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:


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.


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. ❤


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!

Dreams of Healing, Part Seven

Whenever people message us to share dreams they have of Tori being healthy and healed, we save and compile them into blog posts because they are so interesting to us and give us hope. 

You can read all the dream posts here.

We were talking and Tori stood up by herself and then crawled away. I was amazed and said “look what she is doing!” But, you nonchalantly said she did it all the time.

I was carrying Tori flat across my arm. We were walking to a picnic table. Tori didn’t want to lay flat anymore and started to squirm. I put her down and she took off! Running toward the table. And she was FAST! I couldn’t catch her!

We got to the table and sat with a bunch of people. Tori sat up on my knee and messed with stuff on the table. Then she sat with my boyfriend when she got bored of me. It was all so normal, smiling and happy. Then she got back into my arms layed down and fell right asleep. All that running and playing tired her out since she wasn’t used to it. That’s when i woke up. It was so nice to see her play like nothing was different.

I dreamed that we were at church and Tori was sitting on your lap moving her arms all around and moving her head too!

I had a dream about Tori last night. Lesa was going to a women’s conference in the area and she needed someone to watch Tori, so I volunteered.

At first Tori was still sick, but I remember thinking how cute she was in real life (not just in pictures on FB). About an hour in I decided to take some selfies of us together. As soon as I took my phone out and held it up Tori said “screen” and smiled really big for me to take a picture. I thought it was a fluke, so I decided to take a few more. Every time I took a picture she would smile.

A little bit later I decided to take her for a walk outside. As soon as we got outside I set her down on the ground, so she could walk. We went on a trail that went through the town. (At this time she went from her current age to about four or five). She was following along behind me with no problems. She was talking up a storm about her favorite color (purple) and what she wanted to do when she grew up (I can’t remember what it was, but she was excited). We walked back and Lesa came to pick her up.

I dreamed Tori was 5-6 and pretending to be a dog at a (church) picnic. She had pigtails and was running around until Brennan told her it was time to go. Then she just stood up and walked to the car holding his hand. I actually got my phone out to take a picture to send to you, but of course that didn’t work. 😊 Some of the Lingles were there, which was weird. It was a mild, sunny day in a park with lots of trees. Gorgeous, but I couldn’t pick out the place.

Last night I had a dream that my family was visiting with your family. Tori was sitting up on my hip (like you would hold a toddler) and was smiling. She totally was melting everyone’s heart with her sweet disposition.

I had a dream your family came to visit mine. Tori was very happy, healthy, and active. She was still little (like now). But she appeared healed! She was very enthusiastically laughing, smiling, and clapping her hands with so much excitement! She still required some (but very little) medical attention. Little enough, you felt comfortable enough quickly teaching me how to care for her and letting me take her for you so that, mommy and daddy could have some cuddly nap time! (weird enough you and Brennan both were so tired you were passing out as you were speaking! )

Dreams of Healing, Part Six

We continue to collect notes and messages about dreams people have had about Tori being healed. There have been so many, and it is the constant prayer of our hearts that they come true. ❤

You can read all the dream posts here.

I dreamed it was almost her 2nd birthday and she was currently starting to put sounds together in an effort to talk. On the morning of her birthday you went in to her as she was waking up and she said “mamma” the moment she saw you. I pray that my dream comes true and that Tori is going to be blessed by God with a miracle to allow her to live to enjoy being a grandmother.

i was babysitting her. and it was morning. she got up and grabbed onto a (tree) that was beside her and pulled herself up and climbed up onto a couch. she was still somewhat sick, but she was really moving and expressional.

Aww. I had a dream about your child last night!!! I was standing on the left side of her, a bit behind her shoulder (wildly enough, much like the angle of this photo) And she not only moved her right arm to take something from me but turned her head toward me and said 3 words. Someone else was there to witness it, the mom, of course was there, but also another woman and not sure who.

I had a dream last night that you were driving with Brennan and the kids and I were in the back. I was rubbing Tori’s legs because I thought they were cold and she smiled a huge smile; just short of laughing. I’ve never dreamed of Tori before and my continual prayer has been that she smiles for you again. I will keep praying for you guys for her to be healed and of course to give you that smile. ❤️


I had a dream about Tori last night. I don’t remember much but she was smiling. She must have been about 3 years old, and I think it was like a picture you sent me. She had a big, beautiful, healthy happy smile on her face.

Had a Tori healing dream last night had to share! For some reason she came with me on a Mary Kay conference and you did too but you were vacationing and Tori was hanging with me so I was eating and holding her and she’s all eyeing up my food so without thinking I gave her a taste and she loved it. But then I was so freaked out BC I was like oh my gosh she can’t do that Lesa isn’t going to trust me to watch her I was super upset. So I go to tell you and I remember thinking maybe she won’t b so mad if she brought lots of milk (not sure why that fixes but it’s a dream) and so I reach into this packed bag of Tori’s food and it’s like carrot sticks French fries, like not even mashed up baby food like big food. And you are all casual like yup she eats it all! So I felt better and Tori and I went to a Mary Kay meeting and not sure what you did but we had carrot sticks and French fries! 😉

Last night I had the clearest dream about Tori. It was so real to me that I couldn’t shake it all day.

We were all at an airport, getting ready to board an international flight. I feel like we were going to Israel via Russia (mostly because I’ve been looking at those flights recently). We were waiting on line (a large group of us). The portion of the dream that pertains to Tori is that she was 3 or 4 years old… A toddler and she could speak, but in typical toddler talk. Cutest little squeaky voice. She got the attention of so many people in the terminal because she was wearing a Cinderella dress.

She stayed with me as we were in line to board and you two went to get coffee or some snack.

After getting on the plane, I told you both that I would keep Tori with me so the two of you could sleep. In the dream, you both were sure that she wouldn’t go to sleep right away and since you were so exhausted, I kept her with me in my row. She and I played peekaboo in our seats. It was a pretty fancy plane too. She finally fell asleep on my lap just as you and Brennan were waking up. The flight had two hours to go, and both of you kept saying, “I can’t believe we both slept twelve hours!” Now, I don’t know why a flight would take so long, but it did and you were both very pleased to have slept so well.

I was at your house holding Tori and she kept pushing/kicking me with her arms and legs and then started pinching me (lol, little fighter!). I think I remember telling you that she’s even cuter in person. My mom was also with me, but we didn’t stay long because you guys had a wedding to go to. Lesa, you were really proud to show off your ugly Christmas sweater. Not sure why you’d decided to wear that to the wedding, but hey, whatever makes you happy, Lesa. 😊 It ended with Brennan fixing you breakfast to have for the following day.

I had a dream that I came and visited you guys. We were chatting and catching up. Tori could hold up her head by herself most of the time. We had to catch her from falling off the bed and the high chair because she was moving around so much. She was not completely healed YET, but was making improvements.

Tori was still not completely at full health in my dream, but she was definitely living life – running around in the terminal, acting shy when adults in line would say hello to her, and twirling in her dress. I don’t really know how better to describe it. It doesn’t sound like much, but the feeling it left me with was very powerful. When I woke up, I felt like I literally spent a 48 hour period with three year old Tori.


Unexpected Encouragement at Just the Right Time

This morning I received emails from two long-time friends, both offering prayerful encouragement that they felt the Lord leading them to type. They had no idea why they were prompted to write, but they faithfully did.

The first message said this:

I was outside praying this morning…it is still dark here and the stars and planets are beautiful. I was praying specifically for you, Tori and Brennan. At the moment when I asked Him to remember you, a gorgeous shooting star painted the sky right in front of me. I was already crying and just felt that was a beautiful affirmation. I know everything is so hard…please never doubt that He sees you, He loves you all, and He hasn’t forgotten you. Even now He is in control. I know you already know this. I just wanted to share that with you. ♡ ” Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you” ♡

The second spoke words of Scripture over us as a family and prayed that His perfect love would cast out all fear.

And it was needed.

I had one of the worst dreams of my life last night: the first – and hopefully the last – dream about Tori dying. 

Don’t you love how our dreams are wildly out of our control? 

In the dream, she went peacefully but suddenly – we weren’t expecting it in the moment. She didn’t seem to be struggling. She was just suddenly gone.

I kept thinking she was just sleeping. That she would wake up. But she didn’t.

The humorous thing was that we put her body in a giant gum ball machine and filled it with giant colorful gum balls for some reason. Our brains are so crazy when we sleep! I was thankful for the humor in the midst of such a terrible dream.

I was in a trance in the dream as we struggled to make arrangements and spread the news, but I was somehow able to do it all. That’s what I have heard from other Krabbe parents – that somehow you get through it all despite the intense grief.

Seeing her dead, even in the dream, shook me. We know this is the likely outcome but that doesn’t mean we are ready. Are you ever actually ready to lose a child?

Each time another Krabbe warrior goes to be with Jesus it is a harsh reminder of the path we are walking. Just this morning we learned that precious Addilyn passed away after four years of fighting Krabbe. Please pray for her family.

As the dream continued, we chose to have headstones in both California and Pennsylvania for some reason. We buried her in one of those places but I don’t know which. That was fitting because, as we have tried to talk through our plan should she not be healed on earth, we have no idea what we will do. 

We have planned much of her “celebration of life” service (and it will be that – a celebration!), but are still stuck with what to do with her physical body. It is as if our brains rebel at the slightest thought of having to decide between burial (and with that, where?) and cremation. 

The point of this post is two-fold: to share the dream but to also encourage you.

I don’t think this dream was prophetic or from God in any way (and I certainly pray it wasn’t!) but the encouragement from my friends was. 

When the Lord prompts you to do something or say something, do it. Say it. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Let Him use you to bless others in amazing ways.

We will continue to pray that this dream never comes true, even though we know that Krabbe=death unless it is caught at birth. We continue to trust God fully, knowing that He will redeem this in His own way, in His own time. ❤️ 

And we pray to never have a dream like that again. 

Dreams of Healing, Part Five

People continue to have dreams about Tori being healed and it fills our hearts with cautious hope.

Please continue to share your dreams with us!

I just woke up from a dream that I had gotten to meet her and was holding her and she was cooing and smiling away.

My three year old has been talking non-stop about Tori today. Said he had a dream about her birthday and playing with her and her orange binky.

Last night was the first time I had a dream about Tori. I was going with Lesa and Brennan to one of Tori’s doctor appointments, sitting in the back with her. I was talking to her and she smiled! A huge smile, and then she started to “talk” – it was baby talk and most of it we couldn’t understand but we were all so excited and laughing! She had great head control, her smiles were big and she was happy! I remember thinking a switch flipped and she was getting better!

In this dream I was teaching and Tori was in the class I was teaching. I remember thinking inside my dream that I knew God would heal her.

I had a dream last night, you and Tori were in it! She was laughing and crawling, and she even said NO! With quite some authority! I’m sure there was more, but I cannot remember it. You were both smiling and laughing. It was beautiful.

Dreams of Healing, Part Four

We have been continually amazed at the dreams that people are having about Tori and we pray that they are prophetic.

If you ever have a dream about Tori being healed, please share it with us! We love to keep them in hopes that someday they will come true and be part of her story.

I have tried to keep track of all the comments about dreams that I see, but if I have missed your dream in these posts, please let me know!

You can read all of the dream posts here.

I (Lesa) actually had one about her for the first time:

I was holding her and she made a noise that sounded like a laugh and it looked like she smiled. Then, we were sitting on the floor and she tried to walk and was smiling and laughing again.

Here are the ones submitted to us recently:

I woke up knowing I’d had a dream about Tori being healed.

I was with Lesa and I believe we were at church, in a hallway or a Sunday School room, not the sanctuary.

Lesa handed Tori to me to hold while she went to the Ladies’ Room. Tori was strong and moving a lot, so I walked over to a bench against the wall to sit down and have better control over her squirming.

I looked down and next to me on the bench where I sat was a photograph of 5 children standing in the corner of the room we were in. One of the children I recognized as Tori, but older. She had on a cute straw hat & a cute little coat, very old fashioned. It felt like an old-time style photo of kids at Easter. There was a corner shelf above their heads.

I was very excited to see this photo and showed it to Lesa when she returned, and asked her if she saw Tori. She didn’t. She saw the other 4 children, but didn’t see Tori with them. Tori was one of the taller children in the photo, I’d say maybe 6 years old or so. The age range of the children was about 3-7.

Here’s what I drew to illustrate what the photo looked like. I didn’t see the faces of the other children, only Tori.

She was laying on her pillow playing a toy guitar.

Tori was a teenager and said, “um, mom, I hate to tell you this, but I really don’t like giraffes.”

 I had a Tori dream last night, too! The funny part is that it was in the context of how I primarily know you, which is through Facebook. 😊 In my dream, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw pictures of Tori smiling. Her nose was crinkled up, and in the dream, I was so happy to see her smile! I remember thinking how happy you must be to see her smiling again!

Had another sort of dream about Tori. This time I was at work and I was watching the Ellen show. And towards the end, Ellen and her audience all had pictures of Tori for the Tori travels challenge. Then she cut to live feed where she had her crew come to your house with one of those big checks for $50,000.

Dreams of Healing, Part Three

We have been continually amazed at the dreams that people are having about Tori and we pray that they are prophetic.

It has been awhile since we posted the dreams that have been shared with us; you can see all of the dream posts here.

If you ever have a dream about Tori being healed, please share it with us! We love to keep them in hopes that someday they will come true and be part of her story.

I have tried to keep track of all the comments about dreams that I see, but if I have missed your dream in these posts, please let me know! 🙂

I was holding her and she made a noise that sounded like a laugh and it looked like she smiled. Then, we were sitting on the floor and she tried to walk and was smiling and laughing again. (Lesa)

I had a dream about Tori last night. She was playing peek-a-boo with me. She would put her hands over eyes and giggle and grin. Tori was being a little show off in the dream.It was cutest thing. She appeared to be her current age.

I never remember my dreams, but this one was so powerful that it woke me with a smile during the night. I dreamed that you were holding Tori in your arms, and she was smiling up at you and chattering away.

I had a dream last night that she was laying on a blanket and raised her head some and rolled over both ways and everyone was so surprised and then so excited.

I walked up to a house and on the porch you were rocking Tori, and as I walked up she turned her head and looked at me and got off your lap and started crawling toward me. She was babbling and smiling and so active.

She was toddler age and and able to talk, babbling like toddlers do. She said “I love you” clear as day to someone, not sure who.

I don’t remember much except that she was sucking and swallowing like a healthy baby. Can’t remember if she was drinking or sucking on a pacifier, but she was healthy, alert, and had bright eyes!

I had a vision of her, about two years old, sitting up posing for a picture and smiling.

I remember her swinging on a swing on a playground, running with other kids and laughing. It was a beautiful dream.

I was dreaming in my dream, and the dream was about Tori, around age 3, riding a tricycle and singing; I woke up in the dream and my husband had also been dreaming about Tori being healed.

I was babysitting and was feeding her and decided we would go for a walk as it was a BEAUTIFUL day! I was getting ready to put her in the stroller when she stood up and said I will walk! I was jumping up and down so excited that she could walk and talk!

I had a dream just the other night. Tori and my daughter were playing together, running around, riding bikes. She was born August 5th and we don’t live far from you guys So it was a pretty amazing dream. Praying for Tori constantly 🙂