A Place at the Table: Thoughts on Lent || Through the Ginger Window

A Place at the Table || Thoughts on Lent Thus Far

I’m observing Lent this year after never having done so for my entire Jesus-loving life. I’ve been going through the #SheReadsTruth Lent study having previously fallen in love with their Advent study (another Christian tradition in which I’d never really participated).

These first days are centered around Returning. On day one, I thought, “This is perfect. I’ve been out of the Word for all of January and February thus far. Here’s the perfect solution.” And it has been. Each day I wake up and roll over right into the Bible. It’s been wonderful, but I’ve also found myself rather confused and confounded by some things I thought I “got” pretty well.

A Place at the Table: Thoughts on Lent || Through the Ginger Window

I draw a deep sense of security from knowing who I am in the Lord, from knowing who He is, what He’s done for me, and how deeply He loves me and this world. This week, though, I’ve been led to see there’s still so much I don’t know and so many things I’m looking at through grimy lenses.

Day one I was struck with Romans 3:22-24. That God’s rightousness is revealed to all who believe “since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are justified freely by His grace. I was humbled by Job 42:3 & 5, about speaking on things that were too wonderful for me to know and really seeing with my eyes instead of just working off “rumors” or what everyone else has to say about God.

A Place at the Table: Thoughts on Lent || Through the Ginger Window

Day 2 looked at passages from Joel and Jeremiah and returning to the Lord with all your heart. One sentence that stuck with me from the devotional section #SheReadsTruth provides with each day is this: “When you doubt your whole, achy self is welcome in the presence of God, look to the cross.” I tend to doubt my whole, achy self is welcome anywhere (not church, not friendships, not Target — hide your crazy and act like a lady, right?), so them’s was good words.

Day 3 looked at Isaiah and 2 Corinthians, how the Lord “is about to do something new,” and “has made a way for us in the wilderness.” That He is “reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” and that we might “become the righteousness of God in Him.”  My poor little brain and heart couldn’t take that in. I understand the idea of grace allowing gross little me to enter God’s presence, but actually becoming His righteousness seemed ridiculous. Slow your roll, Jesus.

Day 4 had us in 1 John (which is kinda one of my favorites in the first place) and verses 1:5-10, where my heart clung to “God is light, there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” I walked through the day with the framework that no matter what chaos or crazy popped up, God is light. God is good.

Sundays are meant to be devoted to scripture memorization, so Day 5 was spent dwelling on Joel 2:13.A Place at the Table: Thoughts on Lent || Through the Ginger Window

And this is the day my heart had that, “Aha!” moment. Those moments always feel to me exactly like that scene from Hook where the lost boy is squishing Robin Williams’ face all around until he finally sees the boy he used to love and exclaims, “There you are, Peter!” My heart calls, “Oh, there you are Jesus!”

After dwelling on this verse for a bit, rewriting it, praying through the words, I had the question: Have I returned? I’ve been meeting with You every morning, God, but is that returning? How do I know?

Reading over the verse again and thinking about God’s steadfastness, grace, and mercy, I had the thought, “God, I am fully welcome at Your table.” And then He said, “Yep, but you’re not choosing to sit there.”

And then I saw a Thanksgiving table, probably a lot like large family gatherings you’ve been to, where all the adults sit at the long table with the big chairs while the kids sit at a smaller table, still in the house and maybe still in the room, near the big table but not a part of it.

“That’s where you’re sitting,” I feel like He said to me, “There, with the kids.”  And He’s not wrong, I realized. The kids’ table is fun. You’re loved, you’re in the house, you’re eating the meal. You’re free to put your elbows on the table, spill your milk, get up and dash around the house real quick when you think no one’s looking. You can see Jesus at the big table, sitting at the head, but you feel like He can’t really hear what you’re saying. The kids’ table is for laughing milk out your nose and making fart jokes. The big table is for polite conversation and please pass the potatoes.

The kids’ table is where I’m free to enjoy all the benefits of the big family meal, but not really be responsible for anything. I didn’t have to bring a dish. However, He said, “the big table is where my business gets done.”

Here’s what I know about big, messy, loud, real family, though. You get to have it all. My actual family isn’t big enough that we usually have a kids’ table and on the rare occasions we have more folks than will fit in one place, we don’t separate “kids” and “adults,” we just all spread around. Everyone is at the same table sharing food, laughing milk out their noses, and getting through the hard stuff of life.

And you know every gathering has that one person you HAVE to sit by at dinner. In my family it’s usually my dad, he brings the fun. Jesus said, “That’s me. I want you to sit right at my elbow so I can tell you how I see all the things going on around us.”

I’m afraid of the big table because that’s where you’re called upon to contribute to the group. You should have at least brought a salad. You’re not a passive participant, you are a part of the conversation. But that’s where His business gets done. I was pretty sure the only folks at that big table were, like, Mother Theresa, CS Lewis, and the current Pope. Only the big hitters. Everyone else can run around the house, but please try not to break anything.

This morning He said no, not just them, but also you. And everyone. This is where you NEED to be. And you’re still allowed to spill your milk. And I kind of also like fart jokes.

(That last sentence is not theologically sound, I’m sure of it. Just go with the metaphor, people.)

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

Made to Create, Basics: The day I learned to shoot full manual

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

You know what I don’t love? Small talk with strangers and parting with my money.

However, when my friend Chelle (of Chelle Nicole Photography) posted that she’d be offering a photography basics class with her buds Devon (of Devon Michelle Photography) and Candice (of Ivy & Tweed) I gave very little thought to handing over $149 right after Christmas when my bank account is still feeling the holiday sting. A split second prayer, a quick check-in with Bank of America, and one hastily filled out enrollment form and I was in.  These ladies are all a part of Made to Create: Pacific Northwest, whose “vision is to create authentic community of encouragement between artists located in the Pacific Northwest.”  You know what I do love? Talented people and community builders with generous hearts.

There was a line in that enrollment form that asked something like, “What do you hope to gain from this class?” and the hardest part of this whole process was restraining myself from typing “TELL ME ALL THE THINGS!!!!”  Last Summer, Chelle taught me a few of the things and it was a complete game-changer.  I learned about aperture, how to set my own focus points, and white balance but it killed me a little to know there were even MORE THINGS I could do. Sigh.

Pictures you’ve seen me post here (like these from Autumn and these from hunting season) were from this middle stage I lived in for awhile. Not on auto because I was on aperture priority mode, but not really on manual because I was still letting the camera make a ton of decisions for me. The camera was the boss in a lot of ways. And, BTW, another thing I don’t love is being told what to do.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

The first several months with my Canon Rebel T3i that thing was completely in charge of itself. Pick it up. Turn it on. Point it at the thing. Take the picture. Repeat. And none of those shots were terrible, but they all just sort of happened.  Enter: Chelle and aperture priority mode. Suddenly taking pictures was fun and I craved it. She let me in on how she captures sun flares and which types of light are her favorites. Now when I see that golden evening light starting and life has conspired to keep me in a late meeting or training, I feel quite a bit like a bird trapped behind a window: I just want OUT.

Still, there were moments when I could see the shot in my mind and my camera would just not cooperate. It was still deciding for me which ISO and shutter speed it felt like I wanted and I had no idea how to tell it otherwise.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

Oh, but not anymore, people!  Chelle, Devon, and Candice have set me straight! Do I know ALL the things? Nope. But I do know so many of the things that I feel like nothing is outside my grasp.

As a teacher, I know that one of the deepest stages of learning is being able to explain what you learned to someone else.  I am not there by a long shot, but I feel like I have a map to get me there, three awesome guides, and some supportive new travel partners.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

Here’s why this experience worked for me:

1. Small Groups + Hospitality. There were eleven students and three instructors. We met in a living room with coffee, tea, and lunch provided.  There isn’t a thing much more lovely in the world than warm beverages and like-minded people.  Well, that and the encouragement to try new things under the supervision of a compassionate professional.

2. Heart + Math.  I’ve looked up photography tutorials on the internet and I found that before long my own inner thought life began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Whah-wa wha-waaa wa-wa-wa-wa. The difference this time was in the combination of a solid foundation of the technical aspects and how to transfer that into more of a feeling than an equation.  Chelle, Devon, and Candice were truly there to help us figure it all out and cheer us on. Can I tell you what my shutter speed should be with an ISO at 200 and an aperture at 1.8? Nope. But I can use my light meter to figure something out and go from there. I can’t verbalize exactly why everything works like it does, but when something doesn’t work out I have a pretty good idea which buttons to fiddle with to start setting things straight.

3. Work + Play.  We spent some quality time in that room talking about numbers and equipment, but we also took that information immediately into the great outdoors.  I have to touch and do and see when I’m learning something new and having someone supportive right next to you to guide you through solving whatever problem you run across was incredibly valuable.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

And then, as luck would have it, the very next day had some beautiful sunshine!  I didn’t have any actual humans at my disposal, but I did have this awesome yard to play around in.  And play around in FULL. MANUAL. MODE. Like a boss.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one dayI discovered I love textures, like the old canvas above that hangs as a makeshift garage door for a shed out back.  They aren’t posted here, but I also took approximately three kajillion photos of the wood grain on the side of the boat house.  And I found several places I’d really love for someone to pose for me, once I can convince them to let me use them as a test subject.  Coffee? Cookies? Hugs? Whattya want, folks?  I need some faces.

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

Like this road right here.  I want a couple in plaid standing partway up and holding hands with her head on his shoulder. Can’t you just see it? I’m telling you, get in my picture!

Made to Create, Basics: How I learned to shoot full manual in one day

I’ve also decided to be a little more bold about sharing pictures I’ve taken.  Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s overwhelming, and sometimes I don’t share what I’ve shot because they’re obviously not art if I took them. I’m just a ginger with a camera and a couple tricks. I’m not an “artist” in the way other people are. But I’m also pretty over not sharing things I love because I don’t think they’re good enough for some arbitrary and undefined standard.

All the shots in this post were from my first day shooting fully in manual mode and every single one was an experiment, but here they are. And I’m kind of proud of them.