So, I've been wanting to tell my best friend's story for some time now... it's a story that was birthed through pain & loss, followed by a movement into a period of grief & empowerment, and finally resting in a chapter of healing, spiritual self discovery & forgiveness. Her story is powerful. Her story is significant, but her willingness in allowing me to capture & share it is the most beautiful part of all. What would the world be if we didn't share our journey? With that said, I hope her story connects with you, inspires you & reveals to you that your story is also worth telling....
In the spring of 2015 Natalie sat in the first house her & her husband built shortly after their marriage in 2007. The home where she became a mother, established her business & shared many memories with the people she loved. She's packing boxes & handling phone calls from the lender whom just assisted in the purchase of the land they would build on next. Their new home would be unconventional, inspired by nature & unique.... just like her. She was excited about this new journey for their life..... while unaware of the storm that brewed up ahead & it's life changing impact. Marriage is hard right? I mean speaking from a woman that has been through a divorce and re-married let me answer that for you... yes. Yes, marriage is hard sometimes. Things happen that we can't control, emotions build and resentment sometimes takes deep roots. Unresolved pain can sneak in undetected, and other times it's everywhere all at once. One day can change everything. And Natalie's story is no exception. A volcano erupted within the walls of her home, situations that were hidden in the dark came to light abruptly & before she knew it she found herself signing a lease on a two bedroom apartment down the street for her & her son.
Wait, this wasn't the plan! This wasn't suppose to happen this way! I should be building my dream home instead of hanging broken blinds on this old glass sliding door! I should be designing my master bedroom instead of figuring out how this king size bed frame is going to fit into this small apartment bedroom! I was suppose to be finalizing plans for my gourmet kitchen that would open up to our custom pool, not deciding on which pots, pans & utensils I have room for in this match-box size kitchen. How can this be happening? Where did it fall apart? I've done everything right! Instead of planning the future with the love of my life, I am wrestling with placing my wedding ring in a dark drawer not knowing if I will ever wear it again. Instead of being room mom, picking up dry cleaning, preparing paleo - organic meals & running a photography business from the comforts of my home while wearing yoga pants, I am consumed by the reality that I am a single mom. I have to get a job! I have to get my car signed over! I have to arrange for someone to watch my kid after school if I'm working! How am I going to run my business now? What am I going to tell my son when he asks where daddy is? I. AM. ALONE.
These were just some of the thoughts my dear friend was battleing throughout the day while we moved her & Pax in that small apartment. I'm sure for those of you reading this that have experienced a separation or divorce or loss of any kind can certainly relate. I know I can.
Natalie would spend the next year of her life in the apartment that we all referred to as "The Shanty". Natalie's Shanty. This would be the place where Natalie would find herself, more times than not, peeling herself off her bedroom floor. Consumed by pain so deep and real that sometimes it left her paralyzed. Her family never left her side and her girls rallied around her during this time. We were there, through it all. Through the tears, the anger, the laughter. We were there. We weren't going anywhere. You see, up until this time Natalie had always been the one we would run to with our personal drama & conflicts. She would always openly listen while watering her plants with bare feet & a nonjudgmental heart. Oh the stories she would hear from us & the tears she would wipe... from me particularly. She was a symbol of stability & her life up until this point was something we millennials would label with the hashtag #lifegoals. So when shit hit the fan & the rug was ripped out from under her, you better believe we came running. RUNNING. We joined forces with her incredible family & surrounded her with love & support. My girls are my life line. My sunshine on a cloudy day & Natalie is the yin to my yang. If you're reading this and don't have a solid group of girl friends you can run to at any given time, I encourage you to do that & do it fast.
I witnessed her grow, regress, and then grow even more during the time in the Shanty. I watched her dive into herself like she never had before. She worked her ass off too. She single handedly ran her photography business, worked a part-time job at a salon our good friends own, & even took on watching an additional child over the summer to make extra money. She traveled for herself, one specific trip we took to the mountains of Arkansas gave her and I, hands down, one of the funniest memories in our entire friendship (ahem [clears throat], I've never rolled off a steep drop like I did on that trip.... go ahead and take a second to laugh Natalie, because how can you not??). She also embarked on a deep spiritual journey during her time in the Shanty. She got closer to God than she ever had been before. She read SO many books, you know those books that you see at the local book store that you never think you will need to read? Books related to healing, self awareness & emotional strength building. Well, newsflash, you most likely will go through something life changing one day and the power these books pack are a glorious gift. So don't judge next time you come across one, in fact, buy it.
The day then came when Natalie desired a home of her own. After all, she watched her ex buy her dream house in her dream location without her....to top it off, it had a freaking pool. Before she decided to start looking for her own permanent home, she wrestled with the what ifs. What if he wants to work things out? What if he asks me to move in? What if we could just find a good counselor? What if I just stay a little longer in the Shanty just incase?
She wrestled, but not for long. After many prayers followed by sustainable peace, Natalie started the search for the place her and Pax could call home. Pax was set to start kindergarten soon, so she got busy looking at houses in the school district she desired. I can't even tell you how many houses us girls looked at with her. It was exciting!! It was a time of redemption & independence and boy was she ready. She had done the work emotionally, she had prayed relentlessly, and the peace she held onto was strong enough to be felt by anyone that crossed her path. It was time. In July of 2016, Natalie and Paxton moved into a cozy, beautiful home right smack dab in her dream neighborhood. What was even better was that it was literally one minute from my house. #bonus. It was perfectly her. I remember our first dance party in her new space. I'm pretty sure I have it saved on my phone. What a glorious time for her and Pax. What an accomplishment. She did it. She got there. She dreamed & believed in herself, and with the help of her village, & the good Lord above, she got there.
Natalie has been in her bungalow for over a year now. Her story continues to evolve so beautifully and unapologetically her own. She's a woman with divine vision, unwaivering love, constant self awareness & evolution. She practices forgiveness daily & her unconditional devotion is something I continue to learn from. She's always been confident & strong.... but now.... now she's brave, she's incredibly brave. She steps into her everyday more grounded than the day before. She lives in the now, which is something that I admire so much in her. She knows who she is and who she is not.... and that, to me is what defines your success as well as inspires those around you. She's a force to be reckoned with and I am so honored to call her my best friend & soul mate. Here's to you Natalie Lane, to all you've been through these past few years, to everything you've learned and embraced, to all that you've forgiven and let go of & to all that is to come. Thank you for allowing me to capture you guys & tell your story. Sorry it took me so long, I guess the Lord decided the time was NOW.
I wanted to start our Lifestyle Session together at the home where it all began. Her willingness to go along with my vision meant so much to me. So, that's what we did. It begins at the home she built with her then husband. It was the "perfect" home so to speak. When we went back there & sat on the curb just taking it all in, something divine happened. I'm not sure what... but we felt it. We watched Paxton as he worked through his early memories in that house with his family. We were silent & fully present in the moment. Then we carried on to The Shanty, what an important part of the story. We couldn't stay long because someone was living in her old apartment. I did manage to snap a picture of the door two seconds before the new tenant came outside. Then we traveled down to the river to catch the gorgeous sunset. In my opinion, this story wouldn't be complete without nature. After all, you say it best Nat.... Nature is your teacher.... and there's just something about the water. Its muddled appearance, is met by its cleansing power. A lot of emotional stuff can be worked through when you simply go down to the river. Trust me. We ended our time together at their new home documenting their everyday together. Single parenting can be hard in many ways.... but my dear Natalie, you own it sister and you own it perfectly. You are an inspiration to many & I love you to your core. Paxton is so blessed to have a mom like you... a mom that is a fighter, a lover, a teacher & so grounded. Kiss that blonde headed boy for me & tell him I said to go to bed early tonight!