choosing joy

As a photographer my personal goal with each person or family I photograph is to capture genuine emotion and real moments. 98 percent of the time the kids cooperate and the families really want a picture of the entire family looking at the camera and smiling. All smiling. All looking at the camera. The more people involved the more difficult my job. Every once in a while I'll have a defiant toddler who wants nothing to do with the camera. This is my greatest challenge yet greatest joy in photography. I love handing over the final images and hearing parents say "How did you capture my son smiling and laughing? I don't remember him smiling once!"

Here is the flip side though. I don't have one of those nice family photos of my own family. The last time that happened in a professional setting was over 4 years ago! We have a few good family pictures here and there, but especially this last year I couldn't find one, not one! (except for the picture above which I'll describe at the end). I feel like a professional organizer whose home is a complete disaster or a landscaper whose own yard is in terrible shape.

As I gathered my two children to take some decent pictures for a Christmas card my son grew irritated with the outfit I chose for him. As he was throwing a small fit I knew I couldn't ask him to fake it. He saw my frustration and gave in. It wasn't five minutes in before the kids were fighting. I kept trying for the moments I find in strangers toddlers, capturing joy in the midst of stress, but it wasn't happening.

After culling the images and seeing there were none I could use, I began digging through the archive of photos from the year. Knowing there wasn't an even barely decent family photo to use I resorted to the idea of a collage of pictures.

I had to step away from the project for few days. I was saddened by the lack of photos good enough to send out to 75+ friends and family. My few days away only deepened my awareness to what I was really feeling or not feeling for that matter. Friends and family's Christmas cards began pouring in. Each one had families gathered together and all smiling at the camera. They look so joyful. So together.

I do not feel joyful or together. This is what I didn't want my kids to fake. I don't know if they feel joyful either these days. We are in a serious funk around here. Fighting is at an all time high and my patience has beyond run thin.

I went back to the computer determined to find a card that fit us well. I went as far as putting speech bubbles above our heads conveying funny statements with me at the end, my speech bubble saying, "Help!" It's what I felt and I wanted to convey honesty with humor. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, I just looked pathetic and not comedic.

The collage postcard I decided on, only for the number of photos it allowed, said "Joy" smack dab in the middle of the card. My stomach churned seeing the word Joy. It felt fake, forced and cheesy. I didn't want to send something I am not feeling these days. But as I looked at the pictures surrounding the word, we were all smiling. Genuinely smiling. I'll admit, even if the picture I used for myself was from two years ago.

So I chose the card and then it hit me. I have to choose joy. Every day, in every moment, just like the card, when I'm not feeling it I have to choose it. I have to channel my inner photographer and capture the joy in the midst of stress.

Then I look at our board full of Christmas card pictures and can't help but smile because I don't see just smiling faces looking at the camera, I see a family whose son defeated cancer at three years old. Joy. I see a family who tried so hard for so long to get pregnant and they're finally holding their child. Joy. I see a family whose adoptions are finalized. Joy. I see a husband who is reunited with his kids after deployment. I see joy. I see the work of the Lord.

As you look at the families on your walls this Christmas look for the reasons they are smiling. And thank God for those reasons. If you know they are struggling, pray that joy would enter their hearts and the Lord would wrap His loving arms around them and be their strength.

"The joy of God is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10

Today I choose joy. Today I choose to find those moments of laughter that may get easily overlooked. Today I choose to ask the Lord to be strength because He is my Joy.

*While writing this article late last night little did I know my son was upstairs in his room drawing me a picture. It is not uncommon for him to leave me notes or pictures for when I check on him. But the picture he left me last night blew me away. He left me the picture you see at the top of this article. My six year drew a picture of our entire family being photographed. We are all together, smiling and looking at the camera. Only God. That is the only way I can explain the "coincidence" of the timing of this picture.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. Real life. Real emotions. My heart was stirred and a tear was shed. I too choose to find JOY. i choose to see the good, and the blessings around me.
    May God bless this business and use it for HIS kingdom. Thank you for your vulnerability and ministry this is.