Last week I had the opportunity and privilege to spend a few days in the mountains with some amazing people, who also happen to be photographers. We met up at a beautiful lodge near Divide, CO. This is where we stayed:
On our first afternoon there, as we toured the land (and the neighbors’ land), Ashley turned to me and asked why I had decided to come to the Don’t Give Up project. I wasn’t sure. A friend of mine had introduced me to the Parsons‘ work and encouraged me to go to DGU. I told Ash that (as with so many things in my life) I just felt like I was supposed to be there. And I’d heard the food was good. And it was – grilled cheese bar anyone?!
My mom called me about an hour after I got back and asked how it was and what I’d learned. I was still processing everything that had happened and wasn’t ready to talk about it. I could tell her that there was a lot of crying? That we slept in bunk beds? That there was no meat at any of the meals?! But that wasn’t it. I spent three intense days with people who want to make beautiful photographs. Photographs that tell stories – photographs that will last long after we’re gone.
I learned that we all have stories, and that everyone at DGU had a great story to tell. And many people had incredibly painful stories that shape the way they live and see the world. I was humbled and grateful for the openness and brokenness that my new friends were willing to share. I learned that there is beauty in pain. That we shouldn’t be afraid to tell the hard stories. I learned you need to laugh with each other before you can cry with each other.
As I’ve said before, the main way we learn story is not through movies or books, it’s through each other. You become like the people you interact with.
These polar charges, these happy and sad things in life, are like colors God uses to draw the world… Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.
The thing about death is it reminds you the story we are telling has finality… If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died. (All quotes from Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)
Jeremy and Ashley, thank you so much for telling great stories. Thank you for taking time to help encourage others to do the same. Thank you for showing us by example how to embrace whimsy, to see the glimpses of heaven that God gives us here on earth and for showing me that what I do has meaning, and matters. Thank you for showing us by example how to love others. Thank you for showing me that this is indeed where I am supposed to be, that I’m exactly in the right place of my story that is still being told. Thank you to you (and all my new friends!) for being a part of my story.