“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Winter seems to have a firm grip in the northern Rockies, making spring appear to be a long way off. I don’t ever remember looking forward to springtime as much as I do this year. Waiting, waiting, waiting… We’ve had some extreme cold and a good amount of snow over the past 4 months, but there have been several weeks of moderation in the mix. In reality, the winter hasn’t been exceptionally harsh, travel conditions haven’t been overly treacherous, and the snow hasn’t accumulated to unusual depths. Yet autumn seems like such a distant memory! Waiting, waiting, waiting…the wait goes on. The mercury dropped to 20-below zero last night, which isn’t normal for the waning days of February. Today the sun was bright and as the day warmed into the 20’s (above zero), I made a trip down the Musselshell – hoping to catch a glimpse of some harbinger of spring. With the mid-day sun high in the sky, the absence of wind and following such a bitter night, I was optimistic that a variety of wildlife would be out and waiting to be photographed. Alas, I was no further than ten miles from home when the wind started blowing in from the west. Snow began drifting across the fields and highway. Even the regulars – the deer, hawks and eagles – that are nearly always in view from the road had sought refuge from the weather in some out-of-sight shelter. They were waiting, waiting, waiting… Ninety miles of traveling yielded only one brave photogenic creature. Seemingly impervious to the howling wind and above the drifting snow, this young Golden Eagle hovered above the chaos on the ground waiting to spot his prey.
The act of waiting can be a time of anxiety, anticipation or even frustration. Waiting on a change of season is something relatively predictable in that, give or take a few weeks, we have a pretty good idea when one season will end and the next begin. Waiting on God is a little different. His ways are not our ways, and His timeframe may not be the same as ours. While we are waiting on Him to answer a prayer, direct our path, heal wounds or provide assurance, we often feel these same emotions, when we should be expectant, hopeful and patient. The Lord uses that time to renew our strength for the coming journey. We should use that time to get our hearts right so that when the wait is over, we are obedient to His call. If He is going to strengthen us so that we can run without becoming weary, what does that say for His expectation of us? Whatever it is that He will call us to do, He expects that we will put forth a full effort – He will give us the power and energy to go the distance for Him. The Golden Eagle took the opportunity to ride the prevailing wind without exerting much energy himself – saving his strength until he needed to pursue his prey. So we should prepare ourselves while waiting, waiting, waiting on the Lord.
Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting!
Till next steps made plain shall be;
To hear, with the inner hearing,
The Voice that will call for me.
Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting!
With hope that need not grow dim;
The Master is pledged to guide me,
And my eyes are unto Him.
Waiting! Expectantly waiting!
Perhaps it may be today
The Master will quickly open
The gate to my future way.
Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
I know, though I’ve waited long,
That, while He withholds His purpose,
His waiting cannot be wrong.
Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
The Master will not be late:
He knoweth that I am waiting
For Him to unlatch the gate.
–J. D. Smith
Now and again throughout this blog I refer to the 20-Acre Wood. I thought I might take a little time to explain it and give you a little glimpse into what it means to our family. For many years our family lived on relatively large ranches with a lot of cattle and a scattering of horses. Our day-to-day activities were generally centered on some aspect of caring for the livestock. When my career changed from being a ranch manager to a livestock nutrition consultant, we decided to find a little piece of ground out in the country that would allow our family to raise a few animals for both food and enjoyment. We were indeed blessed by God to find a home on 20-acres of timberland in the Bull Mountains, near Roundup, MT. Pretty much at the onset we referred to it as the 20-Acre Wood, borrowing the idea from Christopher Robin’s make-believe playground in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. While we don’t have any Pooh-Bears, Tiggers or Kangas, we do normally host quite a variety of critters; domestic, wild, and some in-between! The current residents include horses, goats, rabbits, dogs and a cat, as well as a mostly-resident herd of mule deer. A number of the wildlife and nature images posted in the galleries were captured on, or very near, the 20-Acre Wood.
While we do have neighbors in fairly close proximity, the Ponderosa pine forest acts as a pretty effective buffer that allows us to feel much more remote than we actually are. This place has been a wonderful location for our kids to grow through their adolescent years and appreciate the natural beauty of God’s creation. No, we don’t have paved roads, our water supply is pretty limited, and it is an hour-long trip to get an ice cream cone, but we have much to enjoy and be thankful for here on the 20-Acre Wood.
I have added some additional bird images to the Birds of the Heavens gallery. The new photographs include an American Kestrel, White Crowned Sparrow, House Wren, Great Horned Owl, Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker. All of these were taken on my travels through Montana and Wyoming.
There are a lot of different critters that I hope to someday photograph. This isn’t a race for me, and I can patiently wait for the opportunities when they arise. I enjoy shooting images of the same White Breasted Nuthatches in our woods that I have photographed over and over again. Each shoot is different– different lighting, different background, different pose of the bird, and likely different camera settings. While I may never do anything with the extra images of the same bird, the opportunity affords me a little more practice and enjoyment of watching wildlife. Now and then I will have a specific target animal on my mind that I’d like to capture on camera, and in the past several months – once on a business trip to Utah with Alesia, and another time on a recent Sunday morning trek to church – I verbalized my desire to do so. On the Utah trip last June, I mentioned to Alesia that if we had the opportunity to photograph a moose, the entire trip would be worth lugging my camera equipment around. During the second day of meetings at Park City we had a several hour block of time to ourselves, so we took a short drive toward Heber City, just to see what was there. As we were headed south on Highway 40 and crossed the Provo River below Jordanelle Reservoir, Alesia spotted a Bull Moose browsing through the vegetation along the river. A most agreeable subject, he allowed me to take a number of pictures as he worked his way through the willows.
On a recent Sunday morning I announced to my family that I’d sure like to get a Porcupine photographed. When we lived near Musselshell, porcupine sightings were fairly common, but I hadn’t seen one for a number of years. About 45 minutes later, as we were headed out to Musselshell for church, Lauren spotted a porcupine in a small tree not far from the highway. I jumped out of the pickup and proceeded to get several shots of this timid creature. While the lighting wasn’t great and the setting wasn’t perfect, it was a fun opportunity that added to my animal image portfolio.
These couple instances of answered requests were almost comical because my verbal request was so quickly met. And because I don’t hold a lot of stock in coincidence, to me, these were opportunities that the Lord took to remind me that He is there to furnish our needs. It would be a rare day that I would pray for something trivial like a request to photograph a particular subject, but He asks us to bring all things to Him; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). This is actually a lesson that my children taught me when they were very young. I had always brought the big, vastly important requests to the Lord in prayer, not wanting to waste His time with small, inconsequential things. Our girls brought everything to Him in prayer, big things, little things and sometimes silly things – or at least that is how it seemed to me at the time. But they had it right because our Father in Heaven wants us to depend on Him and rely on His grace to supply our needs.
Matthew 7:7 reads, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” We seem to make this much more complicated than it really is. The system He has set up is pretty simple, we just need to keep our lives in His will, and be obedient to His commands. At times the answers He gives to our requests may not be what we had in mind, but they are what He has determined to be best for us. When just need to have the faith and confidence that He knows what He is doing.
God created the earth and all that is on it much faster than I am getting this blog assembled, but I am nearly done with the basic framework. The addition of the bug and insect gallery, Things that Creep, marks the final gallery that I need at this point. All of the insect images were made with a telephoto lens and hand-held, which isn’t the best technique for yielding sharply focus photographs. When spring finally arrives, I intend to get in the habit of using a tripod for this kind of shooting, and will also see if I can use a real macro lens more frequently. I have a really nice Canon EF-S 60mm Macro lens, but I don’t like changing lenses out in the field too often because it increases the likelihood of getting dust inside the camera and on the sensor. Carrying a second camera with the macro lens mounted, in addition to my primary camera with the long telephoto, makes most sense.
Our weather has had some extreme variations over the past several weeks, and there may be an upside to this. Our grasshopper population has been very strong for the past several years, which we commonly blame on mild winters that are not harsh enough to kill off a large number of dormant grasshoppers. However this year’s multiple weeks of subzero temps, broken up by a significant thaw, followed again by this plummet of the mercury, may actually put a dent in their population. Early warming periods can cause a premature hatch of the dormant eggs, which, if followed by an extreme cold snap, will result in a higher mortality rate. I think I will pray for this to happen a few more times over the next couple months!
The only positive aspect of grasshoppers that I see is that they make good photography subjects!
After several days in the 30’s and 40’s last week, this 10 to 20 below zero weather really hurts! It was -17 when I pulled into Casper, WY tonight. Surprisingly, the wind wasn’t blowing too fiercely; maybe only 10-15 mph.
Since my last post I have added a couple more gallery pages. Images of landscapes and rural scenery will be located in the gallery called, Before the Mountains. My collection of landscape images is relatively small, so I have started with only five images that include Memorial Falls, a sunset on Barr Lake in Colorado, and several mountain scenes from Montana and Wyoming. The From the Third Day gallery hosts photos of a variety of plant life. The current series includes a number of wildflowers taken at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, some others taken on the Lewis & Clark National Forest, and some “domesticated” flora from my travels. As with all the galleries, the images will be rotated periodically – so check back now and again to see the new content.
On the lower portion of the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page I have started adding links to blogs and websites that I frequent. I have also included Alesia’s website, Hearts Toward Him, which is home to a variety of Scriptural inspirations, as well as several gift items including Udder Delights Goat Milk Soap. There are also a couple photography forums listed, as well as Michael J. Smith’s Magic Light Photography blog. To say I am inspired by Michael’s images would be an understatement. His landscape images are simply outstanding. Another link I added is Roy Churchill’s Photos of North Devon. While clicking through some bird photography forums I stumbled upon some of his images, and was really impressed with the quality of them. A while back when I found myself frustrated with my photography results, I emailed Mr. Churchill, who lives in the UK and I have never met, and sought some advice on equipment and technique. His response was a very detailed step-by-step checklist for capturing good images, which I have been successfully applying to my efforts. I am very grateful for his generous assistance.
Tonight I will wrap-up with a springtime image, as I am eagerly anticipating the next season and a little warmer weather!