Isn't that a pretty sunflower picture???
Took it myself during a shoot over at Half Moon Blooms (you should check them out! It's beautiful!). It was a half couples session half headshots update. It was quite the adventure to trot along the silky dirt paths hoping a cloud would miraculously appear and block out the sweltering sun. Oh? Did I forget to mention it was 98 degrees outside at that point? That it was 6pm on a Wednesday and it was nearly 100 out? Yeah. Super cool.
Despite all the pain and suffering that went into the session, I had a lot of fun and I got some really great photos that I'm proud of and excited to share.
Okay, but why bring this up?
Well? Because... I shot that session in July and I swear it happened yesterday? My whole summer is gone! It goes by in the blink of an eye, and as I've been told by many adults - The older ya get, the faster it goes. Which, who made that rule in the first place? Who decided time needed to go faster once you were old enough to remember things? I swear, we all gain consciousness at 4 (unless you're one of those total liars who believes they have memories from when they were 2. Yeah, okay. Fake. Whatever you need to be different.) and from then on life just happens faster and faster and far more frequently. I feel like the American lifestyle is one of speed as it is. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like 2023 is going ever faster with each passing day. And what consumes my day? Is it the tasks, or is it the mental effort I place in thinking about those tasks? Where does my afternoon go? Where does my week, month, season, year go? Where does my rest go?
*read it really fast in your head*
-gotta "always be on that grind", have a million side hustles, continue to become a better person, go to your regular job, feed the dogs, water the plants, feed yourself, go to church, go to bible study, maintain intimate relationships, go out for coffee with every new person you meet because dear God I'm so lonely, stay up late, get up early, try to have fun, feel guilty for not working, exercise, meal prep, find a husband, clean the bathroom, make the lesson plans, finish that video, create content, lose weight, get fatter, do your hair, do the laundry, buy groceries, vacuum, go to baby showers, go to bridal showers, plan the Christmas pageant, hold people accountable, be held accountable, reach out to people in need, pray, journal, know everything, always have an answer, be teachable, don't forget anything, take pictures, send that email, comment on that post, drive for 3 hours to pick up that thing, be active in ministry, check up on people, remember names, remember faces, find joy, cry, shower, do my nails, budget, check your calendar, text Mom back, text David about the wedding, call your grandma, be kind, be available for staff meetings, send the files, book the clients, create the albums, don't miss deadlines, apologize for missing deadlines, stay up even later to meet deadlines, watch your work go unnoticed, notice the little things, notice the boy, PAY ATTENTION TO THE SERMON, don't be tired, don't look tired, stay up to date on the fires, pray for people dealing with the fires, be thankful, be aware, be mindful, be available. Never back down, never what? Never. Give. Up.
It goes to the place I like to call my backpack of burden.
Now, as I admitted to a friend in between edits of this post - I blacked out when I wrote that paragraph. I just went through the thought process of my life. What was last week like for me? Ah! Yes! Everything I just wrote. How the thoughts flow, what keeps my mind active at night, the anxieties I have. That's it.
I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Everyone has their own laundry list of things that they have to do in a week, and I am absolutely uninterested in getting in a pissing contest with people about how busy they are. Everyone has stress.
This is just what mine looks like. And, it often overwhelms me. My dad and I have recently been talking about the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we use to contextualize who we are, how we think, and how we behave. He recently realized he tells himself a pretty hateful story when he doesn't do something well. He starts to assume everyone hates him and begins to tell the story of his failure in his head as it grows into his own personal mount Everest hell-hole. I don't think I've ever related more to my father. He got into a habit of telling himself the worst possible stories. Assuming he knew what others were thinking.
I am a words girl - I love to be praised, complimented, and I take most words spoken over me to heart. I struggle when people don't tell me what they think of me. I make HUGE assumptions and often have very reactive responses based on those assumptions. I convince myself that people are disappointed in me, hate me, are judging me, and so on simply because they left my (what I consider to be risky) text unread. Meanwhile, I don't respond to certain people for literal days because I have somehow convinced myself that replying is this monumental task where I will now have to apologize, explain myself, answer their question, be conversational, and give perfectly accurate information. Shoutout to Kaity who often waits for me to answer or react to funny videos. My stories paralyze me so much that I can't reply to a video about Ai generated Jack Black in different princess costumes. It sounds ridiculous now that I write it out, but it's true.
I admit that I do this to people, and yet I am absolutely wrecked when people do it to me! I'm totally gonna call out one of my assistant photographers, David. He takes 3 to 4 business days to reply to everything and I spent a lot of the first year working with him anxious as hell that he was mad at me, was being passive aggressive, or that he didn't like what I'd said. Well, this is our 3rd wedding season together and I now know that he just takes forever to reply. Lol. AND YET!
So why do I talk about these stories? Well, because I tell myself these really bad stories most when I'm stressed. When I'm short on time. When I don't talk to God. When I've dropped the ball. When I am loading up my backpack of burden with all the stories of my suck.
To elaborate, here's some examples of "stories of my suck" -
I fully planned on creating a hilarious blooper reel for the video I made for our church's children's ministry Christmas Pageant. Never did it.
I now cannot bring myself to watch that video without remembering that "Right. I disappointed Jen and Isaac."
There is a group photo of a bunch of friends and family taken when we walked around to see the Christmas lights display at Manito Park with one person missing. I was supposed to photoshop her in when I got home. It's been...well, it's September of the following year so you do the math. I hate that picture because I failed.
What else? I bought a ton of special beads to make special jewelry as a birthday gift for a friend of mine, her birthday was in April and the beads are sitting in a desk drawer still in the shopping bag.
I forgot to get a gift for one of the kids at church 2 years ago when I got a gift for literally everyone else, and he had to sit there and watch everyone open their presents. I have nightmares involving that scenario all the time.
I forgot to buy my dad a coffee the other day, but got one for my mom and when he made a joke about it I had to go to the bathroom and fight back tears.
I didn't see my friend when he came back into town with his girlfriend because I got distracted and I haven't spoken to him since out of guilt.
I accidentally changed a bride's eye color in all her wedding portraits - from green to blue - and when she told me about it I ghosted her for a month because I hated myself.
I am really good at remembering the things I've failed at. Which is the fault of no one but myself.
My first wedding that wasn't at my parent's venue was an incredibly bright and sunny day and I didn't love their outdoor pics as a result and I've convinced myself that the bride hates me for it despite never hearing anything to confirm that.
I'm pretty sure everything I just wrote out is exactly what the Bible talks about when it says "Take your thoughts captive". I don't do anything with these thoughts, with these stories except for hold onto them, use them to fuel new anxieties, and allow them to affect how I handle similar situations.
I have struggled all summer with feeling like I'm behind. Whether it's factually true, I couldn't actually say. It's definitely felt that way.
But I just heard something that checked me.
What do you need to cut off?
"If we are willing to obey God in the little things, like cutting off the garbage and distractions, we will be sensitive enough to the direction of the Holy Spirit to know when he is forbidding us to go somewhere. How many times in your life have you tried to get an answer that you didn’t actually need in order to move forward with what you needed to?"
Twice this week I have been asked in a sermon "Does something need to be cut off?" and "Are you searching for something where you shouldn't be?"
One sermon on Paul and Timothy's ministry, cutting off what was necessary to cut off in order to go where they needed to go. The other sermon about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with loaves and fishes, telling the disciples "You feed Them" knowing full well that they had no actual means to do so.
In both sermons you are drawn to a conclusion of "Where do you put your faith? Where do you base your actions?" On my own ability, or on God's willingness to work through me to do amazing things. What needs to be cut off so I am available to do those things?
When I think about my own answer, I see the practical applications of where I spend my time, what tempts me, and where I get distracted. I need to cut those things off - like social media and my video games. But, I think it's also time for me to cut off the weighted garbage of the thoughts and stories I've been carrying.
I feel so humbly corrected. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yokes is easy and burden is light." I have been so burdened, and I have acted like I had the strength to carry it.
With my own self-delusions of perfectionism, and with my inability to cope with my utter lack of perfectionism. I so desperately want to always be perfect, always be right, always be the best I can be. And yet, when asked "How are you?" I just get tired. I have the choice to be honest, cry, and explain how exhausted my brain is. Or, I say "I'm so great! I finally get to teach at Home Link!"
My stories are affecting me. They are lying to me. They are telling me that my burden is mine to deal with.
I think I have some things to cut off.
Not the task, but the thought.
I've gotta get a grip on what I think about and what I tell myself. This whole year has kind of shown me that from one place to another - my thoughts control me.
I never thought I'd be that person, but it's become the truth. I don't control my thoughts, I let them control me. I spiral and freak out and avoid and procrastinate all because of my stories.
Now, I can't cut off my job. But my job isn't really the problem is it? No, it's me telling myself that I am a terrible photographer compared to the other people on Instagram and I have no right to charge people.
I can't cut off my obligations to serve. But my obligations to serve aren't really the problem, are they? No, it's me telling myself that I'm tired on a Sunday and I can't say no because I have had unreasonable expectations placed on me. I DON'T WANNA SAY NO. I'm just loaded and burdened and exhausted. So, I'm doing some homework. I've got some books to read about how to tell proper stories, how to address my emotions in a healthy way, how to cut off the horrible stories designed to steal kill and destroy. Instead of asking questions. Instead of searching for answers to solve my burden problem on my own, I'll just cut some things off. I'll prune away the dead weight, and tell the story of how God took my burden and helped me walk lighter than air.
I want new stories.
Here's a story I'll tell instead:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong.
I am weak, but He is strong.
Who can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Fear is not my future
Sickness is not my story
Death is not the end
So, next time you see me, ask me about my stories.
Don't bother asking about the burden, because I'm cutting off those backpack straps and I am running away from it - Straight into the arms of the Almighty.
And hopefully, as a result, I'll be available when God decides to use me in a loaves and fishes moment.
(here's what I did despite feeling totally overwhelmed all summer. Look how cool!)