SURPRISE! A new Website & Blog!!!

Hi Raindancer Studios friends!!  I know I’ve been away from blogging for a while.  Thanks so much for your patience!!!  I have a great surprise for you.  I’ve been busy creating a new website with a blog connected as I move forward into photography full time!!  Please go check it out at www.raindancerstudios.com and sign up to receive email notifications to my new blogsite.  I’m so excited to have the website and blog interconnected now.  Oh, and I must also announce that I’m offering prints and digital files again…so there’s lots of options for all of you!!  I will no longer be posting on this blog.  All future blog posts will be on the new site!  The old is gone, the new is here! 🙂

Blessings,

Jill

PS. Right now on the blog, I just advertised for “Joy to the World” Christmas Mini Sessions at Dull Christmas Tree Farm!  For those of you Tuesday lovers…I will be starting up Tuesday’s Tip again in the near future!

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Tuesday’s Tip: The Not-So-Glamorous Moments {Indianapolis Portrait Photographer}

Happy Tuesday!  Today’s tip is a tip for life overall- a quote to lean into…to soak in.  It is my heart’s desire.  Some days I live into it.  Some days I don’t do so well.  But thankfully God knows my heart…and my heart yearns for it.

For me, photography helps me to enjoy every little thing, to see beauty amidst the ashes, to dance in the rain of life.  It opens my eyes to see.  After reading Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” I am even more convinced that giving thanks to God amidst the crap of this world is the key to joy.  God is worthy of our thanks.  The fire refines us.  Through the difficulties and hardship, He redefines us and we become whole.  My journey of seeking to dance in the rain is a beautiful ongoing journey of seeking joy in the midst of suffering and giving thanks to God because in this space I need Him.  I yearn for Him.  I realize I can’t live this life on my own strength.  Thank you Meghan Matt for profound words that ties my heart into one beautiful quote!  It’s so easy to have joy when things are good and beautiful, but the challenge to have joy and to en-joy when things are bad, ugly, and not-so-glamorous is one to seek towards.  My days are still challenging since my husband’s accident (almost 4 years ago), but my heart desires this path…the gratitude journey that births joy.

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A Sweet African Boy + A Loving Indianapolis Family = A Healthy Heart {Indianapolis Portrait Photographer}

Every now and then, I have really sweet moments in photography that allow me to embrace the goodness of God and relish in his amazing love.  I love when I have the opportunity to bless someone who has given much to others.  It fills me with unspeakable joy!

Yesterday, I had the honor of photographing baby Razack with his “Indianapolis” family, the Stonekings.  It was a celebration of all that he is, of all that he has overcome, of God’s love and healing, and of hope given to a little boy who was in great need of heart surgery.  Brandie and Joshua Stoneking took Razack into their care a few months ago, acting as his parents who did not travel with him for the trip.  He quickly became a part of their family, and I know a piece of him will forever remain in their hearts.  Today is a day of sadness as they say good-bye, but also a celebration of the hope and life Razack has as he returns to Africa.  I am always amazed by God’s love when I see someone sacrificially love another in such a way as this.  Please pray for their family this evening.  They said good-bye to Razack tonight and soon he will be on an airplane heading back to Africa.  Please pray for little Razack as he transitions back to African culture and to his family there.  I’m sure he will be feeling uneasy, just like the Stonekings.

Razack’s Story (told by Brandie Stoneking)…

When I received a phone call in February from a fellow church member, I never (in a million years) would have guessed what the woman on the other end of the phone was going to ask. She wanted to know if our family would be willing to “host” an infant from Burkina Faso, Africa who needed heart surgery soon.  I, of course, was in shock but after a day of praying about it with my husband agreed that hosting was something we could do. Razack came to us, three weeks later, as a 9 pound 7 month old in need of open heart surgery to repair a significant septal defect (a whole in his heart).  We agreed to love and care for him as if he were our own.  I picked Razack up from the Indianapolis airport on March 21st and instantly fell in love.  Razack’s heart surgery was performed by Dr. Mark Turrentine on March 27th at Riley Children’s Hospital.  Josh and I stayed by his side the entire 6 days he was in the hospital.  Razack recovered remarkably and was able to come home the following Sunday.  Since his surgery, Razack has flourished!!  He has gained close to 6 pounds, which given how often he eats (every 2 hours!!) isn’t surprising:) We have fallen in love with this sweet little boy and we will forever count him as a part of our family.  Razack has been with us for close to 3 months and we knew the day would come when we would send him back to his family. I don’t think I ever could have imagined the impact that Razack would have on us.
 
If anyone is interested in hosting a child who needs surgery that would not be able to receive it in their home country, contact Tami Shobe at www.cmmwest.com.  Children’s Medical Missions is a non-profit organization that reaches children all over the world.

Brandie & Josh, you are heros in my eyes.  A hero is a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.  I admire you for your courage AND your noble qualities, too!! 🙂  You pretty much rock!!!  Thanks for sharing sacrificial love with the world.  Thanks for inviting our church community to join in!  I am praying for your family this week and hoping you are filled with God’s peace knowing you gave this little boy hope in a broken fallen world.  You gave him a safe home filled with love so that his heart could be made whole.  What a gift you have given to him these past few months!

The Color of Easter

And last but not least…Resurrection!!!  Mark 16

I found the resurrection photo to be the hardest to take out of the series of 7.  If you missed the other 6 photos I posted on Good Friday look at the previous entry on my blog.  I chose for the 6 other photos to be in black and white while the resurrection photo is in color.  The contrast in itself sets this photo apart hopefully in a way that lures others into the beauty of Jesus’ resurrection and the power he has so graciously left with us.

I took several resurrection photos and had lots of random ideas rolling, but let’s face it, it’s impossible to really capture the awe and majesty of Jesus’ resurrection.  I found myself wrestling with how to portray the resurrection in a way that was symbolic religiously but also metaphorically display the joy of new life.  It was in the last inning, like the day before printing had to be done, that I remembered the dogwood tree in the yard of my in-laws.  I had just seen it a few days earlier and my mother-in-law shared the symbolism with me.  Apparently this tree is always blooming at Easter.  If you look closely you will see the cross, the curled edges that represent the nails, the red stains that represent the blood, and the center that represents the crown of thorns.  It is perfect.

Beyond the symbolism of the flower itself, flowers always draw me into the the awe of the resurrection.  Everyone loves spring because here in Indiana it means growth and new life!!!  Every spring I long for the new blooms and cherish the new life, the vibrant green grass, and a new beginning.  There is something extraordinary about the transition from winter to spring- the path from death to new life.  I love living somewhere where that transition is dramatic…causing me to really appreciate the fullness of the symbolism at Easter…and the journey of longing for new life to arise, not only around me outside but inside me as well.  I love the season of Lent…the anticipation of Easter…the anticipation of new life…surrendering myself…letting go…creating new rhythms…all for the sake of letting the holy spirit resurrect what’s dead inside me so that new life can arise.

The cross is a symbol of facing our pain.  The resurrection is a symbol of working through the pain & waking up to embrace the new life instead!  Because of the resurrection we do not have to fear and run away from pain.  We can can embrace it and let new life grow in the midst of it.

The photo above is lacking the curled edges and little white flowers that bloom in the center (one of my favorite features of the flower), but if you look below you will see a few other photos that show it’s beauty!  The flower above was captured the day after a hail storm.  The flowers pre-storm looked like this…beautifully curled edges with white flowers growing in the middle.  I almost chose one of these photos, but I REALLY loved the vibrant green of the photo above, the lighting, and how the flower was set apart.  But really…I LOVE the intricacy of the flower pre-storm.  Isn’t it a beauty?

Happy Easter!  Enjoy the day celebrating all that Jesus is!  May new life arise in you as you surrender and let him in. 🙂

The Black & White of Good Friday

YAY, my secret project was released tonight at my church during our Good Friday service!  This is the largest any of my photos have ever been printed…24″ x 36″.  Eeek…that’s big!  So big the 7 frames hardly fit into my car.  🙂  I have been a twist of nervous and excited for the past week anticipating the display of these images.  It was such an honor to be invited to do this.  I have been working on this secret project for the past month and it’s been a good stretch for me to do something other than portrait photography.  I’m really grateful for the opportunity because it caused me to dig into the scriptures and really think about them more.  It was definitely a gift to me this Easter.

In our Good Friday service we first set the stage by reading about the preparation Jesus made in Mark 14: 1-26.  We remember Mary, sister of Lazarus & Martha, anointing Jesus with perfume (Mary sacrificed more than a whole year worth of wages to anoint Jesus.  In the gospel of John we learn that it was Judas who protested that she do such a thing.) Then we remember Judas going to the chief priests willing himself to betray Jesus in exchange for money.  And finally we remember the disciples preparing for Passover, eating the Last Supper together, and Jesus predicting Peter’s denial.  After we remember the preparations that were made we move into the garden…

The Garden- Mark 14: 32-42

Jesus agonizes in the garden of Gethsemane.  His disciples keep falling asleep while Jesus is praying.  They are supposed to be keeping watch.

My thoughts: I so appreciate that I can see the humanness of Jesus in this set of scripture.  He is deeply distressed and troubled.  He is in agony and this tree is symbolic of that agony in the garden…split in two.  He says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  Ahhh, somehow I find comfort in knowing that even Jesus felt that way.  But my favorite part is when he says, “Abba Father, everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  This is such a beautiful cry…a recognition that what he is about to endure is hard and he really doesn’t want to be separated from God in that way BUT he wants God’s will to be done even more.  I also find peace in these scriptures because Jesus’ disciples failed him…they kept falling asleep.  Sometimes I fail Jesus, too.

Betrayal- Mark 14:43-51

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested in the garden.

My thoughts: Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver to reveal his location to the soldiers.  He kissed Jesus as a signal so the men would know that he was the one to arrest.  I’m still in awe that one of his best friends would do that, but somehow it reveals the sin of human nature.  It helps me to remember that when I’m betrayed it really has nothing to do with me personally, but it has to do with the betrayer.  Sin is the root and it oozes over and affects others.  I love the cracks in the bricks.  To me, the cracks are symbolic of betrayal.

Denied- Mark 14:53-72

Jesus is deserted and denied by Peter 3 times before the rooster crowed twice.

My thoughts: Peter was accused of being with Jesus and being one of his followers.  Each of the three times he denied it.  Jesus had told Peter previously: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”  Peter didn’t think it was possible.  In his heart he loved Jesus so much he couldn’t imagine denying him, but when it came to Jesus possibly being killed he disassociated himself and denied their friendship.  We are all guilty of sinning against God- through our actions and our words.  I am Peter.  You are Peter.  We are no better than him.  Jesus, forgive me for I, too, know not what I do.  Did you know that the rooster weathervane was a symbol long ago that indicated you were a follower of Jesus?  It represents a watchful vigilance against evil.  I love the reminder of this weathervane.  It makes me want one.

Accused- Mark 15:1-18

Jesus is on trial before Pilate and is sentenced to death.  A crown of thorns is placed on his head and they give him a purple robe mocking him for calling himself the King of the Jews.

My thoughts: I cringe at the thought of these thorns digging deep into Jesus’ head.  Ouch.  I grieve at the thought of the mockery and pain he endured.  I love how the thorns on this crown make a cross.  This is such a strong symbol to me.  Maybe it stands out to me because I’m used to seeing a cross.  The rarity of seeing a crown makes me stop, think, and imagine having it put on my head.  I am humbled.  And I am thankful for the way Jesus responded to the mockery.  He reminds me to stand upright and not cave when I am being mocked or ridiculed by others.  It seems to me that he was so graceful in response while being accused and tortured.  I don’t understand how he could endure that kind of pain without lashing back physically or verbally.  Something for to chew on for sure.

Sacrificed- Mark 15:19-32

Jesus is beaten, spit on, and hung on a cross that he had to carry himself.  It is the ultimate sacrifice.

My thoughts: I have no words.  If you watch a video that shows Him being nailed to the cross, you will be speechless, too.  It is gut wrenching to watch the ultimate sacrifice.  We need our guts to be wrenched so that we can fully see and feel the sacrifice.  It brings me to my knees.

Separated- Mark 15:33-39

Jesus died on the cross.  When he breathed his last breath the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

My thoughts: Even in the last hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  So often this is my thought, too.  Jesus knew that he would be temporarily separated from God the moment he took upon himself the sins of the world.  This is the agony he experienced in the garden as he dreaded that separation and the spiritual alienation.  Jesus breathed his last breath and the curtain tore in front of the temple room (the Most Holy Place).  Symbolically the curtain separated the holy God from the sinful people.  The room was entered only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, by the high priest as he would make a sacrifice to God in order to gain forgiveness of sins for all people.  When the curtain was torn in two it showed that his death for our sins opened up a way for us to approach God.  Jesus was the final, perfect sacrifice.  His separation was the ultimate sacrifice so that we would no longer have to be separated from God.  In this photo, the cloth is torn and God is busting through so there is no separation anymore.  We can freely engage God in a personal way.  There’s no need for animal sacrifices.  We can offer to God a sacrifice of our lives.  We can offer our hearts…and our whole self.  And because of this we can come directly to him for forgiveness of our sins.  What a beautiful gift.

I will share the resurrection photo with you on Sunday!  Stay tuned.  Until then, let’s meditate on these images and remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us.  I am in awe.  I am torn inside.  I am humbled.  It is in this holy week that we remember how worthy Jesus is of our praise.

Tuesday’s Tip: 2 + 1 = 3

Happy Tuesday!  Here’s 3 goodies for you this week!

2 inspiration blogs for those of you who enjoy photography + 1 word of encouragement for ANYone and EVERYone = 3 new things to check out!!!

 

1. Here’s a Dad’s artistic photo journal of his 2 daughters (with the massive use of Photoshop editing!!)  He’s so creative!!!!  //kristinandkayla.blogspot.com/

2. Here’s a photography resource!  Each month they issue an online magazine for photographers.  Check it out!  http://www.lemonadeandlenses.com/

3. Here’s a blog post about the “reward” of conformity.  http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/the-reward-for-conformity-is-that-everyone-likes-you-but-yourself/

 

***Stay tuned this upcoming week for more blog posts with spring photos…and my secret Easter project!!! 🙂

Tuesday’s Tip: Morning Pages & The Artist’s Way

Now introducing…my new morning ritual.  It is SO good for the soul!  I’ve always enjoyed journaling, but this is a new way to journal that I hadn’t tried before.  It is a practice introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  I just bought this book and it seems to be fabulous.  It opens with the idea of doing a practice called “Morning Pages.”  The idea is to write 3 pages of random thoughts and feelings every day…to release the junk in your head…to “teach the logic brain to stand aside and let the artist brain play.”  It can be fragmented thoughts, repetitive, negative, and even sound silly.  Julia Cameron says, “All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity.  Worrying about the job, laundry, the weird look someone gave you- the stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days.”

In the end, the pages unblock the creativity inside and allow for inner strength to be revealed.  We all have a Censor…it is the part of our “leftover survival brain.”  It keeps us safe.  We use it for self-protection, but it hinders our ability to create and risk.  The Morning Pages is a practice of meditation that gives us insight so that we can change.  It alters our brain hemisphere, lowers stress, provides us with creative insights, and helps us to free our minds so that we can connect with our creative source.  This process helps us to discover our own identity and connect to our inner power source, which gives us power to chance and grow.  It helps us to move beyond our own criticism and our feelings of not doing enough.

I’m really excited about starting this new practice.  I find myself intertwining prayer with it constantly and allowing myself to explore whatever comes out.  I hope you find it useful, too.  Even if you don’t ever read the book, you should try doing Morning Pages!  Release your inner creativity and become more of who you were intended to be!