A Shadow for a Day

I have these friends who are AMAZING photographers. This spring, they graciously allowed me to shadow them on a few weddings here in the area. Aside from just LOVING being with them, I learned a ton.

These are a few of my favorites from the first wedding I attended. One valuable lesson that I gleaned, ironically, did not come from my friends, the photographers. It came from the bride. I told my friend, Jen, near the end of the evening that when I grow up, I want to be like Kelley.

Her special day was far from seamless, but she took it all in stride. She was truly a beautiful bride in every sense. Not just outwardly, but she also exuded poise and grace from with in that shows up in every photograph.

See for yourself….

Brookstone School: Sowing Seeds of Wisdom

Monday was my favorite day of the summer, because I was able to spend some time at Brookstone School  to take some photographs of their summer camp. If you are unfamiliar with this beacon of light located off of West Blvd, you should spend a few minutes getting acquainted with its mission. It is beautiful.

In 1996, a group of citizens from different backgrounds joined together to create a non-profit, Christ-centered school in one of Charlotte’s urban centers.  Their passion was to give hope-to be the ‘seed of difference’ for low-income, minority children.

Brookstone School opened its doors in 2001 with grades K-1. They expanded to K-6 in the fall of 2011 and are now on the road to their K-8 goal.

Having various friends who are board members, I have heard about this school and its progression for years. But it was not until this past week that I got a chance to see it with my own eyes. They run outreach camps to the community during the summer months which promotes literacy in the morning and various enrichment activities in the afternoon.

This past week, a church from Davidson came down to run a VBS music camp for the kids. It was amazing to watch.

I think my biggest take away from my time  is that adults, whether young or old, really do have the capacity to make a difference in a child’s life. It was fleshed out right before my eyes as the teachers, administrators, and camp counselors gave their time and energy for the life of another who really needed it.

Baby Mine: The McCollum Family

You may remember the story I wrote on the miracle of Baby Caroline. It is definitely worth reading, if you are new to my blog. Not because of my retelling of it, but because stories like this never get old or lose their ability to inspire.

Though I still call Caroline McCollum “BC” which stands for  baby Caroline, she is no longer an infant. This December, she turned 3 years old AND became a big sister.

Nick and Julianna are friends, who also happen to be neighbors. This is such a wonderful combination with lots of life perks. But, for me, it also carries with its own strange form of exposure.

For example, our cul-de-sac is the McCollum Family’s exercising mid-point.They walk or run to our house and turn around to begin retracing their steps. Again, a HUGE, fun bonus, but not so much if you are the first person in the hood to have your Christmas tree by the curb…the day after Christmas. If you can even wait that long.

Two years ago,  I remember throwing open my front door to drag out four large garbage bags full of clutter shenanigans only to look up and see my friend/neighbor jogging by our house. I startled her with my frantic commotion and intensity, practically falling down my front porch steps, while never wavering in my grip of the clutter. I knew that if I could just make it to the trash can with this external excess, my internal life would begin restoring itself.

She stopped in her tracks and we just looked at each other for a second. Her face beginning to crack into a smile because, she knows and loves me well in every emotional state and episode.

“Hi, Julianna,” I said, panting harder than her in mid-run.

“Hey, Carrie,” she said with a knowing giggle.

“I’m just picking up a bit, nothing major,” I said.

“I see that,” she said.

She then smiled at me and went on her way.

This past Saturday, I went over to their house to snap a few photos of their new son, BG. Which is another perk of having friends in the neighborhood. They let you practice your photography on their budding family. That morning was actually one of the highlights of my holiday season.

and this is why…..

Chasing Butterflies in George Washington’s Garden

“I can truly say I had rather be at home at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the Seat of Government.” George Washington

For the past year and a half, my girls and I have been studying American History. It has been an introduction for all three of us, because I managed to make it 36 years on this earth without ever really knowing the birth story of our nation.

In our study, no other man has captivated my heart and mind like that of George Washington. I confess to have developed a strange “crush” of sorts when I read of his courage in battle and his humility in office.

But, in all that we took in about the life of this great man, my favorite stories had to do with his quiet, contemplative farm life on the grounds of his beloved Mt. Vernon estate. Whether as a general in the thick of war or as an elected official presiding over a new nation, he often found comfort day dreaming about sitting with Martha in the evenings on the veranda overlooking the Potomac River. To him, home was a feeling; a state of being.  At  Mt Vernon, fellowship, acceptance, work, and rest were always present and always plentiful.

Over the semester, I began to dream about visiting Mt. Vernon for myself one day because I had grown to love the idea of it as much as he had. I never thought I would get the opportunity but desperately longed to walk the same paths he walked and feel the same solace that he felt among those trees and hills.

On September 30, 2011, a glorious fall day, my girls and I pulled up to his home right outside of Alexandria. We were visiting my sister who lives in Washington, DC and had invited us up to see Les Misrables at the Kennedy center. So, having a place to stay, I planned a four-day trip, which included a day trip to Mount Vernon.

It was a wonderful day that felt like a tonic to my weary soul.

I had come heavy-hearted because our community had just buried a dear friend a few weeks prior, who died from a brain tumor. I knew that I would be channeling Sydney when I stood before a Van Gogh at the National Gallery of Art the next day.

But, late that afternoon while taking pictures in George Washington’s garden, a very LARGE, orange Monarch(which is her symbol to me) fluttered by me. I nearly went CRAZY. It was late in the season to have such a sighting, particularly so far north.

My girls, bless them were SO tired and had parked themselves on a bench outside the garden. I told them about the Sydney butterfly and begged for just a few more minutes.

“Go,” they said wearily but very happy for me. “Go and chase butterflies.”

I took a deep breath, prayed, and hoped to be able to find it once again. Quietly, I followed it to a patch of purple, spindly flowers. I stood very still watching the butterfly, and could not have been happier or felt more alive.

Unbeknownst to me, two women had stopped behind me to watch the moment unfold. The monarch finally opened up its wings and the onlookers heard my shutter click.

“Oh, you got it, didn’t you?!” they asked, excitedly.

Startled, I turned around with tears in my eyes.

“I did,” I said. “But she’s still gone.”

They were puzzled, and I explained to them why I was chasing butterflies.

“Bless you,” they said. “And bless your sweet friend.”

I am remembering this story because a year today(December 23,2010), I sat with Sydney in her bedroom. She was in a hospital bed because her tumor was reeking havoc and had rendered her unable to walk. We were all very worried about her recent decline.

Sitting there, I did not know that in a seven months, she would leave us. Forever.

I did not know that the photograph I had framed for her that day as a reminder of how I would always see her would become an image to us all in our remembering.(They were released at her graveside the day of her funeral.)

And that wherever I would go in the future, it could always become a sacred opportunity to be surprised by chasing butterflies.

Mt. Vernon

Me, George, and the girls. (Sorry Martha)

George Washington/family tomb

The Slave Memorial Garden

Slave Quarters

Treasures in Heaven: The Edwards Family

I confess that this picture brought tears to my eyes this afternoon, and it is probably my favorite that I have taken this fall. Maybe it is because I worried with such a large family shoot that I would not get “the shot” I set out to attain. And in my heart, this was the one I wanted.

Or maybe it was because, I just love my friend, Jean and think she is lovely and this captures that perfectly.

Though a mixture of all the above, I think my tears probably came from a place of gratitude that would have never predicted a year away from our home church would have reaped such a bounty of friendship.

Roger and I met years ago, and I like to refer to him as my publisher. The only two times I have ever had my writing in print, it has been due to this wonderfully delightful man. Really need I say more than this….

Roger has the unfortunate privilege of being one of the few who draws out my laugh to its fullest capacity. My father has a loud, boisterous laugh. My mom has a giggle mixed with a cackle. Well, I inherited both. Usually, I can make it be one or the other or temper it to be a subdued combined version, but not when I’m hanging out with Roger. And quite frankly, I am ok with that.

They are a special couple who have sacrificed a lot to store up treasures in heaven. But, their store house is not only unseen which is why I was so excited to get the opportunity to photograph their family. I love how you can see Jean and Roger’s smile in the faces of their children. Two of whom  were unable to make the shoot.

I read this week that “good writing can be like window pane.”(George Orwell) I have found the same to be true with a good photograph. And though I am just learning how all this photography stuff works, the last picture in this series speaks volumes.

This is the road that Roger and Jean take their daily walk on. It has become a holy ritual that has sustained them through all kinds of weather.


The White Family

I have known Jeremy and Lindsay White for many years now. It is one of those special relationships of longevity where we have seen and experienced many of life’s changes together.

When we met, they had recently gotten married. Now they have three amazing boys and are a part of my family’s favorite ministry, Camp Lurecrest. I often refer to them as my “camp friends” and provide no further explanation.

I realize now that is because I don’t have adequate words to describe what this family means to me. They leave their Charlotte community each May and live in Lake Lure for 4-5 months so Jeremy can serve as the director for Camp Lurecrest. Lindsay has brought up her boys there and sacrifices so much of her time with her husband so he can pour into the lives of staff, college students, and campers hoping they will leave with a greater awareness of who Jesus is and how deeply He loves.

Some of my favorite pictures from this session are of Jeremy and his boys because it reminds me of how at camp, everyday he takes off work for “Daddy time.” You can see him with his sons all over camp whether riding in a ‘gator’, doing the zipline, tubing behind a boat, swimming in the lake or pool, or whatever activity strikes their little fancy that day. He also carves out special time for his wife, who is also an INCREDIBLE gift to her boys and all of the staff at camp.  I’m overwhelmed by their friendship and impact on my family.

You can read about some of our summer experiences with them and why we love camp so much here.

Meet The White Family and Lindsay’s parents, the Barth’s…..

“Simon says…..GO CRAZY!!!”

I really love this girl. so much.

God is Big in the Small: Learning New Things

Twenty-three years ago, I was a sophomore in high school. I remember sitting in psychology class with a mixture of upper class-men when the teacher stood at the front of the room and asked us where we wanted to be in five years. He went through the rows of students and listened to our answers, one by one. I was 15 years old and an athlete. Playing sports was all I ever knew and all I was ever known for. In fact, my first love at 5-years-old was baseball.

As I listened to the answers, I distinctly recall being very surprised by a profound stirring inside of me. I knew what I wanted to share but no one else did. Not even my best friend, who sat in front of me and declared to everyone that she wanted to be a writer. I could have answered it for her, because I knew her to be clever with words and observations. It was obvious.

Deep within me, I wanted to say that I hoped to be a photographer for National Geographic, but it made no sense. I had never owned a camera and did not even know how to spell the word: geographic. So, I said what everyone expected me to say which was that I saw myself playing soccer in college.

I feel like I have gone back to that moment two decades ago and have finally answered the question honestly. I know there will not be any National Geographic photography assignments in my future. But last week, I decided to take the training wheels off my camera. For three years, I have been using my Cannon Rebel XSI as a simple point and shoot. That means the settings are automatically adjusted for me, and all I have to do is show up and push the shutter.

It was a step of faith to sacrifice great pictures for a season in order to learn about F-stops and ISO’s. But, thanks to a 13-year-old whiz of a photographer helping me along, I have taken some decent shots! My question has always been why? Why should I stop taking pictures in the automatic settings if I get fabulous pictures consistently? My teenage tutor told me that this step would allow me to be more creative.

I doubted that I’d ever get through the frustrations of mess up’s and missed opportunities to make the “more creative” reasoning hold any merit for me. But, yesterday, while in my mother-in-law’s garden, it all clicked.

Because there is no such thing as a black and white butterfly in automatic settings.

Same butterfly….

I love photographing nature because it makes God seem very Big to me in the Small things.

These are my favorite. I could not bring myself to do any photo editing because there was just something very mystical about the Straight Out of the Camera Shots. Who Knew riding without training wheels could be so much fun.

Last shot of the day. It seemed appropriate for the beauty of trying and learning something new.

From SB Island over the past year

*(left)my youngest daughter’s foot. (middle) my husband’s foot. (right) my oldest daughter’s foot. i love this shot because it was  not staged.

*2009 Sea Turtle Patrol

*SB island bike ride

*porpoise play

Tomorrow morning is our first Kiawah Island Sea Turtle Patrol dig at 6:15am. The TP excavates a nest 3 days after it hatches to ensure there are no turtles trapped down inside. It is a good thing when you do not find baby turtles left in a nest, but it’s SO fun to uncover a few and watch them fight their way out to sea.

I will keep you posted.

Here’s my official t-shirt!

I assure you that ‘burnt orange’ is not in my color pallet. But, whattayagonnado.