Lady in Red
Lady in Red

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Dee & Dustin had such a great first day of marriage at Bella Sera Ranch in Palestine, TX.  It was full of laughter, pizza, and dancing.

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Anytime I see 1D stuff I photograph it.  Why?  Because when I look back on my wedding photos I wish there was more New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, and Hanson products in them.
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Few brides can pull off a red dress.  Dee is totally one of those brides.

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These two had a great First Look.
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Dustin was super sweet and had a little gift for Dee.
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Lots and lots of dancing and party times courtesy of CMB Music.
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One of my favorite moments from their day was when all the guest were sent out to get ready for the getaway.  I looked up and found Dee & Dustin dancing in an empty room.  They spent a good 3 minutes there.  It was totally a Disney magic moment.

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Of course they had The Mug Machine.  Of course it was a blast.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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Haiti 2013: Video
Haiti 2013: Video

I can’t believe I’ve been back in the states for almost a month. I’m so ready to go back to Haiti. While there I made a little video to share with our team at the end of the week. I thought you all would enjoy it as well. Thanks again for your prayers and support. You all were as much a part of this trip as Jo & I were.

Kings & Queens song by Audio Adrenaline (iTunes / Amazon)

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Marriage Monday | Sleep Over
Marriage Monday | Sleep Over

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I can honestly say that after 11 years of marriage, my favorite part about the whole deal is getting to spend day after day after day together.

Back in 1998 all I wanted was to be around her every possible moment.  I still feel that way and  I really can’t believe that Danielle & I get to share our lives with each other.

It’s the best.

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Ashley’s Story
Ashley’s Story

A few years ago, I photographed Ashley’s engagement session.  2 weeks later they broke off their engagement.  A couple years went by and I was so happy to get another call from Ashley.  She was getting married.  Again.  It was an honor to be there when Blake & her  said their vows.  I loved hearing her tell the story of the journey that led them to each other.  I asked her if she would be bold enough to share it with all of you and she was kind enough to do so.
Here is her story:

ashley-pro“When Alex approached me about writing for his blog on the topic of a broken engagement, I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my story and to let other people out there know that broken engagements aren’t as rare or shameful as they might think. Often times, it’s thought that if you are engaged to a person, you’re basically already married to them – that backing out of the engagement could be the worst and most embarrassing thing to do.  While it can be somewhat embarrassing (although needlessly, especially to the people who care most about you), it is not necessarily the worst. It may feel like it in the moment, but feelings generally don’t stand the test of time. Decisions do.

I dated a pretty great guy for three-ish of my four college years. He was extremely intelligent, super nice, tall, and a fellow believer. He had an awesome job lined up for after college so I didn’t really need to focus on and stress out about job searching just yet. We thought this is it. The next step is to get married. It’s perfect timing. We’ll graduate, have a couple of months before he starts work so that gives us the perfect opportunity for having a wedding, going on our honeymoon, moving to a new city, and getting settled. All before he starts work and I start looking for my own job. We loved each other’s families and felt like we were already a part of them. We spent holidays with them and other weekends. His family had gotten to know and love me and mine had gotten to know and love him.

Everything was perfect. This is how life is supposed to go, right? You graduate high school, go to college, meet your future spouse, graduate college, get married, buy a house, and start having babies. Boom. Boom. Boom. The circle of life.

Half of our wedding was already planned: deposits paid, engagement pictures taken, dress purchased, and guests notified of the date. We were on course to make this happen.

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Then, one afternoon, I learned that he was having second thoughts – he wasn’t sure about marrying me. He said it wasn’t necessarily me but that something didn’t feel right with the situation. He had felt troubled since proposing but didn’t want to ruin everything and just thought he would get over it. But something kept nudging him until he finally told me his thoughts. I didn’t want to hear it, believe it, or understand it. I basically just ran away, ran out of the apartment, to my car, called my best friend and cried the whole way home and weeks after. I thought this couldn’t be real. How am I supposed to face ANYBODY (parents included) and tell them what happened? How am I supposed to cancel a wedding? I, honestly, wore my ring for another 2-3 weeks, knowing that his mind wasn’t going to be changed. I didn’t know how to tell people that he had decided not to marry me. That he was choosing another path. And that I was so so ashamed. It felt like a failure on my part.

Breaking an engagement to someone you care deeply about is never easy or happy for either person involved. It was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced and had to work through. I know that it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make. I really thought there would be no other guy that could measure up to him. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. My whole world was turned upside down with one sentence. I now had no plan, no idea of what to do after college, where to go, what job I was going to work. I was utterly lost and helpless.

But God was good. His plan was so much better than I could have ever imagined.

I have come to realize that neither one of us were really ready to start a marriage. We were not prepared like we thought we were. God still had so much to work to do within both of us before we would be ready to bring someone else into our lives. I am so grateful that he realized that and called off the engagement before our marriage ended in divorce (a whole new kind of pain, worse, and much more complex than canceling a wedding). I am glad he had the courage to do what I couldn’t and to see what I wouldn’t.

God brought me through the fire and made me so much stronger than I was before. I no longer depended on another person but instead depended on Him. I moved to the fourth largest city in America (coming from a town of 11,000), worked three jobs to make ends meet and gain financial independence from my parents. But more importantly, my identity as a woman and daughter of Christ was deepened through these struggles.

I also started dating another man from college. One who would have such great impact on my faith and who would challenge me and push me to be the best I could be independently of him. Who truly loved me through all my faults and misgivings, times of freak outs, and two and half years of being 1,562 miles apart. Blake knew me and loved me and fought to become the best husband, man, and future father a man could be. He has shown undying love by working hard and preparing a life for me.

He made sure that we both understood what marriage really is. What it means to be a husband, what it means to be a wife. How that works together. Are we attracted to each other physically? Immensely. :) Do we know that there will be times that our physical attraction won’t solve the deep issues of combining two different hearts? Most definitely.

changed copyWe were ready to share our lives, become one, and love and respect each other no matter what. We have committed ourselves to God and to each other. We decided to take a leap into the adventures of marriage. I have to say it’s been a pretty great journey so far, full of laughter and joy.

I couldn’t have asked for better, even though I tried.

All this to say, decisions can still be made during the engagement. Not just about cake flavors, flowers, and colors. This is a time for you to really dig deeper, to talk about the hard topics, and to figure out if this person is really who you want to choose to be by your side no matter what life throws at you.” ~ Ashley

 

Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  If any of you have gone through a similar experience, please leave a note in the comments for anyone you think it could help.

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Haiti 2013
Haiti 2013

Jo & I both had an amazing week in Haiti.  Thank you so much to all of you who helped get us there.  This post in no way can capture what it was like to experience Haiti first hand, but I’ll do my best.

Ever since I told Jo that he *might* be able to go, he had been looking forward to the trip.  I was a bit nervous about how he would do, but he went above and beyond impressing me.

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This is the church we stay at while we are there and also the church we attended.   That’s my preacher on the front row.  In a room with over 1,000 Haitians he kinda sticks out.

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The church is also a school/community center and has a little basketball court attached to it.  Even though he was the youngest one on the trip and didn’t speak the language, he held his own on the court.  He even earned the nickname J-Money.

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By far my favorite part of the trip was watching Jo as he experienced a new culture and people group.  There were times he teared up crying, others where he laughed and could not stop.  He played hard and worked harder and came home more of a man than when he left.

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One night while I was editing, I look over the balcony and see a group of people playing charades.  But, rather than having different people take turns, Jo was the only one acting things out.  People would think of a movie title and he would act it out.  This lasted for about an hour.

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These were our sleeping arrangements.  Danielle packed the sheets.   Thank you, wife.

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The only way to describe the people of Haiti would be joyful.  There is so, so much love.  They have been dealt a hard hand yet their spirit is not broken.

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The kids would play a coin game to earn rubber bands.  Next year I’m bringing a bag full and cashing in.

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We spent about 3 days solid doing construction work on a church.  This involves moving buckets full of rocks, cement, or cinderblocks.  It’s hard work.  It’s work that I’m not used to doing.  It made me thankful for my job.

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When we did get a break, we would spend it playing with kids from the neighborhood.

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And when the break ended…. back to the buckets.

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These are some of the Haitian workers that we worked along side.  We had some big dudes from the states on our trip.  The Haitian men put them to shame with how hard they worked.  These guys are men.  Men that work.  Men that do a job.  They do it everyday, year after year.  They don’t work because I’m there photographing. They work because there is work to be done.

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The thing I came away with this year is just how similar we are.  There are advantages and benefits we have here in America, but at our core we are so much the same.

Haitians want to learn.

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Haitians want to pimp their ride.

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Haitians have a beautiful country.

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Haitians have a feminine hygiene section in their store.

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In Haiti they have the trucks everywhere called “tap taps”.  They are like taxies only super crowded.  Jo was giddy to be able to ride in one.

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I can’t say enough about how much I loved having Jo on the trip.  It was great to share the experience with him.  Last year I went to Haiti, and then the following week  he & I both went to pre-teen camp.  I told him that if we go to Haiti together we are not doing pre-teen camp.  At first he was a bit nervous, but by the time the trip ended, he could not wait to go back next year.  He told me after the trip that he liked it “way more” than camp. :)

Like I said, I am so proud of him.
Proud of how hard he played.
Proud of how he stepped out of his comfort zone.
Proud of how hard he worked.

They were hard days; days that leave you exhausted.  Days that make you wanna fall asleep on the bus ride back to the room.

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My other most favorite memory was seeing so many of the kids from last year.  I brought back a big pile of photos that I took last year and passed them out.  The kids were so, so excited to have a photo of themselves.  (Apparently they heard that AlexM is kinda a big deal.)

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I don’t go to Haiti to change Haiti.

I go to change myself.

I like the person Haiti helps me become.   I want to be more of that type of person here.

This is Cati.  On the left is a photo I took of us last year.  The right one was taken this year.  I could go back every year and take a cute photo of us, but that would not change much.

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But the more I think of her, the more I remember her; the more I make decisions with her in mind.  Little by little change happens.

 

That is why I go.
That is why I wanted Jo to go.
That is why you should go.

 

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