Are Pictures Really Worth 1,000 Words?

I posted the above photograph to my Instagram account last October. My husband and I were in London at the time – our last stop on a two-week vacation across Europe. The shopfront shown in the photo, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, is a 350-year-old pub supposedly frequented by the likes of Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Sir Author Conan Doyle, among other famous authors. I learned about the pub on a travel blog that listed “must see” places in London for literature enthusiasts, so, naturally, I dragged my husband there. 

After I snapped the photo, I played around with Instagram filters. I chose one that brightened up the pink flowers and made St. Paul’s Cathedral pop against the gray sky. Instead of writing a caption, I chose three emojis: a storm cloud, an open book, and clinking beers. The photo got a decent number of “likes” and one person commented that it looked “so dreamy.” 

The photo does look dreamy. After all, making the photo (and our brief stop in London) look dreamy was my goal when I posted it. But the photograph on its own cannot and does not accurately convey the reality of our 48 hours in London. 

Here’s the truth: By the time we reached London, we had already spent three days in Paris, four days in Santorini, and four days in Amsterdam. We were exhausted, our clothes were all dirty, and we were out of money. London was colder than we expected – and rainy. We got lost trying to find our Airbnb; when we finally found it, we were drenched and freezing. So, instead of sightseeing, we spent our first day in London hulled up in our Airbnb binge-watching The Office. Our second day, we bought a cheap umbrella at a gift shop and ventured outside. That’s when I captured and posted the above photo of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. After a few hours, the wind blew our umbrella inside out, and we went back to our Airbnb and napped until it was time to go to the airport. 

… Not exactly as “dreamy” of an experience as I would have liked people to think. 

The other day, someone I follow on Instagram posted a vacation photo – a gorgeous cliffside landscape. Her caption was, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” When I saw that, I wondered if it were really true. I thought about the reality behind my London photo, and of the realities behind all the other pictures I’ve posted on Instagram and Facebook over the years.

That old adage – a picture is worth 1,000 words – along with our social media culture have conditioned us to believe that images can speak certain truths about the world that words cannot. But do images really have that power? And, if so, do we actually use our images to convey the truth of our experiences? 

The phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” is often attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and, therefore, is accepted as an ancient piece of wisdom. However, the first person to use the phrase was actually a clever advertiser named Fred Barnard, who realized that photographs are much more effective than words when it comes to selling things. In the 1920s, the phrase appeared in advertising trade journals to promote the use of images in marketing campaigns.

Many of us use our Instagram and Facebook photos to advertise too, but instead of promoting products, we’re trying to promote ourselves – to persuade others (and perhaps to convince ourselves along the way) that our lives are significant and meaningful. More often than not, my photographs are attempts to seek this kind of validation – not images that really depict any sort of complex reality or truth. They say, look at my recent adventure, look at this amazing meal, look how healthy I am, look at all of my friendslook at my successes. 

Pictures are not always meant for validation or self-promotion, of course. There are plenty of healthy, non-self-promotional reasons to post photos on social media: to connect with long-distance friends and family, to share art, to inspire others toward good. However, if I’m really honest with myself, I know that my photos (whatever my motivations may be) do not convey truth in the same way that words can. 

When used wisely, our words – unlike our social media photo galleries – have the power to encourage and uplift others. Our words can make others feel loved, seen, and known. Our words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can help others to know the perfect love of Jesus Christ – the only person who had cause to exalt Himself but who chose instead to humble Himself by becoming human and dying on the cross for our sins. 

So, when it comes to advertising, maybe a picture is worth 1,000 words. But, when it comes to conveying truth, words seem pretty important.

Lessons Learned from #theGreatMonsterRoadTrip

As I type this, there’s coffee and ice water in the cupholders, my husband at the wheel, three boys and a dog in the back, and a cooler and lots of sleeping bags in the carrier on top of our Mazda CX-9. Our vehicle probably smells like old Cheetos and baked sweet and sour sauce, but I am so used to it that I can’t be certain. It’s quiet right now because the boys are enjoying their screen time. The landscape out the windows is green and flat, sections of trees alternating with sections of cleared ranching land, dotted by buildings here and there. We are somewhere in Texas.

This is Day 25 of our road trip.  Yes, you read that right.  We left home 25 days ago, and we have been hanging out in places that aren’t like California at all. We attended a wedding in Indiana, cheered at a White Sox game in Chicago, caught fireflies near St. Louis, sat around a fire pit in central Missouri, went pond fishing near Tulsa, navigated the maze of highways in Dallas (to see friends and family), and went for walks after dark in Austin. 

I can’t even tell you how many members of our extended family we got to see.

I CAN tell you that we’ve put almost 5000 miles on our car, that we’ve gotten plenty of mosquito bites, that we’ve been annoyed with each other, that we’ve laughed together, that we’ve gone swimming as often as possible and that we’ve eaten ice cream just about every day.

It’s a funny thing being away from home for so long.  I have learned things about myself and about my boys. I have a new appreciation for all the work my husband does when we visit my side of the family. I have been amazed at the boys’ ability to be in different cities and homes and around different people, handling all the change with a tenacity that’s surprised me. I’ve learned that rest stops take longer with a dog, that KOA cabins do the trick for a quick overnight stop, that the audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is really fun, that 4-year-olds need more activities than you could possibly prepare for, and that a playful attitude is essential to sanity.

But as I sit down to write this today, the one idea that keeps floating to the top is not “baby wipe hacks” or a “best stops list.” It is a phrase I heard from an acquaintance named Tomas a few weeks ago:

“God sounds the same everywhere.”

Even though things are so different from our normal while we’ve been on vacation, I have loved seeing how God continues to make himself known to me, no matter where we are. 

His love is in the eyes of the least of these. It has been a great gift to me to be exposed to the idea of blessing bags. Our church sometimes puts these together to distribute to people who are homeless in our community. The bags are simple: bottled water, snacks, new socks, toothbrushes, and notes. We began our trip with four bags, which we gave away in our first few days on the road. When we arrived in Chicagoland, we realized that we needed more blessing bags, and went shopping for supplies to fill more bags. As we learn the names of these people—Terry, Emmanuel, Michael, and others—and as I looked into their eyes, I saw a depth of heart that I rarely saw otherwise. It was at once intimidating and comforting, and I often felt the presence of the Lord.

There is always room to grow in faith. Many times on this trip, we have faced [figurative] bumps in the road. And it seems with each one, from feeling carsick to being afraid of fireworks, my four-year-old Simon has suggested that we say a quick prayer. It seems to be one of his first lines of defense. And it always brings me to my knees, amazed that I have so much room to grow in my trust in the power and goodness of the Lord.

He hears our prayers. Simon gets carsick. Really carsick. We have asked people back home to be praying for Simon. We have been praying for Simon. And he’s only gotten sick once in these 5000 miles.  It is incredible. I have prayed about where to stop, and we have experienced the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve ever seen working in fast food or at gas stations. It is incredible. We have prayed for peace, love, joy, and we have looked back at our day and seen where there was peace, love, joy. It is incredible. We prayed for a place to stay in Chicago, and a friend in Chicago prayed for their house to be a blessing while they were on vacation. We were the answer to their prayer and they were the answer to ours. It is incredible. 

He is faithful and generous. I have seen his hand of provision in the homes of our family members. I have seen his love through the hospitality of friends. I have seen the way he has walked with my parents, my brothers, my nieces, my nephews, my sisters-in-law, through so many years and how he continues to provide for their every need (and give them sweet “bonus gifts” besides). He is so, so good.

Believe it or not, these are the same messages I had been hearing back in California, and God found a way to teach them to me again 2,000 miles from home.

God sounds the same everywhere. 

I encourage you to listen to him on your next trip, be it 3 days long… or 25.

Road Trip!

Hey friends,

I am tired. I am not even going to sugar coat this…. I am just plain tired.  This summer is unlike any other in our home. My husband Mike is working a summer job for the first time since we’ve  been married (because two college kids…enough said), I am tutoring 20 hours each week, I have one kid living in Grand Rapids, and two almost-flown living here.  We are juggling schedules, cars, late nights, early mornings. We are trying to let our grown kids have some freedom while trying to squeeze in more college visits for #3… the whole thing has been more mentally exhausting this year than any before.  Let’s not even start on the school prep that is occupying brain space. It’s just just plain exhausting. 

And then Mike says, “Ya know Jacob is getting married. It’s in Green Bay. I love that kid…. we could do this.”  I totally hemmed and hawed….remember, I am tired. Another scheduling nightmare was all I could see.  So we delayed. And delayed. Up until the rsvp date (yes, we are those people) when Mike came back and said, “Kar, I really want to go.”  So I concede. Yes, please, call them…I hope it isn’t too late. We can do this. Let’s roadtrip. After I nap….because I am tired. 

The Friday of the wedding weekend arrived. Mike had done hotel arrangements; I had called my best friend in the world in Chicago and told her we were coming by for dinner. We had the code to my sister’s garage for a pit stop, my Amazon dress was packed, we threw a couple water bottles and a five-hour energy in the car, and we were off…just the two of us.

Waking up along the way

You see, Mike and I vacation together a lot. We try once a year to get away alone. But this time, it was so needed.  For the first hour, neither of us even talked. We just sat there….soaking in the fact that we needed to make ZERO decisions in the next 3 days.  And that felt like a giant weight of exhaustion just sliding away.

We slowly started talking– about us. About those first years of marriage when it was just us. He remembers so much more that I do, and listening to him retell those stories made us laugh out loud.

We rolled into Chicago, up to my best friend’s house. And another layer of exhaustion left– she and I don’t get to see each other enough, and here, totally on a whim, we are all together, as if days – not years – had gone by since I saw her last.  Years ago, Mike slid himself into our friendship, not entirely smoothly, but in a way that he will sit and chat with her hubby while Ann and I try not to pee our pants, laughing at what was and what is the best friendship ever. 

Best friends since we were five

A hug goodbye, and Mike and I roll into my old hometown. Mike knows it like he lived there (see, he remembers so much more than me.) We decide to grab a drink at a local dive bar, and then walk around town while I tell him stories of growing up there.

Exhaustion being replaced with the calm familiarity of us.

By the time we roll into Green Bay on Saturday (with time to spare to look at Lambeau), I no longer feel tired. I haven’t had to solve a problem, haven’t worried about who needs which car, or worried about that college tuition bill.  I have simply enjoyed the ride– figuratively and literally. And it felt better than getting a month of sleep for my tired soul.

Heading home refreshed

The wedding was adorable. We danced, laughed, talked, celebrated. But there was one thing that Mike said that will always stick with me…..

“Kar, they remind me of us.”

Yep.  They are young, excited, dying to begin their lives together. Exactly like we were 25 years ago…before we let the exhaustion of real life sneak in. And suddenly it was all back into perspective. Deep down, we still feel very much like those 22 year-olds, ready to conquer life together.

The trip home involved the Upper Peninsula’s two-lane roads, a big mighty Mac bridge, beautiful scenery…but moreso, conversation. We talked effortlessly about what we hope for each kiddo, what we pray about God’s plan, how each of us pictures our empty nest. We talked about US. 

Now home again, I am so thankful Mike wanted to go on a nine hour road trip in the middle of an exhausting, busy, crazy summer. My brain needed it. My heart needed it. My marriage was craving quiet time alone with each other. But I was too tired, spread too thin, to verbalize it; yet, God used this for good, to refocus on the most important thing. 

So there’s hope if you feel tired too…

In the lazy days of summer, it’s exhausting. I hear you. My best advice…. take inventory. Reconnect with your best friend, revisit your old town, watch two young kids promise forever to each other, and then look at your own life, and realize this stage will pass. But this life we are building is too amazing to spend being exhausted. Instead, keep your eyes on the road ahead, hold hands, and enjoy the ride. 

Weddings and Warfare

“It would have happened anyway” – replied my logical and yes – correct husband.

Tom and I were in the middle of a several hour visit to the National World War I Museum and Memorial located just one hour from our home in Kansas City, MO. We had decided to enjoy a 24 hour trip to The City – as us country folks refer to it. We enjoyed not only this museum but also the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and some really fantastic Kansas City BBQ. A day of culture for sure and a reminder that I wished I’d paid more attention in High School History and College Art Appreciation classes.

The World War War I memorial is filled with detailed written accounts, photographs and paraphenalia telling the story of the start, middle and end of this global war, also know as the “Great War” or the War to End all Wars . It was one of the largest wars in history and also one of the deadliest.

Boots worn by American Soldiers – 116,708 US soldiers gave their lives… for us.

Together Tom and I enjoy every corner of a museum. He reads every word on every plaque. I look at every picture of the people. While he reads the facts – I imagine the stories of each person upon whom I gaze. It is a really great strategy – each making the most of the cost of admission.

He reads Every. Word.
I imagine the stories behind the pictures.

Despite my fascination with the pictures and not as much with the written words – I was stopped in my tracks with one small sentence regarding the event that lead to the beginning of this battle responsible for 7 million civilian deaths. I kept wondering – How does something like this get started?

Maybe you’re familiar with the act that broke the proverbial camels back that lead one country to declare to another… “ENOUGH.” If you’re not – here it is. On June 28, 1914 – Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is assassinated by Bosnian Serb Nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The Austrian Government suspects Serbian influence . Serbia denies an ultimatum for Austria to enter the country to investigate the assassination on July 25. On July 28, just one month after the assassination, Austria declares war on Serbia and promptly bombs their capital. This date also marks the start of WWI.

The sentence that caught my eye was a reference (and now after doing a little research – I have learned is a theory) – was a suggestion that the assassination was NOT supposed to happen. The planned killing that was months in the making was supposed to be stopped. The word plate at the WWI Museum declared that the “assassins did not get the memo that the were to cease the killing.”

They didn’t get the memo.

What? World War I was started because someone …. Missed a memo?. Millions of lives sacrificed because someone didn’t open their email, sent the message to VM, disregarded a text??

They didn’t take the time to stop and listen??

Now this is a complete over simplification of what really happened. In my brief time of research – it has become clear, as Tom reminded me – the assassination would have happened anyway. The killing of Ferdinand and his wife was not the result of a random crazed person that woke up one day with a heart set on evil. It was a well thought out, carefully crafted act. If it didn’t happen that day it most likely would have happened on another. Tensions were high and you get the feeling that someone was just waiting,

Just. waiting .

for a reason to fight.

As Tom and I continued to enjoy our excursion I just kept thinking about, the missed memo. The lack of communication during this season of turmoil and the ones that happen in my everyday life that lead to doubt, bitterness and conflict.

I believe God works in themes in my life. When I start to see a pattern of events in my day to day I pay attention. This trip to the WWI museum was the first of 4 encounters with this epic time in our worlds history in the last 4 months of my life. In the time since our trip I have read a fiction book set during the time of WWI from the perspective of a Canadian family. I have watched a movie, ” The Imitation Game” ,describing the undercover lives of those hired to intercept and decode messages during WWII which ultimately helped to end that war. It is referenced that this same activity also happened…

during WWI.

Brooke at UCM – last day of Missouri Girls State

And finally last week my daughter attended Girls State. This week of gathering girls from around the state of Missouri to help them understand and experience good citizenship and the ins and outs of our US Government is lead by the Women’s Auxillary of the American Legion. This organization represented the wives and women that stayed home while their husbands, fathers and brothers went to fight in …


I didn’t set out with the goal to familiarize myself with this War when I set my goals for 2019. Each of these experiences were not planned but unfolded as I’ve walked through this time in my life.

And I’m paying attention.

Im paying attention to the heightened emotions in our current culture that remind me of the tensions I read about before WWI.

Im paying attention today to the lines drawn between people groups that appear to be battle lines defending territory rather than starting lines for conversation between people of differing world views.

I’m paying attention to my own heart.

The one that is offended when a friend or family member hasn’t responded to a text or fb post in a timely manner or in the way I would hope they would .

The heart that jumps to conclusions when I hear one side or part of a story. The heart that wants to jump to defend and declare truth before I’ve heard all of the sides.

The heart that forgets the wise advice of my father when assessing a situation. This man that spent a good portion of his career coaching organizations dealing with intense conflict, that in all situations there is “Your side”, “My side”, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

I amaze myself with the ability to allow myself to go from peace to pissed off faster then a sports car goes from zero to 60.

As I am continually faced with the stories of the lives impacted by this incredibly tragic time in history I am pulled by an urgent sense of responsibility to the people with whom I live and work and recreate. To the generations put in my care and counsel, those whom I was given responsibility to mentor to impact our world in their own God given, God lead way.

When I picked this date for my stop at our virtual fire blog I imagined my shared thoughts would be fueled by the emotion of a mother just 23 days away from her first borns wedding date. It was weddings that I believed would be on my mind.. not warfare. When I awoke at 4:00 a.m. on my writing day I realized it would include both.

As I watch my daughter and her fiance prepare for their lives together I think of a million things I hope she knows. In some way I want to deposit the wisdom of my almost 50 years into her almost 22 year old heart. I want to save her from the pain of my poor choices and remove the challenges that I know will ultimately help form her into the woman God has planned for her to be. But since that is impossible.. I will leave her with this, and you and me.

Don’t miss the memos.

Don’t miss the signs around you that point to a need for connection and communication. Don’t miss the opportunities to express appreciation and gratitude. Don’t miss the moments to stay silent when the words will only add fuel to a fire. Don’t miss the moments to speak when despite the discomfort of speaking truth it will, in the end, lead to resolution and peace. Don’t miss the moments to laugh and embrace the joy of the simple, beautiful moments. Don’t miss the moments to cry and feel deeply the pain of the one you love. Don’t miss the moments to build a fire, to share stories and to listen. Don’t miss the moments to walk in another’s shoes. Don’t miss the moments to squash hate. Don’t miss the moments to love.

Don’t miss the moments to …. Love.

Pay attention friends… there’s a theme in your lives.. I’m certain of it. And it just may be the wisdom you’ve been praying to hear.

War flowers… not wedding flowers on my mind today. Poppies from WWI museum depiction of Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea, MD ( 1872-1918) Canadian Army

In Flanders feilds the poppies blow – Between the crosses , row on row.

That mark our place; and in the sky; The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce hear among the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short Days ago. We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie. In Flanders Filed.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw.

The torch;be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders field.