The other day I found myself in prison. Don’t worry, it wasn’t the kind of jail cell your mama warned you about. This prison was one that any parent of a newborn could understand. It’s the one where you finally succeed in getting the baby to sleep after a fight. And while you are basking in your victory as they are sleeping on your chest it hits you: ” I’m trapped.” You may have won the battle, but baby has won the war. Yes they are asleep, but now you can’t move.
This is where I found myself days ago. Trapped by the sweetest little baby on the couch. I scanned my surroundings trying to see what survival tools I had nearby. The kitchen was too far, which of course promptly helped me realize just how hungry and thirsty I was. There were no books within arms reach. The remote for the tv was across the room. Did I mention I also had a bladder full of pee?
This is when I started to panic. I needed something to distract me from the foreboding possible bladder infection I was willing to risk. That’s when I spotted it: my iPhone. The phone that I keep purchasing, although it refuses to let me be great. (Listen, you can’t help who you love.) I picked it up to see I hardly had any battery life left, despite the fact I recently charged it (*petty side-eye directed at Apple*). Since I was trapped, I decided to go ahead and scroll through Instagram. However, instead of scrolling through other peoples feeds, I decided to go through my old posts.
I got my private Instagram account right before my first child was born. From time to time, I like to go back and see all the growth that has taken place over the years. I watch my babies grow older and my family expand. ( I also see how my love affair with funny memes has soared to new heights, but I digress.) It’s a nostalgic journey that this sentimental soul enjoys traveling on. As I look at old pics, I become very aware of two things: 1. I am blessed beyond measure. 2. Time flies.
However this time I noticed something else as I scrolled through the memories. I noticed some of the edits and filters. I remembered some of what was going on behind some of those posed pictures and bright smiles. I remembered the backstories. I recalled things that happened moments after snapping the picture. Some of these memories caused me to laugh out loud. Like posing with an ice cream cone only for it to topple over a second after the picture was snapped. Other memories made me sad. Like staring at our giant smiles when I know how hard that season of our life was at the time that photo was taken.
We have seen article after article about how we all present the best versions of our lives on social media. We are all aware that most pictures we see are carefully edited and angled to capture our good sides. This is what I both love and hate about our presence online. The storyteller in me is always intrigued and inspired by how a well thought out picture can tell a powerful story. At the same time, the people lover in me longs to see portrayals of stories in their most raw form. The ones without filters. It is only then that we are able to see all the beautiful mess that is humanity. Finding balance online between art and authenticity can be hard.
This time when I looked at these pictures, I didn’t see snapshots. I saw stories. Not only did I see stories, I saw stories that often didn’t match the picture. I saw pictures where my baby was giving one of the biggest smiles ever seen. Yet I remembered that behind that snapshot was a season of horrible teething. That beautiful smile I captured just so happened to be one of the few ones she gave that day. I saw pictures of me where I looked a hot mess, but I recalled the joy I felt that day. I saw pictures of myself where I looked put together, but I remember being in the depths of heavy grief.
So what does that mean?
Does that mean all of our edited and filtered photos are just a testament to how phony we all are? I don’t believe so. I believe that maybe this just confirms what we often forget sometimes: There is more to the story. When we look at our life in a moment it is easy to feel a certain type of way. Some of us right now if our season of life could be captured in a picture, we would see nothing but beautiful things. We would see endless potential. We would predict nothing but blue skies ahead. Meanwhile some of us would cringe at our current life circumstance snapshots. We would lose hope. We would crawl into bed certain that there were no sunny days to look forward to in our forecast.
Oh friends, but there is more to the story.
You know not all the edits I made in my pictures were to try and only show positive moments. Some were to reveal beautiful things at just the right time. There were pics I saw myself in that I remember cropping or taking at a specific angle. It was because I was pregnant, but I wasn’t quite ready to let the world know yet. Others would look at the picture and not think twice, but I knew that while all appeared to be business as usual, there was a little life growing inside me. Major change was hiding in plain sight. Growth and expansion where right under my nose. However that wasn’t captured in the picture.
As you look at your current situation, I want to remind you that this is only a snapshot. This isn’t the full story. On those days, that your life looks discouraging and unimpressive, don’t lose hope. On those days, where everyones life seems to be full of nothing but inspiration and success, don’t be envious. There is so much more to the story. And the only one who knows the full story behind these chapters is the author. Let God continue to write your chapters. Only He knows the beginning and the ending. Major change can be hiding in plain sight. Growth and expansion could be right under your nose.
Even when it isn’t captured in the picture.