Pictures & Words, Bearing Witness

History remembers only the celebrated, genealogy remembers them all.

Laurence Overmire


I love photography.  I love the art of peering through the lens of a camera to see time standing still.  I love that you can capture it and keep it forever to share with others.  I love that when the photos are put together they tell a story.  I love going back through them one by one, touching them, remembering when.  One of my favorite things to do is scrapbook, to present my pictures in such a way that will forever tell our family’s story, to keep a visual record of days gone by.

While most of the albums that I have completed bear witness to happy celebrations or milestones  recorded for remembering,  there are very few or no pictures of the dark, the broken or the silent days of the past.  Photographs memorialize a moment that allows us to go back in time.    I am realizing more and more how important it is to record with words as well as with images the stories of  our lives.  I have been working on my family tree for almost two years now and every time I find a new family member it opens up so many more questions about who they were and how they lived.  So finding a picture of them along with a story becomes even more precious.

I have kept a journal for years, probably going back to the very early 90’s.  There are gaps between the dates in those pages, sometimes days, months and even years where no words were written.  Most often, they were times when life was happening so fast there were too many details to even write the words down.  There may be an entry here and there that condenses the facts down to a list or short description of the events.   For a  few years I blogged on MSN Spaces about what was going on in my life or something God was showing me at the time, which is now cataloged as my digital archive.   What I loved about blogging was the feedback.  I had many friends stopping by to comment or begin discussion.   I was very grateful to have  that experience.  I felt as if it kept me accountable to the truth.  I took it very serious that we are each responsible for every idle word that comes from our lips.  The blogging and connection with others became a way for me to not become so isolated within myself during a difficult time in my life.

In some of those written records of thoughts or memories are moments I refer to as “glimpse of glory,” those defining times when God did the most personal, miraculous thing in my life.  Yes, I have, on occasion, witnessed God’s glory in my life.  As I look back over the last decade,  I see images in my mind’s eye that are forever engraved on my heart.  They are like framed collages, each image bearing witness to a timeline.   The notable thing about His glory is that it always came upon the back of darkness and brokenness, when life became foggy and dazed.  When our memory dulls or is clouded by emotion the actual photographs bear witness to the blessings in spite of the circumstances.

The truth is that God’s glory can shine brighter in the darkness of brokenness.  It seemed to me in those times in my life I was acutely aware of how God was more real and present in my circumstance than ever before.  As one of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot, has written, “It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.” And He truly does.    I realize now that all those memories, images, photo albums and written recordings of my life become the very building material God used to bring about personal growth in my relationship with Him.  I can see it unfold through the timeline filled with snapshots and paragraphs of words.

I know there are many who would say, “quit looking back, you need to look forward” but there is something to keeping record of where we have been so that we can celebrate how far we have come.  Many times in the Old Testament God would tell His children to build a memorial so that their children would know where they traveled or what they overcame.  So I do believe God wants us to remember.  To count our blessings and to avoid veering away from Him.  I guess that is why researching my family tree has been so exciting.  I want to read the stories and see the pictures. I want to know how far “we” have come!

Would you believe that my tree is  so full that I can’t even hardly see around it!  I have to date about 2,391 people, including my husband’s side of the family.  I get to see pictures of Great-Great-Greats, etc that just make me more curious.  I began to wonder what their stories were.  Wondered about their faith, their day-to-day lives, their heart-breaks, their victories.  I want to read their stories…I have found a few which are like gems! An exciting discovery was finding out that  my father’s side of the family was a long line of Christians.

Finding that information was the piece that gave me inspiration to be more diligent about writing it all down, to annotate the pictures, to tell the story about the pictures.  Then a thought occurred to me, as a Christian, I pray for my children, I pray for their mates and for their children.  I know that my ancestors who had the same faith most likely did the same, which means they prayed for my father, for me and for my children.  That was the most incredible realization for me.  It was the understanding  that none of us are alone.  We all belong, we all come from somewhere.  We all are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Understanding that the Lord is faithful in His answer to prayers from our forefathers, He is faithful in His answer to our prayers.  He is faithful!

Grace to you,

Shell

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 89:1

 

Family Tree

More on ancestry: Counting Backwards

2 thoughts on “Pictures & Words, Bearing Witness

  1. I understand your interesting in records and history that on film. I wish so much that the technology that’s so readily available now was available in the earlier years of my life. Now I try to capture things here and there but have leaned very heavily on my wife since she is far more talented with a camera than I am. Currently I see my children as living archives and above all I seek to do all I can to invest all that God has given me in them. I was blessed by this today my friend.

    • You both become the keepers of your tree LOL kids have a way of making us want to know more about where we come from…that is sooo cool!!! Your wife’s pictures are so beautiful!!! Thank you so much for taking time to read the post!! 🙂

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