This is where I get to live out my dream: sharing all the great stories that unfold around me day by day, stories I tell in photos.
If you're checking in and wondering where we've been, hop on over to Dareyou2move.com and check out our latest adventure. We are touring the USA for a full year and sharing our stories and photos on our blog there. We still post our favorite shots here as we travel, but the stories make the photos better, so please join us on our other site.
We've just returned from a missions trip to Jamaica. I thought I would have some great, touching words for a blog post but like last year, I sit here looking at the photos and I cannot come up with a single adequate word for all we saw and felt. So no words, just photos and a video. But I would like to take a moment to encourage you to go on a trip abroad. Yes, there is a whole world of need and hurt and poverty here and yes, the USA is a mission field too. But we've found that going outside our country, finding a different context and being far removed from our comfort zone put us in a place that God was able to use to show us the rest of the world through HIS eyes in a way we've yet to experience when we serve the needy right here. I encourage you to be open to that possibility.
I just had the BEST weekend. I traveled to California with my friend, Kelli, for a creative retreat. It was a small gathering: four writers and two photographers (check out the links to their sites to see what kind of talent I was surrounded by for four days). I was the only one who was neither there last year nor had a prior connection to anyone else, so I felt like something of a party crasher. I shouldn't have worried. From the beginning I realized that this was a group in which I could be myself and that would not only be fine but celebrated.
Wendy was our hostess and welcomed us with open arms and FABULOUS food at her lake house. I really would have been pretty content with Pop-Tarts, a map and three free days to wander around shooting, but Wendy made sure we had so much more than that.
Wendy connected Tammy and I to a local videographer who also happens to have been a White House correspondent for 35 years. Bill Groody took us to Ceago Vinegardens to shoot stills and video (stay tuned for my newbie attempt at a video documentary), but I kept stopping to just inhale the heady scent of lavender and listen to the bees. As great as the camera is, sometimes you have to step away from the viewfinder and really experience the view.
It didn't stop there. The following day Wendy had arranged for Tammy and I to meet up with a local photographic artist, Carolyn Marchetti, at her amazing home overlooking the Kelseyville area. To say my expectations were exceeded is like saying Category 5 hurricanes are windy. Again, it would have been lovely enough to sit and chat with Carolyn over a glass of local wine for an hour. But we were welcomed to an outdoor table dressed with a terrific lunch, a tour of the home and Carolyn's studio and freedom to wander about and take pictures to our heart's content. We stayed for 6 hours.
Carolyn's husband, Tony, joined us and at length the conversation drifted from photography and art to life and what we choose to make of it. We tried to absorb it all. Tammy took notes but I'm not sure she could write fast enough. I really can't describe our afternoon except to say that I KNOW I was in the presence of God. At one point Tony said, "It all happens around the table," and I almost jumped out of my chair.
He could not have known how right he was, that he had just summed up the entire weekend so beautifully. That I felt surrounded by God's love and presence every single time I sat down to a meal. I thought instantly of what awaits us in heaven for all eternity: the wedding feast of the Lamb. Where all pretense goes away and we get to be nothing more than who He made us to be. Where we will enjoy the company of others unrestrained by our sin and a broken world.
And how we will celebrate.
Tony and Carolyn chose to be available to a pair of strangers. They opened their home and best of all their hearts. They were real and joyful and edifying. They could have been merely cordial and open for an hour and again, I would have been content with such a gift of their time. They shared their dreams, their history, their love story.
Wendy could have provided a bed, sandwiches and some ideas for places to shoot and that would have made for a great weekend for this photographer, but she chose to give more than that.
Tammy, Bethany, Kelli, and Angie, all loved me from the start. They chose to offer hospitality that went above and beyond, and I have no words to describe where it left me. I'm still reeling.
I've been extraordinarily blessed in that I've never had a portrait session go truly wrong. But we don't live in a perfect world so I can pretty much count on any session having at least one minor issue. A flash unit misfires, skies turn cloudy and ruin the light, random people wander through your backgrounds (thank you, Lord, for Photoshop). But Saturday evening I got to live the portrait photographer's dream. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, went absolutely right. The weather was perfect. The sunset was so beautiful I was afraid people were going to think I faked it. Well, some shirtless fishermen did show up in the background (thank you, Lord, for Photoshop). I always love my job, but I was high as a kite after this one. Check out the results...
My family has had the awesome blessing of getting to know the Stuarts this past year and capturing their closeness and love for each other was a true privilege.
Kelli will be leaving this Friday for Tanzania to blog about the work that Compassion International is doing there to release children from poverty in the name of Jesus. Follow her and prepare to laugh, cry and fall in love with a child who needs a sponsor.
Thank you, Lee and Kelli, for allowing me to photograph your beautiful family. Thank you, God, for the gift of beauty and the calling to capture it.
I used to want to be Martha Stewart, at least where party planning was concerned. Then I met Elle and I decided it is much more fun to just go to her parties. Seriously, Martha. I'm pretty sure Elle could take you. Even better than just going to the party is being asked to document all the fun in photos. Last year I met Elle when I photographed her son, Isaac's first birthday party. It was so cool I doubted she could top it. Boy, was I wrong. This year's shindig was crazy cool! She chose a "milk and cookies" theme and the photos describe it better than words can.
Yes, that's Cookie Crisp cereal. I got all nostalgic for my childhood. And homemade Oreos - OH MY!
Cookie mix in a jar for favors...
Guests signed a Holstein cow spot with birthday wishes then attached it to the felt "cow hide" on the wall.
Elle found these milk bottles online from a farmer in the Midwest.
What kid would not LOVE this???
Okay, maybe the one without teeth...
Elle is a pretty amazing photographer herself, so she really only needs me so she can enjoy the party. This is an album of shots she took of Isaac enjoying milk and cookies before the big day.
Thank you, Elle, for the honor of documenting yet another fantastic party and a beautiful family. It's always a blast!