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!!!!
we had had the sweetest, most spectacular time together shooting caroline and henry’s wedding, exploring centuries old palaces and cathedrals, and roaming the narrow streets of paris hand in hand like we did back when we strolled around samford’s campus all those years ago. with our 15th wedding anniversary under our belts, we were looking ahead to the future and making plans for how we thought our family might move forward.
then the lord went all proverbs 16:9 on us.
back in the summer of 2013, i took a deep breath and pushed “publish” on a personal post that i prayed the lord would use in great ways for his glory and for many little lives in our country. just months after that bit of news, though, i was crippled with some scary health issues; we had no choice but to abandon our plans for another adoption. discouraged and confused, josh and i felt like god was closing the door on the very path he’d forged for us. our new (if not overly simplistic) prayer became, lord, we don’t understand why you seem to be taking adoption off the table but we trust your sovereign hand in this. if you will for us to adopt again, just cause our phone to ring with the news of a child who needs a family.
the rest of 2013 passed by without event and i spent much of the next two years healing and learning a new way of life in our family and my job. but one thing never changed for us…that burning desire to speak for the tiniest of lives around us. time and time again we asked the lord to give us a voice. we became involved in the foster care ministry of our church and even finished the training to become a foster family ourselves. but then the most unexpected event happened…
the lord’s “no” became “now” when he so clearly answered our prayers and, yes, my phone actually rang with the news of a child who needed a family.
i’ll spare you the details on how less than two hours before birth one baby turned into twins because believe it or not, that’s not the most remarkable part of this story (although you can read about it HERE if you’d like), but i will share this post from my personal facebook page because it’s such a clear picture of the lord’s holy sovereignty and lovingkindness. we prayed for a voice and while it wasn’t the way we’d hoped or expected, a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves is exactly what he gave our family in the form of a little three-pound beauty and her precious brother…
we didn’t know if we’d have two days with her, much less the two full months we’ll be celebrating this weekend. our family is overwhelmed with praise to the One who creates and sustains life for the glory of His great name!
“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.”
maybe it’s because i was a fall bride myself, but weddings during the gorgeous autumn months are my absolute favorites. and this lineup of incredible days for four of my stunning brides was the perfect ending to a perfect year of shooting.
jaley and will (ross bridge)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: jaley wanted two completely different looks for her wedding day so she wore an exquisite maggie sottero gown for her ceremony and then surprised all of her guests with a blush vera wang gown for her reception.
alex and tyler (independent presbyterian church, the birmingham museum of art)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: alex and tyler met while working together at the apple store, so what better wedding gift could he give her than a personalized iPod shuffle with her new name on it?
jennifer and david (shoal creek)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: with guests flying in from a variety of countries across five different continents, jen and david’s wedding was truly an international affair!
caroline and henry (paris, france)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: caroline’s stylist, shelby of beauty shock, wanted her to have a blend of different looks to match all the places we were shooting, so he rode in the car with us and restyled her hair in between each stop.
well that does it, my friends! we’ve looked back at the beautiful frosty days of my winter brides and the fresh and lovely weddings of my spring brides. we swooned over the impeccable style of my summer brides, and we wrapped it up today with a look back at the stunning fall brides that rounded out a spectacular year here at allison lewis photography. reliving each of these weddings reminds me how thankful i am for the delight this job is to me and how honored i always am to be trusted with telling these stories. thank you to all who make this dream a reality!
hydrangeas, pearls, and lace…there’s nothing like a wedding in the south, and these five summer brides each wowed their guests with a delightful mix of southern hospitality and charm.
sara and john (douglas manor)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: john’s reaction to seeing sara walk toward him during their beautiful sunset wedding had all the girls swooning. he was so overcome with emotion, and the joy he felt at marrying his best friend was one of the sweetest things i’ve seen in my years of shooting weddings.
jennifer and alan (the tutwiler, bridgestreet gallery and loft)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: alan’s a total man’s man – a former rocker with a penchant for building some really awesome furniture – so the last thing i expected was for his biggest concern about his and jenn’s wedding day to be what he wore. nonetheless, that was top of his priority list so he hired remon’s to custom design a fabulous suit for him to wear on the day he married his gorgeous bride.
madison and hayden (samford university chapel, the florentine)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: hayden’s father was the officiant at their wedding, and at one point during their ceremony, he gave hayden a bible in which he’d spent years writing notes and documenting details about what the lord was teaching him during that time in his life. i truly can’t imagine a more valuable gift for a father to give his son on the first day of his beautiful marriage.
sydney and chase (the grand on foster, dothan, alabama)
my favorite behind the scenes detail: high school sweethearts have nothing on syd and chase! they were destined to be together after that fateful chat outside the lunchroom doors when she was just 14 years old. 😉
tomorrow we’re wrapping up this look back on the weddings of 2015 with my favorite time of year…FALL weddings!!!