Life by Sara Davis Photography | Because Life Exists in the In-between | Raleigh, NC Lifestyle Family Photographer » Raleigh, NC Lifestyle Family Photographer Cary, NC Lifestyle Family Photographer

Eleanor Mae

I remember meeting Marianne when I was in 6th grade and she was in 1st grade.  That’s the year her older sister, Amy, became my best friend.  And somewhere along the way, Marianne became not just my friend but someone I consider to be like family.  Those of you that know the ladies of this family (Marianne, Amy, and their sweet Mama Debbie) know what I mean when I say that each of them have joy in their souls that is so rare and different.  Their joy is loud, it’s contagious and it’s special, and it’s one of the most precious gifts from God I’ve known in my lifetime.

“Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.”~Psalm 63: 3,4

Marianne and her husband, David, found out at the end of November, at her 20 week anatomy scan that their third baby girl was measuring two weeks small and had two spots on her heart.  And, soon after that, they were given heartbreaking news that their baby may not live through birth due to a chromosomal disorder.

They chose to name her Eleanor Mae, after each of their maternal grandmothers.  Eleanor means bright shining light, and their prayer is that her life would be a bright shining light for Jesus.  (Please read Marianne’s blog, A Reason to Sing, where Marianne explains Eleanor’s story much better than I ever could.)

“Like a shepherd will find His flock, He gathers the lambs in His arms, close to His heart.  He will gently lead those who are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

Ellie Mae is a bright shining light.  Her parents are honoring her life and glorifying her Creator, as her light continues to shine brighter with each passing day.  Her legacy is strong and mighty.  It’s hopeful and faithful.  It’s full of confidence of the hope of the glory of heaven.  It’s a miracle.  It’s one of the brightest legacies I’ve ever known, and it’s only just begun.

This past weekend, we had a quick photo session to celebrate Eleanor Mae and her family that loves her intentionally and passionately.  As I look through these images, I am reminded again of the first text I got from Marianne soon after they found out the news of Eleanor’s prognosis.  She asked me to keep praying for them to remain hopeful and to bring Jesus glory.  Even through all the pain and uncertainty, she and David are boldly courageous and extraordinarily joyful as they rely on the strength of their Savior.

Take a look at these faces and see what I mean….

Lynn Peterson - Such sweet pictures to catch a look into this special families love for one another. What a special gift this family is giving to other families who may someday go thru a particular circumstance.

Debbie creech - Beautiful pictures Sara! The pictures, plus your sweet words tell us a great story of true love.What a strong witness this precious family is to all! I’ll be keeping them in my prayers!

Jane Odle - Such precious pictures of a special family. I know these pictures will hold special memories always. With love and prayers for you all. Jane

Shrader Family | Cary, NC Family Lifestyle Photographer

“This stage is so incredibly hard. Abenezer can’t speak English well yet and communication is very hard. I want to remember the hard, early aspects of adoption as we will probably wade into the process again and it just makes the outcome so much sweeter. He came from a very hard place and has done exceedingly well in a totally different culture and country. He left everyone and everything he knew to have a ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’. I don’t think those words mean that much to him yet, but they will. They will mean a home to come to for the holidays when he’s grown, a shoulder to cry on during those rough preteen years, kisses on boo boos. He and Lydia attached to each other right away and his favorite part of the day is picking her up from school. One day, every day life won’t be this hard so I want to remember this stage to know how far our family (and Abenezer) has come.”~Rebecca

The Shrader Family is officially a family of four after bringing their Abenezer home this Winter.  In November of 2013, I met Rebecca and Josh at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, as they were announcing that they were adopting from Ethiopia and also announcing their pregnancy.  There was no way to know, even then, what an incredible story God was (and still is) weaving.  Lydia was born in 2014, and they finally got Abenezer’s referral in September of 2015 due to divine circumstances (Click here to read the beautiful story).   God had already given them their “rainbow baby”…their full of life, smart, sassy, independent, blue-eyed, 2.5 year old Lydia.  Finally in January of this year, Rebecca and Josh traveled to Ethiopia to get their precious, bright, affectionate, 4.5 year old, resilient, gift of a son, Abenezer.

Two months after Aben finally came home, I met the Shrader Family yet again at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.  They very strongly want Aben to always be proud to be from both Ethiopia and from Durham.  Rebecca and Josh love their city, and they’ve set roots here and it’s become their home.  Durham will be getting its first Ethiopian restaurant in downtown soon, and they hope to go there a lot and get to know the owners, as Aben’s Ethiopian heritage is important and special.

I have to admit that as incredibly excited as I was, I had low expectations for this session.  Aben had just come into a brand new family in a brand new country with a brand new language.  This is a lot for anyone to handle, but especially a 4 year old boy that has left everything he had ever known.  I cannot explain how special my time meeting him and being with all four of them was that afternoon.  As soon as I met him, he gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and he didn’t stop smiling the rest of my time with him. He listened, he laughed, he danced.  He was joyfully silly and he loved on his parents and his little sister is the sweetest of ways.  The only thing that matched his love for his family was their love and adoration for him.  Aben surprised me that day, but no matter how Aben would have behaved or reacted to this photo session, it would have been incredibly special to me.  Because like Rebecca said, whether things are unbelievably hard or easy as pie or anywhere in-between, it’s their story and it should all be remembered.

During their session and ever since I keep thinking about God’s plan, His timing, and His wisdom for the Shrader Family.  Their story is good, it’s hard, it’s sacrificial, it’s beautiful, and every bit of it is worth it.  It is a Gospel story, and I could not be more honored to be a tiny part of it…

Garner Family | Raleigh, NC Family Lifestyle Photographer

“Garrett is the fun daddy, the kids light up when they see him! I hear so many amazing giggles out of them when Daddy is around!  I’m the nurturer and the snuggler; they come to me when they want to be held and I can’t get enough of it!…We are so blessed and I don’t ever want to forget that.” ~Sara

It was so fun spend time with the Garner Family and see each of their unique personalities, roles, and strengths all come together in such a beautiful way.  Asher is their wild child and their little dare devil.  He drives his “alligator” around the front yard with confidence and with pursuit.  And sweet little Nova never takes her adoring eyes off of him.  Asher is the entertainer. He bravely and actively explores.  He brings joy and laughter to every single heart in his family.  Nova Rose is their darling little princess.  She giggles and smiles often, especially when her handsome big brother is around.  She claps her hands, she dances, she swings, and all the while she is content and happy and loving life.  Nova’s first birthday was the weekend of our session, so there was no better way to celebrate this gorgeous angel girl by ending with cupcakes.  Happy First Birthday, Nova Rose!  We all celebrate the pure sweetness you bring to the world!

Berkeley | Cary, NC Birthday Party Photographer

Berkeley was the most beautiful little ballerina at her Nutcracker-themed first birthday party.  Berkeley’s sweet and special birthday party was the weekend before Christmas, and it was full of family and friends that came excitedly to celebrate the happy and serious birthday girl.  Berkeley is adored by so many, but no one adores her more than her parents and her big brother, Logan.  She fills their hearts each and every day with the sweetness and joy she brings.  She is their little love bug with a smile that brings a new warmth to their lives that they had never known before.  This first year with Berkeley has flown by and even though they wish time would slow down as she grows so fast, they could not be more thankful for the gift of their precious girl.  Happy Birthday, Berkeley!

Baby Madelyn | Raleigh, NC Newborn Photographer

“We are new parents and want to remember everything we can about this experience. Madelyn is changing so quickly every day and we want to remember her as a tiny newborn before she outgrows this stage. We love all her silly faces and the funny noises she makes. She becomes a little more active and vocal every day and we love to watch her grow.”~Taylor

Beautiful Madelyn was born in October, making her arrival about two and a half weeks early.  She just could not wait to meet her Mommy and Daddy, and after meeting them myself a month later, I am convinced it was because she already knew how amazing they are.  Taylor and Andy immediately fell in love with their sweet bundle of joy.  Madelyn’s newborn session was so full of laughter, energy, and emotion, and I love the way these images show how much they love their baby girl and how much she already loves them.  Madelyn seems to feel so safe and sound in her Daddy’s arms.  Taylor was so patient in comforting and soothing her baby girl.  Andy made Taylor (and me) laugh over and over again.  These are the things I loved most about their session.  I am so thankful I got to be there to capture all the wondrous love and exciting joy that Andy and Taylor have for each other and for Madelyn as their new little family began.  It’s my hope and prayer that they when all three of them look back at these images, they will be able to remember and know this new gift of love they’ve been given.