Life's Unexpected Blessings

I thought it was only fitting to write my first official blog about one of my oldest friends--someone who has seen me through a journey with many twists, turns, and unexpected roads. I didn't plan to be a photographer. In fact, that career never even entered my mind as a possibility when I was planning for college. I was extremely involved in music throughout high school, and my "plan" was to be a high school band director. I was awarded a full scholarship on flute to Newberry College in South Carolina, where my high school band director went to school. I was from a small town, and moving out of state was a bit intimidating. I didn't know anyone--and when I found out I was two doors down from the RA (resident advisor) on my hall, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong--I was (and still am) a total goody-goody-follow-the-rules-never-get-in-trouble type girl, but living that close to an "authority" figure who seemed like a stickler for rules just put a damper on what I thought my college experience would be like. Little did I know this RA would become someone I didn't want to experience college without. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but one evening I wandered into her open door and an hour later we were still talking (both of us had recently had our hearts broken and ironically the guys we were sharing stories about were both in the Navy). After bonding over our broken hearts and ending the sob session in prayer, our friendship was sealed. We saw one another every morning, spent every afternoon and most evenings hanging out. We colored in coloring books before it was cool, went on Wal-Mart runs together, hung encouraging pictures on each other's doors for exams, and lived for Thursday nights when we watched Survivor, Will and Grace, and ER (in that order). I went home with her some weekends where we rode horses (her passion) and she came to visit me in Georgia. She was a major influence in my Faith--I'd never had a friend that I could pray with, and our friendship was built from day one on God. After two years, our lives took another unexpected twist, and I transferred to UGA and moved back home. Kristen graduated from Newberry and worked as a Veterinarian Technician in Columbia. I ended up as an English major and took my first teaching job. We both married, our paths wandered away from one another, and the next several years, our rock-solid friendship fractured. One day, after going quite an extended time without any contact, I heard from Kristen. She was moving to Valdosta, Georgia with her then husband, who was in the Air Force. We began a tentative, long-distance friendship, and in our occasional conversations, I learned she was volunteering at a local therapeutic riding center. I was happy she was getting involved with horses again. It was this center that brought us together for the first time in several years. Kristen volunteered for the Equestrian Special Olympics and was going to be close by. I hadn't seen her in years--in fact, I had a daughter and a husband she had never met. Although nervous, I agreed to meet her one evening while she was in town at the stables. When I saw her smile--Kristen's smile lights up her whole face--I knew it was God who was at work bringing the paths of our lives back to an intersection. He knew we would need each other over the course of the next few years--Kristen as she dealt with a divorce, me as I dealt with two daughters who had rare periodic fever syndromes. We re-built our friendship on our Faith and prayer, and we were one another's support through some pretty dark days when our lives were "too much like a pathless wood" as Robert Frost once said. Seventeen years of friendship have passed, and looking back at what we used to talk about, plan, and dream sitting in a small dorm room in Newberry, South Carolina, life is far different than what we anticipated. We have both taken unexpected paths, but along the way we have been blessed, and looking back, it is truly amazing to see how God has been at work behind the scenes. I now find myself blessed to share in a new chapter of Kristen's life--to be able to stand with her and photograph her wedding day. I have enjoyed getting to know her wonderful fiance Shane, and I had a great time shooting their engagement photos. We also got to shoot Kristen's bridal portraits--(she's probably the only woman I know who would be out grooming a horse in her wedding gown and veil before photos!) I'm excited to share a few from her engagement session in this blog, but I'll be even more excited after next weekend to be able to share some of her gorgeous bridal portraits and wedding pictures!