Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What You Can't See

Here's a news flash of the obvious... I love pictures.  I absolutely adore them!  And the more the better, the older the better.  If I'm in your house and you want to show me an hour slideshow of your grandparents and their parents, go for it!  Among my very favorite things to do is sit down with my great aunts and go through the oldest of the old family pictures.  The best part of those shots? 

The parts you can't see.  

Pictures are so cool because they're a visual representation of memories.  They're ebenezer stones, in a way, of moments we don't want to forget.  In some, the memory in question is pretty obvious.  In others, more explanation is needed.  There's almost always some back story, even if the picture looks obvious.  Take a look at these...

In the first, my daughter had smeared a stick of butter I had laid out to soften ALL OVER herself and the table.  Such a greasy mess!  There's really no back story there, other than the fact that she's proven to be the climber in the family. 

In this one, Ryan is stimming on the trains at the Mayborn Museum in Waco. 

Looks happy, right? Less than ten minutes later he was screaming.  The trains at the Mayborn are a great source of frustration for our family, because once he gets started with them, he can't stop.  Can't move on to other things.  It's better now, but it takes planning and a crow bar timer to get him to move from place to place.

The next one is pretty spot-on.  Richie was the ring bearer at my sister's wedding, and boy-oh-boy was he ever NOT into it.  Whoops.  He loves his uncle and my sister, but oh my word was he ever unhappy about that suit and the idea of standing still.  

This?  Just danged cute.  Self-portrait of Ryan.  The thing you can't see is that part of this is a red flag of autism.  I know, I know.  Your neurotypical kid likes photo booth too.  Gonna have to trust me on this one.  I love the selfies he takes! 

Richie and Daddy sharing pizza... ah, that was a day.  I was pregnant with Mae and sick as a dog, fever and all.  This was taken shortly after Richie nabbed the pizza his brother was supposed to eat from his place at the table.  I took this from the couch.

Maelynn's first trip to church, I think.  The time surrounding her birth is still foggy.  There are so many things about her birth and my experience surrounding it that I wish I could have a do-over for... but that wouldn't help.  Things happened the way they were orchestrated, but I still feel in a way like I failed her somehow.  Much of the fog is postpartum depression and anxiety.  In this shot, from behind the camera, I was just starting to feel a little better.  The meds were starting to kick in, and things were slowly getting better.  This shot is one of my desperate attempts to seem normal... to truly taste the amazingness of having this perfect little one and these great little boys and this wonderful husband... because to tell the truth I couldn't feel the wonderful. 

If you had just glanced at each of these, there was a part of the story you'd miss.  There was explanation needed.  And even though I gave you a little more information, even though these shots spark memories, good or bad... they still don't tell the WHOLE story.  

We're about to enter the time of family pictures, Christmas cards, Instagram shots of kids with matching outfits, perfectly posed... or the perfect shot of kids and parents being all cute and, like Clairee from Steel Magnolias said, like they were carved out of cream cheese.  

Let me share a little secret.  It's so obvious, but we all get so caught up in the fact that so and so looks so great that we forget. 

Those shots are just that.  SHOTS.  A moment in time, captured by a talented eye.  Yes, the outfits look great.  Yes, their kids are being happy and not screaming or hitting themselves or each other.  But hear me.  Take this to heart.  Let it sink in.  

THAT WAS A MOMENT.  You have no idea what is going on the very next second after that photo. Or what it took to get them there.  Or how tired they are.  Or how happy they are.  You have no idea.  

At one point, I had to start seeing these shots for what they are... blessings of someone sharing their family's sweet smiles.  No comparison needed.  No comparison necessary.  It's not fake to take these moments instead of the bad stuff, either.  It's not necessarily bad to share the bad or more frustrating of moments, either.  

So as we go into the holidays and beyond, try to remember that what you're seeing is the gift of a snapshot, to be taken at face value.  If more explanation is offered, great.  But no judging, no comparing, and if you're like me and the world will be lucky if you manage to cobble together snapshots from July's trip to convention for a card, or if said cards never make it past your house, NO GUILT.  

And when you see my shots, remember that they may be surrounded by crazy amounts of screaming, self injurious behavior, and all-around stress.  They may also be surrounded by giggles and laughter.  I can only guarantee you of this... they are all surrounded by life more abundant.  All that life entails, the full spectrum of inexpressable joy to unimaginable pain, more abundant.  

Just like yours. 

Thanks be to God for life more abundant. 

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