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McKenzie & Michael | Ca d’Zan Engagement

Engagement sessions are so dear to my heart. I love the thrilling emotion that radiates from a newly-engaged couples. McKenzie and Michael’s session at the Ca d’Zan Ringling Mansion was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It has taken me months to event attempt to post a few here because of my immense pile of favorites. When we chatted about where to photograph this session, I knew the mansion in Sarasota was perfect. Together they are bright and bubbly. Their love can’t be disguised and written all over their faces. Of course, I also love these two because they also adore all things blue-green hued. Here are just a few of my favorites from our time together.

Debbie Turvin - Love all of the pictures but my favorite has to be the black and white. What a beautiful couple they are and you are right Gina the love is all over their face. McKenzie’s smile is just beautiful. God’s Blessings over them always.
Debbie Turvin FMBC

Love is Messy

Love is a messy thing. If I’ve learned one lesson in this past year, my intro into motherhood, it’s that love makes a wreck. When you truly, deeply love someone that love comes in and turns everything upside down. For me, love always comes slowly. The first sign of feeling love’s crazy emotional roller coaster isn’t thrilling for me, but sobering. I see myself going up and up and up, knowing there is about to be a crazy ride down, then up again, then down again for the rest of my life. Love, for me, is saying  ”yes” to all of it. My personality can easily make love’s wild ride seem steady by looking at the bigger picture, but it is chaotic nonetheless. Love grabs me and takes me through it all. It turns and whirls unexpectedly, and it has made a mess of things before I even realize it at all. Love is a messy, wild thing.

Love made some good messes. It wrecked my heart this year, in the best and worst of ways. I knew that it would, just not exactly how. Not loving many people is easy. It is orderly and clean. There is no heartache, nothing gets torn up. As C. S. Lewis says in one of my favorite quotes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all engagements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” When I met Jonathan and decided to risk opening my heart to him, I knew it might get broken. I love the thrill of the adventure, but inwardly I see and know the risks and have decided the possibility of beauty is worth it before I jump in. That’s me in a nutshell. When I got pregnant it was the same. I felt the loss of the beauty of who I was. Still, I also knew who I was becoming, the life I was birthing was going to be more full and beautiful, even if it came with messiness and heartache. All the things I perceived were true, but immensely more deep. Love turns things over. It exposes selfishness and ugly, dark places that were once hidden by many different facades. Love doesn’t ask for room; it moves everything else out of the way and fills up the crevices. It showed me that I needed to clean up a lot of things in my heart that shouldn’t be there. Love made good messes.

Love made some bad messes too. Well, it wasn’t really love per se, but the human heart’s uncanny ability to distort what is good. Experiencing such a huge upheaval of love all at once can be a hard thing to process. It comes suddenly, making all these messes, pulling back layers where we are vulnerable. My heart doesn’t know what to do about it sometimes, so it tries to create order. If my love isn’t anchored in the true and pure Love of God, it will become tainted. That impure love goes around masquerading as real love, when underneath those “loving” actions can be motivated by insecurity and selfishness. My heart has deceived itself into thinking ”love” is so exhausting that I deserve this or that. Goodness, look at all this loving I’m doing! Love made this and this and this, so I deserve to have a little selfishness here and there. Just look how hard love worked to make everything so orderly, how many messes it cleaned, how much time it spent caring…sure things got messy, but goodness, love did pretty good keeping everything ok. Before I know it, the impure love built an idol to itself. Under the guise of loving service my selfishness, combined with both pride and insecurity, built up in my heart. Boy, what a mess it becomes when God comes in and that weak foundation makes everything come tumbling down. It happens far more often than I’d like to admit. Real love is like a bright light that exposes all the dark places.

Most of all, Love made me ok with all the messes. After this year I’ve stopped trying to clean it all up. I’ve learned this lesson a thousand times, but I’m glad God doesn’t stop trying to teach me. I am a mess. But I am a mess He loves. After all, His love was messy too. It required leaving all of Heaven’s perfect glory and becoming humble in the most profound way. He became a man. He got dirty. He loved messy people by meeting them in their mess. I’m not exempt. Underneath my personality’s calm persona, there is often a raging storm in my heart and mind. I have no doubt I might be the biggest mess of all. And yet, He loves me. That insanely immense and pure love is teaching me, to first love Him, love other imperfect messy people and also to love my own messy self. I get that backwards a lot. Isn’t the human heart so strange? I’m baffled that we can love ourselves to much and yet despise who we are at the same time. Pride and insecurity live together simultaneously and both are hideous. Even in all the ugliness, the Blood of Christ covers us. In Jesus we are made whole. God’s love has made us new. Each and every moment of my life I need to cling to His truth, His love, His purity. I see my need for Him on a deeper level this year because of love’s messiness. I wonder if God laughs at our affinity for messes, like I do with Eleanora sometimes. She’s really good a destruction. Just today, she found my cup of coffee, thinking it was going to taste good and ended up pouring it all over herself and my rug. She wasn’t too happy after that. I’m not too happy in my messes either. I can’t clean them up though. It’s like Eleanora rubbing the coffee deeper into the rug. I can’t fix things. Only God can through the work of Christ, in the power of the Spirit. Love makes a big mess, and I’m thankful for it. God works in that big mess to make Love even more beautiful. He works in the best and worst of messes, clearing things out, making things right and letting us feel pain for a purpose. In love’s mess He can make us more like Jesus if we surrender to Him. He is the order in the chaos. He is the Love that overcomes selfishness. He is everything, more than enough  and immeasurably more than we can imagine. I’m glad His love comes in and wrecks me. I need more messes like that.