This July I had the ultimate privilege of attending SpeakUp, a conference for writers and speakers organized by Carol Kent. Since I am in process of writing a couple of books, I attended the virtual writer’s track. One of my many awesome take-aways was my need for a good-quality headshot. Since I’m new to this all, my hubby and I talked it over and decided to try it ourselves first. We figured we would just cobble together an indoor background. Yet something nagged at me inside. Remembering an orange from years ago, I knew what I needed to do.
An orange? Yep, an orange.
We’ll come back to this orange in a second, but it’s safe to say by looking at my pictures, that I did hire a professional photographer, after all. I’d love to give a shout-out to Kari Douma Photography for the amazing headshots. Thank you so much, Kari, for going above and beyond in our photography session.
I met Kari about ten years ago when I had the idea to take up photography. If you know me, you know that I just don’t care for crafts at all. Probably because too many decisions are required. Artsy? Yes, I’m very artsy, but that artsy gene did NOT influence my photography.
Kari offered a class for normal, everyday people like me to learn to use a SLR camera. Had I known that NUMBERS would be involved in photography, I don’t know that I would have attended. My dyslexia reared up and I couldn’t get the numerals to all settle down and play nicely with each other. I did get a beautiful picture of an orange hanging from a tree at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, though. And in one afternoon, my photography career aspiration fizzled out. I’m glad it did, because people like Kari are the true artists here. We need them. We need her.
(If I could only FIND the picture, I'd put it here for you to see. Sigh. I need to organize my photos better. Are there classes on that?)
Kari was a godsend. I walked into her studio a conundrum of indecision.
Does anyone else besides me have trouble with decision making?
If you do, please keep reading. If you don’t, then maybe read to understand those of us plagued with this struggle. I’m sure there’s that “somebody” in your life who struggles in the same way. And feel free to insert your own situation in here as you read along with mine. Maybe you have to choose between two different career opportunities. To choose a different car to buy. To choose a major. To choose to move or not.
Are big decisions hard for you? What about small ones? Maybe, like for me, both are?
I found getting ready for my photography appointment to be very stressful. I couldn’t choose what to wear. I have all boys, and therefore a lack of built-in fashion advice, but they cheerfully did their best to appease their mom and weigh in on my four different outfits. Walking downstairs in each choice, I gathered forced opinions. They were really good sports about it all. They also knew immediately what they liked. Me, I couldn’t decide to save my life.
My boys unanimously chose an option. I further sent the coerced pictures to a couple of female friends, secretly hoping someone would choose what I liked deep down inside, but was afraid to speak aloud. My husband received the options, as well. And? What did they say?
Every stinkin’ one of them chose the red outfit.
I like red. I really do. My twelve-year-old ten-speed was red. My first real car was red. (That’s another story.) In my twenties I frequently wore red lipsticks. My closet now sports a ton of red apparel. I had a red wall in my basement. (Hubby was glad for that to go.) In fact, my senior photos way back when were done in red. I even wore fake plastic, cherry-red nails for that photo shot. That’s how much I like red and I had planned on wearing it for this session- until I spied the green in my closet.
Fun, quirky, yet classic green. It called out my name. It said, “This is YOU.”
I heard it deep down inside, yet, I was too timid to listen.
If everyone else saw something different, then they must be right. Right? But, I digress. Let’s get back to what Kari witnessed at her door.
In addition to the red shirt, which I resignedly wore, and the green shirt, which I carried hopefully on a plastic hanger, I walked in with a different earring options in each ear. I must admit to slightly adverting my head when walking past people in the parking lot who looked at me curiously. I could see them almost raise their hand to call out to me, but then hush and leave me to my own fashion demise. Both were my earrings, mind you, and I love them both. But one felt more like me, even though my team of strong-armed fashion coaches chose the other pair.
Kari put me to ease immediately after I explained my vacillation. “I actually really like the green. And those earrings you like are beautiful. Go with that!” and we did.
After her gracious offer to photograph me in BOTH colors, we looked at the pictures together. What an amazing way to choose photographs. “This or that? Which one of these three can we immediately discard?”
I loved working with Kari, and she allowed someone like me, who needs to learn to trust herself faster, walk in slightly more confidence.
At the end, though, something again nagged at me. My smile. It wasn’t…me. It didn’t reach my eyes. It felt like I was staging myself and not allowing who I am to shine through. Ever have one of those kids whom no matter what you try, you cannot coax an authentic smile from them? They are so difficult to photograph and you know that the smile in front of you is not really them. It’s forced and awkward. Yep, I felt like that was me. It’s most likely genetic. That’s at least what I tell myself. It allows me to feel better.
But this time, I took a deep breath and dared to admit what I felt inside.
I started to trust myself faster, hoping that my deep-seated fear of “My voice is offensive” didn’t spring up.
I mentioned that I wished I had smiled bigger, but since I didn’t want to appear cheesy, I held back.
Here is what won me over with Kari. She immediately retook several poses with two backgrounds, coaxing a laugh from me, camera in hand. Mind you, I’m not used to things pointed solely at me, but I finally began to relax. Satisfied that my smile was now “me”, I narrowed my choices down to two pictures. I bounced out of her studio sporting my chosen green shirt and two matching earrings, my outside look now matching my preferences inside.
I religiously checked my email all weekend for the pictures to arrive. My children good-naturedly rolled their eyes at me. “Mom, it’s the weekend now and you only had them taken at 4pm on a Friday. Give her some time to get them finished. You’ll get them next week.”
I know, my precious boys, but I haven’t been the sole recipient of a camera in my face since I was a shy 17-year-old posing for senior pictures. It’s a few years later now, yet I feel the same anticipation and nervousness – just minus the shyness and the fake, plastic cherry-red nails.
Smiling at my crew, I secretly checked again an hour later. I don’t even know why I checked because once the email appeared early Monday morning, I sat there and stared at it, refusing to open it for several hours. “What if I look….” “What if I….” Yep, I know. I approved and chose the shots. But still doubts raged in my mind.
Insecurity. Decision making.
The two concepts breed together some horrible-looking fallouts in life. One result - I don’t trust my own voice. Another way to say this: I don’t trust myself fast enough.
Am I the only one who struggles with trusting myself? Please tell me you, too?
Do you know if you google “decision-making”, a myriad of five to fifteen step plans present themselves as the cure to this insecure decision-making anxiety? I don’t know about you, but steps simply fatigue me. I’m already feeling overwhelmed. I don’t desire to add more things to do in my life.
What if there’s a different way?
Emily P. Freeman talks about decision making in her delightful podcast, “The Next Right Thing”. In her book with the same title she writes, “A whispered chaos swirls in the mind of those who carry unmade decisions. I am never more open to advice, perspective, and other people’s opinions than when I have a decision to make. I’m never more aware of my need for God, for hope, and for direction than when I have to make a choice. I’m open, I’m ready, I’m listening for any clue as to what I should do next.
“When I have an important decision to make, my tendency is to get more input, not less. I approach my daily decisions and plans for the future like a hoarder gathering opinions, facts, perspectives, and lists. But what if I approached them like a minimalist; clearing space, quieting my mind, and listening for whispers in the silence? Would it make a difference?
“When the answers aren’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction. The problem is we are often looking for direction in all the wrong places. Often the clues to our next decision remain within us, unheard and undiscovered.”
What if we look at this decision-making anguish with curiosity to discover the root of the problem, extinguishing it there?
What if the key to decision making is not found in "how to" steps or the hoarding of opinion, but rather in listening for the whispers of the person (Christ) found living, moving, and empowering inside? (*Note - I certainly believe there is wisdom in counsel, but where do we look FIRST in decisions? I can tend to look outward first, rather than towards Christ.)
What if the answer lies in five simple letters? T. R. U. S. T.
There’s that word again…trust.
Oh boy. Maybe for you, too, this area can be a struggle due to certain life messages you have received in the past.
Remember, these are not “how to” steps, but rather something akin to those old high school geometry proofs that we couldn't wait to forget. Do you remember those If-then Statements? If P, then Q.
Since I am one of those that learned this only for a test than allowed it to leave for other important things (Sorry Mr. Smith), allow me to explain. I promise to make this easy to understand for one who has never heard of them or who was absent that day in school.
"If P, then Q" implies if "P" is true, then "Q" is also true. For example, IF you score 90% or better in class, you will get an A. IF my Michigan trees are red, orange, and yellow, THEN it is fall. IF my college boyfriend drops an air condition on my toe, THEN my toe will hurt. (Yes, this happened. He was so sweet and immediately checked my college freezer for ice. Only finding a bag of frozen peas, he pressed it against my toe and babied me. I married him. I know a good thing when I see it.)
Now that we have taken a foray back into high school geometry or logic class, I invite you IN to ponder these three trust questions right here along with me. Keep in the mind the word “in.” It’s rather important. For all practical purposes, we will call these questions the antecedents of our equation.
The 3 trust questions
1. Where is my trust in Father? I am not talking about trust in a specific outcome, but rather trust in his very nature. Do I believe God is good and has my best interest at heart? Do I trust Father’s love for me, knowing that he stands next to me with a smile and delight, rather than irritation and impatience?
2. Do I trust I have a new heart? "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) Can I dare to hope that my new heart now contains Father’s desires deep inside?
3. What difference would it make if I believed that the person of Jesus Christ lives inside me? Do I trust “Christ in me, the hope of glory” to be true? (Colossians 1:27)
Did you catch all of the "in’s" here? If not, perhaps reread them again. One little preposition makes all of the difference.
IF P, THEN Q
IF I trust in God and his love for me and his best interests for me, AND I trust that I have a new heart, complete with God's desires, AND I trust in Christ living inside me, THEN I can trust that He is actively working in and through me, including any decision that I make. “…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
I’m sure the “consequent” of the equation in geometry is not supposed to be another question but I am, in fact, going to answer a question with a question. My husband teases me about this all of the time. We're told not to answer a question with a question. But, oh well. I don’t care.
Here we go: Do I trust that He is actively working in and through me in this new heart of mine and through “Christ in me”?
Perhaps the answer to indecision is trusting “Christ in Me”, knowing He is actively working through me for my good and His glory. In this truth I can trust that my desires bubbling up from deep within my new heart are from Him. I can trust the desires he reveals inside.
It is this trust of “Christ in me” that allows me to trust my new heart.
Trusting Christ in me = Trusting in the desires of my new heart = Trusting myself faster
Is this a troubling thing for you? If so, maybe think of it as trusting Christ in you rather than trusting yourself. Really that's splitting hairs, though. The fact is - Christ's spirit is now fused to my spirit. I simply choose to believe this truth in my decisions.
So back to the green shirt, what would have happened if I had trusted my desires inside? Would I have went with what I knew I wanted? You know, had I been cognizant of the truth that I am Christ in Aleisha, I would have trusted myself faster as I dressed for these head shots. I would have realized that Father and I really liked the green shirt. Why? He went so far as to put that desire into me on purpose. I only had to trust what I knew to be true inside.
I love what my dear friend, Tina, texted me in my conundrum. "It is trusting God in you… it's ok to have your own sense of fashion. He's got your back, even on that."
As Emily P. Freeman again says, “When the answers aren’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction. The problem is we are often looking for direction in all the wrong places. Often the clues to our next decision remain within us, unheard and undiscovered.”
That clue that you long to receive, my friend, is to realize that the direction we desire is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who lives inside us. We are new. We are now people with new hearts that bubble up his desires. He lives his life through you and expresses his own unique sense of style through you. His desire is now your desire deep down inside.
Can we trust that?
So next time I either have a huge decision to make, or even a smaller one like what to wear to a photography session, will I trust “Christ in Aleisha”?
I hope I do.
Will you trust “Christ in yourself”?
I hope you do, too.
Don’t fear. Remember, Father’s made it simple by fusing his spirit with ours. For our benefit. For our trust.
For the hope of His glory.
P.S. Dear friends, may I suggest if you have the same general decision-making anxiety that I do, check out The Next Right Thing Podcast.https://emilypfreeman.com/podcast/. Start at the beginning and work your way current. Believe it or not, it’s already helped me a ton. And yes, I know, I should continue listening as I learn to trust myself faster. I will.
Also, I just have to give a huge shout-out to my wonderful photographer, Kari Douma! If you live in the Grand Rapids area and need a headshot (or a precious newborn session…photos for that big moment…a family picture to treasure, etc), contact Kari Douma Photography. http://www.grandrapidsheadshots.com/ You won’t regret it. Hopefully you’ll even open up your email quicker than I did.
I’m sure you will.