Choose to See Beauty

I love fall, so when I heard we were going to get several inches of snow in mid-November I was incredibly disappointed.

The last time this happened, it knocked all of the colorful leaves off of the trees prematurely, and our fall was cut short. It’s already such a short season so to have it made even shorter was frustrating.

We have a glorious red tree in our backyard and I was not thrilled that the leaves would now be covered with snow.

However, this morning I noticed that the melting snow actually made our tree and its leaves even more vibrant. The cold, white undesirable, snowy background highlights the beauty of the red leaves more than the lush, green grass does.


Do you see where I’m going with this? The analogy was too perfect to pass up.

I’m obviously not just talking about leaves.

This is a perfect example of how there is beauty in the broken.

img_1909

In life, when bad things happen or things do not go the way we think they should, we can choose to see it two ways: we can focus on the bad, ignoring the beauty around, or we can notice how the good shines even greater in the midst of the bad.

We would not appreciate the good if everything were always perfect – we wouldn’t realize that life could go any differently! But, when less than perfect conditions arise, it gives us an opportunity to truly appreciate life and the joy that it brings.

Our family will never feel whole because we will always be missing one. Tori is living an abundant, full life without us right now and we will join her someday. But, what we endured has made us find so much MORE joy in the life we have now. The twins may be challenging at times, but they are such a blessing and a joy, and we appreciate them so much more because their sister existed and was taken away from us (#KrabbeSucks).

Believe me, I am not happy about the snow (and I am not happy that Tori had to go to Heaven so soon). But, I choose to allow it to help me see the beauty in the life that I do have, instead of focusing on what the snow has taken away.


I’m sure you’ve seen this meme before:

joyinsnow

It’s so true. So, this winter, as much as I am dreading the cold and the snow, I will remember this as often as possible. I will choose to (somehow) find joy in the snow. ❤

What Motivates You?

Today I cleaned my kitchen.

It took me several hours as I had to do tasks in short stints as the boys allowed, but it looks SO much better, and I feel better about it.

Why am I telling you this? There’s a reason. I’ve learned something recently that I think may help you, as well.

Bottom line: I don’t love housekeeping. My lack of love for it has led me to justify being lazy about it. Add in the excuse of twins, and a loving husband who will come home from work and do whatever needs to be done, and I easily justify and make excuses for not cleaning or tidying my house very often.

I don’t like cleaning, but I also don’t like when my house is messy. So I have had to really think about what motivates me, as a clean house is proving to NOT be motivation in and of itself.

We recently sat down and made priorities for our family, and one of the top three is family time. When I began to evaluate my role as an at home wife and mother with our new priorities in mind, it became clear that I need to use my family as my motivation for the tasks I don’t feel like doing.

When I allow love for my husband and children to be the motivator, I can find joy in the mundane.

My husband works HARD to provide for our family. He is gone for 8-9 hours per day, time he would rather be with his family; yet, he faithfully goes to work so that we can afford to live.

He works hard and deserves to be able to enjoy his children when he comes home instead of doing dishes.

(Note that I didn’t say he should get to just come home and lounge – if he only wanted to do that, I’d find it MUCH harder to want to do these things! But because he loves to serve his family, I want to make sure there’s little for him to do while he’s home.)

When he comes home to a clean (ish) house, he can relax and enjoy our boys. And that will bring joy to my heart as I love seeing him as a father (and it gives me a little break 😉).

As the boys become more mobile, that will be motivation for keeping the floors clean so that they have a clean space in which to crawl and play.

See what I mean?

Chores by themselves are NOT motivating to me at all. Neither is obligation. But knowing that what I am doing is serving and blessing those I love the most makes me do these tasks with joy (most of the time).

Make priorities to guide your family, and use them as your motivation. Having family priorities is truly transforming our home life and I am SO excited about how it will shape us and our future in years to come!

If your motivation for something is negative – or non-existent – try to find something good and positive that can be a motivation. Something outside of yourself.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.
But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.
Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
– Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

Serving others brings such joy (and it’s biblical), so let that be your motivation for the mundane.

“Love each other with genuine affection,
and take delight in honoring each other.”
– Romans 12:10 (NLT)

Discipline, Freedom, and Walmart Pickup

It’s been almost a year since I blogged about the freedom that comes from discipline and I’m not surprised that it has, yet again, been a theme in my life lately.

In short: I’m in desperate need of structure.

As the twins have been increasingly content to play and occupy themselves, it has given me more time and more opportunities to do things unrelated to them. While it has been great, it has also revealed just how out of control life has become AND how desperately I have been craving structure.

Beginning in childhood, we tend to think that freedom means no rules, no boundaries, no structure.

It’s actually the opposite.

Since the boys were born we have been less strict with following our budget, which leads to overspending and stress.

We’ve eaten out (also not in the budget) WAY more than we should simply because it was easier than meal planning.

When we have free time the LAST thing we want to do is something responsible, but that has led to us feeling burdened by the lack of discipline. In reality, we could have found the time to create more order in our lives if we had really made it a priority.

We’ve allowed our lack of discipline to create mild chaos in our home.


Two weeks ago, at one of the mom groups I attend, the speaker discussed setting priorities. She started by mentioning one of the laws of physics – that an object in motion will stay in motion unless something interferes. The same goes with our priorities – if we want change, it isn’t going to miraculously happen. We have to step in and fight to make it happen.

This week, Brennan and I sat down after brainstorming separately and discussed what our priorities were for our family, our marriage, and ourselves. Not surprisingly, they were almost identical!

I will blog more about them later, but the top three are:

1. Spiritual growth

2. Financial freedom

3. Family time/closeness

Each one has many bullet points and ideas for how to implement them, but we wanted to keep each overall priority simple.


We’re using these priorities to help us make decisions and allocate our time, and it is already making a huge difference.

Example: meal planning

I decided that every other Wednesday (budget day) will be meal planning day. I will also be simplifying the meal rotation to 10-15 meal options so that I have less thinking to do, and we will be using the slow cooker daily if possible to ensure that dinner happens.

I will “shop” that day using the Walmart Pickup (click for $10 off your first order!) app (the BEST THING EVER) so that I am able to see how much we actually need in the budget AND we won’t be able to easily buy impulsively. Immediate savings! Plus, we will save time by pulling up and having them load the groceries into my van!

I will also put each meal on the calendar so that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. Instead of wondering what sounds good, we will simply have what is scheduled. This alone will alleviate stress!

Oh, and I also found out that Costco will DELIVER to our house so that’s also a game changer! Now I can stay on budget and only get what we need (we all know how difficult that is at Costco!).

Just taking action in this ONE area helps our budget (financial freedom), helps us eat better, and gives us back time spent grocery shopping multiple times a month (family time).

These things may sound simple – and that’s the point. Right now, my exhausted brain can only handle so much without feeling overwhelmed, so these simple steps to make meal planning (and sticking to the budget) happen are well worth it.

I’ve felt so tired and didn’t think that structure was necessary, but it turns out that the lack of structure was making me even more tired!

I feel SO free and relieved knowing that my groceries are ordered, we stayed within our budget, meals for the next two weeks are scheduled, and my family will eat well.

We’re excited about our new family priorities and cannot wait to see how they shape our lives from here on out.

Do you have priorities that guide your family? I’d love to hear about them!

Twenty-Three Weeks

Not long ago I opened the calendar app on my phone and counted the number of weeks between Tori’s birth and the onset of Krabbe. I was surprised to find that she became fully symptomatic at exactly twenty-three weeks. To the day.

img_2727

Last photo of Tori smiling, taken at age 22 weeks 6 days (January 6, 2015)

That’s how old the boys are today.

Our healthy, strong, Krabbe-free identical twin boys are the same age today as Tori was when a horrific disease began to steal everything from her – her smile, her laugh, her ability to swallow, and eventually her life.

Twenty-three weeks.

As I was typing this, I momentarily thought “I wish I would have known that she’d never smile again so I could have treasured it.” But my next thought was, “Hmmm…would I really want to know?”

So often we say that we would, but is it ever a good idea when it’s something we can’t change? I think in most instances we’d end up worrying so much about what was about to happen that we would be unable to be fully present. Instead, I will treasure the smiles she did have as well as the smiles from her brothers each day.


I have been asked many times if I think I have some degree of PTSD, and after considering the question, I can honestly answer no. Sure, there are things that will never be the same about me – or my parenting – after Tori (for instance, I definitely check to make sure the twins are breathing far more than I expected to do), but I most certainly do not have PTSD. Brennan would tell you the same. We are living in joy and peace.

And that leads me to wonder why.

Why are we okay when so many who’ve walked in our shoes aren’t okay?


I had a conversation with my chiropractor during my most recent visit and it helped me in unexpected ways.

She remarked that she has loved seeing how Brennan and I have walked through this journey with grace and joy (we take no credit for that), and she loves how we’ve chosen to live out our faith. Her encouraging words (and great adjustment) would have been enough, but the Lord chose to continue to speak through her.

I told her that I often wonder why Brennan and I seem to be set apart from so many who have lost children, how we seem to be handling it so differently than most, even than other believers.

It’s not that we never think or talk about Tori (quite the opposite). She’s very much a part of our home and we will make sure the boys know everything about their big sister. It’s not that we’ve “gotten over it” because you really don’t ever “get over it” when you’ve lost a child.

(Side note: who defines what that actually looks like? Who makes the rules? Not getting over it doesn’t have to mean crying all the time or living your life depressed. It simply means that you are never the same, but it has such an unnecessarily negative connotation. We will never “be over” losing Tori but we also choose to live the life we think she’d want us to live – she’s in Heaven, happy as can be, so why wouldn’t she want us to live in joy?)

I expressed to her that I feel sorry (not pity, but genuine sadness) for those who can’t move on, who cry daily, who can’t seem to find joy in their lives after a tragedy like child loss. I mentioned my blog post about not visiting Tori’s grave. That we’re different but I can’t figure out why. That I wonder if we’re “doing it wrong” because we’re genuinely doing well and so many around us aren’t.

And then she said this: “it’s because you don’t let it define you. It’s because you find your identity in something (someone!) greater.”

In that moment, it clicked. She is totally right.

It’s not my identity. I’m not a victim, and I’m not a martyr.

Yes, I lost a child. Yes, it was terrible.

And yet, losing Tori doesn’t define me.

Did it impact me? Of course. But that’s not what defines me. The love of God (and my love for Him) defines me and my life. His mercy and grace overwhelm me and fill me with abundant gratitude. His faithfulness reminds me that we will see Tori again in Heaven for an ETERNITY. In a perfect place. With perfect bodies. No Krabbe. Forever.

I could elaborate more, but I already did in Even So, Joy 😉

We all have to choose what defines us, and I choose to NOT be defined by child loss. ❤


img_1896


As I watch Tori’s brothers today, I am amazed at their strength, at their smiles, at their health. They are doing things that Tori was never physically able to do – before or after Krabbe – and each new achievement is worthy of celebration. Every milestone reached fills us with awe.

That’s why I wanted to count the weeks.

That’s why I wrote a note on the calendar to pay attention to their development at twenty-three weeks.

Not because of PTSD. Not because of grief.

But because I am so indescribably thankful for God’s blessings to us. For his faithfulness. For His love. For every smile that these precious boys display. Everything. I don’t deserve this abundant life He has given to me, but I will embrace it and praise Him for it.

Even so, it is well with my soul. ❤

How Jon Acuff impacted my life in ways I didn’t expect

Today is the five year anniversary of a conference that changed my life unexpectedly.

The five-year mark has made me feel reflective, and it has made me realize how much of an impact the conference – and the author who started it – truly had on my life. Looking back, I see that God definitely aligned the timing of his books and teachings with what was going on my life.

At some point years ago, I discovered a blog and a book called “Stuff Christians Like” and I thought it was hilarious. I started following Jon Acuff and his writing.

A couple of years later, Brennan and I read Quitter and then attended the Quitter Conference in Nashville (2012). At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or what my dream was, but I now had some tools to help me figure it out. I knew whatever that dream was, I wasn’t doing it.

Then came the infamous email five years ago (2013) asking for adventurers that led to the Start Experiment and the amazing community that developed there.

The experiment offered practical steps over the course of a few weeks to finding and implementing your dream (this accompanied the book Start). I started by working on self-discipline as I pondered what my dream really was. I blogged about the experience along the way.

Eventually, I figured part of it out, mostly thanks to The Start Conference – which was five years ago today:

img_0726

Telling the stories that need to be told. It made sense! I love photography and telling stories with it, along with writing, so it felt like a great fit! I wanted to make an impact by telling stories through images. I started a website about things to do in our city and hoped to get a start on that dream right where I was. But, that wasn’t truly satisfying me and I eventually let that project go.

Little did I know then but the story that needed to be told would be my own daughter’s. 


Not long after the conference, his wife, Jenny, wrote about being a mom and that post resonated with me in powerful ways.

I refuse to believe that being a mom
isn’t a “big enough dream.”

– Jenny Acuff

Motherhood is a role that uses all of my strengths and talents perfectly! I began to realize that becoming a mother wouldn’t be wasting or throwing away my passions and talents – it would be the best possible use of them.

The next month we found out we were expecting, and Tori was born the following July! I was so happy in my new role, so content.

img_8421

And then, Krabbe. Finding out that our six-month old daughter was dying and that we shouldn’t have more children was devastating on so many levels. And then when she went to Heaven, I was left wondering “what now?” What was I supposed to do?

Despite the potentially isolating situation in which we found ourselves, we never felt alone, and that was largely due to the community Jon created. Between notes, gifts, and visits from so many – including the large number at her Celebration of Life from several states! – we felt so loved and supported from so many “online friends.”

After she went to Heaven, Jon’s book Do Over was released and it came at the perfect time – since I was no longer technically a “mom” in terms of employment, what was I supposed to do? I revisited my dream of telling stories and (after being encouraged by an editor) I decided to start writing a book about our journey with Tori. Amazingly enough, even that project has roots in the Start Conference because I had attended the Writer’s Workshop, even though I had no intention of becoming an author at that point. I wrote and edited for about a year before finding a publisher (one mentioned at the conference, as well).

And finally, his book, Finish, was released, which helped me see the benefit of pursuing what I had started and finishing it. And I did. My book, Even So, Joy was published in January 2018. Tori’s story was told, and I can’t imagine anything greater. My initial dream was fulfilled in a way I never could have predicted, and I hope that I can continue to fulfill it in different ways throughout my life.

Best of all, I became a mother again in April, therefore bringing me back to my ultimate dream and purpose. ❤

img_6176

I am so thankful for how God has used all of this to shape me and to guide me through the past five years. And I’m thankful for Jon Acuff and how he has used his life experiences to mentor others so generously. It’s been an incredible journey!

Expectations and Grace

I had one of those “I feel like I’m failing” moments yesterday when both babies were fussy (most of the day) and I couldn’t figure out what they needed.

All parents have these moments where we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s a normal part of this journey.

While I try to not fall into the comparison trap, it happens, especially in those areas in which I am the least confident. It’s SO easy to see another mom with her children (whether online or in person) and compare your performance to hers, making yourself feel disappointed and like a failure. When it comes to social media, it’s likely more “performance” than reality, anyway!

When I finally got them to nap, I had a chance to think. How many of these self-imposed expectations are actually relevant to the care of my babies and how many of them are merely an effort to measure up to my perception of what the perfect mother looks like?

And I realized something important: my babies don’t think that I’m a failure, that I don’t know what I am doing most days.

To them, my presence is enough. I walk into a room and (most of the time) they smile wide. They are thrilled just to be in my arms. So why do I compare myself to unfair, self-imposed ideals and expectations?

They don’t compare like we do because they have NO idea what other moms do. I am the only mother they know! If I were actually failing, they would have absolutely no idea. Therefore, there is no way for them to be disappointed (until much later 😉) in me.

Isn’t that freeing?

My babies delight in me. They love me. And their opinion (meaning what brings them joy, security, and comfort) should be the only one that matters (God and my husband aside) when it comes to parenting them as infants.

THANKFULLY they don’t have social media to show them what other moms are doing with their infants, and I need to remember that. And maybe I need to reduce my social media consumption on days when I’m feeling like that.

This realization is the first of many reminders throughout my life to show grace to myself during these (sometimes difficult) days of infancy with twins. And toddlerhood. And childhood.

After all, their joy is what matters right now, not my comparison to what I think others are doing. ❤️