Resilience

Resilience: “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my photography business is one I was not anticipating to learn when I first ventured to be a photographer almost 7 years ago  : Resilience.

For those of you who don’t know, I went through a bit of a health crisis last year. In a 7 month period, I had a battery of several medical tests, 6 CT scans, surgery to remove an organ, a biopsy and 7 deaths among family, friends and colleagues. The crap definitely hit the fan all at once and it left me staggering under the weight of it all happening at once.

But it was in that moment that I asked myself if I was going to throw in the towel and give up or if I was going to get back up again and keep going.

That’s where resilience came in and became a close friend.

It’s easy to say I’m thankful for life when all is going well.

It’s easy for me to follow my dreams with gusto when it’s smooth sailing.

But what about when the waters are rough?

What about when everything doesn’t play out the way I’m expecting it to?

Do I give up or give it more?

I’ve said a certain quote for a long time because I really believe in it:

“The crap of today is the fertilizer of tomorrow’s dreams.”

Resilience is a by-product of believing that things will get better and that belief propels you forward to keep trying. It’s letting life take it’s punches, but not allowing it to take you down for a full TKO.

When life gets tough, will you give up or will you give it more effort to keep pushing through and keep going and growing?

Because my surgery happened during my busiest time of the photography year, I was not able to photograph for awhile, which was super hard for me because photography and being a photographer is a part of my DNA–it’s almost like life for my soul the way that oxygen is for the lungs.

I learned that a part of being resilient is being flexible. So, I took on a part time temp accounting job to help me through the time that I couldn’t photograph. I was tempted to believe that my business would fall apart while I was recovering and that that was the end. But while I was lying in bed, I allowed my heart to dream and plan. I prayed so hard during that time and asked God to give me a fresh vision for the business He had given me and He did.

The circumstances were discouraging, but resilience keeps you moving forward. In faith, it believes for the best and that things will get better. Some of my favorite sojourners of resilience that I listened to on Youtube for days (because they helped to keep me encouraged) were (and are) Nick Vujicic, Earl Nightingale and others who have been through difficult trials, but overcame them. Dancers with only one leg. A singer badly burned but not letting her outward appearance diminish her vocal talent. A surfer with only one arm because a shark bit off her other.

I learned that resilience is not about circumstance, but about attitude. 

It’s a conscious effort to make the best of hard situations and grow from them.

I can see crap or I can see fertilizer.

It’s made from the same stuff, but used differently, depending on how I decide to use it.

It appears that I made it through that very difficult time and while I don’t know what the future holds, I am grateful, not so much for the trials themselves, but what I learned from them and how I can now use those things to encourage others in their own trials.

If you’re facing something very hard and feeling alone and asking where God is in all of this, know that this is only a season and that, even though these trials seem unending and extremely difficult, you will come through the other side stronger. By having a positive attitude, the fortitude to keep going and a determination to make something good from these difficult circumstances, you will be even more ready to be strong in this life and you’ll have a greater impact and influence on others.

The crap of today is the fertilizer for tomorrow’s dreams.

Make something beautiful from the not so beautiful.

Don’t give up. Give it more.

 

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Validation — The Creative’s Struggle

validation

Why do many creatives look to others for their validation? It’s not uncommon to hear photographers asking for validation from their fellow photographers, family, friends, sometimes even clients, to ask for their litmus line opinion of whether their work is satisfactory or not.

If the response is positive, elation builds and he/she feels like conquering the world.

If it is negative, discouragement settles in and the thought of never pursuing photography again becomes very tempting.

I know from personal experience, because for a long time, I didn’t want to pursue photography. I reasoned, “What if I am like one of those wannabe contestants on American Idol who only believe that they can sing well, but are truly horrible?”

I found myself constantly asking for validation from everyone I came in contact with. If someone complimented my work, I would say, “Really? Are you sure?” When I first started, I wasn’t secure in myself and I desperately longed to believe that I could be good enough–that I was good enough, but my insecurities prevented me from having such an unshakable, placid confidence.

With photography and any art form, there is always room for growth! 

When I first started my pursuit of photography, I had a lot to learn…A LOT. I hadn’t had formal schooling (unless you count the 3 college classes I took–one of which I failed….funny, because the teacher who failed me is now a fan of my work!), was just entering into this new craft and really didn’t have any idea what I was doing technically.

I felt so uncomfortable with not having any practice or knowledge base and resolved that I either needed to quit photography (because, I surmised, I wasn’t up to par with other photographers) or I had to do something opposite in it’s place.

I chose the latter.

I gave myself grace for the journey.

I thought about how unstable a baby looks when learning to walk for the first time. She pulls her Pamper-clad bottom off the floor and takes a few shaky steps forward before falling back down again.

Yet a baby doesn’t give up. She gets up and keeps going.

I decided that I needed to keep going too, even though I felt very inferior to the skill levels others were at as photographers.

I stopped looking at how other people were doing and started competing against myself. After each photo session I would ask,”Is this the best that I could have done?” If it wasn’t, I tried to dissect what I was doing wrong so I could correct it for next time. If I did do my best, I celebrated and tried to use those techniques in my next session.

I learned that there are always going to be people who are not as skilled as I am and likewise, there are always those that are way more skilled than I am.

Yet, my validation–your validation–doesn’t materialize or disappear when you measure yourself against where others are at in their journies. It comes when you measure yourself against yourself and where you are in your journey.

Instead of asking if you are “good enough” when compared with others, why not ask if you are doing “your best” when it comes to yourself? That is the real test.

The becoming a business and becoming a professional will attract itself to you as you grow and it will take flight on its own.

You won’t have to make it happen. It just will.

Rather than focusing on the outcome and constantly wondering if you are “there” yet, focus on becoming the best that you can be so that it will be attracted to you and it will eventually come.

It will be a by-product rather than the means to an end.

Give yourself time to transform from point A to point B, point C, etc….if you stick with it long enough, you’ll find yourself on point Z like you see other photographers you admire. You’ll no longer look for validation from exterior sources because the validation will come from within.

Give yourself grace for the journey.

Here’s a peek at when I first picked up a digital camera in 2003 and now in 2015. It’s quite a difference because I learned a lot in the process and grew. If I had rated myself against other photographers back when I started, I would have been discouraged and given up because I still had so very much to learn.

Give yourself grace for the journey and push yourself to grow.

“Keep dreaming, keep learning keep growing….and one day you’ll find yourself living your dream.” –Beba

before and after photo

There’s More to Life Than Me

Over the last 6 years, I’ve been learning that there is more to life than me. Life is not about what I want, but what God wants. As I’ve surrendered my dreams into God’s hands, I’ve found that God has taken my dreams from me….but instead of just throwing my dreams aside and leaving me empty-handed, He has taken what I have given to Him and He has molded those dreams into something new and even more wonderful.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” –John 12:24

When I first moved here to Arizona, I didn’t know what God was leading me to. I had no idea. Similar to Abraham, I heard God’s call on my heart and even though I wrestled with it at first, I heeded to His call and came.

Since I first felt that call 6 years ago, I have seen a pattern of how God has called me over and over again to surrender my dreams to Him and let them die in His hands.

I didn’t like this idea at first. But then I started to think about it more and realized, that if He were to allow those dreams to die there, He legitimately could.

He is God.

I am not.

But, being the loving Father that He is, He never seems to let what we surrender to Him stay dead.

He is the God who raised both Lazarus and Jesus from the dead.

Why would He not raise to life the dreams I willingly broke and gave to Him?

Jeremiah 29:11 has been a Bible verse I have held onto since I first became a Christian as a teenager and with good reason:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I truly believe that whenever we give God something in sacrifice that He either returns it with a blessing or returns it with something even better in its place.

He exchanges the plastic beads with pearls.

The rhinestones with diamonds.

The valueless for value.

When God called me to leave behind my job, my family and friends in California to move to Arizona, I thought He was crazy for suggesting the idea. But through the years, I have learned to surrender my dreams to Him and as I have, I’ve seen Him bless me in more ways than I could have ever thought possible.

God took my original vision of working for Disney for the rest of my life and transformed it into something He wanted to do to impact people in a different and direct way. He took me from employee to employer. He took me from not passing at school to being a straight A student. He gave me the ability to do things that could not have been possible if He had not given me the power to. He gave me the courage and the opportunity to travel and reach outside my safe little circle.

He began to form a dream in me that was bigger than myself.

A dream that reached outside of my own little world and that was instead focused on serving other people.

There is such freedom in that.

I’ve learned…..it’s not about me.

It’s about Him and it’s about others.

Life is kind of like a piece of popcorn–we’re called to live inside, out.