the Hawkins | Nashville family photographer

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“May this our home be a harbor of

anchorage and refuge,

and a haven from which we journey forth

to do your work in the world.

May it be a garden of nourishment

in which our roots go deep

that we might bear fruit

for the nourishing of others.

“May this our new home be a place of knowing

and of being known,

a place of shared tears and laughter;

a place where forgiveness is easily asked

and granted,

and wounds are quickly healed;

a place of meaningful conversation, of words not left unsaid;

a place of joining, of becoming,

of creating, and reflecting;

a place where our diverse gifts

are named and appreciated;

where we learn to serve one another

and to serve our neighbors well;

a place where our stories are forever twined

by true affections.”

excerpt from “A Liturgy for Moving Into a New Home,” from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey

These were their first family photos as Nashville-dwellers, which is why I chose a section of this liturgy to accompany the photos. I absolutely loved my time with them, and I hope that comes through in these photos.

Bless you, sweet Hawkins.

welcome, Olivia | Nashville lifestyle newborn photographer

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“You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.

Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are from the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.

The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth. Then at last his fellow countrymen will return from exile to their own land.

And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world.

And he will be the source of peace.” — Micah 5:2-5

“The unexpected Bethlehem King is the once and coming King, the King of the first and still coming second Advent, the King coming again to rule the earth and make all the sad things untrue. The wonderland is unfolding even now, Kingdom coming, because His Word ‘will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands’ (Isaiah 55:11-12, NIV).

The dance of the sugarplum fairies just withered a bit.

The very trees of the fields are going to dance and clap their hands. The King is coming, and the new Kingdom is stirring. And stirring in you. When the King rules your world, you cease to worry. All worry dethrones God. All worrying makes you King and God incompetent.

There is a King born in Bethlehem and on the throne. You can breathe.”

— Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

(You’re right — it’s April, and we’re in Lent now, not Advent. But Olivia is a December baby, and I wanted to share her newborn session — and take the excuse to revisit Ann’s Advent devotional book, The Greatest Gift, which I love reading year-round, not just in December. I hope her words and the photos of this marvelous little family bless you.)

the Finchers | Nashville family photographer

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It’s funny:

I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools:

the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.

But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said,

Do the best you can with these, they will have to do.

And mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.”

— Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

welcome, Violet | Nashville lifestyle newborn photographer

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a beautiful, brave little family. This Emerson quote made me think of this mother and father — and I expect it will ring true for their children, as well. Their love of learning is contagious, and I love getting to be their friend. I hope that comes through in these photos.

the Masons | Nashville family photographer

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We took these last summer. Their family looks different now, because they got a new little sister in December — but I had so much fun splashing in the creek and eating strawberries with them that I still wanted to share the summer photos we got, all these months later.

I’m so grateful that we’re officially into spring, because there’s nothing like taking photos with families in the late spring and summer in Tennessee. Mark Twain knows what I mean —

“Saturday morning was come, and all the world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step. The locust trees were in bloom and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the village and above it, was green with vegetation, and it lay just far enough away to seem a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.” — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

an honest hallelujah

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My mother’s parents.

I think about them and their story this time of year, because his birthday was February 12th, and now she spends her February 14th missing her sweetheart.

He died three Aprils ago, and my grandmother told some stories that no one had ever heard before. Nothing really shocking - the most surprising one was that she turned him down the first time he proposed. Just sweet, funny things, that made us all smile and that my songwriting husband wove into a song called “The Ballad of Donnie Gene.” Which, without fail, made me cry the first one hundred times I heard it.

It’s on Spotify, by The Arcadian Wild, and I whole-heartedly recommend that you listen to it — but really why I’m writing this, is because if you’ve already heard it - I wanted you to know that it’s true.

A couple weeks ago I met two sisters who drove from out of state to see the Wild play, whose favorite song is “Donnie Gene.” I talked with them afterwards, and I loved getting to share with them the meaning behind the lyrics, and brag on my grandparents’ loyalty and goodness.

Donnie, don’t give up on her — she won’t give up on you. This is their story in one line.

He first asked my grandmother to marry him when she was 16 or 17. But unlike most girls, she was not easily swept off her feet, and said - thank you, but I don’t have any business getting married yet. But she thought about the facts. The facts were — he was really kind. And handsome. And he really liked her. And he had a real job in Nashville. And she didn’t think she was going to get any better offers. So — I don’t know if she waited until he asked again, or mustered up the courage to tell him she had changed her mind. But she married him when she was 17, had my uncle at 18 and my mother at 20, and spent the next 50 years doing the very best she knew how to do. They both did.

Not long after their 50th anniversary, it was clear that he had Dementia. If you’ve seen a loved one walk through that - you know how heavy it is. She took care of him at their home the entire time, even though nothing about it was easy.

Donnie, don’t give up on her — she won’t give up on you.

I told all of that to those sisters I met who love this song. I wanted them to know it isn’t just a sweet, romantic song, but the very real story of two very real people who shared fifty years of beautiful and ordinary and hard moments. It’s a story of faithfulness and commitment and courage and doing the right thing, easy or not. That’s why I like hearing it. That’s why I’m proud to have it on my family tree.

It’s a great song. Listen below, if you’d like.

the Blue family

“You are my oasis — the eye of the hurricane.

One look at your face is all I need to remember by name.

So I run away home…. Yes, I run away home to you.

I was an orphan caught in a thunderstorm.

You opened the door and welcomed me into your arms.

So I run away home…. Yes, I run away home to you.

I believe in the love of the Father, and I believe in the power of grace.

I believe that he brought us together, and you are my one safe place.

You are a fortress; I am under siege.

You’re a light in the forest; I am a lost boy out in the trees.

So I run away home…. Yes, I run away home to you.”

— “My One Safe Place,” by Andrew Peterson

This song came to mind when thinking about them and the love they are so good at showing one another.

I am truly blessed to know this family. They give me hope and make me want to be a better Shelby. We took these photos last summer, and the time with them and the photos we created have been good for my soul.