Nicole and Mike are getting married!
I don't usually get to begin an engagement story with a photo of a little boy but the reason I know this amazing family is because of this little boy. Our family has known Nicole and her son for many years and we've gotten to watch Nicole and her son go from being on a tight team of two to blossoming into a supportive family of three when Mike and Nicole found each other. I can't wait to introduce you to these fantastic people.
Nicole and I met in 2011 when our boys were in daycare together. Our boys loved to play together pretty instantly and we were both first-time moms. Nicole and I connected quickly at pick-up time and that began our friendship. I knew Nicole was a hard-working single mom who had just moved back to the area. She amazed me with her work ethic, honesty and how she managed her time while doing everything solo. Her strength stood out and was formative for her son's character too.
After Nicole and Mike had gone on several local dates, they went away to a concert and we got to watch Nicole's son for the night. It was Jonny's first friend sleepover and I'll never forget all of the excitement at our house. I'll also never forget Nicole's son's explanation of his mom's date. "She's going somewhere with some bald guy." I smile at this recollection of those early days knowing how tight they've all become.
The next summer, my second son was one year old and I was home. I had just officially quit my teaching job. We watched Nicole's son for a few days a week. We went to parks together and even doing our regular shopping with him along for the ride. I remember one trip when I had all three boys in the shopping cart. We got a car seat and two booster seats to fit across the back of the car and they would laugh and play together during drives. They would pitch play tents in the yard and pretend to camp. They all had so much fun.
Our sons were in the same elementary school and were in the same first-grade class. We've just always enjoyed knowing them and have celebrated the relationship between Mike and Nicole always. They moved to another nearby town last summer and we've gotten to stay connected through attending the same church.
I'm so glad that I get to help them remember this engagement and wedding journey through photographs. Their love is real and full of fun. It's full of wisdom and truth. Read on for more.
A real kind of love...
Nicole and Mike loved this moment. They said it was closest to their daily reality at home. Isn't that the best?
That's the story of Mike's proposal. He didn't ask Nicole to marry him when everything was perfect. There wasn't a perfect evening or dinner or somewhere new to which they traveling.
He asked her in a moment when everything felt difficult. He asked her at the end of a long day in their house when she was in a bit of despair. He held her and said that its these kinds of days that I want us to be together and work through it as a team. The good moments are good - sure. But the tough moments are when we can lean on each other in love.
This is love. Unconditional love. The best love.
On being able to grow yet remaining steady...
I asked both Nicole and Mike about a need that they each had that they felt the other person recognizes and tries to fill. I knew that Nicole would see the more significant question at work here and her answer is full of truth. I am so interested in how love doesn't exist, but it insists. It calls us into existence. I'm asking about how that happens for both of them. How does love call the best out of us and cause us to grow?
Nicole recognizes her need for her husband to be committed and be a good communicator. She sais she also needs him to be "willing to put (himself) out there and be vulnerable...someone who understands me, with all my complications and can appreciate my passion for what I believe....to understand that I truly believe in unconditional love. I need someone who is willing to self-reflect...and be open to learning from one another. Mike has filled all of these needs by always being willing to hear my story and accept my journey without judgment. He can understand that I can go “red” and lose my mind at times and that I will come back to earth and be sane soon enough given a little time and support. He has over time been able to incorporate and understand my perspective on love and I believe has come to appreciate what it means to me, to him and us as a couple. And he is always willing to learn new things and never closed minded to new ideas and ways of thinking." (Nicole)
Mike, in his wisdom, said, that the word "need" is a word that makes him feel uneasy. "When you attach the word big (big need) onto it, (the concept) becomes even more daunting. I think we know each other well and hope that when the surprises happen (and they most certainly will) that we can count on the other to respond in a way that won't surprise each other." What Mike is talking about is a consistency of character. That is incredibly important in any relationship.
Mike also quoted Billy Joel:
"I need to know that you will always be, the same old someone that I knew."
Examples of Love:
I asked Nicole and Mike who they had in their lives that gave them an example of real love. I think many of us often grow up and have examples of relationships that are not founded on love and that when we encounter examples of a loving relationship, those moments can stand out. Though for sure, both the positive and the negative are teachers, aren't they?
Nicole said, "I have had more examples set forth for me of what love shouldn’t be than what it should.... but I take the good and bad. In nearly all those examples that have come along and touched my life, ...(I've) used those examples and guides. There is no ideal. There is only us and what we make of it and what we are willing to learn from."
"through the good times and bad..."
Mike responded to that question with, "My parents and both of my parent's parents (were examples to me). All of my siblings' marriages...more recently for me...(Nicole's) parents, and her brother & sister-in-law. All of them have shown me that they love each other through the good times & bad. They haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but have respected and loved each other to the end. I hope that we can follow those examples and in part it on our children, and them on theirs."
Feeling Incredibly Loved:
Nicole said, There have been many moments in which I have felt so incredibly loved by Mike, "but over the course of the last year my extended family has gone through more challenges that have directly involved my ability to support them. Mike has been a rock through this, taking my moods and being my best friend to help me figure it out without ever complaining that there wasn’t enough time and attention for him even though I know there are times that there certainly wasn’t."
I asked both Nicole and Mike how they thought the other made them a better person. Nicole said she can be her best self "because he accepts me, just as I am.... crazy some days and a rock the other." Isn't that such a true picture of love? Mike said, "I was sitting in church, and she grabbed my hand. I got the warm & fuzzies...teared up. I knew then. She asked me what is wrong, I never told her directly, but I didn't need to. I knew."
When Nicole thinks about their future together, her realism has a beauty of its own. She says that she hopes for them to "just to do the best we can on every given day and to know that some will suck and others will be mind-blowing."
Mike said that his hopes for their future together are to "watch our children, and their children, grow up to be people that are enthusiastic about their families and what they love to do."
The beautiful thing about the future is that we get to build it together. Life will undoubtedly throw unexpected things our way but our response to the struggles allow us to work and approach life together as a team and it's how we grow.
It is like one of the roller coasters at Hershey Park, the Lightning Racers. Separate tracks and I hope we going to end having hopefully more ups than downs, but have fun along the way with my best friend, confidant, a partner in crime, lover and mother of our child. How can't that make me a better person?
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