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.
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 Mary 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.
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.
(Edited to add; I wrote this post over a year ago. Today, Mary and her family blog at www.cancersaved.me – please visit the site for the latest on Mary and Travis and to let them know how their story has encouraged you!)