Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Africa Revisited

One year and one month ago, I was in Zambia, Africa.

Before I left, I was warned: Once you go to Africa, you will leave part of your heart there.

I wasn't so sure. I am an emotional person, yet at times I can have a very "get real" attitude.

Needless to say, I DID leave part of my heart there. A part of my heart that would someday like to go back. Fortunately, I was along as the team photographer, so a lot of my heart is shown through the images. I love to capture, and Africa and its people provided subjects that were packed with depth.

While there, our team was responsible for helping at the Lifesong for Orphans school. I can still remember the first day we walked there. We were a big group of white kids, and we stood out. As we journeyed the couple miles on the dirt roads, there were many Africans that walked alongside us. Seeing others walk on the street was as common as seeing cars drive on the streets of America. It was a culture shock.

As we neared the school, several beautiful kids ran up and grabbed our hands. All we had to do was look at them with love and they trusted us. Their hands slipped into ours, and we made the rest of the walk together, hand-in-hand.

Over the next week, we had the opportunity to meet and spend time with children starved for love. A lot of these children only had one parent or no parents at all, so lived with friends or other family. Most only ate 2 meals a day, both of which were provided at school.

All you have to do is look at the pictures to see into the heart of these kids. Jesus loves all the children of the world, and these precious souls in Africa are not forgotten. I have included a selection of favorites from my trip last year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Heart Day

Happy Valentine's Day 2011... to me. The 25th year in a row that I celebrate the day of love without a bouquet of pretty flowers or a dinner date with my significant other.

But you can't miss what you never had, right?

Today I was thinking about what this day is really about. It's about love... and I thought of love in my life. I thought about how, even when I do find "romantic" love someday, that won't change my First Love. I don't say that to be cheesy... it's just the simple truth. God will always come first in my life, and relying on Him will be the only way I am fulfilled. That is Truth whether I am single, married, with or without children, or widowed. I learned a long time ago that if I can't find contentment in that promise, then I won't ever be content.

God has dished me out an extra serving of grace lately. And especially today! I found myself brightly happy... and not just the kind where you wear a smile on your face but battle inner turmoil. This was true joy. True joy that came as I handed a bouquet of beautiful flowers to my friend and business partner that were delivered to our studio from her husband. True joy that came as I read a FB status of one of my newly married friends: "My husband is the best thing that has happened to me since Jesus Christ." True joy that came as I walked into Culver's tonight all by myself to grab a dinner "to go."

True joy comes in the truly joyful times, but the beauty of true joy is that it can also survive on the cloudiest day, the lousiest week, or the saddest moment.

Tonight, I climbed into my car and was marveling at God's grace and His hand of calming peace in my life. As I did so, I set my bag of dinner on the passenger seat and turned my car on. Immediately, these words drifted into my ears from the car radio, "Many young single people become impatient waiting for the "perfect match." They spend so much time searching for the "right one," when what they should be doing is living like "the right one." Our utmost goal in life is to glorify God with our lives, and be the best we can be. In being obedient and living this way, we are on the right track. This doesn't mean you hide from the world-- you have to put yourself out there-- but instead of making your goal to be the pursuit of the "right one"-- just be the right one."

I am obviously paraphrasing, but it was refreshing to hear those words. He also talked about patience and waiting on God's perfect timing.

A little bit later, I had small group. I love my group-- I am the youngest one by a long shot, but I love it. We are currently studying the book of James, and the subject of God's solid, unchanging character was brought up. We talked about the verse, "Be still, and know that I am God."

So hard to do in today's world... but so important. How can we hear God or know God without this important action?

It's always easier to be doing something, and it's always easier to trust in someone or something else.

"Be still, and know that I am God."

An awesome Truth from our God of Love!

Love you all,


Friday, February 11, 2011

This Makes 12!

For those of you who are not on Facebook, this post may be a bit delayed. For that, I apologize!

Anyway, last Wednesday evening, I became an aunt of 12. That's right-- a dozen nieces and nephews.

I got the call around noon.

"Well, we're going to the hospital," my mom announced excitedly.

"Really? Well, keep me posted," I told her, thinking it would likely be awhile. After my last sister's baby, I knew that labor can sometimes take hours... days, even.

I spent the afternoon at work, and then went to pick up my sister-in-law at her house around 5pm to head over to the hospital. My mom and other sister had been there all day, serving as cheerleaders to Tonya.

By the time we arrived, things had progressed. Tonya was definitely a bit more uncomfortable, and her contractions were taking her somewhere. Her midwife was continually monitoring her status and would tell us. As it got closer, I stepped outside of the room to call my dad. He had a previous appointment but had not yet arrived, and we knew it would be soon.

"Dad," I said when he answered, "You need to get here. It's going to be anytime now."

No sooner had I hung up, and a nurse came flying out of the room in a panic.

"Get everything! NOW!" she was saying.

Bewildered, I looked into the room. Melissa was standing there, motioning for me to come in.

I thought back to my other sister's last pregnancy, and how I had stood outside in the hallway and listened. It sounded terrifying... and painful. I didn't know if it was something I could hear again, much less witness in person.

However, after overcoming my initial fears, I strode forward into the room and stood near the back with Melissa.

Tasha, my mom, and Brad were all up with Tonya, as well as a team of others-- the midwife, several nurses, etc. to help deliver.

I must say, watching this was so neat. A lot of people witness a birth and are grossed out. I have a tendency to be squeamish around too much blood and gore, but this was so far beyond that... it was the witness of a miracle! It was truly an amazing experience. Brad was able to help deliver little Liam as he breathed his first breaths.

Halfway into it, I snapped out of my trance and remembered that I was a photographer. I tried to inch my way up and capture this as best I could. I was able to get some really special first-moment shots of everyone seeing this precious baby boy for the first time.

They told me that I had a choice: I can have 2 children, or 6. Tate & Melissa had 3, Tonya & Brad have 4, and Tasha & Tom have 5. That leaves me with 2 or 6.

"I'll have 2," I told them.

But who knows what the future will bring?

I have now officially watched someone leave this life and die right in front of my very eyes, as well as see someone take his first breaths of this life. Two totally different experiences, but each extraordinary in their own way.

It reminds me of how truly powerful God is... He weaves us together in the uttermost parts of the Earth before we are born, and we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. And in the end of our life, when we can breathe our last breath with the assurance of Heaven, what a hope that instills in everyone involved.

Love you all!


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Life Goal #1 & #2

A couple of random pictures I will share. Neither have anything to do w/today's post other than that they are random. I found them both in old picture archives. One was taken and edited a couple of years ago (house), while the other is a raw image file I found and edited tonight (candle).

The house one I just liked. It originally had the word "maison" (means "house" in French) in bright yellow words that sat along the angle of the roof, but I removed it. I liked the juxtaposition of the bright, Hollywood-like letters against the vintage-texture background, yet it felt too loud.

The candle picture, I remember snapping it right after I blew it out w/the intent of catching the smoke. It reminds me of the verse in the Bible that says our lives are but a vapor... so short and temporary. If you will humor me w/the analogy... our lives are like a lovely "fresh linen" or "cinnamon apple pie" scent that fills a room and warms it, affecting the space we fill, but just as quickly is blown out, leaving behind a faint scent of what used to be and no longer is.

I have a little notebook. It has a burnt orange leather-texture cover. My mom gave it to me for Christmas a few years back. On the front page, I signed my name in the upper left corner (in all lowercase) and on the center of the page I wrote:

"my little Book of thoughts, prayers, goals, scribbles, imaginations, and Life"
Dec. 2006 -

It is nowhere near finished so an end date is not listed. I love it. In it, random pages are filled with random contents, all of which reflect the description above in some way, shape, or form.

The best part about this book is that there is no order. There is no method to my madness. I simply open it up to a blank page somewhere in the book and fill it as I see fit. To some of you, this sounds utterly chaotic and unorganized. To me, it is truly freeing.

I love flipping through and finding random treasures hidden among a bunch of blank pages... something I didn't realize that I wrote, or something that I knew I did, but forgot about.

Among some of the content reads my "Life Goals." In no particular order, I started to list them. There is something interesting that happened when I started to write these... likely around 2-3 years ago. I'll extract my writing so you can see it:

"Life Goal #1- write & publish a book

1/14/07- I decided today that if I ever go on and get my Master's (degree), it will be in psychology specializing in personality so that I can counsel couples and friends in relationships.

Life Goal #2- write & publish a book
*It's interesting that I didn't realize that this is the exact same goal as #1!

Life Goal #3- Purchase a green Volkswagen Beetle. (or a mini cooper)."

From there, I have more life goals listed in which I won't share for now. What I really wanted to point out was how #1 & #2 are exactly the same goal, and I didn't even realize that I wrote it twice in a row, probably because I wrote them at different times. They were also separated by my random thought of obtaining a Master's degree in Psychology. As I look back on that now, I remember a time that I was preoccupied with that field, and I still count it and "personality types" among one of my biggest hobbies. I LOVE reading books on the topic and discussing it with anyone who will listen, and I've even been known to "personality type" people on the spot when I meet them. So it would seem as though I do fulfill this goal in a very small capacity, regardless of whether I am qualified or not! I have come to realize that this is best suited as a passion and hobby rather than a life path.

Also, I had to throw in Life Goal #3 to show that one of my goals has, indeed, been accomplished!

Anyway, about Life Goal #1 (and #2). I was at the gym a few days ago when an older lady who goes to our church approached me.

"Taryn," she said, "I think you should be... you know, those people who write. You take great pictures, but I just love how you write."

"You mean... an author?" I asked.

"YES! An author."

I smiled. "Why do you say that... did you read my blog?"

"Well, it was pulled up the other day and I was reading it, so I think you should write something."

I didn't tell her that I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil in my hand, or that I used to write and illustrate books in my free time at school. I didn't tell her that my one love and passion in life, in addition to capturing images, is to write stories, to write about life, to write about what happens. I didn't tell her that writing to me is like therapy, and without it I wouldn't be the same. I didn't tell her that I have countless poems and short stories started and not finished, or completed but not used. I didn't tell her about my Life Goals #1 & #2.

I just smiled, and was flattered.

I told my cousin today that I really do want to write a book, but it probably won't happen until I'm in my 40s.

"More of like a mid-life crisis project," I told her.

"Would it be fiction or non-fiction?" she asked.

"Fiction," I told her. "Non-fiction takes too much research. Although... so does fiction."

"Fiction based on non-fiction?" she asked with a clever smile.

"Yes, realistic fiction," I told her.

"Like Anne (of Green Gables) did... how she wrote about Avonlea. About her life, but a story."


And the way I see it, I'll have to wait until I'm older until I have enough life experience, wisdom, stories, and insight to share. These days, that isn't feeling so far off. It's not that I wouldn't love to write a story now, but I just don't feel ready. Besides, my passion and calling now is photography and my business, and there is a large amount of writing that I get to tie in there. Not counting my personal blogging and what-not :)

Anyway, my main goal in writing and publishing a book is to do it for the glory of God. I don't necessarily think I'll write a sermon or a bible study, but I do want it to be powerful and effective spiritually. I trust the Lord will give me the wisdom to do that, and nudge me when the time is right!

Love you all,


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Blizzard 2011

The Good News: the groundhog didn't see his shadow, meaning Spring is near. The Bad News: The groundhog is only right 38% of the time. It's been awhile since I was in school, but I do remember that this percentage is nowhere near successful.

Another piece of trivia: Central IL was hit with Blizzard 2011 last night. Last night began with me getting called into work 3 hours early. This was initially arranged so that the 2nd shift staff could get home in the horrific weather, but after she spent 20 minutes in the driveway trying to dig out her car, she came back inside and told us she was also staying the night. So my house had 2 third shifters last night.

We awoke at 6am and turned on the news. We had several inches of snow on the ground, and no one was getting anywhere. First shift called and obviously couldn't make it in right away, so I stuck around to help her out until about 8:30 when my dad finally got our vehicle out of our driveway and came to pick me up.

Upon arriving home, my parents and I ate blueberry-banana pancakes and then I bundled up to go outside and help shovel the driveway. After an hour, my cheeks were bright red and chapped. The very last thing I did was try to uncover my little car from the drifted snow. I gave up halfway through and let my dad finish the job.

The rest of my day included a hot bubble bath, work from home on my laptop, and watching sappy Disney movies on TV while pining after the acting career I never had.

Sometimes, I feel like I should have been an actress/singer. Not that I can do either one, but something within me calls to do it. Strange, eh? However, showbiz is one career in which it is hard to be much of a Christian witness. And besides, while entertainment is... well, entertaining, it is merely just that. Not a very profitable use of our time, so why endorse it with my life path? I think I'm satisfied with my line of work... capturing memories that will live on in timelessness.

Anyway, snow day 2011 is ending well. We're having my sister's family and kids over for pork roast tonight, and will try to find out some way for her to get rolling with her baby. She is due to have her little boy within the next few weeks and is progressing quickly. I told her tonight would be an excellent choice... the roads are more clear, and I'm off work! My presence is definitely required at the hospital since I'm the family photographer.

Well, that's a wrap. Enjoy the pic. Love you all! Stay warm...