I needed a heavy dose of getting over myself lately. Today I found my “cup of humble tea” while editing photos.
I took the photos below months ago while I was in Ethiopia. They have been sitting in a folder on my computer waiting for a few edits. However each time I open the photos to give them a touch-up I am frustrated because the lighting is awful (and I knew it when taking the photos) and feeling frustrated that no amount of editing can “fix” these photos, I give up and close the editing program. I think of these ladies often. Visiting these ladies is one of my most memorable moments while in Addis. They work for Mission Ethiopia, a program that supports women who make jewelry and then the proceeds from the sale of the jewelry is what provides them income. While Lauren and I visited these women, specifically at this location, they were quiet and were a bit stand-offish. I asked, via our translator, if they were happy working with Mission Ethiopia. Our translator just looked at me awkwardly and said, “is it ok if I don’t answer that?” I knew instantly what he was implying. The answer was no. I vividly recall looking down at my feet at that moment and seeing one woman’s sandaled feet beside mine. They were worn. They looked tired. She looked tired. As I sat there looking at her feet, I asked God to use me at that moment because I had no idea what to say or do. Thank God, literally, for his answer in the form of my camera. I was beginning to sweat a little bit since I didn’t have anything else to offer or bring to the table. I thought of the awkwardness of the situation and how I would feel if this happened to me while I was attempting to work and a stranger visited me…just sitting and staring at me.
I lifted my camera up and asked them if I could take their photo. As the translator explained to them what I had asked, I watched them curiously look up from their work and look at one another. Each one seemed to wait for the other to make the first move. Eventually one nodded her head in approval and I lifted my camera and snapped away. I knew the room was too dark, but it didn’t matter. I saw these women come alive as one-by-one I went through the group taking photos, asking them to smile (in Amharic). They smiled, but I’m sure it was because I was saying the word incorrectly. Either way, I smiled as I took their photo. I watched them hide their smiles shyly and others would tease as I would attempt to take a few photos of some of the younger women. It never ceases to amaze me how much a camera can instantly make a situation come alive. People begin to act differently…either more like themselves or perhaps it has the complete opposite reaction. In this case I was thankful for that camera. It served as the icebreaker and my armpits took a break from sweating under the pressure of these intimidating women. Ha!
The visit was short and sweet, but I still think and pray for them often. Today as I finished editing the last photo, I paused to think of words that describe these women. I had read from Matthew 11 recently, and I recalled this verse:
“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.”
These women are humble and gentle. I truly find them beautiful on the inside and outside; imperfections and all. Upon my return from my first trip to Ethiopia (you can read more about that here), I found myself pleading with God what I was to do with the experience and he spoke to my heart and said, “see them as I see them.” God is truly changing my heart to see all people exactly how He sees them. I am a work in progress, though, because it took me six months to get over my own artistic vanity in not having “perfect photos” of these women, and heed God’s call when He gently pushed me to finish editing them. I can’t make them perfect and there is only one who can…so get over it already. 🙂