Through life-changing conversations (on a bus, over dinner in Dallas, on a floor at 3:00 a.m. in the Dominican Republic, you name the crazy location…. we probably had an AMAZING life chat there), listening to Mary share her heart about fear (and so much more) 10 times with the What’s Next Tour, attending the What If Conference, reading, and a whole lot of self reflection… we have had an AMAZING amount of clarity over the past few weeks!
When we first started our photography business and photographed our first wedding, we thought we were doing it because we LOVED taking photos and we LOVED being with couples on that crazy beautiful day of their lives. That is definitely true, but we realized a few years into it that there was a deeper meaning. (What Justin and Mary Marantz call “The Why.”) We were first introduced to this during the Spread The Love tour in San Francisco in 2011. At the time, we may have had an idea of what that Why was… but we were definitely not in a place to realize it. Over the past 2 years, we have grown a lot. Through conversations between Ryan and I… and then eventually close friends… we realized and were able to finally vocalize the real reason we are so incredibly passionate about what we do. It wasn’t until we sat on that bus on the last day of the tour and then again on the floor at 3:00 a.m. in the DR that I realized it was time to share that why.
7 1/2 years ago…
It was a warmer than usual fall day on campus at Bucknell. I had just completed an exam… where I remember feeling distracted. My head was not in it and I could feel in my gut that something was wrong. As soon as I got out of class and began my walk across campus to work in the Dean of Students Office, I received a call from my dad. He was a wreck. He could barely get words out. Immediately the tears began to flow from my eyes when I realized what was going on. Eventually, the words came out… “Your mom left. There is a note on the table that she is leaving and not coming back.”
As much as I didn’t want to believe it… I knew it was true. In the weeks leading up to my parents 25th wedding anniversary (just a few weeks before this fall day), something was different. The normal “best friend” relationship I had with my mom was distant. I had this feeling that something was going on… but I was the only one in our family to see it. I confronted my mom about it and she assured me that everything was fine. Obviously, it wasn’t.
That morning, with a hand-written note on the table, and no further communication with anyone, she walked out.
I remember making my way over to the Rooke Chapel on campus. I obviously was not in a state to go to work… and I just needed a place that was safe. I sat on the steps of the Chapel and just sobbed. As Ryan rubbed my shoulders and held me tight, the pain, anger, and frustration came out with every tear (pretty much like a waterfall! ;) ). Everything that I knew of marriage was just gone. Deleted… eliminated… stomped on. Divorce was always something that “happened to other families”… not mine. I was crushed in more ways than one!
It was hard. That experience of heartbreak was like nothing we had ever experienced before… and hope to never experience again. The past 7 1/2 years have been full of learning to forgive, building trust, and loving like no other! Although things are not always “picture perfect,” we are confident now more than ever that this was all part of God’s plan. He certainly does work in mysterious ways, but the clarity we have received (especially recently) has made us more grateful than ever!
At the What If conference, we received some really honest feedback… criticism out of love if you will… That feedback came from a few people who said they just didn’t think we were sharing an authentic story on our blog. They felt like we were putting out this AMAZINGly happy message, but we were not having the impact that we could because we were not able to connect with people on a deeper level. The reality is, it wasn’t like we were trying to hide anything, we just have not been ready to share our story. There was a heck of a lot of personal processing- not to mention, a hard, but incredibly heartfelt and needed, conversation with my mom- that had to happen before I was in a place to fully recognize and share that the horribly dark time in our lives was actually the reason behind our passion! Let’s just say, it took me awhile to finally get to the point of actually saying Thank You to my parents for what they went through. Although crazy hard and a lot of hurt involved, we are grateful. (Honestly, that is still kind of hard to actually realize… but ohh so AMAZING!) I am excited to say… my mom and I had that conversation last week! ;) And it was more freeing than I ever could have imagined! (I think for both of us!)
“Without suffering, we do not have the opportunity to cultivate compassion and understanding; and without understanding, there can be no true love…Happiness is a function of compassion. If you do not have compassion in your heart, you do not have any happiness.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Going through my parent’s divorce is the reason Ryan and I don’t see ourselves as “just” photographers, but as a couple in love who has a mission to help people recognize the love that they have in their lives is something incredibly special… and even though there are going to be hard times, choosing to live with joyful happiness, unconditional love, and authentic gratitude is the only way to fully live! We have realized that the experiences we have gone through in our lives (especially the hardest ones) and the love that we share has become incredible motivation and has sparked an AMAZING passion in our hearts! We are confident it is all a part of God’s plan and it is now our responsibility to do something with it!Last week we created The AMAZING Marriage Project. (Does everything make even more sense now?!?! ;) ) By studying, documenting, and sharing what makes the most AMAZING marriages work, we want to touch the lives of all couples! We have this crazy goal in our hearts of taking the divorce rate from 50% to 0%. CRAZY and Stupid (as our friend Richie would say in his new AMAZING book –The Power of Starting Something Stupid– that you all have to read… comes out March 5th, but you can pre-order here!), but the reality is that we can try. By sharing love, we do believe we have the ability to touch the lives of others one at a time… and if we can inspire just one person/couple who inspires another person/couple who inspires another person/couple… to choose joyful happiness, unconditional love, and authentic gratitude as their way of life, we might be on to something! You never know until you try! ;)
Thank you for letting us pour our hearts out on this blog and being there to help us navigate this incredibly AMAZING journey through life. Most especially to my Mom, Dad, and Brother (as well as the rest of our family and friends who have been a part of these past 7 1/2 years+) THANK YOU for EVERYTHING! We are so grateful for your listening ears, positive hearts, and incredible love!