I found an old “spy” camera in a drawer. (Just a pocket sized camera that shot black and white film.) It was my dad’s. He told me I could use it for a while. Addiction to photography was born….
It began with black and white close-ups and scenics…trying to copy Ansel Adams (“Trying” without success). But after my daughter was born, I wanted to capture her facial features, quick smiles, small hand in mine…all in black and white. Then I made angel wings from white feathers and put her on a black backdrop. (This is a picture of a picture. There’s a stain on it.). I just experimented with lighting and tried new things.
My friends at church saw my pictures of Reiley at my house. They asked if I’d take pictures of their children too. I was extremely nervous…thinking I’d disappoint them and wasn’t “qualified” or good enough to do theirs, but did anyway.
Before long I had more people asking if I’d take pictures of their kids; friends of friends who saw my pictures in homes.
Surprisingly, I started saying no.
I wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t trained. In my mind I wasn’t creative enough to please total strangers…and to make matters worse, my family was telling me that I’d have to charge strangers, to reimburse me for my time. Eek!
To any other person, this sounds too easy. You say, “Go! Do what you love and get paid for it!” But for a person who struggled with the side effects of life-long verbal abuse from her father, my confidence and self-worth were less than zero.
Another side effect of long-term abuse is “people pleasing”. As long as I pleased people, I could avoid any additional negative comments or criticism. Photography had been a hobby that I loved, that brought me great joy. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought about my personal pictures. They were mine. As it was, I could barely cope with the anxiety and worry of pleasing my friends (what if they didn’t like the final product?). But strangers?? No way. I didn’t want to dis-please anyone…and didn’t want to end up hating or questioning my “skill” if other people said negative things about my work. It was just safer to say no and keep my hobby to myself.
People called and tried to arrange photo shoots, and I’d simply turn them down. Done. I didn’t have to share it with anyone if I didn’t want to. (Right?)
After a while, no one called anymore. Not one. I was so relieved! The lack of calls went on for months.
One day I was reading my Bible. I had only been a Christian for a short period of time. “Hearing” God or being guided by Him was fairly new to me. (This blog site has other stories of times He spoke to me. But this was one of the first.)
As I was reading, I came across a passage that I wasn’t familiar with:
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who received five talents went at once and traded with them, and made five talents more. So also, he who had two talents made two talents more. But he who had received one talent went and dug and hid his masters money in the ground.”
The farthest thing from my mind at the time of reading this was “photography”. I was just curled up on my couch during my baby’s afternoon nap, reading. But the second I read those words, I suddenly saw an image of me burying my camera in a hole in the ground. It startled me!
I immediately looked up from reading and had to wonder why I had visualized that??
Then these words went through my mind as clear as crystal: “Do you want Me to take your photography skill away from you? I have given you a talent that I expect you to share with and bless others with….not keep for yourself.”
Still new to “hearing from God”, I wasn’t certain if that was “Him” or not. But the thought was so clear, and so opposite of anything I would have thought.
I sat there replaying it in my mind and finally said out loud, “God? Is that You? Would you really take away my hobby? I’ll only know that this was You if customers start calling me again. If they do, I promise that I won’t say no anymore. But I will need You to help me through every shoot, because it scares me.”
I kept reading the scripture to see what happened. (I’ll let you read it in your own time in Matthew 25.) I couldn’t believe how accurate the ending of that passage was compared to what God had just told me. In the end, the master in the scripture took away the one talent from the servant who buried it! The other servants were rewarded richly for using and investing theirs, and making them grow. I had never read that passage before, and never could have guessed that God would take away my hobby (“talent”), or that there was a scripture about doing exactly that!! It was far more than a “coincidence”.
All I could do now was wait, and see if any customers contacted me again. It had been half a year since I had heard from anyone. I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone. Time would tell.
The NEXT DAY I received a call from my pastor’s daughter asking if I’d be willing to take her graduation pictures. I couldn’t believe it. The calls were already starting, after MONTHS of wonderful and stress-free silence.
Relunctantly, and full of anxiety, I said ok.
After her shoot she showed her pictures to her friends, and I received tons of calls. Then I got requests for family portraits from those kids’ families, then Christmas card pictures, and children’s portraits. The calls streamed in without any advertising …but my anxiety levels incessantly streamed in, too.
Every single time I went for a shoot I was scared. I begged Jesus to be with me, inspire me, calm me down, and help me focus…and He did, every time; I could feel it.
Time and time again people paid me more than I charged (when does that ever happen??); they always said I deserved more. It reminded me of that scripture I had read (Matthew 25) where the servants who invested their talents were rewarded.
More importantly, and to my greater surprise, almost every single photo shoot turned into the customer asking me how I started my photography business.
What was the true answer?
The truth was God warned me, and I obeyed His instructions. So…even though I was always nervous of freaking people out or having them think I was crazy, I told each of them my personal story of how I first turned to Jesus, how He’s communicated with and guided me ever since, and what He told me that day on the couch.
Never once was any customer offended or laugh at me. In fact, every time they listened intently, and were amazed. They always thanked me for sharing my faith in Him (my full belief that Jesus is God and very much alive and communicates).
Most of them told me that they wanted the same kind of relationship with Him, but didn’t know how to…so I taught them what the Bible says and how I did it. Most ended up asking me to please pray for them for something going on in their lives.
Little could I have known that simply using a skill He obviously gave me could lead other people closer to Him, or to salvation. It’s no wonder He “expected” me to use it to bless others.
As it turned out, it wasn’t about the “photography”. It was about Him pursuing the hearts of the people He lovingly created and died for, and desperately wanted a mutual relationship with. He simply used my photography as the bait for a meeting, and my willing mouth as His during the photo shoots. He loves us. He pursues us. He blesses us.
The Bible says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
Romans 8:9 “You are controlled by the Spirit, if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.)”. Those are all Paul’s words…not mine.
Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.” (Jesus)