writings

A New Years Reflection for 2019

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Happy New Year! It’s only taken me 14 days to pull myself together for a New Years post.  A little over a week ago I was fresh off of a reflecting, dreaming and goal setting night away with lots of stirrings in my heart and plenty of things to process. Instead of leaving the weekend with a “word” for the year the sweet Lord took me on an unexpected journey through His Word where He gave me lots and lots of life giving words of truth and three things to hold on to; a reminder, a promise and a plan.

Yes of course I got to some actionable goals eventually and revisited and refreshed my Business Plan for the coming year. But there was a lot that needed to happen before any of that could take place and it all took me by complete surprise.

A Reminder - Lamentations 3:22-24

For the first weekend of the new year fellow creative and I Sarah Sandel (who is a gifted writer and has a blog that she’s currently re-vamping but you can bookmark it by clicking here) set out on a goal-setting, dream-casting night away at the beach with visions of soaking up the warm Florida wintertime sun from the comfort of a cozy seaside chair, journal and laptop in hand. We planned for updated glow-y headshots as soon as we arrived in the warm golden hour light. Up and over the skyway bridge we didn’t lose our excitement even over the high hazy complete cloud cover. “It makes a lovely ‘light box’”we said in true photographer form. And then just two miles from the hotel the dark clouds overcame us and the heavens let loose in torrential rain. We unloaded semi-dry under the valet awning and walked into the hotel lobby lit by dim afternoon lights. Not quite what we had imagined.

We opted for an early dinner, then hopping right into our work while postponing the headshots for the morning which was calling for sunshine. As I sat down to dream in front of a window with the view of the ever darkening night cloaking what I only knew to be the ocean beyond I opened my first worksheet from The Well Summit and read the first verse...

“The LORD'S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."” Lamentations 3:22-24

“Oh wouldn’t that have been nice to be reading in the hopeful soft morning light,” I thought to myself. I love the quiet softness of the light at the start of the day when expectations are held lightly and hope abounds. But then I thought, most every glorious sunrise I’ve ever experienced involved getting up before the sun for some reason or another.

Morning always starts in the dark.

I lifted my eyes and stared into the darkness outside the window in front of me and had one of those deep breath moments where I knew the Lord was about to do something big and maybe kind of scary in my heart. I had no idea what it was and surely didn’t know if I was ready for it but there was no doubt it was coming either way.

And that was the start of things for me. In order to step into the hopeful morning light of 2019’s dreams and goals I had to start things off unexpectedly in the dark with the reminder that His compassion and faithfulness is new every single hopeful, softly lit morning.

A Promise - 1 Peter 5:10

I have to admit I always cringe a little at posts that are enthusiastically waving goodbye to a hard year, proclaiming their best year is yet to come. I truly believe you may not always get to choose the experiences and circumstances of your life but you do get to choose how to frame them. And my general aim is to choose to focus on the good, the joyous, the growth in the midst of struggle (but more on that later). And yet being the highly sensitive person I am, that hard and heartbreaking stuff doesn’t just slip by. It sits and lingers in my soul whether I choose to admit it or focus on it or not.

So at the end of 2018 when I sat full of hope and excitement to reflect back on the year and dream towards the next I was genuinely surprised by instant tightness in my chest and the hot tears that came on like an unexpected storm on a day calling for sunshine. It was unnerving. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my time and it certainly wasn’t where I wanted to turn my gaze and focus.

2018 held some pretty heavy heartbreak and I realized in my reflection that I was still holding onto it all. The lingering heartbreak of another year on this earth without my dad, a dear friend battling some heavy medical challenges, witnessing sweet friends walk further and further away from the Lord and the goodness He had for them through obedience to His word and His truth and then there is the general heartbreak and pain that comes from watching loved ones walk through hard things they have no control over. As I prayed through tears the Lord gave me these sweet words of encouragement, hope and a promise of purpose from His Word.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

There is a purpose!

I love the sweet promise that comes in the very first word of this verse, after. The suffering is only for a season and there is a time that comes “after”. There is an end to it. Praise. But the end only comes on the other side. And the other side only comes by walking through it. 

Yes, it was a difficult season in many ways but I am absolutely certain it wasn’t without purpose. As I reflect back I can begin to see the places He was so graciously perfecting, confirming, strengthening and establishing myself and the loved ones around me in this season too. What a sweet gift that through obedience to His truths will forever change our lives the lives of our loved ones for generations to come!

This past week I’ve taken time to process and pray and slowly release those heavy burdens and sufferings from 2018 that I’ve carried for far too long. I have clung to the promise of purpose found in His word and am choosing to focus on what sweet treasures lie on the faith filled other side.

A Plan - Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

With a reminder of His faithfulness and the promise of purpose tucked into my heart I can finally look forward with focus and hope to the coming year. This year I plan to turn my gaze towards Philippians 4:8 things and dwell there. Truth, honor, righteousness, purity, oh-so-lovely, respectable, excellent and praiseworthy things, that’s where I will be.

This year I hope to turn my camera towards more things that take my breath away, inspire me and make my heart skip a beat, like genuine love stories, lovely light, beautiful little meaningful details, gorgeous vistas and lots and lots of film worthy moments. I hope to continue to build encouraging relationships with my friends and clients that always point them back to Jesus and His sweet glory. I hope to collaborate more and work on building not just a healthy team but a Caroline Maxcy Photography Family (more on this soon). I know without a doubt that I thrive in community professionally, personally and spiritually and life is just way more fun with the right folks by your side.

Personally I hope to encourage my husband more, serve my church family and community more and walk more and more in the obedient rhythm of daily discipleship and growing faithfulness. Of course there are health goals, friendship goals and maybe trying to make this the year I start being on time to things. No promises. We hold these type of New Years goals lightly around here. And then there is that little goal I made long before all of this processing that I didn’t think much of at the time, to witness more glorious, quiet sunrises even if that means it starts in the dark.

An Unexpected Christmas

A Shepherd’s Field on the hills surrounding Bethlehem, Israel | Contax 645 , Fujifilm Pro 400h 120

A Shepherd’s Field on the hills surrounding Bethlehem, Israel | Contax 645 , Fujifilm Pro 400h 120

I started writing this Christmas post to accompany this image from the hills surrounding Bethlehem early in December. With anticipation and expectation I had asked the Lord to teach me something new about the Christmas story this year and a few weeks into December I thought I knew what it was going to be...

When we toured the holy land we found ourselves standing in the blinding sun squinting, peering out at shepherds fields and ancient gardens that hold stories from the black of night. A place transforms based on light. A field doesn’t seem so far away from a city in the daytime when you can see it in the distance. You can’t even glimpse the stars, though they are surely there behind the veil of brilliant blue. The fullness of the light of the sun oftentimes blinds us from the small moments in powerful stories told in the dark. Yet there we stood in the shade squinting our eyes because our tour didn’t include any nighttime stops though the stories they held surely did. On that first Christmas Day a new beginning came in the dark of night lit by handheld lamps and far away stars.

I thought that was it. God comes down in the silent black of night to bring us the everlasting light. Yes, what brilliant truths that message holds! I planned to pray and ponder over it all throughout this season as my work slowed and the holiday festivities commenced.

And then the unexpected happened. An unexpected death, an unexpected whirlwind of a trip for a funeral, unexpected sleepless nights, unexpected tears, unexpected stories. Missed meetings, rescheduled photoshoots and unsent Christmas cards and gifts all added to the list of the unplanned.

The unexpected interrupted the well laid plans I had for this Christmas season. But then isn’t that just the very heart of the Christmas story?

And there it was. If a baby born to a virgin isn’t the most unexpected story I don’t know what is. I’m sure those shepherds in that dark Bethlehem field were never in a million years expecting the heavenly hosts that would interrupt their silent night. Certainly no one thought our Savior would ever come as a humble baby boy born in a back room stable within cool stone walls. 

Our God is a God of the unexpected. Though none of it is a surprise to Him.

Maybe this Christmas season what I really needed to learn is instead of agonizing over unwelcome surprises in the night to lean in and look for Him there too, like the shepherds on a Bethlehem hill lit by starlight on that very first Christmas night. 

“O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight”


Loss at Christmas Time

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As the Christmas season has been coming upon us my heart has been heavy for those who lost someone dear to them this year. Christmastime can oftentimes be the hardest. I think back to that first Christmas without my dad. After 34 years of celebrating alongside him, things were painfully different. I know the ache. If you've experience loss, you know it all too well too. And for anyone whose lost someone this year you are in my prayers and have been on my heart for the past few weeks. 

And then...

This past Sunday we lost a dear loved one ourselves. My husband’s step dad, my father in law, unexpectedly passed away on a sunny Christmastime Sunday. We gathered in the hospital, shocked, holding each other up, the stinging reality burning into our hearts yet still strange to our heads. It can’t be true. 

We just took family photos last week. Arms around each other. Cracking up over Doug and his “farm boy” stories as always. I just can’t be true.

We aren’t made to understand death because it’s not what we were made for. In the garden death wasn’t in the original plan. That was ushered in with forbidden fruit and the temptation to believe that God was holding something back from us. The knowledge of good AND evil that we now possess stings on a Sunday afternoon in a small hospital room. Death was ushered in. 

As much as we are enamored with the beauty of this world it’s at times in death when this place feels like a lack-luster foreign land. Our hearts ache for home. Our souls long for heaven. And yet God meets us here. 

Four years ago when I lost my dad the lights of my earthly world dimmed. I held anger, frustration, fear and questions in the dark. But when the lights are dimmed our ears can’t help but tune in to the still small voice of our Comforter. The whispers I received from my precious Savior in the dark are treasures I could have never received anywhere else. 

Much as the light of the world came to meet us as a baby in the quiet black of night, our Savior still meets us there. In the messy, unexpected, dark places He whispers treasures our hearts may not even be able to understand at the time and He gently, slowly, in His perfect timing lifts our gaze to see where "yonder breaks a new and glorious morn".

Songs in the night He giveth

Heceta Head Lighthouse / Florence, Oregon

Heceta Head Lighthouse / Florence, Oregon

"What though my joys and comforts die, the Lord my Savior liveth; what though the darkness gather round, songs in the night He giveth." - from the hymn How Can I Keep From Singing
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It’s hard to think of God being in the darkness when He is described as the complete absence of it. He is nothing but light. And yet it has been in my darkest times, in the blackest of nights, when I have felt His presence most near.
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In those first few days, weeks and months after my dad unexpectedly passed away I found myself unable to sleep. At night my aching thoughts that ran deep pushed me outside my home nestled in the wilderness. And in the black of night I heard it sing. Every time. “Birds don't sing in the dark?” I thought. But this one did. Each night for me. As if my Heavenly Father was telling me in the darkest of places that it was going to be okay with His own perfect, unexpected tune in the darkness.
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I guess that’s maybe part of why I’m so sentimental about lighthouses, the towering beacon that sings in the night. And on this late afternoon stroll on the Oregon coastline where I captured this image I liked to imagine how many times this light pierced the inky black darkness of the Pacific and lead ships safely home.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Film: A Practice in the Art and Beauty of Patience.

Cape Perpetua, Oregon / October 2016

Cape Perpetua, Oregon / October 2016

I worked all weekend long photographing my last wedding of the year and a sweet multi-family session on Sunday. So Monday was my full on Sabbath this week. I didn’t set an alarm and slept in with my hubby. I drank not one but two cups of Santa’s White Christmas coffee. I sat on the couch and read my bible and a Christian women’s magazine @deeplyrootedmag that made me laugh and cry and feel totally inspired. I pondered and prayed. Then I loaded up and headed to my favorite park with a rented film camera and a roll of film in hand and wandered. The sound of the shutter all alone in the immense of a forest is something to take your breath away. A sweet gift. I slowed down. I breathed deep. And I waited to press my finger down to release the shutter for just the right time.

Behind the lens I smiled. And I whispered prayers of thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for quiet beauty and space to breathe just one week away from Christmas. And how forever ago when He created Sabbath he thought of me and this moment and how much I’d need it. And when he asks us to be obedient to things He knows what He is doing. He knows what’s best.

The hustle of what we’ve made Christmas pressed in from all sides on this Sabbath but I’m thankful for a moment of wandering in the quiet of the wild and being refreshed by my Savior.

On Tuesday, refreshed, I sent off a handful of film for developing and processing filled with images spanning three weddings, a sweet family session and captures from that restful stroll in my favorite park. And now we wait...

I never imagined (but should have guessed) how much capturing images on film would teach me about way more than just photography. With every roll of film I learn more and more about holding things lighter, about being slow and intentional, thoughtfully responsive and less instantly reactive, patient and purposeful but certainly not perfect. And I'm learning to be okay with that.

It's a practice in the art and beauty of patience.