I want me to shine

Oh look at my beautiful photo! Isn't that beautiful light?  I am a photographer.  Let me take your photograph.  I am a storyteller, let me tell your story.

Artwork by merelypaper.com

I wanted my light to shine and that's what I worked hard for.  So in the midst of my "hard work", I had an experience which caused me to feel as if God was so far away.  Truthfully, I had a meltdown.  When I shared my story, a good friend asked me to read Isaiah 59, 58, 60, and 61 in this order.  I was floored when I read it...

I am a sinner.  My sins are the cause of all this.  "your sins have hidden his face from you..."  My number one goal was to become a photographer.  I was so wrapped around creating awesome portraits instead of loving on the people first.  I sometimes told stories or not told stories because of how my market my think of me.  

God loves us.  I know it and believe it.  I am to share that love with everyone that I get the the chance to spend time with, even if there is no camera.  I am a photographer.  Let me hear your story and allow me to capture you in the beautiful way that God has created you.  I am a storyteller.  Give me an opportunity to share your story to bring glory to the one who deserves it and the love that He shares.

In the end, let me share the love I have received with you. 

Story about Innovation Institute - Part 2

After watching several children ride the recreational vehicles created by Innovation Institute, I asked Harold, “You are in the business of creating smiles, aren’t you?”

He smiled and nodded.

My wife and I went out to the Bachman Lake for the annual Bachman Lake Extravaganza.  The event has been hosted by Turning Point since 1990 to introduce people with disabiliies to activities and adaptive equipment for fishing, horseback riding, archery, hand cycling, and more.  Innovation Institute also brought out their recreational vehicles.


It is hard not to notice all the excitement and thrill that people get from riding the vehicles.  It was such a blessing for us to see how much joy that Harold brings to people.  

I had the chance to meet and talk to several children and young adults.

This is Taylor.

Taylor's reaction to the ramp going up was priceless. 

Just like the photo, she is bright, excited, curious, talkative, and has a beautiful smile that I will never forget.  

This image defines what Innovation Institute does.

This was Taylor's reaction when asked, "Do you wanna go around once more?"

This is Andrew.

 He is visiting his grandparents for the summer and they brought him out for a day of fun.  I watched his granddad as he was photographing Andrew riding the cart and saw how genuinely thankful he was to see his grandson enjoying himself.  Andrew even got to drive.  

Andrew was curious about the golf cart so Harold explained all the technical parts.

Innovation Institute is planning to partner with several summer camps around the country to bring more smiles to children’s faces.  But they need your support.

Harold runs the organization with love and prayer.  He uses the profits from his own business to keep Innovation Institute running.  He hopes to grow it to serve more people.  If you are able give a tax-deductible gift, share this post with family and friends and pray for Harold and his team.

For more information, contact them at koolschool@sbcglobal.net or (972) 709-5391.  Also, they can be found on Facebook.


If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, make out your check to:

Innovation Institute

1219 Crestdell Drive

Duncanville, TX 75137


(Read Part I here.)


This cart uses hydraulics to lower the cart to the ground for easy access.

No part is bad to Innovation Institute.  Even an old engine runs perfectly.

To save cost, they use (modified) inexpensive battery charger to use as battery.

All controls are easy reach and access for safety.

Story about Innovation Institute - Part 1

This is Harold Andreson.

He is the owner of Mechanical Excellence, an automotive service shop in Duncanville, Tx.  Using profits from his shop, he also started the non-profit organization, Innovation Institute, in 2003 to serve people with disabilities.

We were introduced to each other through a friend.  Before we even met in person, we had numerous phone conversations.  Every time we talked, I could sense the passion for what he does.  I am so compelled to tell his story and the love he has for people.  I am so honored to have seen and experienced firsthand the love that he pours out everyday.

Innovation Institute started from an idea thought up by a part-time employee.  They began by building various types of adaptive aids for mobility devices, such as giving an electric scooter better brakes, safer throttle, and off-road knobby tires.  They continued to develop the original idea and took it a step further.  One of their first “innovations” was the conversion of a riding lawn mower into a heavy duty go-kart, with roll cage, hand controls, and safety harness.  

A disabled child would be able to safely ride this recreational vehicle with their wheelchair.  For some of those who were able to take the go-kart for a ride, it was their first time feeling the wind in their hair or sense movement with their skin.

The project has evolved since and now they are adapting the idea to a golf cart.  They have ensured easy on-and-off wheelchair access by installing custom hydraulics, the back seat provides for family members or friends to ride with them, and more is in the works.

I was so amazed to see that everything they do is custom work.  They took an old golf cart and installed a new frame on it so that now there is enough room for two wheelchairs to ride on it.  

Harold talking to his team about what needs to be done for the event in 2 weeks.

No part is a bad part to them.  They salvage parts from other things to save costs but gets the job done well.

This is Wandus.  He is sawing off parts to make room for batteries. 

Robert and Tony modifying a batter pack to use on the golf carts.

This is Tony.  He's passion for bringing smiles to kids face is heart warming.

This is Tommie.  You'll never be able to guess his age correctly.  I missed it by more than 10 years.

All the work is done by four part-time workers and two volunteers.  They take pride in all the work they put into the vehicles and they are motivated by smiles that they will bring to a child’s face.

Look out for Part 2 of Innovation Institute next week.  It’ll be filled with images of joy and love for the community.

For more information, contact them at koolschool@sbcglobal.net or (972) 709-5391.  Also, they can be found on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/Innovation.Institute.Duncanville).

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, make out your check to:

Innovation Institute

1219 Crestdell Drive

Duncanville, TX 75137

Thank you, Jerry - a story from Moore, OK

When I heard about the devastation the tornadoes had left behind in Moore, OK, I felt called to go there.  I teamed up with the ministry organization, citiImpact, and was able to capture the stories of just a few the many people that have been affected.

Here is a story of the love and kindness of a man that saved 23 lives other than his own.

Although Oklahoma is in "Tornado Alley," many homes in the state do not have basements or storm cellars because the red clay of the Oklahoman soil makes it difficult and costly.

Jerry is one of the few residents in Moore that has a storm cellar.  2 days before the tornado hit, Jerry peeped over the fence to let his neighbor know that their family was welcome to take shelter in the storm cellar if need be.

2 days later, the tornadoes hit their neighborhood and his neighbors ran to Jerry's house to take cover.  People Jerry didn't even know came running and he welcomed them all in.

Jerry saved 21 people, including himself, and 3 dogs in his storm cellar.

Many were children.

The door to the shelter that saved so many people's lives.

The narrow stairs leading down to the storm shelter.

I had a chance to talk to two of the children that had been in the cellar during the tornado.  They were very calm about it and stated matter-of-factly, "no, we weren't scared at all."  One of the boys described how his mother's hair flew up when the tornado was right above them.

I had a chance to talk to him about his experience.  He told me he wasn't scared during the tornado.

This message tells it all.  Thank you Jerry.

On the wall of what remains of Jerry's house, one of the families he had saved came by painted a message, "Thank you Jerry.  U saved my family lives."

The families are looking for anything to salvage.

If you would like to help and support, please visit moore.recovers.org. This page is dedicated to serving the needs in Moore, OK.

Photo and artwork by merelypaper.com

This is merelypaper.

This is the face of Merelypaper.  

She is also my wife.  SOHOSTORY wouldn't exist without her.

After months of praying and preparing, Merelypaper is now open and running at full force.  We took her talent from pen and paper to make unique print designs.  The bright and simple designs are her signature.

Right now, she is being featured on Brickyard Buffalo, an online popup market.  Also, she will be featured in West Elm's Etsy Pop-Up Shop on June 1st.  We are blessed by the two event that we got to be part of.  Please stop by and say hello at West Elm. We would love to see you.

She's not always this serious.

This is more like her.

This is Vun'Shai.

SOHOSTORY was created to tell stories through my eyes as a photographer.  

Do you have a story to share?  If so, contact me at info@sohostory.com.

I became familiar with Cornerstone Crossroad Academy during the event, Help Portrait 2012.  Kristi Lichtenberg, the Principal & Program Director of CCA, told me the school’s story and immediately I knew I wanted to share it.

The mission of CCA:

Cornerstone Crossroads Academy exists to expose at-risk high school students to the hope and abundant life found in Christ, equipping students to know God and serve Him forever.
The mission of Cornerstone Crossroads Academy is to educate and teach “at-risk” high school students who have not been successful in traditional settings in a way that provides them with hands-on, real-life experiences in order that they may develop physically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually and so that they may graduate with a high school diploma.

I had the chance to meet Vun’Shai at the school.  He showed me why CCA exists.

Vun’Shai is 19 years old.  He remembers his childhood from when he lived in Richardson, TX.  Life was good and he had everything he wanted. "My mom would take us somewhere every weekend..." said Vun’Shai.  He seemed very happy about describing his old memories.

After his mom lost her job, they moved to South Dallas.  It was a life-changing moment; he was exposed to many bad things and his life took sharp a turn.

Even with his circumstances, he said a very poignant thing:

"God took away good things in my life to show me how blessed I was."

This is the kind of impact CCA has made on his life.

Vun’Shai describes his neighborhood as being "right in the middle of a battlefield,"  where there is constant peer pressure, drugs, violence, hopelessness, and much more.  He eventually dropped out of school during his junior year and began jumping from school to school.  

He asked me to take a photo of his scar and said "It's part of me."

During this rough time, he began meeting with a mentor, Glen Banks, at World Impact.  Glen told Vun’Shai about CCA and suggested that he check it out.  After visiting, CCA felt like the right fit so he began attending in October of 2012.  

He is proud to say that he will be graduating very soon!

I asked him about what makes CCA so unique.  "The teachers are how teachers are supposed to be, motivating and loving. They teach you to be responsible and interact with students."  He also said, "CCA is so much more motivating than being at home."

One thing that struck me was what it takes for him to get to school.  He has to take a 40-minute bus ride each morning. He gets to the bus stop at 7:50 AM each morning and if he's even a minute late, he would not make it on time.  Even with this tough commute, he is very motivated to get to school everyday and make the best out of it.

We also talked about being a believer and how CCA has impacted his his faith.  "Getting into the Word at school has been a transformation at heart."  Even though being a believer in his neighborhood is almost impossible, he walks with God daily and stays very faithful.  It was so encouraging to hear how strong his faith is in the midst of his "battlefield".

So what does a young man like Vun’Shai want to do after he graduates?  He wants go study criminal justice in college and become a police officer.

I wish Vun’Shai the best and will be praying for him.

If you are looking for a place where you can serve in Dallas or an organization you can give to, consider Cornerstone Crossroads Academy.  All the gifts are the time will prepare a better future for each student.

"Jesus Christ"

This is Rosie.

SOHOSTORY was created to tell stories through my eyes as a photographer.  

Do you have a story to share?  If so, contact me at info@sohostory.com.

This is Rosie.  

Meet my new friend, Rosie

She is a bright young lady.  I met her few months ago at the benefit concert for Younglife Capernaum.  Before the concert, her mother stopped me, with tears in her eyes.  She had heard some bad news from the doctors the day before and it has been hard for both of them. She asked me to photograph Rosie during the concert.  

I went up to Rosie right before the concert to greet her.  I lifted the camera up to my eye and she immediately gave me the biggest smile, so happy to be photographed.  I would never have been able to tell that she is in pain or sick.  

I later found out that she has chronic kidney pain with the added pain of scoliosis and pelvic stabilizer metal rods.  Now, she is dealing with an antibiotic allergy reaction that has caused rash, hives, and eye swelling, difficult to treat with medication.

During the concert, I frequently visited her to photograph her.  Each time I came around, she was so excited to see me.  I felt so blessed by her smiles.  There aren't enough words to describe the feeling of joy as a photographer when you get a reaction like that.

Her mother describes it perfectly: “I don't see how Rosie can keep so much joy with all the constant kidney pain and pain from scoliosis and pelvic stabilizer metal rods not to mention cerebral palsy muscle tone.”

Towards the middle of the concert, Rosie and her volunteers disappeared.  I quickly followed them out in to the hallway, not expecting to cry myself minutes later.  

Rosie was crying in the hallway and the volunteers were comforting her.  I didn't ask any questions and just stood behind, waiting.  When things settled, I walked up to her, and she once again smiled with excitement.  I looked down at her screen (she communicates via a communication device she types into), and it said " I am crying on [and] off."  

"I am crying of [and] off"

I began to tear up.  I had no idea why Rosie was sad, but I felt so ashamed.  

Up to that moment, I had ignorantly thought that people with disabilities have less feelings and emotions than I do.  I don't know why I had thought that when they are just as human as I am ...  They have the same amount of emotions and have feelings like everyone else.

I had to pause for a few minutes, praying for forgiveness ...

Rosie was sad because a song from the concert had reminded her of her friend.  She remembered that something bad had happened to him about a year ago and the memory had made her sad.

Please pray for her speedy recovery and better health.  Pray that the doctors are able to find medicine that is safe for her to use.  

Two awesome volunteers that I got to meet

Rosie is just one of the many beautiful stories of the children of Younglife Capernaum.  If you have a moment, please check out Younglife Capernum (http://www.younglife.org/Capernaum) and support them by volunteering your time or giving.  

Embracing my vulnerability

Some of you may have been asking, “Is SOHOSTORY still in business?”  It's a fair question for you to ask, since it’s been fairly quiet over here.

The answer is, “yes.”  

For the last two months, I stepped away from photography to do non-photo related contract work.  I only had time to do a few portrait shoots on the weekends and documented Rolff’s story.  Otherwise, I was on hiatus.  

Although I was not initially expecting it to, the contract work changed the pace of my life.  I went from working all day and evening on my time to the typical 9-to-5 job on the company’s time.  This was not easy, but it was a “forced” opportunity for me to step away from my business - it gave me the chance to reflect on every aspect of my personal and professional life.

I also recently wrote a short photo essay about slowing down. I had to pause and think about my life.    

I saw myself in this tangled cables

Looking back at how I had been running my business, I now see how tangled it was.  I made an excuse that I was a creative and let myself too loose, just like all the cables in the photo.  I was like a firefighter - I went where there was fire, rather than creating my own.  As a creative, I should have be creating, not waiting to alter what had already been created.

Also, the experience of sharing Rolff’s story reminded me why I had started SOHOSTORY in the first place.  I have been called to be a storyteller, to tell stories that have yet to be told, and to tell those that glorify the One who deserves it.  When it all began, I was scared and had many sleepless nights, so I took the safe and easy route.   I took all the jobs that paid my bills and ignored others that could have really meant something.  Even my photographs were not me - they were simply pretty pictures that did not say much of anything.  My mantra became, “fake it til I make it.”  And honestly, I just did not want to be vulnerable and didn’t know how to deal with it.    

I had to refocus myself.

Rolff’s story was shared at a time when I was most vulnerable and lost about why I had entered the world of storytelling.  Even though I was scared and fearful, I felt compelled to share.  I thought no one would ever see it, but I was ok with that.  I wasn’t trying to build traffic on my website.  The story just had to be told.  To my surprise, the story was shared by many and donations for the family flooded in.  It was amazing to see how Rolff’s life had touched so many people’s hearts and the love of God was shared throughout the community.

My favorite photo

With this experience, I am slowly learning to embrace my vulnerability.  This is possible because I have a loving wife who keeps me grounded.  Without her, none of this would even exist.  Also, I am so grateful to be surrounded by people, like my colleagues at WELD, who constantly remind me to do so.  SOHOSTORY will continue to take beautiful portraits, headshots, and event photos, but the main focus will be to share stories.

Take 10 minutes and watch this video from TED.  It’s by Brené Brown, called “The power of vulnerability.”