I don’t have any photographs of my grandmother pregnant with my mom – something I know she would appreciate today. However, I am blessed to have a few very neat stills of my mother when she was just a little girl. These photographs are worth a great deal more than the paper they are printed on. This Polaroid captures so much joy and tells such a story with simply one smile and a pair of red shoes. I have to find a pair of red shoes and recreate this shot with my daughter. That is my uncle on her right sitting on the front porch steps in the 1960s. It is so important to have hard copies of these memories. I sometimes feel that the majority of people’s memories are on their phones and computer hard drives and not in albums. Recreating digital copies of these images has been part of my life’s work.
Recently my father lost everything in a house fire – a life of memories and possessions gone in a matter of minutes. I was immediately reminded of Matt. 6:19-21 – more easily done when it is not my own personal belongings that were lost, however, I empathize and at the same time am convicted of my own selfish desire to store up earthly treasures. But how do I store up treasures in heaven? I am being shown, by God’s grace and mercy, how to be grateful for what I have. It is so easy to get caught up in the goals of financial security and a well padded 401k, but God’s word states: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Heb. 13:5.
As a young boy, I always wanted to have the best shoes and my parents would usually meet me half way in the purchase of the more expensive pair. They knew that a $30 pair of shoes would serve the same purpose as a $100 pair, but they let me spend the extra money- money I have most likely earned with ‘good-grade money.’ I wasn’t grateful to simply have ordinary shoes – I wasn’t satisfied with what my parents thought was best.
As an adult, how often do I still think the same thing. Does God really know what is best for me? Is our small house good enough? I think about the joy on my mother’s face in this photo, knowing that my grandparents, living on a pastoral salary, didn’t have luxuries, however they never went hungry nor did they ever go without shoes.
Recently, my wife and I discovered the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right… by Ann Voskamp. In short, the book is a celebration of grace and a recognition of the power of gratitude. Our goal is to live a life that is truly transformed by the Gospel, but what does that look like? Growing up Psalms 107:1 would exit our lips after every meal, but they were simply words we said. They never truly penetrated my heart. There was always food on the table. I did not know what it was like to want what I needed. God provided and I was rarely thankful. How do I see God’s grace in the seemingly mundane nature of my ingratitude? I don’t. Our hearts have to be transformed to see God’s richness and mercy and this is part of our journey in learning to be more like Christ.
On this journey of searching for 1000 Gifts, I want to be transformed into someone who is in a constant state of gratitude, “eucaristico” & “chara.” Simply, I wanted to be filled with JOY as I count the blessings that God has placed in my life and in the lives we witness and capture. Photographing life’s blessings, something as simply as red shoes, reminds me to be thankful for the smallest of things I take for granted each day; to have never gone a day without shoes.