Finding God in Our Purpose

I was 12 when I dreamed of becoming a National Geographic Photographer one day.  Somewhere in childhood that dream was pushed to the side and forgotten.  But as I became a mom and held a camera in my hands, and as our phones morphed into cameras we carried with us all the time, I found myself obsessed with taking photographs every day.  I am the one in the group that captures the event, or people or place everywhere we go.  But life is busy with three sons, and work and everything that comes with a life lived well – so moving towards a craft I love still took a back seat but the desire kept growing.   My desire to use photography and words to tell stories has become deafening today.

The desire to capture life through a lens, to tell a story in a single moment through colors and a frozen moment has been imprinted on my heart for a lifetime.  I didn’t have the words or understanding that my desire to be a photographer was more than a childhood fantasy- it was God whispering to me, you Kristin, have been given a gift, a gift to make art, and your art will have the greatest impact using a camera and words, you will capture the spirit of people, of love, of kindness, of humanity and of miraculous and everyday faith using your camera and descriptions.  It may not be for National Geographic, but I know I was meant to take photographs in this life.

Several years ago I attended Storyline, a conference to encourage and inspire you to live a better story everyday.  Jeremy Cowart spoke the first day of Storyline. He is a professional photographer who has photographed well known musicians, authors, done commercial work and more recently focused his eye towards fine art photography.  He is also an artist, an entrepreneur and a humanitarian. He shared his story through images and words.  His visually narrated journey was vulnerable, honest, and moving.  His story was one of the power of Faith, and resilience, and hope.   The hope that something greater is in store for us.  That we can be the stewards to give others hope and make a difference.

He began talking about his childhood and education. He explained that he was not very good at many things he tried. His aptitude test showed him in the 5-15% for most areas. He told himself, “I Can’t”. Yet his father continued to tell him “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” Philippians 4:13.

This pattern continued. Jeremy learned he liked painting.  He ended up going to school for graphic design. He continued to have set backs, and jobs that he did not excel at.   What did he do?  He stepped out in faith. He tried new things and something amazing happened. He could. And he began to excel. As he gained exposure he became a well known celebrity photographer. But he did not stop there- he knew life is not about money or fame- it is about the difference we can make.

Jeremy began to use his influence to make an impact in the world.   First through photographing people who have never had a photograph taken of them through an effort he created called Help-Portrait, and then by taking photos in parts of the world that needed the light shined on them, on their struggles and of moments and stories that were hard, and difficult but in the end that captured the essence of what faith and love and forgiveness and grace can do in people’s lives, through the Forgiveness Project and capturing the devastating impact of natural disasters to show the need in those areas.

As if that was not enough, Jeremy continued to have bigger God-sized dreams he’s been working on.  One such project is building a hotel called The Purpose Hotel, the first hotel completely founded to fight social injustices and focus on social good through working with nonprofits to outfit the hotel.

What struck me the most about Jeremy is that he was not afraid to share his struggles and his many setbacks with us.  He was willing to share his failures and the role faith had in his life.  And through those struggles and the faith his parents instilled, he began to shine in the world.   He found some success but did not stop, he continued to push himself to find ways to make the world a better place.  To this day, he continues to reinvent himself, to try new techniques with his craft and to go after passions and places he can make an impact in the world, whether near his home or across the world.  What struck me the most is Jeremy is moving in the world as the hands and feet of  faith in action.  I am inspired by Jeremy because his actions remind me of the impact we can have, and that we can keep pushing ourselves in our craft and in the ways we help others.

By Kristin P. Fitch