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.

Isaiah and Caleb’s Adventure List

When we started to create a “bucket list” for Tori, we knew time was short. We knew we had to cram as much into her limited days on earth as we could, and we did. We completed fifty adventures and it brought so much joy to us. We won’t know what she got out of those adventures until we get to Heaven, but for us, they were a huge deal and we loved every second.

After the boys were born I was thinking about Tori’s list and I told Brennan that we should do the same adventures with the boys (though not in just a nine month time frame – spread out over their childhood) since these are things we would have waited to do as a family if our circumstances had been ideal. He readily agreed.

Though we are doing them separately, it feels like she is a part of these memories, and we can show the boys the pictures of Tori doing each adventure as we do them. ❤️

So, tonight we did the first thing on the list: Build-a-Bear. Thanks to their “Pay your age” promotion, we spent a total of $2.12 for these memories 😊

Here’s the link to Tori’s experience there.

We tried to let the boys pick out their own animal (which we knew would be challenging because they just like to look at everything!) and we ended up choosing the ones at which they smiled the most.

Truthfully, they were more interested in the stickers they were given than the animals 😂

Seeing the wonder and joy in their eyes and hearing their laughter fills us with joy like none other.

Even though they don’t care about their new animals just yet, someday they will and we can tell them this story. ❤️

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)

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!

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. ❤️

Why We Don’t Visit Tori’s Grave

We’ve never written about this before, but I think it’s important.

Let me preface with this: we know many people do things differently than we do so there’s no judgment at all. Everyone needs to do what their hearts need for healing.

This may surprise some of you, but we don’t visit Tori’s burial site (resurrection site, as we like to call it).

We don’t decorate it, we don’t spend time there. In fact, the only times we’ve been there were to show out of town visitors where it is, as it’s difficult to give directions.

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gone there, and the reason is likely not what you think.

We feel no need to go there because SHE ISN’T THERE. Her soul is in Heaven, and we don’t need to sit at her grave to be reminded of that.

We don’t decorate it for holidays or leave anything there because she isn’t there, she won’t know we did that, and it doesn’t feel necessary to us.

If you’ve read Even So, Joy you know that we believe that death isn’t something to be feared or held onto – it’s a temporary separation and we will be reunited again!

So, for us, it never even crosses our mind to go to where her broken, earthly body was buried. We’d rather focus on changing the world around us and choosing joy as her legacy.


Brennan and I don’t always feel free to express our perspective on how to deal with child loss because we seem to be the minority. We feel like we have to stay quiet because we are doing so well.

But, here’s our perspective:

If I consider this situation from a different angle, the way to live is obvious.

If I were the one in Heaven, how would I want my parents to live? Would I want them to stay in bed, crying every day, wasting their life away, or would I want them to LIVE an abundant life because that’s what I would be doing in Heaven?

I’d want them to LIVE. To have JOY because of the impact I had on their lives. I’d want them to celebrate my life, not dwell on my absence.

This is how we view our life now that Tori is in Heaven. Our joy doesn’t come from her absence – we have joy because she existed. Her death didn’t change me – her existence did.

Tori comes up in conversation daily, especially now that we see so much of her in her little brothers. We think about her all the time but those memories bring joy, not tears.

I don’t believe that our loved ones can see us from Heaven, but if they can I certainly wouldn’t want Tori to see us wasting this short life we’re given. I’d want her to see us making the most of it, joyfully, just like we would if she were with us.


Tori may not physically be here, but we don’t have to go to her grave to see evidence of her impact. We see it every day in her brothers, in our memories, and in the legacy she has.

As tragic and horrible as it is, I don’t believe that child loss has to derail our entire lives. Shape it, yes. Ruin it, no. It’s a choice that has to be made daily, and we choose to be joyful. ❤️


If you’d like to get a copy of “Even So, Joy: Our Journey through Heartbreak, Hope, and Triumph” you can do so here.