Layers: Photo Challenge


, ,

Life is layers. We build them up as we grow and develop: layers to our personality, our brain, our problems. Some are protective and hard to penetrate. Nothing is simple because it’s usually laid on something else, like layers of wallpaper on a wall, it’s hard to separate them; layers become fused together, until in your own mind, you don’t know which came first: the chicken or the egg.

Nature lays down layers, too. Only trained eyes can tell what they mean, but they do show a steady progression which spans a longer time than our minds can imagine. I find this pleasing, to think that time is laid on time, the lives are laid on lives.

The following photos were taken last summer in St. Andrews, Scotland. The town has a recorded history back to the 800’s, and it is known that people lived here as early as the fifth century A.D. But what story do these rocks tell? I’m sure they have a longer history than the town.




, ,

As a photo challenge, I happen to have a number of photos that speak of serenity to me. It is a quality I am constantly in search of, and practice daily — not always with great success. While it can come across to others as not engaging, sometimes you have to pull yourself out of the fray, especially when it is detrimental to your mood and your happiness. It is a choice to enter into conversations that are confrontational, unpleasant, or unnecessary, and I often choose to opt out. My search for contentment is more important to me in my older age than ever before. My world has shrunk to those things that truly affect and interest me.

Ten years ago we went on a driving trip with my pregnant daughter, her husband, and 2 year-old son, setting out from Calgary to spend the night in Revelstoke, British Columbia. The scenery is awesome in the truest meaning of the word, and Revelstoke was then a sweet little town, with an outdoor square where we happened on a low-key concert on the evening  we were there. Everybody brought lawn chairs, walked from their nearby homes, and just enjoyed themselves. Such a relaxing place with a gentle life. The next day, before setting out for our ultimate destination, Summerland, BC, we discovered Mt. Revelstoke National Park — what a spectacle of views, wildflowers, and meandering paths. We even encountered a small glacier. (Revelstoke has now become quite a ski destination!)

My photo invites the viewer to come closer, sit down, and enjoy the unparalleled view, the quiet, and the triumph of nature over man.




, , ,

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.” — Marcus Aurelius

I see a mountain, and wonder how it got there, and why it is shaped as it is. Why are some mountains slate gray, and others light, or even red? Why are some spiked, others rounded? How could the continents split and form the map we have today — and what will it look like in a million years?

The annual cycle of nature is easier to comprehend. We know the leaves on trees will die in a glorious blaze of color, and that flowers will wilt and die, a sad reminder of their beauty. Snow will fall, the sun will glow. Those changes we can anticipate. Renewal and rebirth.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

In human life, nothing is certain. I often give thanks to God or my forebears that I was born in the United States. I can’t imagine the constant suffering people is the poorest and unruliest parts of the world withstand. I try to live the American dream, and that’s not a big house, and flashy car, but believing and supporting what the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and even the Emancipation Proclamation, intended. We are a special country, a special place to live.

This doesn’t mean we are equally blessed or that we are free from suffering. People we love die, others we care about struggle with disease — cancer, addiction, unpronounceable illnesses. Even people who look normal on the outside live with depression, loneliness, loss of a child or spouse. We are not what we seem; each of us has cried, struggled, tried to bargain with God, sought oblivion in one way or another, lost the will to live knowing that, yes, the “worst” can happen.

I have lived through a couple of these “worst” things (though losing a child is the worst I can imagine and it hasn’t happened to me), and have walked through the mire of recovery and readjustment. I have been transformed. I have been changed by every significant event in my life. Joy overwhelmed me at the birth of each child — especially the first after I had lost two to miscarriages. By the grace of God, I overcame addiction and I am constantly aware of what a blessing it is to have been unshackled by a heavenly hand. I lost my father at age 14 — to suicide from bipolar disorder. I have suffered and I have survived — sometimes with gratitude, sometimes just with the passage of time.

I am one of those people who espouses “everything happens for a reason” adding that we just don’t know that reason, and only in another life beyond death will it be revealed. There is no earthly explanation, except roll of the dice, but then why is God willing, if he is asked, to walk with us through the darkest times and hold our hand, push us back from the edge, reveal that we still have a life to be lived with a purpose? Some days I struggle with that purpose, but never am I ungrateful for the experiences life has brought me for they have made me who I am and deepened my understanding, compassion, and self-knowledge. I’ve even had a glimpse of the God of my understanding.

My transformation is not a slow as that of the earth, but it is ongoing and as certain.

“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.” Rick Warren







, , ,

Every now and then one of the picture suggestions catches my eye, and I think — yes, I like that idea. I found myself looking the other day at a very tall building going up along the highway. It is covered in mirrored-like panels. From a distance, it looks a bit like a space ship ready to launch from its pad. Extending the similarity, it is rounded, not a true cylinder, but rounded artistically. How do they do that — bend building materials? They’re probably glass panels so that they create a smooth roundness that looks effortless. No doubt it costs a lot, but apparently big banks don’t mind the expense. Still it’s forms a contrast with the buildings around it both in materials, height, and shape — probably just what was intended.

Pushing the concept even further, Frank Gehry has forsaken traditional grounded architecture for something with no distinct lines. Take the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle:

It’s easiest to use a quote to describe how this building is constructed, but it must have been a challenge: “A fusion of textures and myriad colors, MoPOP’s exterior conveys all the energy and fluidity of music. Three-thousand panels, made up of 21 thousand individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles, encase the outside of the building. Their individual finishes respond to different light conditions and appear to change when viewed from different angles, reminding audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving.” I haven’t been inside the buildings (these are my photos of the outside); the exterior is an adventure in itself as one tries to identify shifting colors, and irregular, unexpected shapes. Sitting near the once innovative Space Needle (also encompassing a round section), it now sits in what is definitely the cultural center of the city.

Apparently Gehry “purchased several electric guitars, sliced them into pieces, and used them as building blocks for an early model design.” What an organic and unique, creative process going right to the soul of the museum.

What a departure in modern architecture! Unlike my curved spaceship building, this is a true departure from standard practice that challenges one’s concept of how a building “should look!


This image of the Gehry’s Lou Nuvo Center for Brain Research at the Cleveland put the square lines of the windows in contrast to the curved lines of the building. It reminds me of the art of Rene Magritte!

So much for skyscrapers! There are alternative ways of think about the spaces in which we work and live.

Luck or Something More?


, ,

Why do some people breeze through life seemingly with no problems? Why are some people thin and never have to consider what they eat? Why do some people suffer what seem like more than their fair share of life’s tougher issues, and others don’t?

Who knows — only God, I guess. At any rate, God is the one I have to trust, believing that there’s a reason for suffering, that he has a plan for each of us, and is willing to go on the journey with us, if we ask him.

My niece was born with a birth defect. You’d never know from looking at her, but at age 40 she’s had about the same number of surgeries, and they’re never easy or straight-forward. She’s had far more than her share of pain, not because of the defect, but because of the surgeries necessary and how they have affected her body. The doctors have been great — no fault there. It’s just a continuous problem she lives with daily.

My niece was also born with the kindest, sunniest disposition that one can have. She has a beautiful smile, and uses it often to warm people’s lives: her family, her patients (she’s a nurse), and friends. She doesn’t complain, and continually pushes herself to be the best possible person and professional she can be. Giving in to her health problems is not an option for her; she lives life to the fullest and has a gift of helping others, listening with empathy, and offering sound and caring advice.

I admire her fortitude, her love of life and those in it, and her determination. I just wish she’d get some health breaks, and not have to suffer the pain I know she live with amidst her busy life.

As she recovers from yet another surgery, tougher than expected (as usual), I wish her speedy recovery. I know her faith is strong, and God is at her side.

Bless her.


This is a wonderful and helpful post, Shannon. You are right on so many levels, and your confession is appropriate. We’re all that way, no matter how much we involve God in your lives. Life is a struggle sometimes. I’ve had a couple of really bad periods/events in my life and fortunately I did come out “a better person” for the journey, by the grace of God. I don’t know if I need your permission to reblog this, but it is in harmony with some of the blogs I’ve written lately that I’d hope you won’t mind.

Doodles Invigorate


I always hear people ask why can’t I be happy all the time? I see them striving to obtain this eternal non-stop bliss party. I was one of them. Life doesn’t work that way! God allows bad things to happen for a reason. Overcoming horrible events and emotions are what shapes, molds, and transforms us. It can shape you into a monster or it can shape you into something beautiful. How you transform is based on your perspective on life and how you handle your emotions. We must fight to ignore negative emotions caused by bad experiences. We must strive to look through a positive lens. Then we will find moments of happiness in stressful times. Then it is easier to hear God. Moments that are filled with light, guide us through the darkest valleys.

A special note to Christians in the valley: The valley is filled with spiritual warfare…

View original post 233 more words



, , ,

I cannot help but think of the great hymn, “We Shall Overcome”, sung so frequently at civil rights marches in the ’60’s. It brings a lump to my throat, not just because marchers were often treated violently, but because they had the fortitude, faith, and moral character to demonstrate peacefully. What a leader they had in Dr. Martin Luther King. Not a perfect man, but a perfect man for the job and the times.

Were all the marches peaceful? No, even if the marchers were, often violence was instigated by law enforcement under the direction of the city, the state, the governors — those who are charged with keeping the peace, except when it came to blacks marching en masse, including many white supporters.

In some ways, those were the best of times. When has a cause been so morally justified? When have people demonstrated without resorting to violence, name-calling, or destruction of property? When has prayer, in this non-religious establishment country, been used more effective and forcefully.

I have the privilege of having seen all this during my teenage years. I would not want to have missed witnessing just change come about. Being from Ohio, I did not know the level of segregation and the feelings behind it, that existed in many parts of the South. And I’m glad I didn’t. Imagine being brought up to hate, to disparage other people without consequence, even to kill without proper legal force being brought to bear on the crime. Justice was served, if not immediately, at least in law by 1965. You do not change people’s hearts and minds overnight, so the fight took longer, and in may ways continued peacefully. As Dr. King said (below), “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Some groups wanted violence, but Dr. King always said no to that, and the heinous ending of his life just showed where violence and hatred reap.

These people overcome first their righteous anger, their hatred of whites who had held them in their places for generations in order to overcome on a much larger scale — forcing laws and a legal acceptance which has led to equality.

I will not defend my remark on equality; I know that many feel that racism is still alive and active. I personally question this, and believe that when people come together peacefully and legally, they stand on an equal footing. No amount of legislation will make us hate or love, or wipe out discrimination of all kinds.

When we are individually and collectively able to overcome our own prejudices, biases, and the further ahead we will move in making this a truly free country, one in which all are judged “not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”