all the soldiers that died, got wounded, or went missing on the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Of course, I saw it as a photography opportunity. During the day, local boy scouts and volunteers helped set up thousands of paper bags with candles in them. I watched as they set up those bags and lit them up, honoring those who risk their lives for all of us.
I've come to really enjoy visiting that battlefield on a regular basis. Its quiet and beautiful, a great place to just sit and reflect on the history. I have this spot that I enjoy going to, where you can see the mountains off in the distance, a big field beneath it, and two monuments from afar. Its peaceful, a nice thinking spot.
Everyone needs that kind of place, you know? You need that place you can go when you need a mental or physical break from life. Walking around, watching and listening to the little kids put up the luminaries was quite amusing. I looked up at one point to find two boys standing around a mini flame of a candle they knocked over. The next thing I heard was their scout leader saying, "Boy scouts are flammable, move!" Of course, I got a picture of the flame, because it looked cool and I now had a funny story behind it.
The luminaries were a reminder of how devastating that war was, and makes us all reflect on how thankful we should be that wars like that are not happening over here anymore. I go to the battlefield to escape the world, but back during the war, I don't think they would do the same. I guess you could say I feel God when I'm at the battlefield. He watched over that war, and he is still watching over us now.
Are you going through a battle in your life? Battles are hard to face alone. Bring all your struggles to God, and like the luminaries, God will shine through you, showing all the greatness that has come from your struggle.
Psalms 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Boy have I been busy lately! My photography gigs finally slowed down, so I can totally focus on school now. Among the business of life, a lot of things have happened in the past month, and I know God is at the center of it all.
When I take pictures of people, objects, or nature, there always has to be a focal point. Whether its a landscape shot, and you focus on the sun setting over the mountains or a photo of a family where the parents are faded in the background and the picture solely focuses on the kids-- there's always a focus. I always know what I'm focusing on through the lens, but I sometimes need to remind myself what I'm focusing on in life.
My church recently did a sermon series, called "I Am Second." The series showed us real life stories about people who had struggles in their lives, but turned their life around-- putting God first and themselves second. We spent six weeks talking about how God needs to be the center of our lives, and our selfishness should never get in the way of His plan. Lately, stuff in my life has happened that I just needed to pray to God for strength-- not for Him to change the circumstances in my life, but to give me the strength to be able to get through what He has called me to do. I decided to stop putting my wants and needs first, and trust in God's plan for my life. Living second. I really believe that is something everyone struggles with at some point. It is too easy to lose focus on what is important in our life.
I try everyday to put God at the center of every decision to make. (Keyword: try. No one is perfect). Even my minor decisions in life: what school to go to, what to major in, what career to take-- I always think about where my focus is in that decision. Am I totally focused on God when I decided who to date or where to go to school? I'm working on reminding myself to put God first. I want people to see God's light in me. I'm putting God as the focus of my lens.
I am second.
What's your favorite song? What do you think about when you listen to that song?
With any song I listen to, I feel as if pictures are constantly running through my mind. Like a slideshow of memories and moments that have significance to me. I have a lot of favorite songs, but at the moment there's one song in particular that I listen to every single time I get in the car, Long Live by For King and Country. Songs that talk about living life up and making the most of everything you're given, are the best kinds of songs. Motivating songs, inspirational songs, that tell us to live, love and laugh as much as possible. Pictures of crazy memories I have with my friends, or special moments on a family vacation come through my mind when I imagine how I live my life out myself. God gave me this amazing life with so many blessings, and I do not intend on wasting it. God calls us to be all we can be. It makes me think of another song by the same artist: "Love like I'm not scared, give when it's not fair. Live life for another, take time for a brother. Fight for the weak ones, speak out for freedom. Find faith in the battle, stand tall and above it all, fix my eyes on you."
I'm a tad obsessed with this band at the moment, and that's why this post isn't too much about photography. But it's a message I hope everyone can take in. Are you doing what is possible to encourage one another? Esther 4:14 says, "Perhaps this is the moment for in which you have been created." Is there someone in your life that needs your influence in their life? Are you going out there, doing and being all that you can do and all that you are? I pray God uses me to encourage, support and love on others in all I do. I love being crazy and living out the wonderful life I've been given.
I've been craving to take photos lately. So when an opportunity to take a family's photos came up, I took it immediately. But then I realized I needed new material...You see, I have this tendency to go back to the same location for photos. Sometimes I just find some really beautiful spots and I want to keep going back. So I started the search for a new hot spot, and I finally stumbled across this local county park, that was just the right little size for a simple photoshoot. I like to visit locations in person before I take any photos of people, so I can visualize how things will be done to assure that everything will go well. As my boyfriend and I walked through this little park, I got this sensation that the presence of God was there with me. A lot has gone on in my personal life lately-- a lot of prayers being sent up to God. In this moment, I watched the water fall off the dam, and I just prayed everything would be okay. I believe God walked with me through that park, to reassure me that even though he seems far, he is always there. I pray a lot, but my prayers never seem to be answered like I'd like them to be. (Doesn't that always seem to be the case?). But I need to learn that my life isn't revolved around my time, it revolves around God's time. It's all up to the big man. My life decisions, what career path to take, what relationships to keep-- all of it.
When I have a camera in my hand, I feel like there's literally no problem in the world. Do you have that one thing that just makes all your worries go away? Whether it's sports, drawing, singing, whatever. When you're doing what you love, nothing else matters. When I go take pictures, I forget about the worries I had earlier. God takes over. He gives me this moment of peace and fulfillment. He may not seem to answer my prayers quickly, but He sure makes His presence known. I need to remind myself, when the camera isn't in my hand, that God is in control and I should never worry. He will answer my prayers in His time.
I'm on the 3rd month of me having this insane feeling like God has this extraordinary plan for my life, but I have not discovered what it is or gotten any hints when it may happen. It's difficult to process. Being in college, my minds changes a lot with all the complicated life decisions I have to constantly make. But where is God in all of this? What is my life plan?
As a kid, people told me to do what I loved for the rest of my life. Then in high school, I was told to pick a career I could make a lot of money in. As time goes on, you grow up, reality kicks in and I have to be realistic.
If you had asked me in Elementary school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd tell you I'd be a photographer. Well, years ago I went to a College for Kids photography class and the instructor was very straight forward with my ten year old self. "It's a hobby. You could never make enough money off of this career to get you anywhere." Which I later found out he was right. The price of equipment is no where close to how much I'd make in profits. So, I realized I need to make money, not have fun.
It wasn't until I got to college when I finally said "screw it". I decided to explore my hobby more and put my photography to good use. I had a passion and I wasn't about to let it go to waste. Am I making a career out of it in the future? I'm not planning on it. But I sure am having a blast.
I strongly believe God puts these passions in our hearts that aren't meant to just sit there and be a nice day dream. I sometimes think of it as the concept of tithing. People claim they don't give their 10% each month because they cannot afford to. Alright. Well my family and I believe that BECAUSE we give our 10%, all our needs have been met. House, food, water, clothes, etc. We have never had money problems because we believe the Lord is faithful to those who give back to his work.
No matter what I major in, which college I go to, which career I chose, I believe if I am happy and doing God's work, the salary will not matter at all. Money isn't everything. Follow after God's heart and everything will fall into place. God will reward those who accept Him in their heart and follow Him. If I listen to His word, I trust everything will be alright.
I've decided to stop listening to the critics. If I major in management or marketing, I'll get my ideal business job, with a photography gig on the side. Or maybe I'll start my own business. Who knows. All I know is, God has control. I'll follow His will for my way and I could not be more excited to see where it leads.
~This picture here makes me think of the reverse cliché of looking out in the ocean and seeing endless possibilities. Not that there aren't endless possibilities, but sometimes I do not feel as if there are. So many decisions get thrown at me, I feel like there's a wall up. A wall where I cannot figure out what to do right or what might turn out wrong. Thankfully I know here's a calm part on the other side, I just need to wait to get to it.~
I've taken a lot if pictures lately. I'm wondering if this is healthy! The photos I've done in the past week have been all people, not so much my usual nature shots. I've been wanting to photograph a boy, because all my subjects are girls, and I knew I needed to change that. So i bribed my brother. I told him I'd take him to this great pizza place, if I got an hour of his time. (He's a teenager, give him food and he's putty in your hands). So we left the other morning for a beautiful riverside spot. Between all the shirt and shoe changes, pictures went well and we had a lot of fun doing it. I love making people laugh, and I especially try doing that during a photo shoot. What better picture to have than a natural, being yourself, laughing photo? Well my brother is not so dumb and would not fall for my jokes, but he chuckled to humor me. It was an enjoyable time and we spent the rest of the afternoon together, and having a blast.
My brother and I spend a lot of time together, not always voluntarily. We get along better when the parents aren't around, of course. So when I got to steal him away for the day and just hang out, it was great. Don't get me wrong, he still bugs me, but those moments really make me thankful I chose a brother over getting a dog when I was 4 years old. (Yes, I got the choice and still chose a baby brother...). I thank God for giving me someone who can be my sidekick when I don't want to face issues alone, or my parents alone. We have had our moments, but for the most part, we get along well now.
This post did not really have a deep meaning, or cool spiritual analogy, but I wanted to share the great time I had with my brother. (And document it, so that when he denies this, people will know the truth.)
The next day, I ended up having a mini photo shoot with my entire group of friends. Long story short, it was crazy and awesome. All the girls love being photographed, but the boys are just standing there waiting to go back to a house to get food and get out of their dressy clothing. My one friend and I love photography more than the rest, so we came up with pose ideas and different groupings for photos. We laughed more than anything else-- just having everyone together was a great time. Our pictures turned out great, the boys got some food, and we went back to play board games for the rest of the evening.
I am very blessed with the friends I have been given. Throughout all of high school, they stuck with me and now we are still going strong through college. The pictures we take each summer remind me of our bond between one another. There's 10 of us total, typically, and it can be hard to get everyone together now that we're older and busier. The moments we all get together are usually the ones we photograph the most, because we wanted to capture it all. My friends can always count on me to have some sort of camera on me... "Ashley, take this picture!", and the photo moments cause more laughter and more fun.
I love taking pictures. Each one just seems to tell a story about a memory or a person in it that is significant. God blessed me, beyond measure. I have some crazy people I am surrounded by, but I would not change a thing. Do you realize how blessed you are? Think about the people that mean the most to you, capture the moments with them. Remember it forever.
Lately, my thing has been to find new spots of nature to photograph. I love going to bodies of water-- the river, lakes and bay around home. It has been a mission for my boyfriend and I to find a bridge that crossed over the river. But not just any bridge. A railroad track bridge. There were two we found locally, so we traveled over to West Virginia to reach one of them. I was walking through a small trail that led to the tracks, and you could see a glimpse of the river from the trail. I noticed in the river were remains of a stone bridge that had once rested in the river. Eventually the bigger, steel bridge was built and the stone one was torn down. All that was left of the stone bridge was a few nubs from the leg of the bridge. I sat there staring at the nubs (not really sure why).
I got my bridge pictures, even though I'm pretty sure we were trespassing and not allowed there... As we stood there, I heard a ringing, and a few seconds later a train blasted through. (I had to run far away, because I was a baby about the train being so close.) I looked at the tracks after the train passed. I thought about how strong a bridge has to be to stand so tall, and be able to hold the massive train as it rolls through. The stone bridge must not have been able to handle it anymore. Eventually, trains are made bigger and heavier and the little stone bridge would not have been able to hold all the train brought on.
Life is like the train. Things keep getting put on our plate and we get weighed down and life gets heavier. As things get more complicated and stressful, we need a good support system-- the people we chose to surround ourselves with daily. If we don't have good support of our friends and family, it can be hard to get to where we need to go. We come to this stand still..."Should I cross over? Can I make it?". The only way to fix the problem seems to be to fix the structure we're leaning on. We can't cross the rocky bridge that is not stable enough to hold us up. Continuing to travel over a weak bridge will not get you where you need to go.
Ask yourself if it is time to fix the stone bridge and build a new, stronger one. To continue on your journey of life, you need to stop being in this stand still and get over the river. Just ask yourself how you're getting over it.
I love going out and exploring new places. Each new place holds history, value and importance. I believe God brings us to difference places to give us perspective on things. Is it time to build a new structure to continue on where you need to go?
Look around you.
Here's my blog!
I used to think Blogs were pointless, and nobody read them. That may still be the case! But I found reading people's blogs actually made an impact on me, so I wanted to do the same. I love photography, and a lot runs through my mind when I'm taking pictures, so I decided to share all my thoughts with you guys!