October 22, 2018
‘Tis the season for family photo taking! It’s my least favorite day of the year. I used to love it! Truly, love it! We sprawl out at our East Texas ranch and go exploring in hopes that all of our faces are caught in one frame so Ryan’s clients can see him and realize he is a “normal” guy. Ryan and I drink a bottle of wine once we are captured in a few shots and then chuckle as we listen to our photographer attempt to wrangler our kids for the next couple of hours.
Last years photo session was difficult as it became our first of so many without Tyler. I thought this year it would somehow be easier. It was not. That same feeling of helplessness, that something so intimately precious to your very being is lost and completely out of reach, flooded my mind all day.
When my tears finally swelled over, I took a little hike through those towering oak trees. I cried all my tears of frustration and sadness. I mainly cried to God asking for the peace that I cannot fully understand but that I so often live in. It seemed to have left me. I told Him I felt so heavy. As if the very cavity my heart beat within was filled with a bag of the red clay my feet were treading upon.
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Maybe you have an incomplete family from an unexpected loss and you hate family picture day as much as I do. Maybe you have a spouse that no longer desires you and as you stand beside them in pictures this year, your heart is heavy, uncertain if your photo next year will include all of your people. Maybe your spouse left a long time ago and you either stand alone with your children while your heart is heavy longing for a new companion. Maybe you or one of your people are sick and your heart is heavy with uncertainty as you wonder if this will be your last family photo. Maybe you desire a photo filled with children and your heart is heavy as another year passes and your desire has yet to be granted. Maybe you dread the thought of people reading through the very eyes that will be captured behind a lens and they will see straight through into your angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, controlling, unsatisfied, indifferent or lost heart.
Family pictures are always so interesting, right? So many funny articles written about how we are perfectly positioned. The amount of time and money we spend shopping for the perfectly coordinated outfits. The sunlight just right to highlight every detail of the frame. Very few of us actually choose the photo where we are begging our children to “just turn around, keep your tongue in your mouth and your hands off your brother’s neck!”
It might have been at this moment where God sent that peace that I had requested all day. It’s as natural to take a family photo in the middle of the woods with all of us sitting on the ground as it is for a polar bear to be living in the Sahara desert! This also happens to be the moment where my boys couldn’t help but hunt for insects and my husband told me that he would be happy to go search for a newly changing red maple for a nice back drop in our next set of pictures.
“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us”
God in His mysterious ways also came to my aid last year at this time…my eyes filled more with sorrow than anything else. His character full of compassion lead me to a new understanding of family photos. He too has a family. A large one, but a very incomplete one. He is daily collecting His saints to fill that completed family portrait. Some of His children are so lost yet He continues to pursue and call them back. Some have no desire for Him at all and have built up an emotional wall of resistance, yet He continues to woo them. Some left long ago because it was too painful to trust a God that could allow _______. Some live so afflicted with disease of the heart that they think no one would want them. Yet, He tells them that they are of such worth that He died in order that they could live.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If your family photos don’t quite turn out the way you had envisioned for whatever reason causes your heaviness, hear me with every ounce of empathy I have, “I am sorry.” If your family photos turn out just as you had hoped, hear me with every ounce of joy, “I am so happy for you!” If you are bouncing through life and come across another heart that wears the heaviness of their circumstances, use discernment in this season of family pictures and don’t go on about the weariness that we allow them to cause, because some people out there want every bit of that weariness in finding outfits, yelling at kids to smile their “real” smile, reassuring husbands it’s almost over and they can watch football again, sitting in fields where the sunlight touches each family member as though God’s fingertip has just brushed them.
Some of us want that more than anything in life. Some of us will never see the completed family portrait hanging on our walls. Our kids fought over an arrow. An arrow, that represents in our photos our missing person of Tyler. It was so natural to watch them fight about this…who would win out and be the honored one to represent our prize that heaven captured? A righteous fight, indeed! Maybe you are fighting and wondering how you will loyally represent the family picture you desire to portray. It helps to know that God too is fighting. Fighting to grab hold of every heart that He has called His own. He is clinching the arrows He has collected and positioning them in His mighty quiver ready to stand one day and capture the perfect and only family portrait I should ever claim!
Whatever season of family picture taking you might be in, might I attempt to encourage you in another way…I chose a picture not long ago to represent all the scarring that has taken place on my face. It was one from last years pictures. I look at it and see the lines that tears carved into my freckly face. I see the wrinkles that have permanently set in above my right eye because of the way in which my brows rested with anguish. I see the redness in my eyes from lack of sleep and tears of longing. I chose it to remind me that despite that difficult day, and my new look, I trust that God brought about that real smile and caused me to live in peace. He has collected one of my children already for the final picture. And as I say everyday, “come, Lord Jesus, come!” I realize if He were to grant my request, there are so many lost hearts that He is patiently collecting unto Himself. And so I too will patiently wait and succumb to the peace He lavishes on those days of heaviness as well as happiness.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
And as those beautiful Christmas cards will begin to arrive in the next month or so, and many will have the words “peace” adorned amongst the photos, I will be of those who actually experience His peace as He has promised on earth and someday in heaven. I pray you too are certain of this promise and will stand in that final frame proudly displayed as His very own.