Picture Perfect

{*This article previously posted on the online magazine Destiny in Bloom. It is an article that I felt fit with the week as we’ve all spent the weekend sifting through everyone’s beautiful Easter pictures. It isn’t easy to navigate this world of polished pictures and social media frenzy…remember, a picture captures a single moment….and single moments strung together build a life….and no one moment is perfect…but loads of imperfect moments strung together with love and laughter do build an extraordinary life. Love you all and your darling pictures so!*}

Last night, Toby and the kids and I looked back through the family blog I started five years ago. We spent two hours reading through posts, watching video montages, and scrolling through pictures. We laughed, oohed and ahhed over the pictures that had been shared and thought back on the memories that those pictures and videos had captured. We looked so happy, like we didn’t have a care in the world. The moments we looked through seemed perfect. As we scrolled down the blog my husband and I caught ourselves wondering why we didn’t operate with the joy we used to have. Our memories seemed fond and carefree. It seemed as though all the pictures we looked at shined pearly white teeth and sunshine faces in the midst of world changing works of God, all the while experiencing an incredibly adventurous life.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

For me though, it depends on what angle you are looking at a picture. The truth is that there is a “life picture” behind those “snapped pictures.” What Toby and I began to wade back through was the realization that the life behind most of those pictures was an uphill climb. The Christmas picture that we all looked so happy and snuggled together all warm and fuzzy like was in sync with an incredibly difficult time financially, and a season of testing in our marriage. Toby and all his football players banded together for a season-ending pic that might seem victorious and full of comradery, but was in actuality coming at the conclusion of the first year in and redirecting a program faced with obstinacy and challenge. That darling little main street snapshot came after a season of being incredibly sick and many fear filled days of what was ahead.

We were wading through questions, surrendering self-doubt, submitting to greater callings, strengthening our arms to swim in unchartered waters, risking failure, and seeking abundant life. Every picture showcased an “in living color” life picture we were in. And yet we smiled. We talked about more than just the single solidary moment that was captured and made recognition of the ability God has to forge Joy, true lasting Joy, in circumstances that would superficially be captured as an “easy life.” We read the scripture that covered the side of the blog and agreed heart and soul with its Truth to what is our “now” life. That we do indeed live with Joy now, not just in the fondness of our picture memories, but in the here and now we do indeed find joy. “And HE shall be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is our treasure!” Isaiah 33:6

Culturally speaking with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Photoshop you can publically live a carefree life and have perception be your reality. How many times have you scrolled down your Facebook news feed and thought that everyone is living a more exciting life, full of instant pleasure, a money tree and whirlwind tours? Have you opened your Christmas cards only to assume that the perfected letters written or pictures showcased came with great ease? Please don’t misunderstand me. I do have a most gloriously beautiful life and a family I absolutely adore. The pictures we take or post are real. However, that Joy, those smiles, the life that is being built brick by brick behind them has been forged. The smiles and pictures are precious because they don’t come easy—they come by choice. We spend two hours looking through them because we need the encouragement of that moment it captured, no matter how it came, or how fast it left.

There is extreme danger in today’s picture-perfect world. I’m not suggesting we start judging the stink out of everyone’s life as we look through their precious pictures, start posting all the nasty pictures of ourselves, cataloging every family fight, or assuming the worst out of all pictured circumstances. I’m simply suggesting that we should start viewing life as it really is. Instead of looking for the “celebrity” in every picture, we should start looking for the “celebration” of the Spirit of the Lord. No life is like a picture perfect Polaroid. No life worth having comes easy. Real life, as it is really lived, is like eating a really messy Sloppy Joe without a paper towel. I love what Psalms 119:96 says: “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.” My husband put it best in the closing line of our Christmas letter several years ago. “The Trotter family is here to let you know that life is good. Life is not a fairy tale nor is it a sob story. It is not unconquerable nor is it without challenge. Life is JOY in our family because we don’t have to manufacture it, it comes from Christ. So we live life. We do crazy stuff, we have fun, and we love being surprised by faith. We love people, football, and the Food Network. We also love a good central heat/air unit. Bottom line, we are a tight family and any time you want to chill, let us know. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Life is great, and as Toby and I finished looking at our blog pictures we came full circle to realize that although imperfect, our life then—and now—has joy. The blessing of those pictures then and the blessing of our pictures that we have in our present now still ring with the same melody: Happiness is a byproduct of holiness. So as you view your pictures, or the pictures of others, see the “thousand words” that go with it. See the moments in pictures and realize the truth that we all have times of true struggle, but that there is joy to be had. As Dolly Parton put it in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

Take time to appreciate the smiles that come at a price. True, genuine, unashamed happiness is a byproduct of your pursuit of God and His holiness. Happiness isn’t picture perfect. Happiness is a life lived and forged by the pursuits of God. Those pearly whites gleam true, your eyes radiate through the lens, and your pictures bring Joy to others when Jesus truly has etched His life through yours.

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