Heroes. They come in many shapes and sizes. But my most recent interaction with a hero came last Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

The day I met Kenna.

Kenna is a mom. An amazing mom. And that makes her strong. But that’s not why she’s a hero. She’s been married for 9 years to the love of her life, a man who selflessly serves our country in the United States Navy. She’s faced, with bravery and courage, four deployments, six moves, and the birth of two beautiful children. And while she has the love and support of her amazing husband, she often does it alone. The breakfasts, the lunches, the school drop offs. The bedtimes, the baths, the schedules. Most of us would fall apart at the seams, give up, crumble at the weight of it all. But she balances it with such grace and humility. Every single day.

And THAT’s why she’s a hero.

But even heroes grow weary from time to time. And that incredible strength and courage that she held so deep inside was put to the test, when she found out she was pregnant with their third child. It was bittersweet, as she knew that this would be the first time she’d welcome their child into the world without him. Without his support. Without her rock. Not only was he was stationed in Washington, but his ship was scheduled to be out to sea on her due date. Without knowledge of his exact location, she knew this meant little communication, if any at all, with her husband during the birth of their sweet baby, the one they had kept a surprise. But she kept her head up. She fought through the emotions of the months and weeks that followed. She knew she’d have her mom by her side during the birth, and that brought her comfort and peace.

But all of that comfort and peace was shattered when Kenna’s water broke at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of January 9, 2018.

The baby, not due for another three weeks.

Her husband stationed in Washington.

Her mom on a business trip in Canada.

So Grandma and Aunt came to the rescue. They brought her to the hospital and stayed with her as the sun rose on that beautiful January morning.  They sat with her, laughed with her, and supported her. Until a miracle happened… (Well, actually a few of them.)

Mom found a 4 a.m. flight across the country, and was able to make it there in time to see the baby born.

And…her husband wasn’t on the ship yet. Which meant he would get to communicate with her throughout the day, getting the opportunity to “see” his beautiful son or daughter just moments after birth, rather than days or weeks later.

I got to witness SO many miracles that day. But the biggest one was witnessing the unwavering strength and courage of a mother and wife who, day in and day out, takes the trials that could so easily beat her down, and turns them into something beautiful. Incredibly beautiful.

Goodness…to say this woman is a hero is an understatement.

Like I said, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. But, to me…it doesn’t get much braver than this.


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And…here is the documentary film of the birth. Grab your kleenexes!!

 

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ALL IS WELL.

It’s a powerful saying. Said by a powerful woman. To a powerful family.

On August 26, 2016, the world lost a beautiful soul. My dear friend Whitney said good-bye to her best friend. Her mama. Her life. Lori Watson threw off the weight of this heavy, broken, world and laid eyes on her beautiful, merciful Savior, the One she had worshipped and followed all of her life. In an instant, she gained a reward that none of us can even fathom. But in an instant, she also left behind a family, broken and aching. Aching to hear her voice, see her smile, hold her hand..just one more time. But instead, only grief remained.

You see, grief is an interesting thing. It can ruin you. It can swallow you whole. It can make you feel like it’s much to painful, even to breathe.

But you know what else grief can do? It can cause you to do beautiful things. To honor the people in your life that you’ve lost. To carry on their memory. To show the world that their love, their soul, their LIGHT…it lives on.

One of the last conversations Whitney had with her sweet mama led her to do just that…a beautiful thing. During some of the last moments of her life, she asked her mom how she could pass on her love and light in this world.

And she said, “People need good shoes. Everyone gives away their old shoes, but people need really good shoes.”

So Whitney didn’t waste any time.

She gathered her family together and they made t-shirts, with the saying “ALL IS WELL”. They sold them. And they gave away shoes to kids in the Kansas City area. LOTS and LOTS of shoes.

Grief. You can either let it break you. Or you can make it count.

We have ONE life. We have ONE chance to make a difference.

Use it.

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Lori with her beautiful family, just a month prior to her losing her battle with cancer… 
And here is her daughter, Whitney, sitting in front of over 150 shoeboxes full of shoes to be delivered to kids in the Kansas City area. 

For more information regarding the All Is Well Movement, or how you can get involved, please contact Whitney Williams via her Facebook page . 

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Waiting can make you do one of two things. Worry. Or pray.

For my sweet friend Grace, it made her do both.

You see, nearly four years earlier, Grace and her husband received the devastating news that their second born child, their beautiful daughter Nella, had a rare neuromuscular disorder called SMA (Spinal Muscular Dystrophy). This disease would cause her muscles to slowly deteriorate and lose strength.  The doctors told them that they would be lucky to make it to her first birthday.

The amazing part? Nella is almost FOUR years old. She’s defied the odds, and her parents and precious big brother have fought for her every step of the way. The not-so-amazing part? Her future siblings would have a very high chance of being born with the same genetic disorder.

So while this pregnancy filled Grace with joy, it also filled her with fear and worry. And LOTS of waiting. Fifteen weeks of waiting, to be exact. But she didn’t let the worry consume her. Instead, during that time of waiting, she found great comfort in a song called “Miracles” by Jesus Culture. She would listen to it, every single day. She’d rest her hand on her growing belly, close her eyes, and pray for her sweet child. Prayers for God’s grace and mercy. Prayers of thankfulness. Prayers for health. She’d breathe in the words of the song, playing them over and over in her mind…

The one who made the blind to see, is moving here in front of me, moving here in front of me.

The one who made the deaf to hear is silencing my every fear, silencing my every fear.

I believe in YOU. I believe in YOU. You’re the God of Miracles.

During this time of waiting, Grace grew. She grew in strength. And she knew that whatever was ahead of them and for the life of their sweet baby, they could handle it. God could handle it. And He did. Because after fifteen weeks of waiting, they received the news. This baby was healthy. No SMA.

It was a miracle.

But God wasn’t done yet.

Fast forward to the birth. I couldn’t have been more honored to be there throughout Nella’s journey, but I felt especially honored to be with them to celebrate the birth of their sweet boy. I documented their day, capturing moments that I knew they’d want to remember. But when she was about to deliver their son, I heard a worship song playing in the background. I leaned over and quickly snapped a picture of the screen of the phone, thinking at the time that it was so sweet that their son would be born during a song that had such a powerful title.

The title? Miracles.

He was prayed for during the song Miracles.

He was born during song Miracles.

He IS a miracle.

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This image was one of the first that I captured that day…and it’s one of my favorites. To me, this simple moment is so significant because it represents what I witnessed all day between these two…ALL day. They were a team. A strong, united, beautiful team.
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The hours continued to pass by…

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..and the pain became more intense. Even unbearable at times. But, like always, he was there. By her side. The voice to keep her calm and give her strength.

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Her sweet sister. Hurting and aching for her, wanting to take it all away. 

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One final touch, reminding herself, and her precious boy that she could do this. She was ready.

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Just moments before his birth…this song played softly in the background. Although no one heard it at the time, it would later be one of the greatest gifts God could have ever given to this sweet family. His reminder. He was there, He was always there. In the calm, in the storm. And He was about to give them the miracle they had so desperately longed for.

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He was finally here. The waiting was over. Welcome to the world, Corwin Charles Grutter.

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Just before I left, daddy got some much deserved snuggle time with his little guy. It was the sweetest sight. He was screaming and all worked up, and then one kiss from daddy…

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And he was content.

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They snuggled in and savored the peace and quiet. Just the three of them. This is one of my favorite moments of the entire day.

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And the world stood still. Just mom, dad, and their miracle.

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Corwin Charles Grutter (Corwin meaning “friend of the heart”), 7 lbs 12 ounces, 19.5 inches long, Born 11:00 a.m., July 31, 2017

 

Such a beautiful day, and I was SO honored to be a part of it.

Grab your tissues and click on the film below to see more of their story!

 

 

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You know what is so refreshing to my soul? Laughter. I love the mere sound of it. I love hearing my sweet kids giggling around the corner. I love hearing wives belly laugh at their husbands’ corny jokes. I love hearing people laugh at themselves. (C’mon, we all do it!)  I just love laughter. Period. After all, there is something so special about it. You can spread joy to others and brighten their day in an instant. You can uplift your children with it, you can erase mistakes with it. You can bless others with it. Just by laughing. Just by breathing life in and letting it out in the form of a smile.

I was blessed to be able to be a part of this gorgeous intimate vineyard wedding last week in Rocheport, Missouri. This couple was amazing, and their love story was so unique, so beautiful. Some people just “fit” together, and there really isn’t any other way to explain it. These two just made sense, in the best possible way. And while I found myself getting caught up in their incredible love story, there was one thing I noticed. All day long.

Her smile. And her laugh.

She didn’t just smile with her mouth, she smiled with her whole face. Her whole body, even. It was refreshing to my very soul. And..a photographers dream. I didn’t just capture posed, beautiful moments. I got to capture REAL, genuine moments. I could have photographed her laughing all day long. She was absolutely stunning.

And the best part? I could just feel the joy just oozing out of her.

It’s pretty easy to say that I loved this day and everything about it. So thankful for the opportunity to get to celebrate with them.

So, sit down, relax, and let me tell you the story of Paul & Katie. And leave refreshed.

 

Les-Bourgeous-Winery-Wedding-PhotographerLes-Bourgeous-Winery-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyLes-Bourgeous-Winery-Wedding-PhotographerWaiting in anticipation…Kansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-Photography…for this moment to arrive! It’s time to celebrate!
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Kansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyHere comes the gorgeous bride…Kansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographyAnd the look on his face is priceless.Kansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyKansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyHusband and wife!!!Kansas-City-Missouri-Wedding-PhotographyWe headed out to the vineyards for some intimate bride and groom portraits. These two were a DREAM to photograph!!!Kansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerKansas-City-Missouri-Engagement-Wedding-PhotographerRocheport-Missouri-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographerRocheport-Missouri-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographerRocheport-Missouri-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographerRocheport-Missouri-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographerRocheport-Missouri-Vineyard-Wedding-PhotographerAnd a few bridal portraits while the sun was setting…isn’t she GORGEOUS?Les-Bourgeous-Winery-Wedding-PhotographerLes-Bourgeous-Winery-Wedding-PhotographerAnd one final portrait…such a blast to celebrate with you, Paul & Katie! May you be blessed!!
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Scars. They come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we are proud of them, and sometimes we are ashamed. But while each scar may look different, each one holds a unique story…a tale of a battle fought, a challenge met, a hardship faced. And while many of those tales don’t have happy endings, I’m delighted to say that this one does.

Let me take you to a beautiful summer day. Saturday, June 25, 2017. Ben & Leah’s wedding. Most couples that I have the privilege of shooting are couples that I know, either from mutual friends, or from recent engagement shoots, etc. However, this was the first time I’d met either of them, so I was excited to get to know them, and of course, hear their story. I ran into Ben shortly after arriving at the Retreat Center, and met Leah just a few moments later as she was getting ready. As I was shooting a few candid moments of her preparing for her big day, I couldn’t help but notice a small scar near the top of her right shoulder. I recognized it immediately; it was the scar of where a port had once been. I knew right away…this scar had a story. This beautiful bride had a story. This COUPLE had a story.

You see, this scar represented Leah’s recent battle with cancer. But even more than that, it represented Leah’s VICTORY over cancer. A battle won. A challenge overcome. I came to find out, after hearing more of her story, that she was diagnosed not long after they began dating, turning what should have been a carefree time in their lives, into a time full of uncertainty and sadness.

But…they walked through it. Together. And they learned how to persevere. Together. And they overcame. TOGETHER. Sure, they’ve had some pretty unexpected curveballs thrown at them (pun intended ;)), but they kept going. They kept persevering. And they made it. And that scar that sits on her shoulder doesn’t define her any longer.

A gorgeous venue, sitting atop magnificent rolling hills.

A beautiful retreat where family and friends gathered…not only to celebrate a union of two people, but to celebrate a battle WON.

The scar may be there, but the cancer is not.

And THAT is worth celebrating.

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Final preparations before going to see her groom…


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Seeing each other for the first time…what a sweet moment.

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The ceremony took place in a beautiful clearing near the bottom of the hill. Such a gorgeous place to celebrate their union of becoming husband and wife!

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Such a sweet gathering of family & friends! So excited that we got to snap a quick portrait of everyone before the reception!

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And…here they are…husband and wife!!

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Venue: Prairiewood Retreat & Preserve

 

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