Do You Have the Full Picture?

My annual photo average jumped from 500 to 10,000. I’d become not just a mom, but the Mamarazzi, living by the mantra: picture proof or it didn’t happen. Pictures promise to bottle-up memories.

October means leading the college student retreat. Between selfies, Instagrams and Snapchats, easily the world is now thousands of photos heavier. Photos telling of friendships blazed, adventures had, decisions made, and beauty observed. Photos freezing time.

My boys had the weekend of their lives. Jammin’ on drum sets, toasting s’mores past bedtime, canoeing firsts, scrawling notes and posing questions in sessions meant for the 18+ crowd. The highlight? Playing “assistant coach” in the Western Michigan vs. Grand Valley football game. My littles will be talking about it for weeks. But, these college guys were simply playing a game, fueling a rivalry and burning off camp tacos, not trying to be role models to my kids. From their vantage point, the little observers went unnoticed. Without a photo, you don’t always see the full picture.

Many hands, brains, hearts, gifts and passions made the weekend happen. 20 missionaries, a featured speaker, a band, volunteers, student leaders and camp staff. Introductions were given, people platformed, connections made, thank yous expressed.

It was time for a group photo.

Time to gather everyone who made the weekend what it was. 200 sets of eyes and smiles. Something felt off. My teammate, Kelsey had offered to sit in a dark, musty cabin with my should-have-been-sleeping-but-instead-was-screaming-two-year-old, so Dennis and I could carryout our retreat roles. Kels wouldn’t be in the all-group photo. I opened her contact in my phone, displaying her picture, lest she be unrepresented in the retreat snapshot. Even in our best attempts to gather all, you don’t always get a full picture.

To honor the tenth annual retreat, we assembled an alumni band and invited alumni to serve as camp volunteers. Alumni stepped into the sessions to share stories of their own changed lives. It was a visionary glimpse into the past, present and future of what we’ve poured our hearts into the past decade.

Many of these returning alumni were part of “starting it all.” We began with 2 students in 2006 and within months, hundreds were involved. Ten years later, some of this inaugural class returned to serve, with changed lives, expanded experiences and families!

The photo was a fun throwback. These grads went their own unique ways, down their own unique paths, with their own unique stories and they came back for a bit. It’s beyond articulating in a handful of words. It isn’t adequately captured in a photo. Behind the scenes is growth, change, faithfulness, service, trust, history, friendship and significance. At face value, a classic group shot. But, this photo represents a legacy. You don’t always get the full picture.

In the moment, you don’t always notice what’s happening until you see the final footage. Sometimes, you are left out of the picture, when you should be in it. And even the perfect picture doesn’t always tell the full story.

I’m in a season of not having the full picture. Not knowing what “next” means. Not certain of what tomorrow brings. Not sure of where, what, who, when, why and how.

I wonder if I’m being cinematized in moments I won’t fully understand until I see the final footage.
I wonder if I’m an unsuspecting “not pictured” in a place I’m meant to be.
I wonder what’s being captured with more story to tell.

I’m hungry for the full picture. I’m longing for the knowns, the certainties, the ideals, the whole story. But, I don’t get to see the full picture just yet. I just get to be and do. I get to show up and be pictured or proxied. I get to let the rest of the story come as it does and not worry about things coming out picture-perfect.

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