What's Your Story?
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03/02/2017
By Jennifer Lebo
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It hit me like a two by four over the head this morning.  I was enjoying my quiet time with God, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, Bible laid out before me.  I’d been reading through the gospels, searching for truth in the actual words of Jesus, rather than in the words of those around me.  Over the past few months, and even years, way too many questions had been surfacing in my heart concerning my faith, my life, my work, my purpose.  So I’d been searching in the one place I’d always found trustworthy.


And there it was.  In Luke chapter 3, John the Baptist is asked, “What should we do then [to produce good fruit, to be good children of God]?”  In verse 11, he answers, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  If we want to produce good fruit, to live a life for God, then we should be giving what we have to those who don’t have.  As a Christian, this should be of utmost importance to me.

Now, of course, this is not the first time I’ve been hit with this two by four.  The Bible, particularly the gospels, overflow with this truth.  Jesus tells us to give, and He shows us how.  He feeds the poor.  He hangs out with the very people He is expected to shun.  He lives it.  And He even dies for it.

 

So why was this morning any different?  Well, because it spoke to the nagging question I’d been asking myself.  How can I use my passions, my skills, my craft, my resources to help others, particularly those who are being shunned today?


There it was.  The answer.  If I have something, I need to share it.

OK, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go back to the question.  Because while the last few months had seen me spewing over a lot of questions, they always seemed to revolve around the same two things.  My photography and people.  Specifically oppressed people.  Marginalized people.  People who Jesus would have reached out to.  How could I reach out like He would have, and how could I do it with my camera?  The more I would read about people suffering around me, the more I’d pray, and the more I’d read, and the more I did that, the stronger this desire in me grew.  These very people who have seen the most suffering over these past few months would be the very people Jesus would have loved to love.  And they are the very people I long to love.

 

But what could I do?  I posed this question to my running buddy on our run a few days ago.  (Side Note- finding a good running buddy is the key to running happiness and I’m convinced that with every mile we run, we are solving life’s greatest problems.  No joke!)  And as we talked through the questions and the ideas, my desires and my beliefs, the answers began to surface.  It was such a wonderful feeling (plus, we were running downhill at the time), and I could not wait to get home to write it all down.  This morning’s time in the Bible only confirmed it all.

 

I’m going to begin a Portrait Project.  And I’m starting today.

 

 

The Great American Portrait Project will be an opportunity for me to give to others.  I’ve named it this because I think our country is filled to the brim with great people, ALL KINDS of great people.  I happen to think it’s these many kinds of people who already make our country great.  

 

But quite often, many of these people are denied service because of who they are.  They are looked at differently, or they are judged too harshly, or they are feared for no reason.  No good reason.  No justifiable reason.  No ethical reason.

 

My faith tells me that this is not ok.  The God I belong to has taught me since Day 1 to love my neighbor (and who is my neighbor?  Check out my post on that subject HERE).  And so while others close their doors, my faith tells me to open mine WIDE!


That’s what The Great American Portrait Project will do.  And this is how it will work.

 

I will be offering a 30 minute portrait session every week to a family, or a couple, or a group who has struggled with discrimination in any way, whether over the color of your skin, or who you love, who you choose to be, or the religion you have chosen.  Your experience might not have had anything to do with portraits, but portraits are what I have to give, and I’d like to offer you that.  

And it will all be free.


I ask only one thing in exchange, and that is your story.  What’s your story?  Share it with me, as I have shared mine with you.  And maybe through these portraits, we can share our stories with others.  My hope is to create a collection, a tapestry, of beautiful stories wrapped in beautiful portraits, all of beautiful people who make our country and our lives so great.

If you are interested in one of these portrait sessions, or you know someone who might find joy and celebration in one, please contact me.  You can simply comment below with your interest, or you can email me at jalebo@gmail.com.  Or you can find me on social media (the links are at the bottom of this page).

 

But contact me!  My hope is that dates will fill up fast, so share this with friends and family who might be interested.  

 

This portrait project is at its very beginning, but my hope and prayer is to see it grow quickly.  I’m opening my door, and seeing what happens.  

 

And that’s my story.

 

 

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2 Comments
Jennifer Lebo - Ann, yes! This! Thank you for this comment. This is exactly what I am hoping to do. Colorado Springs is so full of people who have never had the joy of a portrait, let alone the wall to hang it on. Well said. These are the people I'm hoping to serve and connect with. Any and all who suffer. Thank you for the reminder and the challenge. I hope to get the opportunity soon!
Ann - Jen,
You must know by now how much I love your photographs and how deeply I care about you. You keep writing blog posts about your own journey and how you listen to hear what purpose God has for you. I am a big believer in storytelling - it is how we learn, how connect, how we share our deepest selves. I hated History until I had a teacher who told me the story of the people and how and why they moved to make new nations. I teach with stories. I long to hear others' stories.
So today I want to challenge you to tell me the stories of the people I don't know. I have heard the stories of the white privileged. I hear the stories of cancer, of growing up homosexual in a heterosexual world, of alcoholism, domestic abuse - our lives could all be that made for tv movie, right? Take pictures of the people who don't have access to a computer (or your blog) or who don't even have a home. Tell me their story; show me their faces. Give a family picture to a homeless family that has never had one, let alone a wall to hang it on. Validate their family life. I challenge you to show us the beauty in a young woman's face who hasn't had the opportunity for a store-bought haircut or even makeup. Show me the everyday beauty that happens on the street corner downtown. It is easy to capture the idyllic moment with a happy family and the sun and the mountains. Validate the family that doesn't have that as their backdrop. Show me the beauty in the teen that doesn't have three meals a day or anyone who cares if they've slept the night before. I challenge you to dig deeper because I know you can and because I am moved by Him to challenge you.


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