A mixture of comfort, curiosity, and imagination filled my ten-year-old heart as I entered my grandparent’s spare bedroom. The room boasted creaky floors, a bright window, and an intriguing laundry chute tucked away in the closet where my brothers and I enjoyed dropping both clean clothes and toys alike. On this particular visit, however, it wasn’t the laundry chute that captured my interest. Instead, I noticed a table covered with piles of photographs. Old photographs of people I had never met, as well as recent snapshots of those I loved and knew well. Black and white portraits from long ago rested next to a few images that were badly faded. I giggled at pictures of my much younger dad and his brother sporting afros and short gym shorts. A recent photo portraying the friendship I shared with my cousins brought a smile to my face. I was fascinated by the vast collection of memories and felt compelled to hold and examine each one.
As intriguing as the more recent photos were—it was the photos of family members I didn’t know well or even recognize, that captured my attention. Who were these people? Did any of them resemble me? What stories were behind the photographs? Even at ten, I understood the value that these tangible images contained. As I studied them in the sunlight that filtered through the bedroom window, my young heart sensed the power they held to inspire, teach, and comfort.
Seventeen years after that day of discovery in my grandparent’s spare bedroom, my beloved grandmother passed away. When I attended the viewing, I was, once again, drawn to a table of photographs. My mother and her siblings had assembled some old, tucked away photographs that told the story of the woman who had birthed and raised them. Through these photographs, I saw my grandmother in a way that I had not known her before. She was always quick-witted and spunky (especially for her petite size), but bull-riding spunky? Who would have guessed? There was so much about her life I had not known. The memory of her early days had been tucked away, much like the old photographs, far back into the minds of those who lived those days with her. These experiences happened so long ago the memories were unlikely to ever have surfaced on their own—apart from the photographs.
Even more moving than being introduced to this younger version of my grandmother were the photographs of her with her husband, my grandfather. Those images warmed my heart in a special way as I recalled their godly, servant-hearted marriage. Their relationship built a legacy of the love of Christ that had inspired me since my teenage years.
Photographs are visual, silent storytellers. They hold our memories, remind us of our history, and tell the stories of our families. There is a connection that is strengthened, and sometimes even newly formed, by the image captured in a photograph and the story it portrays.
THE POWER OF GOD’S STORYTELLING
God often uses what I see with my eyes to teach me about where I come from and in whom my identity is found. The Bible, the story of redemption written down in a compelling and transformative way, is not the only tool the Lord uses to tell his story. In the Old Testament, God inspired his people to create beautiful pieces of tangible art in The Tabernacle, the place He met with His people.
“Moreover, you shall make the Tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them” (Exodus 26:1).
In this same section of Scripture, the Ark of the Covenant was also described and created. Visual elements were used by God to teach, to inspire emotion, and to create a beautiful place where His people could be in His presence, be reminded of their sin and cleansed of it, and could worship Him as Creator.
It’s interesting that God’s use of visual elements even precedes the Tabernacle in Exodus. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, references the Creator’s focus on visual artistry when he says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen” (Romans 1:20, NKJV).
I’m inspired that God uses the beauty of creation to visually teach us about His nature and draw us to Himself. Creation tells His story, just as photographs often tell ours.
The Lord often uses photographs to convey our family’s core values and faith. That strengthens me. It reminds me of my heritage and from where I’ve come. Through photos, God provides a personal illustration of both my physical and spiritual growth. Photographs not only record our family’s past, but they also illustrate our steady foundation and inspire us to continue building a legacy for future generations.
THE POWER OF YOUR STORYTELLING
You, too, can use the visual element of photography in your home to tell the story of your life that ultimately points back to Christ. In this day of social media, digital files, and cloud storage, it’s easy to allow photographs to sit, unprinted, untouched, and unseen. And although I’m a photographer, I too am guilty of leaving the files on my computer and losing them to crashes and data corruption.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are many ways to beautifully display your family’s memories and legacy, and immeasurable value in doing so. Here are a few simple, creative ways we tell the story of our lives through the photographs in our own home.
Over my daughter’s bed, a metal chain with clips holds photos of her mommy and daddy as children, our small family on the day she was born, silly, personality-filled photos of her as an infant, and many of the people in her life who love her deeply. A shelf in our home displays photographs from our wedding, our first year of marriage, and our children.
One beautiful benefit to displaying our stories through photos is the ability to get creative, both through inexpensive options or by investing in heirloom-quality displays. Each provides an avenue to feature memories where they can be seen by your family on a daily basis. Consider a wooden box filled with proofs of your last family vacation and your family’s happiest shot printed on the wooden top. Ornaments for your Christmas tree can feature special or ordinary moments in your family and point toward the Lord’s provision. Albums can hold priceless photographs of many generations and can be embellished with Scripture woven through the pages to remind your family of God’s goodness. Big, bold wall collages can include not only formal portraits but also creative, candid shots of family time. Mugs adorned with images bring a warm hug into any day.
Just like my grandmother and her pile of photos, and my mother who reminded loved ones of grandma’s spunky love for life, we can fill our homes with memories that tell our own stories. They’re sure to help our children see, value, connect with, and learn from our shared family history. God has divinely inspired a desire to connect through images. He uses them to strengthen our physical families, to connect with our spiritual family, to share His story, and to know Him better. Your story and your legacy are important and valuable. Embrace this simple yet profound opportunity to influence your children, your children’s children, and even the great-grandchildren you may never meet.
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