The Richards family is preparing to welcome the addition of a very eagerly awaited baby girl. (Mercy Joy was actually born yesterday!) Emmanuel (aka Manny) and David are about to get a little sister who will surely add a new dimension to their constant activity and play. Last week we featured just Mary on our blog focusing on celebrating her stunning maternal state as it’s in its literal last days. Click here to see Mary’s maternity portraits.
I introduced blog followers to Mary last week and mentioned we would pick up our story of Mary and Jordan’s life together and how their lives entwined into their modern day love story. Mary had been working in her career as an exercise and fitness coach for 6 years at prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale. She was working as a strength and conditioning specialist and coach training elite athletes at Boston College when she met Jordan. Meanwhile, a parishioner who attended her uncle’s church out in California was preparing to move to Boston because he had just been drafted to play for the New England Patriots football team. Enter Jordan into the story God’s writing into Mary’s life.
Mary’s uncle told Jordan, ‘I have a niece who lives in the area and she can plug you in to a local church and Bible study group, you should look her up.’ Jordan’s life was taking a twist he never saw coming. Football was something he pursued because of his natural giftedness as an athlete. He was recruited by Stanford University and given a full ride to play for them. His incredible athletic ability combined with his magnetic personality and dogged work ethic led to him being the captain of the team at Stanford. Upon graduation, Jordan was hopeful for a continuation of his football career into the NFL.
To his great surprise, Jordan was drafted in the 2nd round by Bill Belichick to play for the Patriots in 2015. He was projected to be late in the draft, so being selected in the 2nd round was just the beginning of the surprises the Lord had prepared for Jordan.
Jordan started his rookie season with the Patriots, getting his bearings to a new life in the NFL. Mary reached out via text to make their first introduction. They chatted and she offered to introduce Jordan to an event as New England to Bostonians as crabs are to Marylanders–the Beanpot. The Beanpot is an annual collegiate hockey tournament that’s dubbed the social event of the winter season between Boston College, Boston Un., Harvard and Northeastern. Stakes are high as the winner officially holds the bragging rights for the year ahead. Mary had played ice hockey for Boston College and loved watching the games as a trainer and fan as well so the Beanpot was her jam. Jordan said he’d love to go and if the Patriots didn’t make it to the SuperBowl he’d be free. That year the Patriots didn’t win their AFC championship game, so Jordan was free.
Well, that year the Patriots didn’t make it to the Superbowl and Jordan and Mary would have their first meeting…not yet called a date because they hadn’t met in person. Jordan still isn’t sure why he drove to pick Mary up for the Beanpot as neither of them saw this as a date. In fact, when Mary saw her athletic director from Boston College at the Bean Pot she wasn’t sure how to introduce him. Unbeknownst to her, he knew Jordan’s safeties’ coach who had also attended and played football at Boston College. What do you call gathering for an ice hockey game with a guy you’ve only spoken to on the phone? Little did she suspect at the time that this gentleman would become the love of her life, the father to her children, the spiritual leader for her family, the ever ready dance partner and the smile that brightens her everyday.
This would be the man, who knew long before she suspected, would ask for her hand in marriage. Just 1 year in, unbeknownst to Mary, Jordan met with her father to ask for his blessing to propose to her. When he did pop the question and place a ring on her finger just a few months later, she was pleasantly shocked and knew she was saying yes to the man the Lord had prepared for her since before she was born. 5 months later they were married and have been for 3 years now. Jordan is preparing to start his 7th season in the NFL. He started with the Patriots, then went to the Falcons, then the Raiders, then back to the Patriots and most recently has been a free safety for the Ravens and is about to start his 3rd season for them.
Jordan and Mary live their life on mission. A mission to be the light for the Gospel (good news) of Jesus’s great love for each and every one of us. They actively help connect players in the professional sports world to their faith in the Lord. They help to promote a marriage conference to strengthen family bonds within the NFL, MLB and NHL. It’s a time to set aside all the noise of the fan boys/girls, player expectations, performance demands and focus on spiritual growth that is essential to finding joy and purpose in life far beyond the fleeting years in the spotlight. Mary leads a Bible study/playgroup for other moms in the league who often feel isolated as they move from town to town trying to find a circle they can trust to raise their families in.
These lovebirds are a perfect compliment to one another. Jordan is a very hands on dad who is quick to break into song, dance, ball tosses, book reading, hugs, hair taming…whatever the moment calls for with his boys. As anyone who has had children can anticipate, portrait time with 18 month old toddlers is full of motion, escape plans and rerouting at every turn. One twin is in the scene and the other has just discovered something fascinating and is off to the races. Throughout the beautiful chaos of our time together, never once did I see Mary or Jordan ever lose patience with the boys. Instead, they stepped up to the plate at every segment and worked their hardest to help me lock down what is most precious to them in this life.
Mary should have been exhausted from our time together, at 38 weeks pregnant. Instead she left feeling energized and beaming telling me, “This was the most beautiful I have ever felt in my entire life.” It doesn’t matter how many times women tell me that…every single time it makes me want to cry and tell the Lord thank You for equipping me to give that gift to the women He places before my lens.
Watching Jordan as a father was precious. I lost count of the number of times one of the boys would cuddle into him and reach for him to bring them up into a big bear hug. It’s clear Mary and Jordan are the boys rocks in a shifting sand world and their soft place to land in life full of thorny paths. When they tire from their exploring, they know who will always cheer them on, encourage them to sing praises, to dance and to reach for the stars.
Mary uses the word grateful in just about every aspect of her life. She’s grateful for the blessings the Lord has showered into her life and feels compelled to pour that back out. Living life on mission with Jordan to do just that energizes her and makes this world a better place for all people they impact.
As we were wrapping up, the bubbles was supposed to be the end, but…
as mom and dad were packing up, the boys set to exploring some of the props that were down low for our JDP seniors. So, it was impossible for me to resist.
Then dad joined in the fun with his boys and donned a hat and sunglasses as well to their great delight. Most dads would have been exhausted by the circus that is family portraits with toddlers and insisted the play stop and pack up. Instead, dad saw the joy in his boys and made a memory with them that will always be locked down in their collection to remind them of the last days they were a family of 4…
Jordan and Mary, it’s clear you are blazing a path that is blessed by the Lord and pointing people to the love of Jesus as you live your lives under His guidance and grace. May you always cling to that mission and offer your lives in submission to whatever path He places you because the world is watching and learning that He is to be trusted and where true life is found!