Don’t judge a family by a picture

I have a friend down the road who is a photographer. She’s very good. For as many years as she’s been posting her pictures I have wanted her to take our family pictures. Alas, we’ve always found a higher emergency for our money. However, this year, I am a working mom, Yo. I make a few pennies a month and thought I’d rub them together to get our pictures done…FINALLY! The date was solid and the pressure was on to SELL some TEA. Then three of my tea parties cancelled.

“Dude, I’m not waiting any longer!” I said to myself. The Reverend HATES pictures and so it’s like ripping off a band-aid. You just have to go for it or regret it every second you slowly pull. Ok, so not a clever word picture but whatever. I forget what I was trying to say.

The pressure was on, not only to sell some tea, but to also find some clothes to put our family into that didn’t clash horribly.

Have I said already how incredibly painful it is for our family to have our picture taken? NO? Well, then listen to this story because it’s only a snippet of what our lives are like when we try to get all of us smiling at the same time. I knew that if anyone could make us look happy it would be Kristen.

When I had booked our appointment, with the pretty photographer, we hoped for good weather. Then it was the coldest day ever in September, so we postponed for a later date. We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. In fact, I had bought a sweater for myself, on the coldest day, in anticipation that it could be cool on our evening adventure. But it wasn’t. Of course. It was HOT. H-O-T, hot. I nixed the sweater and hoped for the best. My shirt was the only thing that wasn’t matchy matchy with the rest of them. Sigh.

The other part of moving the date was that both of our daughters had dance starting that very night. What I had hoped would be a lot of prep time to get everyone looking spiffy turned out to be a scream into the finish line. My oldest daughter had 2 dance classes that night because they were trying her out to see in which she would fit. This one or the other? Can we say sweaty hair?

I got our outfits all ready and clean. Big fat pat on the back for not scrambling last-minute to scrub a stain off of a shirt. Oh wait. I did that. I coiffed hair, put outfits on at the exact last-minute and then went like a madman to pick up my daughter. Somewhere in there I made chicken fingers and put them on a plate for her. She ate while I worked with her sweaty hair. The girl did NOT want it up. It would have been so lovely if I had been just given a chance. Nope. I love puberty. With a wave of the brush, I gave up and we whizzed out the door.  She ate while we drove and I hoped she didn’t have chicken cooties stuck in her teeth and that the sweat wasn’t visible to the naked eye.

We made it on time and family pictures commenced. First the group shots. Those started with a fun “I’m NOT going to smile!” Kristen then tried to get some individual shots. The boys were in fine form. All I had to do was yell out the word “Fart!” and they were all smiles and laughs. The girls? Well, let’s just say they didn’t kill each other.

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The Reverend and I were getting cozy and kissing for the camera. Look Reverend, family pictures are FUN!!  Suddenly, we heard what we thought was “Get off my Sh** you Butt-head!” and realized, with great relief, that they were playing “Ship”. The name calling just became that much less horrifying.  We love drama. Super hard to get all serious and cozy with that kind of drama going on behind us. I could NOT stop from smiling.

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Then, there was a sisterly moment, when the two of them were posing on a precarious ledge. One got a little “feisty” and they both fell backwards on the grass. I laughed, then realized one of them actually got a little hurt and was crying. I thought we were done for, for sure. Alas, we moved into other more serene (ha ha) poses.

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We survived the Family Picture adventure that we had all dreaded. It had it’s ups and downs and it’s fair share of belligerent behavior but we made it. We even got to kiss each other more (The Reverend and I) than we’ve been able to kiss each other for…well, for too long. That part was down right enjoyable! And I was right! Kristen was able to make us look like a Loving family despite all the outtakes she had to sift through.

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Oh wait, I know the “normal” pictures are around here somewhere…

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Oh goodness, I guess there is no way to look normal after all

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How about this?

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There we go. A winner! Although I think the crazy, ill-behaved pictures suit us just fine! 🙂

And the awesome ending, as I was talking with Kristen, was when I noticed my daughter chewing something in the van. When asked what she was eating, she held it up triumphantly and declared `Chicken!` with a winning smile. Where was the smile beforehand I ask you? No where. But for a cold crusty who-knows-how-old piece of chicken…there it was.  For a moment I wondered just where had she gotten chicken and just how old was it? She’s been known to eat mysterious items. As I pondered where she had gotten it, I realized that it was from supper and she had found it on the seat…so much less awful. We live the life of Napolean Dynamite.  Tater tots in the pockets…yup. Been there.

That concludes our edition of Painful Picture taking  with the Reverend’s family.

And the end of the story really is in how God provided 4 more parties to help me earn what I needed to pay for the rest of the photo session. God knew I needed those family pictures as a great reminder of what HE had built and put together and provided the money for us to enjoy them.

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And I can’t fight this feeling anymore…

…I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.”

There are times when it’s easy to see the humor of any situation. I’ve gone through a lot of struggles in life (as we all do as humans) with death in the family, chronic pain, children with special needs, and tough times in ministry but there are usually things I can find to laugh at. You can bet that people in ministry have a warped sense of humor as they deal with many and difficult scenarios and survive by snickering at something that went wrong or just finding that silver lining of humor to smile at. I know that many other professions such as funeral directors, first responders, Police officers and hospital workers all have their own brand of humor that they have in common and regularly share a laugh over. You may find this offensive but it’s true. People survive difficult or even horrible things by being able to laugh about the things that happen in those lines of work or situations. It’s a coping mechanism that God has given to us. Now, I don’t necessarily share my funny take on so and so’s funeral with the bereaved family, but The Reverend and I can chuckle about it later. Laughter is good medicine. It says so in the Bible…so there!

In the past half of a year, the Reverend and I have had a hard time finding things to laugh about. Sure, our kids antics have sometimes filled a spot, but life has been just too painful to chuckle much and that’s been tough. I’ve wanted to write but I just can’t get past the serious heart-rending things that we’ve gone through. I don’t want to be depressing. We hold fast to our God and our faith, but the funny side of both of us is a shallow pool and life is not as funny as usual.

It is a weird place for me. I come from a long line of people who think potty humor is where it’s at. I laugh at the ridiculous and find that, for all the chronic pain in my body, laughter truly has been my good medicine.

That’s not to say that the joy inside of me isn’t there. It’s there alright. Joy is a different thing altogether. I know that the joy that is within me comes from the Holy Spirit and that HE is my strong tower. The joy in my soul is not dependent on the circumstances around me. In fact, I have sensed an even deeper shade of grace that has enveloped me in peace. I finally see what it is all about. I know that these situations aren’t about ME, though the talk “around town” is about us, it’s not really about us. It’s about the spiritual war going on around us. that’s fairly serious business and it’s got me on my knees a lot more often. These difficult times often cause a deeper well of God’s strength to open up and a faith that we hadn’t had before is now settling in.

This struggle has been one of the most difficult in recent memory. The Reverend and I are clinging to God and to each other. We enjoy our moments of mirth with a deeper richness. Together it is filling a place in our marriage and lives that need to be filled.

In my mind’s eye, I see the sun ( joy) rising in my belly with the rays of hope radiating throughout my body giving and pouring out my eyes as I look toward Jesus and see him afresh.

I can’t fight this feeling and I don’t want to. Laughter is fleeting (and amazing) but joy is long-lasting.