Disclaimer: I definitely cried while writing this blog post (multiple times actually) so you might too. Here we go ya’ll:
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit the great “country” of Texas to eat the MOST amazing barbecue (shout to the real deal, Heim Barbecue, for one of the most amazing meals of my life) and, more importantly, to shoot an engagement session for Natalie & Mike. While I have so many things to say about them as a couple, I’m going to start with them as individuals first. I’ve known Natalie since college- we quickly became best friends after being those two girls who always sat front row in every class, excelled in participation points, had backup #2 pencils when it came time for tests, and lived on the quiet floor of the library alongside one another. I survived college by the grace of bagels, caffeine, and my time spent soul searching & laughing with Natalie. Natalie is the type of person that makes you want to be your best self. She sees the potential in every person she meets, and you are lucky if you get to call her your friend. She is the type of person who would drop everything to be with you during your failures, and the type to make sure you felt celebrated during your successes. Now onto Mike. The first time I met Mike was actually when Natalie and Mike were already engaged. After following Natalie in her post-graduate adventures on Facebook, he became a familiar face to me despite the fact that I knew very little about him. I knew two main things about Mike: he was a proud West Point graduate and he made Natalie SO happy. When I finally got to meet him, all I could think about is the way he has this essence about him that makes you feel comfortable, like you could just tell him your life story and know he would listen. He is humble about his strength and the triumphs he has faced- to the point that unless Natalie brought it up, I probably would have no idea he was a cancer survivor three times over. Three times. He is strong yet gentle, funny, and the absolute perfect match for Natalie.
Natalie and Mike were only dating a short time before Mike had to battle cancer. But if you learned anything from my description of Natalie, this wasn’t going to be something that scared her away. After listening about their experience, the challenges, and the fears they faced while Mike fought for his life (stories that are beyond inspiring), it became clear to me that these two became one after what they survived. They faced the “for worse” that many marriages don’t face until years, even decades, of partnership. It has created this bond between them that is unlike any I have ever seen. It is a peace, strength, and connection that is far beyond what I even know “love” to be.
While I know I was hired by Mike & Natalie to come to Texas, I selfishly needed the trip as much as they needed me for pictures. My trip came at a perfect time in my life. To be completely transparent and vulnerable, I have been battling a painful heartbreak, self doubt, and anxiety among my busiest wedding season. But, if you ever want to put your problems into perspective, talk to someone like Mike. If you ever want to feel inspired and hopeful, talk to someone like Natalie. If you ever want to believe in love and marriage, talk to the two of them together. To capture their love with my art did something for my soul that I can’t put into words. These two have reminded me how much I have to be thankful for each and every day. It’s something so simple and something we all know we should do, and yet doing so is sometimes difficult. To be grateful is something so simple, yet so profound. Spending 5 minutes with Natalie and Mike is a sobering reminder of how to be thankful for life, love, and all the trees in the world (I’m lookin’ at you for this one, Natalie ;).
I can’t do their love story justice in the form of my blubbering run on sentences. Instead, I’ll let their pictures do the talking. I am forever thankful for these beautiful souls, for all they have taught me and will continue to teach me as I watch their forever unfold.