This past week was Texture's sixth birthday.
Tomorrow is my birthday.
I'm celebrating both, but so much more than I ever dreamed I would be.
I never thought I'd be a photographer, much less a wedding photographer. For the past 6 years, my job has been to use a camera to capture life, to tell stories, to celebrate.
My job is to celebrate with others.
I celebrate all kinds of occasions: her saying "yes", welcoming new little ones into this world, both of them saying "I do", families joining together, milestones being made.
There's often cake all over the one-year-old's face, or all over the groom's face if she's daring enough. Their only son learns to be a big brother when they welcome their newborn into the world. Those shoes that are only for special occasions make an appearance and if the musicians know their audience well enough then those same shoes will end up left under the table. At 52, she gives her baby boy away. At 29, he commits to choosing to love his bride for the rest of his life.
I laugh when he gets cake up his nose, whether he's one, five or 25. I do my best to never miss an opportunity to do the wobble, whether the dance floor is empty or full. While the bride dances with her father, I notice the smitten groom with an arm around his mother. I sit at the rehearsal dinner while the little sister gives a toast to the couple, and then adds that she's a better woman because of the kind of man her big brother is. I stand with the grandmother as she points to her own wedding photo next to the cake and I listen as she tells me all about the man she was married to for 44 years. Oh, and the photo booth can't be missed.
I celebrate occasions.
But somewhere in all the occasions, I forget to celebrate my own life. That may sound odd, unusual or even selfish. Let me explain.
I shot my first wedding (for pay) six years ago. In these past six years I have done A LOT of celebrating...and I wouldn't trade it!! I LOVE my job. I have gotten to know so many people and in the process I've gotten to tell lots and lots of stories.
If you've ever sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing you've probably sang the line Here I raise my Ebenezer. But what is an Ebenezer and what does an Ebenezer have to do with celebrating?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites begged Samuel to pray on their behalf that the Lord would save them from the attack of the Philistines. God answered Samuel's prayer causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat back to their own territory. In 1 Samuel 7 it says: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ”. Within the first year or so I battled with the real purpose in my job (just like most every other person I know) and the word "Ebenezer" is where I landed.
In the old testament they used rocks. In the 2000's, we use photos. Either way, the point is to remember.
The way I see it, my job is to build Ebenezers. I want to take pictures at your wedding so that you can say Thus far the Lord has helped us, so that when you've been married 12 years and you're three kids in and you're exhausted and frustrated you'll hopefully look at that photo on your nightstand of your 25-year-old selves and say The Lord helped us then, and He's still the same God. I want you see your family photos over the last six years side-by-side and remember that God has been actively involved in your lives the whole time.
Documenting your stories through photos is a beautiful way to remember.
Eight months ago I was sitting in my office working away at my green desk. I had Texture's galleries' page open and I was suddenly caught off guard by my own emotions.
This was what I saw. These are just a few of the friends I've made. These are just a few of the stories I've told. There have been a few hundred more of these galleries over the last six years.
As I sat there in my office I was overcome with emotion because I realized that this is my own Ebenezer. I have been using my story to tell yours. And the Lord has used your stories to tell mine.
I don't love the other side of my camera (being in pictures). I'm most comfortable on the side I find myself most every day (taking your pictures). Besides, why do I need pictures of me? I haven't had any major occasions or reasons to even hire a photographer. In the process of telling so many other stories, I've just been waiting around to tell mine. Which makes me wonder how many of you who are also single have felt the same way. It's easy to forget that my story matters. But this season is JUST as valuable as the next. The Lord does see me.
Almost a year ago, my friend Kaitie convinced me that she just needed to practice using her new lighting gear and begged me to stand in front of a backdrop in her living room. I was very reluctant, but her convincing worked. I felt super awkward so we laughed A LOT. She made me so comfortable. Of course, she already had those lights figured out. What I didn't have figured out was that she was helping me see myself.
We uploaded the photos and as she was scrolling through them I saw my own joy. I saw myself. I wasn't getting married. I wasn't engaged. I didn't just have my first child, nor am I pregnant. I am single, and this is still a season worth remembering. God has been my help.
This past winter felt much, much longer than all the rest. This has been a rather tough 2013 so far. Back in January I wrote a post about the grieving I had experienced. I was blown away by all the responses. I learned how many other people were grieving also. I'm so used to celebrating with others that I really didn't realize how much pain so many others were experiencing. Following that post, life just continued to get harder for me. One event after another, and I'm learning more and more that my Jesus isn't as fluffy as He used to be in my mind. But that doesn't mean he isn't GOOD.
Although life has been harder, HE HAS NOT LEFT ME ALONE. I've never been able to say this more confidently than I can now. Through death, pain, loss, and rejection I've been pushed to places I never wanted to go, but in those places I learned that the "outcome" of it all does not hold the weight of the presence of my Jesus.
Tomorrow, I'm celebrating my 27th birthday. I celebrating my health in a way I never have before. I'm celebrating and giving thanks for my own life, the life the Lord has given me and the joy that He gives me to celebrate all of you. I'm seeing my birthday as an "occasion" to celebrate my singleness, my job, and my friendships. More importantly, on this 27th birthday, I'm remembering how faithful God has been to me. He has been actively involved in my life. His faithfulness never fails.
THANK YOU to all of you who have participated in being a part of Texture's success over the last six years. I am so grateful to have friends (and clients who have become friends) who have seen me through the ups and downs of starting my own business. Thank you to those who have walked closely with me, lived with me, mentored me. Thank you for encouraging me to see my singleness as a gift. I love being self-employed and I'm here in large part because of my family who helped me dream of what this could look like. To all of the many faces I've taken pictures of, thank you for letting me celebrate the many changes in your lives while I processed through a different set of changes in my own. Hopefully one day I'll have a guest bedroom for all of you who have let me sleep in yours countless times on my way to and from weddings. I'm thankful for so many of you who let me borrow your camera gear in those first few years. Thank you to the many, many friends who have allowed me to verbally process through my thoughts on weddings, on photography, on clean water in Africa, on camera gear, websites, and so much more.
I am celebrating so many of you and what the Lord has done through you, in me and in Texture. Here's to many, many more years of celebrating.