good light.

I studied photojournalism in school. Sure, my major was magazines, but I took a total of one class about magazines and took four classes on photojournalism. Technically you were only supposed to take three, but I think I found a loophole.

I just loved being in those classes. I wanted to soak up every bit of knowledge I could, and having a deadline for a class assignment forced me to practice in ways that I knew my own self-discipline would have failed to accomplish. Our teacher’s passion for the craft was contagious. You would find yourself walking around campus, riding the bus, strolling through the supermarket, with your camera slung over your shoulder and on the lookout for stories.

In the first couple weeks of class we were handed cameras, given a few basics tips and rules, and told to go out and fail faster. One of the things that we were told to look for was light, good light. Good light was sometimes predictable; you could find it early in the morning and late in the evening. But there were other times, too, that you would find yourself in a situation where the sun hits a stained glass window just right, or glistens perfectly on a reflecting pond, or illuminates the fly away hairs in a portrait making it seem ethereal.

Good light had a way of taking something average and making it extraordinary, breathtaking, and beautiful.

I have been in Kenya now for a little over three weeks, the longest consecutive amount of time I have been in a foreign country, and yet I feel like I have just blinked since I hugged my parents and said goodbye in the Atlanta International terminal.

When I got here, my schedule was already packed with plans for classroom furniture, a new road, bunk beds, meal planning, and so much more, but throughout these three whirlwind weeks there have been moments where, although the world is spinning by, everything feels frozen. Or moments when I know there is noise all around me, but instead I hear “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root playing like the soundtrack to my life.

Moments like when I stayed up late with some of the female pastors learning to dance like a Kikuyu in the moonlight.

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Or making pancakes while watching Tangled with an American friend, knowing that although we went to school together halfway across the world, right now we are here making breakfast on a hillside overlooking the entire city of Nairobi.

Or when you get up early to sing “How Great is Our God” with 26 pastors from all across Kenya and the voices echoing off the cinder blocks sound more beautiful in that second than any sanctuary choir you’ve ever heard.

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Or when a pastor shares his story of redemption from a life of darkness and addiction with such honesty and joy that you can’t help but cry.

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Or when you walk down a dirt road through the mountains to watch eleven new believers get baptized in the river to the sounds of praise and the steady beat of a drum.

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Or when your three-year-old Kenyan best friend, even though you speak completely different languages and probably only understand each other about a third of the time, crawls up next to you just to say “Nakupenda” and give you a kiss on the cheek.

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Or when after a long, stressful, and tiring day you look up and see the stars. All the stars. Perfectly placed. Not one is missing. And you have to remind yourself to breathe.

They are moments of good light.

They could from the outside point of view seem ordinary, normal. They could very easily pass you by if you’re not paying attention or on the lookout for them. But if you manage to capture them, to acknowledge their presence, you can see that these moments are made extraordinary by the power and light of love hear on earth.

Sometimes I wish my whole life could be made up of these moments, but that’s not the way life is. There are moments of fear, and longing, and sorrow, and troubles, and stress, and uncertainty. In those moments, I try to remember the light. I look back at those captured moments in my head and breathe them in.

Remembering that light, that good light, can change everything.

It reminds me that beauty can come from ashes and joy will come in the morning. It reminds me of freedom. It reminds me to sing. It reminds me of the kingdom mindset that sometimes gets lost in the wants and needs and worries of today.  And it reminds me that I serve a great God. A God of love and hope and joy and power and majesty…and light. Good light.

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14 thoughts on “good light.

  1. Precious BabySister, I sense Abba’s pleasure in you and with you. We love you dearly. So very proud of you. Hugging you tightly in our hearts right this minute.

  2. Elissa, through your writing and photography, I feel like I am with you in Kenya!!! You are an amazing young lady and I am so proud of this step you have taken. Your brothers and sisters at RUMC are praying for you.

  3. My precious friend Elissa,
    I can see, feel, hear, taste, smell and almost touch your thoughts! What a gift to all who come in contact with you! I continue to hold you near across the miles in prayer. You are an amazing young woman so run, run, run after your dreams and God’s call. We love you. Blessings and joy,
    Terri and Mike

  4. Elissa – the beauty of your photos is exceeded only by the beauty of your word pictures. Blessed by you!

  5. Beautiful thoughts from a beautiful (dark & mysterious!!) young woman, expressed beautifully through words and pictures. It’s gonna be a BEAUTIFUL journey!! Love ya… mean it!

  6. Hi! I’m a craft friend of your sis Erin! I live in IL and she has told me of your mission awhile back and just sent me your blog! You write and take beautiful pictures! I will add you to my prayer list and I will look forward to each of your blogs in the future! Inho, your blog adds another aspect to your call to Kenya so that I, and others may participate in a small way. Please discuss your needs that the people you help may need. (I.e., bibles, class supplies, dresses, quilts, etc… ) don’t tell Erin, I played at making Abigaile a ladybug quilt! I say play because I awkwardly designed and quilted it! Lol I’m really new at it! Ha ha
    May God bless you and the people you are aiding and that they may be open to Gods Word!!

  7. WOW!! You are totally amazing. What a great journalist and photographer. Very mature for your age and deep insight. What an inspiration. Keep on keeping on.
    Mike Ewing

  8. Oh what a gift you have! Your words transported me back to Kenya and my heart understands. Your thoughts and words are a blessing to us all. I am honored to know you! Keep up the good work! You are in my prayers. May God continue to bless your service.

    Dianne Weston

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