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All of us have stories to tell, but what makes them worth telling is the reality of who Jesus is in and through those events in our lives. He is our hope in hardship, our comfort in pain, our anchor in uncertainty, our joy in the laughter, our conﬁdence in the unknown, our courage in the formidable, and the beauty in love. So to wrap up this series (and for the love of talking about Jesus) I want to share three memorable stories in my life that have signiﬁcantly impacted me as a photographer.
My ﬁrst serious camera was with me for years, weathering international trips, various personal projects, and a good many semesters of Ellerslie portrait sessions and candid captures. But eventually, it just came to it’s end. The shutter was shot and it appeared it would cost about the same to repair my camera as it would to simply buy a new one. I didn’t have the money for either. Having experienced God’s provision before in unusual ways and for various things, I gave my need to the Lord and trusted He would equip me once again for my photography. I planned to set money aside as I could, but also believed He could provide in other ways too. The need was His and I believed He would meet it. Not long after I began praying, a camera was put into my mailbox, all wrapped up with an anonymous note. I eagerly unwrapped the box and found a beautiful, gently-used Nikon that would work with all my other gear. I was over the moon with joy! Immediately, I gave thanks to the Lord and asked Him to bless the one who had secretly given it. It was a model I didn’t know anything about, but what did I care? I had a camera again! That evening I went online to learn about my new camera and the very ﬁrst information I found called it “the worst camera Nikon has ever made.” The excitement balloon soaring high above me immediately burst. I was a bit disappointed, but had to remind myself that I was once camera-less and now I had one in my hands again - however humble of a model it may be. And it was still a signiﬁcant, memorable answer to my prayers. God has always kept me well aware of the reality that my photography is His gift, not mine. Any success I achieve is because of His grace, not anything I can boast in, and this camera was a true test of where my conﬁdence would lie - in top of the line gear or the enabling grace of God.
I’ve since moved on to another camera, but for a little over a year, I took photos on the “worst camera Nikon ever made”—pictures that deﬁed the label some internet review had given it and showcased to me the grace of God. Again and again God showed me that He was the one who would provide in this work and if I would hold fast to Him as my conﬁdence anchor, not equipment, skill, or praise, then He would enable me unto every good work He had purposed for me to do.
To the anonymous giver:
God has used your gift to have a lasting impact upon me as a photographer and that camera has been put to use in countless ministry ways. With a full heart of gratitude, thank you.
A few years ago, I was asked to take promotional photos for a children’s choir directed by good friends of mine. I was visiting some other friends in Haiti at the same place the choir children lived and it provided a perfect opportunity for me to take the choir’s needed pre-tour photos. Truthfully, it was a tremendously difficult task for me. Trying to coordinating 20 children for a photoshoot was nearly disastrous, and when it was all done, I was doubtful that I had gotten anything worth using. I put off editing until I was on the plane headed home, and as I uploaded the photos and began scanning through them, I was completely disappointed. These are awful, I thought. There’s nothing to use here. They’re not professional enough...or sharp enough. My friends are going to be so disappointed!
As I sat in my aisle seat, with everyone around me absorbed in either their in-flight movies or in-flight naps, I just wanted to cry. Surely Lord, there is something here they can use. Please rescue these photos in some way! Editing? Filter style? Can I do anything to save these? After spending a good bit of time staring at my photos and wallowing in my failure, I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. When I turned, one of the stewards was there and said, “I don’t mean to be spying over your shoulder...I’m really sorry, but...I just have to ask. Who are those children?” With that one question, I began to see that God was wanting to teach me a significant lesson in the midst of my personal failure and disappointment. Who are those children? That was the whole purpose of the photos! To cause people to ask who these children were and then introduce them to the choir, its purpose, and its powerful message of hope and redemption for orphaned and vulnerable children.
I shared with the steward about the choir and about the specific stories of the children. He was moved. And I was too, over the valuable lesson God was teaching me. God wasn’t interested in my glory or praise, He was interested in souls, in stories, and in His point coming through. And He wanted me to be focussed on those things, not my personal success or the opinion of others. All throughout the flight, the steward kept coming by to look at more photos and a few other people walking the aisle or sitting nearby did too, commenting, “What beautiful children!” and “Oh wow, is that a choir?” As I surrendered my work, changed my perspective, and offered up the photos for God’s use, I was able to edit them and salvage a handful of the photos that went on to be used in many ways. The choir directors loved them and used them repeatedly, the orphanage director enlarged them and hung them up all over their ministry facility, and many of those photos are still some of my personal favorites.
We can always learn more, work harder, and become better. We can always ask God for more needed inspiration and creativity, but the minute my talent, ideas, or praise step up on the pedestal to claim glory, then I have ceased to be doing the work of the Lord. His glory and His message are the point. And when that is in its proper place, you can count on His grace and anointing to produce powerful work through you.
Just over ten years ago while I was a young Bible college student in the picturesque Lake District of England, my friends and I took a mid-term holiday to the Scottish city of Edinburgh. Our ﬁrst day there, we learned that the Queen was in residence and would be parading through the main street the following morning in celebration of her Golden Jubilee. I was beside myself with joy and did my best to rally the excitement of my less-than enthusiastic friends.
We arrived early enough the next morning to claim a good spot along the road. The streets ﬁlled and people pressed against the barricades to glimpse the Queen and share in the celebration. I captured the ornate carriages, the soldiers decked out in all their ﬁnest, the cheering crowds full of kiddies and waving ﬂags, and I waited with near goosebumps for the Queen’s arrival. It was a surreal moment for this American girl who had fallen in love with England, and esteemed the dignity and decorum within the traditions of British royalty.
Those were the days before digital. Before you could see what you’d captured or could delete the unnecessary shots and make more room on your SD card. I framed each shot with intention, hoping that my photos would turn out as beautiful as the scenes I held with my eyes. But just as the queen was approaching and to my utter dismay, I made an epic mistake. I ran out of ﬁlm just as the Queen was passing me by. In that brief moment of realization, I told myself to get a grip and just enjoy the moment. After all, I was seeing it all in person. I was there in the midst of the crowd and cheers and joy of such a festive event. There had been no time to change ﬁlm. I missed it. The pinnacle of the whole affair, and I had missed my opportunity to photograph the Queen.
As the parade passed on and the street grew quieter, my friends turned around to see tears in my eyes rather than the beaming elation I had displayed before the parade. After hearing of my big photography fail, they shrugged it off and said they’d be happy to get me copies of their photos. But if you are a photographer, you know that you want to be the one to capture the moment and remember what your eyes uniquely saw.
That night as I laid awake in my bunk bed at the guest hostel, I couldn’t ﬁnd sleep. Disappointment fed the damaging frustration I was allowing to have free reign over my emotions. But in the quiet, suddenly and gently the Lord set my eyes to see the foolishness of my disappointment. This was not a reason for tears or a pouty disposition. I had missed the big moment, yes, but I was far too impressed with the opportunity to take photos of the Queen, rather than simply taking joy in what God had allowed all of us to see that day. I halted my frustration and shifted my heart as I prayed, Forgive me Lord, this is not a reason to lose my joy. You gave us brilliant moments today and I have every reason to be full of joy and gratitude. Thank you for giving me today and I give over my camera once more for Your use. Don’t let it take a higher position than You have in my heart.
The following morning, our group made our way to a Starbucks in the center of town where we had arranged to all meet up and plan our day. What happened next was like a scene from a movie. I noticed my shoe was untied and told everyone to go on ahead of me. I knelt down and as I stood back up, I noticed the barricades were still up from the previous day’s parade. A roundish policeman stood nearby with arms folded and I asked him why they had not been taken down. He smiled and said, “Well, the Queen’s coming by this morning on her way to church.” I spilled over with excitement telling him how I’d missed the chance to take a photo the day before. He laughed and pointed down the road saying, “Well, you’d better hurry, because here she comes.”
Right then I turned to see the Queen’s black town car approaching. I had little time. My ﬁlm camera was turned off and tucked away in my camera bag, and her car was moving rapidly towards us. I did the only proper thing I could think to do. I began running on the sidewalk alongside the Queen’s car, yelling excitedly behind me at my friends (who could not possibly hear me), “The Queen, the Queen!”, and wrestled my camera out of my bag. Yes, I was an absolute spectacle of foreign tourist glory. But it worked a most brilliant effect which I wouldn’t realize till later when my ﬁlm was developed. I snapped three quick frames and then the car was gone. I stood there out of breath and in disbelief but with an enormous smile on my face.
The day before I had clung to something I wanted and I was ridiculously wrecked with disappointment when I didn’t get it. But in God’s gentle grace, He set my heart to see what was important and what wasn’t. And once I surrendered, He gave back something altogether unique and far more memorable that my own desires had been. I got my photos back weeks later and one photo, one perfect photo was there with a very Scottish street, a fancy black car, a Queen, and a Duke staring right back with a smile for the crazy American girl who ran alongside his car smiling and yelling that day. In a somewhat embarrassing, somewhat comical, and somewhat magical moment, I learned that I should always trust my photo moments to God. He is capable of putting me anywhere and in front of anything He wants me to capture, and He has all power and perfect knowledge at His disposal. If I walk in surrender and joyful, trusting faith, I’ll know how to follow His lead.
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