One of the great pleasures of doing photography is the time I get to spend with friends and families. Over the past few years I’ve been doing family portraits for various seasons and occasions, and I wanted to share some of them with you. For those of you who have been to my portfolio site, some of these you will have already seen, but there’s definitely a lot of unpublished shots in this batch.
:: warning: “shaymless” self-promotion below ::
Come September I will begin to schedule family portraits for Christmas cards and holiday events, and I would love to photograph your family. I try to keep my sessions short and to the point and I definitely try to make it fun for the whole family. Feel free to contact me at shay[at]shaythomason[dot]com and let’s get together and make some memories. Until then, enjoy these from my past clients:
Three years ago my parents moved from a lifetime of residing in southern California to central Kentucky. Their new town is home to Abe Lincoln’s birthplace and you can literally walk the downtown area in about 5 minutes. I just got home (California) from visiting them for the past six days and I only have one thing to say: Kentucky is not my home.
It’s not that Kentucky is all bad — it does have it’s moments. Louisville is a pretty good city, for example. They boast that they are the 16th largest in the Union, but what I love are the old brick buildings and the Ohio river that it sits against. Also, there is something to say for the American history that Kentucky holds. Everywhere you go you’ll find bronze signs with gold lettering telling you that you’ve just entered a historic city and then explain the significance. But that might also be it’s downfall. The reality is these cities were probably a lot more exciting in the mid 1800’s then they are today because I don’t think anyone has done anything to keep them up in the past hundred and fifty years. But that didn’t stop my parents from loading us up in the car they borrowed (or in Kentucky it could be pronounced “burred”) and lead us around every place that might have any significance, historical or not. The view from the back the car wasn’t always bad as the photo above portrays. The chances of seeing a tractor in your lane with a nice water tower in the skyline isn’t that likely in southern California, so I had to get a shot of it at least for posterity. Nevertheless we saw most of what Kentucky has to offer in a few car rides and it’s not something to write home about — which is why I figured blogging might be the option in my case.
California, at least for now, is home to my home. I say “home to my home” because even as I’m writing this I’m realizing that my home really consists of more than a location, bedroom, kitchen, or even fond memories. Bethany (my lovely wife) was telling me about a blog she read the other day that discussed this very topic. The writer, CJ Mahaney’s daughter, basically explains how she isn’t sad that her parents are moving out of the house she grew up in. She explains how her parents aren’t ones to live in the past and how really home is “where mom is.” As I grow older and continue to establish my own home with my wife, I agree with this sentiment completely and would further add some qualifications to it.
Home for me really consists of the following: where my wife is, where my church is, and where God is choosing to use me. To be without my wife (and I don’t mean to sound cliche) would be like a half-me walking around — it would be weird, gross, and pretty awkward for those around me. She is the one that God designed for me and the more we grow together, the clearer that becomes. Furthermore, to be without a local church would be devastating to my spiritual growth. To miss the teaching of God’s word, the fellowship of other believers, and the constant use of my spiritual gift would leave me misguided and spiritually bankrupt. The church is really an extended family. These are people that I trust my life with and people that I want to be around all the time. They are my friends, my mentors, my brothers and sisters, and my teachers. I want to learn from their experiences, rub shoulders with them, share my prayer requests with them, hold the battleground with them, sing with them, learn with them, share the Gospel alongside them, and learn to love Christ more with them. Finally, I want to have God use me where I am. I don’t want to be idle in my obedience to God. I want to do what he says and trust him for the results. It’s in these things that my home is really established. If my home only consisted of my bedroom, some framed photographs of times past, and some simple memories it would missing some very key elements of my life and wouldn’t be much of a home at all — it would be missing God’s plan and God’s people, and those are things I just can’t live without.
Yesterday (Christmas eve) I drove down to Los Angeles to pick up a friend so he could celebrate Christmas with us and some mutual friends. As I was driving I called my dad to ask him his thoughts on what traffic in L.A. would be like on Christmas eve. My dad spent some 20+ years driving to and from Los Angeles, commuting to work so I figured he would be a good candidate to know something about what my travel would be like. But it was his answer to my simple question that killed me. He said, “I think you should be fine…” to which I replied, “great!” — but he didn’t stop there. He continued by adding, “The feelings about Christmas are really bad this year…they’ve taken Christ out of Christmas.” How exactly would Christ being taken out of Christmas affect my drive to L.A. I’m still trying to figure out, but the truth is — he was serious.
My dad grew up in a different time. He grew up in a time where saying “Merry Christmas” was the norm and wouldn’t turn heads or bring about an awkward stare. But this hasn’t been the case for my generation. I’ve grown up in the “Happy Holidays” transition time. That is-the era in which we have tried to make the switch from saying “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” in hopes of not offending anyone. In fact, I was out with my wife this past week and I overheard a conversation that made me laugh. A lady was telling her family who was with her a story about a child at a restaurant that evening. Apparently the waiter came to the table to give them back their card and check and said “Happy Holidays” to which this child replied “We celebrate Christmas!” That really sums up where we’re at today: in a constant, silly battle as to what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, and all in hopes of not offending anyone by adding the word “Christ” to our greetings.
As I sit here this Christmas morning my heart is drawn to think about these things because this is the morning when Christians celebrate the birth of a Savior. Yes, Christians will most likely also participate in the cultural thing that is Christmas with the lighted tree, sharing gifts, and eating a meal together and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I also want to remind myself (and that’s probably why I’m writing this) that today is the day I celebrate the birth of God coming to this world as a baby. Humbling himself even to become a human and ultimately humbling himself to take away the penalty of my sin on the cross. This truth alone should be enough for me to be joyous today, even despite a culture that wants to remove Christ from everything.
Every so often I find myself overwhelmed by God’s grace in my life. Sometimes they are small things, but when I start thinking about my whole life and I look back and see how God has used so many people and so many situations to make me the man He wants me to be — I get overwhelmed emotionally. Today I came across some photos of my home church of which I’m not in or anything, yet as I looked at them I began to weep. There are photos of young people painting houses for “Neighborhood Impact Paint Day!” and other images of church BBQ’s and game days. And I was reminded of the place where God first showed me the Truth of the Gospel I couldn’t help — and still can’t — but be amazed and simply overwhelmed by His good grace.
I need to look back a lot. It’s not that I don’t see God doing amazing things in my life today, because He is and has, but I need to look back and remember how far God has brought me and cared for me so I don’t get prideful. It’s so simple for me to get caught in the trap of thinking that I did anything to deserve the life God has provided or that I should get any glory for His work. The truth is, apart from His grace — I’m just another lost sinner in need of a Savior. Apart from His plan, His sovereign will, His work, His love — I am nothing. Even coming to Salvation wasn’t something I did, it was a gift given to me by Him and I am eternally grateful. That’s all for today.