Part 1: Risen

Each day her memories grew stronger of the day she’d come back from the dead.

The sobs, first in grief, then in joy.

The declarations of praise.

The laughs of disbelief.

The gasps of amazement.

She hadn’t been able to move at first.

She felt weighted down.

Her mind was racing and she tried to remember why she was on her cot in the middle of the day.

Dizziness. Weakness. So warm.

She’d fallen to the ground and her father had placed her here on the cot.

Then – darkness.

She remembered the deep sleep, the voices of her family fading into silence.

“Jairus! The rabbi! He has not come! Tell him to come! We are losing her!”

Josefa bolted upright.

Her body vibrated.

She felt as if she had been struck by lightning.

A tingling feeling rushed from the soles of her feet to the top of her head. She looked around the room, dazed. Three men stood on one side of the room, looking at her in disbelief. One burst into laughter, seeming to be delighted at the sight of her. Another had his hands and face raised upward, his lips moving but no sound coming out.

A fourth was standing before her, hands outstretched, a peaceful expression on his face.

Suddenly her parents were clutching her to them, both taking turns to kiss her and cry. Their voices were loud, unabashedly loud, sounds she’d never heard from them before. They were always reserved, quiet, certain to look proper to the community around them.

What had happened? Why did she suddenly have so much energy when she could remember feeling so weak only moments before?

Josefa heard his voice, soft, gentle, yet firm.

“Do you not see? Your daughter is alive. Get her food, drink. She will need her strength.”

How could someone speak with such authority yet also with such love?

“Yes, of course, Rabbi.”

The voice of her father was reverent, trembling with emotion.

The water against her lips was cool as voices spoke excitedly around her.

“Praise be to God!”

The man who had told her parents to bring her food sat next to her, placed his hand on her forehead. His eyes were full of kindness, of life. When she looked at him it seemed as they were the only people in the room. She could hear only his voice, see only his eyes.

“Josefa, your life has been returned to you. Go forth and live it fully.”

His hands were warm as he cupped her face in them. He kissed her forehead then gently lifted her face to look into his.

“Do you understand?”

She nodded meekly, not sure she truly did understand, but knowing she wanted to.

The man her father had called Rabbi stood and turned to the other men in the room.

“Peter, James, John, we must leave. There are others who need us.”

Her parents took his hand, kissed it and then each cheek.

“Rabbi, how can we ever –“

His voice interrupted them, he gently shook his head, raised his hand.

“This is a gift. Treasure it. Tell no one what has happened here. This gift is for your family alone.”

Josefa could hear members of the crowd outside calling to him as he left.

“Jesus! Jesus! Are you who they say you are?”

“Tell us, Jesus. Are you truly the Messiah?”

“Jesus, your followers say you call yourself the Son of God. Who do you say you are?”

_____

(This post was previously published, but I needed to make some changes. The story will continue in future posts.)

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Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

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DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

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What Anthony Bourdain taught me

“[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.”
― Anthony Bourdain

I’m not sure how healthy it is to cry off and on for two days over the death of a person you didn’t even know but this week I have done that.

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Photo from nuvomagazine.com

Cutting myself a little slack, I know some of the emotions from the death of writer and former “chef” Anthony Bourdain stem from the still raw loss of my aunt, and the unsteady feeling I now live with that my world is tilting a bit off kilter. Bourdain was a man who called himself simply a “cook” when others called him a chef and became well known after writing an essay about working in the cooking industry and even more well known from a show on the Travel Network called “No Reservations” and his recent TV foray on CNN called “Parts Unknown.”

I don’t like change. I never have. I’m a creature of habit and like my routines. I don’t like things to be different, no matter if it’s a change in my toothpaste to a change in who is in my life. I don’t mind spontaneous moments or last minute plan changes, within reason, but I don’t like when that change of plan includes the removal of people from my life.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t really part of my life, yet he was. He was who I listened to when I needed to be reminded the world was bigger than this small town I lived in. He was who I went to when I needed to remember I may have had a cruddy day but there was always great tasting, delicious food available to be cooked and sampled to make it seem a little better.

My family watched reruns of No Reservations on Saturday nights and I cooked while the dishes Tony ate inspired me to try harder to create something worth eating.

When I say Tony reminded me there was food to help my day seem better, I don’t mean it in that unhealthy “using food as a crutch” way. It’s simply that food is good and good tasting food is even better. We are humans and we need to eat and if we are going to eat we might as well eat food that tastes good. Good tasting food doesn’t always mean processed, crap food, either, as Tony showed on his shows.

Yeah, sure he featured scenes of him gorging on some of the most disgusting processed, chemically-laced food you’ve ever seen more than a few hundred times over the years but he also showcased some of the most simple, divine and flavorful dishes on the planet created with some of the most delicious and healthy ingredients known to man.

To be honest, I didn’t see Anthony Bourdain living much beyond his 60s. I always thought he would die from a heart attack induced by some of the garbage he shoved into his pie hole, as he might call it. The thought of a day when he wasn’t around to watch do crazy things and eat even more bizarre things was always unsettling to me so I tried not to think about it. I knew it would come, though, but I thought it would be years from now and from a plane crash, a diving accident, food poisoning, a shark attack, not from his body hanging from the end of a bathrobe belt.

Anthony and I didn’t agree when it came to the spiritual world. He was an outspoken atheist, maybe sometimes an agnostic, and I have always been a Christian. There are lessons he taught with his life that I don’t want to learn from, nor or they lessons I care for my children to heed. By his own admission, he did too many drugs and drank too much (though he had been drug free for many years before he died) and he frequented places I never would have. Still, I learned a lot from Anthony Bourdain, and not just what not to do.

For one, he taught me to live fully and ironically he taught me this one even more so by his death.

Anthony definitely knew how to go out and experience every bit of life he could – traveling to every country you could think of, eating meals and meeting people wherever he went. I don’t experience every bit of life and it’s a change I hope I can make in the future. I want to experience freely and fearlessly, while recognizing the need to shield body and soul from things that could steal the joy of life from me.

Anthony showed me how to taste fully, breathe fully, feel fully, laugh loudly and immerse myself wholeheartedly in life. He did that and I wish I knew what made him forget how amazing that could be.

With all that traveling, much of it without his family, it’s clear that Anthony probably faced some very lonely nights. Lonely nights where he was trapped with his thoughts, fears, regrets.

Maybe he regretted not seeing his daughter more, of leaving two wives, of drinking too much, hurting too many. We don’t yet know what drove him to end his life the way he did but it’s really no surprise the demons he battled with finally overtook him and drowned out the voice of reason and hope and the love he’d always had for life. Some don’t believe in real demons, but I do. I believe in servants of the devil who whisper lies in our ears.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You will never realize your dream.”

“You’re a horrible mother.”

“You are unloveable and indescribably impossible to care about.”

“You’ll never be worthy of love.”

Who knows what lies were whispered in Anthony Bourdain’s ears that night. Whispers that grew to deafening screams that he only knew one way to drown out. I can’t save Anthony Bourdain. I wish I could. Oh, how I wish I could. But maybe we can save someone else. Maybe we can drown out the whispers with words of life. Words of hope. And the word of truth.

For we are all wonderfully made.

We were created out of love by an ultimate creator to be loved and to show love.

And you, and I, were created to life fully alive.

So let’s do that until God decides it’s time for us to live fully with Him.

I don’t know if living life fully is what Anthony Bourdain would have thought his life, and even his death, would have taught someone, but both were worthy lessons for me to learn.

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Are you a blogger, advertiser, or have you been put in charge of advertising at your church or another organization? Maybe you are in need of some faith-focused images for your project, whatever that project is. If so, you can find some great images at Lightstock.com. I’m a photographer contributor and simply a supporter of the site. While I am a contributing photographer I wouldn’t expect you to feel obligated to use my photos from the site because there are some amazing artists who you support when you purchase from Lightstock. *disclaimer: by clicking on the link you are supporting me as an affiliate and I will receive a small payment for that referral. 

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It isn’t the equipment, it’s the photographer

Many of the forums I’ve visited over the years are filled with photographers absolutely obsessed with lenses. They are always looking to upgrade, add one or talk about how great certain lenses are. I get caught up in it too or did. I’ve become less concerned about my perceived need for a bigger, better lens, especially when I read about some of my favorite photographers and their use of only one camera and one lens for all their images. 

When I think about Vivian Maier and how she almost exclusively used a Roliflex for all her images or Alain Laboile who uses a Leica and a 35 mm 1.4 lens, I am reminded it’s not about the equipment we have as photographers but how we use it. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that if we had a certain lens we could take photographs exactly like a photographer we admire., but we should never hope to take images exactly like someone else because we are not them.

We are each unique in how we see the world. While different lenses can help showcase our vision knowing how to use the lenses we have now can strip away that desire to be someone other than ourselves and instead keep us focused on capturing our world as we see it.

 

This post is part of Melissa Firman’s 99 Days of Blogging.

Navigating life with “only” two children

We only have two children in our family which means getting out the door to go somewhere 45 minutes away shouldn’t be such an ordeal.

But it is.

“Do you have the diaper bag?”
“Did you get your toys together to take to grandma and grandpa’s?”
“Do you have my camera?”
“Have you seen my Kindle?”
“We’ve got everything? Ok. Let’s go.”

All in the car, engine running.
“Did I lock the door? Let me check.”

Car off. Family waits.
All in the car again, engine running.

“Did I unplug the toaster? I’m going to go check.”
Car off. Family waits. Husband back in car. 

Ten minutes away from house; “did I turn the stove off?” 

Turn around. Family waits in car. Mom decides to check the van to see if that’s where she lost a friend’s bottle of essential oil. Van locked. Mom slips and falls on her backside in mud and wrenches her shoulder.
“Stove was off.” Dad announces.

“I need the keys, I fell in the mud..” Mom says and gestures to mud smear from the top of her backside to her calf.
Back in the house to change. Then finally on the road  . . . again. Yes, like a Willie Nelson song.

A lovely day is spent exploring the woods on a unnaturally warm winter day at the parents/grandparents accept for another fall in the mud. by mom.

When it’s time to leave:
“Where are your shoes?”
“Why isn’t the baby wearing pants?”
“Do you have your toys?”
“Do you have your camera?”
“Where is the diaper bag?”
“I need to change the baby first.”
“Kiss and hug everyone good-bye.”

On the road again. Phone rings ten minutes from home.

“Did you know you left your purse here?”

Arrrrrrrgghh!!!!

 

The A* Family | Elmira NY Newborn Photographer

Their home was cozy, so well decorated and coordinated. Honestly, I was a bit jealous of how organized it all looked, though I’m sure there are crazy days there too with a two year old and a newborn. Even more than jealous, I was impressed with how the family had made the small home into a cozy place for a sweet family.

The walls were not only decorated with beautiful phrases and verses, but also beautiful family photographs, which shows me how important it it is for this family to document their history.

Thank you to the A* family for letting me peak into your life and your new beginnings with baby Maxwell.