Oak + Emily . Muskegon, MI . Wedding

The first wedding of 2017 will go down as one of the most special weddings I’ve had the privilege of capturing. I remember when baby Oak was born as we have mutual family. Oak has always impressed me with his wisdom, starting from an early age. Then he met his match in Emily. These are two people who respect and love one another in a way that is rare. So when Oak and Emily reached out to me to capture their wedding, it was an easy yes and an honor for me to capture.

Oak and Emily were married in Muskegon, MI, in January, on an abnormally extra-frozen day, with beautiful fluffy snow covering the ground. The locations of the photos were each chosen because they are meaningful to the couple in some way. The details they had woven throughout the day also had much meaning. One of my favorites is the inside of Oak’s ring is wood (see the photo below), but not just any wood… it is a piece of driftwood from Lake Michigan. So cool! It was surrounded by their closest friends and family, that they exchanged these rings and committed their lives to one another. I couldn’t be happier that these two special people have found one another. Congratulations Oak and Emily!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for including me:)

Ceremony + Reception: The Watermark
Getting Ready Location: The Frauenthal Theater
Florals: Le Fleur Shoppe
Caterer: Harris Hospitality
DJ: Modern Entertainment

Here are some of my faves…

Erin + Patrick . Spring Branch, TX . Wedding

A good estate sale is worth stopping for. Agreed? I didn’t know just how worth my time they are until this happened… A few years ago, while I was waiting in line at an estate sale, a fight broke out. A very heated verbal argument held up the line making it slightly awkward for the rest of us waiting. So what did us waiting patiently do? We turned to each other and bonded over this awkward moment… which leads me to how I met Erin:)Eventually the argument in front of us died down and we were able wrap up our purchases and go about our business.

Fast-forward to this spring when I receive a call from this bride-to-be saying, “I know this is going to sound strange, but do you remember being at an estate sale years ago and an argument broke out in front of us? Well I’m engaged and I want you to photograph my wedding!” Not only did I remember, but this may just be my all-time-favorite story of how a bride found me:)

Erin and Patrick are a thoughtful and kind couple and it truly was a pleasure to capture their big day. They are so down-to-earth and it’s clear they respect one another and value each other. And those florals… swoon! Thank you for including me in your day and Congratulations to you both!!

Ceremony + Reception: The Lost Mission
Make-up Artist: Catherine Martinez-Bowles
Invitations: Moon Mippy
Floral Design: Aldoph Pesina
Cake: Cakes by Cathy, Cathy Young
Caterer: RK Group
Band: Matchmaker Band

Also, Erin is a talented floral designer (check out her work here: http://mserinrose.com)

Xueting + Runhao . Mackinac Island, MI . Wedding

Xueting and Runhao’s wedding will forever hold a special place in my heart for two main reasons: the people and the setting. Xueting and Runhao said their vows on the lawn of The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI. Mackinac Island is an island that sits between the Lower and Upper Peninsula’s of Michigan. It is a place that you can reach only by boat and when you set foot on the island, you are taking a step back in time. There are no cars, only bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. When I was younger, my family would travel to the island on our sailboat and we would stay in the marina. We would wake up to the sound of cannons firing from Fort Mackinac and we would explore every inch of the island over our visits stretched throughout the years. When Xueting and Runhao contacted me to capture their special day here, I was so excited they had chosen such a standout location.

Now for the people that stamped this wedding on my heart. Xueting and Runhao are both from China and hosted their closest family and friends who traveled from China to join them. It was an intimate affair. I was one of a few that spoke english and for their dinner and Xueting and Runhao were gracious enough to invite my team to join them. I was honored. While I couldn’t understand the words being said, I could see and feel the joy, the tears, the laughter, the emotions that connect us all as humans. It was an experience I will never forget. Xueting and Runhao, I wish you both the best life has to offer and thank you for your kindness and hospitality on your very special day. Congratulations!!

Ceremony + Reception (and most of the details): The Grand Hotel

India + Dan . San Antonio, TX . Wedding

India and Dan’s wedding was one spectacular event! It isn’t every day that I have the honor of capturing the wedding of someone I also get the pleasure of working in the industry with. India and her mother, Billinda, are the very talented Event Planners of Wilkinson Rhodes. They are known for designing truly exquisite events. Needless to say, this wedding was not only detail-laden with beauty, but was super special to be a part of! The design was centered around florals and did not disappoint. The ballroom was decorated using over 20,000 tulips. You read that right. Ah-Mazing!! India and Dan light up in the presence of one another… What a special celebration of two wonderful people tying the knot! Thank you for including me and a HUGE congratulations India and Dan!!

Ceremony: Christ Episcopal Church
Reception: The Saint Anthony Hotel, San Antonio, TX
Event Planner and Floral Design: Wilkinson Rhodes, Matthew Gonzales
Makeup: Amanda Moseley
Musical Entertainment: VOX Audio
Band: Georgia Bridgewater Orchestra
Entertainment: Butt Sketch Artists
Dessert: Frost 321
Lighting: BP Lighting
Videographer: Daniel Holman

There is not enough room to share all of my favorites, but here is a taste…

My List of What Is

I remember the excitement I felt as a kid when a piece of mail would show up in the black box that sat at the end of our windy driveway. I would pull the metal flap down in great anticipation that maybe, just maybe, one piece would be addressed to “Miss Amy Leyrer.” It didn’t happen very often, but when it did… giddiness overcame me. These days I kind of dread the mail, sifting through all the junk, only to end up with a stack of bills. Yuck. BUT… when a package arrives… Now that’s a different story. My heart goes pitty pat in anticipation!

About a month ago, one such package arrived. I wasn’t expecting anything. As I extracted it from the mailbox and carried it back to the house. I was filled with wonder. What could it be? As the boys unloaded their backpacks, I plopped the box on the counter and proceeded to peel back the tape. I pulled out the contents and read a note. My heart dropped and I could feel anger, hurt and brokenness rising up in my flesh. The words staring back at me included, “Congratulations!” “The Joy of Parenthood,” “As a new mom…” and “The excitement of welcoming a new…” Signed, Your friendly baby formula brand, gift-giving-committee, welcoming the baby you are no longer having… Similac. Or something along those lines. My emotions may have inserted a few extra words. To be honest, I wanted to pick up that brick of powdered nourishment and smash it into the wall. Note to Similac: Your auto-generated gift to new moms based on a baby’s due date entered in 9 months prior may need some tweaking.

This might not be the most believable moment to share this, but, for the most part, I have processed the loss quite well. It has been seven months since we learned the pregnancy was ectopic and that I needed surgery. Seven months to know that my sweet baby is up in heaven and will never know pain. I know someday I will get to hold her in my arms and kiss her little head and I will spend eternity doing so. Until that day, I am here and unlike our baby, I do feel pain. Not all the time, but when it’s real, it hurts. Just like with any loss, grief comes in waves. Any given day, it can appear to be the calmest waters, but when the wind blows, it stirs up a wave. Often they take me by surprise, as if my back was to the wind. I don’t see the waves coming until they hit. That’s grief. It passes, often as quickly as it came. Other times wave after wave keeps crashing and the storm must be waited out.

Back in April, I looked forward to this fall, anticipating the moment I would get to count ten little fingers and ten little toes. This would have been the time little Harper Joy was to be welcomed into the world. We named her and I was pleasantly surprised at how much peace this has brought. After the loss, I took the due date off my calendar. GoogleCal deleted it and dumped it into cyberspace. I honestly couldn’t tell you the exact date, but it would have been in the last two weeks of November. Overall, this has been a time of keen awareness for me. The waves of sadness have come and gone, but minus the delivered package, mostly there is just an awareness of what could have been and what is. The what could have been’s float into my head and are often met with a few moments of sadness. Sometimes those moments linger longer. but as quickly as I can muster, these thoughts are dusted out to make room for the “What Is.”

Choosing to focus on the “What is” in my life puts into perspective just how grateful and thankful I truly am. One of the hardest times and yet positive moments that happened after the loss of Harper Joy was, oddly enough a second loss. The first loss being an ectopic pregnancy, I not only lost a baby, but the fallopian tube she had resided in as well. You can read more about that and His blanket of Peace by clicking here. After that unfolded in April, we spun around 3 times fast and voila! We were pregnant again! There is definitely another story for another day here, but for now, the relative piece of information is that we were indeed pregnant again.

When it came time for the eight week ultrasound, we knew something wasn’t right. Following the scan, we were sent to the midwife’s office to wait patiently in silence as we tried to wrap our head around what might be to come. I fought back the tears and refused the words that spun in my head. The midwife came in and her face confirmed those floating words to be true. They dropped like rocks, landing in the pit of my stomach. There was no heartbeat. Another loss. The midwife continued to speak her medical mumbo jumbo and was met with an unexpected question. Mine. “But was it in the uterus??” She looked at me confused and replied, “Um..yes..” trailing off in more of the form of a question than a statement. What I said next nearly knocked her off her chair, “Well! Then that’s the good news! It was where it was supposed to be!” She smiled. I was heartbroken and at peace all at once. We were losing another child and yet in that same moment, I felt God was showing me confirmation that my body can, in fact, get pregnant again and in the right place. Medically speaking, the bottom line, I was told, was that I “happened to have two very unlucky flukes happen. And they happened back to back.” Frustrating, heartbreaking and reassuring all at once.

We chose to miscarry naturally in lieu of a D&C. Without going into detail, a D&C is when they go in and clean everything out in one full swoop. With the natural miscarriage, I didn’t realize I was signing up for the long haul. It took months for everything to unfold and for my body to return to a healed state. On one hand, it was a marvel to watch all that God designed our bodies to do, to purge, to cleanse, to heal. On the other hand, it was months of dragging on the emotions, the hormones, the healing. To say it has been a tough year would be an understatement. Two pregnancies, two first trimesters, two losses, one surgical and one natural miscarriage, two post-pregnancy adjustments, and now my first “due date”. I’m taking notes because I will be doing this again in February.

Today, with Thanksgiving laid out behind us, Christmas and a new year just in front of us, I choose to focus on my list of “What is”. This grows and changes daily, but the steadfast highlights include:

-A God that covers me in His blanket of Peace
-A God that loves me, no matter, and waits patiently for me to return when I stray
-A husband who loves me unconditionally, warts and all
-Two boys who truly fill me with joy every day and stretch me in the most humbling ways
-Family and friends who support me, love me and laugh with me
-The heart, mind and soul that God gave me and the reminder to use them fully
-A passion for the creative that fuels me
-Our tranquil, life-giving-to-the-soul piece of Texas soil
-A home filled with food, clothes, and more than we could ever need
-A God who sees me through the darkest hours, then paints the colors in the sky and shines the brightest sun to guide my path forward
-A God who is no respecter of persons, who loves us equally and shines the same bright light for every single one of us

Recently, I was teaching my seven year old son something that rings so true. As I spoke the words, I realized I needed them just as much, if not more, for myself:

If we focus on what we don’t have (or what others have that we think we want), it will only lead to misery and frustration. However, if we focus on what we have and choose to count our blessings and that which we are most thankful for, this leads to a full heart and overwhelming gratitude and joy.

Today I choose to focus on “What Is.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever. – Psalm 107:1

What does your “What Is” list include?