McLeod, TX - A Photo Essay / Part Two

Here is Part 2 of the McLeod, TX photo essay. I wanted to give people some visuals to match the stories I have told them about this place over the years. While these don't begin to show all the reasons this is home to me and my family, I hope that you can get a small look at this community that has played a huge role in my upbringing. 

This is my grandparents front yard, where we used to hunt Easter eggs, ride bikes, etc...

Front yard.

You can only truly know the significance of this picture if you are a member of my family, but basically this is my Grandpaw's chair in the cook shed. You can find him here everyday, ignoring the tv and/or waiting on something while he is cooking. They have a den, but they literally never use it.

Tractors for mowing the grass, planting seed, etc.

My Grandmaw's lawn decor. He's supposed to have a fishing pole in his hands, but a storm must have blew it away. 

My cousin, Hunter, squirrel hunting with Jake's son. Jake is the one riding up on the horse down the trail. 

My cousin, Cydni, and her baby, Kam. My grandpaw is trying to get him to come to him with his favorite baby line, "You want to go fishing? Let's go fishing!".

MawMaw and PawPaw. 

Doing the dishes together in the cook shed.

A stuffed duck hanging from a deer antler chandelier at my aunt's house.

Front porch decor.

Hunter saddling his horse.

Round pen for the horses.

My cousin and his girlfriend riding.

The whole family. Four generations shown here.


McLeod, TX - A Photo Essay / Part One

My family has called McLeod, TX home for many years. While my immediate family has not lived there for the last 16 years, we know that our roots will always be in this tiny north-east Texas town of 360 people just across the Louisiana line. 
We all used to live on one big plot of land before our family moved away. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, all within walking distance of one another and with very few other neighbors. Everyone still lives there today, minus the five of us. 
Here is part one of a look at my family's land in McLeod, TX.

A rope swing tied to a massive oak tree outside my grandparent's house. The kids of my family have put some major wear-and-tear on that rope over the years.

My grandpaw's turnip greens. When we were all kids he planted acres of peas, watermelons, corn, and lots of other smaller crops. Now he's a little older. Just this small garden. 

The lumber rack outside my grandpaw's shop.  I can thank him for teaching my dad, who then taught me, the joy of woodworking and construction. 

Sweet tea from a mason jar. Thanksgiving table decorations in mason jars.

We always eat holiday meals in "the cook shed", a large lean-to porch that has turned into a sunroom/kitchen/game room/family room/diner (complete with booths). Thanksgiving table decorations by K'Lynn and Hannah Childress

My cousin's horse. When my family lived in McLeod, we also had horses. Miss being around these animals. 

The outside of "the Cook Shed".
Cow. He thinks he's a horse, though. 



A Note to a Confused Family Group Leader

To the confused Family Group Leader last summer at the University of Central Oklahoma,

I'm sorry. I am not who you thought I was. This is my attempt to prove my innocence.
When you came up to talk to me after I taught the Family Group Leaders the bible study that morning, I assumed that... well, we all assume a lot of things in any given conversation.
To jog your memory, you opened with, "My husband and I heard you speak at the Arizona Baptist Convention last year." Admittedly, I probably should have seen the red flag being raised at this moment, but at this time I was still operating under some basic assumptions of conversation. I politely denied this statement's validity by citing a number of facts about myself that proved this to be false. You, then, realized that I was not the man who spoke at the Arizona Baptist Convention last year, but continued down the path that led to a place neither of us wanted to go.
Your next line was, "Well, I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed what you spoke on last night." I, still operating under basic conversational assumptions, took the compliment graciously. I had spoken to the Family Group Leaders the day before, around 4 o'clock. So I guess that is a little early to be labeled as "night", but I had received many similar compliments throughout the summer and thought little of it. I responded with, "I'm so glad that God used that to speak to you."
I'm sure you recall that this is the point where the conversation went downhill. Fast.
You then began to tell me about your family's story and why last night's sermon meant so much to you. Tears quickly followed.

It was in that moment that I realized; I am Afshin Ziafat.

There was no backing out. The point of no return had long past and I was then forced to console you as your camp pastor, an Iranian-American man from a Muslim background. I have the utmost respect for Afshin and can see why you connected so well with his testimony. It is truly incredible.
From this point on in the conversation, I tried to say as little as possible. Knowing I could no longer come clean and that you needed an Iranian-American pastor in that moment, I let you share your story without interruption. After you finished, I left you with some pastorally parting words and I got out of there before you realized what just happened.
I'm writing this letter in hopes that we can all laugh about this now. It was never my intent to deceive you. The situation escalated very quickly from my point-of-view. I was the Camp Director that week, not the Camp Pastor. I had introduced myself to all of the Family Group Leaders the night before, thus revealing my true identity.
If by some small chance you are reading this, I hope you are laughing. I know he and I shared a few laughs over the ordeal.

Thanks for what you do in the lives of teenagers.
Your former Camp Director,

Ryan Childress


Project No. 3

I posted this picture on Instagram a few days ago and some people have been asking about it, so I figured I would give you a little background on the piece. 
I made this for my 3D Design class at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The project was supposed to explore our perception of time. As a Christ follower, my mind went to Eternity. Life as a whole being just a vapor in the wind. 
Through the critique process of this piece it became clear that one can interpret this piece many ways. But of those that people have voiced, all are focused around my original intent. 
In my mind this is a spiritual timeline. A collection of moments. Moments joined together to create this life on earth. There is a play on Matt. 7:14 : "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Hope you can enjoy this piece. I really enjoyed creating it.