Friday, December 31, 2010

Yearning

It came to me this morning that just as much as I yearn for God, he yearns that much more for me. Psalm 42:1 speaks directly from my heart, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." Panteth, that's an intense longing for. I long for him. I long for his presence.

But did you know he has the same longing for you and me? In fact, his longing is more intense because behind it is Jesus' sacrifice, behind it is the power and anointing to get things accomplished in our lives.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
We don't give God enough credit for being as big as he really is. Time and circumstances go by and somehow the amazing things he's done fade from our view. Instead, we are to be like David who in Psalm 119 fully expressed his longing. He said, "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times." (Ps 119:20)

Have you yearned for God that much? Until your soul breaks? A yearning that intense demands satisfaction. It becomes the sole focus of our day, our month, our life. We become consumed with it, and in the process all the other things around us fade from view. It is as the words of the old hymn, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus) That's longing!

That size longing comes from constantly viewing who God is, keeping him before us at all times. Again, hear the words of King David.
I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself. (Psalms 119:52)
He remembered. He spent time meditating "day and night" on the great things of God. He looked into the face of God, and in the process he found comfort. (Jos 1:8) He found peace, rest, and yet more hunger.

Our yearning for God needs to be as magnificent, as huge, as Jesus' was for us when he stood on earth facing the cross.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)
Think about that. I yearning for him; he yearning for me until I become one with God, until I know his voice. (Jn 10:27) That's marvelous!

Never doubt that God loves you, my friend. His love is SO huge we cannot begin to comprehend it. God is big! God is love! All the time.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Testimony on Video

My Testimony, Given at Auburndale Life Church, 11/28/2010



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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Steve's Digicams.com Article - What I Learned About Travel Photography

I have a new article up at Steve's Digicams. This is an expanded edition of my earlier blog article by the same name. I cannot reduplicate it here, but you can read it at the link below.

What I Learned About Travel Photography

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
I wonder if it's too early to make a New Year's Resolution. Actually, I've never made one. I am a firm believer in only committing myself to something I fully intend to do (I get that from my mother) so making a resolution is a big deal for me.

This year a number of important things will happen, a couple of them I will not reveal yet. However, one in particular is my firmest resolve. I WILL receive the fullest completion of my healing. I refuse to give up. God has promised it to me.

I have been meditating on the above two scriptures lately, and you know, the more I do the more I see that they agree with my resolution. The word "peace" in the Greek means "security, safety, prosperity, harmony". (G1515, Thayer's, e-sword.net) In the original Hebrew it expands to include "health, completeness, soundness, quiet, contentment, friendship". (H79654, BDB, e-sword.net) As if those do not make these verses impact your heart enough, there is the word "keep" to consider.

God has promised to KEEP me in peace! Something that is kept never leaves. It is there all the time. The word in both Greek and Hebrew means "guard". God is guarding my heart and my mind with his peace - and his health, his prosperity, his security, his soundness, all those things the word signifies. It's a complete salvation. God has left nothing out.

That's my New Year's Resolution - I will have my completeness. I WILL have it. I WILL! And God gets all the glory.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Be Prepared


And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace. (Eph 6:15 AMP)
The story in Matthew 25 of the five foolish virgins illustrates this scripture perfectly. I have always equated that particular story with preparation for the coming of Christ, and this is a right interpretation. However, preparation is more than simply sitting around waiting for the Second Coming. That smacks of laziness to me. No, we must stay prepared on a daily basis so that whatever comes at us, we are ready.

It makes no sense for a marathon runner to not exercise. How will he then finish the race, much less place and win an award? He physically won't be able to run all those miles. Mentally, he won't be strong enough to combat the stresses of long-distance running. Well, not spending time talking with God during your day makes no sense either. We ask God to answer us when we are in a time of desperation, but neglect him the rest of the time. This is not good enough for me!

Notice the full description in Ephesians 6:15 - ready to meet the enemy in firm-footed stability. I like that description. I have been in a place before where nothing felt stable, and it was a very dark place indeed. Since then, I have dedicated my heart to seek out the Gospel daily. Every day I spend time praying in the Spirit. The Word of God says this strengthens us. (Jude 20) Every day I spend time in worship. This places me in God's presence where bondages are broken and I can better hear the Father's heart. (Is 10:27) I do these things every day, no matter how I feel.

Someone recently asked me how long each day do I do them. My response was that I do them until I am ready, until I can do what I need to do that day. Some days that might be 10 minutes, others three hours. If I need three hours to be ready to go, then I get up early and take three hours. How ever long it takes, I do it. I am in myself not strong enough to combat life; I am only able because I stay prepared.

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38)
I won't be caught again with my heart and head empty and my thoughts vain. Instead, I will be "strong in the Lord and the power of His might." (Eph 6:10) I will be ready! I will be prepared.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Live a Life of Surrender


Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you. (James 4:7 CEV)
I like this particular translation because it uses the word "surrender". In order to "surrender" something we have to act; surrender is a verb. And part of the action of "surrender" is its requirement that we give up everything else. If you think about that, without the "giving up" it isn't really surrender at all.
All to Jesus I surrender
All to him I freely give
I will ever love and trust him
In his presence daily live.

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to thee, my blessed Savior
I surrender all. *
We sing songs about surrender all the time. But how long have you really sat and thought about how much you have to do to become truly surrendered?

God's requirements are always black and white. In James 5:17, we are told, "Let your Yes be Yes, and your No be No." (BBE) Deuteronomy 30:19 states, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life." Then again in the book of James we find, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." In each of these verses, it is unequivocal what the options are. We must choose one way or the other. Even more definite are the words of the Lord in Revelation 3:15-16. Here He is even more assured when He says, "I wish you were cold or hot." (GW) There is no halfway in surrender. Either you do it or you don't.

I have good news though! The blessings of surrender far outweigh anything you can accomplish on your own. Think first about WHO you are surrendering to. This is the God of heaven and earth, the Maker of it all, our Savior, Healer, and very Best Friend! This is He who can count the hairs on your head. This is Love itself! (Matthew 10:30;1 John 4:16) Surrendering to God is relinquishing yourself into the hands of He who loves you the most; He who sent His Son to die for you!

"Live a life of surrender"

When God spoke those words to me, I knew immediately what He meant. You see, I once reached a point in my life where physically, mentally, and emotionally I had nothing left. I was completely empty with no hope and no joy. There was literally nothing left of "me". I can remember thinking, "Either God steps in and fixes 'me' or I will remain broken because I can't do it. I can't lift myself up." There was nothing left to do BUT surrender.

Surrendering to God is trusting Him to help you take every step. It means deliberately reliquishing any reliance you have on yourself, whether that is talent, skill, or knowledge. You no longer ask, "What can I do?" but "What will GOD do?" because your dependence is now on Him. Think of a baby. Babies are totally surrendered to their parents. They cannot do anything for themselves so it's the parents job to support them.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)
It's kind of exciting really, living in surrender, because you know you didn't do any of it. When you are truly surrendered, you are free of weights and pressures. You see, surrender places you in the rest of God. This is why His burden is light. It's HIS BURDEN, not mine.

Surrender places us into a position where our every emotion, every frustration, every sorrow of heart, every business choice, every financial mess, every health problem are His. Then, when I find myself picking the burden back up again, I remind myself, "You messed yourself up last time, Suzanne. Remember how dependable YOU are!"

"Oh, right! You're right. I'm sorry, Lord. I surrender. You fix it!" And He does, every single time.

*"I Surrender All" words by J.W. Van Deventer

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Made It!

Suzanne, Ocoee River, Tennessee
Suzanne, Ocoee River, Tennessee

Well, I made it. I made it to forty. How does it feel? Physically, exactly like thirty-nine. Mentally, I feel like I have accomplished something. Emotionally, I am happier than I've ever been.

God gets credit for that. He is so good, so faithful. He is so much bigger than any problem I will ever face.

I have much to look forward to and much to look back on. I kind of like that idea. I like being "half-way". I have no complaints.

Happy Birthday to me!

Photos from the past
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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Steve's Digicams Article - December 2010 - Tips For Taking Holiday Photos

My article for December 2010 is now up at Steve's Digicams. I cannot reproduce it here, but it can be read at the link below.

Tips For Taking Holiday Photos


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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exposed to the Light



Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Every time someone asks me to publicly share my testimony, I marvel. Recently, I spoke before the largest crowd to date, and truthfully, I have had a difficult time processing it since. In myself, I feel like nobody. I've led an unremarkable life and done nothing spectacular.

But the Lord has shown me a few truths about sharing. The first involves faith. Left on my own, standing before people is difficult. I am perfectly happy supporting others, letting them have the spotlight. In fact, I like writing better because it gives me time to form my words. Speaking in public requires faith; I must believe God will give me the words. Faith is the route to victory. We read this in Revelation 12:11 where it says, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony." (MKJV) When I step out in faith, I walk further out of the bondage of fear and more into heavenly freedom.

The second truth about sharing is obedience. I have to obey without question the instruction God has placed in my heart. I have to obey no matter who I think I am or how small I feel. The apostle Paul urged Timothy, his son in the faith, to not be ashamed of his testimony. (1 Timothy 1:8) The truth is obedience isn't always easy. It requires great trust. Trust sometimes feels like you are walking into a place blind. You can't see what's ahead. You don't know how things will turn out. You are relying on another to complete the task.

The third truth about sharing the Lord gave me recently, and I think it is the one which brings the most change. He spoke to me through an unusual analogy. However, think first about light as it is spoken of in the Bible. We are told that salvation moves us from the kingdom of darkness into the light. (Colossians 1:13) Second Corinthians 4:4 refers to "the light of the glorious gospel". Jesus is called "the light of the world". (John 8:12;12:46) Also, we know that "God is light" and He contains no darkness. (1 John 1:5)

Now think in the natural. Naturally speaking, we know light dispels darkness. Darkness cannot remain where light is. But what else happens when the light turns on? Let's read a scripture to find out.

People who do what is wrong hate the light and don't come to the light. They don't want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen. (John 3:20-21 GW)
Here we see a fantastic truth - Light exposes the work of darkness! When the light is turned on, nothing can hide. Jesus stated this in Matthew 5:14. He said, "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." Do you see that? It CANNOT BE HIDDEN! Think about that for a moment. What happens when I share my testimony? When I stand up there in faith, when I choose to obey, I am in effect turning the light on. And in the process, I expose to the light all the darkness the devil has tried to hide in my life.

Here is where the analogy comes in. He reminded me of an incidence that happened a few nights ago. I had gotten out of bed to get a drink. The house was dark and I didn't turn any lights on. When I walked through the doorway into our kitchen, everything seemed quiet and still. But when I opened the door of the refrigerator, the light from inside it lit up the doorway and there right above where I had walked in was an enormous cockroach! Do you know that that cockroach was there when it was dark? Just because I couldn't see it and was unaware of its presence doesn't mean it wasn't affecting my household. Yet it was only when the light was on that I could know where it was and get rid of it. In the dark, I could swing the broom at it, but I might break something else. In the light, it becomes very plain.

Here's another fact about cockroaches, whenever you turn on a light during the night, they flee. Exposed, they run to escape the light! In this same way, this is the ultimate power of my testimony. My testimony exposes to the light of God's grace and glory all the devil's bondage. In effect, it turns the light of God on. Like that roach, the devil has no choice but to flee from theLight. This is what it says in James 4:7.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
He WILL flee. That is unquestionable. And he will flee because of the "word of my testimony" and the promise of God that backs it up.

I realize now that my testimony is not about who I am. It doesn't matter how insufficient I feel. It's not even about what happened to me. What happened to me and how through Christ I overcame it may help someone else. But the power of my testimony is actually in what it does IN me. I submit to God's instructions; I obey; I step out in faith; I trust Him to give me the words to say; and that turns on all the lights.

Then it's "I got you!" to the devil, and that is amazing!

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I Learned About Travel Photography

A puddle of leaves, Toccoa River, Georgia
A Puddle of Leaves, Toccoa River, Georgia

All I have to do to want to go on a trip somewhere is spend an evening reading travel photography tips and viewing the accompanying photographs. Suddenly, I am prepared to jump up and go. But then I wake up and realize that I am "me" and "me" doesn't like to travel, not really. Oh, I like it when I get there. The world is a beautiful place. But it's the "getting there" that I don't particularly enjoy.

That said, I do get out once in a while. Personally, I love to visit the Appalachian Mountains. Most people know that about me. In my opinion, there's something marvelous to be said for standing on the top of a ridge, gazing across the endless miles, just thinking about how big it all is and how small I am in the midst of it.

Well, over the last nine years of my travels with family in tow, I have learned a few things about travel photography. Call these "common sense tips", if you will, and in the process, release any stress you have at achieving perfection. We'd all like to get there someday, but seldom do.

Aska Farm, Georgia
Aska Farm, Georgia

Common Sense #1 - You will always have too much gear

No matter how well you try to consolidate your gear, no matter how much "stuff" you leave at home, suddenly you will realize you don't know where you put it all. I always at some point find myself asking, "WHY did I bring this?" Oh, I always mean well. I intend to use all the "tools of the trade" I am carrying, but eventually out of sheer weariness, I give up.

"Do I have to take that out AGAIN?"

My bag of photo gear becomes more and more disorganized as the days progress. This filter is in the wrong case; that lens cover is buried underneath something where I can't possible get to it. Knowing ahead of time that this will happen to me is such relief. I embrace it in advance and become willing to look like the "dumb tourist" I really am.

Common Sense Tip #2 - Your settings will be wrong

At some point, you will take a series of photographs, leave the location (never to return), and then realize you left the ISO on 800. I try to remember to check my settings before I take a shot, but inevitably I forget. This is part of being normal. Take a deep breath, kick yourself, and then get over it. At those moments, we are at our most human, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Fallen Leaf
Fallen Leaf

Common Sense Tip #3 - Embrace your errors

Let's say it together, "I WILL mess up." Now, don't you feel better? This tip maybe goes back to tip #2. Tell yourself you will make mistakes and determine to learn something. I have gleaned more from viewing what I did wrong than I ever did while patting myself on the back. All those 'I-should-haves' become an advantage when you let go of them.

Anna Ruby Falls, Georgia
Fall, Anna Ruby Falls, Helen, Georgia

Common Sense Tip #4 - They will always walk ahead of you

Stop trying to keep up with the crowd. People who don't have a camera will always walk away and leave you standing there alone. The fact is, taking photographs consumes time, whether the people with you realize that or not.

It's all a balancing act. Tell yourself that true skill comes from your ability to correctly take the shot all the while not losing track of your companions. After all, they aren't doing half of what you are or toting all that gear, yet they will still want to look at your photographs once you return home.

Asters, Ocoee River, Tennessee
Asters, Ocoee River, Tennessee

Common Sense Tip #5 - The perfect moment will come and they will be hungry

Remember? You are traveling with people without cameras. Eventually, they will want to eat and it WILL be at that most important moment. This is especially true if you have children. The fact is, children whine (and some adults). Learn how to say, "In a minute," and then ignore them. (Alternatively, knowing this will happen to you, prepare yourself in advance with a selection of snack foods.)

Another twist on this tip, is the guy who comes up behind you to ask where you are from or what gear you are using. Part of traveling is being really patient with strangers and somehow at the same time staying polite.

Common Sense Tip #6 - Someone will take your spot

This brings me to my next observation. Someone WILL take your spot. This happened to me just this last trip. In my case, it was a guy with a HOG of a camera. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, it is someone with a lesser model or unsupervised children who are the obstruction. You have to decide at this moment if you want to wait it out for that location or fall back to tip #3 and get behind your group again.

Part of photography is in the "oh well" times when you are left with only your memory of the spot and not necessarily a photograph. I always say my best photographs are in my mind.

Appalachian Trail at Clingman's Dome
The Appalachian Trail at Clingman's Dome, Great Smoky Mountains Park

Common Sense Tip #7 - Someone will now think you are a portrait photographer

This someone does not have to be your family. Your family tends to know you photograph bugs and flowers. Instead, it is usually an acquaintance viewing your recent travel photographs, who then asks you to come photograph their birthday party. And yes, it sounds really lame when you say, "I don't take pictures of people." You now sound like a recluse who doesn't get out.

Red Oak
Red Oak, Richard B Russell Scenic Byway, Georgia

Now, please realize these tips are presented "tongue in cheek". My ultimate goal in writing them down, besides the humor and the fact you know I am right, is to relieve you of any stress that things will go perfectly. I have found that it is the errors on a trip, the mistakes you didn't account for, that make for the best stories. If everything always went perfectly, what would there be to talk about?

Knowing that, take the time to be human. Move past the difficulties and enjoy your travels for what they really are - memories created with people you love.

*I'd like to give a shout out to my brother who helped me hash out some of these tips. It seems our list got longer and longer the more we talked about it.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Real Christmas


And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:38)
I was mindlessly watching television the other night when a phrase caught my ears. A Christmas-themed commercial urged a young child to "just believe" in Santa Claus, as if belief in him would fulfill something her life lacked. The more I have thought about that since then, I have begun to notice this idea permeates the airwaves.

Now I am not one to down Santa Claus; I have ornaments with his face on them in my own house. But frankly, I never taught my daughter he was real. I remember when she was in first grade, her class took a day trip over to the local mall to sing Christmas carols. With said carols sung, the children were given (supervised) time to roam the mall, shop, and/or take pictures with Santa. My daughter was the only one not interested in sitting on his lap. I mean in my mind, seriously, who was he really?

It's amazing to me how popular it has become to believe in some ethereal, unnamed Christmas idea, yet not in Christ. Slogans urge us to believe in the holidays, believe in family, believe in charity work, but never does one state "Believe in Jesus". No, that seems limited to some alternative sect of people, living on the fringe of society.

Nowadays, everything goes. Whatever god you believe in is supposed to be okay. "They say" we all go to the same place anyhow; all roads lead to Rome. But I have news for you, there is no truth in any of that. It's not okay to believe in whatever god you want; we all don't go to the same place. You can't ever be good enough, work hard enough, or give away everything you own and somehow earn a place in heaven. And while I'm stating absolutes, it's not okay to "just believe" in Santa Claus. (John 14:6;Luke 18:21-23)

Personally, I can sing all the songs from "Rudolph" and can quote each line. It is one of my favorite Christmas stories. Yet that's just it...when it's all said and done, flying reindeer and a man in a red suit is just a fiction story there to make me feel lighthearted and jolly. If I had to pick a story to share with my children at this time of the year, I'd turn instead to Charles Schultz's "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown". In the end, Linus has it right. It is a belief in the living Christ that matters. For unlike Santa, He is real and He changes lives. Belief in Him really does make a difference.

And "that's what Christmas is all about."



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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trust


Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
I write on a lot of subjects, and each one truthfully comes from something the Lord is speaking about to me. They are the lessons He is giving me. Most times, I write in a more formal style, as if it would be in a publication. But occasionally, He leads me to write more candidly, more from the heart. This lesson is one of those.

I am not sure I have learned everything God has for me to know about trusting Him. My human failings in this area seem to be enormous. Daily I have to overcome my fleshly yearnings to "take over" and do something that is really His job. You see, when it comes to trusting in God, that is what it all boils down to - we, the children, trying to do what it is His responsibility to do.

I would place it as being similar to a two-year-old writing the checks that pay his parents' bills. What parent hands their toddler the checkbook? That doesn't make sense on many levels, but mostly on the level of maturity. They are not mentally equipped for the responsibility of an adult. We know this as parents. Well, when Proverbs 3:5 says, "Lean not to YOUR OWN understanding," that is exactly what is is talking about.

Trusting God is a very hard thing to "do" because it requires us to "do" nothing at all. Think about that. You are in the midst of some type of turmoil, perhaps financial or job-related, and your part in God's equation is to actually do nothing. That seems preposterous! Our human nature is to fix everything. We spend so many hours toiling in vain to change the mind of our spouse or our children or even our pastor. "If they would just do it MY way!" and we never accomplish anything in the process.

In actuality, we have been told to simply "stand therefore" believing God will follow through. (Ephesians 6:14) There is an amazing freedom in that. Every time I find myself picking back up the task which God has told me to lay down, that "still, small voice" inside says, "That's not your job," and it hits me, "Oh yeah, you're right. It's not." That is the definition of trust.

I have told my daughter often over the years that trust is such a fragile entity. Once broken, it is almost impossible to repair. But that is when speaking about trust between people. Trust with God is on an entirely different magnitude because with God "all things are possible". With God, "He is faithful who promised." With God, "He will never leave me or forsake me." And those are ALWAYS for He "never changes". (Matthew 19:26,Mark 10:27,Hebrews 10:23,Hebrews 13:5,Malachi 3:6)

As I look through the vastness of some trouble in my life, I must always remind myself that God is bigger than anything I face. And He is not only bigger, but He is stronger and higher and better at it than me. He can see what I can't. He knows the solution, and even when I feel like giving up, even when it seems like it "just can't be done", even after everything's finished in my eyes, He WILL come through.

All I have to do is stand there, trust Him, and watch. How fantastic is that?

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Remembering the Holidays

It hit me like a ton of bricks this morning that my grandparents were gone, and I openly confess I rolled over and had a good cry. When my grandfather passed this year, I found myself totally unprepared for the grief it brought for my grandmother as well; she died a couple years ago. He was my living link to her, and until he was gone, I had never realized it.

It seems like a somber subject to start this Thanksgiving letter with, my extreme grief. But somehow in my thinking, the holidays are always tied to my memories of them. Even seemingly trivial remembrances bring them flooding back into my heart. Take black olives, for example. My grandfather loved black olives. There was not a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that did not include the dish of black olives. It seems silly really that I'd think of that this morning. Yet I know on November 26th as we prepare the food for the table, the abundance of the present will somehow be dwarfed for me, by that one small dish.

Bud & Juanita 02 Oct 1998-EDIT

I lay there this morning and struggled with my sadness. The Thanksgiving table seems emptier with the loss of their two chairs. Without Granddaddy there to insist we clean our plates, to ask, "What's for dessert?", without my Grandmother's smiling face and fierce hug, will Thanksgiving ever really be the same? For me, I think not.

Oh, don't get me wrong. In my future are many wonderful holidays filled with joy and happiness, great food, and family and friends. We'll smile and laugh and eat until we almost pop. I fully expect years brimming with God's grace and abundance. (He is my rock, my ever faithful heavenly Father.) Yet inside, I will never forget these two people who mean so much to me. And if occasionally, I have a good cry again at their loss, I think that's okay. It seems like part of being grateful to never let myself forget how much I loved them.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Story of a Stump

*This article was originally posted at Pix-N-Pens, November 6, 2008. It is one of my fondest memories.

The Shot That Almost Was, Tufted Titmouse

A number of years ago, I wanted a certain species of tree to plant in my yard, so my husband went and found one. We picked the perfect spot, just outside my living room window, and planted it. Over time, this tree grew and grew until became apparent it was NOT the tree we thought it was. It was in fact another very invasive tree, with seed pods that sprouted after every rainfall, and I was nonplussed. Then along came the hurricanes of 2004. During 2004, we found ourselves in the path of three substantial hurricanes: Charlie, Frances, and Jeanne. Well, this tree didn't make it through all that wind, but fell (fortunately not on my house) so we cut down the tree and left the stump.

Now where am I going with this story? It's amazing to me the little things that affect your life. That stump became one of mine. It began when I decided to put a pan of bird seed on the stump. After all, it seemed like a good platform. I cannot begin to tell you the species of birds I have seen come to that feeder. Most prized were the painted buntings.

Female Painted Bunting

I spent many enjoyable hours in my favorite armchair, gazing out the window, snapping photos of all that flew in. Cardinals, blue jays, chipping sparrows, woodpeckers, collared and white-winged doves, all of these came. The stump became a very popular spot.

And it was not just birds; there were insects, spiders, frogs, and toads. Apparently, the metal pan in which I placed the bird seed each day, created underneath a nice, dark, cool spot to hide.

Oak Toad, Bufo terrestris

Soon I noticed some signs of decay there, a little wood rot and a few mushrooms.

Melting Point, Mushrooms

Odd and Unusual

I guess all good things must come to an end. I am moving from this house to another and leaving the remains of my stump to the creatures that inhabit the yard. I'm sure I'll find me another wonderful spot at the new place to watch what comes and goes, and I'm excited about that. But somehow I know it is this stump which I will remember fondly the most.


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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monochromatic Outside the Box

*This article was originally posted at Pix-N-Pens, October 28, 2010.

Twilight Reflections, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida

A monochromatic image contains shades of only one color. There are two ways to photograph in monochrome. One involves changing a full color image into shades of sepia. I want to focus, however, on images deliberately captured in the camera in full color yet they appear as monochrome. Each of the image examples in this post have had no color editing.

A monochrome image can be created by using the light to your advantage. In the twilight photograph above, late evening light and heavy clouds turned the surrounding sky blue. The sunrise image below is dominated by the orange of early morning light. Both are the result of the available light at that particular time of day.

Florida Sunrise

Another method of creating full-color monochrome images is through the use of shallow depth of field. I used this next image in last week's article, but it applies here as well. When I took this photo, I wanted a picture that gave you the feel for the texture of pine needles. My use of a shallow depth of field softened the predominant greens and removed any other distracting colors or textures.

Pine Needles

Another method of creating a monochrome image is through compositional framing. This red water lily was in a sea of flowers in many other colors. By closely framing the image, I excluded those colors leaving only the shades of red.

Really Red, Water Lily

Even "black and white" images can be created in full color. The extreme fog in this next photograph obscured so much light that any available colors were muted.

Morning Awakens, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida

Photography should never be boring. As soon as I realize what I am doing has become too mundane, I set out to find a way to change it. I like creating monochrome photographs this way. For me, it is the challenge of doing something outside of the normal procedure and yet getting fantastic results that makes photography so much fun.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Honor God

*This article is dedicated to my cousin, who stood up for what she believed.
honor - n. honesty, fairness, integrity in one's beliefs or actions, a source of credit or distinction, high respect, as for worth, merit, or respect...high public esteem (Dictionary.com)
If there is one thing I have learned through observation of people, it is that they will defend their actions no matter how incorrect they are. You have only to watch one of those police programs to see this in action. A drug addict insists the dope found in his pocket "isn't his" and "he doesn't know how it got there". A husband beats his wife and says it was "her fault". Even "Christians" are guilty of this. I once read the comments of one man defending his use of pornography.

On the one hand, God tells us to forgive the unforgiveable and love the unloving, despite their behavior. He, after all, was a friend of many of the "lesser" of society. On the other hand, He also threw out the moneychangers when they defiled God's house. (Matthew 21:12;Mark 11:15) Like Christ, we cannot allow the behaviors of the world to become our standard. If we are to truly be a "peculiar people", then our lifestyle should stand out as vastly different. (Titus 2:15;1 Peter 2:9)

It all comes down to honor. The Bible tells us to be vessels of "sanctification and honour". (1 Thess. 4:4) A vessel holds an amount of something. Sanctification simply means to be pure and set apart for a special use. To live our lives in honor, our fleshly vessels must be set apart from the behaviors of the world. We must live filled with integrity, honesty, and respect.

Think about that. This means our words are pure, we don't swear or curse. We don't tell course jokes. We don't create arguments. It means abstaining from the fleshes lusts and urges. We live sexually pure. We restrain our appetites, whether that is overeating, alcohol consumption, or smoking. We refrain from anything displeasing to our Father. We possess ourselves as temples of Christ. The amount of reverence we give to our physical body should double that given to the church building. (1 Corinthians 3:15-17)

We see this written in 2 Timothy, chapter 2.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer...20 in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (verse 15-17,20-22 NKJV)
Notice first, BE DILIGENT. Something we are doing diligently consumes our time. It means watching constantly and not being distracted.

Next, notice the end result, "useful" and "prepared". Wow. If ever you don't want the bad things of life to sneak up on you, these verses tell you how to avoid them. It is through honor and a "pure heart" that we will have the wisdom and understanding we need to tackle all of life's problems.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7 NKJV)
It seems to me that honor is the tougher stance. It is so easy to sit down, give up, and fit in. It is easy to defend poor behavior. Walking upstream is the harder task. This is the true "trial of our faith". We are tried in the fires of people's comments and criticisms. But God says afterward we will be found a people of praise, honor, and glory.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Making An Impression

*This was originally posted at Pix-N-Pens on October 21, 2010.

This is really such a simple concept and one which applies to your task no matter what that may be - photography or writing. But what impression are you making? How do other people see your work product? Are you that "wow" factor and they can't wait to see what you've posted? My "impression" in the eyes of others, their image of who I am, is formed both by my work AND my behavior as a person.

WORK

Where your work is concerned, display only your best. I repeat this phrase often and yet still I visit forums where people post photographs that are poorly composed, not properly exposed, or blurry.

Impressions can be either positive, negative, or what I will dub "meh" (those are the ones you can most easily pass over). Positive impressions, those that linger in the memory of the viewer, are formed by consistency. My favorite photographers ARE my favorites because they continually turn out excellent work. You'd think that would be a given, except that it isn't.

What makes for "excellent" work? Again, this comes down to uniformity of work product and also to staging. How do you stage yourself? The photo below is ONE of many I took as a pair of Peregrine Falcons circled in the air over my yard. It is the ONLY success of the dozens I took that afternoon. It is important to notice that I have not posted the failures.

Peregrine Falcon

This becomes hard for some people when they don't really have a successful shot. (For the purpose of this article, a "successful shot" is one in which all the elements - sharpness, exposure, and composition - are present.) So you have a photo of a rare bird, but it is dark, there is a branch across the bird's eye, and since he was moving and your shutter speed was too slow, it isn't completely sharp, probably you shouldn't display it. (People say, "Once in a while, doesn't hurt." But I have noticed eventually once-in-a-while becomes every day!) All photographers take some "half-baked" photographs. By consistently displaying only those that are my best, I form a better impression.

Always remember that impressions can be negative as well. The more you share "poor" shots with me, the more likely I am to begin to skip your work and eventually what you have to say about photography.

BEHAVIOR

The term "netiquette" was formed as it became apparent more and more that there were certain behaviors on the internet that are just not acceptable. The famous "reply all" email snafu comes to mind. It is especially important to watch your online behavior. Always remember that most of the people you will meet online (a) don't know you and (b) can't see you. If I am being completely truthful, which is the only way I know how to be, I have met people online who I really didn't like. And their bad impression formed in my mind when something of their behavior set me off in a negative direction. (This despite having never met them in person.)

I am really not the most forthright person. I much prefer to never say anything (which I know is hard to believe when I write so much) and I hate being pushy. There is something to be said for being kind and also for developing a thick skin. Stay aware that, though you don't know that person, they are nevertheless still a person, and people have feelings. If someone asks me for an honest critique, even then I temper it with as many positives as negatives. If there aren't any positives, then I say nothing at all. I once had a pastor who would say, "If you can't say anything nice, tell them they have nice teeth." I have always remember that statement and it has stood me in good stead.

Fading, Mexican Sunflowers

Take the time to read the rules of whatever forum you are visiting. Pay attention to any "unspoken" rules that might turn others against you. If you find it just isn't the place for you, then by all means leave, but do so SILENTLY. Your absence will speak more volumes than any "hissy fit" you pitch on the way out. That will instead leave a negative impression that you definitely don't want.

I have met some of the greatest people via the web. This column itself is a direct result of that. I have also met with some real turkeys. I have meet people with "meh" work who are just so very nice, and people with outstanding work who, again, fall into the turkey category. In order to make a good and lasting impression, we must present both our work AND our behavior in the greatest amount of light. Hold back some of the photos that aren't top notch and hold back some of the words you shouldn't say. You never know who is there watching and listening. It might get you a sale or even lose you one.

Pine Needles

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

A Page From My Journal: Amicalola Falls

This page falls between my previous two journal entries. Again, the photographs are all from this same trip. The embedded links are videos from the trip.

November 9, 2009, Monday

7:39 AM

Yesterday’s cardinal is presently singing as I type this. I slept again like someone had whacked me over the head. Perhaps it is this bed that grabs me and sucks me in. It is like I cannot roll over even, much less get out of it. I only woke twice, at my usual 4:30 AM, and then the final time just as the sun was rising. The color of the sky was washed pink. The light falling on the mountain turned the trees on the mountain a magical shades of red and pink. It was very lovely. It would have been worth a picture, had this bed not strapped me in.
I think we are off somewhere today, but I have no idea where.

6:43 PM

Breakfast this morning was cereal. Ashley was going to cook eggs but then could not be convinced after others said they didn’t want any.

At about 10:30 we left the cabin and headed towards Amicalola Falls in Georgia. (Amicalola Falls is the highest waterfall in Georgia. It is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “Tumbling Waters”.) This requires us driving towards Blue Ridge and Ellijay and then hanging a left. Jay drove today. We stopped at the “Rebel” food store for gas (on the way to Blue Ridge) and then continued on. We also stopped at a CVS pharmacy for Mom.

The landscape from Ellijay towards the falls is like a postcard. The mountainsides give way to rolling hills. The rolling hills are crisscrossed by streams and dotted with small farms. The farms have horses of all colors and also cattle grazing on them next to wooden barns that look like they have been there for ages. It is haying time and we are constantly passing tractors toting hay across every road. The roadsides are red clay lined with trees either naked of leaves or blushed rusty red. Most of the yellow trees have lost their leaves, but once and again, you will pass some that stand out like a beacon.

Apples

Hillside Orchards, Georgia
Hillside Farms

There are peach trees and apple orchards with “apple houses” lining the road selling their wares. On the way to the falls, we stopped at Hillside Farms and sampled the apples. It smelled so marvelous inside. We also found some white gristmill cornmeal. I was prepared this trip to go all the way to the Smoky Mountains Park to find some. I don’t know why you can’t find it in Florida any more.

We had lunch at Amicalola Falls Lodge. They have a moderate-sized buffet with decent food. The chicken fried steak was very good. However, I feel already like I have eaten too much beef this week. The zucchini and squash mix was also tasty. I didn’t care for the dessert too much. I tried the peach cobbler, but it was the most “unsweet” cobbler I have ever eaten. It tasted like it had no sugar in it at all.

Amicalola Falls, Georgia
Amicalola Falls, Georgia

Following lunch, we made two stops at the falls. We took in the view from the top. You can see for a long ways from up there. Then we walked the upper path to the highest viewing platform at the falls. The leaves along the walk were so lovely. There were reds and oranges and yellows. You just cannot encapsulate the sound of the falls as you stand before it.

The weather was overcast today and cool. The car’s thermometer said 60 degrees, but it felt cooler than that with no sun shining. Tomorrow they forecast rain.

On the way back from the falls, we stopped at yet another apple house; it was very similar to the first one. A strange lady working there questioned why I was making videos. She wanted to know if I was making them for myself, “Were they personal?” How strange! I know I did not look like a professional.

Burt's Farm, Georgia
Burt's Farm, Georgia

We also stopped at Burt’s Farm and walked amongst the pumpkins, some very large, and then circled through a newly built neighborhood with some amazing, large homes.
All in all it was a very nice drive through the Georgia countryside.

We picked up dinner from Ingles – roasted chicken and salad – and now sit here watching a movie that is not the movie I thought I was buying. It frustrates me too because I erased the other one from our DVR at home thinking I had bought the right one. It is not a bad movie, but as I said, not the one I thought I had purchased. Now I am determined to get that one.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Steve's Digicams.com Article #9

My article #9 entitled "Know How To Make Sharp Images" is now available. I cannot reproduce it here, but it can be read at the link below.

Know How To Make Sharp Images

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"I don't care!"


And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. (1 Corinthians 3:20)
I realized again today just how vain, or ineffectual, my thoughts are. Left to their own devices, they wander about futile and unsuccessful. In times like those, I don't write anything profitable. In fact, quite the opposite, I am completely unfruitful.

The Bible has quite a list of "vain" things. The majority of them have to do with your mind, your thoughts, your mouth, and your words.

repetitions
(Matthew 6:7)
imaginations
(Acts 4:25;Romans 1:21)
thoughts
(1 Corinthians 3:20)
beliefs
(1 Corinthians 15:2)
preaching, faith
(1 Corinthians 15:14,17)
labor
(1 Corinthians 15:58, Galatians 2:2, 4:11, Philippians 2:16)
words
(Ephesians 5:6)
jangling [random talk*]
(1 Timothy 1:6)
babbling
[empty sounding fruitless discussion*] (1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 2:16)
talkers
(Titus 1:6)
questions
(Titus 3:9)
religion
(James 1:26)
conversation
(1 Peter 1:18)
Ephesians 4:17 gives a firm instruction.
...walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind
This makes sense to me. All those days I awaken and cannot get my head to stop spinning. One minute I am fretting over finances, the next it is my health, the next some upcoming event. All of these thoughts are in vain. They don't solve anything. I spend so much time encumbered by the cares He has told me to "cast off", weighted down in mental turmoil when Jesus promised me "peace that passes understanding". (Philippians 4:7)

Half the battle is realizing your thoughts ARE vain. When it finally hit me I was wasting my time with worry and despair, I received some measure of freedom. The remaining freedom came when I adopted an "I-don't-care" attitude. Now, I realize that sounds a bit crass, but think about it for a minute. If we are to be "care-less" then we really "don't care" anymore. I'm not talking about lack of compassion for your neighbor. I'm talking about not carrying around all those cares you struggle with, the same cares the Gospels say "choke" God's Word in our lives. (Mark 4:19,Luke 8:14)

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
It is as the old song says, "Give them all to Jesus, shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys." ** Personally, that's my plan. I am tired of choking on cares and spending my thoughts in vain. Instead I want to move into God's peace and true success.

The fact is, I just don't care anymore! I can't afford to.

Watch this clip from Creflo Dollar Ministries. It illustrates this point perfectly!

*G3150,G2757 ** "Give them all to Jesus" copyright 1975 Ericson Music

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Page From My Journal: Field of the Woods

This journal entry comes 5 days after the last and talks about our visit to Tennessee. All photos are from the trip. The embedded links are to videos from the trip.

November 12, 2009, Thursday

7:34 AM

The sky was very clear last night. You could count a thousand stars in it. I lay in bed for a long time just gazing out the window at them.

This morning it is foggy again. The surrounding mountains have receded. I hope the sun will rise. I want to go to the Ocoee River this morning.

9:07 PM

Jay, Ashley, and I left the house around 9 AM to drive to the Ocoee River. It was one of three places I wanted to visit this week. The problem is that before we left the cabin the local news showed a major rock-mud slide on Highway 64 towards Cleveland, Tennessee. That being the exact road we needed to travel to get there, it was up in the air as to whether or not we’d make it.

We didn’t make it. Strike one. The road was closed just 2 miles from the Ocoee Visitors Center. It is 15 miles from the cabin to the Tennessee line and then about 15 to the Center. There were two overlooks just previous to the road closure. So since we were there already, we got out and took a few pictures.

Panoramic Image, Tennessee, Near Ducktown

The weather was very cold this morning, in the 30s, and breezy. We discovered how cold while standing on an overpass taking said pictures.

Changing our plans, we decided to drive down to the park on Hiawassee Lake instead. It is another spot I wanted to visit this week. The drive to the lake is very lovely. There are more rolling hills, more farms, and lots of old wooden barns. It is some of the prettiest land around in my opinion. There are also some new housing developments along that road. It is unusual to see housing developments up here.

Barn, Murphy, North Carolina

They had done some roadwork at the entrance of the park, widening a one-lane bridge that used to be there. We turned into the park to discover it was also closed. Strike two.

We changed our plans again and decided to find Field of the Woods. This is a strange tourist attraction with the Ten Commandments written in stone on a mountainside. We followed the signs and the Garmin, only to end up making some wrong turns and getting sent in wrong directions. (FYI, “Wylie Hamby Rd.” will NOT get you there.) Once we righted ourselves, we discovered at one point we had been almost on top of it when we had turned around thinking we’d gone too far.

In any case we found it, but didn’t get out. We did see some more, scary mountain people. I’m talking chest-length beards, fuzzy, unkempt hair, floor-length skirts, and overalls – exactly what you’d think you wouldn’t see, only those people really do exist.

Farm, Murphy, North Carolina

We stopped a few times for some barn pictures and then returned to the cabin to pick up Mom and Dad for lunch. Lunch was at the Happy Garden, an “American and Chinese” food restaurant that is new here. The food was actually very good and exactly as it was described. It had everything from your straight Chinese food – egg drop soup, fried rice, etc. – to green bean casserole and meatballs. Bizarre. The prices were reasonable. My favorite was the crunchy noodles coated in honey and sesame seeds.

After lunch, we drove into Murphy and went into an antique store there (very expensive prices) and then a nearby furniture store (also expensive). The most interesting thing I saw was actually the courthouse. We had gone in to use the bathroom, but that building was something out of the 1920s. It was like walking into another time. I kept thinking about how many people had walked through there.

I had this same thought this week when we came across an antique newspaper for sale. I kept thinking about it being printed so many years ago, and how the news had been current at that time. History is such a fascinating thing to me - all the lives of so many people coming and going.
After a stop at Walmart to buy ingredients for supper, we returned to the cabin. When we were almost back, I saw what I thought to be a chicken run across the drive. Turns out it was a pheasant. This was a nice sight, since I had never seen one before. We have seen so few birds this week. I even bought bird seed and yet haven’t seen hardly a one, just several very fat squirrels who greedily picked all the sunflowers seeds out.

Mom fixed a “leftover chicken” and rice casserole dish. It was actually pretty good. Then she used the last of the biscuits from the other night, some of my home grown pineapple, and frozen blackberries, to make an interesting dessert.

After dinner, we finished the puzzle. It is amazing! I love the moment you finish a puzzle. I wasn’t sure we’d actually complete it, but we did.

The rest of the evening was spent watching TV...

Technically speaking, we didn’t have a strike three today. But I am bit disappointed as to what we’ve seen or not seen this week. We did go to Amicalola Falls, that being the other place I wanted to visit on this trip, but we didn’t hike any at the bottom of the falls. We could have, but we didn’t. I just kept thinking I didn’t want to expend the effort. Missing the other two spots is no one’s fault.

Perhaps tomorrow we’ll go north.


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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Righteous Nation

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

Doing right brings honor to a nation, but sin brings disgrace. (CEV)
I don't like to talk politics. In fact, it is something I strive to avoid. However, the Lord has pressed upon me a thought that I feel I must share.

moral - adj. founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom
I mourn with many others the lack of a godly person to vote for. The fact is I don't like any of my choices. This was bothering me until the Lord prompted some thoughts in my heart. To put it simply, He said, "Vote for morality."

But what does that mean? In the scripture from Proverbs above we find the answer. It is righteousness, "doing right", that exalts a nation. It is not any particular political stance, not someone's ideas or level of schooling. There are so many reasons to vote for, or not to vote for, candidates. In this time of financial hardship, we focus on creating jobs and balancing budgets. We want education for our children and an efficient, working society. However, the highest ideal, according to the Word of God, is righteousness. It is morality. It is "right conduct" without "legalities" or "customs". I like that definition because it strips away all the excuses we make for our behavior.
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (Isaiah 26:2)
We want our leaders to exhibit wisdom. We want them to know truth. But truth only comes from God, and it only comes as a person walks after Christ.

With wisdom, God has made a promise. He said, the man who concentrates on God, who seeks after Him with all his heart, will obtain wisdom and then have "all the other things" he needs. Jesus Himself stated in Matthew 6:33. We apply this scripture to ourselves individually, but did you know it also applies to governments as well?

Look at King Solomon. When he asked for wisdom above all other things what did God say to Him of His choice?

Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles 1:10-12)
How does this help us know whom to vote for? Well, I will not tell you who to choose, but I urge you to look behind the rhetoric, the television ads, and the debates. Look behind the qualifications and political parties. Look instead for morality. Where does that candidate stand on the issues that God will not compromise on? That is what it all comes down to. I will not compromise the Word of God in my life. I will not settle for someone who stands against the morality that is in God's Word. Because as soon as I do, I condemn my nation to sin and disgrace.

And then I will pray as God has instructed me. For with His wisdom, I know my nation will make the decisions it needs to live in prosperity and peace.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Page From My Journal: Murphy, North Carolina

I thought I'd begin to post some of my journal pages as I find some that might be of interest. This page is from the first day of our vacation to North Carolina, November 7, 2009. I'll post more from this trip over the next couple of weeks. The photos included are from this same vacation. All embedded links will take you to videos from the trip. Enjoy!

November 7, 2009, Saturday

It has been a really long day. I cannot believe I am here after such a long amount of time. I was so nervous about leaving home and spending so much time in the car. All-in-all the day went smoothly. We encountered no problems while driving, no one got sick, and we made really good time.

I suppose I should put down the particulars, such as the times and places we’ve visited. But I wanted to start by sharing a thought I had on the way up. Driving all the way from Central Florida directly through the middle of the state of Georgia, and then into western North Carolina is quite a change in seasons. When we left the house, the land was struggling to let go of summer. The month of October running into November was unseasonably warm. One could still traipse about outdoors in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

Autumn Leaves, Die Bend Road, Murphy, North Carolina

As we moved into Georgia, it began to get cooler and the landscape changed. Left behind were the sweeping branches of live oaks and the stateliness of slash pines to be replaced by endless miles of cotton fields, the cotton ripe for harvest. We passed pecan groves, the trees holding high their graceful limbs, and pink roadside flowers standing some 4-foot high. The land was mostly flat, open farmland until we reached about Macon, Georgia.

At Macon, the trees changed again, to maples and sweet gum, also new varieties of oaks and pine. At first, the color change was gradual, a little here and there. But by the time we reached Atlanta, fall was in full flame. Oh, the marvelous colors we saw! And the landscape became hilly and then more and more mountainous.

As we left Atlanta behind and arrived more towards our destination, the leaves began to fall. Here at the cabin, they lie mostly on the ground, a subtle reminder of things past. I can in my head just see those trees, as we saw them two years ago, all marvelously bright full of glorious autumn color, but with no one here to appreciate them. That’s kind of sad, really.

The change in the land from our starting point to our destination is so very great. Yet, it came about gradually as the miles flew past us. In these thoughts, America strikes me as such a diverse place. Were I to keep driving, I can imagine how it would change again and again. You’d not notice the changes so much as you moved along, but could see them if you compared them later.

Squirrel

As to the details, we left this morning just before 6:00 AM. Officially, I got up at 5:00, but the truth is I was awake fitfully from about 3:30. I just could not seem to shut my head off properly and I felt as if I was vibrating. That was mostly me being nervous and anxious about the drive.

After leaving Ginger, the dog, with Robert and Faye, we drove off into the early morning twilight. I cannot remember the exact time the sun rose, but I remember watching it rise in the rear view mirror as we drove along the Florida Turnpike and thinking it was so pretty. I’d have taken a picture except for the fact my camera was in the back.

We stopped at a small convenience store somewhere in lower Georgia to fuel the car and buy a snack. We settled for candy bars, Funyons, and pork rinds. (That would begin my fascination this week with pork rinds.) Those were by far the tastiest! They were so spicy and crunchy. We waited for lunch until about 12:45, after we had passed through Atlanta. Passing through downtown Atlanta was swift, but nerve wracking. It makes me realize just how little I am underneath those towering buildings. I much prefer my small Florida town any day. I did make a short video with the Flip. Round about Marietta, Georgia, we did the Chick-Fil-A drive through and had a very good chicken sandwich.

We stopped at Ingles in Blue Ridge at about 2:00 PM to buy something for supper and then arrived at the cabin around 3:00. The cabin was full of lady bugs…thousands of them, mostly dead, in the carpet and on the chairs. We have seen that here before, but it is always so bizarre. I was grateful we did not find rats like we did one other year. That was so disturbing.

Supper was pizza, and not a very good one. Then we had to call twice to Dish Network about fixing the TV signals. All we could seem to get in was a channel with a picture of an astronaut getting dressed. That was so boring! But there was a funny moment when Jay began to do a voice over bit like he was announcing the action and we all had a good laugh.

That brings me to now when I am sitting upstairs on the bed feeling very, very tired. I wish in my head for my own bed, despite my happiness at being on vacation. I would transport myself back there to sleep I think if I could wake up here instead.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Book Review: Science For The Curious Photographer

Science For The Curious Photographer
by Charles S. Johnson, Jr.

Aesthetics:

I like the overall look of this book. The use of a two-column format worked well for me, though as a digital book, it required more scrolling up-and-down which might be annoying to some. It is full of illustrations and diagrams to illustrate the author's point, all of which are very helpful.

I appreciated his use of "further reading" references at the end of each chapter, as well as his included quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

I was a little baffled by the included "appendixes" at the end of the book, as they seemed to be as long as some of the chapters themselves.

Content:

My first observation is, "What is NOT covered in this book?" I admit I hesitated at first to read it because I am notorious for being "technically challenged". Even the title was intimidating to me. In the end, this book really reinforced that quality in me, and I left off feeling a bit "dumb".

In essence, the author takes a camera and dissects it from stem to stern. He discusses both the history of photography itself and historical aspects of all the elements needed to create a photograph. He scientifically describes light, types of cameras, and the creation of camera lenses. Also covered are how camera filters work (neutral density, polarizing, and color filters) with a lengthy section on optics.

This brings me to my second observation - this book is extremely detailed. Every subject is approached from a scientific point of view. Even the chapter on art, which includes a discussion on compositional rules, comes across in that manner. Often the words used are out of the vocabulary of an amateur photographer. Eventually, they are defined, but only after wading through a lot of formulas first to locate them.

A constant reference is made to other chapters. This is both positive and negative for me. It provides a good way for people to move about in the book. However, it also becomes tedious.

Another positive is that the author is careful to include the workings of digital cameras in his explanations. He talks considerably about digital topics - pixels, sensor sizes, etc. - as well as film.

Pros:

If you are of a scientific mind, then this book is for you. I can think of a couple photographers who will enjoy it. Absolutely every topic involves math equations of some sort. (This is where the diagrams are very helpful.) He covers any topic you'd ever need to know about in the design and creation of cameras and lenses. (I'm not sure how this will help you take better photographs, however.)

I liked the author's explanation on the shape of various lenses and how this affects the aberrations in a photograph.

There is a good description on the best equipment to use for macro photography. (However, if you "cut out" all the math, in the end this section seems short.)

The author also makes a valid point (which I totally agree with) about the danger of over-processing in the use of HDR photography.

Cons:

If you are like myself, non-technical, then you will dislike this book (a fact the author himself acknowledges at the beginning). At times, I felt like I was swimming in too much information. The author is obviously very smart. It is not a book for the beginner. A lot of knowledge is needed to even begin reading.

Portions of the book could have been greatly simplified to appeal more to the amateur photographer. For this reason, this book only fits in with a very limited selection of people.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How To Overcome


And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
Every day of our lives we strive to overcome "stuff". We want to live free from debt, full of the joy of the Lord, and in great health. Unfortunately, the path we walk is not always rosy. Circumstances, people, and sickness come along and we find ourselves at the bottom again striving to climb back up.

Our entire lives are a walk of faith. Not a day passes that I do not have to step out in complete belief that God will support me. But at the same time, I find comfort in that. "He is faithful." (Deuteronomy 7:9) His will for me is always to have the best: the best marriage, the best child, the best job, etc.

Looking back at this scripture, there are three factors at work in overcoming. In other words, how did they overcome? First, through "the blood of the Lamb". There is a powerful prayer in the book of Philippians that helps explain this thought.

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection... (Philippians 3:10a)
Jesus' blood was shed on the cross that we might "know" the "power of his resurrection". This means we receive all the benefits of salvation - He is our Savior from sin, the Healer of our body, our Provider and Supplier. Those that overcame allowed Christ's anointing to move in their lives and to change them. This is the true working of "the blood of the Lamb". Through His blood and the power in His blood, we overcome.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord... (2 Timothy 1:8a)
The second step to overcoming was "the word of their testimony". Much is said throughout the Bible about giving testimony. Giving your testimony serves a spiritual purpose, and it is not to bring you attention. It is first to bring conviction to others.

Jesus stated this on several occasions. In Matthew 10:18 He said, "And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles." This statement is repeated in Mark 13:9. Our testimony, whether it is received by the hearer or not (because sometimes it will not be), brings the seed of the Gospel into the hearts of those who hear it. (Matthew 10:14;Mark 6:11;Luke 9:5)

But what IS a testimony? Testimony is evidence given from personal experience. You through your actions, your behaviors, and your words show what Christ has done in your life. It does not necessarily mean giving a speech in front of a crowd. That is uncomfortable for some. Instead, you show, through the change He has wrought in your heart, the difference in you.

Perhaps someone says to themselves, "Wow. He is so different. I wonder what happened to change him?" We ask questions like that all the time from people who have lost weight or kicked an addictive habit. Human nature is to find out how they accomplished the task. Remember, we are the light of Christ in a dark world. And the Scripture says such light "cannot be hidden". (Matthew 5:14) This is "testimony" for a hidden testimony is no testimony at all.

This brings me to the second purpose of your testimony. Your testimony frees you. I discovered this after my battle against panic attacks. People ask me why I am so willing to talk about that. How is it I am not afraid of the stigma it carries? For me it is very simple, the more I talk about it, the more I share it with others, the freer I become.

It goes back to the thought about hiding. Haven't we all had something we wanted no one to know? Which brought more freedom, trying constantly to hide it or telling it? That which is told, no longer holds any bondage. The devil can not dangle what happened to me over my head any more. Because I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ in my life, I then have the power of God towards my salvation. (Romans 1:26)

Yet there is always a time for wisdom. We are not to run people from Christ by becoming too bold or brash. God is love and our message should always be tempered by God's love and the behaviors of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I pray over every opportunity I'm given to speak. There are times when I am not "free" to give it, but it is never because I am afraid.

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
And here is the final factor to overcoming. Paul says, "I count all things as loss for Christ." (Philippians 3:8) In your testimony there is NO pride involved. Every photograph I take, every article I write, every video I put together, is not my own. I didn't do them. I simply am the earthly vessel God spoke to at those moments.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
My job is to listen and to obey. That's all there is to it. Through my testimony God gets all the glory. He becomes greater and I become less. That is, in essence, how I "love not my life." I testify of what great things He has done in my life so that you might know He will do the same for you. Then when all is finished, I overcome, not through myself, but entirely through Him.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

A Note To My Readers

Dear Readers, I was in the path of Hurricane Irma. I still do not have power at home and so am living a bit like a refugee. I have ...