Spotlight: Phil Chester

This morning, I stumbled across a photographer by the name of Phil Chester out of Portland, OR. What began as a quick glance at a few photos evolved into an hour of distraction, scanning each collection, mesmerized by the story-telling qualities and dream-like style of his photos. In an industry filled with over-used poses, and traditional, been-there-done-that moments, Chester captures couples in a way that even the subject itself feels that it is learning about it’s own love story for the first time. If there’s one thing I feel from his photos (though there are many), it’s that love has the ability to create it’s own beauty. We need not focus on the ‘perfect pose’ or the most beautiful location, but rather, let romance and love speak for itself, let it fill up the lens, the room, with color, with the beauty of giving yourself away to another.

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Spend way too much time clicking through his portfolio like I did here.

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LET’S PLAN: Europe 2015

If you saw my news on Facebook & Instagram about a month ago, you know that this summer I’ll be traveling to Europe with my two best girlfriends, Hannah & Kristie. Our tickets are booked, and we will be traveling to 5 cities in 4 weeks from mid June to mid July. A couple of us have been to Europe, but never for the sake of traveling country to country. We are so excited and so eager to learn all we can about each city and Europe as a whole!

Below I have listed the five cities we plan on visiting. I would love to hear your travel tips, recommendations, must-sees, air bnb or hostel recommendations, etc! We are so eager to start planning and booking! Let’s start planning! Yay!

amsterdamCanals, bikes, beautiful colored buildings. Amsterdam is somewhere we are all excited to go to. It’s a new place we don’t know much about, but have heard its a ‘must see’!

italyOh, Italy, Your charm, your artistic culture, and especially your wine have been drawing me in. Italy is the one place that we are open to traveling to multiple cities in. We know Florence & Rome are musts, but what are some other places we should visit? We would love to visit a winery! Got any recommendations?

barcaI have heard from so many people that Barcelona is a place we don’t want to miss. Plus, I’m pretty excited about having a beach nearby as well.

parisFor all of us, Paris is the place we are most anticipating. The city of romance, fashion, and art, it speaks to each of us for so many different reasons. We have some friends in Paris, but are still on the look out for good places to stay! 
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London seems like a familiar spot, and I’m excited to arrive there mid trip as a little breather from all the cultures and different languages we will be experiencing. I’ve never been, but have always looked forward to the day I would get to experience good old London town. Favorite coffee shops? Places to stay? I wanna hear it all!

We are so excited to start planning our itinerary, booking trains, flights, etc. Feel free to comment below or on any of my social media outlets of travel tips, must-see places, and recommendations!

photo source: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

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LOVESTRUCK Sessions: Michael + Hannah Clark

Michael and Hannah Clark have one of the most romantic, unique, one-of-a-kind love stories I’ve ever seen or heard. I have had the pleasure of knowing Michael in the midst of his pursuit, his steadfast love for Hannah while she was halfway around the world. Because so much of their relationship had its foundation built apart, today, both Michael and Hannah will share their side of the same story. It’s a beautiful story of love, a love that is patient, never gives up, never looses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every  circumstance. 

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HER: We met at 15. We can’t agree on the moment we first met, but one of my first memories of Michael Clark was at a football game fall of sophomore year. We were casually chatting about HS things and I was sipping some McAlister’s sweet tea. I had just taken a big gulp when he said something that made me laugh. I spewed my tea all over him and it was enough to prompt him to message me on FB. Thus it began. I would get home from school, fight for my rights to the family desktop, and we would message back and forth. I could tell a million stories from HS, like how he asked me out in Barnes and Noble, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack playing in my ears, or the first time we held hands in a movie theater and he hogged the arm rest. But in truth, we broke up and “moved on”.

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For four years people moved in and out of our lives, some we thought we loved, and some who just hurt us in the end. But it was all part of the story, and it shaped us, prepared us somehow. I was a student at the University of Alabama when the mile-wide tornado ravaged our city. It was in the midst of chaos and sophomore year coming to an abrupt and early end that I got a text message from an unknown number. I had to ask who it was, and to my surprise, Michael Clark was asking if I was ok and safe in light of the tornado. And so a name I hadn’t heard in years resurfaced and I was curious about this long lost boy. That curiosity led to a Starbucks “catch up” which led to the sweetest summer of late nights laying on my grandparents dock and talking about stars. We thrifted, roller bladed, watched Jesus heal our hearts from hurts and broken relationships, and we found ourselves trusting each other. We probably had at least a dozen honest conversations about how we were attracted to each other but we knew it wasn’t the “right time”.

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Junior year started and we left some carefree summer days in the dust and became 9-hour long distance besties. We finally decided to “call it like it is”, and we spent the next year and half living two separate lives that slowly integrated into a sweet friendship and reason for many road trips. As we approached graduation, I began to feel this unsettling in my spirit. I couldn’t always put words to it, but something wasn’t right. I was restless. I questioned if I would ever “know” or have peace in Mike being “the one”. One of the hardest days of my life came during Christmas break in a parking lot where I ended things between us and walked away convinced it was never going to happen. Jesus told me to let it go. I had confidence that there were things He wanted to do in both of our hearts and we needed to learn a deeper, richer capacity of love.

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That journey of listening to Jesus and discovering the depths of His love led me across the world to Delhi, India for a year. He spent the summer after graduation in Cambodia, and I was raising funds for my adventure. The few weeks before I moved across the ocean, I spent several hours doing “drive bys” of various coffee shops, just hoping to run into Michael. It was there. Somewhere in my heart, I knew he still held it. My attention, my thoughts, my prayers. The night before I boarded a plane for the east, he called me and asked if he could come kidnap me. I asked him, “are you about to complicate my life” and he told me that wasn’t his intention. After some waffle house and catching up, he gave me a book with the first of many letters. He essentially told me he was going to pursue my heart and he didn’t care if I responded or not. I cried. I told him he was the clearest picture of Jesus pursuing me that I’d ever had. I told him I was scared. And then I left.

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India is a whole other story, but it was Michael’s faithful prayers, encouragement, and commitment to knowing my life that was an anchor in some of my hardest moments. He was steady, like he always has been, amidst my swirling heart. We continued to grow together, learning to navigate time differences and major transitions. And I began to fall into a peace and deep understanding that truly washed away fears and broke me of my independence. I didn’t fall in love. I fell into a security in Jesus and how He desired to use Michael to make me more like Him. That’s why I said yes on a remote island in Thailand when Michael, who had flown across the world and succeeded in surprising me on the beach with a question and a ring. Now we’re married and we are learning and loving a lot. And it’s the most precious gift I’ve ever known. I still cling to peace on days when it’s hard to love. I still cling to Jesus when I feel like my heart can’t contain how much joy comes from union with Michael Clark. He is always worthy of worship, and Michael brings me to that place daily. I’m thankful.

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HIM: Hannah and I’s story began our freshman year of High School. There’s some debate between the two of us on who saw the other first, but there’s no debate that that’s when it all started. We lasted 8 months. Chalk it up to immaturity, impatience, naivety, whatever. She dumped me. She dumped me and it was the worst. But also the best.

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Fast-forward about four years to my Sophomore year of college. My then-girlfriend of nearly three years had broken up with me and I entered into a season of discovering the depths of Jesus love. It was then that Hannah re-entered the picture. In a summer of radical return to Jesus, her friendship was integral in a heart that needed desperate healing.

Round 2 of dating began as we parted ways to our respective “institutions of higher learning,” the University of Alabama for her and the University of Arkansas for myself. We dated for about a year and a half. And then she dumped me, and it was the worst. But also the best.

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That break-up lead me into a season of immense growth. I was willing to fight with everything I had for her, but The Lord kept leading me to a place of dependence upon Him in everything. In order for a seed to grow, it must first die. The death of a seed does not destine it for life. And with that I gave it all over to Him. I was called to bring every dream that I had built my life around to Him; a willingness to lose them all, specifically Hannah. And in a moment of outward expression, I buried one of my “seeds.” I buried the box that I had been using to store memories and trinkets from Hannah and I’s relationship. I let the seed die.

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Three months (and a TON of growth) later, I returned to the spot that I had buried the box on a whim. For three months I had learned what it meant to truly give someone over to The Lord in prayer. To depend upon Him to lead and to love in my absence. I learned to intercede in love. And three months later, at the exact spot where I buried the box, I stood over the most beautifully concentrated group of wildflowers that I had ever seen. The flimsy shoebox that I had been using to store the memories and trinkets had collapsed in the ground, causing a seedball from one of our first dates to be fertilized and to blossom. The Lord let the seed grow.

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It was then that the pursuit really began. In spite of our positions on opposite sides of the globe, The Lord brought us back together. There’s no other way to explain it. He challenged us. He beckoned us to something more than ourselves. He grew us. And standing on a beach in Thailand, I asked Hannah to marry me. Now, four months into marriage I see that it was about Jesus bringing us into now. It was about our story becoming much, much more than just our own. And our part in this story has only just begun.

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Q: What does love mean to you?
HERA choice.
HIM: The perfect combination of sacrifice, joy, and passion.

Q: Whats your favorite thing about the other person?
HER: My favorite thing about Michael is his unique ability to be creative, intellectual, and deeply compelled to love and care for people. He’s the most balanced and steady person I know.
HIM: Hannah has this incredibly ability to bring everyone into the love of Jesus. Anyone. She has more compassion than anyone I have ever met.

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Q: Advice to other couples? Above all things love jesus. Pursue vulnerability with each other; vulnerability breeds unity. Respond to each in empathy, always. And pray, pray, pray for and with each other.
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Hannah and Michael, thank you for opening up your arms, your hearts, your story, to those around you. Every day. Always. There is so much to learn from your love for one another, for Jesus, and for others. 

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DATE NIGHT STYLE GUIDE

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of all the reasons I love this holiday. It’s hands-down the most fun, creative holiday in my opinion. Not to mention, I just stinkin’ love love. Getting to interview some of my favorite couples the past couple weeks has inspired me so much. So much so, that I decided to bring one of ‘em back! Lynsea and Derek were a part of the LOVESTRUCK Sessions last week, and we’re bringin’ em back to help style some outfits for your date night on Valentine’s Day (and for any dates after!). Lyns and Derek both have super unique, memorable style, and they’ve put together three different outfits to give you some date-night inspiration! 

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OUTFIT ONE // Stylish, but still versatile for whatever kinds of activities your date holds! Plus, it easily transfers from day to night!

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OUTFIT TWO // For a little more upscale of a date, the night calls for more formal attire. Black on black is always a good choice.

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THREE // A perfect mix between casual and formal, these outfits make a happy medium for your Valentine’s date night. Denim + red lips never go out of style.

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And one last photo of the love-birds for good measure. Thanks Lynsea & Derek for helping us get some outfit inspiration for many date nights to come! 

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*Thanks to Accents Boutique out of Dallas, TX for contributing to ‘HER’ style guide

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LOVESTRUCK Sessions: Julie + Travis Harris

Travis and Julie are one of a kind. I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple whose intimacy breeds inclusivity the way theirs does. Julie and Travis fell in love in Thailand years ago, and just a few months ago returned to the place their hearts first embraced to exchange their vows. They’ve travelled the world, pushed through 2 years of long distance, and have loved each other, Jesus, and those around them radically in the process.

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Q: How did you two meet?
THEM: We both decided to take a gap year before college and go on a 9 month long mission trip with Adventures in Missions going to Nicaragua, Thailand, and Kenya. We met on the first night of training camp, sitting right across from each other at dinner, and became good friends from then on.

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Q: What’s the most impacting memory you two have with each other?
HIM:  Four days into our honeymoon we were in Pai, Thailand and got awful food poisoning. We both needed taken care of, but we both felt terrible. We took turns throughout the night singing to each other, praying for each other, and scratching each others backs. A few days later I woke up to Julie with the sudden realization that she is my family now. I said, “You’re my family” over and over again with tears coming to my eyes. 

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Q: When did you first know you were in love?
THEM: We started developing a love for each other toward the end of our time in Thailand. For first two months we were in Chiang Mai together, but for our last month all of the guys on our team went to Burma and the girls to Phuket, Thailand. Our friendship had grown so much while we were in Chiang Mai, and before parted ways for the next month, we both knew that we were both in love.

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Q: How did he propose?
HER: I thought we were just going out to California to visit Blake and help her move back to Arkansas. We had an awesome week on Newport Beach and as we left to go to San Diego, we made a surprise stop to Salvation Mountain, a beautiful place Travis and I had been wanting to go to for a while that we found out about in one of our favorite movies- Into the Wild. Even when we got there I had no idea he was planning on proposing, and then he pulled me around the corner, took off my sunglasses, said some beautiful things, and proposed. It was still to this day the most joyful moment of my life, we couldn’t stop laughing or crying or smiling.

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Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from one another?
THEM:
 The biggest thing we have learned from each other is honesty with our own hearts. In our experience, a lot of people are quick to give advice, especially when it comes to relationships and marriage. Everyone has different opinions, and no two relationships are the same.  But we’ve found that we’re much happier when following our hearts. And this is what led us to getting married in Thailand.  We weighed the pros and cons of various times and places to get married and realized that we had to take our first step in deciding what kind of family we wanted to be–a family that listens to and follows their hearts.

Q: How has your relationship changed over the years? From traveling non stop together for 9 months, to 2 years long distance, to married?
THEM:
 Well all of those seasons we have been through being in a relationship together have been so drastically different. In each of them we have learned such different things. On the mission trip, community, friendship (with each other and others) was a huge focus, along with seeking God’s heart for people together. While doing long distance we learned a heck of a lot about communication, being present where we were, and about sacrifice. Not the burden or pain of sacrifice, but the joy- Sacrifice just feels like passion when you are in love. In marriage, we learn everyday the gift we have getting to be so close with another human. It is the most beautiful time of my life yet.

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Q: What’s your favorite quality in each other?
HER:
My favorite quality in Travis is his confidence in his own heart and his assuredness in who he is as Travis Harris, a son of God. He doesn’t walk in insecurity and brings freedom to everyone he meets.
HIM: One of my favorite qualities of Julie is her ability to see the best in people and her ease in making people feel known and most themselves.

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Q: What is a word you feel that has marked your relationship & marriage thus far?
THEM:
 Fearlessness – we haven’t let the “what-if’s” keep us from going where we know Holy Spirit is leading us. From falling in love on a mission trip, to over 2 years of long distance dating, going on a ladyboy mission trip in Bangkok, to then getting married in Thailand right after, and now living in Atlanta in our little studio apartment.

Q: What does it mean to love?
HIM: To be present.
HER: To honor.

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Q: What are some of your dreams for the future?
THEM
Going after the parts of God’s heart that are highlighted to us at the time, whether it be a specific country, people group, family member, business model, or creative project.

We realize that obedience to what Holy Spirit has put on our hearts is the number one way to enjoy life and that is our aim.

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*All photos by Sterling Graves

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LOVESTRUCK: Lynsea + Derek

She’s driven, loyal, and full of love. He’s intentional, grounded, and keeps us all laughing. Knit together by common pursuits of music, fashion, and faith, these two have a story that will keep you inspired.

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Q: How did you two meet?
THEM: We met in Boston, Massachusetts while we were in college at Berklee College of Music. We met through friends and grew closer when we both lived on the same street for the summer. All of our friends had gone home so it gave us a chance to get to develop a friendship. 

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Q: Do you have a specific favorite memory or date with the other person?
HER: My favorite memory would have to be when Derek and I puppy-sat a chocolate lab named Woody a couple summers ago in Boston. This was before we were dating. We took the puppy down to the farmers market in Copley Square. It was a beautiful day and so many people were out and about. Naturally, when you have a puppy with you, you get a lot of attention so a lot of people approached us to talk and pet Woody. Most of them assumed that we were a couple and this was our dog… so we played along with it. This was before I had confessed my feelings…neither of us knew how the other felt at this point and its just funny to think that what we both were pretending that day, we both really wanted to be true
HIM: I had planned a day for us to pack a bag and go somewhere. To pack a bag full of junk food and candy (among other amenities) and water (because you gotta keep the health game up) and head to…THE MOVIES. Plural for a reason, I had planned to go early morning and stay all day having timed several movies to line up back to back and mapped out our quest on the blue prints of the movie theatre. She had never done this before. I had back when I was a depraved sinner who knew nothing of God, but now I have a relationship with him so its okay to do illegal things like pay for 1 movie and see 4 (I don’t actually believe that). But the reason I love this memory so much is because we drank more Icee that day than either of us had in our entire lives. We decided to get the biggest size and mix the blue raspberry and white cherry flavors, which she had also never done, and she loved it. I loved it. It seems like a weird memory to pick probably. I choose it because it represents a lifetime of experiencing new things with her and watching her love them and be excited about them. I love watching her do that….and her blue tongue. Now it’s a “must” in order for us to go to the movies.

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Q: What is your favorite thing about the other person?
HER: My favorite thing about Derek has to be how much he cares about others. I don’t think I have met anyone in my entire lifetime that loves people so much and, more importantly, so well. Along with caring for others, comes listening and patience, and gosh is he the absolute best listener. He won’t interrupt your thoughts. He’s slow to speak and respond. He will not pass up any moment to sit and talk and get to know your heart, doesn’t’ matter who you are or how long it will take. He wants to listen and he won’t forget what you say. He’s caring, which means he listens, which means he’s patient, which means he’s Christ-like. And the best part is, it all stems from him pursuing God. He doesn’t do any of it for himself. He doesn’t care about how uncomfortable he might be. He does it because he knows it will make God happy. God loves people, so Derek wants to love people. (Gosh, I love him so much!) I meant to just mention one quality but it turned into four, but still, these four are just a few of the many, many qualities he possesses that I love!

HIM: For starters, this is not a fair question. I’ll choose one right now but if you ask me next week it could be different. It’s going to be her ability to teach me. She is smarter than me, for one, so obvious things like I don’t know this and she does so “voila” I’ve been taught. A sentence ago she let me know that I don’t need a comma so I took it out. So there’s one side of her teaching me. The other is far greater. My favorite is her ability to teach me things about myself without having to say anything. When you think of your best teacher you’ve ever had or maybe a mentor, someone who cares about helping you understand things so that it strengthens you or your mind and makes you better off down the road. She is very much so like a mentor to me, just in the subtlest ways possible. She’s like a taller and younger and sexier Mr. Miyagi. Everyday she teaches me. Everyday she pushes the envelope for me to be a better man, a more Christ-like man. Its really hard because I’m not good at it (still a young grasshopper) but I want that so bad so I fight for that. I didn’t mean to make it like a student-teacher relationship where I’m way too young and its illegal if it came out at all like that (ha). All I meant by my previous statements is that she helps prompt the cultivation of Christ within me that I seek out in my moment-by-moment life.

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Q: From knowing you two, your passions, from music to fashion, align in many ways. How do you guys work together in those areas?
THEM: We think that having similar interests and passions such as music and fashion or personal style really helps us encourage each other. Having artistic minds in general, helps us understand each other better on emotional levels, spiritual levels and creative levels. It’s such a simple thing, but being able to understand even a small part of his/her mind gives access to an intimate relationship that we otherwise would not have. As it plays out directly in our lives, we have led worship together, and hope to do so more often. We encourage the writing process and give each other space to do that. We have yet to do that together, however, we do bounce ideas off of each other and let each other hear where our mind has gone. As far as fashion goes, we like to help pick out each others outfits, go shopping, and coordinate (shh…)

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Q: What’s your favorite thing to do together? 

THEM: Initially, we were thinking of a myriad of different memories or things that we love to do together. At the root of each thought about what we love to do together is conversation. First and foremost, that is our favorite thing to do together is to BE with one another and listen to one another and feel loved when he/she wants to listen to what the other has to say. For example, in the fall of 2013 when we first started talking/dating we sat and talked literally until 7am. Just talking. At one point Lynsea’s roommate said, “I don’t get it. How do y’all have so much to talk about?” But we did. And we still do.

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Q: Funny quirks about the other person?
HIM:
 There’s this innate ability she has either when she is really excited about something or when she is trying to piece her thoughts together to start talking so fast. It is quite impressive actually. When I try to piece thoughts together I sound dumb and my sentences are so broken, but she can just keep talking. Sometimes it’s to her demise because if you repeat what she said back to her she’ll say, “Oh, I said that?” Another funny thing is when she does her hair she stands with one foot on her inner thigh of the opposite leg like a flamingo or some yoga position except she’s never been a bird or done yoga so I don’t know where she got it.

HER: He talks out of the side of his mouth, especially when he’s talking really seriously. It’s the cutest thing ever, not sure why, but I absolutely love it. For the sake of both of our answers being about each others weird talking habits, I’ll add another. When he listens to music he really loves or gets really into, he gets so happy about the smallest parts, like literally one drum hit, or one note, and he gets this goofy happy face on and will clap and dance and laugh after it happens because he loves that small moment so much. He’ll replay it over and over. That speaks for the rest of his life though too… Derek is all about the small moments, the in-betweens, the precious/special moments a lot of people look over or speed by.

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Q: When did you first know you were in love?
HER
: I think this is going to sound funny because the moment I think of when I read this question is before anything real between Derek and I had even started. I figure it’s because my love for Derek was so subconscious for so long… like I hadn’t actually been able to comprehend the love that he held and could offer me until my heart was ready for it. (Kind of like Jesus’s love for us). Furthermore, I think I realized I was in love with Derek the night that we were walking home in Boston with some friends. It was late at night and really cold. The streets were pretty barren until we passed a drunk homeless women who was yelling and upset because she spilled her purse and spare change went everywhere. The whole group saw what was happening but kept on going, actually picking up the speed to get away from this crazy screaming woman. We got to the end of the street before we all realized Derek wasn’t with us. We turned around. He was back with the homeless woman helping her pick up the change.

HIM: The first time we ever began to spend time with one another as friends on the search for common interest was about the same time I knew that I wanted to love her for the rest of my life on earth. I thought of myself as this man that was ready to show her what she deserved as her counterpart. I just wanted to show her something she didn’t know was possible in a man. Little did I know, I was far from ready for that. We were both far from ready for that. Believe it or not, there was a period of time where her and I didn’t talk very much. This period of time came after we already knew each other and grew to be friends and share feelings for one another (it’s a long story but its so crucial to what God had planned). It was most definitely a pruning process. God knew so well that I was not who I needed to be for this girl whom I wanted to love so badly. I would say that I had fallen in love with Lynsea before she had gotten to even consider the reciprocation in the forefront of her mind and/in her heart. I fell in love with her so fast. Some may say it was infatuation, but I knew 4 years ago (we’ve only been dating for a year) that I was going to be with this girl for the rest of my God-given life. That being said, I was not yet ready to love her. I would argue (and win) that I am still learning and will always strive to be in a learning process of loving her the way God, having called me into a loving relationship with Jesus, ultimately calls me to.
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Q: Tell me a story…
HER:
After my graduation in May of 2014, I planned to move back to Dallas. I had asked Derek many times if he would want to fly back down with me and spend some time there but he told me he wouldn’t be able to because the band he was playing with at the time was having rehearsals for their next tour. All along I was hoping in the back of my mind, that he was planning a surprise. The day of my flight came around and I went to say goodbye to him, hoping he would jump out and say “Surprise! I’m going with you!” I hugged him goodbye, lingered for my surprise, but nothing happened. My heart sank and I left for the airport. I moped all the way through security and became even sick with sadness because I wouldn’t see him for a month or more. I wasn’t prepared for this. My sister and I found a seat at our flight’s gate and I just leaned on her shoulder and closed my eyes. I awoke to a random woman shoving flowers in my face saying, “Hey I think these are for you. They’re from a secret admirer,” and she ran off before I could ask anything. My heart immediately found it’s beat again as I scanned the entire airport for Derek. My excitement was about to be through the roof, he was coming after all! After a few seconds of searching and not finding him, I asked my sister to tell me what was going on, but she said she had no idea. I found a note in the flowers from Derek and read it. It was filled with the sweetest words on earth, but no confession to a surprise. I didn’t ask any more questions, I didn’t want to get let down even more. I settled on the fact he wasn’t coming. We boarded the plane and I got comfortable. The people next to me were the most talkative people in the world so for the next 30 minutes from the ground to the air I was in conversation. I’m not sure what happened but for some reason I turned my head towards the front of the plane and caught a glance of a yellow shirt on a handsome man wearing the hat I got Derek for Valentines Day. He was on his way to the bathroom. I yelled for my sister two rows back. Everyone in between started getting fidgety and uncomfortable. The people next to me I was just talking to looked afraid thinking I had seen a terrorist in action. My sister played dumb. I waited until the man I saw walked out of the bathroom. I caught eyes with him immediately and hurled myself over through the aisle and into his arms. Yes, it was Derek. He was surprising me. It just didn’t go quite as planned. Little did I know this had been orchestrated for months. If it wasn’t for this short unplanned bathroom break, he would have been hiding in the backseat of the car when I got to Dallas. (Happy that plan failed.) Apparently the whole time I was sitting at the airport, he was just a few yards away. He had approached many a children to bring me the flowers and say that short phrase but the parents didn’t oblige haha so he found a random woman to do so. I’m so happy I got to spend my flight home wrapped in his arms.

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Q: I’ve seen sacrifice in y’alls relationship, which is admirable. From shelling out hundreds of dollars to catch Derek on tour for the night, to uprooting and moving to Texas. What has been the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing about sacrificing for love?
THEM:
The hardest thing is learning about all of the crappy parts of yourself in the process. We’ve learned so much about ourselves and it was/is so hard. We would both feel unworthy to be a recipient of Derek’s love or even God’s love and have discovered simple things such as needing to listen better, pride, poor understanding, impatience, selfishness, insecurity and greed that our relationship brought to the surface and it hurt. Even more so, it hurts to know that the other could see those things too… we strongly believe that’s a big part of God’s purpose for relationships though, seeing the sin and still loving that person. (That’s how God loves us). We have to learn to sacrifice these human qualities that have been instilled in us to focus on what might be best for him/her or be best for both of us from the view of the Kingdom. The most rewarding part of it all is the Kingdom. Learning to sacrifice is learning to put ourselves aside, to humble ourselves before God and live the way he intended for us. The reward is the sacrifice, the result of sacrifice, the joy in knowing and discovering closeness to God that you didn’t have before. We promise it is all worth it.

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Q: What does love mean to you?
HER: Being aware of all the bad stuff, all of the sin and all of the gross parts in each other and choosing to love and allowing yourself to be loved anyway.

HIM:
This may be a bold statement, bolder than I may actually feel, but in the midst of hatred, animosity, being hurt, let down, run dry, or just heartache, it’s knowing that I am to put her before myself every time. Every Time. And actually doing it. It’s what always points me back to my own relationship with God. Anything that I feel in a negative way, could be anything from the first sentence or anything you can think of, should always make me think about how I have done something similar (most likely worse) to God. I am not to depend on her or live in expectation of what she needs to or should bring me. My joy is to come from God first, and to sacrifice exceedingly, persistently, ruthlessly and relentlessly (just so I can hammer it home as much as possible) for the woman that I choose to REALLY put before me. Every Moment. Every Day.

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LOVESTRUCK: Macy + Maison Tiradoegas

He’s a entrepreneur, a dreamer, and the founder of Press Bible. She’s a musician, worship leader, and blogger at Collected Steps. Some of the *sweetest* highschool sweethearts you’ll ever meet, Maison & Macy have a beautiful story, knit together by faith, perseverance, and enduring love.

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Q: Where did you two meet?
HER: High School. His best friend was interested in me and I was like, “Hey, I think your friend is cute.” Unlike high school girls, they still remained best friends even though Maison totally stole me. I was 16. He was 17. After weeks of all of our friends talking about how perfect of a couple we’d be, and many awkward, nervous hallway avoidances, Maison finally got the courage to message me on MySpace. Yes, MySpace. Then, our mutual friends who were dating at the time went on a double date with us to Souper Salad. Who couldn’t be won over by Souper Salad!?  

Q: How did dating each other change in your different seasons of life (highschool, college, post grad)?
HER: Never did I think when I first met Maison that six years later he would be my husband. High school was fun. It was easy. But we grew up together. I remember feeling so weird in college because my friends who knew their boyfriend for 2 months already knew they were the one. I felt scared. Why did I still have so many doubts after a few years of dating? I realized that my friends met their significant other at an age where they knew what they wanted. Maison and I had been growing up together since we were 16, changing, growing into ourselves and figuring out who we were going to be, knowing all along who each other used to be. It was hard. It was hard watching people who had only been dating a short time get engaged and married before us. But you can’t compare. Every relationship is different and rushing into marriage is the last thing a couple should do! It was also hard remaining pure for 6 years. We were a boy and a girl who loved each other! Not easy! Once we got engaged, we ended up having to push our wedding back and waiting that long was very hard (but also very worth it). To answer your question, dating in different seasons of life prepared us for marriage. We’re always going to be changing, growing and going into new and unknown seasons. The fact that we had 6 years of practice really helped our marriage. 

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Q: When did you first know you loved each other?
HIM:
The first time I met her. I had dated girls before, so I knew when I met Macy that she was different. Our relationship was summed up like this: I chased her for 5 years.
HER: Mine was a little bit of a different story. When Maison told me he loved me I didn’t say it back. I actually thought he was crazy and thought about breaking up with him! I always say Maison had to pursue me our whole relationship. He never gave up. He always knew even when I doubted. He wouldn’t let me quit. He fought for me. I told him that I loved him 6 months into our relationship but I don’t think I really loved him until I grasped what was happening. Maison was showing me, without even knowing it, a glimpse of the way God pursues us. My love was a process, a beautiful process that still gets to grow everyday. I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

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Q: Whats your favorite thing about the other person?
HER: This one is hard. There’s so many things! But if I had to pick just one, I think it would be the trust I have that he is obedient to the Lord. That he willing to do whatever it takes, sacrifice everything for God’s calling. Maison makes me laugh, he’s so goofy, he’s the most kind-hearted man, so genuine and caring towards everyone he meets, but before we got married we heard the quote, “Marriage isn’t meant to make you happy, its meant to make you holy.” That’s why that is my favorite thing about him. Seeing his willingness to carry his cross daily and die to self, makes me better. Makes me holy. 
HIM: She loves people. Macy makes everyone she meets feel like the most special person in the world. It’s the kind of quality that would make the whole world a better place if everyone acted a little more like that.

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Q: As newlyweds, how do you feel your relationship has grown the most within marriage?HIM: Well, we get to see each other naked all the time. More than the physical though, we have challenged each other to chase each others dreams. We have turned ourselves from talkers to doers. When we dated, we talked about the future a lot: what would life be, what we would do, etc. Now, we understand that we’re shaping our future and everyday decisions we make together matter. We also have to do laundry and wash dishes.

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Q: Whats your favorite thing to do together?
THEM: Honestly, a night a home with our cat, Leo, cuddled up with cookies and junk food, having a netflix party is our favorite thing to do! 

Q: What is a word that you feel has marked your relationship & marriage?
THEM: Faith. We’ve gone through a lot of unknowns and a lot of trust in each other and in God. He has proven himself so faithful. And every time we want to question him, every time things are hard or don’t make sense, we have to remember the faithfulness he’s given us time and time again. He will come through. He will provide. Without faith we have nothing.

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Q: Quirks about the other person?
HER: Maison is a big giant quirk.
HIM: She talks in this little girl’s voice. She wants ice-cream everyday, and she’s the most indecisive person ever about the smallest decisions.

Q: Funny story or romantic story?
HER: My favorite story! We were in high school and had been dating a few months. I was a pastor’s kid, goody-two-shoes, and Maison was a heathen, pot-smoking, football player. Only God… 

My dad heard some things about Maison and came to my room one night. He told me he was really disappointed in my judgement. He wasn’t going to tell me I had to break up with him, but he wanted me to know he didn’t approve. I called Maison and told him we couldn’t be together. My dad’s opinion meant everything to me and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Besides, he was probably right, I shouldn’t be with him.

 The next day, without telling me, Maison marched into my dad’s office at the church and told my dad how much he loved me and wanted to be with me. He told my dad his life story and how he believed God was sending me into his life. They prayed together and Maison told him he wanted to start the process of handing his life over to Jesus. I came home that night and my dad hugged me and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.” Maison is not a heathen anymore. (Ha!)

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Q: What advice would you give to other couples?
THEM: First of all, make God the center. Anything outside of him is meaningless. Anything outside of him doesn’t work. Live a life completely surrendered as individuals and a life completely surrendered together. It’s the only way.

Secondly, relationships are hard. Marriage is hard. You are two imperfect humans. Our biggest piece of advice, if you’ve decided you want to be with that person, don’t give up. If you give up, you will just be giving up someone’s set of problems for someone else’s. The grass always greener, the butterfly feeling doesn’t happen everyday. But don’t give up. Getting through the hard times, the struggles, the doubts, only make it that much more worth it. Choose love even when you don’t feel it. Be kind and selfless even when the other person isn’t. 

Finally, laugh. Laugh when things are funny and laugh when they aren’t. Laugh through joy and through pain. Don’t take everything so seriously, but enjoy the small moments together. Moments make up our days and days make up our lives. And I want more of my moments to be spent in joy and laughter.