You know how sometimes you’ll meet someone and after talking to them for just 10 minutes, you feel like you’ve always known them? They just make you feel like they’re your best friend. That’s Brett and Amy. They both are so funny, so authentic and such great people.
Brett is an amazingly talented videographer/photographer/designer/speaker/youth pastor and the other day we had a chance to hang out with him and take some photos. You can view more of his photography on his website www.laxtoncreative.com.
Brett’s eye for light is inspiring. In the face of adversity, he finds the light. We are so honored to share his story with you.
L&T: Where did you grow up?
Brett: I grew up in Columbia, IL small town surrounded by cornfields about 10 miles outside St.Louis. Go Cardinals!!!
L&T: When did you start getting into photography?
Brett: I took pictures a lot as a kid. I had a polaroid complete with 3 photo albums where I kept all my photos. I got into video editing in High School but didn’t really realize that you could make videos as a job. I picked up videoing again as a student minister, I found that if you made a video with students in it, they would invite their friends to Wednesday night group just so their friends could watch them in a video. While living in KC as a student minister I had a student ask me to take her senior photos. I figured “sure, how hard can it be”. I look at those photos now and realize, it’s really hard. Camera settings, exposure, focal depth, sunlight, shadows, photoshopping, posing, etc. But from them on I found an outlet something that I loved to do and loved learning along the way.
L&T: How did you meet your wife, Amy?
Brett: I met my Amy the first day of my Jr. year at a small Christian college in Hannibal, MO; Hannibal La-Grange College. I had a friend on that first day that asked if I wanted to go to the girls’ dorm to see if there were any girls that needed help moving in. What you need to know is that this is a small college, maybe 300 on campus, so it was more like camp. You knew everyone. So the first room I walked into that day, on the door were name tags and they said Shannon R. and Amy G. I walked in with my friend and there was this girl. So me, trying to be a cool guy, I said, “who is Shannon R and which one of you is Amy G?” Amy introduced herself and again trying to be cool, even though I am not, I asked Amy “so can I just call you G?” I remember her response not because of what she said but because of her look. She said “sure”. But it wasn’t like this happy like someone who is excited, but a “sure” like, “sure but I hope you are not around me enough to ever call me anything.” I walked out of the room that day and told my friend,”oh yes, she will be mine.” That’s a smooth line from Waynes World, I am so not cool.
But that week we spent time talking and getting to know each other and I can say without a doubt, she intimidated me. She was the most confident girl I had ever met, even to the point that I used to tell her that I had never met a cocky girl until I met her. But I loved it. I knew that all she needed was Jesus, she didn’t need me, I didn’t complete her. She knew she was already complete, therefore there were expectations. If I wasn’t who I said I was, or I didn’t treat her well… then I was gone.
L&T: What brought you to Houston?
Brett: So back in the day, college days, I spent a couple of summers working with Houstons First in the inner city and with leading worship with High School students that would come in for mission trips. Once I became a student pastor I brought my own students down several times. I loved the church but I said “I will never move to Houston. It’s hot, flat, lots of concrete, and too much traffic.” I probably should have never said that. So now here I am doing video work at Houstons First Baptist.
L&T: What are you most passionate about?
Brett: My family and loving others. I can’t believe that despite me, I get to have such a wonderful wife, who is my best friend and that I get to walk through life with. I mean how kind is God? Me, a messed up, lazy, undeserving man, gets a beautiful, hard working, funny, inspiring woman. Marriage is amazing to me, that God takes two people, who are so different and says “now spend your life getting to know each other and helping each other see Me more clearly.” Every day, I have the opportunity to love my wife in such a way that she sees Jesus more clearly.
On top of that God says “alright now you get to be a dad.” As a dad, I get to experience a small glimpse of how our perfect Father loves us. It’s easy for me to look at my kids and know…now matter what, no matter what they do, what they say, the choices they make…they are mine. They are my children and I do and will always love them. So I, a jacked up guy now has this capacity to love, how much does a perfect Father love us? Mind blowing. Besides being a parent it makes you realize how little you know. Just ask my kids. I know nothing. I remember when I used to be cool…then I had kids. I remember when I used to know how to parent…then I had kids.
Next is people. I love people, their stories, their journey. I am a hopeful guy. I know that no matter who we are, God is not finished. As long as a person is drawing breathe God is not done. So we need to listen more, love more and not give up on people. We never know what someone’s last chapter might be…God is an amazing story writer, he has written some pretty crazy final chapters in people’s lives. Maybe in someway, we get to be a part of that final chapter giving people hope, love, truth.
L&T: What is something that inspires you?
Brett: Honesty. When people are willing to be totally real, honest, laid bare, this is who I am, these are my struggles, this is where I have been…those stories. It doesn’t take very long in our world to realize how scared we all are, to be honest about who we are. We have Instagrams and Facebook and Twitters, etc full of people who are trying to paint a picture of who they want people to believe they are. So we shut the doors, close the windows and the only light that we allow people to see us in is the flash of a camera so that we can perfectly place objects and ourselves in a scenario that will look perfect in a 4×4 Instagram square. The only stories we tell are well composed and thought out limited character messages. But when we meet someone who doesn’t have it together and they are honest….its refreshing…it’s hope. But that takes so much courage, doesn’t it? That kind of courage inspires me.
L&T: We’ve been so inspired by the way we have seen you and your family walk your journey when faced with adversity, can you tell us about how it all began?
Brett: We have a genetic disease in our family called NF2. That’s the short version of it. It causes many things but one of the main symptoms is non-cancerous tumors most commonly found in the brain growing out of auditory nerve. That is bad for your hearing, an auditory nerve wasn’t really made to have a tumor grow out of it. My father has it and by the time I was in high school he was deaf. My brother has it, and while I was in college I was also diagnosed with the same disease.
In 2008 I had a brain surgery to remove the tumor which made me completely deaf on the left side. I still have a remaining tumor on my right side which has left me with very little hearing.
About 2 ½ years ago I had lost essentially all of my hearing. It’s one of those things that you know it’s coming but how do your really prepare yourself to not hear anymore? I went to MD Anderson and they decide to try a trial version of a Chemotherapy to see if they could get the tumor to shrink some and possibly give me some hearing back. It worked, my tumor shrunk by 20% and gave me some hearing back. I can listen to music, mostly 80s, and talk to most people as long as they are looking at me. It’s all good because God is good. But God is not good because I can hear, God is good because that’s who He is.
L&T: Has this journey changed your perspective on anything?
Brett: Life this side of heaven is going to have high moments and low moments. You will laugh, you will cry, you will feel joy, you will hurt. Through these ups and downs, we get to know Jesus in different ways. I look at my family and my parents and we have seen a side of the face of Christ that some people this side of heaven will not get to experience. Is it the way that I would have like to experienced it? No for sure no…but am I filled with hope and joy because of what I have experienced. For sure YES!
Sometimes as a follower of Christ we make things complicated, trying to follow all these rules, and ways. I love what Christ said once. They asked Him what is the most important law? He said, “Love the Lord your God and love others as yourself”. Through these medical issues and not hearing and isolating myself at times; because when I’m alone or unengaged I don’t have to wonder what people are saying, but throughout it, Jesus has loved me. I fight him, complain, curse Him at times…but He continues to love me.
Through hardtimes its also an opportunity for others to see Christ more clearly. Spending time once a week at MD Anderson you see people fighting for their lives. Everyday I walk through those doors and I have the opportunity to maybe for a brief moment love someone that is really having a bad day, or maybe they are on their last day…and you never know if our moment of kindness or hope, through the Love of Christ may lead someone to make a commitment to Christ and have an eternity of Hope.
Keep it simple…Everyday we have the opportunity to make someone’s tomorrow better than their yesterday.
To view more of Brett’s amazing photography, design, or film work, go to www.laxtoncreative.com