Ever since travelling to Uganda at 18, I was captivated. Captivated by the apparent messiness of the villages (in comparison to my somewhat orderly Western world), the almost tangible joy of the people, the loud and long and life-filled church services that would last for hours. I was inspired by the fact that community takes precedence over productivity, and a deep sense of trust in God seems to take precedence over self-reliance. After traveling around Kampala, and a bit south into Masaka, I met quite a few people coming from different backgrounds with different needs and passions. I felt like I had been told how to view the culture, people, and needs, by other images I had seen in the past. Once I was able to experience the culture on my own, I was elated to have my eye behind the camera, interpreting the culture as honestly as I saw it. In the process, I realized that the images I had been fed through the media and other non-profits had somewhat misrepresented the depth and beauty and thick contentment I encountered while there. In a sincere effort to raise awareness and funds, the images I had seen had depicted all that wasn’t there, instead of what was.
In my subsequent trips back to Africa, I have made it a point to capture all of the emotions that exist within the stories of the people that I am snapping. Most recently, I made a short visit to Zambia, where I photographed the children Special Hope Network serves. What a delight to play with, hold, and photograph children that are some of the most vulnerable little ones in the world. It’s a privilege to be a story teller of such beautiful beings. It’s also a privilege to send a bit of my income to such valuable and life changing work. It’s even more of a privilege to engage my clients in the process, and see people becoming impassioned by children they haven’t even met.
I can’t lie and say that I really feel I have found my “Kingdom niche,” nor can I say that I could engage in an intelligent conversation on what that even means theologically. However, I can say that I have really been working through what it means to pursue and hone the craft I feel I was created to do.
I would encourage other women to really be mindful of what is fulfilling, and even recognize “weaknesses” as possible strenghts. For as long as I can remember, people have made the comment to me, “You’re just one of those creative types.” They probably didn’t mean it in a degrading way, but I started to take offense at a young age, as I interpreted it as, “You don’t think like the rest of us.” And I decided I would try and hide that side of me, for fear of appearing too right-brained, not logical enough, or too “day-dreamy.”I have been mindful of what makes me “tick” my whole life, but haven’t always made choices that align with those gifts because of these insecurities. Plus, it seemed like the easy way out to do soemthing that I was already good at and enjoyed, as I assumed work should be WORK. However, in the past two years, I have wrapped my arms around those giftings, and chased after them wholeheartedly. It’s so liberating.
In the last three months, I have slowly ended my work at a non-proift in order to pursue my photography business full time. The job was wonderful – I loved the people, the work, and it helped pay the bills. However, I knew that in order to put my full attention onto the art and business of photography, I couldn’t be gripping two very different things at the same time. I knew I wasn’t giving either my job or my business my very best, and had to decide on one direction, instead of trying to succeed at heading in two very different directions. Never possible.
This process has provoked me to work through the fears that seem to distract, diffuse, and diminish a pursuit of vocation and purpose. The following are a few of these fears:
- That I would become good. Really good. I know that sounds arrogant, but for most of us, being good, successful, or noticed is scary. Being invisible with low expectations is often much more attractive. However, that wouldn’t be fully living or engaging in this life God has allowed us to live. It certainly isn’t living fearlessly, and who wants to live under any form of fear or it’s symptoms?
- Running out of ideas. Maya Angelou says you can’t use up creativity. That the more you use, the more you have. However, when your livelihood depends on creativity, it is somewhat unnerving to think of the loss of it. I have been dreaming and living in my right brain for my whole life though — why would it stop the minute I gave myself to it? Again, another unworthy fear.
- Guilt for doing something I love. At times I have felt guilty for loving my work so intensely. I often lose sleep over my work, because I just love dreaming up photo shoots, or editing images into the wee hours of the night. However, the process of getting to a place where I am settling into this “love affair” hasn’t been all guilty pleasures, it has been just that – a process. I have sacrificed a lot of “good” in pursuit of the “great,” and know there is much more to overcome.
Dreaming up the future is exciting when peeling off the layers of each step keeps getting better and better. Each layer comes with a new set of complex problems, or unexpected things to work through, but in spite of these “occupational hazards,” it seems that the intentional pursuit of vocation does pay off. Much like love, pursuing a vision is risky. It’s stepping out on the limb of what you think is possible, without fully knowing how it will all turn out. But just as love is worth being put in a state of utter vulnerability, so is this quest for purpose.
I am encouraged by gutsy, powerful, honest women who really go after whatever it is that makes their heart beat faster. Let us all strive to do the same….step fearlessly into whatever it is God has in store for us.