Friend. Literally, for and when crying out loud… Take the picture. Mark the occasion, even when the occasion is grief, loss, or loneliness. Ask someone to take a picture of you.
When you aren’t looking like you want to, living like you want to, or loving like you want to. Take the picture.
When the season is hard, people are missing, and loved ones who were—are now no more. Take the picture anyway.
There is value in seasons of lack, and gaps, and longings. There is value in visible reminders of soul weariness. Some of my favorite pictures are from hospital waiting rooms, gravesides… I even have one from a basement during a tornado and field of debris after a wreck. Cherished all. Can you imagine how we would treasure a pic of Paul and Silas in prison, bloodied, bruised, and singing their songs?
Everyone looks like hell in a marathon. It is all effort, grit, and labor. But cherished are the pictures from the finish line. Forgotten are the miles before. Run your race.
This may not be the finish line for you, but you made it this far. You made it to today! It was hard, I know. But you’re still with us and I for one would like to celebrate that fact.
Days won’t always be this hard. If Christmas tells us anything it is that God’s redeeming love is greater than our brokenness, that His timing is perfect, that holy things are born in hard places… and that eventually light breaks through the darkest night.
Don’t fake enthusiasm or pretend perkiness. You don’t have to be cheesy to say, “Cheese!” You summoned sufficient courage in just showing up, even waking up. You’re good, friend. Hand someone your phone, gather those who are, regardless of who they are, and smile. There is always reason to.
Even when the dears are not near or the nears are not that dear— link arms and scootch in. Smile whatever sincere smile can be summoned and don’t you dare fake a grander grin. Your face doesn’t have to say “happy,” when your heart is not.
But your face can always reveal an abiding joy, simply because The I AM is… and IS in you. He is always worthy of altars, or pictures, to help us remember that He is good.
No Ebenezer stone is lovely. They are not gems chosen for cut, color, or clarity. More often they are found on the ground closest to where we laid down and thought we would die. But didn’t. They are stones gathered on the shores of the water in which we thought we would drown… but didn’t.
It’s not the stone that is beautiful or beneficial. The good is found in the willingness to remember the days where you believed though you could not yet see, the days spent clinging to a faithful God, and the days you were held because you could cling no more. It is important to collect reminders of each and every time God saved you, when mercy showed up, and grace was poured out for you. Take the picture. Painful middles have their purpose too.
Some day you will weep with gratitude as you look back on the weary faces from the hurting places and remember how hard the year was, the tears you cried then, and how good God has been since. And you will be so glad you remembered to take a picture.