JESSICA + STEPHEN | THE VENUE AT STOCKTON LAKE | MISSOURI WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
I had been so excited for Jessica and Stephen’s wedding for months! I grew up with Stephen and his sister Karissa (who's wedding I photographed in June!). And Jessica has been such a beautiful/encouraging light in my life for the last several years. So, this particular love story has a special place in my heart.
If you’ve seen any of their engagement pictures, you probably understand how fun and energetic Jessica and Stephen are together. I can’t help but smile and laugh every time I’m around them. They are truly some of the most genuine, understanding, and loving people that I know. When I asked them what they were most excited about for their wedding they said, "Celebrating all that Christ has done in mine and Stephen's relationship with our friends and families!” I hope you enjoy seeing their beautiful day come together through photos!
*I’m sure a lot of you reading this went to Jessica and Stephen’s wedding and noticed that I wan’t actually there taking pictures. I was unfortunately in the hospital for a week due to some uncontrollable health issues. I felt really strongly about wanting to give credit for these photos to my friends Esther and Abigail, although I know they’d never ask me too. I don’t know what I did to deserve such talented and compassionate friends, but I am so thankful for their willingness to be my eyes that day. I don’t want to make Jessica and Stephen's wedding blog about me, so if you’re curious about what happened, I wrote about it at the end of their blog.
I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was in the hospital. You never saw and Instagram post or me talk about it until this moment. And a huge part of that is me not wanting people to think that I’m not a good photographer or that I would leave someone hanging on their wedding day or that I’m a wimp and need peoples pity. And I’m sure some people will still think those things, but it’s important to me to share the lessons that I’m learning. I can’t control everything in my life, and that’s such a hard lesson, but it’s one I’m thankful to be figuring out. Also, I’m not a writer. I left out a million pieces to this extremely long story. But hopefully you can learn something from my experiences.
I cried all day Sunday and watched the hours tick by while I imagined myself at Jessica and Stephen’s wedding. To think that I was practically paralyzed in the hospital the last several days was just crazy! At 22 you never think there’s a possibility that anything will keep you from life, but as I was laying in that hospital bed unable to sit, stand, walk, or even roll on my sides, it became so beyond real. I promised them that I would be there for them on their wedding day and I felt like the worst person in the world the moment I realized I wasn’t leaving the hospital any time soon.
I was in a field taking pictures of the cutest family Thursday night when my lower back gave out and I fell to the ground. I had been having back pain the last several months, but nothing like this. The family stayed with me for 30 minutes until I got up enough strength to hobble to the car. I couldn’t move my legs so I picked up each leg and swung them into my car while screaming in intense pain. I only made it about 1/4 a mile to a nearby church before I couldn’t drive any further. My parents came 20 minutes later and tried to get me out of the car but I wasn’t able to move. So, feeling like a pathetic weenie, they called an ambulance. Not only did an ambulance show up, but also a fire truck and two police cars. Me being in severe pain, sarcastically offered them all party hats. It took 5 of them and a slide to get me out of my car and onto a stretcher. They took me to the hospital and we waited in a room until 4:30am when they proceeded to tell me I was completely fine and that I could get up and go home. I laughed and told them that wasn’t happening because I couldn’t sit up, much less get up and leave. So, they admitted me onto the 8th floor of the hospital. I thought surely my back would snap back by the next morning and I’d be good to go, but then Saturday rolled around and I still hadn’t been able to move. I had told the doctors for 2 days that I had a wedding Sunday and I needed to get better so I could go. They kept assuring me that I’d be better, but then I wasn’t. I looked at my parents Saturday morning and cried lots of tears when I realized I had to call Jessica and give her the worst news I could possibly give someone the day before their wedding. Although her and Stephen approached the situation with the most love and compassion I had ever experienced, it still sucked. Even my parents told me I couldn’t control the situation and that sometimes life happens. But the thing is, I always control those situations. I’ve photographed weddings with migraines, colds, literally so sick I was throwing up the night before, and I’ve always made it work. But this time I had to let go of all the control and plans, which is lesson #1. The plans we create for ourselves mean absolutely nothing when the Lord has a different plan.
I texted Abigail and Esther and asked if they could fill in for me the next day. I wanted an awesome game plan in place before I called Jessica and Stephen. They instantly said YES and a huge peace spread over me! I would literally trust my life with those two, so I knew I would be able to rest easier knowing they would tell an amazing story of their day.
Sunday night quickly approached and I had made the decision to stop taking all the medicine they had been pumping me full of. Within a few hours, I was about to roll out of bed, onto my knees, and stand hunched over while holding onto the base of a chair. To say I felt pathetic was an understatement. I walked to the bathroom and was extremely humbled when I realized I needed lot’s of help to do normal activities like pee and change clothes. On Monday I was able to walk a little straighter and a little further than the previous day. It was storming outside and I walked to the window to look out, and as I did, I took a deep breath in and started crying. That was the first time that nothing on the outside world felt normal anymore. I began to have thoughts of “what if this is my new normal” “there are so many people that have to live this life daily” “I never realized how beautiful the simplest of things are.” I couldn’t tell you if I was crying because of the situation or because in that moment I had the most beautiful gift of life. I became super antsy on Tuesday and decided I would do everything I could to get out of the hospital. That was the first day I was able to sit in a chair and walk slowly without a walker. You know I walked straight down to the vending machine and got myself some Bugles to eat. I was released that afternoon and went to stay with my parents because I wasn’t able to go back home due to not being able to climb stairs.
I can tell you one thing, I’ve learned a whole lot of lessons throughout this situation:
#2 If I neglect taking care of myself, I won't be able to take care of others
#3 It's so easy to take "small" things like mobility, using the restroom on your own, being outside, sleep, and not eating the same thing every meal for granted. Being more thankful in everyday life is so important.
#4 When passing a hospital, there are hundreds of people laying in beds wishing for the life you have. It's easy to just pass and never think twice, but you are SO blessed to be able to drive, walk, spend time with family, work, etc.
#5 We aren't indestructible. And because of that it's okay to say no to things and to ask for help when you need it.
It still hurts to sit. I wasn't able to walk stairs (which both my apt and office are up stairs) until Sunday. I had to call my parents yesterday so they could carry up my groceries because I can't lift more than 5 pounds without severe pain. I can't bend over to hug my nephew or pick something off the ground or even take out the trash (sorry roomie!). I have a massive fear of this happening again. And since the doctors don't know what's wrong with me, I'm afraid I'll be like this forever. But through all of this I've learned more lessons than I think I can process right now. I'm thankful for wake up calls in life. And to be figuring out a new balance in life!
Make-up: Michelle Foster
Hair: Tori Rhoades
Bridesmaid's Dresses: TJMaxx
Wedding Dress: David's Bridal
Invitations: Jessica Sanders