Faithfully thinking: I may not think, speak or do things like you but God can still use me

“To be honest, I don’t know why I even write anymore,” I thought to myself one morning. “I don’t know much about anything and I’m full of very little wisdom. I’m a mom and a wife and I take photos for myself and that’s about it. I’ve never written a book, I don’t have a thriving business and last school year I was called a bad parent and it makes me try too hard at this blasted homeschooling thing.”

Cleaning the house? Don’t get me started. Actually, if you did get me started I would be completely overwhelmed and would end up in a fetal position crying and still nothing would get cleaned.

Cooking? I try my best but I often find myself imagining that cardboard with salt would taste better than my dinners.

Parenting? Last week my daughter bit her brother in the shoulder because he was sitting in the chair she wanted and my son is addicted to Minecraft. I have a huge “Fear of Missing Out ” (FOMO) problem but it’s mainly focused on my children because I already know I’m missing out and I’m so tired every single day of my life I don’t even care.

In other words, I’m a mess, or so I feel most days.

My one comfort is knowing I’m not alone, that I may be a train wreck but somewhere in this world there is another mom in another house feeling as inadequate as me.

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And despite how we feel, the truth is we are loved, we are worthy and we can be used by God even when others have written us off. I express doubts often and recently, after three weeks of trials stacked one on top of another on top of our family, I tossed out a few words of doubt on Facebook about whether or not God even cares for us.

I received an admonishment from a fellow Christian who told me: “Repent of your thinking” because nothing comforts a person dealing with trials by telling them they’re falling short in their Christian walk.

Those scolding comments are something that tends to make me pause and decide I’m not worthy to talk about faith or Christ, wonder why I even thought I should, and lead me to withdrawal within myself and vow to keep my inferior opinions to myself. The truth is, though, we are all on our own journey and on that journey we are going to stumble more than once.

DSC_5409Maybe God can use me even if I have doubts and I express them and I say things that don’t fit your idea of what a “good Christian girl” should say or should be. Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Those comments that don’t sound “Biblical” to you or don’t fit your personal narrative, those comments I throw out there in a moment of frustration or under the heavy burden of trial after trial after trial in a short amount of time, don’t dismiss me from God’s list of people who can be used for His Kingdom.

As I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a recent sermon: “There is nothing wrong with you that isn’t right with God.”

If you’re like me and feel your imperfect attitude disqualifies you from speaking your feelings about faith and God, let’s remind each other God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and maybe what some of us are called to do is let our messy moments show so others know they’re not alone.

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Five places to capture memorable photos of your children

DSC_3155You’re thinking to yourself right now – I’m sure you are – that your house is too dark for photos of your children and that your flash is unflattering and makes your children look albino (which isn’t bad if you are an actual albino, of course.)

So, where can you take photographs of your children that you will cherish for years to come if you don’t believe you can take them at home? (And actually you can take them at home and I’ll tell you how in my next post.)

There is nothing better than being able to distract your child, and maybe even you, with something fun so you can photograph them while they are in action and you are all relaxed. Here are five ideas where to take your children for some photographs of them that you will want to frame and put on your wall or print out to place in your scrapbooks.

1) A local playground. Here is the key about taking photographs of your children at the local playground: don’t try to pose them. In fact, not trying to pose them anywhere is probably the biggest key to child photography. Strict posing of young children often results in disaster and that disaster usually includes tears. Sometimes tears are acceptable for photographs, if you want to capture the emotion of the moment, but minimizing them is always desirable.

If you want photographs of your children as they really are, let them play and photograph them as they play, whether that’s getting messy in the mud or sliding down the slide. Are you looking for a photograph of them looking right at the camera? Well, then get that camera ready because without a doubt they’re going to need mommy or daddy at some point and they are going to turn and look for you and, consequently right at you. And if they don’t? Calling their name once or twice will, sometimes, result in them turning their face toward you. The moment they turn is when you snap the photo you want because as all parents know, asking for them to stop and pose for you may result in cheesy smiles or, worse yet, shakes of the head.

 

2) A hiking trail.

Not only are you all exploring and experiencing nature but the natural backgrounds and soft lighting created on many hiking trails is the perfect setting for memorable images of your children. If you’re a homeschooling parent, and even if you’re not, you can also make the excursion an educational one by learning more about the plants and trees and animals you encounter.

A couple tips: make sure to protect yourselves from ticks (as Lyme Disease carrying ticks are very prevalent in many areas of the United States, especially Pennsylvania and especially in 2018.); wear protection from the sun; bring water, a snack and a first aid kit; and read up on what those poisonous plants, like poison ivy and oak, and poisonous snakes look like!

One other tip for hiking trails: expect a mess at some point so try to grab your photographs early in the hike if you’re looking for photographs of “clean” children. I have no concept of a “clean child” in my family so this one isn’t a concern for me, luckily, and I just roll with the mud and the wet moments that are sure to occur.

_DSC08493) Museums.

Your local, or even not so local, museum is a great place to learn about history or art and photograph your children. Not only can a museum provide dynamic and interesting backgrounds but it can also provide faces looking up at paintings (great lighting and a good look at the face for the scrapbooks), colorful backgrounds and children engaged in hands on learning experiences.

Visiting a local museum is also a great way to support local art, history, science, whatever the museum features. Tip: be sure to double check for any signs that might prohibit photography in certain areas and again, like other excursions, take snacks (if they are allowed) to be sure you aren’t stuck with photographing hunger-induced meltdowns.

 

4) Small fairs or art shows.

Almost everything about a small, community fair or art show lends itself to stellar photographs of your children that capture their true personalities. There are rides (laughing faces), games (winning faces), food (messy faces), and sometimes animals (sweet faces). Yes, you may have noticed a theme in that previous sentence because capturing the face of your child is what this is all about after all.

As is the case in other locations, be sure to watch your backgrounds so you don’t end up with the creepy looking dude at the fair standing in the background of the smiling image of your little one.

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5) Ice cream stand.

Nothing makes a kid happier than dairy and sugar, unless, of course they are lactose intolerant. Actually, in all seriousness, my son is lactose intolerant and he takes enzymes that allow him to digest dairy, so the lactose intolerant still can enjoy a trip to the ice cream stand and you can photograph your children while they are in one place, slightly confined and entranced by their frozen treat. Fun images to capture are their ice cream mustaches and their first few licks when the ice cream is bigger than their head.

Bonus: if the ice cream stand has a miniature golf course with it! Even more fun photos can be taken while they play through the course a couple of times.

A couple closing thoughts to keep in mind before you head out the door for photographs with your children:

– make sure your camera battery is not only charged, but in the camera.

– make sure your digital camera has a memory card.

– If you are using a phone, make sure you have a full battery charge or bring a car charger with you.

– try to get yourself in a couple of the photographs so your children know you were there too.

And last, don’t worry if your child doesn’t look at the camera in every photograph. Photographs of children not looking at a camera but still having a good time, laughing or loving each other will still provide great memories for them and their family as they grow.

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Windy, your ears are freezing

 Sometimes my dad writes little stories about growing up. That’s when I realize I must have got the storytelling bug from him.

This is something he shared this week on Facebook.

Story, photos and captions by Ronnie Robinson.

”Windy, Your Ears Are Freezing”

It was a calm but frosty minus zero morning; one of those mornings you could see particles of frost glisten in the air as the sun arose. Windy and I met each other at the Laddsburg Pond Bridge. It is the coldest spot in Laddsburg. It was one of those days that was just too cold for Willis Howell’s school bus to start.

Windy, full name Harold Wandell, was a foster child who homed with the loving Effie and Stalwart Carl Norris. He had walked the mile down from the top of the hill. Not much communication in those days and I don’t know if they had a phone but neighbors just met-up. We were there to wait for the bus that did not come.

Windy was one of the older boys that would help put the chains on the bus when it would get stuck in a snow drift. That would be a 20 min delay. But a frozen up bus or bad storm could be a 2 hour delay or a no show at all. Some times we would pile up in Willis’s station-wagon for the first part of the route, then go to his place and see if the bus would start so as to pick up the remaining students for the trip to the high school.  Windy never wore a hat to school. The top of his ears were starting to turn white and I said “Windy I think your ears are freezing”. Then we made our way to New Albany.

 photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.

I don’t recall walking or running or how but I remember us being there and then getting a ride to Wyalusing in a milk truck that was picking up milk from the platform at the bottom of Dempsey Hill. You see, we were not that loyal to school but there was to be a WVHS Rams wrestling meet that day and we were on that team.

Another event I remember well was: “The After School Blizzard.” Mary,Mary Inez Corson and I got of the school bus one blistery evening to walk the two  mile (well not quite, it was a quarter mile)  up the dirt road to my place. My parents lived there too. The wind was fierce and cutting. It was difficult to see. It was blowing frozen sheets  and chunks of icy frozen snow from the fields.The  previous snows had melted from the sun shine and then refroze. They were now breaking up and air-born in the strong wind. I think the drifts were making it more difficult also, but the blowing ice and the snow is what I remember most. We had to shield our face from getting hit by them. I was about thirteen then and I felt so manly proud because finally I was able to be ahead of my adventurous mentor and surrogate sister. I walked backward some and I could see her still walking.

 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.

Thinking back on this now with a touch of shame I realize it would have been more manly-mature of me to help her.

She may have been wearing a skirt. Girls in that day wore skirts. Sometimes they carried snow pants with them. Also being a good student she may have been carrying books. I don’t remember anything after getting to my home. Mary had to walk the five hundred more yards to her home.

Mary, my forever friend, died suddenly at the age of 56. She donated her body to science. She lived in Texas with her husband. My wife Carolyn and I spoke with her when she and her husband were in Bradford County for her father’s funeral.

The portion of that conversation I recall was about being born again. I hope to see my sister again in the “Land Of No More Storms.”

Exploring the ‘cricks’ of New York

I took the kids to a local park last week and we were disappointed when we got there to see the waterfall was only trickling, which is how it usually looks when we visit there. I’ve heard water actually pours from it at other times, but I’ve only seen that once in the 14 years I’ve lived in the area. Apparently I just have horrible timing.

Because there was hardly any water in the waterfall, this also meant there was almost no water in the creek, or as I call it, for some reason, “the crick.”

No matter how “creek”  is said, the children enjoyed playing in the little bit of water that was in the creek bed, looking for minnows, throwing rocks, throwing and digging in dirt and looking at fossils of creatures that had been left in the rocks. They loved simply getting dirty and playing the same way I did as a child – exploring nature without direction and more importantly, without technology.

Toddlers, books and motherhood

My house was a mess and my photos were remaining unedited, which was driving me crazy. Little Miss wanted to sit in my lap and have me read to her, the first time ever. I sat in the middle of that mess and read to her after feeling frustrated and annoyed only 15 minutes before,

For most of the night she was clinging to me and whining and crying and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I knew I wanted to fold the laundry and clean the upstairs sink and she wasn’t letting me. My oldest had forgot a book at school that he needed for an important project and a long weekend was ahead of us, cutting down the time to get his project done. I was getting mad and frustrated and flat out ticked. I felt overwhelmed and inadequate as a mom and a housekeeper and I threw toys out of my way as I tried to clean up the potato chips Little Miss had stomped into the floor. 

It seems like each time I try to accomplish a project a toddler cries or falls off something, a child needs a drink, or an animal throws up. Hours later my husband comes home from work and finds none of the projects I claimed I could complete done. 

More and more I am realizing I need to stop expecting myself to be super mom. I am never going to be the mom I expect myself to be. I’m most likely never going to be like Donna Reed, cooking a perfect meal, helping the children with their homework, kidding my husband and cleaning the kitchen floor at the same time. I’m never going to be that mom who sweetly smiles at her child even when he forgets an important book after he was specially told the book was needed and then says “oh well! Let’s go make some lemonade out of these lemons!” I’m most likely always going to be the mom who swallows her annoyance and says tightly “we will figure this out …. Somehow.” 

But maybe I will be the mom who sits in the middle of the upstairs hallway, in the middle of her mess, and lets the toddler crawl on her lap and lift her first library book up to be read again and again because that matters more than clean upstairs sinks.

There are no cows in that barn | Athens, PA Documentary Photographer

Hiding out from minor family tensions at Sunday dinner at my parents we found ourselves at the barn, barren of cows for probably 60 years.

“I hear a cow in there!” my 9-year old declared with one of his sly grins, knowing full well there was only old tractors and barn swallows in the barn. My 18 month heard the word cow and stuck her little face against the barn door, expectently looking for the animals she currently calls what she calls just about every four legged animal “dog!” 

Instead the “moo” we heard was coming from the neighbor’s barn on the hill, half a mile from the house. She heard the cow, turned herself around and pointed toward the neighbor’s barn, knowing, even though she couldn’t see the cow, that that is where the cows really were. 
“Der! Der! Der!” She trilled. I’m not sure if she’s really trying to say there or not but that’s my theory anyhow.
Her brother is going to have to think a lot harder to get one past this little smarty pants.

 

 

I always want to remember | Sayre PA Child Photographer

I always want to remember these days. The days when you grabbed Four, the old cat at Grandma and Grandpa’s that used to be mine, and tried to carry her around the porch like one of your dolls. We were lucky she didn’t try to scratch you, since she’s an outdoor cat and your used to the ones that live indoors.

I want to remember how you took off for the stairs by yourself and reached up for my hand and then walked down those high concrete steps with only my hand as your support. At 16 months of age and already climbing stairs on your own, not crawling but actually doing your best to walk up them on your own.