Totality

What a bunch of HYPE over this crazy eclipse! Ugh… what a battle I had internally as to go or not go. The path of totality was 2 hours from my home. Do I dare take the drive through insanity to be a spectator like everyone else? It reminds me of going to a World Series game. People just kind of go a bit crazy.

My largest battle was my spiritual inner turmoil. As a photographer I wanted to go ‘capture’ it, as a believer I wanted to go ‘experience’ it. My inner dialog went something like this…. “GO!!” Then “Don’t, just stay home.” and back and forth and back and forth. This went on for months. As my friends were encouraging me to go, and I was a bit resistant, only out of ‘fear’ of getting caught up in the HYPE instead of the glory of God’s beauty, I struggled. I did not plan to go and decided I would make up my mind when I made up my mind… I’ve been known to do things last-minute…

August 21st arrived and around 6:10am I saw out my bedroom window the cloud formations which I knew would be spectacular lighting for a sunrise, so I jumped in the jeep and drove down the road about 1/2 a mile and snapped a few shots. God’s glory was shining bright in Kansas!! His presence was felt!!

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So August 21st at 9:30am after my morning walk with my dear friend I decided to go to the blackout zone, knowing full well the clouds were out and I may see nothing, which in turn took my mind from ‘capture’ to ‘experience’. I wasn’t planning on seeing the total eclipse because of the clouds, I was more excited about feeling and experiencing the environment around me during totality. I also thought this would be a great experience for my son. I asked him if he could get ready in 20 minutes and if he’d like to experience this eclipse with me.

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My son and I left for Nebraska and took the “road less traveled”, it went straight up from Kansas to a small town NOT on the NASA website map. The roads were not bad at all and we made pretty good time. The eclipse had already started when we arrived in the totality zone. There were a few “parties” going on in Fairbury, and we decided to keep on driving towards Western, NE. I chose to turn on a dirt road about 5 miles out of Fairbury and travel east. NOT A SOUL IN SIGHT! So we pulled off along the dirt road and got out to see what we could see. This is what we saw.

As beautiful as this storm was, after about 20 minutes we realized the storm was moving towards us. We jumped in the jeep and headed back south on the dirt road trying to escape the rain.

About 2 miles south we stopped again and looked around on the muddy sand road. I gazed down the road looking for a sign of light peeking through the clouds and my son and I realized we were about 15 minutes from totality. I saw a field about 1/2 a mile south that looked as if it was lit up. So we jumped in the vehicle and drove. As we approached the ‘spot’, to the east was corn, to the west was a beautiful pond/lake. We decided to get out and make this our observation spot. Regardless if we saw the sun or not it was a beautiful spot! The boy of course has to go explore the corn, to see if it was ready, and within the next 5 minutes the skies began to change. The clouds cleared enough to see the sun. My son grabs his glasses and says, “MOM, it’s almost totality!” We notice the rainbow ring around the sun and the colors began to change.

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The process through those SECONDS was amazing… I took a few photos during the eclipse(a total of 101 for the whole time.. that’s not many for me!) The horizon lit up like a sunset at 360 degrees. Bursting orange and yellow up to the darkness. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the wind gust. When it went dark, like someone switched off a light, the wind blew and it wasn’t a light wind, it was a GUST! It took my breath away. If you research the word “Spirit” in the hebrew and greek language many times it is referred to as ‘wind’…. friends…. it was something I’ve never experienced before. The sheer beauty around us of the skies, the eclipse, the temperature, the sounds, the feeling was unbelievable. Peace be still.

To stand in the awe of something so unique and God divine made me wonder how the world can question His existence and authority. The one resounding thought I’ve had the last few days is the importance of understanding His authority and the importance of renewing our minds each day.

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 

Read, Repent, Renew, Repeat.

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I grabbed my other camera and lens, the cheaper one with the most zoom, to see if I could possibly get a photo of the eclipse up close. I took 8 photos and put it down. I figured if I got it great, if not I need to SEE THIS MYSELF and absorb the amazing environment around me. Much to my surprise once totality had passed and I looked at my camera screen, this was on it(see below). God opened a door for us to see.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

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So all of this to share with you my takeaway:

#1 The importance of respecting our Creator.

#2 Do not put Him in a box, He has the ability to bring us amazing opportunities, even if we don’t plan it.

#3 Lastly, the sheer amazement of God our Father who is authority over ALL, who is Creator of all, who is the One that let His Son die for US. When Christ died He took on the weight of the world’s sins, HE took our sins and placed them upon Himself so WE could be saved.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The eclipse was a great perspective reminder of how BIG our God is and how WE must submit to His will and authority.

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I challenge you to find Totality:

A totality in seeking Him in His Word, a totality in loving as He loves, a totality in repentance, a totality in renewal, a totality in freedom in Christ.

To GOD be the GLORY.

Blessings.

What is Content?

In January of 2017 the Lord gave me a word, content, I didn’t think much of it as I felt that I was content with what I had been given, and content in my life and wasn’t seeking anything beyond the blessings in front of me. Easy peasy.

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January 29th I signed up for my first international mission trip. The trip consisted of a group of medical professionals traveling to an orphanage. They wanted a photographer to capture their work. I would have to come up with the funds as this was a volunteer gig. The call was for the greater good and this was a seed the Lord had planted in me 10 years ago, an opportunity to capture the work of a mission team. The team, which spanned from 6 different states, was going to an orphanage in Guatemala(The Eagle’s Nest). I would be the only one from Kansas and I didn’t know anyone on the team, but, the orphanage was were my nephew had been adopted from in 2005. Guatemala closed down adoption to the USA around 2008.

Content…. in His abilities to provide opportunities.

In preparation for the trip I saved money from a few of my photo sessions to make my first deposit. As the second deposit came due, I was a bit nervous about having enough money, but I made a payment on faith that God would provide somehow, if not, then I probably shouldn’t go. 2 days after I made the “on faith” payment I received a print order for quite a few of my nature photos, enough to cover the entire second deposit! My husband and a few others felt called to donate money as well, yes I said husband, he runs a HVAC business and had been putting funds back to gift me… he truly is the sweetest man. The last and final amount was due and my local church donated the rest of the funds to the organization(The Orphan Door) and it was a done deal.

I’m reluctant to share this but I think I need to. in December of 2016 our daughter decided she wanted to go on a mission trip to Guatemala as well, with the local church youth. After interviews and being accepted to go on the trip she began her process to prepare for the trip to the same orphanage that I would be going to 2 weeks earlier. When our daughter signed up for the trip I had no idea that the opportunity for me to go was even in the cards. I knew I couldn’t go with the youth team as I had already booked a wedding to photograph the weekend they left. On January 15th her seed money was due. I felt it within my spirit to pay for more than just my daughter’s seed money, I paid not only our daughter’s but others as well. 2 weeks later I signed up to go to Guatemala on complete faith that the Lord would provide a financial way for me to go…… He did.

Content… in God’s abilities to provide funds…. The Lord funded my trip and my daughter’s trip, among many others.

In preparation for the trip, my goal was to prepare my heart to be broken, for I knew observing poverty would be hard for this mercy heart. The Lord spoke whispers over and over to me that my job was to observe the blessings in the hard, dark places, to SEE HOPE. One journal I had prior to leaving was this, “Shining bright is not a controlled burn, let the fire burn bright. (References: John 1:5, Matt 4:16, Ps 27:1, Rev 21:23) Be a light, trust Him, and then this:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Cor 4:7-8 NLT

Leading up to the trip, our family had quite a bit of chaos, approximately 3 months of chaos. Teenage struggles mostly and work overload. The one thing I realized when I got to Guatemala was that my struggles were not that big, although they felt big at the time, they really were not.

Content… in His abilities to change perspective.

The Trip

I had never flown in a plane by myself, yes, 41 years old and have always flown with someone I knew. Not only was I flying alone to Houston but I had never been to the Houston airport and I was meeting up with strangers. As you can imagine I was a bit fearful and nervous about this. 5AM I got on a plane from KC to Houston. I sat down next to a couple and decided that if I’m out of my comfort zone I mine-as-well attempt to make a friend. As I started speaking to the lady next to me she shares with me that she has been on 14 mission trips and was on her way to Honduras for a month. She had been in the Houston airport numerous times and was willing to walk me to my gate so I made it on time. We were a bit worried I might miss my flight as I barely had an hour to get to my gate and our flight was rerouted due to weather, we were running late. With no back up plan in place I went on faith and told her I was just going to trust God that he would get me there on time. Little did we know that the plane flew into the International terminal and it was a hop, skip and jump from where I needed to go. I gained a friend and a prayer warrior.

Content… in His abilities to provide guidance.

The next flight was upon me and now it was time to meet the team. My prayer on the plane was, “Let me see what you want me to see, help me to capture life, love, whatever you deem, even the hard stuff if necessary. Protect my family as I am away, and always. Please let all the luggage and travels on to the orphanage go well. Protect us Lord and guide us to be the hands and feet of you. Amen”

Stepping off of the plane

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Overwhelmed is the word that comes to mind once in Guatemala City, as I was removed from the USA box. So much poverty, pollution, trash, yet in all of that, beautiful crops come forth and smiles of laughing children and a young boy stops to smile as he sees the camera. I am thankful, but I am ashamed. I am blessed yet humbled at this level of poverty. I asked the Lord to forgive me for not knowing my abundance. My problems are so small. Once out of the box, you can’t look at life the same. When I came back to the states I didn’t realise the effect it would have on me. I cried when I washed my hands in the bathroom sink and could brush my teeth with clean water. I cried in the gas station bathroom because it was clean and had toilet paper. I cried in the grocery store over the multitude of choices. I cried looking across the parking lot of a hotel, it was so clean. I could see the abundance and blessings over America. I had never seen it this way before. The resounding observation that I had while there was that many people in Guatemala are completely content with little, they would give away to their family and friends without a second thought. At the orphanage they served lunch to the children in high poverty, it was called “Manna”. One of my team members saw a child sneak out part of their meal and share it with their mother waiting for them outside.

Content… in the abundance He provides.

Over the next 5 days I witnessed 16 people who had never worked together before, most of us were strangers that came together, each with their own gifting. We loved on these kids and organized and worked together like a well oiled machine. Exams were done, classes were taught, life was shared together, relationships were built, prayers were said and some how God made all of us feel as if we had known each other for years at the end of our week. It was an absolute honor and miracle to witness.

Content… in His ability to bring the hands and feet of Christ together to serve.

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Throughout the days at the orphanage, many of us fought colds, toothaches, stomach bugs or even just bugs in general! Many of us faced fears of illness or emotional battles within or felt spiritually unsettled, yet we all got there safely and we all got home safely as we felt the protection of the Lord among us. We witnessed special needs children who had come leaps and bounds in their health. The team came up with plans to help others who may still be struggling physically or in other ways. Many times we see healing as only a physical aspect, but healing can be emotional, spiritual or physical… We joined together and prayed for each other, for the kids, for others outside the walls and the presence of God was felt.

Leaving was hard…. yet many of us felt that saying goodbye was temporary… for many will be coming back. So we trust the Lord in his ability to protect His children and bring restoration and healing in mind, body and spirit.

Content… in His protection and healing.

The 3 things that resonated over and over with our team was this:

Our Brokenness, God’s Calling, Our Obedience

Content… in our journey, His will and His abilities through us.

If you feel called, be obedient to it and be content in all of HIS abilities, not your own.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

Isn’t God amazing?! Blessings.

#orphandoor #eaglesnest

http://www.emilybarnesphotography.com

“Fail” tography

When I was around 25 years old I met a lady who thought I was a talented photographer.  I hadn’t even ventured into the world of digital photography…. it was the good old Pentax and a lot of practice.  She convinced me to take pictures of her daughter who was a child model(“Toddlers & Tiaras” comes to mind).  She needed photos for her portfolio.

I took a lot of photos of this beautiful little girl.  LOTS and LOTS and LOTS…… after 3 different photo shoot days I had her proofs ready and I was pleased with my work and excited to share.  Mother was not impressed, “They’re good, but not what I was wanting.”….. she said they were not model quality and that she would have one of her other “Professionals” do them….. she did not pay me, but she took all of the negatives and proofs….. It’s been 13 years and it still cuts like a dagger….

FAILURE…..  I told myself I’d never do family photography or individual photography again.  I put the camera down for 3 years…. Then I started up again, only to do nature photography.

A butterfly wouldn’t yell at me or a flower it’s going to tell me I got it all wrong.  I could shine without judgment.  I was doing it for my own joy, not money, not people.

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Frequently I am asked if I do family photography or senior photos.  I do… my own kids and a handful of people I trust with my heart.  This thing though….. this urge I have to do more, this fear of failure, of disappointing someone, this fear of rejection, I just can’t get pass it….. I need to…. I believe I could make a living off of it….. if I can just let it go(Cue theme song from “Frozen”)……  God’s been working on me, He’s been slowly peeling the layers away one at a time… I can hear Him saying, “Stop worrying, trust Me.”  How many more times am I going to ignore the messages, say “no” to the opportunities?  I ignore out of fear, I say “no” out of fear……

I run like Jonah, away from what I know I’m suppose to do.  God has landed me in this beautiful home with perfect photo spots everywhere, He has given me a home large enough to have my own working office here.  He has given me a connection with a great printing company in Kansas City…. it’s all lined up, except for a few camera equipment upgrades…. He’s got it all in place for me….. A N D  H E  W A I T S….. for me…..

Can a rip off the straps that have been holding me back, can I tear them off and break free…. and what if I fail?  What if I’m not good enough?  Can I take another blow? 

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, 

but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.

Can you relate?  Can you pin point a time in your life that you gave up on something because of failure?  This failure has become a stumbling block for me.  It has kept me from using the talent that God has given me.  He gave me this gift.  I have found a million reasons not to go into photography professionally.  My favorite is, “I don’t want to turn something I love into a business.”  Who says that?  That is just dumb!  Anyone who has a chance to make money doing something they love would do it!  I have lied to myself, I have convinced myself that I don’t want to do it or it will ruin it for me.  The only thing that will ruin it is if I take criticism personally.  I have a degree in graphic design, we had to deal with daily critiques that thickened our skin, I know how to do this…..  I know how to handle this…..  Stop making excuses…. Put on the “Big Girl Panties” and do this!

So I’m typing this to remind myself that I have to stop lying to myself, I have to tear off the fear that has been holding me back.  I need to allow God to do a great work…..

I need to forgive her……  I need to….

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. — Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

I need to forgive her, not for her benefit but for my own.  Gulp, makes you stop and think.  I sure hope I haven’t been someone’s stumbling block…. but I bet I have….. I bet we all have….. Forgive, forgive….

So we will see what God is going to do, I am working on healing, I am working on letting go, I am working on following God’s lead……

My challenge to you, is there something that you need to let go of or is there something you’re ignoring?  Is it holding you back from success?  Let God help you…. it’s not easy, it’s trusting in the unknown, it’s vulnerable….

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Blessings….