Ah the Joys of Trying

Today I was talking with a friend about what a challenge this fall has been. The long stretch of 2017 was certainly long, and now it’s over…

First there was hurricane Irma, which set so many people back on work and life.

If you do not live in Florida and/or have no idea the whereabouts and what ensued let me give you a brief overview: two weeks. Two scary weeks. The first week was comprised of very long days each of which no one really did anything at work or school in trying to prepare and survive the hurricane. Non-stopping buzz on Facebook. Friends and family posting about which community centers had hurricane sand bags. Co-workers sharing the latest on the hurricane watch and on wha could be. Long lines to just get gasoline, which stores were sold out of water bottles. I put myself on a strict schedule.

Drive to work and drive home. That was it.

The second week was recovering from how the hurricane made a quick turn before true hitting central Florida which led to less damage than anticipated. Hm, but how to describe that second week… Well that consisted of not working as many people came back home, trying to bounce back to normalcy after 7 long days of fear. Everything from my leasing office to the shirt printing company our ministry orders from was busy in the big catch up. Granted, I am so grateful that the hurricane was not as destructive as it could have been, wha remained was the stress of how much regular life was set back.

I’ve found myself in a creative rut these past 5 months

…from adjusting to life changes and a few other relational challenges that have come about. Perhaps I’ve found myself running and running, try to be determined and focused. There were many weeks that were weaved together as they were all the same. Stress in work-life balance and relationship blows were enough for me to become restless, trying to endure the lot but getting hurt by the burden of the tumble. A subtle tumble which drained my energy.

I found myself lost and lazy. Just trying to get by, trying to catch up with a Tuesday when everything was Wednesday. The result of this? A total lack of creativity. In fact it went on for so long it seemed normal. It seemed normal to not create, it seemed normal to simple do what was required of me and not the passions I choose. How is it that I could stop writing and forget creating?

It is joy.

Recently I went to a professional workshop and carpooled with Megan, a friend and co-worker in the vineyard of ministry. Before that day I had been meaning to take headshots for Megan, she had asked and was in need of it for professional reasons. Amidst a pleasant albeit busy day when Megan and I came back to my home I decided to last minute run upstairs to gab my camera for a makeshift photoshoot. There was so much to do that day but the sooner I could take her photos the sooner I could cross that off my to-do list!

“Hey let’s just quickly take headsets now” I suggested. Megan agreed and quickly re-applied lipstick in her car while I screwed on the correct camera lens. I had no idea where I wanted her to stand for the photos, we walked to a gorgeous stone wall at my home’s community center. The quick pace came about in joy, a new joy. 

But in my attempt to make something beautiful, ungratefulness still hit me as I was snapping photos of Megan.

I wish I had a better lens.

Why can’t I have a professional lighting kit?

I don’t know what I’m doing.

In that moment I was trying and my joy was yet again dwindling. Trying to be professional. Trying to direct Megan in her poses with grace and not being awkward. I was trying to get the shot as quickly as possible so she and I could get back to the busy Tuesday.

I took a few shots then asked Megan to reposition so I could get better lighting. The busy shadows from the trees were ruining the shot of her face. With confidence I managed to direct her a few feet. Comfortably, naturally. It was a complete change because I needed to be able to see her face.

I knew what I wanted to capture with confidence that was being let through my lens. As though it came in with the lighting.

Then we got the shot, a photo with her smiling with grace at an angle which showed off the sleekness of her short bob (she’s cool like that). It was beautiful! It was Megan. Not any other version of Megan, she smiled the same way she does when she laughs. It was simply Megan, just as she is.

I told her I had the shot and she thanked me before heading back to her van to pick up Lucy, their youngest daughter. I had to change clothes and go to my office to recoup from being gone for the morning workshop.

Upon editing the headset and sending them to Megan I couldn’t help but gawk over my favorite photo that was taken by the tree and in front of the wall. It isn’t the final professional headshot but it’s absolutely my favorite.

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It was captured as she was laughing at something silly I said, an armature’s way to make a natural smile arise.

This is what I have to show for a trying day, taken out of trying week in a row of many weeks that have drained my emotions and resilience. That day I had the desperate desire to get something done here, which sparked a moment of spontaneity to joyfully grab my camera, and here was a moment that couldn’t been a trying moment of stress or resentment, here it was. But it was when the stress of trying washed away and what remains is truth. Not the buzz going on in our head full of all the things we are doing wrong or the weight of what has gone wrong, but the complex true beauty that is standing in front of you. Whether that beauty is the face of love or suffering, beauty lies in what is real.

This real-ness lays the seeds for inspiration.

Inspired trying isn’t drilling a screw even further into the damaged wood, weak and thinner than plywood.

No friends, I’m far more intrigued by stepping aside and seeing what the project needs, what can cultivate the piece of wood and the structure it’s part of to be made new. Seeing the truth through an organic perspective. To be made whole again.

Practically speaking, this new creative trying has involved a consistent prayer life, authentic solitude, being merciful, and moving forward. Through these different tasks I’ve found my words more constructive and my presence more humble. It is a new try, efforts that have been redirected away from turning in on myself. But rather, looking outside of myself and seeing what is true in front of me.

The past weeks since taking this photo of Megan have been incredible healthy and fruitful for me. I’ve been liberated by this new dose of creativity, inspired by this life for what it is and not what I think it should be. I’ve been writing more on a practical schedule and venturing off to personal graphic design projects. Importantly, I’ve found that when I can independently pursue these hobbies and crafts with a more productive heart even in the mess that is normal life… It’s a great way to see anger turned into moments of grace and joy.

Here I am, dwelling in this new approach to opening up to inspiration and pursuing it with honest creativity. This is a new try. Oh how sweet it is to try.

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