The Day God Took My Picture: A Guest Post from Bonnie Gray

Me Ra Koh spoke about the healing nature of photography at BlissDom a couple of weeks ago, and it immediately brought to mind a special time in my life last summer when I experienced it firsthand. I wanted the story to be recorded, so I emailed my friend Bonnie Gray and asked her to please tell it and let me use it as a guest post here.

Thank you, Bonnie, for asking me to be part of such a special moment—more special than I knew or understood at the time. If you own a DSLR, a point-and-shoot, or simply a camera phone, read her words carefully and understand what a power to bless that you hold in your hand.

Don’t take it for granted.

Here is the story in Bonnie’s words:

I’m all grown up now, learning to put the past behind me and leave it there.

But, one day when I wasn’t suspecting, God took me back in time.

It happened one weekend I flew to South Carolina to meet up with the beautiful women I’d been writing alongside at (in)courage. Since becoming a new mom of two, I never had the chance to make trips outside of the home. Up until that point, I wrote from the privacy of my desk.

But when baby CJ turned two years old, I felt God was telling me it was time.

Take the next step, Bonnie. Go.

So, when DaySpring invited us to spend a beach retreat together at Hilton Head, I packed my bags with measured hopes for new beginnings.

Little did I know I’d connect with one of the women there, through a childhood hurt I thought was long forgotten.

It’s kind of embarrassing to say it. It’s probably not a big deal.

But, I hardly ever had school pictures taken. I had them taken in third, fourth, seventh grade and high school senior year. I remember those years easily because I hated the other times I couldn’t order pictures. The teacher would pass out the school pictures, calling out names. I’d see my friends get excited, pulling out those glossy sheets. We’d all huddle to check out the class photos. I’d go home and cry.

We didn’t have many photos taken as I grew up. I think it was expensive. It costs money to have a camera, money to develop them. And well, photos just weren’t a priority for my family.

A lot of my most treasured childhood moments never made it to celluloid. I grew up in the public school system, and my music teacher in third grade took an interest in me. She gave me the gift of a violin, which I played right into high school, becoming first chair in orchestra. Yet, I can’t show you a single picture of me in orchestra. I graduated from high school as salutatorian. But even though I gave a speech on graduation day, I can only wonder how I looked standing at the podium with youth by my side. Even the few pictures I have as a college graduate donning cap and gown were ones taken with my friends — with their camera.

It seems so trivial, I hesitate to even write about it. It sounds so childish.

But, for reasons I can’t explain, a picture means so much to me. It tells me a moment existed — that something — someone was worth remembering.

I remember seeing fathers snapping pictures of their children around me and I felt the ache. It’s a hidden ache for memories that weren’t cherished, a wound for what was missing.

The second morning I was at the beach retreat, I woke up to find an email that that stunned my heart. I got a publisher’s offer to write my first book.

My heart was flooded with an excitement and newness that was familiar. It was the little girl in me with the violin in her hand, the new grad with cap and gown. The future felt kind and the sun cast a golden honey on everyone and everything around me.

It was in that moment, I turned to our DaySpring photographer, Dawn Camp, and blurted, “Dawn! Can you take a picture of me? … by the ocean?” I felt awkward for asking, worried she’d think I was narcissistic. But, I just couldn’t help it. I wanted to capture that moment.

My Abba Father knew this, because He sent me Dawn. Dawn responded with such joy and excitement. “Sure! Of course! I’d LOVE to!”

Her joyful and exuberant spirit opened my heart like a rustling breeze on a warm summer day. My heart sailed high up, like a red balloon being sent into the sky by a toddler, laughing he watches it climb into the sky.

Dawn has a most peculiar way of taking a photograph. Her eyes open and she smiles as she breathes to click. I look into her gaze and we share an unspoken moment. She is present with me.

“Let’s take a bunch. We can see which one you look best in.” Dawn encourages me. She puts me at ease, taking several photos from different angles.

Dawn doesn’t know it, but inside, I’m falling apart and being put back together again.

My Heavenly Father was giving me all the time in the world. In that important moment, my Heavenly Daddy said His eyes were all on me — through the heart and lens of my beautiful friend Dawn.

This is how God took my picture — using the fingers and the eyes of a friend.

When Dawn showed me the pictures she snapped, I saw the joy I felt in my heart. I was not invisible. My Heavenly Father let me know He sees me. Just like He did all those years I thought were lost and missing, He was always there. He saw me then too.

The photo of me you see on my blog today? It’s the photo that Dawn took. It was the day my Heavenly Daddy took my picture and healed my heart — touching it through a simple photograph that spoke a lifetime of love to me.


How has God touched your heart through photography?

Pull up a chair. I enjoy your company, hearing your thoughts.


Wanna enjoy more stories of heart healing moments? Join Bonnie as bloggers link up in Faith Barista’s Blog Carnival today. Click here to read & add your voice at, on Facebook or Twitter.

Bonnie Gray Bonnie Gray is the writer behind, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Bonnie is featured writer for DaySpring’s (in)Courage and Bonnie is working on her debut book, due to release in 2013 by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.


  1. says

    Is there such thing as a joyful heartache? Because that’s the only word I can think of in this moment to express myself. A beautiful, poignant, personal account of a healing work.

    {hugs to Bonnie & Dawn}

  2. says

    So true, Bonnie, that one moment doesn’t go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. Not a sparrow falls that he doesn’t see– and he cares for us. What a tender love we have to share with others, this Abba love of our Father.

  3. says

    I’ve always hated to have my picture taken. I put my hand up or hide behind someone. I felt I was too fat and ugly and didn’t want any memory of what I looked like. Last year when my mom and grandmother died, I became the keeper of their pictures. I’ve been scanning their picture collections so that the whole family would have copies. I treasure them. But it also made me realize that I’ve not been making pictures of myself and my kids will one day not have pictures when I am gone. So, I’ve been putting my hand down and stepping out and letting the pictures be taken.
    Deborah´s last [post] ..How to Study – the Book of Job

  4. says

    Quite the opposite. Photos were a part of life like breathing. We had so many books with so many photos that I hated it. I hated how life had to stop or candles had to be relit so that moment could be captured. I hated my photo being taken, maybe because I didn’t feel accepted and the photograph simply captured my awkwardness and the fact that I felt ugly. That feeling never went away until I married when God showed me I was beautiful and continues to do so. Every photograph is taken with joy and that joy and acceptance is captured because I know realize I was never alone. He was reaching for me.
    Nikole Hahn´s last [post] ..While Picking Roses

  5. says

    I love taking pictures of the kids in my class and posting them around the room. They love it!

    And a healing moment came last Christmas, it wasn’t a photo but a portrait of me on my wedding day. My step-aunt had taking a photo from my wedding and painted me in my gown. I know she had done this for my step-sister, and sister, but I had not had one and felt forgotten, not part of the family. Everyone else had one years ago. This Christmas after 12 years of marriage, I had my portrait. I was part of the family.
    Katie´s last [post] ..Holding My Heart

  6. says

    It is a lovely photo! And I can see the joy in your eyes.

    I identify with the school picture part. My parents never bought our public school class photos. However, I get to see some of them on Facebook. :) I grew up on Long Island and our high school is very active online. Sometimes I wish I didn’t see those old photos; lol.

    I am so glad that you had that opportunity to go to the retreat with (in)courage writers. I’ve loved you since I began reading your words on Faith Barista. I am praying for you as you write your book.

    Blessings and love,

  7. says

    Bonnie, that story brought tears to my eyes. It was bitter sweet (bitter no pictures, sweet your love for God and unselfishness) until the end when there was only love.

    Everyone around me had a camera all my life into my 50’s but if I ever got one it was cheap, took so-so pictures and broke rather quickly. A little over a year ago I had a little extra spending money and I bought a really nice camera. I love taking pictures of God’s creation because it doesn’t fuss when you click the shutter and of course it’s beautiful. I’m also funny about my pretty things at home. I love having pictures of them. God has a way of ministering to us in seemingly small ways but they’re weighty in our hearts.

  8. says

    “inside, I’m falling apart and being put back together again” . . . oh bonnie, that line brought me to tears, because it captures so much of our walk with God, so much of LIFE! our whole journey seems to be one of falling apart & being put back together again — lovingly, beautifully, gloriously.

    thank you so much for sharing your healing moment, friend.
    celebrating with you,

  9. says

    This brought tears to my eyes as well.Thanks for sharing a very vulnerable moment it wasn’t silly at all. I can think of a couple of times where God has answered a prayer and have felt like the only person on the planet for just a time.I love God even more for experiences like that.

  10. says

    This is such a sweet story. God is so good to meet us exactly where we need healing. Thanks for sharing. Gail

  11. says

    Oh I’ve got tears of joy for you! God knew what scar needed His healing touch. Such redemption and am honored to share a glimpse of that treasured moment! Thank you!
    nikki´s last [post] ..Author Unknown

  12. says

    Congrats on your book signing, Bonnie! That’s wonderful to hear. I’m always so excited when I hear other author’s are getting their books out there. I am not a published author yet, but I will be soon. At least, I pray I will.

    This was beautiful, but I never had the heartache of “lack of photos” my family: My mom, grandpa, sister, cousins, we are all very camera happy. I have pictures from my childhood. It’s the opposite for me, I hate looking at myself through my tween/teen years. I feel sick seeing the person I was, and how… ugly I see myself. It’s hard to believe there is anything good in me when I see those pictures, I avoided mirrors for that very reason, so I wouldn’t have to see myself and feel ashamed.

    I am slowly getting over these pains, I have a long way to go. I’m glad to have such wonderful women around to support me with their wonderful words as I go. Thank you, both of you!

  13. says

    Bonnie: that was lovely.
    Sometimes a camera is more than a camera.
    I was there for Me Ra Koh’s talk with Dawn, and I heard and understood the power of photography, in a new way.
    This post speaks exquisitely to that issue.
    How brief and fleeting are our moments under the sun!
    To know that we matter? This is at the core of who we are.

  14. says

    Bonnie, Dawn, thank you for sharing that moment, healing and beautiful. Bonnie, I love the tiny detail of how Dawn takes the picture, looking up at you and smiling before clicking. I have had people comment when I’ve taken their picture that it was the best picture they liked of themselves and I’ve pondered why. Not because I knew anything about photography but because I love the person and they respond to that love! When taking my baby’s pictures I would look through the camera and then lift my head to look at her and talk to her lovingly while I snapped. I learned in studio pictures where we have to sit with a smile waiting until baby smiles, to plaster a smile on my face and silently speak words of love to Jesus…makes my best picture.
    I asked for a new camera for my birthday…!
    Beth Werner Lee´s last [post] ..James Challenge

  15. Christine says

    Bonnie, I am so happy for you that you had that day with our Heavenly Father and Dawn! Isn’t it amazing how God can over-write past hurts with His wonderful Grace and give us an experience that far outweighs the hurt. He over-writes our past with the newness of His Presence and future.

  16. says

    What an incredible story, Bonnie — thank you for being brave and telling it here. It’s not childish at all, to want to record the moment, to preseve it forever. I’m a picture-taking madwoman, so I totally get that. {just this morning I stood in my pjs ON my dining room table to snap a picture of a red tulip in a vase in the morning light. Just because it was too beautiful not to}

    And Dawn? What a gift you gave Bonnie — what a sweet treasure you are!

  17. says

    This post touched my heart. Memories and photographs are linked together. My 90 year old mother asked to have a picture taken with me, my daughter, and my daughter’s 4 month old baby. Her heart is happy as she sees the generations.

  18. says

    Beautiful, beautiful post, Bonnie! It reminds me of something Max Lucado wrote in one of his books – that God our Father keeps a picture of us on his “fridge.” I can just see him smiling over you there on that beach…with His sparkles dancing for your joy on the water behind you! :) And even if there were not enough photos in your growing up years, your face and heart were recorded on His in every moment!
    Pam´s last [post] ..Life changing words… Day 2, “Words Matter” Week 2012

  19. says

    That was an amazingly written post…I have tears in my eyes! Though I’ve named myself the Bekahrazzi and am constantly made fun of (all in good love) for documenting every second of life no matter what’s happening or how trivial it is, I TOTALLY understand the feeling of God seeing a moment – and wanting to have that documented. What a blessing for you…oh goodness. Love this post.

  20. Susan G says

    Had to hold back the tears on this one…thanks for your being so open and honest…it helps me to see we all can open up a little more and let more healing begin. :) I absolutely love looking at photos! Especially those taken of the beauty God has made for us…the snow capped mountains, the flowers, the sunsets, the animals…all of it! But my favorite of all is of my family (especially the grandchildren :) ), those moments in time that now sit forever in a frame. Since 3 of my grandchildren do not live close, all I have to do is look at their cute little faces sitting there on the desk, table, night stand…and I smile. :)

  21. says

    Bonnie, this is such a great post! It is amazing how God works in ways that we’d have never guessed…like in a moment taking a picture. It is important for us to remember that he is in all things. He is always with us. =)

  22. says

    This just made my heart ache. For the hurt of it. For the joy of it.

    And photography? He’s shown me Himself as I try to capture details, moments stilled, and I always find a surprise I didn’t see at the time.

  23. says

    I didn’t have pictures for the blog I wrote this morning—-at least not pictures of the time I followed around behind my grandmother 45 years ago. But I remember the “snapshots” in my mind and it doesn’t bother that I don’t see myself (I guess it helps that I had an identical twin in the memory bank to draw from) I am ok with seeing with the mind’s eye—with my memory. How precious those memories are! I love pictures! Yes, I do, but I love the words that go with them—like those you shared today.
    Dea Moore´s last [post] ..The Sower’s Life

  24. says

    Your friend was a God sent friend and participated in God’s miracle healing.
    My parents did not own a camera, so any photos of us were also taken by friends, I must have been absent when school photos were taken. To me it was no big deal, but I can understand a shy little girl needing flash, flash flash. Now God takes his own photos of YOU.

  25. says

    Bonnie – this is so moving and wonderfully put. I met Dawn at Blissdom in 2010 and she was so lovely and gracious with her advice when my friend asked a series of how-tos about her camera. It’s odd but I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood – but I’m grateful that I do have the pictures. Now, being married to a professional photographer, we have so many photos, we don’t know what to do with all of them. I forget sometimes what a blessing that is. Thanks for sharing this moment.

  26. says


    I enjoyed your honest post here and the love of our Abba that I saw coming out in your words, especially the ones “God took my picture through the eyes and finger of a friend.” I can so relate! God showed his love to us through suburban teen ninjas and a peach pie a while ago. :)

    Nice to meet you and see your writing,
    Jennifer Dougan

  27. says

    Thanks for sharing this. I love the power of photographs and having a mom who took pictures nonstop, I have so many cherished documented memories. I am so glad that God was able to give you that gift of a beautiful moment captured by a friend.

  28. Leslee says

    Thanks for opening up your heart here. I cried when I read this because when I was in junior high my mom had all our pictures in a cardboard box and while I was at school on trash day she through all of them away. It has haunted me that I only have like 2 pictures of my childhood. Then she got sick and there are very few of me at all after that. God has brought healing through my family. I also take a million pictures of my husband and children and treasure these because I know how important having a record of the love in your life is.