Sunday, August 4, 2019

outside the tent

If you've ever experienced the frustration of a key that just won't turn the lock or the word that just doesn't quite fit the crossword puzzle, you'll know my frustration as I sat transfixed in front of a CD player on Saturday afternoon.

Our family's Second Annual Back To School Escape Room Tradition began with the host's explanations of the rules and his gracious dispensation of helpful tips.  Naturally, we paid very close attention because we were going to beat the best team's time and get our picture on the wall come hell or high water (I'm we're a competitive bunch after all). So we paraded down the hall, chins high, ready for the challenge.  When time began, we scrambled and scoured the jungle themed room for keys and clues hidden in bags and drawers because Dr. Jane Goodstone was lost and by God we had to find her... and quick.

So after about 30 minutes, I found myself at that dang CD player.  Two things I knew:  the padlock I was working on had everything to do with the CD we found because there was a picture of an ear on the bottom of the lock.  I knew it, we all knew it:  this part of the puzzle had everything to do with listening.

So listen I did.

There were ten tracks, each with the name of an animal followed by a variety of animal sounds.  Alapaca, armadillo, capuchin, tree frog, howler monkey... on it went.  I tried the first letter of the animals in order.  Nothing.  I listened for patterns.  I double checked my spelling.  Meanwhile, the minutes marched right past me, victory seeming less and less likely as my frustration grew.

In a standard act of mercy, the escape room host bestows clues at specific intervals and just as I was about to start banging my head into the wall, a clue was delivered.

"Don't just listen to what's inside the tent.  Listen to what is outside of the tent as well."  

I looked up. The ceiling had been draped with semi-sheer netting material with broad leaves on top in keeping with our Amazon theme.  Somewhere in the ceiling, ambient noise was being piped in.  In fact, this jungle serenade had been playing THE WHOLE TIME and yet I was so focused on all the tasks at hand that I hadn't even considered it.  All the noises you'd expect to hear in a rainforest had been our background noise from the moment we stepped in the room.  It was only when you really stopped to listen that you could hear a specific animal sound repeating at regular intervals.  The whooping sound was a perfect match for the howler monkey on the CD and Voila!.... H O W L E R M O N K E Y was the key to opening the padlock.

I just can't get over the lesson.

The stopping

the looking up

 the P A U S E

the searching outside of the task at hand.

It was...  and it is...  the key to unlocking everything.

"I lift my eyes up to the hills- where does my help come from?" Psalm 121:1

Thursday, July 18, 2019

coat and dinghy

"Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between.  Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights.  Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat.  Love is why we have hope." Anne Lamott

I keep turning over Anne's analogies in my mind and yeah... they just really hold up.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

this is the story of a lucky house 

Our house is a pretty old lady- ordinary but rich in character. She’s the kind of charismatic elder one is actually drawn to, whose stories one is eager to hear and write down. If you saw her, you might say, "Dang, girl, you look good for 83 years old!" She’d smile and wiggle her butt and say that loving and welcoming people has kept her young at heart. She loves light, music, dogs, parties, and has her fair share of secrets.
It’s coming up on three years that my family moved in and I feel like I know her pretty well now, but I recently had the pleasure of meeting someone who knows her even better than I do- a retired professor living in Nebraska who wrote me a letter to ask if he could come visit. Dave’s dad bought our dear old girl in 1943 for $9,000 on a handshake and inhabited her for 50 years, so he had a lot to tell us when he visited for a couple of hours this past Saturday morning. The turtle he buried in the backyard, the chickens they had during the war, the swing set his dad made on an oil rig, the way he would sit on the radiator and watch his dad shave, the secret compartments, the way to escape from the upstairs bedroom, his little handprints in the concrete in the backyard- I hadn’t even ever noticed them.
One of the last things Dave said to us as he left was "This is a lucky house." And I agree. Sort of, not believing in luck so much as Divine favor. This old girl is one loved and lovely and special lady indeed.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Cruciform Composite: a Good Friday Reflection

Because we live most of our lives in the middle of the story, we can't see clearly and the big picture eludes us. It's not that everything happens for a reason, it's just that our God is always and forever taking broken things and making them beautiful.  And that gives us hope.

Bottom right*:  I had the honor of photographing baby James' too-short 62 minute life, witnessing his parents' love and grace and strength.  It changed me.

Bottom center:  Hidden in the shadow of the cross

Bottom left:  Hosanna to the King

Middle right:  Isaiah 11:1, righteous branch

Middle center:  A mirror, I see myself and my sin at the cross

Middle left:  "Are caterpillars told of their impending resurrection?  How in dying they will be transformed from poor earth-crawlers into creatures of the air with exquisitely painted wings?  If told, do they believe?"  Malcom Muggeridge

Top right:  Me and my dad, his hands circa 1982.  Romans 8:15

Top center:  I once had a dream in which Jesus was talking to me about creation and John chapter one and he had a ring in his hand and he kept pointing to it.  It's a ring and it's a crown.  Ephesians 5:23

Top left:  "God is light, in him there is no darkness at all."  1 John 1:5

Stitching these images together first required a breaking apart of a dogwood flower, but isn't that just the thing?  Beauty from ashes.  It's what God does best. 

*I created these left to right which in hindsight is odd and upside down, inside out.  Just like life with Jesus. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


"In mirrors I see myself.  But in mirrors made of glass and silver I never see the whole of myself.  I see the me I want to see, and I ignore the rest... The passion of Christ, his suffering and death, is such a mirror... The death he died reflects a selfishness so extreme that by it I was divorced from God and life and light completely...Nevertheless I will not avoid this mirror!  No, I will carefully rehearse, again this year, the passion of my Jesus- with courage, with clarity and faith; for this is the mirror of dangerous grace, purging more purely than any other... This mirror is not passive only, showing what is; it is active, creating new things to be.  It shows me a new me behind the shadow of a sinner.  For when I gaze at his crucifixion, I see my death indeed- but my death done!  His death is the death of a selfish one, whom I called ugly and hated to look upon.  And resurrection is another me."  Walter Wangerin
Gellert Hill, Budapest, Hungary 


"Lord, through all generations you have been our home!"  Psalm 90:1

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


"Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me."  Psalm 51:10

I created these weekly Lenten photography prompts to help focus my heart, my camera the paintbrush.  This week it was "clean"... God's grace and love poured out on the cross makes us clean.  But it's a costly and different, more complete and less organized kind of clean.  William Willimon's words hit home:

That day at the Jordan, knee deep in cold water, with old John drenching him, the Annointed One began his journey down the via crucis.  His baptism intimated where he would finally end.  His whole life was caught up in this single sign.  Our baptism does the same.
The chief biblical analogy for baptism is not the water that washes but the flood that drowns.  Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf.  It is more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation.  Nothing less than daily, often painful lifelong death will do.  So Paul seems to know not whether to call what happened to him on the Damascus Road "birth" or "death"- it felt like both at the same time...
On the bank of some dark river, as we are thrust backward, onlookers will remark, 'They could kill somebody like that.' To which old John might say, 'Good, you're finally catching on.' 

I'm still trying to work out what this means for my life, for the steps I take, for the things I do, but I find comfort in Willimon's description of them being fitful and disorderly, like baptism itself.   It's messy and mysterious all at once, but always good when we daily place ourselves into that place of complete trust.  May we all work it out, day by day, minute by minute, drowning out our old selves and breathing in the new life that brings every good thing.   

Friday, March 15, 2019


"For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return."  Genesis 3:19

"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  Psalm 90:12

Lenten photography project week one. 

Hi Lyd!  :) 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

tiny umbrellas and a bed of roses

Anna Grace won first place for her rendition of The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," and Asher had some tears after not placing but had a good lesson in perseverance and staying with it.  Both wonderful, so proud of them.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

the truth notwithstanding

If there's anything I learned on my first journey to Ireland, it's this: the Irish are storytellers to their very core. Should you cross their path even in the smallest way, you’ll be a tick on their daily ledger as they unload a story or two.  They’ve got story running through their veins.

It’s understandable.  The island’s history is ancient, one era one-upping the next, comedy bubbling up through tragedy like the mahogany waves of Guinness rising in a pint glass after the second pour. 

Traveling as a party of four, our scrappy crew of loud Americans full of swagger and wanderlust, we soaked in every narrative and loved every story-telling minute. 

First was Hugh.  Poor Hugh. Our electric bike tour guide through Dublin, he tried to tell us all about Dublin castle and St. Patrick’s church, about freedom fighters and more and more but we just mostly looked at him sideways through our glassy jet lagged eyes. 

Having recovered a bit the next day, we could listen more attentively to the jolly Waterford shop owner who befriended us as we gawked at the glassblowing artisans in action, heating, banging, twirling their art- stories in glass. 

Our more reserved but kind hearted driver on the Dingle peninsula was the kind of local who spoke Irish as his primary language and was rife with intrigue.  It was at this point that we picked up on the endearing way the Irish use the word “ye" to refer to a group. We were mostly too terrified to listen as he drove like a bat out of hell through the single laned and twisting backroads in the black of night, but then again his stories may have been what helped us through make it through the white knuckled moments of that drive. 

We didn’t necessarily speak to any locals at the Cliff of Moher- we were too busy picking our jaws off the ground- but a couple of local men told their stories without words- the accordion player with his wooden shoe for tips and the neon-clad bird feeding policeman most certainly more concerned about his aviary friends than anything having to do with the law. 

In Galway, dear Galway, John of the Irish Food Trail welcomed us with stories over  Irish stews, black pudding croquets, fish and chips, local whiskeys and beer tastings. It was John who told us (more than once) that the Irish don’t like the truth to get in the way of a good story.   

From there it was off to the King’s Head Pub to listen to four young musicians who crafted their stories with foot stomps, guitar strings, fiddle rifts, and accordion (squeeze box?) tunes, the melodies wrapping their way around each other reminiscent of a visit to an Irish homestead in the sixteenth century.  Their stories were visceral and entrancing, a true wonder from such young souls. 

Maybe the most shocking and entertaining stories came from Tommy at Sean’s Bar in Athlone, the oldest pub in Ireland boasting 1,100 years of service.  Tommy pulled up a chair as soon as he saw us settle in and told us all kinds of personal stories, the most notable of which was the one about a horrible case of dysentery he acquired in Thailand after smoking a bit of opium and the ensuing plane ride during which he sat between two nuns while “squeezing his arse cheeks together the whole time.”  He was as colorful as the language he used, preferring the f word to all others. 

But above all others, the most touching Irish storyteller was the youngest.  Shortly after Dublin, we stopped over in Lismore to visit a friend and meet her family.  We roamed around some old castle ruins and had a bit of craic (fun) visiting and as we walked on little 2-year-old Mia looked up at me while holding her mom’s hand.  With a pacifier dangling from her mouth, she told the sweetest three word story there is to tell. 

“You’re my sister,” she declared, pointing my way. 

Yep, it’s in their blood alright.  Even blonde whisped Mia in her little Mary Jane shoes got me with that one.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Emma Katherine and Caroline: a blessing

Because I had little ones of my own at the time, I couldn't make the drive to Fairhope, AL, when my oldest niece Caroline was born.  But this time with my kids older, I was able to make it for my newest niece, Emma Kate's birth day.  All that to say, because I feel as though my photos can be more than photos but also a prayer, I'm taking a minute to bless both Caroline and Emma Kate together.  So here is my hope and prayer for you, sweet girls.

I pray that the role "sister" would be a powerful and positive and guiding force in your lives.  May you be united, kind-hearted, and strong.  May you see each other as a gift, always.  May you bring Good News to the world- that the God who made us also loves us and saves us.  May you be wise and good, helping one another, picking one another up when you fall.  May you know how much you're loved and live out that love in a way that absolutely changes everything.

You two are and will be a force for good.  I love you, sweet girls.

All my love,

Aunt Candace

more photos: 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

just do the most what you do the best

When my kids were little, one of our favorite bedtime stories was Max Lucado's Your Special Gift.  Little puppets called Wemicks woke up one day to find that they were all given special gifts.  The baker got a new spoon, a little boy got a guitar, the Mayor's wife got a book and they were all so excited.  One day, a downtrodden family came to their village and the Wemicks scrambled to help.  The baker tried to repair the wheel with a hammer, the little boy tried to sew their clothes, the Mayor's wife tried to cook a meal, but the results were less than stellar.  Their wagon remained broken and their dinner was burned.  They took their problems to Eli, their Maker, and he reminded them about their special gift.  "Use the gift I gave you," he said, "don't try to use a gift you don't have. JUST DO THE MOST WHAT YOU DO THE BEST."

Even though I'm not the greatest photographer in all the world, I have a great camera and some experience under my belt- not to mention a fascination and a passion for capturing all the gifts God gives us every day in photographs.  I've wanted to use my special gift- the one God gave me- to bless others and spread the Gospel.  I'm so thankful I was given the opportunity to do just that.   I was able to capture over 200 children in individual portraits, using  photography to communicate worth and value and belonging and beauty to a people group often overlooked and marginalized.   I wanted them to know that they are seen and beautiful and are of great value to God and I pray that the portraits they received as well as our interactions were able to communicate just that.  Because they are.  The gypsy/Romani people's beauty and rich culture and joie de vivre easily showcase how each one of them bears the image of God.  

Additionally, to witness Darcie and Brigette teach English as a second language with scripture, and Glen sing and play music and forge cross cultural relationships, and Clista organize and minister, and Amye teach and plan parties, and Dolores encourage and teach and spread her joy, and Meredith and Caleb love on kids and spread the Gospel through sports... well, that was a very special gift as well.  What an experience! 

I hope our story inspires you as well to just do the most what you do the best.  There is a Maker who smiles big and wide, so glad you're using what He gave you, when you do.  

*musical side note: FBC ministers Glen and Clista Atkins were full time missionaries in Hungary some years ago.  While they were there, Glen directed a gypsy/Romani choir.  He directed the kids in a rendition of their national anthem and put it on You Tube.  It was then picked up by Stephen Angelo who remixed it to the techno version that you hear in the video and royalties now go to the school.  
*funny side note:  In all earnestness, I tried to put "Jesus Loves You" in Hungarian on the back of their portraits.  I thought Google translate would do just fine.  But after I proudly showed my Hungarian friend Richie my work, he told me what I had actually written was "Jesus I love you you."  A for effort, right?  ;)
*sweet side note:   I did some special fundraising photography sessions to pay for my trip.  At the end of a family session, an 8 year old boy gave me $20 of his own money and told me he was praying for me and our trip.  I was able to give that money to a Hungarian girl who could really use it and most importantly, God connected all of us relationally all the way across the globe.  How inspiring is this little boy's faith and generosity?  Amazing.  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

not a thing 

One week ago I was worshipping at a Hungarian church where there were these cubbies outside of the sanctuary, a holdover of Communist rule when it was illegal to have a Bible outside of the church building. So today I’m thankful for the religious freedom I often take for granted but also for the love of God that cannot be quenched- even in the face of oppression and great opposition. Nothing can separate it from us. Not a thing.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I do too

I struggle with sleep and with depression. I am well acquainted with that heavy feeling that relentlessly pulls one down down down into an abyss of darkness. I often don't like being in my own skin or being with other people. I have the head knowledge that I am beautiful and that being with others is so important but it doesn't translate easily to my heart every day. I have to work at it. I have to make myself fight for gratitude and I have to borrow the joy of God daily. My family isn't perfect and I'm not the best mother and I often fail others. Others struggle much more, others struggle less, but I struggle. And I just need anyone who knows me or likes me to know that. I struggle TOO.  

If you see anything good in me, it's because I've hidden myself in the Rock. I've let the Spirit fill me and use me and that's all I've got. I take medicine and supplements and I watch what I eat (most times) and I've taken to meditating more often and practicing hospitality and gratitude and these are all important. But being myself and taking care of myself isn't enough. I have to let the Spirit of God take care of me, let myself be set free in Jesus, to let truth wash over me every day so that I can run free and into the calling God has just for me. This doesn't fix circumstances but it brings peace when I let it.  

Last night an old friend and I were talking about our personality types and she said, "I'm really surprised [that we're the same type]... I don't know what that means except I guess that I battle against anxiety and depression and I guess I don't imagine that you do?" So this is just me getting real and setting the record straight. I struggle too. You are not alone.