‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
It’s a good song and lesson.
But somehow in learning that good lesson I assumed another lesson, that it’s equally important to hide the dark.
Keep the light visible.
Minimize the dark.
But why? What if our present darkness could be a comfort and light for someone else?
I like to think that our darkness dissolves as God transforms us in it.
What would be light without the dark?
In the hiding place of darkness we feel ashamed and alone. In the honest place of darkness we can say to those we meet, there’s space for you because there’s space for me. Humanity is both bruised and beautiful simultaneously. There’s never a time when a person doesn’t begin in the humble position of brokenness.
So, I believe in being a light wherever you go.
But I also believe that our bruises and dark places can shine and change the face of things too.
I’m not suggesting a continual exploration of pain or the constant airing of ills—I’m suggesting we be just as proud of our hanging-on-for-dear-life lives as we are for our shining and victorious ones. It’s a loving acceptance of our humanity that’s being renewed by the grace of God.
When the world hides in shame, our hope allows us to say thing like,
“Even in this thing—this mess—this grief–this inexplicable confusion, things can be okay.”
When my husband brought up the idea of planning a family vacation to New York City I was excited. Excited about the city, but even more excited about his rationale behind it.
Somewhere in his reading last year he learned that most of the joy that comes on a journey happens in the anticipation, in the planning.
Why not plan something totally different, something none of us have done before together? We made the decision, got subway tickets, picked out places to eat and let the city help us make an adventure for us.
I had hoped to get some new family photos taken while we were there. You know, the kind a girl imagines in her mind. I enjoy thinking about these sessions, researching locations, and finding the perfect light, except what’s in our heads isn’t always was doable for humans with big little personalities.
And there are a lot of “but’s” that make me not so excited to plan a family photo.
But life. But crying.
But clothes that are itchy.
But impossible poses.
But faking it.
But questions. “You want us to do what?”
Neither of us felt good about asking our kids to sit through pictures when we arrived. I mean everyone needs a little on ramp to camera time. Not everyone likes it, most of us squirm at the thought, it didn’t sound like the most fun way to start a vacation.
So, this year, we opted for the “whatever happens happens family photo”. I took a chance and messaged a friend the first day of our time in New York and asked for a recommendation of someone who might be able to squeeze a photo of our family in while we were visiting Brooklyn. She sent me a name, and we connected. It turned out she had about 30 minutes to spare that week. We’d take it.
We went to her work place, The Green Building, (hello gorgeous) which turned out to be a beautiful, lovely, perfect place for our kids to crawl around on the floor. Dirt is a great way to get started. And our new friend Quyn began to capture life like we live it.
Truth is, I felt so good about this start. Because, honestly, seeing my kids so comfortable rolling around on the ground made me smile. This is right where we needed to be, swimming in honesty.
Quyn took a few poses of us, just a few. Maybe five minutes were spent saying hello to the camera more formally.
I let the girls choose their clothes (which meant ignoring the tutus I had hauled to New York in my carry on luggage) I wasn’t worried about whether or not Coy and I matched (even though we ended up complimenting each other nicely). I only wanted us to be together–and to enjoy each other.
I realize when I have some things to work through in life it makes me more grateful for the things that I don’t need to work through. It makes me more flexible with the ones I love, more joyful that there are some places of peace. I wanted us to be at peace.
Quyn’s “off” camera photos were what I would say are our family true. We walked down the sidewalk to an ice cream shop, like we normally do. We’re always hunting for food, like the true cave people we are at the core.
We like finding places to taste new flavors and we like the miles it takes to walk there. I appreciate that our kids aren’t smiling in every photo. Because they aren’t smiling always. Does any kid smile always? They have such a broad and deep spectrum of emotions. Why do we only search for the smile? When things like longing and wonder, curiosity, and mischievousness are captured in eyes, hands, and movement. When we let our selves be seen without posing, unmasked, unprotected, it becomes easier to see what love walking down the street looks like.
(For example, the photo that captures the excitement of a 5 year old climbing her family then getting her watch caught in her mom’s hair. It’s okay, we don’t mind.)
This year may have been a tough one.
We may be bruised and broken more than we wanted to be. We are still processing so much that was 2015.
But we can surely eat ice cream. And love each other.
Mya has dreams and wants to be an ice cream seller when she grows up.
We want to be ice cream eaters when we grow up. Works out conveniently for all of us.
Kirra’s eyes tell us stories about sugar and things.
This is us.
Thanks to Quyn and a little journey to eat ice cream, I don’t think we’ll do family photos any other way. Unless they are photos that say, hey, we’re normal, we’re us. We’re light and dark, graced with mercy and love.
Remember just because something is beautiful it doesn’t mean there isn’t a fight in side going on where a person or a family isn’t holding on for life—for something—for someone—for each other.
Brooklyn was a great setting to get me thinking about how much beauty is found in brokenness. And how much joy is found in doing simple things, like being caught eating ice cream.
But even in the beauty, the light, it’s a place like most places that is still messed up and smells on certain blocks and has issues…there’s a waterway that runs through Brooklyn that is said to cause your limbs to fall off if you were to come in contact with it. True story.
Beautiful, bruised, becoming. We walked through borough that mirrored what has been, what is, and what can be.
If we can let go of the perfect image we project into the past we can be released from the shame of it and bravely walk into a future that… also won’t be perfect…but more honest, and less afraid.
What an awesome way to live so transparently, that what people see isn’t only light or not exclusively dark, but a journey through both that liberates us all.
Thank you Quyn for capturing our family.
You are the most magical “non-family photographer” we have worked with.
Someday when our girls get married, we’ll call you.
And to the Green Building NYC, an old restored building was so light and lovely but it was the dust on the floor from the night before wedding made a perfect place for us to be…us. Thanks for letting it live there a little longer.