wedding planner: mariée ami wedding planning studio | venue: private home | bride’s gown: martina liana (ivory & white) | hair and makeup: kerri bunn (boma beautiful) | bridesmaids’ dresses: bella bridesmaids | groomsmen’s tuxedos: jos. a. bank | invitation suite: caroline borders with mariée ami | calligraphy: the refined pen | floral designer: dykes culp | caterer: savoie | cake artist: sherry cunningham | tent, rentals, and lighting: event rentals unlimited | ceremony musicians: samford strings | reception entertainment: black jacket | videographer: the film poets | photographer: allison lewis photography (with anna wamsted)
i stood in the middle of that large worship room – the very one in which we’d recently held the service to celebrate ava’s life – and felt the familiar welling of hot tears as i learned what she was walking through with her unborn baby. the mutual friend who was sharing the story told me that the neurologists were saying many phrases that were familiar to our family, too, and i immediately felt peculiarly close to the young mom she was speaking of, a young mom that i’d never even met. our mutual friend asked gingerly and with much compassion, i know the wounds are fresh for you, but do you think you could talk with her?
the three of us emailed back and forth a bit and when the time eventually came when i could go a whole day without crying, i thought, i’m ready now. the lord had that sweet momma on my heart every single day for a week so i let out one good cry, prayed, and finally got myself together to call her. josie was every bit as precious on the phone as i imagined she would be. i guess we only made it two or three minutes into the call, though, when she told me the news: she was going to the hospital the following morning for their baby’s delivery.
before i could even think about how weird it might be to josie for me, a virtual stranger, to photograph her baby’s birth, i offered to come that following morning to shoot what was sure to be an incredibly emotional day. much to my delight, she was as excited about it as i was. what i didn’t know then, though, is that i would end up rushing my daughter to the hospital that night for complications from her newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. while they worked to stabilize my little one in the early hours of that morning, i had to write the heartbreaking note to let josie know i could no longer come to document the arrival of her own darling blessing. despite a last minute change in plans – and to everyone’s incredible thankfulness and joy – baby jed made his appearance that afternoon far stronger and more stable than anyone had offered hope of.
after another plan to visit was bumped by unscheduled trip to the hospital for jed, i finally got my hands on this precious gift today, and yes, i’m most certainly smitten with this little love and his family. i sat back and admired the way josie and her husband, richard, gently cared for jed and praised god for the tremendous value of his life. there’s no doubt about it, my friends, it was beautiful and sacred in their home today.
“there is one thing that deserves my greatest care, that calls forth my ardent desires,
that is that i may answer the great end for which i am made –
to glorify thee who hast given me being.”
-a puritan prayer
on october 19, 2015, my husband and i flew back to birmingham from shooting a most swoon-worthy wedding. caroline and henry got married in paris and a little dream of mine came true as they asked me to join them for their time in france.
eleven days later, on october 30, we got a call that would forever change our lives…we were asked to adopt one baby that, at birth, ended up being two. a lot has happened since our twins were born on november 24. new life, a terminal diagnosis, laughter, tears, milestones, death. if you’ve followed my personal facebook page, you’ve gotten a glimpse of our family’s life as we’ve grieved and grasped for normalcy amidst even more trials that have come our way.
and to be honest, we’re tired.
we’ve clung tightly to the first verses of isaiah 43 in which the lord promises that the fire won’t consume us and that the crashing waves won’t overtake us, but as i told a friend last night, sometimes it feels like we just have one nostril above the water. as a verrrry silly (and unrealistic) suggestion, i told josh that we should just pack the kids up and go back to paris for a couple of weeks…
instead, we’re just reliving that week of relaxation and rejuvenation through some of the photos that i took while we were there, and we’re dreaming of the next time we can steal away for some R&R. 💕
happy tuesday, friends!
jewelry that’s been passed down through the generations from her grandmother and great-grandmother, design and decor gifted to them by aunts and close family friends…brittney and matt’s wedding day was a true labor of love by the people they treasure most in their lives, people who were overjoyed to come together to create their perfect day. britt and matt spent the first half of the day dwelling in excited anticipation with those loved ones, until that moment when he first saw her walking down the aisle and the tears fell hard. everything else seemed to melt away as matt saw the gorgeous bride who was minutes away from becoming his wife.
congratulations, my friends, on a beautifully sweet day, and thank you for letting me be there to share in it with you.
planner: becky’s brides | venue: the willows | invitation suite: empress stationery | bride’s gown: bella couture | bridesmaids’ dresses: bridesmaids inc. | hair and makeup: brittany shelton | floral designer: hothouse design studio | caterer: classic on noble | cake artist: wedding cakes by jan | rentals: top notch events and rentals | coffee bar: o’henry’s | entertainment: wayne ingram | transportation: coats classic cars | photographer: allison lewis photography (with anna wamsted)
it’s 4:50 in the afternoon and you’re supposed to start shooting an engagement session in ten minutes. you’ve checked the weather forecast for the past 48 hours and haven’t seen anything to give you any concern. clearly you forgot that life in alabama in the spring is nothing if it’s not unpredictable. many thanks to brittney and matt for being so fun and easygoing and for scooting down the road to my house so we could shoot under the cover of porches and heavy trees. i loved, loved, loved my time with you!
we left the funeral home just after ten. the sun was bright and the air was warm. just as we’ve done many times before, josh and i sat in the front seat of the car while ava rested quietly behind us. this time, though, she wasn’t strapped into her car seat or wearing a colorful hat that matched her onesie. no, for this final trip, she was laid peacefully within the beautiful casket her daddy and brother had made for her and she was wearing the hat, the white one that our sweet eight-year-old friend had knitted weeks ago for ava to wear when she met jesus.
as we neared our house, i told josh i couldn’t do it. i couldn’t see her all dressed up in her burial clothes for the first time in the presence of all our other children. he didn’t ask questions, he just pulled over at the park down the road and held me as i lifted the lid. we stood so closely wrapped in each other’s arms that i couldn’t tell where my tears stopped and his started.
after everyone at home had time to say goodbye, we began the drive out to the beautiful country where ava was to be buried with so many of my family, perfectly placed between my grandmother and great-grandmother. josh’s phone rang and i answered it when i saw it was my mom. oh, ummmm, hey honey…i was hoping to talk to josh. i knew something was wrong. i pieced josh’s side of the conversation together enough to realize that there was a problem with ava’s grave. my heart began to race and that part of any mommy that wants things to be perfect for her baby girl panicked. what could have struck us like a disaster, though, ended up giving birth to one of the greatest gifts of my life as a mother when we finally drove up to the cemetery and saw so many of the people who love us well themselves digging the grave that would soon hold our daughter’s body. my daddy, my sister, a precious friend, uncles, cousins…nothing can compare to the love they displayed as they worked tirelessly under the bright alabama sun to prepare her final resting place. i imagine that for decades to come i’ll carry the memory of seeing the man who married us – the one who challenged us to fall hard on the lord in good times and bad – on his hands and knees scooping dirt out of that deepening hole with his bare hands.
our dear friend, JT, performed ava’s service as we were supported by many others who also loved that tiny, incredible gift dearly.
and then came the part that made me feel as if i couldn’t find the next breath. josh, who has led this family with such wisdom and dependence on the lord and who has loved ava with the fierce love of a daddy, lowered ava’s body into the ground until i could no longer see the small casket in which it was held. i don’t know that i said a word out loud, but the desperate cry of my heart in those moments was, oh father, be near.
i gathered the strength to take sam into my arms then knelt beside his baby sister’s grave and whispered over and over, she’s with jesus. i know you don’t understand this now but we’ll tell you this story over and over until you do.
i imagine reading this, it sounds like this story has all the makings of a tragedy. loss, separation, sickness, death…there doesn’t seem to be even a hint of joy to be found. oh, but friends, if you could have just heard the lord speak through JT on that gorgeous saturday afternoon.
psalm 23. specifically verse 4. even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… i’ve tried to share openly and honestly throughout this journey; sometimes that meant coming to you to rejoice over an unexpected and unexplainable smile or to celebrate the reappearance of those gorgeous blue eyes. but for today, it means sharing with you that the days right now are full of heaviness and shadows. but as JT reminded us as we stood there beside the graves of my grandparents and our beloved baby girl…
wherever there’s a shadow, there is also a light.
and while the grief may seek to destroy me and the darkness threatens to consume me, my hope lies somewhere else than what i’ve witnessed over these past few days. a peace finds its way into my heart as i rest in the assurance that ava – that delight whom we loved on earth for 178 days – has new eyes that are open to see something far greater than my mind can even comprehend.
ava leigh lewis is beholding The Light.
and the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its Light.
*endless thankfulness to justin poland for being there with us to capture these final moments with ava. what an indescribable gift you’ve given us, my friend.
ceremony venue: episcopal church of the nativity | reception venue: the grand on foster | bride’s gown: casablanca bridal | bride’s hair and makeup: denise crowley whitfield | bridesmaids’ dresses: jenny yoo | bridesmaids’ hair and makeup: caroline tidmore | men’s tuxedos: jos. a. bank | floral designer: flowers by rachel (rachel barrentine) | caterer: pans and petals catering | cake artist: lynsey woodham | invitation suite: wiregrass weddings | entertainment: heart to heart band (music garden) | transportation: bay limousine | videographer: steve frank films | photographer: allison lewis photography (with anna wamsted)