March 27, 2013

Disney Giveaway Shoot: Sonya & Steven

A year ago during our WPPI Platform we showed this video that told Sonya & Steven’s story of how he was deployed in Afghanistan when she was pregnant and gave birth without him back in the States to their first child, baby Grace. Then we surprised everyone in the room and brought them up on stage.

These guys knew they were there to surprise everyone in the room, but what they didn’t know is that once they were up there….we had a surprise for them. We said that since they had missed out on the magic of sharing the first few months of Grace’s life together, we thought we would do something to bring a little magic back. So we gave them 4 days & 3 nights in Walt Disney World, and Justin & I would fly down to do a shoot of them while they were there.

We scheduled the trip for this year right before the What’s Next Tour, and right before Steven had to deploy again. When we saw them, it turns out that Sonya is now pregnant with their second child. And everything- the deployment, the due date, how long he’ll be gone after- is lining up to be just like the first time. That Steven will be out serving his country when he misses the birth of now his second child. When I asked them why they would do this, knowing how hard it was to be apart the first time….they both simply said, “Because we want our kids to know our life was about something bigger than ourselves.”

Gah! I LOVE these guys! And for me, I think the best surprise that came out of all of this had nothing to do with WPPI or Platform talks. It didn’t even have anything to do with Disney World or mouse ears. The best surprise for me is the friends for life we’ve found in these two. And what an honor it is to know them. Because honestly, they make us want to be better people! Ladies & Gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you, Officer Steven Verblaauw, his wife Sonya & (not quite a baby anymore!) Little Miss Grace!!

  1. Samantha

    so lovely! what a beautiful family – they will treasure these photographs forever! xoxo

  2. Katie

    Simply beautiful! Love the emotion, details, and intimacy of this session. Such wonderful memories for them to cherish!

  3. Tiffany Farley

    GAH! The one where he kisses his daughter on her head. Oh I love. Perfection. That’s the nightstand portrait. Adore love perfect the end. :)

  4. Ashley

    Eeeeekkk!!!! What a beautiful family. And, the pictures- amazing; as always. =)

  5. Kate

    What a beautiful family inside and out. Wishing them the best of luck through the upcoming deployment and the birth of their second babe.

  6. ashley barnett

    Goodness gracious they make beautiful babies! Grace is so darling! And Sonya looks amazing! So happy to see these!!! :)

  7. bethany cox

    somehow I missed the original post and here I sit, with tears. Thank you so much for having a giving heart. God does so many things if we are simply willing to do what he asks. you are both such an inspiration and I am honored just to know of you and read your influence on the world. Fabulous photos too…. :)

  8. Lanie Kay

    SWOON! These are pure perfection! Can you say ADORABLE!!!

  9. Amanda

    I love the one with Sonya & Steven in front of the water fall *gush* so classy.. Love her dress! Grace is a baby doll!

  10. ashley link

    oh my gosh! this is fantastic and definitely brought tears to my eyes! sonya, you look beautiful!!! such a sweet and gorgeous family! <3 <3 <3

  11. Nikki Santerre

    You guys are such admirable leaders in this industry! What a beautiful family. I pray God keeps Steven safe during his second deployment!

  12. Stacey

    What a setting for family portraits! Just beautiful emotional images. Their story gets me every time. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Holly

    This makes me happy on so many different levels – the photo level, the family level, the love level. Ahhhhh. Beautiful.

  14. Sarah Adams

    This is incredibly precious. Heart melted. :)

  15. Amanda

    I seriously cannot handle how beautiful this family is! <3

  16. colleen

    goodness….they are obviously a beautiful family ‘inside’, but they are also beautiful ‘outside’. How lovely to read and get to know these amazing people through your words and photos. I will keep them in my prayers. And thank you to this family for what they do to keep us safe and free. God Bless!

  17. Tiffany Bolk

    You guys are awesome! I hope that one day I will be able to offer something like this!

  18. stephanie

    ahh! these brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing and thank you for giving back. These will be pictures that they’ll absolutely cherish forever!!!

  19. jamie

    this. is. amazing! what an awesome way to celebrate his service and the images are GORGEOUS! I know they will value and treasure them for…well, ever!

  20. Tira J

    Crying all over again looking at these pictures and remembering the surprise from last year. What beautiful memories you have given this family. And Steven, thank you for serving our country and for protecting our freedoms. God Bless You! xoxo

  21. Tricia

    I adore these and you two of course! Thank you to Steven, Sonya & babygirl Grace for your service and sacrifices for our country!

  22. Katelyn James


  23. Emilia Jane

    Her dress is just perfect for this shoot! I remember crying seeing them hear about everything at WPPI and it is so beautiful to see the fruition of your blessings J&M. Love your beautiful hearts.

  24. Alicia White

    Ahh!! I’ve been WAITING for these to post since I watched them enter the room at WPPI!! I love this SOOOO MUCH!! <3 How perfect is this! xoxo Thanks for bringing people joy in all the ways you do!

  25. Susan Evans

    WOW!!! Beautiful images of a beautiful family! How Precious. I’m especially loving little Graci’s dress with the matching bloomers. Adorable.

  26. Katie Jane

    This made me all teary. Such an amazing story and such beautiful photos.

  27. Lydia

    Oh, these are just some of my most favorite pictures of yours! I remember sitting in that room last year watching them on stage open their "gift." But these pictures and the memories you helped them to create is the real gift!

  28. Abby Grace

    Oh J&M, these are beautiful. This session represents you both and your brand and your style SO well!!

  29. Sarah Hoppes

    This story and these photos are so beautiful.

  30. Cindy Habel

    Love this session…so beautiful…one of my favourites!

  31. Karen Stott

    Um.. seriously.. can you guys follow our family to DisneyWorld and photograph us??? LOL

  32. Jennifer Medeiros

    Amazing! And being a fellow military wife, I have quite an idea of just how much this must have meant to them. God bless you two!!

  33. Tara Peddicord

    Oh my heart. I love this. And this sweet family. And you guys. So very much.

  34. Tonya Damron

    i loved getting to see them at WPPI

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