The vest hangs in my closet, drab khaki, untouched since the last time we moved, over ten years ago. My grandmother gave it to me twenty-seven years ago, the day I graduated from college. When I opened the gift, I remember thanking her in my fake-enthusiastic way, “Wow, Grandma! Just what I needed!” I exclaimed.
“I’m sure it’ll come in handy for all your picture-takin’,” she explained with a giggle. I’d smiled again and given her a hug. Yes, I’d purchased a nice camera with a telephoto lens over the summer before my senior year of high school; I’d had a photography class in college, and I know I’d sent her some cool photos from the year I spent in Spain. But this vest, well, it was something a pro might use in a war zone.
“I’m sure it will. It seems to have a pocket for everything,” I had replied. But I’d never worn it, and I’d never explored all of those pockets. In my freshly minted arrogance, I’d assumed the vest was another Fingerhut special—cheap, and not worthy of my regard (after all, Grandma was a Fingerhut shopper of the year). I secretly believed it was a fishing vest, not one for photographers. Ah, what did Grandma know?
But I’d held onto the vest, through marriage, through three major moves, though children and a busy life with no time to take photos (except of the kids), and no money to buy film (which, somewhere between the last move and now, had become almost obsolete).
Five years ago, while facing the challenge of finding summer school classes that sounded interesting (I have to keep my teaching certificate current), I spotted a digital photography class in the schedule. “The perfect excuse to buy a nice camera and snap a few photos,” I thought to myself. And so I did. I worked a second, part-time job to earn money for a Canon EOS Rebel T1i and I spent two blissful weeks in summer school learning all about digital photography, Adobe Photoshop and the joys of taking all the shots you wanted without having to buy and develop the film.
I fell in love. I discovered that wandering around and taking photos of things both quirky and sublime magically made stress disappear. I drove my family crazy, taking photo after photo of the same object while on walks (“Is it really necessary to take so many photos of the SAME thing?” my girls would whine and my husband ask, with a quirk in his grin). I bought a macro lens and explored the minutia of flowers and insects. I filled frame after frame with dragonfly eyes and butterfly wings and stamens and pistils.
I got lens envy. I started selling stuff I didn’t need or want any more on eBay in order to buy an “L” Series lens from Canon—one that brought the distant into sharp and crystal focus. I discovered birds. I now arise before normal people and hike to crazy places just for a chance at the perfect shot of a sunrise. I run outside in the middle of supper if a glance out the window proves that the light and the clouds have come together in perfect harmony.
And the vest. I looked at it today, and noticed the label: Columbia. I started examining the features: a pocket on the back with a draw-cord that would definitely hold a tripod; pockets large enough to house my 100-400mm telephoto lens in the front; multiple small pockets for holding film (or digital memory cards). Shoot, I could probably even fit my water bladder in the back compartment, toss in a few sandwiches and some energy bars and be set for the day. The pockets in front accommodate my wide-angel lens as well as my macro lens.
I’m still not sure if it’s a fishing vest or a photographer’s vest. But one thing I’m sure of. I regret not being thankful for it when I received it. I regret that it took me 27 years to appreciate the vest. I regret that I didn’t understand that my grandma knew me better than I knew myself. She understood that I had a passion and potential, and I vow to honor her by developing my craft—and wearing the vest while I do so.
Our heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves–he sees passion and potential in us that we can’t see ourselves. I encourage you to explore the closets of your soul and find the gifts he has given you. Dust them off, examine them and think of how the Giver imagined you using the gift. And then get to work–you honor him when you develop the gifts he has given you.
Today I’m joining up with Holley Gerth and friends at Coffee for Your Heart. Join us, won’t you?