Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Year in Pictures: 2011

As the year winds to a close, I love to take a look back and remember the people, places and celebrations that have made life so amazing! Here is a visual trip down memory lane...


The past year and a half or so, I have been doing a ton of photo shoots for practice, fun, and now, my business. For Christmas 2010, I received a new lens for my Canon Rebel and was eager to try it out. The young lady in this photo is "Artemis", an enthusiastic and motivated model who has collaborated with me on many of shoots. For this shoot in particular, I borrowed multiple outfits from a Bay area boutique so that we could do our first fashion shoot together. Everything was going well until I realized I locked my keys in the car... while waiting for AAA to arrive, we decided to snap a few closeups! The rest of the day went on without further incident. We ended up shooting five outfits in six hours, in forty degree weather. Artemis never complained once! Did I mention she was enthusiastic (and possibly Alaskan)?


In February, I was lucky enough to be one of the photographers at Sacramento Fashion Week. The event was one of my highlights of the year! I met so many talented people and got to enjoy the glamor of runway designer fashion, up close and personal. This shot was taken backstage on the first night. Models everywhere were getting their hair and makeup done, touchups, getting fitted, dressed and donning their accessories. You'd be surprised how many were actually sewn into their garments, a la Olivia Newton John in Grease! And yes, for some that meant having butterflies sewn onto them. One of the side benefits of hanging with the models is picking up tips such as "to keep from falling down on the runway, spray hairspray on the bottom of your nylons so that your feet don't slip in your shoes." And now you know.


At the end of March, Gary and I kicked off the start of camping season and headed to Mendocino for a glorious get away weekend. The California coast is truly one of the natural treasures of the world! Gary and I both find our time in nature to be so refreshing, enjoyable and encouraging.


This is one of my favorite shots from a photo shoot with an aspiring model / musician named Jvion. I can be a bit apprehensive about shooting with male models, as (being a girl, myself) I don't feel I can provide much direction or insight about how to look manly in a photo! Maybe I should take up reading men's fashion magazines??? No worries with Jvion. He has a great personality and always has lots of ideas to incorporate into a photo shoot, including his experience in martial arts.


This image is from my first shoot with an agency model, Brian Francis from City Model Management, at the Vizcaya in downtown Sacramento. Have I mentioned that my year was full of photo shoots?


This bunch of special folks is the first small group that Gary and I participated in at Gateway Fellowship, before launching the one that we now lead. We were celebrating the very special occasion of Jim's 96th birthday! Jim is one of those people that within a short time became one of my favorite people in the whole world. I'm looking forward to celebrating his #97!


In July, I participated in a photo shoot at The Old Sugar Mill, a unique place in the Sacramento area. I snapped this pic which was eventually published in N Magazine as a finalist in their annual photo contest.


In August, we hosted a reunion BBQ for our friends from Jacob's Well, the special church plant that ran a couple of years when we first married and moved to Sacramento. This picture is us with a few of the youth that must have been about 11 or 12 when we started up the youth group back in the day! What a blessing to see them blossoming into amazing young adults.


On September 3rd, 2011, dreams came true when Gary's brother (known to many of you as "Bonus") married his sweetheart, Liz. I can't imagine a better, more well suited person for Bonus to spend his life with, and I am thrilled to call Liz not only friend, but sister!


Yep, our little Shih Tzu Billy is still amusing us with his antics. He's ancient now (11? 12?) but still finding new perches from which to observe the world around him. Life's tough when you're only eight inches tall! I usually find him curled up on some kind of cushion/blanket/pillow, but on this day in October he showed off a new preferred role: centerpiece!


We hosted Thanksgiving in Sacramento this year, and part of the weekend festivities were devoted to the creation of an application video to the Amazing Race! My husband and mother are hoping to take part as the first "in-law" team on the show! Wouldn't that be something? Keep your eyes peeled as they may be racing by you any day now!


Many thanks to my good friend Wendy St. Clair for taking some great portrait shots of Gary and I! Due to Gary and I both getting sick in December, we weren't able to get picture cards made up for family and friends, but now you can enjoy our cuteness right here on the blog! We've been married twelve and a half years now, and are just as in love as ever!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Joy in Praying for Others

You’re making your way through the church lobby after a Sunday worship service when you see someone you know coming though the crowd in your direction. After you greet one another, your friend says, “I was hoping I’d catch you. I have a prayer request I want to share with you.”

What’s your reaction in that moment?

“Alright! It’s an opportunity to lift up someone’s need in prayer! This so totally ROCKS!”


“My prayer list is already too long… Let’s see if this request is important enough to make the cut.”


“I really care about this person, but I’m so busy right now. I really wish they’d have asked somebody else.”

Or if you’re like me…

“I hope I remember this later!”

If we were to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, our reaction would be closest to the first of these, as silly as it may sound. Paul found great joy in praying for others, asking God to intervene in their lives in order to accomplish His purposes. Take a look at Philippians 1:4-8.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Paul was a prisoner, and yet his affection for his brothers and sisters living in Philippi was so great that it brought him joy to pray for them. This joy certainly didn’t come from his circumstances. So from where did it come?

1. Joy in their shared history – Paul had been through hard things with these people. In Acts 16, we read about how Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi. As the two missionaries were being run out of town by the magistrates, they visited the fledgling house church there one last time. That church was the one Paul later wrote these words to, once again jailed for the sake of the gospel. Paul honored their history together by praying for them with joy.

2. Joy in their shared standing in Christ – Paul recognized that these people he was praying for weren’t just any people. They belonged to the household of God, beloved children of the Almighty, co-heirs with Jesus Christ! He knew that God was at work in their lives, and that God would carry that work to completion. He knew they shared in God’s grace – with him. They were beloved just as he was beloved. What a joy it is to know that others experience the love of God just as I do! What a bond we share!

3. Joy in God’s love for them – Paul longed for these people “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” He was able to see them from God’s point of view. Shouldn’t we, as God’s people, care about the things God cares about? God takes joy in answering the prayers of His people. Should we not also take joy in lifting their prayer needs to God?

And so, I am convicted. I want to be more like Paul in this, finding joy in lifting the needs of my brothers and sisters to our Father. I want to pray as Paul prayed, that their love would abound more and more, that they would have knowledge and discernment, and that they would remain pure and blameless until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:9-11).

Speaking of which, do you ever notice that when Paul prays for people, he never prays that they would find relief from their bunions, find a new job, or get along better with their sister? He always prays for things like “abounding love,” “depth of insight,” and “the fruit of righteousness.” I wonder if we prayed these things for one another how it might change our level of excitement about praying for others. I wonder how it might change our lives…

But that’s another post for another time. For now, let us pray for one another with all joy!

Now, remind me again what you wanted prayer for...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Are You Writing?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

-- Hebrews 10:24-25
I’m writing this because a thirteen-year-old called my cell phone at ten o’clock last night. Had he not done so, I would surely be doing something else. But he called. So, here I am.

This requires some explanation. Let me back up.

Several weeks ago, following a sermon on investing in eternal things, my Ever-Lovin’ Wife (ELW) led our small group in a prayer exercise.
We were to ask God if there was something He wanted us to invest in, either with our time or our money, and then to listen for His response. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and began to pray silently.

Instantly, I knew what God wanted me to do.
He wanted me to write. Devotionals, blogging, curriculum, sermons…my books. He wanted me to invest in writing for Him.

I felt anxious, agitated.
“But God,” I replied, “I don’t have time to write. If I were to do that, I’d have to give up some of my relaxation time. I’d have to watch less TV! You know how much TV means to me!”

Looking back on it, this reply seems somewhat childish and awfully silly.
But in that moment, it seemed true. I had been convicted by the Holy Spirit to do something that I had no desire to do, and I felt angry that God would even ask. By God’s grace, I shared this experience with my small group and asked them to pray that God would change my heart.

Weeks went by, and despite my small group community’s prayers and encouragement, still no writing.
But I could sense God softening my heart toward the idea. I went from loathing at the thought of it, to begrudging acceptance that it was a good idea, to some sort of vaguely eager anticipation of it. I even came up with a plan for how writing might occur. Each night after putting ELW to bed (I’m still tucking her in after twelve years of marriage), I would spend the next hour writing. It was specific, measurable, and not overly ambitious. In other words, it was perfect.

Except for one thing.
I didn’t do it.

Enter my thirteen-year-old friend, Tyler Crane.
Tyler is in the 8th grade guys small group that I lead at church. Last weekend several folks from our youth group, including Tyler and me, attended a local Summer Camp in the foothills. There, we heard a message on Ephesians 5:15-16 about making the most of the short time we have on earth, spending it doing things with eternal ramifications. Again, God brought my writing to mind. I mentioned this conviction with my 8th grade guys, both during our car ride home and at youth group this week, in an effort to model transparency. But God had more in store.

After youth group, Tyler came up to me and said, “So, your plan is to write after your wife goes to bed each night?”

“That’s right,” I said.

“So, what time does she go to bed?"

“Oh, between 9:30 and 9:45 I suppose.”

"So…if I called you at 10:00, you should be writing when I called, right?”

I hesitated.
I could see where this was going. “Yeah, I guess that’s right.”

I’ll call you tonight.”

And he did.
At 10pm. On the dot.

I answered, “Hi, Tyler.”

Three words came back in response: “Are you writing?”

That was last night.
I did write last night, though I was working on a Seminary project, and as my wonderful ELW reminded me this evening, God did not tell me He wants me to invest more time in getting my homework done.

And so tonight, I’m writing this.

I’m writing this to say that I now have a real life example of what the author of Hebrews means when he commands us to “spur one another on.”
Spurring is aggressive encouragement. Help that can’t be ignored. A ten o’clock phone call to find out if you’re writing. That’s being spurred on. That’s love.

I’m writing this to say that while God filled the powder keg of inspiration and conviction that has led me to write, it was Tyler Crane who lit the match.
(Tonight, I was three paragraphs in when he called. I don’t know what I’ll be in the midst of tomorrow night, but I know I’ll be writing something!)

I’m writing this to ask you if someone in your life needs this kind of spurring on.
Maybe you need it yourself. For me, being spurred on is a nightly phone call and a simple question. What would it look like for you, or for the ones you love?

Because, if we’re honest, we all have times in our lives when what we really need is for someone to call us and ask, “Are you writing?”

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Enough is Enough

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Luke 3:10-11

Brad led a dorm bible study that I attended during my first year in college. He shared a house just off campus with a few other Christian guys, and he and his housemates ministered to many of the neighborhood’s homeless men. After several months of doing this, it became known in the homeless community that Brad’s house was a place you could go for help.

One chilly winter night, a homeless man showed up on Brad’s doorstep asking if the guys might have a blanket to spare, since he had nothing to shield him from the night air. Brad and his housemates searched the house, but they had given away all of the spare blankets they usually kept on hand for such occasions. In fact, there was only one spare blanket in the whole house: Brad’s childhood blanket, affectionately known as Brad’s "binkie."

Brad had loved his binkie as long as he could remember. He had grown up with it. His binkie had brought him comfort as a child, and even now as a young adult, it still stirred fond memories in his heart.

But that night, someone needed his binkie more than he did.

Brad carried his binkie to the front door, gave it one last hug, and handed it to the homeless man on the porch.

How much do you need to have before you have enough to share with others? According to John the Baptist, if you own two outfits, you’re ready to start giving!

For most of us, this standard seems unachievable. We are much more likely to hold our possessions with a clutching claw rather than with an open palm. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we can learn to trust God with our possessions, even when that means giving them away.

Even when it means giving away our binkie.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spring, v. 2.0

For Christmas this past year, the one thing I reeeeealllly wanted was a new lens for my Canon D-SLR. Specifically, the 50 mm 1.8 prime lens. (I know this probably won't mean anything except to other photographers) Fortunately, Santa was kind enough to hear my shameless hint-dropping! Now that spring has dropped in to California for a sneak preview, I was excited to get to "get to know" my new lens and have some fun with the shallow depth of field. So without further ado, I bring you, "My front yard, at f/2.0"