“When the world has fallen out from under meI’ll be found in you, still standing.” – Brooke Fraser

A shadow – the absence of light. In order for a shadow to be created, something must come between it and a light source. Perhaps it’s a building or a tree. Maybe it’s a cloud that has placed itself directly between the sun and us down here on the ground. A shadow may be just the thing you were looking for on that unbearably hot afternoon in the middle of July. To a photographer, a shadow could be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. To me, a shadow represents somewhere safe. As much as you crave the sunlight, there is a certain comfort and safety in the protection of the shade.

A shadow can serve a very distinct purpose for us. But while we treasure any shade we can find, it wouldn’t be a beautiful summer day if you didn’t spend some time beneath the warm rays of sunshine. At some point you have to venture out of the shadows and embrace the powerful rays and extreme heat. You have to move past the shaded areas and march right out into the glorious sun.

There are so many points in life where you can either embrace the sunshine or hide in the shadows. There have been so many times lately that I have found myself huddled in the shade when I could could be taking in all that summer has to offer. There’s a certain protection and familiarity that comes with the cool escape of a shaded place.

It’s comfortable, it’s cool, it’s safe.

Safe. Man, do we ever like that word. Safety is something we naturally crave. We’re always looking for a way to make a situation or experience more comfortable. We don’t like to feel unsure or at risk. We tend to like the feelings of consistency and being at ease. But how does that further us in any way? If you don’t take that somewhat uncomfortable step of opening the door to the unfamiliar, you’ll never know what’s on the other side. Heck, there may not be sunshine and rainbows behind every door you open, but you’ll never know if you don’t turn that doorknob. Even if the door has a window, you won’t feel the summer heat until you physically open the door.

I love being spontaneous, but that doesn’t always mean I like taking risks. I love discovering places and experiencing new things, but they have to be on my terms. I have to feel comfortable with my “risk” before I take that first step outside. I’ve realized how safe my life has become. There’s nothing wrong with feeling comfortable and protected, but what a boring and unfulfilling life we would live if we felt comfortable every moment of every day. Some of the most amazing times in my life have been opening that door and jumping out of the house without thinking twice about it. Moving as far away as I did this spring was more of a risk than I’ve ever taken. That’s not to say that there was not thought and prayer that went into the decision, but when the time was right I was able to open that door and step out into the great unknown. I’ve grown more in the past few months than I ever have, but once again I find myself seeking out the protection of a shadow. I’m stuck inside the house, looking out the window but not feeling the warm summer air. Yup, I’ve locked myself in the house yet again.

I’ve reached the point where I’m feeling a little claustrophobic in that house. I know the way out, I just don’t seem to know how to unlock that door and take the first step outside. I know what I want, I just don’t seem to know how to get from point A to point B. I’ve been so worried about trying to find the key that I haven’t even tried to see if the door is unlocked. I’ve been so focused on the plan, I’ve forgotten that the first step has to be moving my feet towards that door and turning the handle. If I want to make something happen, I have to stop putting every piece together in my mind and just start figuring out the puzzle. The piece is hardly ever put in the right spot the first time, but eventually it finds it’s place. Although you may trip down the first few steps, there’s someone that will grab your hand and steady your feet. No one expects you to do this on your own, but you have to be willing to step out in faith knowing that he’ll be there to help you find your balance and encourage you with every step.

Just move your feet. Leave the shadows. Open the door. Enjoy the sunshine. Experience the unknown. It’s the only way you’ll ever discover anything new. Maybe we’ll find that we like the sunshine and lemonade so much better than the air-conditioned house.

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