As we invite guest bloggers to Hope Matters, it is with the hope of sharing the intimate challenges of coping with life’s difficult journeys. Nicole Vandeventer brings a visual experience of healing with words and pictures that is truly heart-touching. She magnifies hope while caregiving for her wounded Marine husband, parenting their son, and sharing her photographic brilliance with the world. Today, we bring you the story of a military couple’s quest for a “new” normal, and the ultimate healing and transformation that is possible, with God.
Now, in Nicole Vandeventer’s words —
It is said, in Christianity, that all of creation calls out to God – the Maker of Heaven and of earth. The book of Genesis paints a marvelous and true account of how creation began and how intricate His intelligent design really was. The Psalms sing songs about His infinite wisdom in the beauty of His work. There was no chance about it, nor second-guessing.
It is truly mesmerizing to meditate on the implications of such a grandiose work, knowing that even we (as sinners) are able to view and be part of God’s creation. And, even more so, to be able to give in childbirth is truly miraculous. God displays such intimacy in our lives! It is believed that it is God who gives life and takes it, that He ordained the beauty of all creation to be as it is, to please Him and glorify Him.
Therefore, for us to enjoy what He has made is a double blessing – a rich blessing that we can experience with all five senses. God has left no stone untouched by His grace, no withering branch without purpose. Every rock and tree, every child and every seed, has been appointed for the time and the journey it leads. It is a privilege I have been gifted, that under His careful guidance I am able to share with the world.
My name is Nicole Vandeventer, and I am the owner of I See You Photography, named after Isaiah 6:3. “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Photography is not a job to me, nor is it merely an act of self-expression. I’m not trying to compete with other photographers to make sales or “wow” anyone with high-dynamic resolution. Of course, I have nothing against those who do those things. Everyone has their own perspective and there is beauty within each one of them.
My treasure is where my heart is, and my heart’s desire is to turn others who may not have eyes and ears to see and hear the Lord, to at least be drawn to what He has made. In doing so, I hope to shine light through Christ and glorify God the Father. It is an act of worship for my Savior; an extension of the impaired eyesight that I have. What in my earthly body I cannot see, God graces with His strength, to bless others with as He sees fit.
I began taking pictures in January 2010, the day after my disabled Marine husband had an intense service-connected shoulder surgery. When he was bed-ridden, he said that I should go buy a camera, with the small amount of tax return we had left. I didn’t go all out. I bought the basic “point and shoot,” a Canon Powershot (for those of you who know your cameras). I was completely new to photography, without lessons and without any intention of going to school. I was gifted despite myself, in that I doubted I could take pictures worth anything to anyone, except God.
Things, people, objects, and nature caught my eye. Through the lens I saw the world differently than I did without. No matter what photography opportunity I found myself, I was able to relax and focus. It became a great way to connect with God, without feeling rushed. I found my little corner of the world where was able to say, “No, I’m busy taking pictures,” and therefore, give God my undivided attention. I prayed my way through different angles, lighting setups, and camera settings. I didn’t yet know how to shoot in manual, though I tried. I lacked understanding of the rule of thirds and did not have a clue about depth of field and portraiture. Still, my heart was on God.
It is said that “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great” (Proverbs 18:16). I certainly believe that to be true. I took a leap and submitted some photos to local fairs. I placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all my submissions. I was mind-blown.
I knew my past. I had had five eye surgeries before I was ten years old. My vision in both eyes was deteriorating and continues to do so. Yet, in the moments I am behind my camera, none of that matters. God gave me courage to keep going and the ability to pay attention to the details. My heart was lifted, my spirit strengthened. My mind was focused capturing the emotion behind the worship of photographing. I wanted others to love God the way I did, the way I do.
As Philippians 4:6-8 speaks of, I felt determined to exalt all that is praise-worthy and seek out that which was noble and true and of good report. I wanted to report about it. I now had goals of taking photos of animals, and not from far away. I wanted to capture children in their glory, their unadulterated glee. I wanted the sad moments, the desperation in memorial services, the hope and love in weddings, the awkward, sleepy and beautiful peace in a newborn’s yawn. I just saw all of these things. Whether as simple as the reflection of a tree in a puddle after a shower, or as complex as a man facing agonizing depression in realizing he needs to sell all his belongings. I knew I had to take pictures.
A couple of years later, I was able to upgrade to a Canon Rebel T2i and I am no less enthralled by what God has led me to. My photography opportunities thus far have led me to connect loved ones, provide head shots for professionals, pray for people who have no one else to turn, hold the hands of crying veterans during memorial services, rejoice with young married mothers over new births, photograph service dogs in-training with their wounded veterans, and do a minimal amount of traveling – as God provided the means, all so that I may glorify Him. I get paid more than I deserve, really. So far, my pay is mostly in “Thank you so much’s.” This isn’t for the money, though. This is for God. As business increases by His will, so will my tithes and offerings.
I live in the gorgeous area of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with my husband, our son, and my husband’s service dog. I now consider my camera my other child. I feel naked without it. My collection of equipment is nothing to brag about, but even if it was, I wouldn’t choose to brag. This is God’s. This is not my own. He could take the gift away from me any day and He would be so just in doing so.
I can safely say that I specialize in candid photography. Many compliment my portraiture, and that’s fine. What I love most though, is going out into the woods or anywhere secluded, singing songs to the Lord, and take my time enjoying His works – so that others may enjoy Him more, too. I have been brought low and I have been humbled. I don’t take this gift for granted, since I know how feeble and unpredictable the gift of vision is. Eyes, after all, are the windows to the soul.
I am penetrated deeply by His love. I am healed a little bit more of the sin within me, every time I spend even five minutes with my Lord. He cleanses my soul. He remains my first love. When I am not photographing, I am a full-time caregiver for my husband, a homeschooling mother, a singer, and author of blog “Marine Wife Unplugged.” I enjoy traveling, dancing, exercising, trying new food, laughing, ministering to women, studying my Bible, singing with my church choir, and people-watching. I carry a planner and would be lost without it, but I also love surprises, and God is full of them!
I pray that you are drawn closer to Him daily as well, for there is no hope at all without Christ as Savior. May you see the beauty around you, put there for you by God to see, touch, taste, feel, hear, and internalize, for as long as you are blessed with days to speak of Him.
Visit Photographer Nicole Vandeventer here.