Helping at Help Portrait 2010

Last Saturday, Cason & I had the privilege of helping at Nashville’s Help Portrait event. Help Portrait is a movement of photographers giving back to people in need in their local communities. It was started in 2009 by a well-known photographer here in Nashville (Jeremy Cowart). This year, Help Portrait events were held in 47 US states and in 46 countries. 7,015 volunteers and 3,550 photographers donated 54,526 portraits to people and families in unique circumstances (the homeless, people in addiction recovery programs, families who lost everything in a fire or flood, families who may never have had a family portrait taken before).

That’s the overall gist. I heard about the event last year and was eager to try and volunteer this time around. Cason & I have no notable photography/editing/photo printing skills, but wanted to see if we could help in other ways.

So we ended up as Patron Guides. We were the ones that got to escort the guests around through the whole experience and make them feel special and loved on. At the event here in Nashville, that included a breakfast or lunch area with donated food brought in for people to eat, an area with Vanderbilt doctors doing free optional head and neck screening exams, a donation area with coats, blankets, shoes, for those that needed them. My personal favorite was the next area – hair & makeup. The hair & makeup artists would do quick makeovers on the women (& an occasional man) and make them feel really beautiful. That was an integral part to making many of the women feel special & valued. There was also a kid’s area with crafts and a Santa to take pictures with. Finally, there were the rows of photographers, ready to go to work.

Some of the photographers, ready to go to work.

My first patron of the day was Amy. I wish I had taken a picture of her with my camera. She was a really neat woman. She came in with a group of women from the Magdalene House – a residential program for women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction. Read more about it here. Amy was extremely outgoing and friendly. She was just loving being there. The part of her story that I heard is that her Dad died a week before the infamous Nashville floods, then she and her mom both lost everything in the flood. She hit her lowest point this summer and at some point entered the Magdalene program. But she says she is doing really well in her recovery program, is back in a church, etc. Amy was almost more concerned about going around and visiting with the other women that came in from the same program and making sure everyone else was having a good time. She was just a treat to be around.

Cason got to spend time with a man named Jimmy. One of the only men that I saw that wanted to get some makeup. He was a hoot! He told the makeup artists to make him look like Morgan Freeman! He was the first adult to go sit on Santa’s knee for a picture. He also said he was proposing to his girlfriend later that day and posed in his picture with the ring.

Jimmy & Cason

There were some sweet families in the middle of the day that we got to escort around. A mother with her young daughter that started crying as she was getting her photo framed and was thanking everyone.

The last group of the day that we were there for was the most impacting for me. Continue reading

Taking Courage

I’ve been reading through a book with my small group called “Pathway to Purpose for Women: connecting your to-do list, your passions, and God’s purposes for your life” by Katie Brazelton. It is a great book about discovering how your life roles, longings, and experiences point you toward your life mission. Toward God’s bold agenda for your life. It has been very insightful and helpful. We’ve spent the summer on it and honestly I want to go back and read it again now. There are definitely some chapters that I feel like I need to go back and spend some more time in.

One of those chapters (and one of her steps on the Pathway to Purpose) is Taking Courage.

The author talks about how we are all vulnerable of being sidetracked from our life purpose by fear. Fear can prevent us from being all that God designed us to be. She says that “once fear has you in its wicked grasp, it blocks creativity, productivity, and relationships.” Fear can hold us back from authentic relationships, meaningful tasks, and our grand life purpose.

She talks about some of the more common fears that can sidetrack us:

  • Fear of ridicule & criticism – “Do you have a fear of ridicule or criticism that keeps you from pursuing your purpose?” A fear that others will laugh at or tear apart what you have set out to do?
  • Fear of success – This one is not immediately as recognizable, but can also be paralyzing. What if I succeed? What will be expected of me then, and will I be able to live up to that? I’m scared it will be too hard…
  • Fear of being found out – This is the fear that others will find out that “you’re really not smart enough, good enough, funny enough, articulate enough, organized enough, or loving enough to really fulfill God’s purpose for your life.” What if God chose the wrong person for this job and they all find out?
  • Fear of failure – Definitely one of the most common fears. The fear that you’ll look like a fool, that people won’t believe in you the next time…

I know I struggle with all of these from time to time. I hate that these fears can hold me back from taking a leap of faith, from doing what God is really calling me to do… whether it is in the scope of a grand, over-arching life purpose or just in the day to day nudgings from the Holy Spirit (to share about Christ with someone, to buy a homeless person a meal, to take a risk at work).

We must put our trust in the Lord. It is a command we are given. But it doesn’t mean that the task at hand will be any easier. We are definitely in for a wild ride when it comes to following our calling from God.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” -from Isaiah 43

Brazelton says that “taking courage is a determined act of our will that helps us release our fears and enables us to move forward. Taking courage is an act we initiate that is based on something real and reliable – God’s steadfastness. Taking courage begins with our understanding that the Lord God has called each of us by name and promises to be with us.”

“Don’t be afraid of the will of God. The will of God will not take you where the power of God cannot keep you.” -Adrian Rogers

“Positive Christian women move out even when their knees are shaking. Why? Because they have been kneeling on those knees that are shaking. Not only do they know who they are, they know whose they are.” -Janet Congo

What do you fear? Are your fears blocking your creativity, productivity, or relationships? How do you get past them?

Loving Others

I so enjoy when God speaks to us in themes. Between our Bible Study class this morning, the sermon in church, and then a few other things happening this week, God has been speaking to me about loving others. Here are just a few thoughts…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deut 6:4-5 The Shema is the central prayer of the Jewish prayerbook. It is prayed at least twice daily. It is often the first verses that a child learns and it is traditional to be said as one’s last words.

In the Book of Matthew, when Jesus is asked by the Pharisees (who wanted to trap him) which is the greatest commandment in the Law, it is from the Shema that Jesus draws his answer. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” But then Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds: And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Continue reading

Everyone Can Do Something…

It didn’t take much, but it made a difference to one family.

It started with one phone call last week describing the need. Then it was one email to a group of friends asking for help. In a matter of a few days, we had a handful of giftcards to Kroger to help provide a refugee family with food, when they had none.

It required a very small contribution from each couple. Literally something we’d never even notice was gone. But once added up, for that one family that had no food, it was significant.

I get very sad when I hear people say that they can’t make a difference, that they have nothing to contribute. There is always something you can do. It doesn’t always have to be a trip to a third world country or a major monetary donation. All it requires is to remain aware of your surroundings, to remain receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and then to respond in obedience and out of love for fellow human beings. Something that seems really small to you can mean the world to someone else. It can mean one more meal when they have none.