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)
location: steamboat springs, colorado | planner: lindsey yochem (steamboat ski resort) | bride’s gown: monique lhuillier | hair and makeup: wildhorse salon | floral design: the tall tulip | cake artist: mountain brew | reception venue: hazie’s | accommodations: the steamboat grand | photographer: allison lewis photography
and just when we thought we’d seen the most beautiful sights in the world, the lord painted the sky with the most incredible shades of pinks, blues, and purples. breathtaking!!!
we’re asked by precious friends, family, and even strangers every day how we’re doing, and i always struggle to find the answer to that question. the reality of this journey is that it’s wrought with both overwhelming joy and immense sorrow; to be honest, the weight of all we’re facing and what’s to come would be crushing apart from the cross of christ and the Hope it brings. today, on the twins’ two month birthday, josh and i decided to share a glimpse into our life since november 24, and we pray that you’ll see an honest picture of trial, but more importantly, the reflection of a good and loving Father who upholds, sustains, encourages, and fills His children with a peace that passes understanding.
HAPPY TWO MONTHS TO SAM AND AVA!!!!