Photography drew me in nice and slow. I’m not exactly sure when the wooing started, but I sure do remember when I started waking up to it, realizing I had been forcing my heart into a mold it wasn’t shaped for. Creativity and a love for beauty had to serve a foreseeable purpose in my mind. It couldn’t be “just because” or simply to “be enjoyed.”
And then my Creator God began breaking apart my nice and neat little practical life. He took away my ability to pursue the medical training I had worked years to be qualified for. Married, with a husband in medical school, I felt trapped. Because, for the first time in my life, I was without the security of a system evaluating my progress, my accomplishments, my worth (as I saw it), and that frustrated and terrified me all at once. Was anyone going to tell me if I had done the dishes well enough, had accomplished enough throughout the day, had used my time wisely? Where was the grade at the end of the semester, the advisor making sure I was learning everything I needed? The lack of certainty drove me crazy.
Determined to live up to at least my own ideal of what made for a sensible, godly young wife, I stuck to developing practical skills like couponing and cooking. I had to start somewhere. If I attempted anything crafty or “frivolous” it had to be for a “holy” purpose, like making a gift for someone, earning money for living expenses, or raising money for charity. I had this twisted thinking that creativity was an inferior gift, one that was useful only in limited circumstances, but certainly not as a career or anything. It seemed like a waste of valuable time to me. Looking back, I believe this idea came from a misapplication of Ephesians 5:16, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
How could a craft be using my time in the best possible way? How could learning to bake a decadent dessert be respectful of those who didn’t even have enough rice to survive on? These thoughts plagued me, and I let them trap me with paralyzing practicality.
Practicality felt safe, and safety was what I craved. Isn’t it ironic how we find self-constructed cages safe? Comfort zones become fortresses, which become dungeons when you isolate yourself within them for too long.
It has the ability to transform into the very key needed to unlock any prison door and free the occupant, if only the prisoner is given ears to hear.
A friend kindly spoke those words of truth to me one day over a cup of loose leaf tea and a vanilla bean scone. She sat amidst a myriad of fabric scraps and children, all colorful, vibrant, and pleasantly loud. As she cupped her tea in her hands, she carefully posed a simple question to me, “If God is a creative being, and we are made in His image, where does creativity fit into our lives?” All good counsel, I’ve found, begins with a good question, and hers went straight to the heart of things, all the way back to the beginning, to our original purpose. We are made in His image! Of course! The lights came on immediately, and I instantly saw where I was residing, within walls of fear and pride. Who am I to think that I am better than the One that made me? How can I think that by throwing out creativity, I am somehow using my time in a more effective way than He who made time itself? She went on to list things God made “just because he wanted to” or “just so that we could enjoy them. I mean, why make color?” she asked. “What purpose does it serve to have so many different kinds of birds?”
After that conversation, I began to walk timidly out of my dungeon and began embracing the freedom of delighting in creativity. It gave me new eyes with which to view the world, to view creation, to view Jesus, to view myself. In creativity I found fellowship with my Creator, found that fully reflecting him meant more than obeying the 10 commandments. It meant enjoying the very world He created and created me to enjoy.
And just like my Heavenly Father had always done, he didn’t give me a new calling without giving me the tools with which to pursue it. Not long after my heart awoke from its paralysis, my sister-in-law gave me her DSLR camera, and life through a lens became my delight.
Capturing the world as I saw, as He created it, made me feel connected to Him, like we were paying attention to the same details, enjoying the same intricacies of the universe. Lifestyle photography became especially attractive to me because the camera moved with the experience, didn’t demand the experience to move with it. Somehow that felt organic, raw, and real to me, and I’ve loved it ever since. Now please hear me on this, I’m not spiritualizing this style of photography over another, but simply expressing why I love it, why it resonates with me.
So I finally took a step outside another comfort zone and attempted some more lifestyle-like shots for my sister’s maternity session. It felt unnatural and difficult at first (but so did nursing, and that’s supposedly the most natural thing a woman can do). But as the shoot went on, I felt more and more like this is what I was made for, not necessarily maternity shoots over bowls of Captain Crunch cereal (although that was a blast), but documentary style photography. This session wasn’t completely true to that end, but I hope to develop that skill more and more and enjoy the heartbeat of creation with the Giver of Life more and more along the way.