"If you want something to last forever you treat it differently. You shield and protect it. You never abuse it. You don't expose it to the elements. You don't make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you make it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by." - F. Burton Howard
I'm so excited to finally announce one of our TWO love story contest winners!! A HUGE thank you to all the people who entered. Each and every one of your love stories was so special to me. I had an overwhelming amount of submissions and it was so hard to choose just one! So we chose two! :) First, I'll introduce the Stafford family and tell you how their story stole my heart!
Kalea and Jarin's love story began when they were just kids. They have so many family connections, they were practically tied to one another since before they were born. Their families are both from Blackwell, OK, Kalea attended Jarin's aunt's in-home daycare as a little girl, and their dad's were both Oklahoma Highway Patrolmen. When Kalea and Jarin were young, Jarin and his sister would go to Blackwell for long weekends or over the summer to stay with his grandparents. One summer, when Kalea and Jarin were about 7 years old, Jarin told Kalea he liked her, and of course at that age Kalea still thought boys were "gross." Before going to the movies, when they were younger, Jarin tried to impress Kalea by dousing himself in cologne, which has become a family joke still to this day.
Kalea and Jarin both attended different high schools, but were reunited in 2011 when Jarin moved to Blackwell to attend Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa. At the time, Kalea was living with her parents and Jarin's grandma "forced" them to go out to dinner together since Jarin knew no one else in town. Kalea says "from then on, we became inseparable."
What made me fall in love with their love story, was what came between Jarin's 7 year old cologne and their reunion in 2011. In 2009, Kalea became pregnant. She was only 19 and working hard to finish school at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. She was in an unhealthy relationship and decided it would be best if she moved back in with her parents. Kalea believes God has a plan for everything and believes that if she hadn't had her son, Ace, she would have continued to be in that unhappy relationship. From 2009 to 2011, the only father figure Ace had was Kalea's dad, until Jarin came into their lives. At the time, Jarin was only 20 years old, but loved Ace as his own. Kalea said "from day one, Jarin and Ace just clicked." Jarin wanted so badly to be there for Ace because he lost his own dad to brain cancer in 2001, and didn't want Ace to have a life without a father. Jarin's family always welcomed Kalea and Ace, and Ace even began to call Jarin "dad".
On August 31, 2012, Kalea was on her way to meet Jarin for lunch, when she noticed two Oklahoma Highway Patrol vehicles sitting side by side on the road. Next thing she knew, lights were flashing, and she was being pulled over! She was terrified because she knew she wasn't speeding, and always wore her seat belt. The officer asked Kalea to get out of the car. As the officer ran her plates and license, another patrol call came barreling around them. When she looked up, she saw her love, Jarin, getting out of the second OHP car and saw "Will You Marry Me?" written on the back of the vehicle. Kalea says "It was surreal, perfect, and a huge surprise!" With both of their dads being patrolmen, nothing could have been more perfect for them.
Flash Forward to October 19, 2013. Kalea and Jarin's wedding day! They both decided they wanted to honor Jarin's late father, so they got married at 5:34 in the afternoon. 534 was Jarin's dad's badge number and a beautiful way to honor his father. On their wedding day, Ace told all the guests "We" (the three of them) were getting married. Ace and Kalea's father walked her down the aisle to the love of her life. When they lit the unity candle during their wedding ceremony, they invited Ace to the altar with them to light it. Symbolizing the three of them officially becoming a family.
On August 5, 2014, after 9 months of home studies and meetings with attorneys Ace officially became Ace James Stafford.
Since then, Kalea, Jarin and Ace welcomed a new addition to the Stafford family, Delaney Jean Stafford, born March 25, 2015.
It was such a joy to meet this sweet family of four and I wish them many years of love and happiness and I feel so honored to have been able to photograph their family!