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The Ripples I see in a Single Photograph and Why it Should Matter to You Too

August 22, 2019 5 min read

I’m a little afraid to tell this story. 

It feels like the kind of moment we experience after vacation. We have pictures and stories of moments we love. All too eager, we sit down with friends or family and begin to relive these memories, and about two seconds in, we see that look—glazed eyes, disengagement, indifference. 

Listen, your friends and family, don’t really care about that smoothie bowl on day two…or maybe it was day three…no two, and they certainly don’t want to see a picture. C’mon. Let’s just face the facts. 

So, I’m a little afraid to tell this story, because it means so very much to me. Everything about it—the little girl, her family, the building she’s in. Everything. And I’m a little nervous because it’s hard to see glazed eyes and looks of indifference when you’re telling a story that means so very much to you. So give me space. Hear this story. Look at this picture, because I believe it should mean something to you too. 

When you see this picture, you see an absolutely adorable toddler. You’re not wrong. She is beautiful and mischievous and intelligent. She’s learning five languages as a four year old, so conversations with her can get a little tricky. She regularly jumps between Thai, Burmese, Karen, Chinese, and English and leaves me wondering what just happened. 

When I look at this picture, I see a story so much bigger than this girl. I see a story that wrecks me in the most beautiful of ways and inspires me to choose a life of bravery. 

I see her momma—a warrior, a woman of resilience and kindness, a woman who makes me laugh. I see the difficult parts of her story—living in the jungle for months at a time to escape the oppressive rule of Burma’s military junta. I see the years she lived in Mae La refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Burma. I see the days she dared to dream about a future that was full of hope and life and light. I see the ways she models a kind of bravery for her children that I only aspire to. 

This girl’s momma strives and tries and sometimes fails, but she continues to strive and try and sometimes fail. Because of this, her daughters will know that fear doesn’t have to control them. They will know that they can try new things, even if they fail or make mistakes. They will know that they can dream for their future, and the Father will honor the desires He puts in their hearts. Her daughters will know a future that is full of hope, light, life, and community, because they have watched their mom pursue this first. 

I see a dare—live brave, dream bravely, influence bravery. Our world is full of catchy phrases, slogans sold on signs at Hobby Lobby, but when I read these words, I see something much deeper than a shallow tune. I see a real-life challenge given to a group of women on the Thailand/Burma border. So many of them come from histories of oppression, and fear becomes the currency through which others try to control them.

But in Jesus, we see another way—a way of courage, of love, of freedom. These women were created to live brave in the day-in-day-out routines and in the big risks. They were designed to dream bravely—to use their gifts and talents to impact their friends, families, communities, and world. And they influence and encourage bravery in those around them as they pursue this kind of life—a life of courage and confidence and wholeheartedness. Because of the way her community embraces this brave dare, this girl will know what it looks like to walk with courage. 

In this picture, I see a future—a little girl who is being taught even now to choose courage over fear, to walk in confidence and truth, to see Jesus in those around her, to honor her story and the stories she’s surrounded by. I see a girl who is a culture shaker, a world changer, a kingdom builder. I see a girl who gets to learn something so beautiful—how to bake cupcakes—because her mother first had a dream to learn how to bake. In this girl, I see a beautiful picture of investing in the generations—in the mommas and papas, sons and daughters, aunties and uncles. There is something so deeply beautiful about the way a whole family can change and transform and pursue the life the Father designed for them when everyone is invited to be part of this change. 

When you look at this picture, you probably just see a cute little girl and flour on a counter. But pause for a moment, and look again.

This girl’s mom has known the worst of the worst, but she has also known resilience, grit, perseverance. She is a woman of joy, a woman who teaches her daughters how to live with courage. This girl’s father gave up his citizenship to move into the refugee camp, because he saw a need there. Through his life, his daughters have learned the most beautiful, sacrificial kind of love, empathy, and compassion. Her community comes from so many different backgrounds, but each of them is on a journey to live brave, dream bravely, and influence bravery in those around them. Because of their courage, she is learning and watching and trying and sometimes falling short. 

This beautiful girl—baking cupcakes in Thailand—is the present and the future. She is a representation of the people around us who are watching the way we live. May we be people who choose to live brave and dream bravely in our own lives so that we can encourage this kind of bravery in those around us.

The ripples of this decision have the power to change our families, our friends, our communities, our world. 

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