I know people usually write this sort of post to ring in the New Year, but I need to find some way to close out last year, even if 2015 is technically over and covered with cobwebs in the back of the closet.
It was an exciting year -- in the way a rollercoaster is exciting. Where you know it is supposed to be fun but you are so terrified that you think your heart will explode and you may lose control of all bodily functions. And even after you survive the ride your knees are weak and your hair looks like a rat's nest. Well that is how I felt for most of 2015. White knuckled and wide-eyed.
I really like security. Think cozy blankets, hot mugs of coffee, and Netflix. Bank accounts with lots of padding, heated car seats, and good health insurance policies with dental and vision. When I was a toddler I didn't like being thrown in the air or to be put on my dad's shoulders. I once had a job at a bank as a "Risk Reduction Specialist". Then a couple of years ago I felt the Lord was speaking to me about stagnation. Like, the picture of a stagnant pond. It may be beautiful from a distance, reflecting the trees and sky in it's stillness. But up close it is covered in algae and mosquitos and bordered with unruly ragweed. It is a picture of the fruit of worldly security: a humid, mucky, stifling, self-centered life. And that picture scared me, because it described me: Afraid to take risks; settling for whatever course met the least resistance; wallowing in my comfort zone. And not just in my daily life but in my relationship with the Lord. I believed, but when it came time to trust in places I couldn't control, my faith crumbled like the buttery cinnamon topping on a Pioneer Woman coffee cake (except not insanely delicious).
In my heart I knew God was calling me to more than "safe", yet I was unwilling to take risks for the One that risked everything for me.
My husband and I made a decision two years ago to invest in my photography business full time. For this former Risk Reduction Specialist it was not a safe idea to trade the security of my husband's traditional 9-5 schedule and twice a month paycheck for a unpredictable and unnecessary career as a Family Storytelling Photographer. Every "what if" scenario went through my mind. But we did it! And I naively thought that once we jumped in the deep end I would find myself splashing in a luxurious claw footed bathtub filled with bubbles and surrounded by candlelight. In reality, we plummeted into a raging river. Roaring, cold, and filled to the brim with risk, making me regret leaving the comfort of that stagnant pond.
I want to peruse the pictures below and have that feel you get when you mow the grass and sweat stings your eyes and you breathe in gas fumes and run over rocks and grunt as you push the mower up hill. Then just as you finish, the engine sputters it's last breath. Wiping the sweat from your brow, you smile and survey the fruit of your hard work. What a sense of accomplishment! Yet, when I look at these pictures I cannot seem to muster that feeling.
Even after two years, my heart is wired for security.
I don't see the cozy blankets and Netflix my heart longs for. I see my son's hand being mangled in an escalator, wrong turns up steep mountain twists where there is no turning back, fishtailing in snow storms, worry that no one would hire me, long straight roads through hot deserts with no gas stations, a little one struggling with potty training at the most inconvenient moments, unexpected expenses, fear my hard drive would crash or my camera would be stolen, car accidents, tarantulas, frightening bumps in the night, grimy campground showers, more lost phone chargers than I can count. There was rarely a moment of stillness.
But wait. Stillness? Is that what I am seeking? Didn't I want to leave the stagnant waters and take risks for the One that risked everything for me? Yes, that is what I wanted, but... I guess maybe I didn't realize how much it would hurt.
2015. We survived. Taxes paid, digital files received, limbs intact.
But, no. We did more than survive. We saw grizzly bear cubs. Felt the warmth of the sun as it rose over the Grand Canyon. Threw snow balls in May under a canopy of pine trees in air so fresh it took our breath away. We stopped at every Dairy Queen, watched 400,000 bats fly out of a cave at dusk, and hugged the Redwoods. I had afternoon tea with a sweet grandmother in her drawing room in Scotland. And I held a microphone and shared stories that led some women to tears. Our kids made friends with kids that wear cowboy hats, shoot gophers, walk to the city Farmer's Market, ride their bikes over the Mississippi River, share their mom with a dozen other siblings, collect sea glass along the Atlantic Ocean, minister to the needy in their community, live on a thousand acres, have special needs, and chop their own firewood. We stumbled and fell and spent so much money on Bandaids and antibiotic ointment. And we laughed and worried and slept and drove and ate bacon and eggs nearly every morning.
So I guess what I am trying to say is, life is scary and filled with risk and there are no guarantees that things will go your way, but that doesn't mean life it isn't worth living. I mean really living. I certainly haven't got it figured out-- there are so many facets of my heart that are still longing for stagnation, avoiding confrontation, and wanting nothing more than to please myself. But I know that the risk is worth the cost. The creator of the universe loved me so much that he sacrificed his own perfect son to save me. Yes, a full bank account and heated car seats may bring a sense of security for a moment, but it does not last. Life in Jesus does not promise all of those amenities-- but it does promise something better-- an unshakable, secure, never failing love which there is no risk in life so great to disturb.
Available for a session in your home in the following cities June/July 2016:
Blacksburg, Lancaster, Philly, NYC, NJ, Long Island, New Haven, Boston, Buffalo, Portland ME, Eastern Shore MD
email me at hello at mollyflanagan dot com for more information!