venues: first united methodist church, franklin (ceremony) and carton (reception) | planner: meagan wuest (carnton) and kristen bramlett (day of) | bride’s gown: heidi elnora | bride’s shoes: rené caovilla | hair and makeup: kristy osborne (mint julep salon) | bridesmaids’ dresses: lulakate (bella bridesmaids) | mens’ tuxedos: jos. a. bank | paper suite: empress stationery | calligraphy: the refined pen | floral design: garden delights | caterer: bacon & caviar | cake artist: dulce desserts | rentals: southern events rentals | lighting: bright event productions | signage: oak and elegance | bar/bourbon tasting: red dog wine and spirits | cigars: sanctuary cigars | limousine and vintage car: grand avenue | trolleys: franklin transit authority | entertainment: the downtown band | videographer: dallas wilson wedding films | photographer: allison lewis photography (with justin poland and abby lewis)

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it’s quite the emotional day, isn’t it, this thing we call mother’s day? for one woman it brings excitement, free facials, and breakfast in bed while for another, the wait or the hurt of the other 364 days of the year is magnified to the point of taking her breath away. with those women in mind – as well as the countless other women taking each step of each day as best as they’re able – i give you just a few of the stories i’ve been honored to tell.

to the girl who is becoming a mother for the first time, i rejoice with you over the new life god has created.

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to the ones who are waiting, i remember those days of longing and how it frustrated me to hear over and over that the wait would be worth it. but when the judge finally said, congratulations, he’s your son, my tears confessed to just how right everyone had been.

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to the moms who hear hard things but squeeze every ounce of love out of their tender hearts anyway, i marvel at your strength.

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to the ones who listen to the doctors say, it’s back but continue to walk in joy and peace, i praise the lord for holding you up, and i speak your names regularly in prayer.

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there are those who pour themselves out for the sake of loving a child who grew in another woman’s belly, and to you i say, i know it isn’t easy, but your work is holy.

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finally, there are precious women – many who are friends of mine – who will spend this mother’s day with a deep ache that won’t go away this side of glory. they may weep over what isn’t or their cries may be for what was but is no more. no matter why they fall, your tears aren’t wasted. i see you and i hurt with you, but that pales in comparison to the love and compassion of the One who not only sees your tears, but counts them, every one.

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whether rejoicing or walking in sorrow, may mother’s day this year be one that draws all of ours eyes upward to the father who is constant, gentle, and ever faithful and loving.

*photos from my daughter’s funeral by justin poland.

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the best way to top off an amazing surprise wedding is with a killer spring reception. congrats to candice and andy on a doubly delightful wedding and celebration!

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a personal note from candice and andy to their guests…

“we want you to know how loved and cherished you are to us and we cannot wait to celebrate our marriage with you. but we did something a little unconventional…

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“we were presented with a unique opportunity to have an intimate ceremony with our families when andy was approved to move here a lot sooner than we expected.

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“we went ahead and got married!!

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“by the time you read this, we will be gushing newlyweds answering to mr. and mrs

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“but the reception is still on!! come, eat good food, celebrate with us, and dance the night away. we cannot wait to see you there.”

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as 2016 is drawing to a close, i’m doing a lot of looking back and remembering at all that this beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful year held. we adopted twins, i tucked my real camera away for a while and shot life exclusively with my phone, and we eventually spent a warm, breezy day placing our baby’s body beneath the ground. i’ve said it countless times before, but i really do have the best clients in the world. they’ve been gracious, understanding, considerate, and generous with their care and concern for our family. thank you, friends, for how you’ve loved our family through this season. and thank you for giving me the honor of shooting these precious days for you. 

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this post wouldn’t be complete without an extra special thank you to one of my couples (ashleigh and josé), david (of david boyd photography), anita (of AK brides), and angela (of main street productions). our daughter, ava, passed away less than 48 hours before ashleigh’s and josé’s wedding; anita and angela flew into recruiting/management/planning mode which freed me to spend that time grieving with the rest of our family and planning ava’s funeral, david stepped in and shot beautifully and ensured that my couple felt cared for, anita ensured a smooth transition by traveling down to their venue to provide her extraordinary services, and ashleigh and josé…goodness, i could go on all day. they responded with more gracious compassion than i could have ever hoped for, even going so far as to plan for and shoot an extra special photograph to surprise me with when i began going through david’s images. so while i never got to shoot a single one of their wedding photos, i’ll always consider them part of the allison lewis photography family. thank you all for your outpouring of love and devotion to me during that time. there simply aren’t words to tell you just how humbled and grateful i was and continue to be.

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i’d had these weird, competing emotions leading up to thanksgiving this year. on one hand, i was thrilled because i knew we’d be surrounded by dear family (it helps that they’re all really good cooks, and really, who doesn’t love a plate full of dressing and butter-injected turkey?). i had also looked forward to the day because of the dual role it played in our family’s life this year – it was the first birthday of our twins.

but what happens when the vast space between november 24, 2015 and november 24, 2016 didn’t just include your babies’ births – but also one of their deaths? what does their thanksgiving birthday look like when one of them didn’t live to celebrate it? it’s hard to find the happy in that.

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a friend texted on wednesday to let me know she was praying us through the next day. when she asked how i was doing, i answered with something to the effect of, i’m broken. peaceful. cheerful. sad. irritable. full of hope. this last year just can’t be wrapped up in a nice little package with a pretty bow. it’s been hard and it’s been messy. but every time i’ve looked out beyond the ups, downs, swirling madness, and chaos, i’ve seen just one thing.

jesus, the unchanging anchor.

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while our thoughts, emotions, and sometimes even our actions have been variable and fickle, he’s never budged. he’s always been planted firmly in the seat of hope and the place of joy. those two things are what have sustained us through the storms of the last year. no, we can’t be happy that our baby died a few days before she was six months old. but we can believe god when he says that he’s using the sorrows in our life to prepare for us an eternal weight of glory (2 cor. 4:17). we can trust that the lord uses our suffering to ignite a divine chain of events that propel us through perseverance, character, and hope (romans 5:3-4). and out of that hope is birthed not a fleeting happiness, but a joy that can’t be shaken.

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so what did our FirstBirthdayThanksgiving look like this year? we began the morning at ava’s grave being wowed by sam and that whole twin-bond thing. we finally decided to just sit and BE with our expected flood of tears and a delightful serving of laughter and memories.

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after our beautiful time at the cemetery, we made our way down the little two lane road to my grandmother’s house, where we’ve celebrated thanksgiving day for decades now. when she passed away a couple of months before sam’s and ava’s birth, she left her century-old home to my parents who have spent the last many months renovating it. the last time the whole family was there together was the day of ava’s burial. the house was stripped down to its skeleton state and i remember standing in the middle of all that old creaky wood thinking of how much life had taken place there. babies were born within those walls. marriages began under that old archway between two of the rooms. and many tears were shed as loved ones took their last breaths. my meme’s house had always been a lovely, warm place for me, but i fell even more in love with it that day. so much life and death had passed through the lord’s hands there within the last hundred years, and it was comforting to know that as our family gathered to celebrate ava’s life and to mourn her death, our story was just one of so many joys and sorrows, all written by the author of life himself.

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i found it a sweet gift that after that dark, sorrowful day there within the torn down walls, the next time we all gathered in that house again was to celebrate thanksgiving and our babies’ birth. gone was the empty shell of a home and in its place was light, life, and joy. nearly every room still bears the marks of generations past – from the original wood floors to the expanse of old bead board ceilings – but it’s now a tangible picture to me of how the lord makes all things new. the floors still show evidence of hard days past – there are deep gouges in some places where past damage marked the delicate surface – but they’ve now been refreshed and restored.

i think it’s the perfect reminder of what the lord has done for us. we’ve been marred by sin, pain, and grief, but god, in his holy passion for his children, has given his own son to pave the only way for us to be restored and redeemed.

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one year old.

my parents have a longstanding tradition of frequenting this certain little bakery to get a cake for each grandchild’s first birthday. i knew to expect sam’s cake to be special because the bakery has always worked hard to make these cakes unique, but what i wasn’t prepared for was how my mom and aunt had gone out of their way to ensure that this cake was one i would never forget. as my mom told me later that day, we wanted to show that although sam and ava are away from each other now, a part of them will always be together. so many tears and so much thankfulness for their extraordinarily thoughtful gift.

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years ago, josh and i began praying for a voice in the midst of what we saw going on around us in our country. we wanted a way to speak for the very, very least of these, to speak for those who weren’t yet born and couldn’t speak for themselves. in our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have scripted the story the way the lord did. we couldn’t have possibly imagined that in praying for a voice, the lord would actually give us *two* very real, very tangible little voices. we’ve praised him every day since sam’s and ava’s birth for his hilarious, creative, magnificent answer to our prayers. it’s been a long, wonderful year. i thank god for the platform he’s given me to share over social media and for the countless conversations and debates that ava’s life, in particular, has sparked both online and face to face.

as this first anniversary of their birth passes, though, i’ve prayerfully decided to step away from the mic for a while. my email, messenger, phone, and calendar have virtually exploded since ava’s story has made its way into the hearts of many, and my family and i are finding ourselves in need of a season of stillness and rest. before i shut it down, though, i have to say that as i look back over this last year, i’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for the innumerable ways that you’ve loved us and loved ava, and i am so enormously grateful to you for sharing in our joys and sorrows. truly, thank you.

i’ve begged the lord time and time again to help me steward the voice that he gave me well, and i pray with all my heart that what you’ve seen over this last year is a whole lot of jesus.

because that, my friends, is all that matters.

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he is the image of the invisible god, the firstborn of all creation. for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. and he is the head of the body, the church. he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. for in him all the fullness of god was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
-colossians 1:15-20

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