Scars

I remember the doctor asking me if I would be okay with an eight inch scar on my forearm.

I was seventeen, after all. Most teenage girls would probably stare at him incredulously for even suggesting such a thing.

I had a choice: vanity/pride and continued pain, or a huge scar and healing.

I answered without hesitation: yes. Yes, I was okay with it. Yes, do it, please.

That scar brought healing, not shame. It brought relief to pain that had plagued me for four years at that point – pain that had left me unable to play piano, write, and so much more.

I didn’t care what my arm looked like – I only cared what it felt like. I cared about regaining strength and dexterity, I cared about getting my life back to normal.

Two months later, I would emerge from surgery with a Nike sign on my right forearm, eight inches long, just like he said. And I rejoiced.

That scar brought me freedom. It brought me healing. It gave me my full life back.


All of us have scars – physical and emotional. Some make us feel ashamed, some bring laughter, all contain a story – telling how we became who we are today.

We have a choice to make: we can be thankful for these scars (thanks to my favorite band, I Am They for a great song about just that), thankful for these journeys and stories that God has used to make us more like Him and to bring healing and freedom; or we can hide them in shame, not allowing God to do what only He can do with them.

Your scars may be someone else’s healing. Someone’s freedom. Someone’s answer.

Don’t hide them in shame. Allow God to work through you. Tell your stories and watch Him in awe. And then thank Him all over again for His grace and goodness as you watch Him, yet again, bring good from something that was not.


Had I chosen vanity over healing, I can’t imagine what my life would be like now. I’m thankful that I chose the path of freedom, even though it wasn’t easy.

This applies spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally.

Choose freedom. Choose healing. Let go of pride – it’s so much better to have the scar than to have the pain. After all, scar tissue is stronger than unscarred skin. Scars represent a fight, a fight that you WON.

Let God work in you, even if it’s not comfortable. It will all be worth it, I promise.

More Than Just a Stove

On December 25, 1989 I was given a handmade stove from my great-grandparents. I would be turning seven the following week and loved to pretend to cook, so my wonderful great-grandparents (Irvin and Vera) used their talents and skills to lovingly craft this perfect little stove.

They even had the foresight to make the knobs teal – one of my favorite colors now.

Last week we moved the boys’ room around and created space to add things like the stove to their play area. Tonight we introduced them to it and they played with the food in it (we need dishes still but at least we have wooden food!) for about an hour.

When I see this stove (which came across the country, thanks to my parents, so that my children could enjoy it, too), I am reminded of the rich heritage from which I come.

I am so blessed to have known my great-grandparents (in particular, I knew Great-Grandma Vera very well; she lived down the street until she went to Heaven when I was 18).

I’m so grateful that they took the time to create something that I could pass down to my own children. How many can say they have something their great-great-grandparents made?

I pray that our children will cherish their family history like Brennan and I do. I pray that when they have families of their own they will remember to tell their children of the love that has been passed down for generations.

And I hope they take care of this stove so that their children can enjoy it, too.

Three Years: Tori’s Resurrection Day

It’s amazing that it has already been three years since our precious Tori entered the arms of Jesus.

Today could be a devastating, sad day. We could choose to dwell on what we “lost” that day, how our world changed, and that would be an acceptable way to spend the day given the circumstances. I mean, we did lose a child. The world would understand. But, as always, we choose to place our focus on where she is and how she is doing, as well as the fact that we will see her again someday and will never have to say goodbye.

Instead of the worldly form of grief, we choose peace.
Instead of blaming God, we choose faith.
Instead of tears, we choose joy.

We decided two years ago that we would always spend Tori’s Resurrection Day (also called Tori’s Day of Triumph) doing something fun as a family. The activities may vary from year to year, depending on the age of her siblings and their interests, but we want to always celebrate her life and her current/forever place of residence.

So, today we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and had some fried apples (something she LOVED) together:

We went to see Tori’s tree at the Hershey Gardens for our second annual family photo in front of the tree:

We read “I Can Only Imagine: A Friendship with Jesus Now and Forever” to the boys – something we will do each year as we teach them about Tori, Heaven, and faith in Jesus.

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But most importantly, we enjoyed our time as a family:


I promise we aren’t perfect Christians, nor are we perfect people. We sought out the biblical examples of living after a loved one’s death, and we believe that this is how we are to live. The New Testament, especially, is FILLED with verses about death of fellow believers and how Christians should respond, and it’s always referenced with joy. With peace.

We trust that the God who created the universe can be trusted with every detail of our lives, even when we don’t understand the reasons. 

(If you’d like to hear me go more into depth about this and more, here’s a link to a speaking engagement I had in January. You can also read more in my book, Even So, Joy.)

One of the questions I ask in Even So, Joy is this: If we (as followers of Jesus) truly believe God and His promises, if we truly believe that Heaven is where we belong and where we will spend eternity, then why do we follow the world’s example and allow sorrow and grief to overcome us? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Would anyone CHOOSE to lose a child? Absolutely not. And yet, we CAN choose our reaction and how we live our lives afterward. We see the example of David losing a child (albeit to very different circumstances) in 2 Samuel 12 and his response:

19 When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions,[b]and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.

21 His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.”

22 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”

David got up. He worshiped the sovereign God he knew and trusted. He knew he would see his son again someday and chose to live life.

I think about it this way: If it were me that had died, I would NOT want my parents to stop living life. I would not want them to visit my grave (or, as we call it, Resurrection Site). I would want them to remember that the separation is not forever, that I am where we all, as Believers, are supposed to be. That I am finally HOME. 

Brennan and I chose then – and we choose now – to focus on Tori and how amazingly she is doing now. Tori can SMILE. Walk. Talk. Breathe. Play. Be with Jesus. How incredible is that?! Our precious baby girl was so broken here on earth; now she is healed and WHOLE. That is more than enough reason to rejoice!

Brennan and I know and believe that Heaven is real, that she is having an amazing time, and that we will join her someday. Every day is one day closer to that reunion!

You may not be in a situation like ours, but we all have our own challenges and life struggles. No matter what our circumstances, we each have a daily decision to make, a choice for how we view our journey; we have the opportunity to choose for it to be well with our souls and to focus on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

Every day, we each have a decision to make: where is your focus?

Renewed Sense of Purpose

It’s been ten years since I first took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. For the first time, I felt like I knew how to handle budgeting (I used to think it was inhibiting, when it’s actually incredibly freeing) and how to tackle debt. I met Brennan a few months later and eventually taught him what I had learned.

When we got married, we both brought debt (student loan and other debt) into the marriage. Our total amount of debt was $106,929.39. Staggering. Crippling debt. But, we followed Dave’s plan (with a few detours) and committed to knocking that out as quickly as possible.

We bought our first home six years ago because we saw the profit potential and knew it would be a way to become debt-free even faster. And it worked.

In our first six years of marriage we paid off $85,000 and were down to only my student loan. But then we became lazy and, when tempted to take out a large construction loan to remodel our new home, we gave in impulsively to have the instant gratification. While not in debt to the extent we were when we first got married, it’s debt, regardless, and it has been difficult mentally to get over our mistake.

Our new church announced that they were offering the class beginning in January, so we decided that it was time to take it together and get back on track. We have continuously budgeted our entire marriage but it’s time to start the “debt snowball” once more.

Now that we have children in our home again, we’ve realized that THEY are our motivation and purpose. We never want to have to tell them they can’t participate in something because we don’t have the money if debt is the reason. 

Our goal is to be debt-free by the time they turn five. That is fifty months from now.

We have a plan. We’ve tightened up our budget as much as possible – which led us to realize that we surprisingly don’t have a spending problem, but rather an income problem (in terms of having extra to be aggressive with debt payoff). We weren’t sure what to do, but we prayed for opportunities to earn extra money that could be applied directly to our debt.

And, as always, God is faithful to His children.

I was presented with the opportunity for a new part-time job that will not only bring in some extra income but also help us cut our food budget and simplify meal planning (and give me a much-needed break a couple of nights each week).

And then, on Friday, I was offered a promotion at my other part-time job that not only pays more but it’s a lot more responsibility (being the manager on duty – MOD). Not only was this an answer to my prayer, but I was an answer to their “prayers” because it’s only 1-2 weekend days a month and they didn’t know how they would find someone willing to work so few hours. Then they remembered me, my qualifications, and how I’m currently only working there 1-2 times per month, and they said it was the perfect solution all-around. God’s hand is clearly in this. 

This all happened in the last three weeks and we’re still in awe. 

We didn’t pray that God would just hand us money (though we wouldn’t say no 😉 ) – we prayed for opportunities to EARN it, and He came through quickly and amazingly!

I share all of this as an encouragement. ANYONE can do what we’re doing. EVERYONE can become debt-free even though it requires dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. As Dave says, “Live like no one else so that later you can live and give like no one else.”

We are “gazelle intense” and ready to pay off my student loans and this construction loan as soon as we possibly can. The future of our children is worth the sacrifices we make now.

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.

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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:

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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. ❤

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.

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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. ❤


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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:

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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.

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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. ❤

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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!