Rob and Shelbie: Beloved Giveaway Winners – Clifton VA Portrait Photographer

Back in February when I decided to host a Beloved Session Giveaway, I had absolutely no idea how much it would bless me. To hear your stories, your struggles, and to hear how hard you all work at your marriages, just reminded me again how important sessions like this truly are! One email in particular stood out from the first time I read through it, and I knew I had to meet the incredible couple that Chris and Claudia had nominated. Rob and Shelbie have such a unique, beautiful story, and I was thrilled to select them as the winners of this giveaway! With Rob and Shelbie’s permission, I asked Chris if he minded if I let him share their story with you, since he tells it so wonderfully, so it is my honor and privilege to introduce you all to Rob and Shelbie and their love story through his words…

“This beautiful love story, actually starts with two influential men in my life.  Never fear though, our heroine will soon make an appearance.

I met Dave Cho my sophomore year of high school in 2004 when he became the high school youth director at our church.  I had just joined the student leadership team, which Dave would oversee, and had signed up for a summer mission trip to Mexico, which Dave would lead.  It looked like we’d be getting to know each other over the course of the next year.  Over the next 3 years, Dave would be, without a doubt, one of the most influential people in my life… ever.

He was the kind of person that struck a great balance between pushing you past what you ever thought possible while also being the gentle encourager who spoke words of life and truth: Don’t do it b/c you can or because you must.  Do it because of what God has done in you.  The work he’s done in you, he now wants to do through you.  And he found someway to do this to dozens of teenagers, all at the same time.  Despite leading a youth group of hundred of kids, he could find a way to connect with each individual.I first met Rob Olson about that same time when he began hanging with our high school boys small group (encouraged, as I would later find out, by Dave Cho).  This middle-aged, single, mystery of a man and I became fast friends as we began co-leading the small group as an adult-student team.  Our mutual love for soccer (Rob is the Director of Coaching for a youth soccer club in Northern Virginia), the Lord, and young people meant we shared a lot in common.  Most of the other adult volunteers were either dad’s themselves who had children in the youth group or were young adults who didn’t have kids yet.  Rob was old enough to be my father, yet had never been married.As our relationship began to grow, our friendship did as well.  I spent time not only co-leading bible study with Rob, but also co-coaching youth soccer.  We trained teams, coached all stars, and ran a weeklong overnight soccer camp.  I remember Rob, on several different occasions, recounting stories about funny “blind dates” that co-workers and church friends set him up on.  For some reason though, they just never seemed to quite work out.  Even when I went off to college, Rob and I continued to stay in touch and I’d help him coach whenever I was home for summer or winter breaks.Sadly, it was tragedy that first introduced me to Shelbie, Dave’s wife.  In the early spring of 2007, my senior year of high school, Dave was diagnosed with Liver Cancer.  Three months later, several weeks before my high school graduation, he passed away.  I had heard much about Shelbie through Dave, but I had never had the chance to meet her.  After all, she spent most of her time at home raising their 4 kids, all under the age of 7.My first introduction to this brave woman was at her husbands funeral.  In 3 short months, she had lost her husband to an unanticipated, ruthless, aggressive cancer; a cancer that came so rapidly and unexpectedly that Shelbie actually delivered their 5th child the week after Dave passed away.  As one of the older students who had best known Dave, I was asked to serve as a paul-bearer at the funeral.  I didn’t have any idea what I would say to a young widow…So, here we are at the funeral and I’m trying to catch a glimpse of the woman who just lost her husband, father of her children, and best friend in the prime of life, right before she gives birth to their 5th child, when the oldest had barely started elementary school.  And what is she doing when I first catch a glimpse of her at the funeral service?  She’s worshipping.  On her feet.  Hands raised.  Voice crying out to God.  Worshipping.That is when I knew there was something special about this woman…Over the course of the next 2 years I got to know Shelbie and the kids; after that display of faith, how could you not want to know more about that family?  I’d occasionally go over and babysit when I was home from college or just go take a tub of ice cream to share with the kids.  The more I got to know Shelbie, the more I found a friend.  Someone who had experienced so much tragedy so early in life, yet despite having to raise 5 kids on her own, always had so much energy, passion, and joy.Fast forward two years to the summer of 2009.  I was studying abroad in Lima, Peru when I received the most unexpected Facebook message from Shelbie: Chris, I hope all is going well with your travels.  I just wanted to let you know that Rob Olson and I have been dating.  My heart just about jumped out of my chest!  I was so excited for two people I’d grown to love so much.  Yet I tried to bridle my joy knowing the complexities that relationships bring.Then a few weeks later, another message: Last night Rob told me he had no desire to date other people, just me :).  I couldn’t believe it.  I began to think Maybe God… just maybe.I returned to the US in August of 2009 and grabbed lunch with Rob one day before heading back to school.  I remember broaching the subject with him and received a slightly nervous, yet confident response: I really think she’s the one.  I mean, I know she has 5 kids, but… God’s been doing something.  I have spent my entire adult life as a youth soccer coach!In September I was blessed to be asked to be in their wedding.  And, finally, in December 2009, Rob Olson redeemed Shelbie and her 5 kids and adopted them all as his own.I will never forgot standing beside Rob at the alter as a groomsman.  Over the last 4 years I had watched God work a miracle.  Yes it was slow, and agonizing, and painful.  There were moments it seemed that despair had won.  Yet in that moment, God declared victory.  He confirmed that he “works all together for the good of those who love him.”  The man who had been so patient, and waited so long, was finally blessed with a family.As I looked at Shelbie I couldn’t help but feel the irony of the circle of life.  Two years earlier I had met her as I carried the body of her deceased husband, my mentor and second father, into the church for this funeral.  Now, on their wedding day, I stood beside another mentor and friend, promising to encourage him and Shelbie and help them remain faithful and true as they entered into the marriage covenant.So, that’s the beloved story.  Rob and Shelbie continue to grow in their new lives together, raising their 5 kids: Abigail, Samantha, David Jr., Charise, and Liam. They’re not long into their marriage, they celebrated 3 years this winter, but God has blessed them with wisdom well beyond their years.One of Rob’s other groomsman read this scripture the day of Rob’s wedding and it’s always stuck with me: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6). A modern day Ruth and Boaz.  A woman who chose to follow and honor God, despite tragedy, and forsake everything she had formerly.  An older, God fearing man, who though given many blessings, had never been blessed with a family; doing the honorable thing, rescuing and redeeming a godly woman and family.God still redeems.  God still wins.”Thank you again to Chris and Claudia for introducing me to Rob and Shelbie and nominating this incredible couple in the first place!  Rob and Shelbie, thank you for spending your evening with me and allowing me to share your story. It was an honor to have you both in front of my camera :) I’m blessed to know you both! Happy Friday :)

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  1. Talya says:

    Chris’ account is absolutely beautiful… I have never personally met any of the key players, but I first learned of Shelbie in 2007 during Dave’s illness as I followed their story on Caring Bridge. To see God at work then and over these years has been a true blessing to me. Shelbie’s resolve to exalt the Lord and give Him glory in ALL circumstances is a testimony for all of us. Rob and Shelbie are such a deserving couple.

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