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Grape Hyacinth

The story of an incomparable gift – but I want to emphatically state that while the camera is truly extraordinary, the supreme gift of this whole tale is the realization of God’s incredible action in my life, and how God spoke and that we all listened, and responded.  It is a wonderful lesson for me – that God wants to and is ready to do great things for all of us and through all of us for others, if we will only listen and respond.

Since I started taking photography seriously, I have wanted a DSLR camera (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera).  This sort of camera would allow me a great number of options that are not available with a “point and shoot” like I have.  My Sony “point and shoot” has been wonderful – it was a gift from Hubs for my birthday last year – and I have enjoyed every moment I have spent with it.  I have learned so much, and it has spurred my interest and desire to learn more and more about the art and craft of photography.

I have been “window shopping,” (perhaps “catalog shopping” is more descriptive), for a DSLR for several months, and because I have such expensive tastes, I had decided that I would be enjoying my Sony for many years to come.  I knew that purchasing the camera I had fixed my sites upon would be a long time in coming.  I was prepared to wait.  I would continue to wring every bit I could out of my point and shoot. So be it.

Consequently, I was quite surprised to hear myself as I said to a complete stranger one afternoon a couple of weeks ago:  “You wouldn’t happen to have a DSLR you’d like to sell – CHEAP – would you?”  On March 22 – the first full day of Spring, I went over to Lake Junaluska to photograph some of the beautiful signs of Spring on display there. (see my post of 3/23/2011 for a slide-show of those pictures).

While photographing a particularly lovely Japanese magnolia in full bloom, a woman I had never seen nor met noticed me working with my camera.  Interrupting her daily walk, she stopped and observed, “It is a beautiful tree, isn’t it?”  I agreed wholeheartedly, and watched as she pulled out her cell phone/camera to take a few snaps herself.  For some reason I found myself walking over to her and was flabbergasted to hear myself utter the question mentioned above.  What on earth would compel me to ask such a thing – and of a complete stranger?  Even more surprising was her answer.  Her eyes opened wide, and she said, “As a matter of fact, I do have one, and I have recently considered selling it.  It is just gathering dust.  My husband gave it to me, and while I have enjoyed it very much, lately I just have not used it.  It is quite bulky to carry around, and really not suitable for casual photography and for carrying around on longer trips.”  I laughed and added something along the order of “Well, I would be interested in buying it, but it would have to be cheap!  I don’t have a lot of disposable income!”  She smiled and responded, “Well, just give me your name and telephone number, and after I’ve spoken to my husband, I’ll give you a call and let you know.”  I gave her that information and also my blog-site address so that she could see some of the photos I’ve taken over the past year, and be assured that I was really serious about wanting a camera “upgrade.”  We said “goodbye,” and I immediately forgot about our conversation.  I certainly did not expect to hear from her anytime soon, if at all.

That night was one of my “insomnia nights,” and around 2 a.m., for some reason or another – again, I had no idea why I found myself doing this – I sent our pastor, Chuck Wilson, an e-mail which included the poem I had recently written about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, called “Later.”  Knowing how very busy he always is, I didn’t really expect him to get around to reading it anytime soon, and just sent it along “FYI,” for whenever he had the time.

Later that morning, around 9 a.m., I received a telephone call from the woman I had met the previous day, Sara M.  Her voice was trembling as she spoke to me, introducing herself to remind me of who she was (It wasn’t necessary – I recognized her voice immediately even with the trembling!).  She said, “Paula, you are not going to believe what has happened.”  “What is it?  Are you alright?” I asked, and in response, she said, “When I awoke this morning, I sat down at my computer to check my e-mail, and to look up your blog.  First up was the daily blog from my pastor, Chuck Wilson, and the opening line was this:  ‘Paula Calhoun and her husband Ashley are vital members of the ministry of Long’s Chapel. She has written a beautiful poem about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I’d like to share it with you today.’  Have you read his blog yet this morning?”  I said that I had not yet opened my e-mail, but that I was extremely surprised that my poem would be in his blog post, because I had only sent it to him that very morning.

She said that she had been “blown away,” not only because she recognized my name from our meeting the day before, but also to learn we were members of the same church.  Actually, she and her husband were participating in membership classes, and would be joining this Spring. She then told me something that truly “rocked my world.”  She said that after she read Chuck’s blog, and read my poem, she felt she knew something about my heart, and she said these amazing four words, “The camera is yours.”

If I had not been sitting in my bed, I am quite certain I would have fallen over.  I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly.  I asked her how much money she wanted for it, and she replied that I was mistaken, that she was giving it to me.  She said that basically it was to be my camera.  The only proviso was that should she want to use it for some occasion or other, she would ask to “borrow’ it from me. I quite simply could not believe my ears.

This camera, my dear Gentle Readers, is the real thing, and much more than I had ever even imagined would or could be mine.  It is only about 4 years old, and it has almost every conceivable accessory that could come with a camera.  It is a Canon EOS D20, with four lenses.  Those of you who know anything about cameras will be amazed to learn that the lenses are: 18-55 mm; 28-135 mm; 24-70 mm; and a 100-400 mm.  All of the lenses, except the 24-70 mm are by Canon.  The other is a Sigma lens.  These lenses alone are worth thousands of dollars.  In addition, she gave me a hot shoe flash, 2 memory cards, a tripod, two different camera bags – one that would hold most of the equipment, and the other smaller one for when I only wanted to carry a portion of it with me.  Batteries, the battery charger, filters, a card reader, software, instruction manual. . .you name it, she gave it to me.

Every day since that morning, I awake and see the camera bags on the chest at the foot of the bed, and I start to cry again. What an incredible, and incalculable gift. You see, the one thing that had concerned me the most about my ever purchasing such a camera was the possibility that given the difficulties I have with my hand, I would discover that I would not be able to handle the equipment.  The thought that I might purchase it all and then find out that it was basically useless to me certainly gave me pause, and I had thought if it were possible, it might be a good idea to “rent” one to find out if I could make use of it.  Problem solved.  Now I knew that if I could not use it, I could simply return it to Sara, and nothing would have been wasted.  However, I am pleased to tell you that, so far, I have been able to use the camera.  I’ve had to make a couple of adjustments in my own technique, but not only am I able, I get positively giddy every time I pick it up!

Over the past days I have been pondering this God-incidence in my life. Ashley and I have called such things “God-incidences” for years instead of co-incidences, because we saw and learned early on how God works in our lives, and as far as we are concerned there is no such thing as just co-incidence or happenstance.

I realized what had to occur for such a thing to happen.  Three different people had to listen when God spoke to them, and then respond immediately to God’s prompting:  I had to take the step to ask, out of the clear blue sky, if a complete stranger had a camera.  She had to consider anew if she wished to give up the camera she had, and then to follow up on our conversation and read her e-mail before going to my blog.  The third person was our pastor, who now tells me he had absolutely no idea what caused him to publish my poem as his blog post that morning.  He just did it.  Period.  I realize that this might not sound all that amazing to any of you, but in my mind, it is an astounding thing. 

I have decided that God either wants me to really get into photography and use that gift to the glory of God and His/Her creation,  or God wants me to realize that photography on this level is not for me. Either way, this has been an extraordinary blessing! I’ve been laughing at myself because the equipment is not at all the brand that I had been eyeing. I immediately decided that this equipment I have been entrusted with must be far superior, because God only gives the very best.

The photo above and the one below are among my first efforts with my new camera.  (I was specifically experimenting with “depth of field.”) Be prepared to see more and more in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.  I hope you will enjoy seeing them as much as I will enjoy taking them, and that you will see steady progress in my abilities and gifts.

God never ceases to amaze me.  In the midst of some difficult and gloomy days that have recently been part of my life and that of my family’s, God dropped this lovely gift into my life.  My heart overflows with joy, that I could be so loved.  It is enough. . .


Weeping Cherry