Recap 2012: Photography

In 2012 I undertook several new ventures. I have always threatened (myself) to quit everything else and go study art. This last semester I made true on that promise (well, except for the quitting-everything-else part). I finally decided that this impulse wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed to get behind a pencil and a camera. So I took my first art classes–one in digital photography and one in freehand drawing. I have to say, it is incredibly satisfying to get to the end of a year and know that you have actually done something you have always wanted to do. Perhaps more importantly, I reached the end of this year feeling like I had become more of somebody I want to be.

So I would like to share with you some of the progress of my daring greatly.Read More »

What Lies Behind

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“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” – Psalms 139:5-7

I have always taken comfort in times of uncertainty that He is the God who goes before me–that He prepares the way, and is in my future before I ever get there. It’s somewhat easy for me to trust Him with the things that have yet to happen, but recent history has challenged how well I trust Him with the things that lie behind. A few weeks ago as I was taking my 7 minute drive to school, I tuned into K-Love thinking, I bet there’s something playing right now I need to hear. Sometimes those 2 or 3 songs that carry me down the 44, give me just what I need to approach the day right. It’s almost my last ditch effort at perspective readjustment on days when there hasn’t been time for anything else!

Chris Tomlin was singing his new song, “I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind…” I was struck. He stands behind me! How had half the impact of this reality never made its way home? I wasn’t scared about my future, I was scared about my past. I was scared of the things I couldn’t do anything about–the things that had already passed through that small window in which I have the chance to alter them. We are powerfully present in our lives in only a sliver of time. We don’t get to go backwards and forwards and make adjustments based on lessons learned and perspectives gained. When today comes, I greet it with today’s wisdom, today’s resources, and today’s state of mind and heart. And then today leaves me, and it goes into a part of my life I can’t pick up again. Tomorrow isn’t so scary because it still has so many chances. Yes, it’s unknown and uncertainty gives fear, but it also gives hope. Where is the hope in yesterday?

He stands behind. I got excited and relieved. Although it’s hard for a time-constrained brain to comprehend, I knew with sudden sureness that the comfort of trusting a God who stands in my future could be applied to a God who simultaneously stands in my past. He’s still there. He’s still working it out. He hasn’t let yesterday go. He’s not done with it yet. Though I can’t do anything, He can, and wherever He is, there is grace, and grace makes beautiful. Trust means not only that I move forward with confidence of a good future, but that I let go with surety that He will take care of the things I no longer can. The deepest beauty and freedom of a life surrendered is that nothing is beyond redemption for a God who stands behind.

A Promise to Myself

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I will find the courage to move forwards. I will remember with kindness. I will take the time to heal. I will let my steps be small if that is all they can be. I will brave my visions to be big. I will seek spaces in which to dream. I will press against the voices of fear that echo through holes made by disappointment. I will rise above pain. I will strengthen my identity. I will forgive myself. I will celebrate.

Grateful Notes

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Gratitude doesn’t always look like a day full of things to be thankful for.

Thankfulness is not always a list, not always conscious.

Some days I write two pages straight of things I am thankful for. Other days I don’t write a single word.

Gratitude when you can’t think of things to be thankful for, is worship. Worship is a step of faith. It’s a faith that says I believe in His goodness even when it feels like I am not experiencing it.

Worship doesn’t come out because things have gone well. Worship is given because He’s always worthy, and because I have learned that when I am full of the gratitude of worship, I position myself to see rightly again.

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What was Wonderful about September

Few books have impacted the way I live my daily life like Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I picked it up several summers back and it felt like she had composed an illusive song in my head. Appreciating the small things has always been a way of life for me, but Ann seemed to rub it into my soul till it really meant something. Her book is a journey to collect the ways in which He loves, documenting 1000 pieces of thankfulness. She shows us that joy is “always a function of gratitude, and gratitude is always a function of perspective.” The way she writes about thanksgiving is not as a quaint idea, but as an essential piece of life.

I dug into a journal the first day I cracked the spine of her book and began penning my own list of 1000 gifts that come into my life every day. By the end of the summer, my journal was fat:

18. Permission to not have to be good at everything
93. The smell of white toast and orange marmalade in the morning
101. The sound of gravel beneath my feet
143. Strolls at dusk with fresh apricots

I’ve had to fight for this celebration of life. In No Small Wonder, I wrote of losing the big picture:

I had let it become all hollowed out, all wrong way round. These little things will never give life. They are merely another way of seeing and appreciating the life everything is infused with because of Him… But when celebrating life becomes a part of celebrating and enjoying the God of all life, it is then that it becomes true gratitude. Then there is life and authenticity to it.

Now, 1556 pieces of thanksgiving later, it’s become a part of my daily life. Nothing makes for a moment of gratitude like starting a new month, so in celebration of October’s arrival, here is some of what I have loved in the past seasons, and a few of my photographs of what was wonderful about September:

copyright Amy Watson

copyright Amy Watson

148. The satisfaction of being able to put feelings and experiences to words and music
175. Wearing PJs to the breakfast table
186. The soggy, drenched inside bits of garlic bread
192. The crackling sound your ice makes when you pour water over it
195. The way cake gets better after a couple of days in the fridge
201. Counting down how many “sleeps”

copyright Amy Watson357. Relationships that are bigger than the mistakes you make
370. That first spoonful of Greek Honey yoghurt
430. People you are comfortable in simply being quiet with
460. The way commas allow you to extend your sentences
742. Watching golfers at the 10th hole outside our kitchen window
754. Filling the last page in a notebook
792. The feeling of a paintbrush on your cheek
808. The way a Dr. Seuss Book comes off your tongue
965. The echoes and acoustics of covered parking buildings
977. The sound of a teacup returning to its saucer
997. Three snuggled on a small red couch

copyright Amy Watson

1485. The way sweetened condensed milk in my coffee takes me back to mornings in Africa
1519. Remembering that people don’t have to change for me to forgive them

Enjoy October, and discover all that is wonderful about it!

Learning to See

There are some mornings when I can’t sleep in because I have somewhere I have to be. Then there are other mornings when I can’t sleep in because I have nowhere to be at all, and that makes getting out of bed far too irresistible. The lazier my morning, the more I want to get up and poach an egg, have a slice of sourdough, and deliberate about whether my tea is over brewed or not. I stick my nose in a recycled paper magazine, love its smell, and suddenly want Italian sausage to make its recipes. Not to mention, since buying my camera, I have had to add about half an hour to all of my morning preparation times, to accommodate for the shutter snapping between bites and sips and keystrokes.  I have a new, non-literal understanding of the phrase, “cooking time.” I will throw an egg shell into the garbage and be half way across the kitchen before I realize I need that egg shell for my photo. You have to tell the whole story. My camera is teaching me that… my canon and my 2H pencils.

The more I engage with art, the more I realize that so much of life is about seeing. Whether I’m looking through my viewfinder, or my subconscious train of thoughts, seeing is an art and a discipline. To see well is to live well. When you can see, you can make something beautiful. My art professor tells me almost every class period that drawing is not about becoming better at holding a pencil, but refining your ability to see. He comes along, puts a stroke on my Bristol pad where that stroke was supposed to go, and I exclaim, “oh! I see!” I get it. That’s what was wrong. How I wish the art of my life had a professor walking around saying, “no no, look here… you’re not seeing it right… see… it goes like this…” I am having to train my eye to see where the lines curve around a cello, or how light encases apples. More importantly, I have to train my eye to see where grace just gave me something I didn’t deserve, and where a difficult situation just helped to mold me into something more beautiful.