Category Archives: Just Photos

Lessons from the Strawberry Field

PTS | Lessons strawberry

We'd been meaning to go for weeks. However, with varying schedules and March-like weather in May, it just hadn't happened yet. Fearing we'd make it through another strawberry season without going, we chose to make it a priority. With one day left in the picking season, we finally headed out to the strawberry fields.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-30 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-32 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-33 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-34 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36

Without shame, I admit my favorite part of picking is the opportunity to take pictures and to just watch (well that and the forthcoming strawberry pie.) It isn't just because I like cute photos of my kids (which I do), but rather, it is because I know when I take photos and I slow down enough to to truly see, I notice (and appreciate) all the little things that are so easily missed in the hurry-up nature of our lives. ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-9 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-38 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-39 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-47

I see how little and innocent my children are. I notice what they find important (which is often far different than my own classification of important.) I see the way they approach challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes. I watch the way the older ones demonstrate the reality of their hearts as they reach out a hand to help a little one. I see small adoring eyes, with neck cocked back as far as possible, staring straight up to match the smiling gaze of an older sibling. With my camera, I am reminded to slow down, to notice, and remember.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-81 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-93 strawberry picking_2©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_5

When I am too busy experiencing my life and jumping to the next great thing (or the next strawberry bush) and I refuse to take time to notice and reflect, I miss out. I miss the beauty of my children in these carefree years of childhood and I miss the beauty of the lessons weaved through our moments, calling out to be learned.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-20 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-59 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-60 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_4 strawberry picking_7

After we managed to fill our bellies and our two one-gallon pails (I can see why this field was calling it the last day of picking—the fields were sparse!), we returned to the front in order to pay and clean up. As Jason dipped the kids in the sink (because simply washing hands and faces dripping with sun-warmed strawberry juice isn't nearly as fun as an actual bath in the sink), I chatted with the farmer as he shaded himself under the canopy.

Now I have a confession to make: I cannot keep anything green alive. Those who excel in growing anything other than weeds utterly fascinate me. I wanted to hear about how the farmer grows and maintains these amazing fields. "It's a long process," he said with half exhaustion and half idyllic reminiscing. "It all starts in August and continues straight through 'til opening day."©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-11 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-19 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-94 strawberry picking_3 strawberry picking_6 strawberry picking_8

After sharing more of what is involved in covering his acreage with strawberries for the masses, the farmer explained to me how almost half his crop this year was lost due to heavy spring rains. Having learned a bit about crop failure and insurance through my four days sitting on a jury for a case involving tobacco fields and insurance claims, I was curious as to how his loss was handled. Sadly, he explained, specialty crops aren't covered by insurance. His loss was simply that — a loss.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-18 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-63 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-71 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-95 copy

Finishing his story with an attempt of an upbeat, "At least we'll break even," the farmer told me he wasn't likely to plant again. "Too much work for no guarantee," he said. "But," he qualified in a laid-back southern farmer way,

"The last day of the season ain't the time to make that kind of decision."

I immediately thought of the director of the camp where Jason and I met. I remembered the wise words offered as he explained how he and his wife were committed to never making a decision to leave camp in August or September—the two months following the busiest and most exhausting part of the year for a year-round camp. Wise words, indeed.

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Long lasting decisions aren't to be made—if at all possible—in the shadow of stress, exhaustion, or confusion (and, I would cation, nor under the glowing lights of recent success, first-week-of-school-determination, or brilliant newfound ideas).

PTS | decisions quote

Notice I said, "If at all possible." Sometimes, decisions simply must be made. In those moments, it is more important than ever to remember the imperative to "get wisdom," (before you need it!) and  "...He stores up sound wisdom for the upright..."

In the absence of a need for expediency (an actual need, not simply a felt need, belief or impatience), wise decisions are best made through the result of quiet waiting, wise counsel, and realistic appraisals of situations—all things we humans don't find all that exciting.

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But what kind of life would we live and what kind of world would we create if all our decisions—from what we choose to eat to what kind of businesses we build—were made not in defeat or fear, nor in excitement or glittery inspiration, but rather in wise waiting and slow steadfastness?

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What would happen if we allowed the still small voice, the gentle blowing, and the low whisper to have far more power over us than the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire? 

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I sure haven't mastered this process, but oh how I want to!

Jordan Lake

JORDAN LAKE
  (If you are just here for pictures, feel free to scroll through this post to see a few. And then—if you have seven minutes of your life to spare—you can see a lot more in the video below. I am learning that with the number of photos I take and with my desire to be better at capturing video, putting together quick slideshows like this is a great way to remember our trips).
It's just how we are wired, I guess.

I've talked about it before — this need to get away, recharge, refocus, and be refreshed. I worded it this way:

When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon.

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And it is still true. When we get away for a few days, letting the worries of work, housecleaning, and life decisions slip away, we are free to focus on what matters most: relationships.

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Life has a way of robbing us of what we were created for. Life tells us to hurry up, accomplish this, prepare for that. Life rarely tells us to slow our pace, to look and speak and read deeply , to focus not on the breath of what we accomplish, but rather, the depth. Life fools us into thinking our frenzied pace is evidence we are truly living, when in fact most of our "living" exists solely in the fictional day of tomorrow — the day all the things will get done, the memories will be made, and our good intentions will come to fruition.

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The more we in the west try to do, do, do, the less we believe the truth: we have the time.

And so for our family?

We get away.

We camp.

We hike.

We enjoy creation and the wonders of what God has given us. We slow down, enjoying long talks around the campfire, slow morning snuggles, and kids piled on the bed for a sweet movie. 

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It's been a busy spring. Between work, finishing school, doctors and dentists, meetings, and more, we haven't had a chance to sneak away. And yet, we know how important it is. During another busy week, we looked at the calendar to see what we could say no to, and we carved out a few days to just be us. Jason still had to work, so we chose a state park close enough that he could drive back and forth. It wasn't ideal, but I know deeply that this is true:

If we're always waiting for the ideal, we will always be waiting.

And oh how we needed these days! They filled my soul, reminded me of what is important, and offered the rest our weary souls were crying out for.


Here is a seven-minute video of our time away (a mixture of photos and videos from both my phone and my regular camera).

Life Around Here

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com I've broken the first rule of blogging: post consistently. Thankfully, I've never much worried about the rules of blogging.

However, just because I have been quiet in this little space, it doesn't mean life has been quiet. In fact, it's been the opposite. Life has been full (often too full for my liking). However, we have been told that this is the day the Lord has made and we should rejoice in it. Although there have been many days when I haven't felt like rejoicing, I pray for the strength each day to offer up my sacrifice of praise.

Even amidst the struggles of this life, there is much joy to be found. This is the reason I love photography: it forces me to see the little moments that make up a big life. Without my camera to capture the fleeting ages and stages of our children and our family, as well as the short-lived beauty of God's creation in nature, I would struggle with gratitude. My images remind me I have much to thank God for, much to rejoice in.

The last few months have been filled with birthdays and celebrations, a few weeks of three extra kids in the house, lots of hiking and enjoying the beauty of the North Carolina Spring, doctor's appointments ad nauseam, and lots of little moments unbridled joy. Here are some of our moments of joy.

Some of these have been shared on Facebook, others have not. And because it is quick, easy, and it makes me happy, I have recently been sharing more of my nature photos on Instagram.

You can follow me on either Facebook or Instagram.

Also, I have updated my photography site a number of times recently. I am seriously considering just combining the two sites. I tried to separate my "photography stuff" from my "life stuff" and I have realized I can't. This is why I end up not posting anywhere: I don't know if a post should go here or there. So one site makes more sense. On the to-do list...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

She told me, "This is what princesses do!"

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Who knew when I was pregnant with her five years ago, I would give birth to a dog?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Our other doggie...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Sometimes the not-taking-naps thing backfires

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Little moments of real life

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

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Just one of the many puppies that are in Beppy's "puppy pound."

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com
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Finally found a way to organize my Bible study and Bible journaling materials

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A trip to the zoo for Levi's birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

The kids built their own little camping site in the woods, complete with shelters and a fire pit.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

One of Zach's "callipitters."

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

We haven't had a chance to go camping this spring, but we make up for it by enjoying our big yard. A fire pit, marshmallows, watermelon, and lawn games...what else does summer need?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A little picnic spot Katie made me for Mother's Day. She said, "I know you like the beach, so I made the water and the sand for you. But we'll have to eat in the water or you might hurt yourself by sitting on one of the shells in the sand." 🙂

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Zachy's obsession with bubbles still goes strong!

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Do you think he likes licking the batter?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Yummy, yummy food. This is one of my favorites...almond and parmesan crusted chicken tenderloins.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Lots of batches of these...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Real life around here

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A treat for the last day of homeschool co-op

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

More "callipitters." He often asks, "Where is my favorite bug?" And then he goes to find whichever one he has captured last and gives it a kiss.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

I found them like this

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A morning of missing Malaysia...Chinese pancakes and kopi peng (iced coffee)

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

The $50 "baby pool for big kids" was worth every penny.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

His obsession....milk and creamer. Every day. And yes, I know it isn't healthy. Luckily, we make up for it in other ways.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Alaina's birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Alaina had a CLUE murder mystery party for her birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

When I asked Katie what she wanted for her birthday decorations, she just said "cowgirl." I think I accomplished it. How much "cow" and "girl" can you get?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Moms get birthdays too!

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

For Caleb's special 12-year-old trip, we surprised him with a trip to Pittsburgh to see a Pirates game. And of course, he wore his Pirates t-shirt with "Phillips" and the number 12 to commemorate his special day.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Watching pitching practice

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Easter morning

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Love Letters to My Children {no. 4}: Why We Celebrate (part 2)

Love Letters | Celebrate2   In Part One of this letter to my children, I explain the first three reasons we make a big deal out of celebrations. I encourage you to read the post, as it also talks about the things that aren't the reason we celebrate (no matter how good they are.) ©janetphillips_january30_2016_web-19

TO RECAP:

We choose to celebrate (especially birthdays) because:

OUR GOD IS A GOD OF CELEBRATION

YOU {the kids} BRING JOY TO OUR HOME

THE FRUIT OF THE WOMB IS A REWARD

 

And now for the rest of the letter...

YOUR DAYS WERE ORDAINED BY GOD

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For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.PSALM 139:13-16 (emphasis mine)

Before the world was created, God knew you. He loved you, imagined you, and took great delight in you. Before you were conceived, God wrote in His book every day that you will live on the earth. Not one day too short, not one day too long. Each and every day of your life will serve a purpose, and when you fulfill your purpose in this generation (Acts 13:36), you will then pass away.©janetphillips_may2_2015_web-14

Until then, however, we choose to celebrate. Although it is my hope and prayer that you feel loved and celebrated every day of your life, we take one day each year to especially celebrate you. We celebrate because the day was ordained by God. By His will and His will alone, you reach another milestone in another year. You have had breath and life for another 365 days. We must celebrate God's goodness—His goodness to you (in giving you life) and His goodness to us (in letting us have another year with you!)

WE LOVE YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY©janetphillips_april17_2015-98 copy

With all eight of our birthdays in a three month stretch (seven of those being in just an eight week stretch!), it would be easy to just combine some of the celebrations. Why go through all the trouble of decorating eight times, shopping for and wrapping gifts eight times, making 24 separate birthday meals (three for each birthday)? Why not just throw it all together and have one big celebration?

katie

You are not a group, you are special and separate individuals. We do many things as a family, but we choose not to combine birthdays because we want to celebrate you and your unique personality. Each of you adds something incredibly special to our family. You are all so different and yet all so amazing. By giving you your own day, we are free to focus on and truly celebrate who YOU are. We don't just do what is easy or convenient for us (because I can promise you, doing eight birthdays, all with special food and decorations, is anything but easy or convenient!) Instead, we do what we believe will make you feel loved and delighted in.

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We let you choose colors and gifts and food and activities (and pay little attention as to whether the food is healthy or not!) We choose decorations and presents that represent you during a particular year (even if it means buying dog bowls for our "puppy" girl). We want you to know how amazing YOU are and how thrilled we are and that your special personality, with all its blessings, quirks, and flaws, is worth a celebration all its own.

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WE DON'T BUY GIFTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR

Perhaps this reason sounds strange, but it is a big part of why we do what we do. We made a choice long ago that we would not spoil you, we would not give into your every whim and want, and we would not buy you toys and treats whenever the urge (yours or ours!) struck. Partly out of conviction, and partly out of finances, we choose to not buy you gifts throughout the year. Of course we do special activities and I will buy you small treats like ice cream or a new shirt, but for the most part, you have to wait. I don't come home from the store with new toys and I don't let you ask me to buy you things when we go out.

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When kids learn that they can ask, whine, and demand their way to everything their little heart desires, the result is rude, demanding, and entitled children. We've seen it too many times. If we purchased gifts every time you saw something you wanted, either at a friend's house or in a commercial (the few you see), you would be amassing your toy collection all year round. Instead, we choose to teach you the art of contentment and patience.

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Twice a year you receive gifts. Only two times in a year do you have the chance to write a list, sharing the things you would love to have. Now that you are getting older and have a bit of allowance, you are able to purchase a few things yourself, but for the most part you still just have to wait in order to receive the toys, clothes, and other special items you have been hoping for.

©janetphillips_may2_2015_web-14 Because this only happens twice a year (Christmas and your birthday), we choose to go big. We don't spend much money on your throughout the year, enabling us to save more for these special occasions. We try to purchase most of the things on your lists (it helps that you all are always within reason!) Gifts are an act of love and we choose to shower you with that love on the days we celebrate you. Your patience and lack of entitlement deserve to be recognized and rewarded!

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WE WANT YOU TO CONTINUE TO LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEEDS AND WANTS

This last point goes along with the point of above. On your birthday (and Christmas), we purchase and gift you with your wants. During the year, we purchase your needs.

Learning the difference between wants and needs is one of the greatest gifts we, as parents, can give you. Most children—and most adults—have never learned to discriminate between these two vastly different things.

Needs are items and opportunities necessary for your physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual growth. These are the things you need in order for you to healthfully grow and be good stewards of your body and appearance, your feelings and emotions, your mind and education, and your growth in your relationship with the Lord.

In case these categories confuse you, a few examples of needs:

Physical needs: Clothes, shoes, toiletries, haircuts, and other items needed to care for your appearance, always striving to be modest (a concept that means far more than most people understand...a topic for another day.) A not about clothes and shoes: We purchase these when and if you lack a necessary item and/or have grown out of things. These are not clothes you want in order to stay fashionable. However, if you do need an item of clothing, we try to purchase something you really like and will enjoy. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and "mother" to hundreds of children, wrote her supporters and friends in England and said something along the lines of, "Don't bother with sending ugly colors [of clothes]; there are too many beautiful colors in the world to bother with the ugly ones." I agree wholeheartedly. We are frugal, but that doesn't mean we have to buy clothes we hate. It is a joy to teach you, especially the girls, that you can be wise stewards of your money and purchase clothing that makes you feel good about yourself.

Emotional Needs: This one can be tricky, and I pray for wisdom and discernment regularly. I know that sometimes one of you needs just a little extra  something special. A trip out for coffee, a new shirt that you love (but don't need), a new football. I choose to purchase these, though not very often, when I sense that one of you needs an extra display of love from me. It's clear you don't the items. Instead, I want you to see that I am giving them to you because of love, to show you how special you are to me. These are never things you ask for, rather things I choose to give. You've all known since you were little, if you go to the store and ask for things, it is guaranteed I won't buy it.

Educational Needs: All items needed for your education, including notebooks, pens and bags, are purchased for you. We also occasionally purchase books or other things intended for learning. And as I said with clothing needs, as long as we are buying it, it might as well be something you love.

Spiritual Growth Needs: If there are items or experiences we see as valuable for your spiritual growth, we will purchase them. This includes Bibles, notebooks for church, activities with church or with our homeschool co-op. We will also occasionally purchase music on iTunes. We take you events, including concerts.

In short, we choose to celebrate because God delights in you and so do we. May you always feel loved, valued, and celebrated.

All I Wanted

PTS | All I Wanted  

All I wanted for Mother's Day was to go camping.

This was my twelfth Mother's Day. And after all these years, I know myself and my family very well. I have no need of breakfast in bed (seems silly when I wake hours before everyone else!) I don't need to be showered with gifts (we have far too much stuff as it is). I don't need a fancy Sunday lunch (we had our favorite New York Style pizza because it's what we all love).

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All I wanted for Mother's Day was to be with my family, doing what we love best: camping.

Back in February, after returning from a camping trip to the Everglades, I wrote this:

LOVE camping...what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

Yep, it's all I wanted.

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Camping takes all the things I love best and throws them together:

family time being offline taking pictures watching my kids play lazy schedules simple but yummy meals playing outside being in God's creation time to snuggle and read hiking warm fires in the cool breeze seeing kids explore and imagine

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We left after church on Sunday and stayed two nights. Staying fairly local (a state recreation area just 45 minutes from home) meant more time to play and less time to drive. It was perfect. The kids played and explored. They founds bugs and lizards and a turtle. We swam in the lake and hiked for miles. We watched a blue heron who visited a number of times. The kids got dirty, sandy, and sweaty. I couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day Gift (though the dozens of post-it notes with all the reasons they love me covering our dining table on Sunday morning comes pretty close!) ©janetphillips_may12_2015_web-34

I'm thankful for these twelve years of being a mama and all the joy these kids bring to my life.

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Seven

1929484_9976325764_9906_n   Our sweet Katie is seven. SEVEN. 20150307-Katies Birth Announcement

Most of the time, time passes and I wonder where it all went. It usually seems as if it goes so fast. But with Katie, I can't say that. The beginning of her life marked the beginning of so much of mine that I find it hard to believe all that has happened in seven short years.

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When Katie was three weeks old, we found out that we were unexpectedly leaving our job in Florida. We had no idea where we were going to go. The next month was filled with a lot of anxiety as we wondered about life with four kids age five and under with no job, no house, no insurance, no ideas.  But God...I love that most of my stories have a "but God" phrase where His amazing power gets all the glory.

But God had plans for us, plans we knew nothing of, plans that would give us breath and life. This post is about Katie, though, so I won't go into all that moving to Indonesia did for me, for our family, or about how the grief of missing it is so thick right now.

I can't help think of Indonesia, though, when I think of our sweet Katie. At four months, we moved to the island of Java, and while there we have watched her grow into this sweet, crazy, selfie-obsessed freckle-faced girl. She keeps us laughing, she keeps us guessing, and she keeps us in awe of God's creativity in creating her.

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Through Their Eyes

Last week, as I watched the weather forecast predict plummeting temperatures in the near future, I decided to take the kids out for what might be one of the last nice days of fall. I had just done a senior shoot the day before and the senior's mom had recommended visiting Duke Gardens as a potential photo location in the future. I decided I should check it out before I go into hibernation.

One of my old cameras is still in fairly decent shape and I love to let the kids use it. We affectionately call it the "kid camera." It's a DSLR, and I love that the individual kids can use it on a setting they are comfortable with. Some use it an auto, some on a semi-auto mode and Alaina, my oldest, loves to practice shooting in manual. It's fun for me to see them get excited about something I love so much. Even more so, however, I love to see the world through their eyes. Photography has done amazing things in my life. Primarily, it has taught me to be thankful. When you look at the world in front of you and stop long enough to see the beauty, gratitude grows. And gratitude is something I want to pass on to my kids. The world is filled with so much goodness, so much beauty, so many gifts from the Lord. Unfortunately, most people are too busy to even notice. Seeing, stopping, clicking: It makes the heart swell.

As I downloaded their images, I couldn't help but smile at how they see the world. It was even more fun to try to guess who took each photo (they took turns for the afternoon). When I see the things that excite them enough to capture it on the camera, it gives me insight into who they are and what they find beautiful. And I hope when they look through my photos of their childhood, they will learn about what I find beautiful.

All images taken by Alaina (11), Caleb (10), Levi (8) and Katie (6) and edited by me.

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