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For Christmas, my husband gave me a wonderful new camera for all my photography desires. I have been a picture taking fool ever since. I am sure this comes as no surprise to those who know me!

A few weeks ago, my telephone rang and I found myself promising I could take pictures of all the women at church. “It shouldn’t be that hard,” The cheerful voice informed me. “Just snap a picture of each woman at church or something.” The desired photograph was a headshot.

I happily accepted and gathered my gear. The problems with taking photos at church are many. First, the poor lighting tends to make everyone look a tad ill. Second, with mostly painted cinderblock walls, pictures quickly take on quite the mug shot feel. Third, what I like to call the “Deer in the headlight” syndrome. People quickly smile, filled with tension as they think how they wished their hair looked nicer, their clothes ironed, and their makeup fresh.

“Just one picture? I promise I’ll try to make it look better than a DMV photo.” I will say anything to get these women to let me take their photo. Originally, I was told it would be announced what I was doing and why. This did not happen until I was almost done. Ooops.

I quickly noticed women ducking for cover when I came around the corner. Women threw books up over their faces, ducked into the restroom, whatever they could to avoid becoming my next subject. At one point, in frustration, I attached my zoom lens to my camera. I lovingly dubbed it “The Stalkeratti Lens”.

My cheerful smile held veiled threats. I have a church roster and I know where you live. “Just how bad do you want your photo to be?” Many of these women did not seem too worried.

In the end, I found myself with 52 photographs. A total of 53 women that I attend church with. I cropped the portraits to a nice 4×6 size and printed away with a nice white border. I then affixed the prints to blue cardstock. Under each photo was a mini biography about each woman and her various acts of service.

The argument I most frequently heard concerned how these women looked. “Are you sure you want my photograph? I look awful!” Never have I heard so much whining from a group of people over the age of four!

At the event these were prepared for, I received many compliments. What did I do? I simply received the blessing of an easy assignment: Make a display of a large number of photogenic women. It had little to do with me. The other two congregations that met with us did not have as many photographs. They teased me that I made them look bad and next time they wanted me to come in! I heard many compliments from the women I photographed. Many remarked how great all the pictures looked, except theirs.

Looking at my finished project, I cannot imagine why there were so many women pleading strongly for no photographs. Paging through my tall stack of portraits, I found myself blown away by how many beautiful women, wonderful sisters in Christ, which I have the pleasure to see every week. Some of the women I know well, some I do not. Every single one looked beautiful in my eyes, and I am sure that they are even more so in the eyes of the Lord.

I wonder why, as women, we cannot see our beauty. I fall into this common trap myself. “I’m too fat!” “My hair’s a mess!” “My teeth are crooked!” Whatever the complaint du jour could be, we find it. The thing that saddens me most though is that it is even worse for our inner beauty. We have so many qualities in ourselves that are wonderful and we focus on the negative. Then, we slowly begin projected that onto our sisters. We stop seeing the beauty in those around us. Perhaps, one day, we can learn to see others and ourselves as God does. As the lens of my camera did. Each woman is special and beautiful in her own way.

Never doubt how beautiful and special you are. Never doubt your talents and gifts. Share them with those around you and share them with yourself. Turn the critical eye away for just a few moments of each day. After looking through the dispassionate eye of my camera, I found myself opening to the very passionate eye of God.

I am exhausted from working so hard, but it is a good feeling. I have hardly been home, my DVR might overflow, my current reading is behind schedule, and the house is a mess. It was all worth it though and if I am lucky, maybe one day I could do this sort of thing again.

–Lady Ozma