Three Years and a Camera

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My first ever DSLR, a Canon EOS 1000D. I took and edited this photo in front of my dressing table at home, on the night of my graduation from university. I was 20 (and yes I have big hands!)

This is dedicated to both my husband and that one person out there in the world who needs this.

I got my first ever DSLR camera for my 19th birthday. After the expensive traditional Filipino 18th birthday celebration I had had the year before and my laptops for university, it was the most expensive item that my parents had ever given me. I wasn’t practical at all in my choice of the colour of the camera. Even back then, I had already wanted “different” in my life, and I wanted to live every moment. Sure, I considered that getting the black version ensured better resale value, but I wasn’t concerned about that because right at that moment, that camera was no one else’s but mine.

I had already traveled a lot with my family back them. I had been around Australia a couple of times, around the US a couple of times, and around countries in Asia. Over the course of my teenage-hood, especially during my late teens, I had had taken over my mum’s photo-taking duties and designated myself the family photographer, using our trusty family “digicam,” or digital camera. So by the time I was 19, I knew that it was time to step it up with a more legit piece of equipment.

 

I always refer to the 19th-21st years of my life as the “dark days,” because my brain has done me a big favour and cast a big black cloud of forgetfullness over those three years. Today, I still don’t remember details of those three years, no matter how hard I try or even if someone tries to remind me. On some days, a fragment of a memory from that time floods back to me. On other days, a little vivid picture comes to mind, but I am not sure if it is a memory of a place I have visited before or just something I have imagined. It’s a shame, because not all of those three years were bad, but along with the bad memories, I have also lost the good.

 

It was a dark time, those three years, when I lost hope in the Lord and plunged deep into depression. I neglected my family and looked for love in the wrong places, and in the wrong people. I had my heart broken in a massive way by a boy who I assumed was also interested in me.

I then sought to distract myself from the pain of my broken heart and soul by entertaining another guy who, truthfully, I wouldn’t have chosen to be friends with back then, and I wouldn’t be friends with today. He just happened to be available, and I happened to be broken and desperate.

He (that second guy) borrowed my expensive camera soon after I celebrated a year of having it…and lost it. I don’t really know what happened. He claims it got stolen from him while he slept on the bus. My family thinks he sold it. I had stopped trying to figure out the truth a long time ago, especially with that guy. All I learnt is, if something was that precious, it required and deserved a lot more taking care of.

 

I lost a lot more than just my camera in those three years. I lost my precious memories–all the family holidays we took are fogged by an unyielding black cloud. All I have are photos, photos that when I look through them, still seem like they happened a lifetime ago in my dreams.

I lost precious time chasing after ridiculous things, when instead I could have been developing my photography and writing skills, and musical talents.

I lost friends: friends who at first were giving me delicate advice about my wrong decisions, but eventually decided I was too far gone down the wrong path for them to remain friends with.

I lost myself: my heart, soul, spirit, mind, and body–all of me–to people that did not deserve me. My family and friends kept on telling me to wait for the right person, but I  had lost hope that he would ever come, or that there would ever be someone that good and “perfect for me.” I was disillusioned with the world and the examples of failed marriages around me. But I should have trusted with my whole heart back then that no matter how impossible it looked, somewhere out in the world, out of my comfort zone, farther away than my local city, out across the ocean, was my true love, the man who I was created for, and the one God has always had for me.

 

Sometimes I look back at the past with regret. Three years–and a camera–were basically stolen from me. But I realise that God allowed me to become the most desperate and poor I could ever be, so that I would push out of my home, leave my country, and find God. And I did.

I found everything I was looking for, and more, at Bible college. I knew the Bible was true, and that God is real, but I wanted to find and see that truth for myself. On my first year of Bible college, people kept asking me if I was doing three years or just one. I would tell all of them that I didn’t know. I was there til I was done searching.

I found God when a pastor at Bible college taught us about Hosea and his wayward wife–a wife who became a whore, but who God told him was still deserving of his love and faithfulness. I found Him in my second year of Bible college, when on a Sunday morning, our Pastor preached about that woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and didn’t say a word, all the dignity of her hair and her tears–her most precious properties– gone.

I was both these women: worthless, undeserving, and dirty from the inside out.

But on that one Sunday morning, I finally understood love. God loved me despite my filthiness and uglyness. God called me back home to Him, and I was more than happy to finally come home.

 

I initially wrote this article to say that late last year, many years after I had lost my camera and my life, I was in the church nursery with another newly married woman, and we started chatting about what we really wanted to do after having had “careers” — her as a lawyer, me as, well, an administrator.

I had no clear idea about what I wanted to do back then. Some people are blessed to have figured out what they want to be while in their teens, but there was none of that for me. I thought I wanted to be a cake decorator, I had thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought I wanted to write more. I thought maybe I’d give medicine a go. I wasn’t really sure.

When not even a week later, Zac asked me, “What do you really want to do with your life?”, suffice it to say I already had that question stewing in the back of my head.

“I think I want to be a photographer,” I answered him thoughtfully, “Yeah, I do.”

A few months later, Zac bought me a camera.

What was lost and broken, is now replaced and brand new.

Surrender your life (and your heart) to Christ. You cannot reserve a room of your life for just you, because the exceptions will hold you back from your full capacity.

You have to throw your whole self at Him, much like how you jump from atop a cliff into the ocean. You do not jump ignorantly. You jump when the guy says it’s safe. It is scary, but it is liberating.

It has taken me many years and much pain to be here. I pray that you would not require yourself to go through the same things I did to get to where I am today. I pray my life and my experience will be enough lessons learnt.

“So many years ago, the blood of Christ did flow
Streaming down the cross of Calvary

“Not so many years ago, the tears of joy did flow
Streaming from a heart now made whole”

(some of my favourite lyrics from a song I cannot find on the internet)
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A photo of me, taken by my husband Zac, taking a photo– photo-ception! –of Sydney Harbour, on date night last week. February 2019

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