Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why I'm Glad Someone Stole My Camera

Eleven years ago, my camera was stolen.

To be precise, my knock-off Prada purse was stolen off the sidewalk where I had set it down and the camera happened to be inside it. You see, this was back in the day when we would buy a small camera that was actually separate from our phone so I was in the unfortunate position of being unable to carry my camera around in my back pocket.

At the time of the theft, I was wearing a white t-shirt riddled with the remnants of half-eaten Lifesavers and I'm pretty sure there was a stain on the back from where someone had spilled a shot of J├Ągermeister on me. I hate black licorice, so any inkling of keeping that shirt quickly faded after that little mishap.

I remember laying down in the back of someone's car - I honestly don't even know whose it was - and crying because I wouldn't have any photos to remember the night.

As a now 31-year-old mother of three, I have just one thing to say about this incident.


Yes, I lost all $100 I had "earned" with my Suck-for-a-Buck T-shirt that was going to buy all of us pizza at 3 am and sure, my fake ID was in there and yeah ok, that purse was super-cute. But inside that purse was the photographic evidence of one of the most embarrassing nights of my life -


Just so we are all on the same page here, let's go over the basics of the evening so you can paint the picture in your mind.

  • I was 20 years old. As in, NOT 21 years old. As in, I had absolutely no business being in any of the places I went that night. Ahem.
  • My co-workers threw me the party because my maid-of-honor was only 17 years old at the time. As it turns out, the legal age ladies I worked with didn't really know my particular tastes.
  • Having any sort of "particular tastes" about anything ceases to matter after 10 Jello shots.

It's going to be really interesting when I have to talk to my sons someday about my college years.

If I actually had any photos from that night, this would be where I would insert one. 

So somewhere out there in the world is a memory card that came out of a Canon Powershot camera, plucked from the sidewalk outside a bar (of course I don't remember which one) in Madison, WI on the very same evening in June of 2004 that a tornado destroyed a good chunk of my hometown. While that twister ripped houses and trees to pieces, I was busy putting my liver through the ringer and collecting money from strangers to eat a piece of candy off my shirt. 

At some level, I guess I was doing the same thing to myself that the tornado was doing to the good city of Waupun, causing senseless destruction. My husband's aunt and uncle had just finished building their dream home and had lived in it for about a week when they found themselves huddled under the basement steps as the tornado tore away the house from on top of them. 

Image Source:
Vance and Sheri still came to my wedding a mere 10 days after narrowly escaping with their lives and losing every single possession they had.

And in the back of my mind, I knew that at the exact same time they were huddled in fear under those stairs, I was drowning my fears and insecurities in mixed drinks and carelessness. I still remember greeting our guests after the wedding and absolutely LOSING IT when I hugged Sheri because I was just. so. ashamed.

I can never run for public office because I guarantee you those photos would suddenly show up and I would have to hold them up right next to the photo you see above. 

And I'm pretty sure I would want to huddle under my own basement stairs and cry. 

There would be blurry photos of a server from Red Lobster dressed like a strange mix of Raging Bull and Tarzan, dancing to a loud bass beat while women squealed. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a photo of me stumbling down the street, my weight supported by a girl named Mimi. My memory is a bit sketchy, but I know that cans of whipped cream made an appearance at some point. 

There's more. Much more. But in the name of keeping at least a little slice of my dignity intact, I'm going to stop there. Just trust me when I tell you that it was worse than a "teen" show on ABC Family.

As it stands, my recollection of the evening is sketchy at best.

At that time in my life, I worked hard at trying to tear down the person that my family had built while still maintaining the attractive exterior. I made some bad choices, got a pretty serious case of Pride that I still haven't quite been able to shake, and really did the best I could to destroy what I saw as broken. There were times when I really didn't see much worth saving, actually. Those were the times when I did the worst damage. 

Vance and Sheri's rebuilt house is beautiful. In the backyard, countless hours of labor were spent hauling and stacking rocks and pavers to create an environment where family could gather to laugh, cook hot dogs and s'mores, share good food and chase kids around. And the best part is the area where all those stone stack up to create steps that are perfect for setting up a family photo. 

Eleven years. 

I am passionate about using storytelling, humor, and creativity to bring encouragement to people. Some might call it "misery loves company," but that's splitting hairs from where I'm sitting. Yeah, I write about some of my soul junk on the Internet. And then I share it in the hopes that more people will read it and then share it with others. It's crazy, I know. 

I find joy in being along for the ride as God has pushed me to share the more ugly sides of myself and my story because there is always someone out there who needed to hear that they aren't alone, that God can rewrite any story to make it beautiful. Long story short, writing is kind of my ministry. In a twisted, snarky sort of way.

What if someone out there is still deep in the midst of their own destruction, splintering beams and tearing down walls, not realizing that when the storm passes, there is beauty to be found? 

Some days will be harder to see than others, but I see that beauty now. 

In his blue eyes. 

In loving smiles. 

In family. 

All rebuilt on ground that was once all but destroyed. 

I can't say that the rebuilding process is complete in me, but what I can tell you is that there has been so much restoration. I heard Sheri say once that the second house ended up even better than the first because they were able to fix some of the mistakes they had made the first time around. 

In my heart, it went way beyond a poorly placed linen closet. There is still so much work yet to be done.

For me, seeing those photos would be like looking at the photos of the wreckage. Instead, I'd rather emerge from under the stairs and get absolutely awestruck by how our amazing God can turn rubble into beauty. 

These photos are now 5 years old, but I love seeing baby Micah's chubby smiles held up in front of that resurrected house. And even though it's taking every ounce of restraint I have not to scrutinize the post-baby jiggle I've got going on, I would rather look at these photos any day. 

As it turns out, God is in the business of rebuilding what is broken. 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5: 6-8

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