I don’t write this out of emotion but out of a need. A need to share the truth. A need to share hope. A need to remind you to not give up. A need to press on and to give back. A need to prove that we are not defeated. A need to help because we are all going through something even if we aren’t saying it and someone will reach out and let this note change everything for them because it’s all about perspective and what we believe “owns us” – good or bad. A need to rebuild myself daily and help you do the same. A need to be authentic and leave a mark that goes far beyond the moment that I’m in or the emotions that I feel.
It’s very real and very raw for me and really quite hard to share.
Someone close to me once asked when they had seen my blog (and of course I’m paraphrasing), “Why don’t you just let them do what they want and not tell them anything to contradict that? Why do you feel the need to step in and say anything at all? Who are you to say do it this way or don’t do it that way? We all have a right to do it our own way.”
I’m nobody. I have no degree or expertise in any field at all. I would never tell you that you have to do it my way. My way isn’t actually “MY” way anyway. It’s just “a way” and it helps me get through this life without being defeated. And of course when it comes to Jesus I firmly believe that He is “THEE WAY” so what “better way” than that? However, I totally respect and appreciate that LOVE allows us to choose and I adore our Father God for that. When you have had relationships that showed you no choices you come to a place that you realize how precious “freedom of choice” is and you realize that “freedom of choice” is a form of love. A huge form of love. So I always respect that everyone has the right to choose.
What I write is just what I’ve lived and what you do with that is your choice but I sure have read some amazing facts, thoughts and experiences over the years from my bible and from blogs along with comments and posts on Facebook that helped build me up and reminded me to keep hope and I know that we are not alone and that being alone is the lie. What I have is Jesus, experience and a heart to love you more than just in words...but through words. What I have is a desire to shine, shine His light and as I learn to do it different, because growth is important, then I have a need to express that and share what I’ve learned because we all need a little help along the way and I know I’m thankful for WISE COUNSEL.
So I’m going to talk. And if you want to read it, grab some coffee and join me cuz everything is better with coffee. = )
These past 2 months have been some of the hardest time periods in my life and though I’m on the back side of this and feel the joy of hope that has returned I know I need to express this before the lesson just becomes a part of me and I lose the ability share the details. = )
Here’s a rundown of pivotal moments that were heart breaking and or spirit breaking. The first few are from the past couple of years but something that never leaves me day after day.
- A rift in our family that tore them out of my hands but not my heart.
- Not going to the church I just knew I was planted in for the rest of my life and missing the people that I love so dearly and hold as family in my heart even now.
- One of our children walking a hard hard path no matter how I’ve begged and cried, allowed and or fought - all with prayer and heartache though full of hope and love.
- My husband almost died and he spent a week in the hospital along with a surgery. Amazing life changing things from this one event. Horribly hard to watch Him go through it. God is faithful though! My husband lives! Grace Abounds!
- I lost images to a wedding that could never be retrieved and I could not make it right.
- I cannot make us go to church every Sunday.
- I lost a tooth. The most horrifyingly humiliating thing to admit in my life. Crying and still heartbroken even as I write this and have not recovered and may never. Don’t ask me why. I don’t judge people. I don’t feel this way about others. Just me. It destroyed me.
- I quit reading my bible every morning. Again with the tears.
Now, no one died but you want to talk about feeling alone and feeling quite dead on the inside by the end of this list. In the beginning I was still on fire. I was still strong. #1 and #2 go hand in hand and I fought with everything in me to not let them happen. I had moments of begging and crying to God but I was full of passion and knew that He had it. I was full of faith and eventually understood that I had to stop. My arguing and fighting and clinging wasn’t going to keep things from running their course. Some things have to happen. I let go and trusted God. I stopped trying to be in control. #4 even lifted me up during it because I saw God work amazing works in my husband and I was filled with so much love and hope. Jesus held my hand through it all and I didn’t feel fear after that first day at all. I just knew that He was working this to His glory and to change some things in my husband’s life. Our world was turned upside down but I was fine. I could handle anything because God was with me.
BUT #5 and #6 came 2 weeks later and 4 weeks later, one after the other. They came at me when I was working my hardest and in huge demand in my little photography world - they hit me in my personal work and in my private self, trampling my security and even pride on both counts, literally obliterating them. My work from shooting a wedding was gone because my compact flash memory card had corrupted and I could not fathom how clients would see me because of that. I was not only devastated for me but for them. If you know me at all you know that I will do anything to not hurt someone even enduring the hurt if it will fix it. I hurt for them so deeply that I couldn’t even breathe when I found out. I felt like a total failure though it wasn’t in my control. I tried to do a redo but they wouldn’t. I wanted to work with the videographers to get stills but it wasn’t something they needed me to do. There was nothing I could do in any way to fix this for them. The only thing for me to do was to accept that sometimes bad things happen and we have to deal with them and move on. So I did very very slowly but only after a couple of weeks of sobbing every day.
Then as I am picking up the trashed crumbled pieces of my self-esteem and pride my tooth was gone. Double Whammy. Just crushed. I thought I could never smile again and didn’t for the first week at all. I couldn’t fathom in this case how people would see me either. Funny how that parallel just hit me. Perhaps on both levels there was a vanity that I didn’t recognize and definitely a security that I was clinging to other than God. I have no dental insurance or back up money supply for emergencies and don’t even own a credit card and can’t just go have a fake one made and installed and then there is the whole thing that it was a part of me, that my tooth was a part of me and now it’s not. It might as well of been my ear. Though thank God it wasn’t. But that’s seriously how devastated and ashamed I was. I kept telling God that I knew it was ok that I lost my tooth. I mean, people lose teeth. Some people have total dentures. You don’t see them running around sobbing about it and letting it put their whole spirit and life on hold. I know these things. I’m so rational it’s gross lol BUT I told Him my heart just couldn’t handle it and to please help me as I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It was too much after the devastation of the pictures and everything with our child. I was so ashamed of everything and so devastated that I still don’t know how I was functioning. I thought with all the prayer that had gone into my tooth over the past few years and God knowing that He is my provider and that only Him could I trust to help me that He would. I couldn’t see a reason why He wouldn’t. Just like the pictures. There was no place to turn except to Him. I needed His help and at the place where you can’t understand why He didn’t help you there is a devastation that may be worse than anything I’ve ever known. But I will remind you that even if I never understand why God allowed these 2 horrible things to happen to me, I believe with everything in me that He will use it for good and is now as a matter of fact. If that is the only reason for them then so be it. = )
I didn’t doubt for a minute that God would save my tooth by the way. He has the power and I had asked so why not save it. Why not? No clue. And the same thing with my pictures. I was crushed beyond measure. Hurt so deeply I couldn’t recover almost. I thought I’d never breathe again. I crumpled and sobbed as if someone had punched me on both accounts, or that they had taken something from me…well the fact of the matter is… something had been taken- my security, my pride, and my ability to function as a photographer and as a person on both accounts. My self-esteem was gone. I truly am a perfectionist when it comes to my work and though I’m always working to improve I give 2,000% at the place I’m at and never just try to get by with what I can get by with. There has never in the history of my being a photographer been a time when I didn’t give my all or the best that I could do. Period. It was a deep shame to have to tell my clients that I could not give them their wedding images and that the memories from their wedding in digital format were lost forever. I was dealing with my deepest fears. I didn’t even want to be a photographer any more. At all. Thank God I had obligations and that I am a person true to her word and that my work comes before my broken heart. God knows exactly what to do and He put safe guards in there to pull me back from this. That’s actual protection. For real. He might not of stopped it from happening but He helped me handle it when it did. I had a packed calendar-my busiest year yet, one I am still trying to get caught up on in my editing world, and I had to keep those appointments to keep shooting weddings and sessions. There was no way around it. I went to them feeling dead but I asked God to help me do my very best and to protect those images so that this would never happen again! I also gave the clients that lost their wedding images a full refund of course and am still editing the images that I can from their reception for no charge whatsoever. Normally I don’t have that kind of money just lying around but God provided two different bookings that allowed me to hand it right over to them. Pretty amazing. So thankful for His love and mercy and grace. And as for my smile, thank God that we can smile with our mouth closed = ) I’m trusting Him to help me get a fake one.. or grow a third one in its place : )
But I was really hurt and angry as first. I wasn’t full of the hope that I feel today. I was crushed. I asked God why He hadn’t protected me. I shouted at Him in my sobbing and accusing screams! I asked Him why after all these years and all the heartaches and all the humiliations and things that hold me back, why after all the things that He had saved me from – why I had to endure this humiliation that cut me in my most insecure places – my work - the place that I’m always striving to do my very best in and never feeling like I do it good enough and my face – which never looks good enough anyway??? Why did I have to now feel even less self-esteem in these areas when I already felt like the rug at the front door instead of the door? I felt this question in my heart and in my spirit and for the first time ever I felt like He didn’t have my back. I’m shocked at my own words but it’s true. I know that is not the case but it’s true that I felt that way. It was from a place deep inside of me full of hurt and humiliation and anger. My rational mind said hold up- there is a reason even if you can’t see it. But my heart was broken. Emotions are not rational.
I believe with everything in me that God will protect us even if we have to go through something that serves His purpose. He softens and strengthens and helps and comforts and causes us to accept while we are dealing with it all and then He also grows us and loves us through it. He’s done this with me so so many times! It is a true terror to me to think of being in jail or prison but if I had to do it to help people come to Christ, the way the Apostles had to endure, I know that I could because I’ve asked God multiple times to give me the strength and courage and graciousness to be able to do that. It would serve a purpose. His purpose. Nothing out of shame just out of love to bring those others to Him that could only be reached in Prison or because of the stories from these experiences later on. I get it and I believe I can endure anything if God empowers me even unto death. Death of this body is not the worst thing. It just means that I get to be with Him, that I get to step into true life. They celebrate when we arrive with them. Death of this body and my spirit uniting with them is actually a grand thing and something to celebrate. So enduring even unto death is something I know that God will help me with. Understanding that something happens for a reason makes it easy for me to deal with, it helps me endure. I am strong in this area and my faith is strong here as well. Only God knows the plan He has for my life. I’m His creation and I trust Him to protect me and that whatever and however He wants to use me is just fine. Can a crayon tell me that I have to color a certain way with it? NO. Can a bottle of paint tell me that it wants to be used by a famous artist instead of a child. NO. Can a camera speak up and express that it should be used for nature shots instead of people shots because that’s where its heart is? NO. Can any of these things ask why they have to go through the processes that they go through in order to be used? NO. And I should not either. Though we have spirits and minds and are not inanimate objects, we are tools for The Lord. I trust God with everything in me to let my life play out the way He wants it too. I will stand where He’s planted me and I will not falter. Until you take away my security and pride in my work and my tooth (which is a back side tooth thank YOU GOD that’s it’s not a front tooth.) That’s all it takes for me apparently. I’m so ridiculous. But it was real then and you couldn’t of convinced me that I was being ridiculous at the time. My devastation was an entitlement and I wore it in heartache and sorrow.
For the first time in my life however and I’m not even kidding about that, I felt my faith waver. I still had it but it wasn't quite as solid as I'd always known it to be. There were a few holes in it now. My faith had always been a rock. It was even more devastating to feel this deep inside me. I was thankful that God helped through it all but I couldn’t understand why He didn’t help me beforehand. Why I had to go through the fire. I’m amazed at what it took to get me there and to break me and how really in the scope of things I can come back from all of this but I am ashamed at the anger I felt for the first time in my life toward to our perfect and loving God. I logically know that there is a reason for everything and I don’t question that (normally). I’m kinda outraged at myself for even going to these places in my heart but am thinking God’s got a plan to use it so I’m trying to learn from it so it doesn’t happen again. He sees the whole puzzle. I can only see some of the puzzle pieces that He allows. I know that. I love and live by that. I accept that. Until some things happened that made no since to me…until somethings happened that crushed me and I couldn’t see what good could be coming from it. I would have never believed that I could have it in me to feel this way but I did. And I quit seeking Him. I still talked at Him and prayed and asked for help here and there. He’s in me. That doesn’t change. But I didn’t desire to spend time with Him for the first time in my life and it was the loneliest couple of weeks for me in my entire life of living for Him. I was mad at Him and I was hurt by Him. That’s how I saw it anyway. I couldn’t have said that. But it’s true. During those 2 weeks I didn’t get my bible out at all.
I realize now that I couldn’t endure these heartaches because I couldn’t find the purpose in them. I saw the purpose in #1, #2, #3, and #4 on my list or at least could fathom a purpose but #5 and #6. Nope. Not at all. For the first time in my life I couldn’t find the good in it. At all. Except in the fact that I had to cling to Jesus. But I cling to Jesus anyway so I was so lost in it all and so hurt! And actually for the first time ever I felt myself shoving Him away. The exact opposite. Unreal.
I know that I held out hope so many times during the process of trying to get those images back. I prayed and had faith and just knew that God would miraculously speak them into existence again. I don’t have faith the size a mustard seed…I have faith the size of a mountain. True story. So image a mountain crumbling instead of a mustard seed. When I use the words devastated or destroyed I’m not using them lightly. When a mountain of strength crashes down the hole it leaves is ginormous! There is not a moment that I don’t believe God is my help in every way and I firmly believe that all good is from Him as the bible says and so there is not a good thing that happens in my life that I don’t give Him the glory and the credit for. I also know that all bad things that happen are not bad for us. I know that is a hard thing to swallow but it’s true. The heartaches in my life have over and over driven me into Jesus’ arms. I cling to the good but I praise Him for the hardships and heartaches too. However…as I said…this time was different in my heart. I allowed myself to feel hurt at God and my trust wavered.
I knew that God spoke the world into existence and all He had to say was “Images Appear” and they would. But He didn’t and the images didn’t come back no matter how hard I prayed or begged and I was devastated and confused and crushed. God has literally always fixed the crises that were out of my control and that had not been caused by poor choices in my life. I’ve had some hard lessons, don’t get me wrong. But God has saved me from myself and others so many times. This was something that I could not have foreseen and I could not have done differently. The memory card just went corrupt and there was no way to retrieve them. I do know now that I can run a backup SD card so that I take 2 images. Chances that both cards would go out are almost nonexistent. I asked God why He didn’t tell me that Gem beforehand. Why did He not protect me? I asked Him why if not for me, then for my clients. I instantly thought about people in the bible and in today’s times that die in the name of Christ. Did they think why did YOU not protect me or did they gladly say “I’m a Christian and you aren’t changing that.”?
Everything serves a purpose. Everything.
That’s my hope. The fact that each day did continue and I did not give up photography and I do still smile and my passion for my work has returned proves to me that life goes on. None of that happened until I opened my bible and chose to seek His word. To seek Him. Nothing changed until I changed my perspective and quit focusing on the pain and hurt and started focusing on what I knew was true regardless of what I could not understand. He loves us. That’s the truth and I can trust Him no matter what I go through.
Your story may be different, your loses may be harder but in the end all the heartaches are the same. They leave us not understanding, not being able to bare the pain and heartache. And my message is that Jesus is real and He’s with you even when you’re angry, even when you refuse to spend time with Him. He’s waiting for you to change the direction you’re looking. You don’t have to understand everything to have faith. You just don’t. I’m living proof and you don’t have to let go of the anger to look at Him. Once you look at Him He can help you release it. That’s how it happened for me anyway. It may have been short lived in the span of my life here but it’s was just as real as real can be and all I can think is that maybe it’s so I can help someone else out. Maybe this will help you have hope too.
I love you. He loves you more. Ox Shannon