Hope in the Darkness — Christmas Time Reflections

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at the Bible Fellowship Church Women's Christmas Tea. Along with two other precious ladies I was able to share the way the Lord has so graciously weaved "hope" into the story of my life. You can check out my notes/thoughts from that part of my story here:

Hope in the Dark

There is a lot that goes into taking a photograph. There is the natural eye for things, compositional rules, always keeping an eye out for the background the image, the story that is being told, not to mention mastering your tools and growing in your technical skills. But my all time favorite part about capturing an image is finding the light. I have found that as a photographer I enjoy all the light, all the time. Give it ALL to me! Of course many a gorgeous images can be capture on the grayest of cloudy days in that giant lightbox our atmosphere becomes. But I'll give those gorgeous images all away for that blinding sun and the hazy, warmth that is ushered into an image in its presence.

I found that throughout my life this seemed to be the same way I was treating God; begging for all his glory, all his blessings, all His light all the time. Once you have basked in the blinding light of our God you ache in its perceived absence. But the problem is that we don't live in a world of constant sunshine. God created the day and the night, the light and the dark, times of blinding goodness and times without.

But contrary to all my understanding I have found that the times when I have seen God most clearly was in the dark. 

For 34 years I woke up on Christmas morning, shuffled to the living room and plopped down in a sea of presents, warmth and the glow of the family christmas tree filled with lots of family love. No matter how far away my current place in life may have had me living I always seemed to make it home… for 34 years. 

Each year was unique in its own. Some years my dad read the Christmas story straight from the gospels. Some years my mom had a camcorder on her shoulder (one of those super-duper heavy ones that recorded on a full sized VHS that I have no idea where they might be now-a-days.) For probably 15 years straight I would get a new Precious Moment's figurine (which was not so much fun as a kid but are probably worth a good bit of money now-a-days). Some years we were coaxed out of bed by the smell of cinnamon rolls, others breakfast casseroles (yes, we were the kids that had to be coaxed out of bed). I remember the year my brother convinced me to sneak out of my room and sleepy-eyed peer into the living room and I watched in shock as my mom and dad wrapped our presents! That image is burned into my memory for all of time. And while the details of the scene may have been different year after year there were few things that never changed. In the light of Christmas morning, we were all together… for 34 years. 

The darkest of times for me came on that 34th year with an unexpected phone call in the black of night on a Tuesday morning. I drove in the darkness along a road illuminated by my headlights to a hospital where my dad had gone in for routine knee surgery andin recovery suffered a massive heartattack. When I left that hospital just six hours later in the blinding noon day sun I was fatherless. And while I can vividly remember standing in the harshness of the sunlight that day outside the hospital, my world fell dark.

If you've never lost a dear loved one so suddenly like this you may have no idea of what I'm talking about. But if you have... you know exactly what I mean. As the curtains were drawn on my spirit and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, whether I wanted them to or not, in the most baffling of places I've ever found myself God began to show me this truth...

He is in the darkness with me too. 

Of course the bible has a lot to say about darkness that is representative of sin, or evil or being far from God. But there is also the type of darkness that represents the unknown, the incomprehensible qualities of our grand, mysterious Father. God himself is found in this type of darkness more times than I knew in the bible. 

In Genesis 1:2, the second verse of the entire bible we see that "the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." In Exodus when we read about the structure and the make up of the Tabernacle we read that the Holy of Holies, the symbolical dwelling place of Jehovah, was covered by a veil and kept in the darkness. There is something comforting in knowing that there is absolutely no possible way that our minds could wrap around the grandness of our Father or His plans. Because oftentimes in that grandness there are things that we don't understand and may never this side of heaven. Like the death of your parent, or a spouse of 40 years, or a child. Or a struggling marriage, a lingering illness, a thorn in your side.

Take comfort those of you who find yourself in the darkness even today that God is near. More near than you could ever imagine. That the very breathe you breath is filled with His presence. Rest in that. Then, my friends, look for the light.

2000 years ago the earth was veiled in darkness. God had not spoken to his people in over 400 years. He was silent. And in the darkness of night, in the most humble of ways, light entered this world in the form of a baby, born to a virgin.

Hope in a manger.

Jesus birth brought hope down into our dark world. His teachings shed light into our understanding of what it meant to obey God. His very life was a light filled representation of who our God is. This light that was Jesus Christ grew and grew until it was seemingly extinguished on a hillside on a cross when he was 33 years old. But in that exact moment the veil, that veil we talked about earlier that was concealing the presence of the Lord in darkness, was torn. From top to bottom. From the heavens it was torn.

Light broke through. 

His death offered us salvation, redemption and an invitation not only into heaven but also into a daily relationship with our creator. By laying down His life brought us out of darkness into light.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  | John 8:12 |

For me having hope of Jesus, my salvation and my one day reunion with my God and my dad in heaven was wonderful. But here was the problem. I wasn't there yet. My feet were still planted firmly on this ground we call earth.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." | Psalms 27:13 |

I'll have to be honest in the first few days, weeks and going into months after the passing of my dad, I was dumbfounded and exhausted by the weight of the grief. I was still here in the land of the living with the constant threat of despair. Everyone grieves in their own unique way, but for me it was sheer exhaustion. I couldn't even find the energy to pick up my bible, the living word of the Lord, my one source of light. Yet God's word rings true when it says... "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted." Pslams 34:18

In a time where I had lost all energy to move towards God, in the blackness that is this unknown place of rediscovering who God is, He drew near to me through His people.

When I couldn't find the energy to pick up my physical bible and read it. His Word broke through the darkness through texts, through cards and through whispers in my ear in a hug. Or simply through the hug itself. We are called to be lights, to reflect the light of Jesus into our dark world, to give the world a hope and a purpose. 

You, my friends, have the opportunity to reflect the light and hope of Jesus to those around you in the midst of darkness.

One of the most hope filled things you can do is remember what God has done for you. To take a picture. Write it down. Record it. And look back on it. Marvel at the work God has done in your life. How many of you all like to sit back and marvel at accomplishments? An organized closet, a tidied bedroom, a finished work project. Did you know that God took pleasure in His work. And took time to rest and reflect on it. When it says that on the seventh day that God rested, did you ever think about the fact that God of the infinite universe didn't need to rest. He wasn't sleepy, you guys.

Matthew Henry says, "He did not rest as one weary, but as one well-pleased with the instances of his own goodness and the manifestations of his own glory."

God created all things perfect. I know we can't do that. But when I was writing these words here, I was sitting in the glow of my Christmas tree. Near perfection. I marveled at it. It is glorious. But not perfect. There is a hole here and there, the ornaments are a hodge podge collected over the years, some of the even predating my self from my mom and dad's first Christmas together 43 years ago. Somehow in our move we misplaced the box with our Christmas lights so I opted for cafe globe lights. You should try it. There was such a mess when we brought it up. There was an entire process of cleaning up afterwards that adds to the now glory of said Christmas tree and makes the final product that much more worth it. This imperfect picture of Christmas tree glory is good. Ahhh.

I began thinking back on the Christmases of the past, those 34 years in the living room with my dad and the past three without. That imperfect, messy, at times dark story of my life with God at work in it, is good too. If anything I need to look back at these pictures to remember His faithfulness and goodness. When He might not feel faithful and my current state may not feel very good we have a tendency to forget. I want to encourage you to take a picture of His goodness, the way He is at work in your life, and remember. Every day remember the hope that is Jesus Christ his birth and death and the hope and light that arrived in the dark of night 2000 years ago.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” | Romans 15:13 |

Stephanie + Adam Wedding Day Sneak Peek — Winter Haven, FL Wedding Photography

Stephanie and Adam's Winter Haven. FL wedding last weekend was nothing short of spectacular! Not only were these two a gorgeous pair with so much classy style, but their lakeside wedding celebration was filled with the sweetest of sentimental details, a glorious golden sunset and so much love. Congrats you two!

xoxo, Caroline

Stephanie + Adam – Winter Haven, FL wedding photography with Caroline Maxcy Photography

Stephanie + Adam – Winter Haven, FL wedding photography with Caroline Maxcy Photography

Zach + Jerrianne — Central Florida Film Engagement Photography — Highlands Hammock State Park, Sebring, FL

Its been far too long since I've blogged an actually full session. So in honor of Zach and Jerrianne tying the knot this weekend (woohoo!) paired with my first engagement session captured on film I thought I'd treat you all with these lovely images from our session at Highlands Hammock State Park filled with lots of film loveliness and all the love. Can't wait to celebrate with these two this coming Saturday! 

xoxo, Caroline

Camera: Contax 645 / Rented from Contax Rentals
Film: FujiPro 400h
Film Processing and Scans: The Find Lab

Sophia + Rodney Wedding Day Sneak Peek — Oregon Fall Green Villa Barn & Garden Wedding — Independence, OR

Since I am over here basically still working on west coast time I'd say it's definitely not too late to post this little teaser from Sophia and Rodney's Oregon wedding filled with all things fall and lovely. (And I may be a little bias but that is one good looking wedding party, complete with my hubby, am I right?) Congrats you two!

xoxo, Caroline

Sophia + Rodney — Green Villa Barn and Gardens Wedding Photography in Independence, Oregon

Sophia + Rodney — Green Villa Barn and Gardens Wedding Photography in Independence, Oregon

Heartland Couples — Marriages Committed to Community and Each Other — Heartland Living Magazine Editorial Photography

You guys how did June come and go so fast? While Florida in June is not generally a big time of year for weddings (folks tend to think it's a bit to hot to be getting all gussied up in a full on wedding gown) for the rest of the world every young woman dreams of becoming a June bride (at least, according to the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And aren't classic musicals how the most of us learned about life?). June is the official month of matrimony and all things love (a close second to that heart filled day in February.) Earlier this month we debut the June/July Issue of Heartland Living Magazine issue with a special section called "Weddings of the Heart" which  included some of my favorite editorial photos yet on the subject of weddings. If you haven't already check out the pages and pages of loveliness you guys should definitely get your hands on a copy as soon as possible. 

But today I'm taking some sweet time to reflect back in a Heartland Living Magazine story from two years ago I was blessed to be a part of from concept to creation. I even did most of the interviews myself! And can I tell you all, this, this right here is probably one of the most profound things I've ever been a part of. We interviewed and photographed couples across Central Florida that have been married for 40 years or more and what we got was pure gold! If you didn't get to see the article in the Heartland Living Magazine June/July issue of 2014 you definitely missed out. But what I've included here is a little peek into the sweetness that was a snapshot of 40+ years of marriage in each of these couples lives.

Film Photography Tests & Fun — Central Florida Film Photography — Highlands Hammock State Park

When I was first officially "schooled" in photography way-back-when at Florida State University it was with a basic, strictly manual Nikon film camera and black and white film where we captured, processed and developed all of our own film. I can still remember the cool dimness of the darkroom (with the sweltering Florida heat just outside its doors). It was a dreamy retreat that place. Even in a time without the instantness of digital photography (yes, it was that long ago) the process of waiting and working for a single image was a welcomed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of college life. I fell in love.

Fast forward a few years and my digital camera and I are inseparable. The instantness is efficient, helpful and perfect for a growing photography business. And the images that a DSLR can create are getting better and better. I capture hundreds of images on a single shoot and thousands on a wedding day. Minute expressions and handfuls of emotions. It's sometimes like a little stop frame animation movie and I love this. I love that somewhere in the 20 photos I capture of a bride and groom snuggled up in that perfect golden afternoon light, they catch each other's eyes, there's a spark and they glow. 

Film is different. And I have to admit I've been scared of going back. My shooting style is so much about capturing that glowing expression and emotion that I'm afraid I'll miss it in the waiting. That I'll click just a half second too late and it will be gone. While I've watched the commercial photography industry for years now slowly making its way back to film I've done just that. I've watched and waited. Photographers talk about the romanticism of film and the images captured, the perfect minty tones, the way the process has made them better photographers and I've watched and waited.

When I talk of my thoughts towards film and the possibility of exploring it again with my non-photog friends their question always is, "Why? Will it make you more money? Are there people that are looking for that?" Which are all valid questions, but in my response I have found that my motivation for picking up a film camera again more so than not entirely about myself. It is about me as the artist, the artistry behind it and cultivating my own art creation process. Its about becoming better at what I do not by grasping for more but in leaning into what is already right there in front of me, weeding out the mess and waiting for the more to bloom. There is a beauty in the process of waiting not to catch an image but for that image to arrive. Eye to the view finder. Lens focused. Waiting, breathing, feeling. The emotions of the moment crest and fall. And then there it is. That golden, glowing, emotion filled image appears. A millisecond. Click. 

It's hard to miss something you are so in-tuned to. 

Last month I did just that. I finally stopped watching and picked up a film camera again. This time it is the one all the cool kids use a Contax 645 rented for a long weekend from the lovely Contax Rental (who also sells Contax Kits). I bought a few rolls of film and explored the process. What fun it was, but despite the fact that I kept looking at the back of the camera after every click to see an image, no image appeared. I had no idea how I was doing. So I packed up my exposed film rolls, sent them along their way to The Find Lab and began the process of waiting again. When I got back the processed, developed and scanned images my heart swelled. I was in love once again.

I captured images across the span of a few sessions I had that long weekend and I will share more of those with you all with each session. But for today you get to see a little peek into my film exploration when on a Sunday afternoon the lovely Hannah and I ventured into Highlands Hammock State Park with my borrowed Contax and a few rolls of film. While we talked over life we explored the dreamiest of places and from time to time I lifted the camera to my eye and waited for a moment to arrive. Click.

xoxo, Caroline

Snap and Flutter Photography Workshop and Styled Shoot — Casa Feliz Wedding Photography — Winter Park, FL

Yesterday's Snap and Flutter workshop and styled shoot at Casa Feliz in Winter Park, FL was oh-so-dreamy thanks to the amazing team that put it all together! Here's a little peek into the day... <3

 

Photography: Caroline Maxcy Photography
Hosted/Creator/Floral/Bouquet/Styling/Tablescapes: Andi Man
Co-host: Best Photography
Food/Catering: Arthur's Catering
Dress: Amsale from Calvet Couture
Hair/Makeup: Laura Reynolds Artistry
Rentals/Table: A Chair Affair
Venue: Casa Feliz
Invite: Lana's Shop
Linen: Connie Duglin
Cake: Party Flavors
Videographers: KEJ Productions

2016 Highlands County Fair Youth Livestock Show Galleries

Hey there all who are participating in the Highlands County Fair Youth Livestock Show! We've had the joy of capturing the events throughout the week and have started adding photos to the online galleries. Head on over there today by {clicking here} to check it out, see yourself (or your kid) in action and purchase photos and downloads from the events! (We will be adding photos from more events throughout the day and the rest of the week so keep checking back.) Enjoy!

xoxo, Caroline