The screen door squeaked as I quietly slipped out back door from the kitchen of our old farmhouse, to the humid summer sunrise. I wiped tears from my eyes and tried to be quiet, hoping that my children would sleep just a few more minutes.
My Converses were already wet from the early morning dew, but I didn’t mind. Camera in hand, I was on a hunt for beauty and a few moments of calm.
My world then was anything but calm but I knew that photography would still my heart and remind me of God’s care.
I cried and walked quietly through my gardens, capturing a photo of a dew-covered rose, glowing in the early morning sunrise.
If you had asked me, I couldn’t have articulated why I was so sad, but I knew that this search for beauty, using my camera to bring my world into focus, helped me.
My tears dried as I captured photos of chives, bowing under drops of water, and shimmering against the sunlight as the summer sun rose higher in the sky.
A fuzzy bumblebee was already hard at work. I knelt in the wet garden mulch and patiently tried to get a focused photo of him on a purple coneflower.
My photos of the bumblebee were slightly blurry, but I didn’t mind. My early morning quest for still, everyday beauty had calmed my anxiety, reminded me of God’s care, and had given me the small break I desperately needed before officially starting my day.
“Mom? Where are you?” was my signal that my photography session was done. I had a dozen hungry children to feed before we started our day of homeschooling. I wiped the last of the tears off of my cheeks and went indoors, determined to be the safe, joyful refuge they needed.
I had not yet grasped that I was trapped in an abusive marriage. I couldn’t. The reality was too terrible.
Even if I had admitted how horrific our life was, I believed I had no option but to stay, convinced that separation or divorce would grieve the Lord.
During the 27 years that I was trapped in my abusive marriage photography became an important survival tool for me.
Thankfully, I was able to escape with my children several years ago. We are safe now.
Here too I have found that photography assists as I heal from the fallout of so many years of abuse. Complex PTSD, anxiety and depression blindsided me in the early months after we left my abusive husband.
I had no way to anticipate the overwhelming nature of Complex PTSD, but I knew from past experience how helpful photography had been for me, so I gradually began photographing the beauty of our new lives.
The smiles and laughter of my children that I captured with the lens of my camera in our new safe home replaced the fear and hiding we were accustomed to.
I missed my farmhouse but found different everyday beauty in our new home.
Each purposeful photo helped me heal.
When I look for beauty with my camera, it doesn’t magically remove the hard parts of my life, but it does make them easier to bear.
Perhaps you also are recovering from trauma, or are grieving a deep loss.
Or maybe your life is relatively calm right now, but still you feel that you are not as present and thankful as you’d like.
Photography is a powerful tool for you to consider.
It doesn’t require a fancy camera ~ your smartphone camera will be just fine. In fact, the camera on my older iphone which I frequently use now is better than my first “real” Canon DSLR was! You don’t even have to post your photos on Instagram ~ they can be for you only.
Benefits of purposeful, everyday photography
Through photography I’m reminded of the vast amount of beauty that I overlook, rushing through my day. My camera helps me slow down and notice the many small, everyday things I have to be thankful for.
Purposefully photographing my life and my children helps me see God’s goodness as we heal and move forward.
Helps me “Own” and Navigate the Hard Parts of my Story
Photography also helps me embrace the hard parts of my life. I no longer shy away from documenting the days when I’m really struggling emotionally. For example, I sometimes take a photo while I rest in bed after a panic attack, with my dog by my side. That’s an honest part of my life, and God is there too.
As I photographically acknowledge and embrace the sad and overwhelming parts of my life, I am able to experience God’s grace and faithfulness in ways that I can’t when I deny my feelings and try to “be strong.”
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” 2 Cor 12: 9 NASB
Reminds Me of God’s Faithfulness
I especially love photographing beauty in nature. It reminds me of God’s care for me. If He knows when a sparrow falls (Matt. 10:29 NASB), then surely He has not forgotten me!
Helps Me Manage my Depression and Anxiety
Photography requires a level of focus and concentration which helps alleviate anxiety.
Outdoor workouts have been tremendously helpful for me as I learn to manage my CPTSD. When I am actively looking for things to photograph while I ride my bike, hike or walk, it helps me even more and gives me added incentive to go outside.
Photography: A Tool to Consider
Everyday photography gives me hope and reminds me of God’s compassion towards me, even when I’m struggling. Photography also helps me manage anxiety and depression as I notice the beauty that surrounds me, even in the midst of the hard parts of life.
If you are recovering from trauma or grieving a loss, my heart goes out to you. Perhaps photography will make your grief a little easier to carry.