Friday, February 3, 2012

New and Renewed

Last year, I was given a front row seat to a most incredible story. 
A love story of sorts that was, honestly, nothing short of a miracle. 

Meet Mary and Travis. 

Mary and Travis who so graciously allowed me to witness their miracle, to capture it with my camera, and gave me permission to share it with you.

I got to know Mary and Travis in the fall of 2008 when they asked me to take some engagement portraits for them. I was way new to the game and so honored that they would trust me with these important photos.
Imagine my shock and excitement when Mary called and asked me if I would then photograph their January 2009 wedding. Their beautiful, beautiful, Shove Chapel wedding. I stuck by Mary's side for 12 hours that day and loved every minute of it. I learned so much about her sweet personality, her love for Travis, and her hopes and dreams for her relationship with him. But I didn't know everything.
I was deeply saddened when I learned, a year later, that the first year of marriage had not been kind to Mary and Travis. This sweet, young, happy, hopeful couple was allowing their marriage to fall to pieces.
Through a few conversations with Mary, I learned that she and Travis were giving up.
They were not caring for each other.
They were both behaving selfishly.
Neither really knew - or wanted to do - what was right.

And sometime during the fall of 2010, the for sale sign went up in the yard, she moved in with her parents, and they filed for divorce.

Their marriage was finished, but God was not. And it was during this unstable and confusing time that God began to work in Travis's heart - began to ask Travis to trust Him and to enter into a real relationship.

But as Travis drew closer to God, Mary continued to move in the opposite direction.

Her heart was hard.

But God continued to pursue her.

Then, as is often true in life, everything changed in an instant.
Mary - young, healthy, vibrant, Mary - was diagnosed with Cancer in April.
Ovarian cancer.
Stage 3 and spreading fast.
 She underwent major surgery. The doctors talked treatment and survival rates. Her family took survey of what their future might be like without Mary. Everyone was so so scared and so so brave.
And God continued to pursue Mary.

Mary asked for Travis to come.
Even with all the wonderful friends and family surrounding her, she was missing him. Her body was broken but her heart was coming back to life.

Travis did not hesitate. He stood by her bedside and - although the divorce was well underway - he fulfilled his vows to his wife. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.
From that day on, they were inseparable.

And sometime in-between chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, Mary and Travis walked into the office of the District Clerk and stopped.their.divorce.

The desk clerk beamed at them, and as they left the office, hand-in-hand, he whispered to his assistant, "That NEVER happens." Mary and Travis had made his day.

As Mary neared the end of her chemo treatments last fall, she helped her sister welcome a new baby boy into the world. Shortly after, I was asked to photograph her with her tiny, beautiful, bald nephew. 

Mary herself was beautiful and bald. 

When I look at these photos now, I see God's promises written all over them. 
I see how fragile life is and how faithful God is. He is powerful and all-knowing and good. 
In mid-November, Mary was declared cancer free.

Free.From.Cancer.

We have all been so, so thankful for the healing of Mary's body, but it is the healing in her heart, in Travis's heart, and in their marriage that causes me to rejoice.

Mary and Travis have freedom in their hearts.

On Thanksgiving day, Travis held Mary's hand and told his family, "Today, I am thankful for my wife." 
Two weeks ago, I met up with Mary and Travis once again at Shove Chapel. The place where it all started three LONG years ago.

They are new people,
with a new relationship,
and a renewed hope in in the Lord.
Two years ago, they were lost and broken and hopeless.

But today, they are a living testimony of a God who does not give up on his children, a God who never writes us off as too far gone.

They are proof that God's love and grace are irresistible - and that He will pursue us to the far ends of the earth.

13 comments:

Joan said...

I love this story! Beautiful in every sense of the word and the photos add depth. keep writing!

Melodie Monberg said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

emmy jean said...

If you want to keep up with Mary or read about her journey through cancer, go here: http://familyosburn.com/category/family-2/marys-journey/

Thank you for sharing their story, Becky Lee!hu

mary swiers said...

Wow Becky. Thank you. Thank you for telling our story. It makes me cry every single time still. That god never gave up on me or on our marriage. And that he can take something so broken and make it beautiful. That he can make anything new. And that he keeps, so lovingly, reminding us to trust him.

Judy said...

Enjoyed reading this precious story Becky.

Coleshackelton said...

when I clicked on the pic to read this I didn't even realize it was you two! you both look so different, and I just saw you when...Christmas Day!?! that's a beautiful story, we should get together soon!

Stacey said...

Beautiful pictures and a beautiful story! Wow! The pictures are amazing, but the love reflected in the last few pictures is breathtaking. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth said...

"That NEVER happens"

... <3

^__^



beautiful story, and beautiful photographs

Pat'swork said...

What a powerful story of hope and faith. I love that you followed their journey. Can't wait to see them welcome wee ones of their own into this world someday.

NV said...

Stumbled upon your blog a few doors down from my blog. :) I read this story and WOW! WHAT an awesome story. This is what needs to be on the nightly news! :) Great photography! by the way!
mine is http://nvphotographyboise.blogspot.com/2012/02/28-days-of-natural-beauty-day-6-fb.html by the way, but don't feel like you have to read it. Just saying in case you were curious.
Again, thanks for that awesome heart warming story!
~Noelle

Em said...

Hello!
I work with the broadcasting team at Focus on the Family and a friend passed along to me a link to your blog -- and what an amazing testimony! If Mary and Travis would be willing to share some of their story, I'd love to set up a time to chat with them over the phone and hear more! If you would, please pass along my contact information: I can be reached at emily.pfeif@fotf.org or 719-531-3400 x1402.
Thanks so much for this illustration (and great photos) of redemption and love -- such an encouragement today!
In Him,
~Emily Pfeif

Debbie Syverson said...

Thank you for sharing Travis and Mary's story Becky. I have witnessed this amazing journey from the beginning. From the first time that Travis brought Mary home to Minnesota, I knew immediately what a special young woman she was. Their love for each other was so obvious. It shined in their eyes whenever they looked at each other. I was also very fortunate to be present when Travis proposed to Mary which was such a sweet heart felt moment that it brought tears of joy to everyone's eyes.

I cannot begin to tell you how sad it was to watch as this beautiful young couple's marriage began to fall apart. Though I did not understand how it could be happening to these two loving people, I was there to listen and lend a shoulder whenever it was needed. There were a lot of tears and a lot of prayers. It was a very difficult time. It broke my heart to see them hurting so much.

I will never forget the day that Travis called me to to tell me that Mary was in the Hospital and that they had discovered a tumor. He wanted so badly to be there with her but at the same time did not want to make Mary uncomfortable. Considering they had already filed for divorce he was unsure if she would want him there or not. Travis asked me "What should I do?" My advice to him was this.... "Tell Mary.... Tell her that you want to be there with her, tell her you want to be by her side and then ask her if she wants you to be there." He took my advice and Mary told him that yes, she wanted Travis there with her. From that moment on they have been inseparable.

This story would be amazing to hear no matter who the couple was. But to witness this miracle first hand... to watch the growth that Travis and Mary have undergone both individually and more importantly as a couple has truly been a gift from God.

I love them both so much! They are my Heros.... my inspiration! I'm so proud to be able to say that I am Travis' Mom.... and I'm honored to call Mary my daughter.

LucyBlue said...

This is a beautiful love story. Gods love for us as well as their love for each other. God can do miracles!