Every year I like to start off with a new word that will kind of be my theme for the year. I choose a word that defines the biggest thing I want to focus on for that entire year. It’s like one, big giant goal that I hope to get something out of for at least 365 days. Two years ago, my word was ENJOY and I still have it hanging on my family wall. I’m still working on that word, and probably always will be but it was a great year to choose to enjoy my life and my family more fully.
Last year my word was SHARE. When I first came up with that word in January of 2016, I thought it was to share my talents. I created a new website for my newborn photography and got to work spreading the word. I started to get more and more newborns booked and realized a few months into it, that it wasn’t what was making me happy.
I have been a photographer for almost 14 years now and I have had a love/hate relationship with photography all along the way. When I started it, my daughter was a baby and I was sick of spending too much money, at unnamed stores, just to get one cute 8×10 of her. I decided I was going to try and do it myself just to save us some money. I ended up obsessed. I worked under a couple photographers, took a class at community college and watched every video and read every book I could about photography. I wanted to be an amazing photographer.
We purchased an expensive digital camera and I started booking clients. In Las Vegas at the time, I started booking wedding clients. Some would say this is a nutty thing to do when you are first starting off, but I had confidence in myself. A little too much at first. Believe me when I say I HAD to learn photoshop very quickly after the first two weddings were shot. My confidence was quickly broken.
Instead of thinking that I jumped in too quickly, I decided that I sucked. I told myself that I would never amount to anything more than an amateur and why even bother. I took a break and then after a few months tried again. I continued with the defeated feelings, but knew that we had spent a good amount on my equipment and didn’t want it to go to waste.
For the first few years of shooting families, high school seniors and weddings, I felt that I had finally gotten comfortable and found my niche. Then we moved…..out of state…..to the middle of nowhere, where we knew not a single person. After a year of barely using my camera outside of my immediate family, I decided once again that I must suck. It couldn’t possibly be the fact that we had a very small circle of friends and lived an hour from civilization. It had to be me. I had no talents.
I was not born a ballerina, I had zero flexibility. I desperately wished I could sing, but was unfortunately born pretty tone deaf. When I was in high school and my friends wanted to play sports, they literally fought over who ended up with me on their team. I was scared of volleyballs and basketballs and footballs and baseballs. Basically, I never really understood the idea of something flying through the air directly at your face and you are supposed to be able to catch it without getting a concussion. Athletic? Yeah, not so much!
So, after years of struggling with photography and trying to force it to be my one true talent and to become my passion, it just wasn’t happening. I did develop a talent for it however. After years of not giving up, I developed a great talent for it. One that I can confidently say that I have now. It was not something I was just blessed with, it was something I worked very hard at. And I’m grateful for that hard work. There were so many times along the way I wanted to give up and throw my camera out the window. So many times I doubted that I had any talent in it and that I just didn’t want to work at it anymore.
So, last year in January, 2016, I decided I was going to put everything into it. I was finally going to go all in and make it work. By April I had sold all of my props and put my camera back on the shelf. I loved the results I was getting and babies are just so adorable and squishy, but my heart just wasn’t in it.
This is where things started to happen in a different way than I expected when I started off my year. After finally realizing that my issue with photography was no longer a confidence one, but instead just not something I wanted to spend all my time on anymore, I felt lighter. I no longer felt weighed down by the guilt of the money spent or time spent, I knew that I had tried and thrown myself into and it just wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.
In April, I was feeling a great push to start a blog. I felt that my Heavenly Father was saying “There is something else you should be sharing with others, and right now, it’s not photography.” I knew what it was. It was something I had put off for years and years.
I have wanted to be an author since I was a small 10 year old Leukemia patient. I always knew from very young that I wanted to help. I wanted to do something to give back to the Cancer community that I held so close and that helped me so much. I wanted to speak to people. I wanted to share my story and help others see that miracles are possible.
So, I started. I started writing my blog. I did push it off for a couple weeks while I tried to decide on a name first though. I have a tendency to do that. When I’m scared to do something, I push it off for silly reasons. I focus too much on things that don’t really matter just to get my mind off the task at hand. The ironic thing is, my husband actually came up with the title. Once he said it, I knew that was it. He was inspired for me, so I no longer had any more excuses. Full steam ahead.
The writing came so easy. The words flowed out of me and I shared and shared and shared. Because of my photography skills, I was able to get a blog up and running pretty quickly. I know my way around a computer and can put things together fairly easily. The photography for the blog is the easiest part for me. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough images to share.
Then, once again things shifted in a direction I didn’t expect. I knew I wanted to speak. I knew I wanted to share my story with Leukemia and my conversion to the church and probably mention the depression and severe PTSD that came after. I never expected the after effects to become the full focus. I started speaking to youth groups, and when I prayed to know what to speak about and focus on with each group, I knew that my experiences with depression and Survivor’s Guilt and suicidal plans was what they needed to hear.
My story started out with what I had planned and ended up in a completely different, but beautiful place. That is a gift. A God-given gift from my Heavenly Father to know what I need to be sharing. My gift, though every single one of my teachers in elementary and middle school would completely disagree, is the gift of speaking. To some that doesn’t sound like a gift at all, they would rather get a root canal than stand in front of a crowd of hundreds of people and speak. To me, there is nothing more rewarding. If I can stand in front of a group of people and help them feel the Spirit of God and move them in some way, I am fulfilled.
I found out this last year that SHARING is my gift. I can share in words on my blog and my Instagram, I can share through speech in groups of youth and women. I can share my heart by giving and volunteering back in the community I have such a love for. This gift is not something I have to spend years developing. I don’t have to have a love/hate relationship with not feeling good enough.
A gift is something that Heavenly Father gives His children individually. Something that you are literally born with that He has given you to use you in this life in a specific way. Only you can use your gift in the way it was meant for you. Only you can share what it is He needs you to share. Our gifts are blessings to help us fulfill our missions on this Earth. To help us fulfill that great thing that we were each destined to fulfill.
We can all have talents. We can find something we are interested in, learn it and practice and practice and practice some more and create a talent. The human mind and body is remarkable. People have been known to start great talents much later in life. To create a new talent, find something you are interested in, start learning and practice your booty off. You can do that any time of your life.
To find your gifts, pray. Ask God what gifts He has sent you to fulfill your mission in life. Mother Teresa had a gift of compassion and love and service. Anne Franke had a gift of love and sharing. Helen Keller had an incredible gift of strength and patience and determination. The Mother Mary had a great gift of faith and love. There are so many examples of great women who have used their gifts to benefit others.
Our gifts are ours individually. They aren’t passed down through generations or given away for a price. Our gifts can only be used by us, when we choose to use them. We should not compare our gifts to other women. They are not given the same way. There is a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. And might I also add…….”the thief of confidence”? There is nothing that takes away your confidence in yourself quicker than comparing to others. We are only comparing to what we see on the surface. We don’t know the scars hidden underneath or the pain or doubt behind other’s gifts and talents. When we compare, we are only comparing what we see on someone else’s outside, to the bad and negative we feel on the inside.
This year my word is FOCUS. I want to focus more on my gifts. I am trying to share more of my story with others and I’m working on one of my biggest dreams….writing my book. I know I am not the greatest speaker that ever lived, or the greatest writer either, but I do know that my Father in Heaven has placed me here at this time for a specific purpose. I believe with my whole heart that we each have a purpose and that we will feel so much contentment and fulfillment when we are working at that purpose. It won’t always be easy or perfect, and it definitely won’t take away all the hurt in our lives, but it will fill our souls with love and joy to know that we are on our “Father’s errand”.