Over Christmas break I had the opportunity to shoot my first baby portraits. While I was a little nervous about taking on this new venture, they turned out beautiful. Anna Riley (what a great name!) was a joy to be around and has such a cute smile and head of hair.
Last Christmas I found a coffee table book at a thrift store entitled “Christmas in America: Images of the Holiday Season.” It features hundreds of images that capture the diverse ways the Christmas season is celebrated across America. I love the book, particularly because of its 1988 publishing date which leads the images to coincide with my childhood years.
This season, while traveling around the southeast on my break, I was able to capture a few other images of Christmas in America today.
Glade Spring, VA
However, I encountered some of the most compelling images of Christmas when I read St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation for my Church History class this semester. Below are some selected excerpts, but I would encourage Christians at any stage in their faith to read this classic work.
“You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been manifest in bodily form.
He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.
The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection.
It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.
You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.”
I had never heard of a “bucket list”, also known as a lifetime to-do list, until my friend Molly told me about hers at college. I began talking to some of my other friends and quickly found that many had such a list although they weren’t always written down. One of my friends told me she was trying to visit all of Southern Living’s “204 Food Finds” in the South and over the years we have ventured to many together. These interactions three years ago led me to start my own list, and hopefully I’ll have fifty more years to complete items and add more to it.
When I was reviewing over my bucket list the other day I quickly realized that the items completed thus far had always been done with others.
In light of this, I thought I’d publish (most) of my list as I’d love for partners on any of these adventures. After all, we were created by God for community and not as islands.
Have you made your “bucket list”? If so, post a comment with some of your items or blog about it.
Go to a Nascar Race
Go up in a hot-air balloon
Fly in a small aircraft over Furman and Conyers to photograph the places I love.
Be a contestant on the Price is Right
Visit all of Southern Living’s “204 Food Finds” Live in a rural area for a time
Foreign mission work for at least a year
Swim half a mile
Run a 10k in preparation for a half marathon – Completed July 2010 at the Peachtree Road Race
Play the Harbour Town Golf Links (learn how to play golf first)
Catch a fish on the flyline
Learn how to sail a small boat
Learn to speak basic Spanish – Completed summer of 2011 in Central America
Learn to drive a stick shift proficiently
Learn my family’s genealogy as well as my Nana knows it
Become a morning person
Visit McDonalds #1 in Des Plaines, Illinois
Sell 5 items on eBay and personally deliver them to the buyers
Drive a hitchhiker to whatever destination he desires
Road trip with friends across the USA
Take a train across Canada
Visit New York (Just found out Amtrak travels from Durham to NYC for a great price) – Completed January 2012 on a trip to see my best friend
Visit Time Square on New Year’s Eve with a significant other
Visit the Grand Canyon
Photograph the Aurora Borealis in Alaska
See the pyramids of Giza
Tour the Holy Land
Visit the Dominican Republic to visit Ruben, the child I sponsor through Compassion.
Photograph Mont Saint-Michel in France
Whenever you tell someone what town you’re from people often have immediate associations in their mind. It could be a news story regarding your town, the birthplace of someone famous, or have some kind of landmark that is oft-visited. Conyers, Georgia has quite a few associations. Some think about The Lost Children of Rockdale County, Holly Hunter, The Dukes of Hazzard, the monastery, and every once in a while someone will mention “The Farm”.
Think about your town. What comes to most people’s minds when you tell them the name of it? Now, have you ever actually engaged the site, news story, or bizarre thing that most people name? If not, I would encourage you to go out and explore it.
For years I heard about the visitations of the Virgin Mary to Nancy Fowler that occurred on her farm in Conyers. Students would come late to school because traffic was so bad from the thousands of visitors. Locals would speculate whether this was real or some scheme. Newspapers would publish stories. And people would go drink water from the well on the property hoping and praying for miracles. But until last week I had never even read about or been to this place that was less than ten miles from my house.
The Farm ended up being a place of solitude and beauty. Much different from the sprawl right down the road. There were acres of property to stroll, meditations to read, and lots of information in the welcome center on the site itself. The story of The Farm is quite interesting, but I will spare the details and let you read about it at Conyers.org.
I was able to spend some great time in prayer there and capture some of the beauty, mystery, and icons of this place with my camera. Click “Continue Reading” below to see more photos.
I’m still unsure exactly what to think of this pilgrimage site, but I do know that thousands have lifted prayers and sought after God on this property. And when I stepped from the grass onto “Rosary Hill” to get some better photos of Jesus on the Cross my feet began to feel like they were on fire. I looked down and they were covered in fire ants. Needless to say, from that point on I gave the hill much more respect.
During my outdoor photography class this fall my instructor, Richard Bernabe, told us about a beautiful bald in North Carolina close to the Tennessee border. The first time I visited the fog was so thick that I could only see two feet in front of me. I left feeling disappointed and without having any vision of the spectacular views.
I returned a month later at sunset and it was well worth the trip. After processing my photos from the trip, I feel almost as satisfied as the lady below drinking the illuminated red wine.