I heard something great on Thursday. My friend Father John Pitzer was the first preacher for our Lenten Preaching Series, and he started it off with a bang. This is what he talked about:
Most people give stuff up for Lent. Chocolate, fried food, beer...you know, stuff that we all really enjoy, but are not so good for our health. Lent sometimes used to kickstart a diet. And that's great and all, we should really make it a point to be healthier, but what does it do for our spiritual lives? Lent is a season of repentance, of returning to the Lord. On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words "Remember you are God's, and to God you shall return" while we get ashes smudged onto our foreheads. Lent is a time of reflection, and making more room for God in our lives, whether it's being outside more or calling your deaf grandmother every day. The act of "giving up" seems to create a void for me; it feels empty. It's more of a discipline to take something on, which undoubtedly pushes something bad for me out of the way so I can spend more time with God.
But if you are fasting from something, what are you feasting on?
Father John talked about a lot of different examples of what this could look like. If you fast from being critical of others, feast on encouraging words. If you fast from gossip, feast on holding your tongue. If you fast from violence, feast on peace.
This is where he hit a home run with me: If you fast from fear, feast on hope.
I constantly live in fear. Fear that I'm terrible at what I do. Fear that people don't actually like me and are only nice to my face. Fear that there is no one on this planet who will willingly choose to spend their life with me. Fear that because of that, I'll never get to have kids. Fear that I'm doing EVERYTHING wrong. Fear that I won't get to do what I love forever because of money.
I realize all of this is completely irrational. Sort of. All of that is very real for me, though. While I know how much God loves me and that my worth is not found in being good at anything or being married to someone, I WANT those things. And most of the time, I have ZERO hope in them. Please keep in mind that I'm not an aggressive husband hunter, nor do I think success is measured by money or power. I love my simple little life. But I have found lately that I live looking through a lens of fear much more often than a lens of hope.
Just recently I sort of made the decision to put the photo thing on hold. I need health insurance, I need a full time job, I need a steadier income. I'm obviously not good enough to make being a photographer my full-time job, so I think it's probably better to look for a real job and make photos for people every once in awhile for close friends. I have no desire to promote myself and my "work," and I feel a little like a sell-out as an artist. I feel like an IDIOT for quitting my life almost 2 years ago to try and pursue whatever it was that I thought I was being called to, and I hate that I did it. I'm now in debt up to my eyeballs, live paycheck to paycheck, work like a dog to make ends meet, I don't sleep, and I have no time to run. Or talk on the phone with my grandmother. Or travel to see my nephews. Or spend real time with friends. This is not real life. I treasure the relationships that I have, and I want to keep them alive. So I've been secretly looking for jobs that even though I know I'll hate them, I'll be able to leave work at work and be able to run with Lily. I live in fear, under a guise of living in hope.
I received an actual call that changed everything I was thinking and feeling. A call that recognized me as an artist by another artist. A call that I never thought I would EVER get from anyone, and a call where God said to me, "girlfriend, you--We--did it!" This phone call does NOT validate my life, but it has made a difference in it. I am not going to be the same after this, although it does seem a little too good to be true. I keep waiting for a flat tire on my way to work or accidentally hitting a pedestrian (it's like one of my biggest fears) just to even out the awesomeness of this event.
I'm going to fast from my fear and feast on this nugget of hope-- this chance that I've been given to let the world know that EVERYTHING comes from God. We are small and God is big and shouting our names from the rooftops.
I entered into this contest fully knowing I had no chance of winning or even being seen. I entered it because Jason Mraz is the end-all be-all for me in terms of artistry, good humanity, openness, and creativity and cleverness. I am so thankful that my heart and head together can't even hold it all. I hope I get to tell him.
This Lent, I'm going to try to let go of this great fear, and feast on this abundant hope. It's there, I just haven't been grabbing it. And not just for Lent, but for life. I LOVE life, and it's the only one I've got. Lent is just a good time to reflect on how I can live into God's purpose for my life. I just have to remember that it's not my purpose, it's God's, and I'm just a part of it. HOPE HOPE HOPE. That word means so much it's not even funny.
So thank you God, Shelby and Brian, Jason Mraz, and Mike at Atlantic Records. Besides Ben and Sam, this is the biggest thing that's ever happened. And in case you haven't seen this image enough in the past two days, here it is:
I knew it was a little bit special the moment Fitty made the fake shutter sound and I almost fell off the chair I was standing on to get it.
Also, I'm doing one good image a day for Lent like I did last year. I won't be blogging every day, but the photos will correspond to the days I take them. I love a good challenge.
And if you need to reach me, I'll be over the moon STILL FREAKING OUT about this.