Till He Appeared and the Soul Felt It's Worth

At the beginning of the year I decided that a lot of progress was going to be made for my photography business. For example, I wanted to double the amount of payed shoots I had in 2015(since that was only a handful). In short, I didn't even meet that small number. I thought it would be so easy to do! But no. As hard as I worked it simply didn't happen. And I'm only saying this to be 100% honest with you. It was just a completely MEH kind of year, at least for my business. 

Actually the majority of people I have had conversations with lately have said that this was a very meh kind of year for them too. And oddly enough that really makes me feel better. Not that I'm happy we all had a bad year but on a bigger scale I like to think we can all be united by our meh experiences and strive to help each other succeed in the coming year.

I think the best is yet to come and that perhaps 2016 was a full year of preparation for a lot of us. But even if 2017 is worse(at least as far as business goes) I have come to learn a very important personal lesson to implement into 2017 and it's a game changer.

A month ago, heck even a week ago, I was so worried about my photography business and coming across as a failure to people. I've been anticipating the new year trying to accept that people will automatically see me as "wanna-be-never-good-enough-failure-photographer" forever and completely discard my work because I have not met my own seemingly simple business goals that most people could easily meet within a years time frame. 

Side note: Running a small creative business is one of the most vulnerable things you could ever do. It's putting your heart into a song, a photograph, a book, a weaving, and people constantly telling you that it's not worth their time or simply not good. Remember that this is a heart and soul that is represented through whatever is is you are holding, looking at or listening to. Any negativity only damages the ability to do what we are made to do.

"Made to do" are the key words here.
Where I went wrong this year was trying to please people in my business. To gain recognition and hope with all my heart that one day I just might make a dime off this business.
I realize that progression is obviously important when you're trying to run and grow an actual business. But we get obsessed. And the more we are turned down the more obsessed we become. And the more obsessed we become the more shaky our focus gets. And how can you run a business if you can't see clearly? Or you're "doing what you were made to do" but only by the worlds standards?

So what was my lesson that was so important? Well it started back at the beginning of fall when Thomas and I answered a call to come help a new church plant. First of all, just feeling called as strongly as I did was a huge sign that I had not been paying nearly enough attention to God this year.
(We think we need to do it all because other people are watching. We need to prove ourselves to others for some reason. Like a half second nod in our direction or enough likes on a post will actually fill us up with joy or something.)

No. God knows what he's doing.

On top of just helping set up for church each week Pastor Stephen asked me to start taking photos and help take over some social media for them. I've been doing this for a few months now as a service to my church. And these photos are not my usual moody high fashion senior style. It's not what I "love to do". Sometimes it's taking photos of worship on stage, sometimes it's taking photos of the trailer that we pack equipment into so that we can remember how to pack it the same way the following week.

But I can't remember the last time I felt so loved, appreciated and connected with a community. And that's because I'm not working for myself. I'm working with a team for a much higher purpose than my own glory. I'm plugged into a community, a church, where they have such a strong belief that everyone's unique talents are needed and needed greatly to serve our city and to serve our God. 

The lesson: When your focus is on something eternal all the earthly things you've been stressing out over and working towards seem to fall into place without actually doing much of your part. But this time you have the right motives. And that's when you find true joy.

It's not a coincidence that after two years of searching we found such a perfect house when we had just joined this community and my focus started to shift. 
I wanted a house so that Thomas and I could move out and simply start being our own family.
But I never thought that my little side businesses of handcrafted hats and scarves would make me more money in it's month than my photography made all year. Knitting, a talent I developed at 8 years old but had neglected for so long to focus completely on photography, over night became a huge game changer. Well our house has an extra room that I now realize I desperately need as a studio for NewHumans. 

And that's just one tiny example of how the dots are connecting. For so long I've wanted to play around with food photography and since Thomas and I are completely customizing our kitchen the possibilities are endless! 

It's all about shifting your focus and having faith. But more importantly knowing what you're putting your focus on. 

A few days ago I met up with some fellow creative business owners for coffee and one gal as talking about her word of the year being 'mindset'. Another word might be time, or relationships, or peace. The idea is that you have a general focus of where you want to grow and for a year you use one word to hold onto that.

I've never done this. But last night at church we had a Christmas caroling service. We sang songs together, the kids portrayed the story of Jesus" birth and we all went outside to carol in the streets of our city. My job of the night was to photograph it all and something hit me so incredibly hard. As I was capturing every member of our church holding candles and singing O Holy Night it just struck me that I was worshipping the Lord by using my talent for photography. For the first time in a while my focus was on the Lord while shooting and not on personal gain. I realized that I needed a word of the year and that that word would be Jesus. 

"Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth"

I felt frozen inside. I've felt so unworthy for so long because I have this passion, this talent that I know I need to use. Something that I've been pouring my heart and soul into. But it hasn't been used with the right focus in so long. And man oh man has Jesus shown me shown me how incredibly out of line I've been. But in the most loving and graceful way I could imagine. Just like how he entered into our world. 
He's appeared. And though it's not always the case, I feel worthy of this gift of photography. And gosh darn it I just want to shut my computer off and go take photos for the Lord!

Merry Christmas friends!
I'm on fire.

-Shannon