Sunday, November 24, 2013

grace, weekly // 5


i. those eleven-degree mornings when the world is silver-plated and diamond-studded in sunrise light.


ii. the wonder of learning and developing as a photographer.

I’m in the middle of a distance-learning professional photography certification course from the New York Institute of Photography right now, and though some of the reading can get a bit dense, I can’t believe that I get to call it my job description to seek out beauty and portray it honestly for hungry eyes.

This is a photo I took for my first course project. I don’t consider it representative of my style at all—I think it’s the first time I’ve ever consciously stopped my aperture down to f/32! But part of learning is trying new techniques from every angle.


iii. opportunities to teach.

I am beginning to realize that along with a love of learning, I find tremendous joy in teaching. On Sunday night, I spent an hour giving a presentation to my church about my experiences in Israel, and my favorite part was teaching about the culture and Biblical history there. On Monday, I got to take my little sister riding and teach her how to control my horse. And this morning I got to teach her how to diagram sentences in English while Mom was gone. :)


iv. horses—pure power, beauty, and speed packaged in a form of delicate legs and huge muscles.


v. quiet, lonesome morning walks.

I walk every day—because I can’t not. It’s when I get time to breathe, to pray, to think—without having to be doing. It’s the time when I can, for three-quarters of an hour, just be.


vi. words:

I found these words tucked inside this gem of an article. It was a timely and convicting reminder.

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vii. music:

Listen, and breathe in the reality that He can redeem you from anything.

viii. Bible:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

In all honesty, this has been a hard post for me to write this week. Some of the blessings I’m listing here really were “wow” moments, but as the week wore on they faded into a noisy background of stress and worry and fear.

Fear. It is the antithesis of trust, the opposite of joy, and the father of many wicked children—discontentment, worry, covetousness, and the horrific stress that they cause. It is the subconscious statement of the heart: “I do not believe that God is with me, that God cares for me, or that God is in perfect control of my life.”

And there it is.

Reading between the lines of my anxious heart, I find a painful truth.

The reason that I so desperately want control over my life is that I truly do not believe that anyone—even God—loves me as much as I love myself.



Hallie Jo Photography

Saturday, November 23, 2013

winter light



The mornings are pink, like summer rose petals dimming to brushstrokes of baby skin while the sun climbs. The ground is scattered with glittering diamonds that evanesce just when the light catches them. Long blue shadows reach and then recede, while the sun curves up, up, up over the southern horizon in a perfect arc. The evenings are bluish-purple with a splash of red, like half-mixed paint on an artist’s palette; the sun descends next to Mt. Hood, the shadows reach, and the world braces for a night of navy-blue cold.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

thoughts for a thursday afternoon

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There is a celebration of “toughness” in society these days. I see it everywhere—an attitude especially prevalent in women, who have been brought up by a feminist generation determined to throw off the typecasting of being soft, compassionate homemakers who genuinely care for those around them. Even in people I know to be capable of deep feeling, there is an exterior prickliness that holds the rest of the world at arm’s length.

I have met several women who take pride in their hostile outer shell. There are certain bragging rights that accompany the ability to intimidate men, manipulate other women, or strike fear in children. I, too, have been tempted by the benefits of such a heart-fortress: the outward appearance of strength, the ability to detach, less of the pain that comes from really caring.

It’s easier. It doesn’t require the resilience of an oft-broken heart. It doesn’t demand us to lay our lives down by day or pray through tears by night. It draws a neat blindfold over the part of our heart that really sees other people—the part that is courageous, the part that is compassionate, the part that protects the unprotected and defends the defenseless. When I allow this wall to go up, I can see my my actions become selfish and hear my words turn cold.

And through a haze of clouded vision, I read:

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’” John 11:33-36

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Matthew 23:37

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:33-34a

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

The strongest Person I know didn’t have to prove His strength by being tough and stiff-necked. He proved it by laying down His life—daily as well as literally—to invest in the hearts and lives of people who were hopelessly lost without Him. He saw the needy, the sick, the broken, the sin-dead—not with eyes of cold indifference, but with eyes of compassion, of unconditional love.

As a human being, I am created to follow His example (Genesis 1:27). As a woman, I am called to live out His precious gentleness in the home and everywhere else (1 Peter 3:3-4). As a follower of Christ, I am commanded to be an accurate representation of my Savior (John 13:34-35).

Hardheartedness is certainly trendier, certainly easier—but Jesus Himself is proof of the power of soft hearts. It’s the heart that loves, breaks, and forgives that, beyond the nondescript thresholds of family homes and churches, can truly change the world.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

grace, weekly // 4


i. a countdown in the double digits.


ii. utterly gorgeous engagement photos by my favorite auntie-in-law, and all the projects I’m going to make with them (let’s just say I could keep Shutterfly in business for quite awhile!).


iii. these two “silsters.” They make my life so much fun, and I’m so thankful for their involvement in all this crazy wedding planning stuff!


iv. a strong, (currently) healthy body that can do lots of the things that I ask it to.

I’ve spent a lot of my life sick, injured, or in some otherwise infirm condition—but even so, sometimes I forget what a blessing a healthy body really is. This week I will walk 15-20 miles on my own two feet—no crutches. This week I will do workout DVDs with Jillian and not be wiped out from a recent sickness. This week I will haul hay to my horses, go riding, play with my littlest sister, and breathe clean fresh air. I am blessed.


v. God’s protective hand.

Not going to delve into the details (one’s own close calls aren’t usually as interesting to others as they are to oneself), but it really has been a week of God’s grace. When I think of the “might have beens,” I am so overwhelmed with thankfulness. Imagine—every moment that I draw a new breath is a might-have-been. There’s no good reason why I’m sitting here in my living room, safe and sound, breathing properly, with my family safe around me—no reason except God’s grace.

And I’m at a loss for a picture to put here. He is hard enough to put into words—the most abstract paintbrush I possess—let alone capture in one image. Every beautiful landscape I can think to photograph is nothing more than a single pixel in the immense portrait of His goodness.

vi. the reflection of pink sunrise light on the mountain snow.


vii. when my horses greet me in the early light, nickering hints of mist from their nostrils.


viii. music:

This is one of my favorite bands, and one of my favorite songs. A little screamo, maybe, but I have never heard a song that embodied the plea of a rotting soul to a holy God better than this one does.

ix. words:

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
- C. S. Lewis


x . Bible:

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23, 24

If I had to choose a favorite passage of Scripture, this would be it. Over the past year and more, as I’ve sought after a true knowledge of my God, I have been learning that the only thing of real value in the world is Him. As Pastor Randy said once: “Your true wealth is only what you have that money can’t buy and death can’t steal.”

This life is temporary. Everything in it is temporary. My relationship with God is the lifeblood of my real, everlasting wealth—without Him I lack eternal life, eternal relationships with other Christians, and eternal reward for any righteousness I might have through Him. Without Him I am nothing.

Hallie Jo Photography

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the mountain



It is immense, ever-present, and yet quiet—sometimes stark white against the blue sky, other times dimmed by a veil of mist. Its appearance changes by the season, yet its nature remains the same. Those who seek to know it have a hard road before them: it can cost their blood, their sweat, their tears, their lives; even then, they rarely become familiar with more than its surface attributes, for its depth and complexity are too powerful and too dangerous to be truly known.

I see this mountain almost every day. Since childhood, its characteristics have reminded me constantly of the nature of my God. He too is immense, ever-present, quiet. He too seems more visible at certain times than others; He too shows up differently in the different seasons of our lives, yet is foundationally changeless—faithful. To know Him even superficially requires sacrifice. To know Him in His fullness, to see Him as He is, would destroy my frail human form.

I look at this mountain nearly every day, and I am awed—not by its own traits, but by the fact that the God I serve is even bigger, greater, and mightier. He made that mountain.

For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
and declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
and treads on the high places of the earth,
the Lord God of hosts is His name.
Amos 4:13

Sunday, November 10, 2013

grace, weekly // 3


i. cold, blustery days when the sun pours through dense cloud banks like melted butter and the fields are coming alive with tender shoots of winter wheat.


ii. tools like Penzu and Week Plan.

I love being organized. There is nothing like checking things off my to-do list!


iii. tiny droplets of color in a world turning gray.


iv. my home in the fall.

I missed it last year.


v. awesome people like Teresa of the Meadowbrook Farm blog, who gave her time and breathtaking talent to do engagement pictures for me and Sam this weekend.

(Obviously I did not take any of the below pictures… they’re all Teresa’s. Go see some more. You’ll be hooked!)


vi. music:

Favorite line: “I’ve never felt more found than when I’m lost in You.”

vii. words:

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
-Elisabeth Elliot


viii. Bible:

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:12-13

The latter verse is one of the most-quoted in the Bible—a favorite motto among every set of Christians. Who doesn’t like some supernatural strength? But as I was reading this passage in my Bible, a deep theological truth occurred to me: Philippians 4:13 comes immediately after Philippians 4:12.

Elementary? Perhaps. But fundamental? Absolutely.

This passage doesn’t give us license to say “I can jump off the edge of the Grand Canyon and promptly sprout wings because Christ strengthens me.” Or even, “I can become a world-famous photographer within the next two years because Christ strengthens me.” Both of those put the focus on me—what I can achieve, what I can accomplish, how I can get the esteem of others and the satisfaction of my temporal desires.

The real message of the passage is this: “I can joyfully accept whatever life circumstances God chooses for me, because I know that my life is not about me—it’s about Jesus.”

The secret of contentment is Christ.


Hallie Jo Photography

Sunday, November 3, 2013

grace, weekly // 2

i. the wistful silence of October’s colorful end, and the close of another visit to my Pennsylvania home.
ii. a peanut butter fudge milkshake (yes, of course it’s from Ritchey’s).
iii. this beautiful family letting me take some pictures of them.
iv. this man and only 111 more days.
v. when the airplanes wait on wet tarmac while the sky cries silver tears, as if it can feel the hurt in my heart when I say goodbye.
vi. a vase of petunias on the sunlit November sill.
vii. music.
There is a certain place deep in my heart that this song pricks with melancholy. Not because of my own regrets, but because it hurts a little bit to know that most of the world is wondering what happened to the “good ol’ days” and wondering why we only let them seem good when they’re so long gone. Someday, today will be the good ol’ days. I can see it: the bloom of youth beginning to pass, the passions of a carefree heart giving way to the die-for-you love of motherhood, and looking back to wonder where the years went. But why look back and wonder why I didn’t love my life and the blessings in it as much as I should have “back then,” when I can choose to change my view of life in the now? Harder, yes, this contentment and joy—but invaluable.
viii. words. 
I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.
- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
ix. Bible.
Grace upon grace—blessing upon blessing. It gushes into our lives from the blood of His wounds and the pulse of His resurrection. It is His death for us and His life with us. I can’t not be thankful.
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Hallie Jo Photography


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