Kyle and Elizabeth O'Donnell...Charlottesville, Virginia Wedding Photography

I had never spent significant time in the hills of Virginia  until Elizabeth and Kyle’s wedding. I believe it's true what they really is God's country. It was incredible! This was a special wedding for so many reasons. Not only was it the first I’ve had in a few months after a break in order to do photography for missions this summer, but it was a refreshing jump back into doing weddings this fall and one that I really needed. It made me realize how much I had missed being a part of a wedding in such a special way. I think vacation and breaks are necessary and so so helpful…but I’m glad there’s an aspect of jumping back in that made me feel like it was right to do so! On top of that, I’ve known Elizabeth since sophomore year of college. She has been a dear friend from RUF and from church for quite some time. I’ve watched her move to different areas of the country. She has the spirit of a brave adventurer with an extremely level, wise, gracious, and thoughtful head on her shoulders. In everything she does, she searches for God’s hand and work in where He has her. This time He led her to Charlottesville, Virginia to do a Fellows program. This is where she met Kyle and a community of friends who became family. It was evident during every aspect of their wedding. These two are loved and I’m so thankful to have been a part of the coming together of these two families. I can’t wait to see where God will lead you two.

Congratulations Elizabeth and Kyle!

Wishing you peace and joy for every step in this new journey!

Hair & Makeup: The Sass Factory

Flowers: Jacquelyn Collmus

The Dress: Caryn's Bridal 

Tuxes: Joseph A. Banks

Ceremony: Trinity Presbyterian Church Charlottesville, VA

Coordinator: Yoland Monet, Trinity Presbyterian Church

Charlottesville, VA

Minister: Greg Thompson

Cake: Artist: Cakes by Rachel

Reception: The Market at Grelen Somerset, VA

Coordinator: Emily Grymes, The Market at Grelen

Rentals: Gibson Tent Rental

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inRegister Magazine.."Glimpses of Hope" Feature Story

Many thanks to Kelli Bozeman at inRegister Magazine for telling this story and the stories of those we've been given the honor to serve.

Please take some time to read an article about the humanitarian efforts we've been a part of in the last year and how you can help. If you’re in the area, please pick up a copy of the magazine and support inRegister as well.

I am thankful to be a part of something much bigger than myself and I look forward to more ways of using what God has given wherever, in whatever way he has & for however long he has.

To him be the glory.

You can read the article here:

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From the start...Kigali, Rwanda


When thinking through where to start with telling the stories of my time in Rwanda, I can only think it appropriate to begin where we did. We arrived Saturday and by Sunday afternoon we were walking around the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I hesitate to start here because Rwandan’s have worked so hard to move past what happened during the genocide and leading up to it. It seems to be the first thing that anyone who has heard of Rwanda thinks of. At first, I wanted to go against the grain and only write about the great things about Rwanda & the people there. The truth is, God uses tragedy to bring us into a greater understanding of who he is and our need of him and it is my hope that Rwandans have experienced such light on God’s character in the aftermath of it. In addition, one cannot go to Rwanda without realizing that many they have come into contact with there...almost any native, man, woman, child that you see and work with have experienced this genocide in one way or another. Many have lost those they love, some of them their entire families. I was only there a week and so I can’t pretend to fully understand what happened in 1994 or the aftermath of it all. But I came in contact with some who were willing to talk about it in order to humbly allow others to step inside and get a glimpse of what happened. I learned from the memorial that many Rwandans are willing to do this in order to prevent such a thing from happening again or anywhere else. And so for that goal and in order to understand and see what God has done in the lives of some Rwandans, particularly those we met, I’d like to start this journey from that standpoint.


The genocide of 1994 began April 7th and lasted for roughly 100 days through mid-July. During this time between 800,000 to 100,000,000 Rwandans were killed. An estimated 6 men women and children were murdered every minute of every hour for 100 days straight. The genocide was described as a civil war to the majority of the world in that time, but was a planned and organized attempt from the Hutu tribe to eliminate the Tutsi tribe race. This conflict arose out of issues of racism on both sides since the colonial era. In a back and forth struggle for governmental power, perceived agreements that further angered some Hutus, and a Tutsi army of refugees that Hutus used as an argument to justify termination of the Tutsi race, a plan was made and was implemented after Rwanda’s president’s plane was shot down on April 7th 1994 . For months members of the Hutu-led government had used radio stations and other propaganda to communicate to Hutus throughout the country that the Tutsi refugee army, the RPF, would enslave and kill the Hutus and the only way to stop them was to eliminate all Tutsis.


For 3 months machetes were used to seek to eliminate an entire race from all corners of the country. Neighbors turned against neighbors. In some cases siblings killed siblings and children killed their own parents while others were forced to kill their loved ones before they themselves were murdered. Roads were blocked off in order to prevent any route of escape. Those who helped Tutsis received the same ultimate fate as the Tutsis themselves. To learn more about the actual events of the genocide and what exactly occurred before, during, and after be sure to check out this site.










We spent one day of our time in Rwanda in a village a couple of hours outside of Kigali. I’ll explain more from that day later on, but we spent it with a group of women who create baskets and jewelry for a co-op in the city close to their village. They humbly welcomed us into their lives for the day and at one point volunteered information about their experience with the genocide. As we took an afternoon walk with the women I noticed a home that seemed to  have been burned with a few graves in the front. I had resolved to not ask about the scene, but as we walked closer to the house one of the women turned to the translator and began to speak and point to the graves. She was telling us that the home was that of some of their neighbors and close friends who were murdered in the genocide. It was an all Tutsi family, including children, who were slaughtered with machetes in the night. The house had been burned in the process. I later learned that the burning of Tutsis' homes had been occurring for decades. The Hutus first encouraged one another to burn the homes and then when the families fled, they would find them and kill them.






 As we went forward down the hill the woman stopped and pointed to another home and began to speak to our translator. She explained to us that the man who once lived there had killed the members of the previous household. These houses were right next to each other with just a small garden in between. These families had lived next to each other for generations. They had built houses together, shared pigs on special occasions, and had taken care of one another. Their kids had attended school together. This house too was burned. She explained that the man had fled with his family after he had killed the neighbors. Other members of the family he had killed had returned to the village to burn his house for what he had done.






Later in the day we walked to cut the leaves of a plant used to make the jewelry and baskets these women sell. As we walked I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t...even after being there the entire day.

I saw another house that had been burned down to its base. All the translator could say as I had my eyes fixed on it was “same story as the house before.” He pointed to another “same story”…”same story.” I looked around and saw still another…and then another….and another. Soon I noticed that the same land I had been looking at all day that seemed so beautiful and rich with banana trees and rolling hills…that same land was sprinkled with burned down houses. What before had seemed like empty plots of land or just a pile of bricks I hadn’t thought twice about…suddenly every place I saw the base of a house, broken bricks, and overgrown grass…I knew. This was a place that someone, a family, a child had seen and experienced the unthinkable. This is where suffering occurred and now an entire hill, an entire village, an entire country is sprinkled with the remnant and memories of it. As we drove back to Kigali that day, the areas of the country I had seen on the way now looked quite different as I noticed piles of bricks & overgrown areas. I now knew what it meant each time I saw it.




Throughout our week in Kigali we experienced many reactions to the pain and memory of what had happened. Some steered clear of the topic, others mentioned in passing that all they had left of their family was a brother or a sister, while still others talked about what they could openly. We saw how the women of this village were able to talk about it in a way that was fundamentally different from our translator who mentioned the ignorance of the people who had committed the acts, that it's talked about every day in university where he studies, and who quickly changed the subject. It seemed he would have loved to have discussed just about anything else with us. He was 4 years old when the genocide occurred.



We can come up with all kinds of thoughts, questions, & answers based on our own experiences, education, upbringing, religion, or our own government and culture;  and I feel it’s natural and even good to think about those things as sometimes they are used to help prevent and act in these situations.

There is one thing that genocide and the reality of mass murders reveals that I feel cannot be denied…and that is that there is something out there in the world that is dark and unnatural and not the way it’s supposed to be or how it was intended to be.

Was it all just random? It seems the obvious answer is no….so if it wasn’t…doesn’t that mean that just as evil and darkness are so real and evident in this world there can be a real, evident, and tangible hope as well?

Is there not something we can look forward to? Isn’t that desire for hope, justice, and peace written on each of our hearts?…we want someone, something to trust in…we want a haven, a home...we feel in the deepest parts of us that it's just not supposed to be this way. And there has to be some kind of hope.

I propose that there is and that the one we can trust for hope and justice has also told us these things are real and yet never how it was supposed to be. The same one who told us these things will happen…but not forever. .

“See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains...

And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Mark 13: 5-8; 12-13



 I believe there is someone who has given that hope as he himself was sent to death by those he walked with, lived life with, trusted and loved..his friends and his neighbors. This same one created this earth we walk on, walked on it himself and understands far more than I ever will hope to know about the complexities of evil. That same one has already defeated it and is equipping us to endure it to the end because of grace. The fact that there is a hope given from a God who himself knows what we suffer here to the point that he can even relate to and comfort those who were murdered or betrayed by loved ones…because he himself experienced it....

What kind of love is that? Can we even put it into words?

There is evil here. It’s a very real thing. We walked amongst it in that small village in Rwanda. We lost in that moment any idea that we know how the world works or how to make it right. The only way I can process it and have that hope is in trusting the words of one who experienced the exact same thing. This same man claimed to know the answers and to be the only hope there is. And that man was either crazy…

or he was telling the truth.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'... And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:1-5



Rwanda has worked for 20 years to not only move past the reality of what happened in 1994, but to provide assistance, counseling, and encouragement for survivors. One initiative of that movement has been to provide group counseling and workshops for victims with their attackers or their family

members' killers in order to seek reconciliation.

There have been countless stories of public confessions and apologies to victims as well as public displays of forgiveness by the victims. You can read more about the work of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative at the link below.

Be sure to check out the work of Jeremy Cowart who did a project with a documentary film maker on stories of forgiveness from victims of the genocide. In these photographs, victims are pictured smiling with their attackers or the attackers of their families in the exact spot where the murders took

place. In many cases these people now work together and share in community together. Jeremy Cowart's project, "Voices of Reconciliation" is one of the projects that inspired me to take my photography to other nations and to document what God is doing around the world.

We can learn a lot from Rwandans about forgiveness and restoration. Praise God such hope exists.

Thanks for reading and for stopping by,


A week in Kigali, Rwanda...{Baton Rouge Photographer}

Back again from photographing in Kigali.

I have to be honest, the hardest part of doing this kind of work is coming back to the states. This is not because I don’t miss people or am not ready for my own bed….because believe me….I miss both equally! This is partly because I never feel like it's quite long enough and partly due to what I can only describe as culture shock. This is something I can remember experiencing for the first time when I came back from a trip to Mexico my first year of college. I was only there a week. I spent time in huts with people who had diseases that would likely never be healed. My job was to assist the doctors there by taking vitals. The doctors did what they could to make these folks “comfortable” and occasionally provided the necessary medicine or procedure that would take them out of the state they were living in each day. After a week of working with these doctors, sleeping on the floor, and showering outside, I remember riding back to LSU trying to process what I had seen and realizing I didn't have many answers to the questions I was asking. I had only seen or heard of mud huts on t.v. with images of malnourished kids. I had only imagined such living conditions as I had seen that one week and didn’t like to think that life like that existed out there. I remember our van pulling up to LSU’s campus and through exhausted eyes, I turned and looked at something I had seen day in and day out but this time it looked very different. All of a sudden, the clock tower on campus seemed so huge to me. I remember thinking “that tower is so big!” and then I remember having a legitimately confusing thought…”Is it necessary to have such big buildings? Everything is so tall here!”

 Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking large buildings and anyone who knows me knows I wouldn’t knock just about anything on LSU’s campus as it quickly became a second home to me during my time there. (Not to mention it’s the most wonderful campus and school there is but I digress).

The point is….when I go to other countries... developing, third world countries….when I see how, honestly, the majority of the world outside of America lives...when I experience the immediate slowing of time, priorities, values, and status... when I see hurting or see the effective way that other cultures live…I have a hard time coming back to the states. The states and western culture are fast-paced in a way I can’t really describe. The emphasis on success, money, fame and finding oneself is so overwhelmingly preached in every aspect of our culture that I have to be honest and say that it takes quite a few days to jump back in..and to fight a confusing cynicism.

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Last week I spent a few days in Africa. I spent time with a group of 12 women at a little co-op in its own corner of Kigali, Rwanda. I saw a work ethic much like, yet so different from ours in the states in order to provide for families that had been ripped apart by war-torn nearby countries and by Rwanda’s own experience with genocide 20 years ago. I experienced confusion in trying to not only communicate with those in the culture, but understand the differences in them and in our life experiences. I spent the day with women in mud huts who live off the land, have no idea what time it is throughout the day, and who I could bet have never seen a building as tall as LSU’s Memorial Tower.

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I experienced all these things and how do I feel now?...more confused than when I left! I feel more closely now the frustrations that there are millions out there who suffer every day. More than ever I am angry that poverty exists, uncertain why God put me where I am with what I have, and more joyful than I could have expected that he truly does comfort and care for his people.  I could sit here and write about all the things that I learned…and I will :)….or act like I understand why cultures are the way they are and what goes into them…or even pretend to define one as better than the other. The truth is…it’s times like this that the only definition or label I can put on any of it is that I only know a tiny fraction of how God is at work in this world, what he’s doing to “make all things new,” and the way that sin has complicated all of it. I don’t have all or even many of the answers and I so easily feel the effects of that when I try to jump back into our culture or as I attempt to answer others’ questions about my trip and time in these places. I don’t know how to answer many questions…but I am going to attempt to tell whatever stories God has for me to tell through my time there and anywhere else he takes me. Hopefully throughout the process whoever reads this will learn a few things about what God is doing in their own lives, understand the world a little better, and maybe even purchase some items made by folks on the other side of the world who because of reasons we can't know will never know life like we experience here.


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For the next couple of weeks I will post once a week on our time in Africa, the people we met, the stories we heard, the joys and struggles that I or those I love experience there, and how you can help. This is not to pretend I have answers or to condemn our own culture or where God has each of us. It’s in order to answer the call to speak about the only one who has the answers and what he’s, for whatever reason, sent me in the world to do for such a time as this. So if you think to, please stay tuned and return to see photos and stories. This as always is a process full of uncertainty and more questions asked with every perceived answer.

What a joy to have been given the freedom and invitation to ask.

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BatonRougePhotographer_HumanitarianPhotography_ClaireElysePhotography-8183More to come.
Be sure to check out Noonday Collection and Azizi Life
Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by,

Daniel & Monika...Roatan, Honduras Destination Wedding

I met Daniel years ago through Reformed University Fellowship when we both were studying at LSU. Daniel is from Honduras and was studying in Baton Rouge for his Master's at the time.

I met Monika a few months later when she came to Baton Rouge to visit Daniel. Monika is from Germany.

Now... You're probably wondering how these two met:)

After high school, Monika moved to Honduras for a year to volunteer at an orphanage. She met Daniel randomly through mutual friends during her time there.

More than 5 countries, countless Skype dates, and many international flights later, these two were married on January 5, 2014 in an incredibly beautiful ceremony in Roatan, Honduras.

Friends and family members traveled from all over  to support Daniel and Monika on their wedding day, making this ceremony and reception an unforgettable experience for all involved. The ceremony was in Spanish and German with some Polish and English mixed in there:). Several countries, 4 languages, and cities all over the world were represented at this wedding.

To give you an idea of how many miles/kilometers were traveled by guests, Daniel and Monika had it represented at the reception in just about the coolest way possible. This detail was one of my many favorites from the wedding

 It was such an honor to have the privilege of being present at Daniel and Monika's wedding and the days leading up to it. It was an extremely restful week of celebration on the island!

Daniel and Monika have become so dear to me in the last few years of getting to know them and some of the best news of all is that they've now moved to Baton Rouge to continue studying! We are so blessed to have them in our church and a part of our community.

Daniel and Monika, what joy you both bring to my life and those around you! Thank you for your love and friendship. We are so glad y'all are here to stay for a little while:)

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I'll leave you with an excerpt from Daniel and Monika's Wedding Program.

"If marriage is God's idea, why is it sometimes hard?

-The Bible says in Genesis 3 that man and women sinned. 'Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Genesis 3:7)

-Sin has distorted our relationships, damaged our lives and our family's lives. Sin has destroyed our intimate place and has filled it with shame. It has turned us to selfishness and this was seen clearly in Adam's family and son's after sin.

-There is good news in the Bible that says: 'She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' (Matthew 1:21)

-In Jesus we have the opportunity to receive pardon from our sins and even more, liberty from them to have a marriage like Adam and Eve had in Eden.

-If Jesus is the center of our home, therefore our home will be a piece of paradise.



Thanks for stopping by!