A dear friend gave me a copy of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts earlier this year, and while my multiple-books-at-a-time habit has kept me from finishing it just yet, I’ve been reading a chapter here and there in the months since. Ann’s discipline of recording God’s gifts inspired me to do the same. I’ve been woefully inconsistent about writing in the gratitude journal I started, but this month’s writing project feels like an extension of it in some way.
I love photography. Maybe even more than I love writing, if I’m being really honest. It’s not something I’ve ever desired to pursue as a profession; it’s a hobby. It’s something I do for me, something I’ve been doing since I was a child with a Polaroid, snapping pictures of my dolls and stuffed animals lined up against the wall or propped up by throw pillows.
Before digital photography existed, I blew through rolls upon rolls of film. I was always the one with the camera—in my backpack at high school, at youth group, at camp, at college—ordering doubles or sometimes triples from the photo lab at Publix or Walgreens so I could share copies with friends. (Remember negatives? Shoeboxes full!) I taped prints all over my walls, on the dashboard of my car, on my bathroom mirror. Photos equaled memories. I didn’t want to forget a single thing.
Along came the digital camera, opening up a whole new world. When Ev was a newborn, we spent what was, for us at the time, a scary amount of money and bought a mid-grade, user-friendly DSLR. I’ve been hooked ever since. Photographing pretty much anything fills my joy tank. There’s no such thing as too many photos. I can document anything and everything.
And I do. Just ask Dan.
When I take photos, it feels… sacred somehow.
In the middle of Chapter 3 of One Thousand Gifts, I landed on words that made me hop up out of my chair. Do you ever run across something in writing that finally explains a feeling or experience you’ve never been able to find words for? Ann wrote this:
“The lens is my ink, for cameras have sensor eyes, and pixels record. … another way to chronicle, to force the lids open; another way to receive the moment with thanks reverential.”
That’s what it is.
Photography, like writing, gives me the ability to freeze time—something otherwise impossible. And the camera is my tool, allowing me to receive these moments with thanks:
the golden afternoon sun streaming through the porch windows for one brilliant hour
the look in Daisy’s eyes when she’s completely delighted by something
the way Ev’s curls fall into her face when she’s bent over a project, brows furrowed in concentration
the golden yellow hibiscus blooming in the front yard, its long stem bending in the breeze
the old cat curled up into a ball of fur on the bed, fast asleep
They are beautiful gifts from a loving God (yes, even the cat) and I want to preserve them forever. I don’t want to forget.
Capturing God’s gifts, whether with photos or words, leads me to gratitude, and gratitude leads me to joy. Or, as Ann phrases it: “God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”
I’m in the midst of a month-long mission to document and give thanks for the everyday, mundane, and beautiful.