if there’s one thing i know, it’s that a momma sure does love her boys, but many of my friends with houses full of little men tell me that they find themselves wondering at times what it would be like to have some pink in the mix. some of them even long for the day when that little guy of theirs stands all grown up at the altar and says i do, instantly adding a beautiful daughter to the family. for one of the precious families i work with, i’ve had the unique honor of watching this very scenario play out, not once but twice, in the past two years. jessica became the first givens daughter when she married john in a marvelous, gorgeous wedding in the summer of 2013. what i didn’t know then, though, is that john’s younger brother, chase, was well on his way to adding another daughter to the givens family tree. shortly after jessica and john’s wedding, sydney contacted me with the magnificent news that in the summer of 2015, i’d have the joy of traveling back to dothan to shoot her wedding to chase…and what an exquisite wedding it was!! thank you, my sweet friends, for asking me to join you for yet another fabulous day of celebration. i love you!!
reception: the grand on foster (veronica philpot) | bride’s gown: allure couture (sweet elegance bridal, decatur) | hair: curt calloway | makeup: louise robinson | bridesmaids’ dresses: bridesmaids, inc. (homewood) | men’s tuxedos: men’s wearhouse | floral design: the petal pusher (hugh deese) | caterer: kelsey barnard catering | cakes: debra west custom cakes | paper suite: please reply (mountain brook) ceremony: first baptist church, dothan | ceremony music: duets by jesse and jack | entertainment: musical fantasy (music garden) | getaway car: groom’s father | videographer: steve frank films | photographer: allison lewis photography (with justin poland)
the morning with one way ministries started out much like the ones before it had. children laughed hysterically at adults as adults found a way to act hysterically with the the children they were engaging.
but as the music slowed to the level of a lullaby, a tragic reality crept onto the scene. the narratives weren’t unexpected; in fact, we’d heard countless versions of them during our week there. but if i’m being completely transparent, it was easy to feel disconnected from the horror stories when they were just words floating in the air. that all changed, though, when i stopped and really took the time to study their faces.
a quick google search tells me that diamonds are formed under intense heat and crushing pressures. and like diamonds, these children have been molded and shaped by a crushing pressure that most of us will never be able to comprehend. i’d marveled at their smiles all week long but what i hadn’t fully realized until this moment in that bright, sunlit room is that those smiles, while genuine, only represented one tiny facet in the hearts of these children.
one by one the distant tales i’d heard of took the shape of the very children who sat before my eyes. men who do secret things to little girls under the cover of night, mothers who wish they had a couple of less mouths to feed, and sisters who bury little brothers…the reality forced hot tears to stream from eyes both big and small.
but it was one particular set of two children that pierced my heart above all. it was that of a small black-haired girl with a story of suffering being cradled by an even smaller blonde-haired girl with a broken heart. the tiniest of the girls is mine.
i could feel my heart crumble at the sight of my tender-hearted middle child sharing in the deepest pain of the young girl in her arms and my initial reaction was to swoop her out of that room into a place of happy safety. but then the gentle whisper of the holy spirit spoke to my heart: isn’t this what it’s all about? weeping with those who weep? sharing one another’s burdens? pointing them to the only One who knows our pain, captures our tears, and restores and redeems our weary souls?
so there i left them, crying and wrapped in each other’s small frame, and i prayed. i asked the lord to make himself known in the life of the one, to remind her that he’s so near to her broken heart; and for the other, i asked him to make that moment there on the cold, hard tile be the beginning of a life of ministry, pouring herself out for the sake of the gospel.
“i have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. in this world you will have trouble. but take heart! i have overcome the world.” john 16:33
want to know more about one way ministries and the work they do in guatemala and other areas around the world? check them out HERE.
“speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -proverbs 31:8-9
i think i know them each well enough to know that they don’t desire public praise of any sort, but it’s impossible to share the stories of guatemala without sharing many of the faces behind the work taking place there. each of these men and women has a heart that is both broken for and desperately in love with the people of guatemala, and through just a handful of the many, many photos i was able to capture of them, i pray that you will see their hearts and join me in praising the lord for the ways he’s using these men and women to accomplish his purposes in that beautiful country.
j.t. turner – president of one way ministries (one way is a labor of love for the whole turner family, but only j.t. and his daughter, madison, were able to be on this particular trip.)
greg brown – on-ground missionary in guatemala city, guatemala (greg, kathy, and their two daughters, haleigh and hannah, packed up their whole lives and moved to guatemala over five years ago. the ladies of the family were in the states during our trip but i look forward to meeting them very soon!)
pastor morales – pastor of one way’s partner church in guatemala city (iglesia jerusalen)
patty, jacky, and wendy – spanish/english translators for one way ministries (aka “the amazing ladies who help us all communicate with more than caveman grunts and motions”)
“jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. then he said to his disciples, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. ask the lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” matthew 9:35-38
as we drove in a warm, crowded van from the airport to the house we would call home for the next week, i tried desperately to take in every detail of what was passing by my window. i had seen that kind of poverty before in ethiopia, but somehow the miles of tin shacks and the scenes of young, wandering children still took my breath away. it’s normal there, but normal doesn’t equate to easy or right.
but after just minutes of observing those same children – many of whom were malnourished and sick – an astonishing reality burst its way onto the scene. despite lacking most of what we, as americans, would view as vitally important and necessary, these little ones weren’t at all miserable. in fact, they were so unmiserable that i would dare call them happy.
one way ministries and its partner church, iglesia jerusalen, have an incredibly unique relationship with several of the schools in guatemala city and the surrounding villages in which the doors to the schools are open virtually anytime for the church and volunteers to come in. in just the few hours we were there each day, we were able to get ourselves whooped in soccer, we played tons of games, and we even had a couple of dance-offs.
but apart from the good news of jesus christ’s death and resurrection, all the fun and games would simply be a meaningless waste of time. the team carefully and diligently wove the truth of the gospel into each interaction, and we left exhausted but with full hearts, knowing that every child there heard that god loves him so much that he sent his only son to take the penalty of sin upon himself on the cross.
as you join us in prayer for the schools in guatemala city and the surrounding villages, please remember to pray in these ways:
1. that the younger children would hear the gospel and choose to submit their lives to the lordship of christ at a young age.
2. that the children in older grades would also come to know christ and that they would make wise choices and use their growing independence and gifts for god’s glory.
3. and finally, please pray for the teachers that work with these kids each day. as many of you well know, theirs is a hard job, made far more difficult by a tremendous lack of resources (as evidenced by the school’s “kitchen” shown below). pray that, where needed, they would be receptive to the gospel that they heard throughout the week and that they would use their position of influence over those precious little hearts and minds to continually point children to christ.
“jesus said, ‘let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” matthew 19:14
ceremony: brookwood baptist church | reception: the club | hair and makeup: molly stilley (morgan ashley salon) | bride’s gown: justin alexander | bridesmaids’ dresses: bella bridesmaids | men’s tuxedos: mr. burch formalwear | floral design: sandra ryan (irene pate) | caterer: the club | cake artist: barb’s cakes | entertainment: park band | transportation: vintage auto | videographer: i do flix | photographer: allison lewis photography
i don’t think i’ve cried this much on a wedding day since the flower girl in my own wedding 15 years ago went and got married herself. it’s not that i have that same two-decades-long relationship with them (although they both share the gift of cultivating instant friendships), but the lord’s grace as it was poured out to all of their families and friends during their ceremony was truly one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever witnessed. i could share all of the bits and pieces that are nestled down into my heart, but i think one particular part of their ceremony bears repeating in full. the following is from the ceremony notes of the one who married them (who, adding to the unique blessing of this day, is also hayden’s father)…
I asked the two of you to write out prayers to God for one another. Genuine prayers reveal the depth of our hearts more than any other way of communication.
Hayden, hear Madison’s heart opening to the Father for you: Lord, thank you for your love and mercy and for giving me Hayden.
Thank you for his many talents and abilities and for the way that he has loved me thus far. You have blessed us immensely more than we could ever imagine or deserve.
I pray that you will continue to be with Hayden in everything that he does. Lord, give him strength and courage to do the right thing and to be the man that you have called him to be.
Madison, hear Hayden’s heart as I read his prayer for you: God, thank you for Jesus. You sent your son to Earth, to die on a cross – showing the greatest and highest level of love given. Because of that sacrifice of love, Madison and I can love each other in a way that pleases and glorifies our Creator.
(Madison) Give him patience and love to lead our family in a way that is servant-hearted just like your son. Help him to faithfully seek after you more and more every day.
I pray that your joy and peace will cover our family always.
(Hayden) In Madison’s life, I pray she strives mostly to be an imitator of your Son, Jesus. Make Madison strong and let her be courageous.
Give Madison lots of laughter and happiness in her life.
When I let her down, give her the strength to turn to Jesus and to know He will never let her down. Please clothe her with a spirit of forgiveness—she will most definitely need it.
Grow her spiritually and continually mold her heart throughout our lives together so she may always think of her relationship with you first. May the love she has – your love – impact the children she teaches every day so many would come to know you.
God, please keep Madison faithful and strong in your Word, and by doing so, give her the supernatural ability to speak wisdom, truth and life into our family.
As it is now, I pray that her heart will always be drawn toward love. Thank you for such a beautiful gift.
amen and amen. my friends, i praise god for the precious ministry your short marriage already is to those who are witness to it. i pray many years of sweet joy for you.
with tremendous thanks…
ceremony: samford university’s reid chapel | reception: the florentine | hair and makeup: molly stilley (morgan ashley salon) | bride’s gown: allure | bridesmaids’ dresses: le salon couture boutique | men’s tuxedos: jos. a. bank | floral design: kathryn anne weddings | caterer: corretti catering | cake artist: olexa’s | entertainment: act of congress | transportation: coats classic cars | photographer: allison lewis photography
planner: becky’s brides | ceremony: st. francis xavier catholic church | reception: bridgestreet gallery and loft | makeup: jen matthews (porcelain and pink) | hair: jessica lazarus (zaru salon) | bride’s gown: allure (bella’s bridal and formal) | bridesmaids’ dresses: alfred angelo | groom’s suit: custom design by remon’s | groomsmen’s suits: jos. a. bank | floral design: hothouse design studio | caterer: savoie catering | cake artist: magnificent cakes | entertainment: matt carroll and the browncoats | rentals: prophouse birmingham | lighting: amerson events | invitations, programs, koozies: fine paperwork | transportation: cline tours | getaway car: coats classic cars | photographer: allison lewis photography (with anna wamsted)
venue: douglas manor | makeup artist: casey troulias | hair: jillian burson (blades) | bride’s gown: mori lee by madeline gardner (bella’s bridal) | bridesmaids’ dresses: bridesmaids inc. | men’s suits: men’s wearhouse | florist: flowerbuds | caterer: bryon rickard catering | cake artist: pastry art | entertainment: lisa and the e-lusion | transportation: coats classic cars | photographer: allison lewis photography (with justin poland)