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Light, Life, Love: 2017 Solstice

Facing the Light, 2016

May the blessing of Light be on you, light without and light within… – Irish blessing

Light

Today is the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. In many ways this day is a pause, a time to look toward lighter days, to begin anew, to put those things which weigh us down behind. It can be a passage from darkness toward light.

This year has flown by, and has been filled with joy in many ways, and yet it has been difficult, as well. Sometimes, I’m quick to wonder about the hard days. Why do we have them? But without the difficulties and darkness, the light and our growth would not seem as bright. Without the challenges, we aren’t stretched and pulled out of our comfort zones so that we can grow and become stronger. When we grow stronger, we also shine more brightly.

St Moritz, Switzerland
Light upon the Mountains

Life

2017 has taken our world to places we couldn’t have previously imagined. The road has been winding, involving politics and natural disasters and diagnoses, but also has held the beauty of births and friendships and travels and the blessing of the grind of busy days. The normal days with dinnertimes and work commutes can wear us down, but it is in those busy times when a moment of truth will catch my breath. The normal days are gifts, too.

Love

In January, I decided my 2017 word for the year would be Love. Before and after and during all of life, the most important element is love. Probably the hardest thing to do in life, especially when things are difficult, is to love.

Tonight, I take inventory of the past year. What do I want to continue? What do I need to stop? Where am I heading? And where do I want to go with my life? The days we are given are fleeting. At times like this I remember how important it is to live fully, every moment. These dark days of December are precious, perfect for reflection, for remembering what is most important, and for calibrating where we want to go in the new year.

Light, Life, Love

Tennessee Williams quote on love
written out by Caitlyn O’Hara, https://9livesnotes.com/

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

The manger scene on Prague's Old Town Square
The manger scene on Prague’s Old Town Square

We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.  – Evelyn Dunbar

Lake Como, Italy
Quiet, Light upon the water near the Summer Solstice, 2017

People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Inside Saint Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle
Inside Saint Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle

Love is not consolation.  It is light.  – Friedrich Nietzsche

Facing the Light, 2016
Facing the Light, 2017

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. – Rabindranath Tagore

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5 Favorite Quotes on Keeping Our Faces Toward the Light

Face to the Sunlight

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman

At the beginning of this year, I wrote about my motto for the year, following Whitman’s quote. I love summer, the sunshine and flowers, the time outdoors (I’m writing this outside), and the chance to soak up fresh air and clear skies. There is something so refreshing about summertime.

We’re about halfway through 2016 (slow down, please, summer!). Good quotes always keep me on center. In celebration of summer and the brilliant light, 5 of my favorite quotes about keeping our faces toward the light:

5 Favorite Quotes on Keeping Our Faces Toward the Light

“The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be.” – Shakti Gawain

Face to the Sunlight
Face to the Sunlight

“Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

Photograph into the Light
Photograph into the Light

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

Daisies, sunshine
Daisies, sunshine

“There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light.” – Vern Stanfill

Sunburst, Florida Gulf Coast
Sunburst, Florida Gulf Coast

“There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

 

Sun-drenched Garden Poppy
Sun-drenched Garden Poppy

If you have a favorite quote on light, please share! Thanks!

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What Only Light Can Do

Portland Head Light, Maine

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Portland Head Light, Maine

Along with so many, I’m deeply saddened by the week’s events, first by the news story coming out of Stanford about an Ohio male’s acts of disrespect, and then out of Orlando and the devastation at a nightclub there. It’s unthinkable, and makes me want to bury my head in the sand. But that’s not ever helpful.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said so well, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

If we could remember and live out that everyone is a person of worth, differences or no, our world would be a different world altogether. This is what I believe.

As Martin Luther King Jr. also said,

“Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace.”

“You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.”

And so there are always limits to what the human spirit should bear. There must be limits. There is always a boundary which needs to be drawn, a line in the sand which says, “Do not cross this.” There is always a consequence every decision, either for the better, improving life, or destroying it. There is no in between. Again, as Martin Luther King Jr. said so well …

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

We must focus on shining light, and sharing love with a broken and bruised world. Praying for those in Orlando and around the world affected and impacted by acts of violence and oppression.

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Always Toward the Sunshine

sunshine

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman

The end of every year is a special time for me. I enjoy spending time in the quiet, to reflect. And then as the New Year approaches, I am purposeful about spending time with my family and dear friends. It is in these relationships that we move beyond the past and move into the future. It is with these souls that we find the strength in our own.

This year, especially, I was happy to close out 2015. But no matter how difficult or rough a stretch we endured in 2015, we know we have a fresh start for this year. It is 2016, after all, a blank slate. January 1 always begs the question: What will we do with our coming year?

I’m not one for lots of sentiments or saccharine sweetness. Life isn’t easy and pretending it is doesn’t help anyone. I also don’t want to rehash the past and dwell on the hard things. Nor do I want to check off boxes for rigid New Year’s Resolutions. When it comes to a new year, I’m focused on hope. There is hope, always, for each new day, new month, new year.

In 2012, I wrote a manifesto. It still remains true.

Jennifer's Manifesto
Jennifer’s Manifesto

Life is beautiful. You are most beautiful when you do things you love. Embrace them. … Read. Grow. Learn. Discover. Believe. Give and share freely. Enjoy each day. Dig deep. Say thanks. Live LARGE. Catch the Joy as it flies!

One year, I kept “Believe in Yourself. Be You” close. It helped me.

This year, I want to turn away from fear. Fear comes in many sizes: about money, our jobs, our relationships, our future. In whatever shape fear comes, it only makes us smaller. Small is not someone I want to be.

I want to live large. The only way to do that is to move toward faith, toward believing, toward hope and knowing to the essence of our beings that God has what is best for us in mind. It takes open hands, an open heart, and a whole lot of trust, but when we can believe the best is yet to come, it is and will be true.

sunshine

Light, to me, speaks of all things good and true. I love Whitman’s quote — “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

For 2016, I’m focusing on keeping my face turned toward the sun.

The best is yet to come.

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Watching for the Light

Prague's Charles Bridge

“The time is being fulfilled and the light shall shine, perhaps just when it seems to us that the darkness is impenetrable.” – Eberhard Arnold

There is something about this time of year in the depths of December when the winter solstice weighs on the Northern Hemisphere. My friend Lindsey Mead writes extensively about the winter solstice and it being a touchstone for us in the patterns of our lives. The darkness, the quiet — they define late December for me, too.

Prague's Charles Bridge in black and white

Another dear writing friend, Katie Noah Gibson, recommended a book to me last year, one that because of her rich recommendation and the compelling title and the featured authors, I bought a copy and dove in. It became one of the books I treasure and knew I would come back to year after year, especially in this Advent season. It is called WATCH FOR THE LIGHT. Watch for the Light

Watch for the Light. Yes. During the darkest time of the year, we look to, and for, the light.

It’s not that the frenzy of the end of the year and heading into Christmas is dark, but sometimes — oftentimes — it’s missing meaning. What is the rushing around for? Why do we give and share gifts? How can we rediscover the importance of watching for the light, as we light candles and look to the true gifts of the season? A book like WATCH FOR THE LIGHT is a sort of reset button, that puts a pause on many of the things that steal my time and energy and help me remember the perspective in it all. This dark solstice Christmas and Advent season is one of my favorite times of year for pressing reset.

In Watch for the Light, there are essays by favorite authors of mine: Annie Dillard, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Merton, Lewis, Nouwen, and Madeleine L’Engle, but it is one by an author I hadn’t previously read that I’ve ear-tabbed and underlined and read many times since that has impacted me the most. His name is Eberhard Arnold, a German who defected in the early 1930s with his family and community to the Alps, who had lived not far from the Czech / German border, a region which I’ve traveled through and stayed in many times. He says:

“The time is being fulfilled and the light shall shine, perhaps just when it seems to us that the darkness is impenetrable.” … “Wherever love proceeds from us and becomes truth, the time is fulfilled. Then the divine life floods through our human relationships and all our works. Then everything that is lonely and scattered and seeking for the way of God shall be bound together by divine power. Then, of human effort and of the divine miracle, shall the world be born in which Christmas is fulfilled as reality.” – Eberhard Arnold, page 284

Love, truth, darkness, and light. Light will and does shine.

During this season of frenzy and dark, we can watch for the light.

Snow-covered Charles Bridge in Winter, Prague, Black and White 2
Snow-covered Charles Bridge in Winter, Prague, Black and White 2

I’m delighted to announce my photography and paintings are now available through professional printer of the highest quality, White House Custom Color, and the beginnings of my portfolio available here, in limited edition prints, canvas, and greeting cards. For more, click here https://jenniferlynking.smugmug.com/ and with questions, contact me. Thank you!

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Light in Hard Times

Me and 3 Friends, Elite Look of the Year, Paris 1989

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. – Albert Schweitzer

 

This past week has been a tough one for the world. The events in Paris, France, specifically, are shocking and raise questions–everything from why to how to why would I ever leave my bubble / house / small town in safe America again. I’ve heard the fearful question repeated over and over again in the past few days. “Why would I want to travel, to risk myself and my life to see and experience other things when this could happen?” It’s a good question.

Me and 3 Friends, Elite Look of the Year, Paris 1989
My first visit to Paris, Elite Look of the Year, 1989

42

Later this week, I turn 42. 42! I think. Wow, how has that happened? And then I think of all I have gotten to do in my life, all the places I’ve been able to see, the people I’ve had the privilege to walk alongside, and my three (wonderful) sons, and I count my blessings. It’s a long list of things to be thankful for, and the thing is, I wouldn’t trade a single day of any of these years. I wouldn’t go back. Only forward. 42 is a celebration!

At the Trocadéro, Paris 1989
At the Trocadéro, Paris 1989

One thing I find myself doing especially as the year comes to a close and I add another candle to my birthday cake, is taking stock of the year. What doors have opened? What doors have closed? What doors have I decided to walk through and as a result become a better version of myself? What friends have come close and shared this year with me? How is my life different, better? How could it be improved?

When I look back, I know it is the people and experiences — the travel, the dinners and shared coffees, the laughter, the tears — these are the things I treasure most.

Jennifer Lyn King

Light in Hard Times

The older I get, the more I realize the people we surround ourselves with either build us up and help us come more alive or tear us down and destroy us piece by piece. The people we go through this life with are key. If Paris is any reminder, we don’t have days, months, and years to spend being torn down. We should run from those things which destroy our lives. Then, we are more intact to be our best and to help shine a light to help others.

I love the buildings worldwide which have been lit in the colors of the French flag to help support those in Paris. What is it about the lights in Sydney, Jerusalem, Norway, Rio, London, Berlin, and New York City? When we support each other, even from afar, we are strengthened.

That is the goal, I think, for life … to serve and help and give and strengthen, and then when it is our turn to take a leap, to fly.

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. – Albert Schweitzer

Thank you to those who have helped me to rekindle my own light in this year. Light in hard times makes all the difference.

More favorite words from Albert Schweitzer:

The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.

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The Lighthouse: Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

“Steadfast, serene,

immovable, the same,

Year after year, through

all the silent night

Burns on forevermore

that quenchless flame,

Shine on that

inextinguishable light!”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Lighthouse”

 

I have always loved lighthouses. I’ve photographed lighthouses lining Lake Michigan and Erie, the coast of Maine and the Eastern seaboard, the lights in California, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Greece, and on — I cannot stay away. There is something about the light, steady, sure, along a treacherous shore that I love.

The Lighthouse: Portland Head Light

When I was a teen, I bought my first D. Morgan print, and then later, a magnet, and now, I keep D. Morgan’s gorgeous gift book, A LIGHT FOR THE JOURNEY near to my writing chair. Her paintings are distinctive, and her poems, within her art, perfectly frame the subject of her work. My favorites of her work are her lighthouses series.

Every time I travel a coast, I love to look for a lighthouse, but my favorite in all my travels thus far is the Portland Head Light in Portland, Maine. This year, my family and I stopped there as part of our summer roadtrip.

Portland Head Light, July 2014
Portland Head Light, July 2014

It had been 10 years since I’d seen the Portland Head Light, and in 2004, I’d ventured out on the rocks to take a photograph. This month, in 2014, the path getting down to the rocks was nothing less than treacherous. But still I had to go. In a dress. My husband captured this photo of me out on the rocks:

Me, at Portland Head Light
That’s Me, out along the rocks at Portland Head Light, taking a photograph

The Portland Head Light changes in the shifting light. I love it in high summer, drenched with blue from the sea and sky, standing regal along the rocks.

Portland Head Light

The great revolving light on the cliff at the channel flashed warm and golden against the clear northern sky, a trembling, quivering star of good hope. – L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

the rocks along the Portland, Maine coast

There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. -Edith Wharton

Portland Maine Lighthouse

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. -Erasmus

 

For you: Do you have a favorite lighthouse?

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On Light, Darkness, and Garden Beauty

Vivid Color: Garden Peony

People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

I haven’t always loved flowers, or maybe I have … but I remember vividly the day I fell in love with having a garden.

Flowers and Gardens

When my husband and I were first married, we moved from the Midwest to New Orleans. I also worked, not in a giant corporation like in the job I’d left in the Midwest, but for a small pipeline consulting firm. I was hired to engineer diameters and configurations of pipelines the firm would lay from offshore oil platforms to bring the oil on land to refineries. I didn’t love it, but I did it so that we could buy a house, some place to make our own.

When we found one we could almost afford– 5 feet below sea level (in that area, it’s common), 900 square feet, which had been neglected for more than our lifetimes, I continued engineering pipelines long enough to buy the house. It required a whole house gutting before we could move in, but my favorite part was the back yard. It had two gigantic pine trees, a beautiful Magnolia, and one thorny rose bush. I read a book to learn how to prune the rose, which was old judging by its thick canes, but one piece I lobbed off of the bush looked green, alive. I shoved that piece into the ground. About a month later, that shoot grew leaves, and a few months after that, it bloomed.

The single bloom was a coral-orange-fuchsia pink and so intoxicatingly fragrant it was impossible to walk away from.

That was the day I fell in love with gardens, with roses, with pushing random canes and plants into the soil and seeing what happens as a result.

On Light, Darkness, and Garden Beauty

Now, about eighteen years later, I still love gardens–roses, peonies, hummingbirds, color, and the feeling of growing something beautiful from the earth. And this last time I laid out my garden, I planted only my favorite garden flowers.

The one thing I have learned above all is that garden beauty appears at its most beautiful when caught in the contrast between light and darkness.

Here are a few of my recent favorite flowers … peonies and roses:

Pink Peony
Pink Peony

 

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. – Helen Keller

 

a peony's unfurling
a peony’s unfurling

 

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. – Desiderius Erasmus

Pope John Paul hybrid tea rose
Pope John Paul hybrid tea rose

 

Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope. – John Piper

 

the male Cardinal
the male Cardinal

 

In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. – Francis Bacon

 

Vase of Garden Peonies
Vase of Garden Peonies

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Vivid Color: Garden Peony
Vivid Color: Garden Peony

 

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark … Make some light. ― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

 

Light, Dark, and Beauty: a Ruffled Peony
Light, Dark, and Beauty: a Ruffled Peony

 

But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Bouquet sent from a friend
A Bouquet sent from a dear friend

 

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine. — Thomas Jefferson

Do you have a favorite garden flower you’re enjoying this summer?

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Of Every Leaf in Springtime

Love brings Life and Light

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” -Martin Luther

There has always been a place in my heart for springtime … for singing birds and burgeoning buds and subtle colors of the world reemerging. Winter and the brown, bleak world of bitter cold brings me to the place in February that when I see that first hint of green, I rejoice. The world comes alive again. In the monochrome flatness of winter, life seems impossible. And yet it comes.

Love brings Life and Light
Love brings Life and Light

Every year at Easter, I experience that same wash of feeling — that wonder of knowing that despite all the bleakness of our world, love comes in and makes all things new. That despite me and the countless offenses within and lived out, that the God who loves us all knows all the darkness within me and still freely gives new life. A gift, unspeakably great.

This Easter, the rebirth seems impossible as every year. And yet Love comes and makes life and light. A promise lived out in every leaf in springtime …

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Photography: The Magic of Shooting in Low Light

Sunset on Italy's Maremma, over the Mediterranean
This is the second in a series of posts about photography. Click here to read the first.
I love visiting the ocean, and having time on the beach. To me, there is something about the rhythmic crashing of waves, the wide feeling of timelessness, and the gentle scrubbing of the saltwater and sugary sand to wipe away all of the world’s cares. I love being at the beach.

Sunset on Italy's Maremma, over the Mediterranean
Sunset on Italy's Maremma, over the Mediterranean


Sunset on Italy’s Maremma, over the Mediterranean
When I brought my first camera to the beach, I made the classic mistake time and time again. And I was always disappointed with my photographs. The colors always appeared washed out, my subjects were always squinting, and the objects I was trying to capture for remembrance always turned out pale. One morning, when I was up with the sun, I watched the woman staying next door to us, out with her impressive camera. After she was done taking photographs, she chatted with me for a moment, and made a comment I’ll never forget. “At the beach, don’t even bother to take photos when the sun is high. Only shoot at sunrise or sunset.”
The day’s first light, on an Aromatherapy rose
Since then, I have found her words to be true, for more than just taking photos at the beach. Because when the lighting is low, the colors are rich, and the photographs become magical.
The same type of rose, under high light
When I had a garden in the United States with many roses, my favorite time to be in the garden was at dawn, with my camera in hand, as the light turned the dew into diamonds, and the roses and other flowers sparkled like gemstones in the low sunlight.
Lavendar Illusion daylily, with low light
I began comparing the photographs I took in low light with the photographs taken in high sunlight, or with a flash, and the difference was unmistakable.
Lavendar Illusion, taken at midday with a cloudy sky
Lavendar Illusion, again with low light
Starting the Conversation: Can you see the difference? Do you have examples of times when you’ve noticed your photos are better than other times?

Please, leave a comment, and / or send in your own photos, of a scene that you love, and I’ll post it in a future blog and link it back to you. Just email your favorite photo to me at photos at jenniferlynking dot com. I’ll be collecting them over the next several weeks. I can’t wait to see your work! Thank you, Jennifer