You Give and Take Away

I've wanted to be a wedding photographer since I was a senior in high school. One day I just decided that's what I was going to be, and I never looked back. In January 2016 I quit my stable full time job to finally pursue wedding photography as my career. The previous three years of my business had shown amazing growth. My bookings were literally doubling each year. I figured there was no way I wouldn't reach my booking goals. I was finally going to be what I had wanted to be since 2008. I was a full time wedding photographer.

Except that's not what happened. 

Promptly after quitting my job, photography inquiries slowed down to almost nothing. The inquiries I did get I didn't manage to book. I read books about owning your own business. I paid exorbitant amounts of money for photography workshops - one of which landed me snowed in at a Nashville hotel for several days. I signed up for free webinars about positive vibrations and how to make Instagram profitable. I read article after article about how to gain followers on Facebook, and how to turn inquiries into bookings. I networked with other photographers and wedding professionals. I did giveaways and started a referral program. I prayed. Oh, did I pray. In spite of all of that, my business just didn't take off.

I told myself to keep thinking positive, but each month that went by without a booking the situation got more serious and more stressful. At least once a week some thoughtful, caring person would excitedly ask me how my business was going. I would put on a timid, fake smile and tell them it was going just fine. My dad would ask how many weddings I had booked since the last time we spoke. It hurt to keep saying "none". 

After a little more than a year of hustling to make a career in photography happen, there was no other choice for my family than for me to go find a job. In March of 2017 I started working full time as a graphic designer for a screen printing company.

For a long time the relief of a steady income overshadowed my disappointment in my failure. After more than a year of being in a constant state of stress about my photography, I was honestly glad to be able to walk away from it for a while. It felt like a relationship with a toxic friend. I loved it, but I needed some space from the anxiety it caused me. Now, though, the one year anniversary of my exit from full time photography is approaching and the reality of my failed dream has really crashed down on me.

Honestly, I still don't fully understand why it turned out the way it did. I did everything I was "supposed" to do, but none of it worked for me. I've gone over and over in my mind what I must have done wrong. Am I just bad at this? How do other photographers charge twice what I do and have people begging to work with them? Is it because I'm just unlikeable? Is this a sign that I'm destined to do something else with my life? If so, WHAT?

I'm having to go through the unpleasant process of completely readjusting the expectations that I had for my life, and come to terms with the fact that I chased my goal with all I had, and it evaded me. I never imagined my life any other way. In my dreams of my future I was always a self employed wedding photographer. It was all I wanted. Now I'm grieving the loss of the life I thought belonged to me. It wasn't mine to have, apparently.

For a year I haven't been able take time to process this life shift, or grieve the loss of my dream, because of the other disaster that struck my life at the same time. In November of 2016 the Great Depression hit. I simply woke up one morning and the power was out in my mind. Desperate, I stumbled from room to room in complete darkness, trying all the switches and searching for a flashlight. None of the switches worked. There was no flashlight. My mind had just gone dark. The lights didn't come back on for a long, long time. 

On Sunday we sang Blessed Be Your Name during worship. Since that day in November of 2016 it's impossible for me to sing the bridge of this song without sobbing.

You give and take away. You give and take away.

I have a physical reaction to those words. Tears immediately start falling down my face. I'm compelled to extend my hands and bow my head. I can't help but do it.

These words seem to me to be written in complete submission. It seems to be professing, "Sometimes you give. Sometimes you take away. I receive either one with joy." I just can't sing that with a smile. You can give, but please, God, don't take away

This explains my posture. I want to be given to so desperately. I feel like I'm on my knees bowing before the throne of a King, arms outstretched ready to receive whatever abundance He chooses to bestow upon me. I bow humbly, as you do when you're begging, and plead to have blessing heaped upon me. But that's not enough - we're singing both things. You give... and you take away. In the same moment I feel like I'm on my knees bowing in submission to that same King. I lie prone, helpless, at His mercy, hoping the King will see my pitiful state and not take from me. Still, my arms are outstretched. My arms are outstretched to fight the instinct to hold tightly to what I can't bear to have taken. I hold up what I love most, offering it up to be plucked out of my hands.

I cry tears of joy remembering that God, for the time being, has brought me out of the pit of Depression. I've raised an ebenezer to Him because of His goodness. Thank you.

A second later the tears are of pain, remembering the day I woke up and my ability to feel joy was just gone. My will to live was drained. My lights were out. Why would you do that?

Tears of joy as I remember that at the perfect moment a job fell from the sky and provided for all my needs. Thank you.

Tears of pain as I wonder why I couldn't have my dream that I fought so hard for. Why not me? Why would you do that?

Kyle and I have a desperate desire for some specific blessings. Right now, when I hear those difficult words in the song, I beg that God will see and rain down on us the things we're longing for. What I'm holding up in offering is my mental health, my goals for my life, the future I want. I really hope these things stay firmly in my hands. Please don't take them. But part of bowing before a King is knowing that you're subject to His will. Whatever that might mean. 

I take comfort in a line from another song. (I really identify with music - surely that's been made clear at this point.) In a uncommonly known additional verse of the song Be Still, My Soul the lyrics read:

Be still, my soul
Thy Jesus doth repay
From His own fullness
All He takes away

He very well might take away from my outstretched hands. I'll work very hard to trust that the fullness of God is abundant enough to repay whatever goes missing.