Little Ballerinas

This past weekend I had the opportunity to watch my nieces at their ballet classes.  What a real treat that was!  As I watched their tiny bodies flutter and glide in various ballet positions, I was motivated to go back to my ballet workout video… I was motivated, but I cannot say that I turned that motivation into action!  Still, it was really inspiring to watch a 3 and 5 year old concentrate on these movements and achieve them!  Here are a few images from my recent visit!

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They have decided to follow Jesus… No turning back, no turning back!

A month ago, my niece and nephew publicly displayed their decision to follow Christ. Like their parents, I watch proudly as they were dipped into the water and emerged.  What truly touched my heart was that they made these decisions at such an early age.  For me, I was baptized with full understanding of the commitment I was making at the age of 15.  I was not pressured to do this, but the Holy Spirit nudged my heart to make this public declaration around that time.  However, when I see my niece and nephew and their siblings, I see God’s hands on their lives – at 9, 7, 5, and 3.  You see, these children consider their choices and match them up with God’s Word… And if they don’t line up, they choose something better.  Now, by no means am I implying that these children are perfect little angels that never make the wrong choice.  No, they are human, but they have allowed Jesus and the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them in all truths.  And as I think about their paths, I think about the pitfalls that such an early decision will help them avoid – the devil may still try to distract them, but God will get the ultimate victory in their lives.  And that victory is going to come because as you will see in the pictures, they have such a cloud of witnesses about them.  They have a strong community to support in their seeking the Lord’s face and honoring Him in their lifestyle.  2 Proverbs come to mind.  The first is in the Bible, “Train up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is older he shall not depart from it.”  And the second is an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  I am thankful for my cousins Jonathan and Letty, who pray over, pray with, and train their children in the ways of the Lord.  And, I am thankful for their family, extended family, friends, and church family, who surround these children and point them back to the Father who is in Heaven!  To God be the glory!

See images from their baptism below.

 

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JOURNEY TO MY ROOTS… THE MOTHERLAND… AFRICA :: FRIENDS :: How many of us have them… FRIENDS :: Before we go any further!

Two months ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Africa.  This was one of those trips that I always knew I wanted to make, but the timing just hadn’t been right.  Well, at some point in 2015, we all decided to make the leap of faith and plan this trip.  I am so absolutely blessed and fortunate to have 2 of the most amazing FRIENDS there are out there!  I mean, I don’t know too many people that I can just say, “Hey, I wanna go to Africa.  Are you in?” and they will respond with, “Just tell me when to book my flight!”  But not only are they down for the ride, but they are also the LIFE of the PARTY!!!!!  Let me tell, there is never a dull moment with these ladies… especially when they are together.  While there were many times when I was the subject of the joke, these ladies were able to take it just as well as they “dished it.”  We laughed so much on this trip that it was really hard to leave it and return back to our normal lives…. but a cell phone bill and a trip to the grocery store will help snap you back to reality! I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from my trip to Africa with these ladies… There were other moments as well, but I didn’t have approval to post everything 😉

As I reflect on the years of friendship I have with the 2 ladies – Tamerra and Le’Toya – my heart is filled with joy.  They have been there through the thick and thin… We have maintained contact even while spending more years living in separate cities than times in the same cities…. We talk several times a week despite our busy schedules… These friends are the ones who stay in touch with me and keep me in check.  Le’Toya constantly reminds me to keep God first, and Tamerra continues to bring the my remembrance the need to have compassion.  They both pray for me and encourage me when my days seem darker.  These ladies never let me take myself too seriously, and they “give me permission” to take it easy (and stop working… whether I am putting the camera or the red pen down).   These ladies will sit 4 deep in the backseat of a really tiny car with me, even though they may not have their entire bum on the seat just to make it to church on Sunday.  We all think alike, like the time we all ordered empenadas and potatoes, while the other 6 people in our party ordered steaks.  They will capture every moment in selfies… as well as indulge me as I pull out a “real camera” and take 1000 plus photos.  They also take the camera from me to make sure that I am in some of my memories 🙂  They can be serious when needed, and they will celebrate every single victory and milestone with you!  I love these girls, my friends… these chicas!  I am so thankful God saw fit to send them into my life to stay for the long haul!  Here’s too friendship!  Here is to the journey!  Here is to Tamerra and Le’Toya!

 

These are scenes from the safari in Madikwe, South Africa, as well as travels around Johannesburg and Soweto.  Some of the highlights were traveling to the Apartheid Museum, Nelson Mandela’s house, and the Monte Casino.   There was a lot of food eaten, but I chose to focus these images on friendship!

 

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Cell Phones Can Take Decent Photos TOO!

I started taking photos with a little Pentax 35mm with a zoom lens. I thought I was something special in those days… Then I took my first photography class with a 35mm Minolta SLR camera, and I realized that most of my work before that point was pretty sorry. Before I stepped into the SLR world, I had no control of aperatures and f-stops… and I didn’t know any better. But as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” After a couple of years with the Minolta, my parents upgraded me to a Konica-Minolta digital SLR, and now I really knew how to get some good photos… and even if I didn’t know, I would keep playing around with the settings until I got just the right photo. Sadly, Konica-Minolta was bought out by Sony, and at that time, I did not want to take the ride with them to another brand… So I made the switch to Nikon, and haven’t looked back since! People eventually started paying me to do what I LOVE with my camera, and that money was often reinvested into equipment and tools for editing photos. I had a look that I was after – a polished, clean, professional look. I did not want blur or grain, unless that was the mood of the photo, and I definitely did not want EVERYTHING at the same level of depth of focus. All this to say when cell phones started getting cameras on them, I was not phased. Even with the latest and greatest iPhone, I had no plans of saying good bye to my trusty Nikon digital SLR.

So fast-forward to 2014. As I have let the business go in order focus on teaching, I have also picked up my trusty Nikon less and less. Sometimes, the battery isn’t even charged… I can go for months without even cleaning off memory cards – I never would have conceptualized this between 2011 and 2013, when my business was really booming. There are times that all I have is my cell phone… and with children, there are times (more than not) when all you will have time to pull out is your cell phone. If you have a good eye, you can take a decent picture… but if you have a Photoshop app, you can make that decent picture look somewhere near great 🙂

In this post, I am sharing some pretty decent pictures I’ve taken with my cell phone over the past year.  Now, by no means am I saying that I kissed my Nikon good bye.  As a matter of fact, the images from my last posts have only been achieved with the Nikon, but I am not going to rule my celly out for some moments.

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JOURNEY TO MY ROOTS… THE MOTHERLAND… AFRICA :: ANIMAL SIGHTINGS

Being in Africa was amazing to say the least.  I must admit, I had never seen many of these animals in their natural habitat or with freedom to roam.  In the United States, we see non-domesticated animals in the zoo… almost exclusively.  It was such a joy to see these animals on our safari the way that God originally made them.  Some animals, like the rhinoceros, were so difficult to see because of their ability to blend in.  I am absolutely in awe of God’s creation!  See some of the animals I saw below.

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On the safari!