I have always been a believer– a believer in hard work, a believer in dreams, a believer in my children and my husband, a believer in people and above all a believer in God. But with all that said, sometimes I struggle with being a believer in myself.
When I am hired for a job, whether in the area of design or photography, I am extremely humbled. Soft smile, big sigh… they picked ME. I am not oblivious to the fact that there are loads of talented creatives out there, especially in the area where I live. Every time I get a call requesting my services, I take it seriously and understand the importance of doing my very best.
Looking back on my professional journey leading up to meeting Christina, I would say that I improved technically leaps and bounds. The aesthetics of my work and my ability to capture great candid moments had always been there, but I had to work hard on my technical skills in order to capture these moments correctly.
These technical skills were not acquired overnight, although I pressured myself to learn fast, really knowing my camera has taken years. At this point in my career, I feel confident capturing amazing moments correctly… my hard work has been paying off.
Just as I was planning my 2016 season with the launch of Chy Creative, I got a call from Christina DiMari. I had heard her name before, but this was our first time talking with one another. All I knew about her was that she organized retreats for high school aged girls, at which they would do crafts and study the Bible. Our conversation was sweet and encouraging. She explained to me in greater detail that she ran a non-profit, Christian, girls mentoring organization called A Pearl for Every Girl. She explained their grand vision to impact young women worldwide for Christ. Her mission to instill value, love, purpose and hope in every young lady that crosses her path is all-to-inspiring. In summary, this non-profit is based around the idea that every girl is a pearl that God Himself is cultivating with purpose and destiny.
As we talked, I began to reflect on the moment I first encountered God—it changed me. In a sense, it resurrected me from that lost, insecure girl that I was into a young lady who had purpose, value and hope for her future. I was fortunate that in this vulnerable time of change that God surrounded me with other believers my age–other teenagers that I could bounce questions off of and relate to in ways that seemed more welcoming than approaching the adults in my life. It was in this environment that God could speak His truth in to my life. I was at an age of so many unknowns, but yet I was aware that God was growing me from the inside out.
As Christina continued to pour out her heart in the hopes of getting me on board, God began to stir in me. All that I learned up to this point would have a larger impact. I could feel it in my soul as I heard God speak to me, “Say yes and I will bless”. Christina was ready to hire me, she wanted to pay me, she wanted me… I found myself in a position to use my talent to help her carry out her mission. At that still moment I had the honor of taking her hand and saying YES, let’s move forward free of charge.
I immediately felt so excited for whatever God had in mind for this new relationship between Christina and myself. We set a date to brainstorm ideas for this photoshoot… my wheels were already turning!
I love bringing the indoors out… like putting a couch in the middle of a field, or a treasure chest in a valley of flowers. I also love fresh—fresh flowers, fresh linen, fresh scents and fresh ideas. I love candid smiles, laughter, relationship and being able to see a glimpse of someone’s soul through my camera lens. I felt I could bring these ideas to the table… the excitement to meet Christina was building and overflowing!
The day before I was to meet Christina and a couple of the girls to begin the brainstorming I felt that God was asking me to do more than just take pictures. He wanted to use me to tell their story… through video.
“Ummm… God, is that you?”… “It’s probably just me again wanting to challenge myself with something new”… “Right? I mean, it’s silly to try to learn video in such a short time—it took years to learn photography, how much longer will it take to learn video?”… “Oh, and the extra equipment I’d probably need. I’m already doing this project for free, if it costs me an arm and a leg my husband may kill me!”
I continued to question this request that seemed so simple originally, “Tell their story through video”. A peace came over me… “Yes?… I think”… “I mean, yes, but God this is your baby—you’ll have to show me the way…”
As Christians, I think we’ve all been there. Is this God speaking to me or me clouding my own mind with crazy ideas? I recently learned God will not cause you fear, anger, doubt or anxiety, IF YOU SAY YES TO GOD HE WILL BLESS THAT.
At the brainstorming table, we came up with some really neat ideas: bringing a farm table in to the middle of a field of flowers, white balloons, sundresses, lots of pearls and they’d all make fresh, flower crowns. Everything was coming together with such ease, so I decided not to really mention the video idea (why put pressure and expectation on myself, it may not even work… right?)
I didn’t want them to get excited for a video only to be disappointed. But deep down inside I KNEW I heard from God and this doubt and insecurity I was feeling was not of Him.
The weather the day of the photoshoot was a photographer’s dream. A blanket of whispy clouds acted as a Heavenly reflector that created the perfect light. It was breezy at just the right moments, but never a harsh wind. Christina had organized all of the props perfectly and we had plenty of help from the girls’ parents. With 17 girls to photograph, I brought along my amazing assistant, Rachel. We were all having the BEST time!
Secretly, after almost every picture I took, I would manually switch over all of my settings (according to a YouTube video I’d watched the day before) and shoot a short video clip. As I would see a story being told, I would start recording. It was easy… remarkably easy… too easy.
With the little knowledge I had of video I was recording. I FINALLY found myself giving this video excursion to God. I remember thinking, “I hope this is in focus… if I can use just one of these clips I will chalk that up as a success”.
Then came the moment of truth. I was back home in my office and downloading all of my footage from the day before. To my amazement every video clip I shot was useable… really? Not only that, but I was also able to capture some amazing photos of the girls as well. I felt completely humbled… why did I give doubt so much space in this project?
This was a good start, but now I had to put it all together somehow. If you’re in my industry of digital creations, you are well aware that you cannot import video in to Photoshop or Illustrator. I thought of iMovie, but felt like that program lacked some of the options I envisioned for this video composition at hand. With Creative Cloud I have access to Premiere Pro and After Effects—a few Google searches would verify that these were the two programs I would have to learn in order to merge all these clips into a usable 4-minute video.
I may as well have been touring Japan without a smart phone or money in my pocket. I mean, I think Finding Nemo was created using these programs! My point is, these programs are HUGE and I felt like an infant child alone in the middle of a big city. Like an infant first drinks milk, I began to feed my brain through “How to” videos on You Tube. “How to open Premiere Pro”… “What is a composition?”… “How to order more coffee on Amazon”. I was starting from scratch people!
Surprisingly, little by little I began to Google more complex questions and my project began to take form and bring on a life of it’s own. When I would hit a brick wall (several times) over an obstacle, I would remind God that this was His plan and He would have to show me the way. At one point, I couldn’t get past this pop-up within After Effects that wanted me to select a “LUT” before I could move forward with accessing my project. I googled, “What is a LUT?” and found SO many answers that all seemed way to technical for my understanding. I downloaded some “LUTs” that wouldn’t upload (user error I’m sure), I tried a couple work-a-rounds, I pulled my hair, looked at that brick wall and then hit the REPEAT button and did it all over again. Every time I couldn’t get passed this pop-up which meant I couldn’t move forward with editing this video. I even asked my Facebook friends! Clearly, doing it my way was not working—like AT ALL!
Did you know God has an incredible sense of humor? Well, He does and that’s a fact! After days struggling over this “LUT” issue and feeling SO under qualified for the task at hand I audibly spoke, “God, you got me in to this! Please help me get passed this pop-up so we can move forward with this project!”
…And, POOF! Just like that, the pop-up was gone. Really? Laughter arose within me as God reminded ME, “All you had to do was ask!” I feel it was His way of reminding me that this was His baby and He was still VERY much involved.
The video was completed shortly after that “LUT” went away and never came back. I loved the final product! I was beside myself that it was finished. I was ready to surprise Christina with this secret little project.
As with every client, I had a proof album printed with all of the raw images from our day together. I met Christina with her proof album in-hand and my laptop in-tow (to reveal the video). Now most of my clients quickly flip through their proof album, noting out load their favorite shots and then cringing their face at the ones that clearly are not their favorites. But not Christina, she looked at each of the 70 images as if there was just that one image in the whole album. She studied each one individually, she told me stories as to why THAT ONE spoke to her and captured the character of THAT GIRL so beautifully. Humbly, I took it all in, knowing I had even more to present her all because I chose to say YES TO GOD.
It took a good hour to go through the proof album with the conclusion that she would just need to have them all—such a compliment, truly. Bubbles began to rumble in my tummy and tears filled my eyes as I sheepishly tried to say, “There’s more”. And by sheepishly I mean that I couldn’t believe that I was even able to say it.
I pulled out my laptop and presented her with every excuse as to why it may seem choppy at times or the color is off a bit (that’s what the LUT is for) and prefacing the reveal with the fact that this was my first video. She straightened a bit, “Wait, did you say video? You did a video? For us?” I opened my laptop and the program and pressed PLAY.
In the moments that followed I realized that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for—I am capable of saying Yes to God, I am capable of learning new things and challenging myself, I am capable of fully trusting God and finally, I am capable of believing in myself.
This video, really, has little to do with me. I just get credit for being obedient to God. I know that God will bless this project as young women catch the vision of A Pearl for Every Girl through the grand journey this video will take around the world. I can see it being used as a tool to help move Christina and her mission forward which will in turn change the lives of so many young ladies.
As for me and my role in all of this, I believe that my roots are just beginning to break the surface with the task of diving in deep. I look forward to saying YES to whatever God has in store for me next.
For more information about A Pearl for Every Girl and to see how YOU can get involved, visit www.apearlforeverygirl.org.
In the meantime, I hope that this simple story finds residency in your heart and blesses your perspective on just how significant you are in this world.