I have misplaced my identity. At first I thought I had lost it, but when I really stop to contemplate this, I realize it isn’t lost, but rather misplaced.
From the time that I was young I loved capturing memories. I always had a camera in my hand taking pictures of everything. If you came to my house growing up, you were going to be in a photo shoot. Then in high school I took photo journalism and loved every second of it and especially learning to develop film in the dark room. Taking pictures has always been a second nature to me.
When we started a family, my passion for pictures was obvious. To say our kids are well documented is an understatement. After our second child was born, I started taking pictures for other people which would start a journey that would eventually become a full time career and a big part of where I found my identity.
For years I spent time building my business. I loved being creative, meeting new people, forming relationships with clients, and truly connecting with my subjects. I loved seeing the finished product and knowing that I had captured memories for my sweet friends. What initially I thought might just be for fun, turned into so much more. Before I knew it, I had made a name for myself. People started recognizing my name. I started hearing “Oh you are a photographer! I have seen your work!” My husband would be places and people would say “You are Jessica Meinardus’ husband? The photographer?” Friends would introduce me as Jessica Meinardus- the photographer. It took me years to call myself a photographer, but when people started identifying me that way, I too started to identify with it.
After 7 years of being a full time photographer, we had our 3rd child. We decided I needed to cut back and be part time. By the time I had our 4th baby (2 years later) we knew it was best for our family to take a break completely, so I did. At the time I didn’t really have any intentions of picking it back up but in between our 4th and 5th babies, I longed for what was missing, so naturally, I started taking pictures again.
But what exactly was I missing? Was it really taking pictures? No. I was missing that place where I felt I fit. My love language is Words of Affirmation. When I was taking pictures regularly I was getting feedback constantly that said I was good. That I was doing something right. I was making a difference. I was talented. I had become so reliant not only on my identity as a photographer, but also on praise that came with it. My main job now is motherhood and in motherhood there is not a lot of true, immediate affirmations! Sure, other people say I am a great mom, but my 5 year old told me she wanted a new mom yesterday, so theres that.
As painful as it is for me to admit, I know that I have let my need for affirmation and my desire to feel I have a place in this world drive me. I have found my identity in what I do for so long, which at times has provided instant gratification, but eventually it leaves me empty and looking for something else. I have found myself exhausted trying to feel like I have a place that I fit, a place where I feel enough.
What I have always known to be true, but have fought for so long is that my identity isn’t found in what I do or who I am, but rather whose I am. My identity must be found in Christ and who He says I am. This isn’t a new concept for me but rather something I have treated like I could handle better. For several years I feel God has called me to something specific and although I haven’t completely ignored it, I haven’t been completely obedient either. I have allowed fear to keep from letting go of certain things- fear of loosing a title that made me feel like I had relevance and the fear of loosing my source for affirmation. I want to give God control of my life and allow Him to fully guide my paths, but each time I give him control, I take it back. I feel Him nudge me, and I say “yes, I trust you”. But then, I find myself in panic- wait, this doesn’t feel right. Who am I? Am I enough? Then, instead of running back to Him, the one I just said “I trust you” to, I take back control and push away those truths- Who am I? I am HIS! I now see how easy it is to place our identity in something other than Jesus.
This is a journey. It isn’t suppose to be a life of instant gratification. Choosing a life rooted in my identity in Christ, is full of His affirmation but that doesn’t look like the affirmation the world gives us. I’m trusting Him with my needs and my journey to a deeper understanding of His love.
Sometimes we have to fully surrender things in order for God to show us what is next. For a long time I have tried and failed to surrender the identity I formed in being a photographer. But I am ready for what is next- whatever that is. So, I am giving up the title that I have held onto for so long. My talent didn’t disappear and my desire to capture life on my camera is here to stay, but I am not Jessica the photographer. (and if I have already told you I would take pictures- don’t worry, I am not breaking any of my current commitments) This is not an easy post to type out. It isn’t easy to admit my struggles or to say goodbye to career that I have loved for 12 years, but I know that this is right.
I am still a creative soul who loves to share, encourage, and create so I plan to continue to share openly and honestly. I hope you will continue to join me! I have started a Facebook and Instagram page (houseofmeinardus) that I hope to share daily encouragement/real life, through pictures and words, and I hope to keep blogging regularly. Thank you friends, for your continued support in my journey!