My Soul Still Says

The words "it is well with my soul" are tattooed on my arm. All lowercase. In script that's fading a little now. Because I don't wear a lot of sunscreen and I love being outside. And I'm terrified of needles. Less terrified, more like I get nauseous and dizzy and pass-out. I did that when I got my tattoo, but it was worth it. 

I've birthed four children and I still say childbirth isn't the worst thing. It's the needles. I would never consider an epidural because I'd rather bear the pain of natural childbirth over the thought of a needle in my spine. 

But I have a tattoo of these words because they are so important to me. 

If you don't know the story behind this hymn, you should definitely give it a read. The man who penned these words originally lost a whole lot more than I did. Although I do not believe grief can be compared, I do know he understood grief. And he wrote these words. He must have believed them to have shared them. 

Or at least he believed them at some point. Maybe he was like me. I believe these words in my soul, but there are days I do not feel them. I know the truth, but sometimes my heart aches so deep that clinging to truth feels heavy and hard and unattainable. So I permanently penned these words on my arm to remind myself at the end of the day, at the end of the valley, at the end of all days, it truly is well. 

But that doesn't mean it always feels well.

Lowercase, because I'm weak. Because I didn't have the strength to be bold about it. Because I am small. 

Even on my weakest days, my smallest moments, my biggest doubts, I know that even the tiniest amount of faith, the smallest crevice of my heart saying "it is well" is enough. 

And even when it doesn't feel well. Even when I ask myself if this is really how I feel, what I believe, how I live my life, I know it is because...

I still get up out of bed every morning.

I still find joy.

I still feed my body and nourish my soul.

I still take one step at a time moving forward. 

And each day is one day closer. Sometimes that's what makes it well. 




Bringing Thao Home

We brought him home from the hospital. Our young little selves, at twenty-two and twenty-three brought a real life human baby home to care for. God created and grew him in my womb. Only God could create this tiny miracle. And here we were, still newly-weds of some sort, bringing home a child to love and care for. And let me tell you, no one could love a baby more than us. 

We doted on him. For hours we would just stare at him, this miracle. We counted fingers and toes.  We ran our fingers down his soft baby skin arms. We smelled his head and marveled at every little noise he made. He had a crooked little yawn. He stretched like big people do, only it was tiny and much cuter. He curled up his chubby legs. He opened his eyes and they met ours, again. At times it felt as if he could see straight into my soul. He intently watched us, always observing and learning about the world around him.

Time passed and soon his days and nights straightened out. We found a new normal, adjusting to life as parents. We worked during the day, Jeff at a cabinet shop while I stayed home and watched extra kids. Our evenings consisted of spending time with our little family and working on our forever-fixer-upper house. Life was good. Thao was growing and learning and keeping us on our toes.

We were in awe of this little boy with bright blue eyes and contagious smile. He loved well, learned much, and snuggled often. He learned to crawl and then to walk. 

It was a simple life, a quiet life. And it was so good. 

"For me, the worst part of giving birth was the fact that I had to share my baby. I couldn't protect him or selfishly keep all the smiles and snuggles to myself. He was a beautiful, fun baby. He was our gift." -Excerpt from Still.

You can read more of Thao's story in my memoir, Still (when all else fades away)

image 2.JPG

When Thao Was Born

I will never forget the first time he looked at me. The way our eyes met, he knew me. I will never forget the tears of joy his daddy cried. I will never forget the gentleness of his cry. Or the fuzzy curls on his head. 

I remember the weight of his tiny eight pounds placed in my arms. It was nothing compared to the weight lifted off of me when he was finally here, healthy and safe. He was our rainbow baby, although I hadn't heard that term at the time. He was our breath of fresh air. He was wanted, longed for, prayed for and loved. He was a dream come true, our adventure, our son. 

I remember when we got to show him off. As proud as parents could be, we introduced him to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Of course they ooooed and ahhed over him. Of course they would, he was beautiful.

My round little one with the gentle cry, the strong appetite, the button nose. We were so in love. Doting on him as parents do, our love grew deeper that day. Stronger, even than it was before. It grew to encompass this tiny baby. We changed his diapers, soothed his cries. We dressed him in clothes we had chosen so many weeks before. We slowly placed him in his carseat. We were ready to take this baby boy home. To start this life as parents. To teach him and train him and love him and nurture him. To snuggle him and smile at him and love him 'til it hurt. 

We just didn't know then. We didn't know how much it would hurt. Or how fiercely we would love. Or how tested our patience would be. We didn't know how imperfect our parenting was. Or how much this tiny little boy would teach us. About himself and ourselves. About our marriage. About love and grace and forgiveness. About patience. About God. 

We had no idea how much personality was wrapped up into this itty bitty bundle. We had no idea how many questions we would answer. Or how many questions would be left unanswered. 

I was twenty-two years old. Married for two years to my best friend and beginning this new adventure of motherhood. After losing our first baby to miscarriage, this child was the answer to our heart cries, our prayers. I wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. Other girls would dream of becoming a veternarian or a teacher. Other girls would go on to universities and become doctors. I wanted to be a mom. I dreamed of staying home with my own house full of children and greeting my husband with a kiss when he walked in the door. This child was everything we ever wanted. 

I didn't know so many things at that point. And thank you, Lord, for that. Because not knowing helped me to just be. Just be a mom to Thao. A regular, stay-at-home, fiercely loving, mama. 

those toes. 

those toes. 

To Mamas and Daddies in Really Hard Places

To the mamas and daddies in really hard places:

When you find yourself in the midst of the unthinkable. In the hospital rooms. In the fight. In the dark spaces.


My heart cries out.

I am praying. 

Although those words feel inadequate in a moment like this, I know our God is almighty and all-powerful. His name is Healer. I also know, all too well, that this world is just cruel and hard and things don't always go how I want them to. 

Where is God in all of this?

He is in the space between, filling all the voids. He is in the breath of a new baby. He is in the sparklle of a toddler's eyes. He is the peace in the soul of a dying child.

He is in the fight in the heart of the father. He is in the inconsolable weeping of the mother.

He is. 

He was.

And thank goodness, He is to come. 

Because this world is full of unjust suffering. It is full of sorrow. It is simply unfair.

But the Lord promises so much more. Soon that time will come. When all these wrongs will be made right. When the suffering will be replaced with uninhibited and thorough joy. When all sadness and hunger and pain will be redeemed. Redeemed, complete, perfected. 

Photo credit: Lindy Belley

Photo credit: Lindy Belley

I don't understand the suffering, but I know that Jesus is near. I know His heart aches. I know He holds these precious babies close. I know, because I've been there. I've felt His embrace. I've known that kind of peace. I've been in that room, with my dying child.

And I met Jesus there. Or rather, He met me, right where I was, right where you are. Among the tubes and wires and machines and blood. He is there. He is with us in the messy. The dirty. The scary. The unimagineable. 

He is with us in the pain. The suffering. The grief.

He is with us in the joy. The beauty. The breath. 

and He never leaves. 

I think sometimes our eyes are more open to Him in the pain. Our ears are more prone to listen in the suffering. our hearts are softer in the grief. 

Because we beg for Him. We want Him. We need Him in a new way. And He wants us close. He draws us near. He longs for us to come to Him. 

So, now in this moment, when "all we can do is pray".  Well, friends, maybe that is all we are supposed to do. Talk to our Savior. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge the Creator and Sustainer of life. 

And we will do what we are meant to do all along. We will glorify our God with our lips. We will praise Him with our tears. We will thank Him for the gift of life. 

You Answered

Weeping may tarry for the night...

I cried out. 

Lord, but when will my morning come?

because it feels like God isn't answering me. 



but I am running out.

I am weary.

I have nothing left. 

I've said yes to anything and anywhere. 

but I feel like God is sitting silently 

on His throne.

I am to make Him known,

to praise Him through the storm.

but when do the storms stop coming?



...but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b

And You answered.

Luca - bringer of light

Nehemiah - God's comfort


Luca, you are an answer to prayer. 

Luca, you are an answer to prayer. 

...such joy.

...such joy.

Luca, you are so loved. 

Luca, you are so loved. 

Our little light. 

Our little light. 

Our morning.

Our morning.

...for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b


We rejoice in the birth of our son, but we do not forget. Our mourning has not been replaced, joy has just been added to our grief. This is a place where sorrow and joy meet, a grief journey. a delicate dance. This is a new season to navigate, one with more love and more joy and more praise. One with sweet memories and still-dark days. One of tears. both bitter and sweet. 

Here's to the journey; the future, the past and most certainly, the present.

this is the journey

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you,

O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

Psalm 9:10


And so begins the overflow of my heart from this long, deep, grief filled summer. Summer had its own beauty this year. Different, difficult, joyful, grief-filled beauty. One of processing our adoption, their homecoming, our past miscarriages and Thao's death. The joy in our pregnancy and hearing a strong heartbeat. The chasing home. The following is my overflow of heart, the deep hurt and questions, the beginning...

"...for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

But what about when we feel forsaken? When it seems as though we get no answer? or it just hurts so bad? or the answer is no? or it just costs so very much?

Our kids came home...

He didn't let them die. He brought them home. He let them be found. 

But why did it cost so much? Emotionally, physically, financially. Why didn't God just move the mountains? change the hearts? show more mercy? He is able. 

But if we go there, then we must also go to the place of asking. Why did they need us in the first place? Why were they abandoned? Left hungry? Sick and alone? Why did they lose people they loved? Why is the country as a whole, hungry and disease rampant? 

Why did Thao die, with the best available care, leaving behind a loving family? and orphans, same sick, let live to be alone? why must is be so difficult to adopt a child in need? to feed the hungry? to nurture the wounded soul? 

The need, so prevalent, the desire so strong. The willing heart is found, right here inside me. Then red tape and written or unwritten laws, brick walls, mountains, cold hearts. Nothing seems fair in life or death. 

How then can we lean? How then can we trust? Work together for good? what good? whose good?


here on earth. is not enough. 

redemption. healing.

here on earth, not truly healed or redeemed. 

redemption, healing, is still so broken and scary. and dark and deep. and unknown.

Yet we see glimpses of glory, right here on earth. Glimpses of glory in this broken redemption, in this holy healing. Because we choose to. Because the Lord allows. 

But why see it now, when before was too dark to see? The foggy, hazy, dark, deep grief, and questions, unclear?


Why now is it deep grief?

Why now, do I see how to choose this holy joy?

Why now, do I see? 

He has unblinded my eyes. I can see. 

Do we trust him? completely? wholly? his timing? his love? his sovereignty? his grace? his mercy?

When I look up into the sky...when I see glimpses of Glory. I see with unblinded eyes, the Lord in his greatness, the vast unknown, the smalless of myself...and I have nothing left but to trust. 

To trust in the One who loves, who calls me his child, his beloved. The One who created breath. The One who sustains life and surrounds us in beauty. Because of love. 

This is the journey

finding home

wandering soul

binding heart

resting as the beloved

because here, I am home. 


he never left me // heavenmeetsearthproject // guest post

I'm sure you've been have I...when this whole project would surface again. I must apologize because I got a little lost inside my life. And it's no excuse, really. I have some really awesome submissions and even more amazing people that are waiting on me. And God is going to use them in this very big, very wonderful way. A way that shows grace and mercy and love to those of us (ahem, me) that really just don't deserve it. Thank you for being so patient, #heavenmeetsearth people. I will be telling more of my story as the days progress. But for now, please meet my friend, Katie. She's a dear. This submission I've heard from her own mouth, through her own tears, with my own ears. This story will resonate deep with some of you. Others may find it encouraging, but possibly distant. Because, let's be honest. How often do we see drug addict recover? When was the last time you saw someone change their life so drastically only to relaspe a few months later? She left that life, never to look back. But it's not of her own strength, and she will tell you, it is only through the strength that Jesus is. Because through our weakness, HE is strong. Maybe Jesus be glorified throught this redemption story. May you find hope in this place today. - Tiffany


Let me introduce our next #heavenmeetsearth guest poster gal,  Katie. 



     Years ago in my teenage years, I became addicted to drugs. Especially crack.  So many things lead to me turning to drugs. Life hurt so badly. It hurt to think. It hurt to breath. It hurt to just live.


     I was living on my own by my junior year in high school and ended up in an physical abusive relationship. I felt like I didn’t have a place to go to and be saved from abuse, so I starting doing drugs. I became so addicted to crack that I began to trade or sell things to get crack, including pets. I even broke into a house.


    I couldn’t afford food because I lost my job and saved all my money for drugs. I went to the Salvation Army every Tuesday to get two packs of free bagels. Those were my only meals till the next Tuesday. I weighed only about 90 lbs. and started not to care about my appearance.


     After months of doing crack as well as LSD, marijuana, and cocaine, I was hoping that I would just wake up and be dead. I almost got my wish on a three occasions.


     One night I drank almost a whole bottle of liquor in about 30 minutes. I did it purposely. I immediately started vomiting. I was lying outside in the grass staring at the night skies. I remember crying and sobbing. I looked up and yelled, “why!” After I wanted an answer to why the pain, I yelled once more to the sky, “Why can’t somebody just love me!” I just wanted to be loved. I lost all consciousness after that.


     I vomited for several days after that. And for those days, I had no water or food. I had severe alcohol poisoning with no medical treatment. I still kept hoping that I’d wake up dead.


     A couple of weeks after that, I started thinking of ways out. I thought of suicide throughout the day. Daydreaming of ways to die. I wanted out from the pain. Also during this time, I stared talking out loud to myself saying, “Help me” but I didn’t know whom I was talking to.


     On another night, I smoked a whole joint full of crack to myself. I believe it was even laced with cocaine.  After a while, I started to feel   


very numb in the face. My body was beginning to shake and my heart beating fast. I also noticed that my vision was beginning to flicker white. Hours later my symptoms were beginning to worsen. I felt as though my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was shaking uncontrollably. 


     At that moment, I realized I was dying. I realized I was overdosing.  I stood up with a loss of balance. I found my stumbling body up against a wall. My body slid down from the wall and I sat in a corner of my bedroom. My vision finally completely disappeared and my heart was pounding terribly hard. I was, dying and I knew it. 


     Instead of being glad that my wish came true, I was afraid to die. I was beginning to take back all that I thought. And I remember thinking, is it to late? All of a sudden I said out loud, “ I don’t want to die because I don’t know who I am. God if you are real, please let me live. I promise I will live my life for you.” After that, I lost all consciousness.


     I woke up alive. I left with the clothes on my back. I quit drugs cold turkey and I never had a single withdraw. But even though I quit drugs, problems still followed me.  I was blamed for stealing crack. Somebody from the drug neighborhood was trying to find me so they could murder me. They almost succeeded. They found my temporary home. When I was not home, they busted the windows and front door. There was blood on my porch as a warning. I had to clear my name before I was cleared from this earth.


     What I did learn was that I was worth saving, no matter what I did. I learned that when I was crying out “why can’t somebody love me”, Jesus was saying, “I love you”


     When I was saying, “Somebody help me”, “Jesus was saying, “ I am here to lift you.”


      You see, after I did drugs, I lost some of my intellectual memory. When I was 18 years old I had to purchase 3rd grade phonics and math books. My education level was equivalent to a 3rd grader. 


     Now, I am publishing a book about my life and I homeschool my children. But I would not be able to achieve any of this without Jesus Christ.  


     I used to think that only perfect people believed in Jesus. It used to sound bogus that Jesus was the sent from God to save people. But the truth is, He does save. 


     Jesus saves us by showing us how to think. He saves our state of minds so we can live life in hope and love. He takes our tormenting thoughts that torture us and turns our thoughts into, “I can.”


     I was saved by Jesus. I survived alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, and murder. Those are obvious ones, but Jesus also saved my screaming mind, my over burdened heart, and He saved my identity. I no longer felt like a monster, but instead Jesus saved my purpose and gave me a reason to live again. Jesus can and absolutely will do the same to anybody who’s asks Him because Jesus never leaves us. He never left me.


Katie and her husband are raising four beautiful children. She is pursuing her passions of living simply and resting in Christ. 

Katie and her husband are raising four beautiful children. She is pursuing her passions of living simply and resting in Christ. 

You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons // bookreview&more

First of all I'd like to say how incredibly blessed I am to be able to say that I was a part of this book launch team. What a wonderful group of people; supporting, uplifting, Jesus-loving and encouraging to this dear author, Rebekah Lyons.  

I want to say, I started this book with gusto. I was incredibly excited to read these words. But then, for one reason or another, my time trickled away from me. And I found myself lost in my own world. Sadly, I didn't read. I couldn't stay focused on anything, life, stress, anxiety, busy-ness threatened me and I let it take over.

And then. Then, the sunshine began to peek through these dark clouds in my mind. And then, I picked up this book. It was like God was whispering, "Now is the time, read this."


I read the first chapter through tears, thinking that this woman must know me. We are kindred spirits, she and I. Letting the anxiety creep in and paralyze, then her beautiful reminder to me, Jesus. He's there all along. Just a hand-reach away. Our Almighty Healer. But, would He? 

He can. But, will He? (More on this later.)

And reading on and on...through the words she gently pens onto page after page...

Healing and direction. Provision. Leaning in to the freedom. And remembering that...Jesus. Jesus, the Creator and Healer and Savior, the Almighty asking us to bend our knees and bow our heads. The Freedom-Giver, the Strength-Provider, the Gentle-Whisperer. 

And then I found myself in some crazy situation where we sold our house within 48 hours (more on that later as well) with no place to go. And the countdown began and my tension rose. My chest felt that tightness and my heart hurt at the thought of leaving this place. Where we brought babies home, where we felt deep pain and loss and cried ourselves to sleep. Where Jesus made our family whole and holy, even with the suffering. Or because of the suffering. Where grief engulfs me but joy remains. This house, this home. And no place to go. 

beautiful inside & out   

beautiful inside & out


Reading on into Rebekah's story...following God lead, stepping into the unknown, doing the best for her family, surrendering...and watching God provide, in the eleventh hour. The beauty of her story at that point reminded me of my mustard seed faith. Reminded me that is all God is asking from trust. To trust in His sovereign plan. With my mustard seed faith. 

Thank you for following the heart of God and letting Him use you, Rebekah. I am blessed by you!

You can buy her book here.



Looking at Life Through the Lens of Eternity // heavenmeetsearthproject

“Begin with the end in mind.”

“Live like you were dying.”

“Love like there’s no tomorrow.”

Common phrases that point to a kingdom perspective.



I dare say #heavenmeetsearth when the lens of eternity changes our daily tasks. Jesus shows up to remind us His calling, His death, and His resurrection was for us. His time on this earth (when Heaven came to Earth) was for something so much greater. It changed the course of humanity and gave us access to the Father.


In September of 2016, I received a new lens for which I would have never signed up or requested. My two-and-a-half year-old son was diagnosed with a rare, genetic disease known as Hunter Syndrome or MPS II. The hilarious, fun-loving toddler who had a few mild and fairly typical developmental delays suddenly had a death sentence over his head, and one that promised to be slow and painstakingly drawn out. Boys with Hunter Syndrome typically develop normally until between ages 2 and 5, and then begin regressing both physically and cognitively. Talking, walking, and eating slowly fade away and most do not live through their teen years. And just like that, I had an eternal lens.


The story I did not want but am now living is my #heavenmeetsearth journey. My son’s body is lacking a particular enzyme he needs to breakdown certain molecules. The accumulation will lead to progressive, degenerative damage to his entire body. For now, he’s an active two year-old. He loves fiercely, and his laugh is infectious. As he cruises across the backyard in the cozy coup, I ponder how he’ll never drive a car. As he rocks the baby dolls to sleep, a lump in my throat forms thinking he’ll never be a father. As he hugs his sisters, I feel sick to my stomach knowing his days will be fewer than theirs. I could wallow in the sadness. I could let the darkness take over. And sometimes I do. Or I can let the Lord meet me in the darkness of those moments. He whispers, “My glory will be revealed and all mankind together will see it” (Isaiah 40:3). He reminds me we are not made for this world. We are all dying and in need of a Savior. Our broken bodies are longing for our lost Eden.


The new lens of earthly brokenness and the yearning for Heaven brings intentionality. This lens, by default, sets my mind on things above. I am reminded He is present. I am reminded I myself need to be present. By His grace, I am learning to slow down and to soak in this sweet, fleeting life He’s given me. Conversations and relationships change. The frivolous seems more frivolous. Loving others seems more like a marching order. He has given me a unique sensitivity for others’ pain and darkness. It is tempting to focus on our own pain right now, but I know His plans are great. Finn’s earthly time is made for so much more. I cling to the Hope of what is to come, not the fear of what will be lost.


Gradually (and fearfully at times), I am leaning in to the places He’s calling my family. My husband and I will soon launch a campaign in an attempt to raise the remaining funds needed for a clinical trial - one that could cure this terrible disease. The amount needed seems overwhelming, but we are praying and trusting. We are stepping out boldly with our new #heavenmeetsearth lens. We are confident in the One who is the Cure. We will fight for an earthly cure to bring Hope to the ones who have not yet met the Eternal Cure, our faithful Healer.  For we know without the lens of eternity, the darkness is too dark.

Allison Muedder lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband Jon and their three beautiful children (5 and under). Her background as a special educator and speech-language pathologist takes on a new depth of understanding as she begins navigating the world of rare disease after her son, Finn (2.5 years old) was diagnosed with Hunter Syndrome in 2016. She strives to love others well with intentionality, grace and hope.

You can follow her family’s story on her personal page:   

Or at Finn’s Story:


Grief That Felt Like Fear

This sounds absolutely horrible. But it's real. And it's raw. And let's just be honest, we probably all have some thoughts like this.  Sometimes when I see photos of hospital rooms, I just breathe a sigh of relief. 

I'm so thankful that's over for me. I'm done there. I'm no longer calling hospital home. I'm not friends with the nurses or cleaning ladies or texting the doctor friends in the middle of the night. I've done my time and it took my child. And I'm done. I have to live this way forever now, remembering "that one time we lived in the hospital". 

This sounds angry and bitter and so many, many things. What it truly is though, is fear. 

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." -C.S. Lewis

Fear of this world and what it can do to me and my family. It's fear that creeps in during the middle of the night ailments. It's fear that takes hold at every doctor appointment, every paper that asks for my children's medical history. Every time someone asks me to introduce myself. 

"And how many kids do you have?"

The normal becomes painful, the shallow becomes deep. The silence becomes deafening. And I fumble. I fumble around for words to answer just the simplest question. The question that is to me an identity. I'm a mother to children. How many children? 

At times I've answered simply, motioning with my hands to the littles at my feet, "All these are mine." 

Or sometimes I just say, "Right now we have four at home. Right now." Alluding to more children, grown or gone or to come, perhaps? I let them wonder. I leave it shallow for fear of going deep. But yet deep is what I yearn for. Ask me more.

And then in that rare moment when my heart just can't handle any more hidden secrets. When I feel as though I have forsaken the one I love so dearly when I leave out his name. The invisible pain shifts to my eyes and I tell them. "These are my children, and Thao. He's in heaven. He was five. He's my oldest, my firstborn. It's painful and hard but I just cannot leave him out. He made me a mother." I choke out the words and feel the tension rise. The comfortable becoming uncomfortable. How long has it been? Five years. It shouldn't feel this raw, maybe that's what they are thinking. Hasn't she moved on? Maybe they just don't say anything at all. Or maybe they apologize. And the words fall off tongues, "I'm sorry for your loss" because that what they are supposed to do. Be sorry. Have compassion, empathy. But until that loss has a name, how can we feel anything at all?  

Life after loss, the little things become big things. The doctors appointments, the family tree, the introductions, the new. But the big things, the things that used to consume me, my goals and dreams, those somehow shrink. And life is put into perspective. And I sigh. The hospital didn't take my son. The sickness did. The amazing nurses and kind doctors and gentle cleaning staff fought hard against...against death and disease and every single obstacle. But still, I fear. The first fever after Thao died sent me into panic attacks and tears. The first ER visit. The last ER visit. The unknowns. The smells of the hospital. The feeling of being completely and utterly out of control. 

The Lord says not to fear. And He tells me He is in control. And I rest. I breathe. I sigh. This world. It's far from over, all the chaos and the noise. All the trouble that this earth will bring. It's far from over because I am still living and breathing and the Lord, well, He's not finished with me yet. But He tells me He's making all things new. That He will restore my soul. And He's preparing a beautiful place for me. A place where I will see Thao and Jesus. 

My fears will turn to courage and my mourning to dancing. My tears will turn to joy because He will redeem and restore. He will make all things new. 

Although I'd really like to think I've paid my price and done my time in the hospital with sick kids. That is not promised. It is not promised that I will be free from horrible things like sickness or loss or sorrow, it is only promised that He will be with me through it. So I push back, these fears, I push back the lies of safety and contentment being the only good thing. I push back with truth. Truth from His word, truth He has written on my soul, in my heart. When the darkness threatens to overtake, I will be overwhelmed by Him alone. 

"Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help, my Kind and my God for to you I pray."

Psalm 5:1-2


Sacred Grief

It's sudden and surprising. As I drive around the winding road, it catches me off guard. My thoughts stray from my normal; family, children, laundry, husband. When it hits me, the wind is knocked out of me. I cannot breathe. 

The memories come flooding back. His wispy hair. His sparkling eyes. His laugh. The tears fill my eyes as I remember the five-forever years it's been. The five-years we had. The lifetime of memories burried deep within me. 

Sometimes the sacred parts of my heart are shared. Sometimes it's more than I can bare. And I don't want to face it. I don't want to go there. I don't want to share the memories or his sweet smile. I don't want to hear the laughter, because it hurts so much. And it's difficult to talk about him. It's difficult to share these deepest parts of grief. This deep five-year grief is somehow sacred. It's bringing parts of me to surface that I thought I'd burried good. Days are long and dark and sometimes difficult to function normal. But years. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Somewhere in these five years I've learned this gried dance well. The circle of longing and pain and surrender and joy. 

Choosing joy. Yes, choose joy. Somehow within this grief dance, within the mourning there is joy

And there's guilt here, too. Within the sacred grief dance, there is guilt. Mother's guilt? Survivor's guilt? Guilt because of the blessings I'm surrounded with. When others have not, I have much. My husband and other children. And hope. I have hope. I have a warm home on cold nights. A gentle breeze on hot summer days. I have food, fresh and canned. I have clean water and clothes to choose from. I have books and head-knowledge to cope. I have time to grieve. Oh the gift and curse of time. I have days to wander and renew my spirit. I have truth sitting in the form of a precious book. I have the Holy Spirit living within me. I have a Creator, a Saviour, a blessed Redeemer. 

And even so, some days grief feels a better choice. Even so, choose joy. Yes, choose joy over sorrow, in memories hard to bare. Through tears and old home videos of cute raspy voices, choose joy. Choose joy in sacred grief. Maybe that's it. Maybe that's how. Maybe it's painful sacred and we never dig that deep. Maybe the deeper the sorrow, the more strength to choose joy is given. Maybe the deeper the bleeding wound, the more delicate the pain, maybe the more sacred the journey. Maybe embracing grief now, five-year grief, allows even more joy to overwhelm the soul. He promises to restore my soul. Oh dear Lord, restore my soul! 

But the soul will not be restored. Not wholly, beautifully, redemptively restored earthside. It is not finished. I am not finished. He is not finished with me yet. He continues to whisper gently into these sacred grief moments. 

To choose living in spite of, or because of, the death of my son, brings beauty to life. Beauty to a life he once lived. 

"At least I know where he is." The whispered truth rings in my ears, hangs on my heart and breathes life into my soul. The sacred pain of grief. The dance. It's smiling through tears. It not grieving because we have not, it's choosing joy because we have. We have the memories. We have the love. We had the life of a beautiful child. And we have the hope of heaven. 



Maybe you woke up to a really bad day today. Maybe your life is falling apart. Maybe you feel like the foundation on which you stand has crumbled. Maybe you feel like all your hopes and dreams and future has shattered and simply picking up the pieces is just too much. 

Jeff Nardoni Family-057.jpg


I write a lot about grief. My own grief can be crippling and defining. But I hope that I never stop there. I share my grief because I know most people can relate. Most people have lost something or someone. Most people's lives have not been what they expected them to be. Most plans don't work out exactly the way we want them to. 


I write because I think you know this. I write because we are all the same in this. I write because we have all lost something. Or someone. I write because we all fall short. I write because I want you know, deep down in your soul, that whatever brokenness has happened to you or whatever you have done, it does not need to be your defining moment. That broken thing does not need to define the rest of your life. It does not make you, you. I write because instead of living in the shattered dreams, I want you to know there is hope in Jesus. Let Jesus mend your life. 

For the rest of my earthly journey, Jesus will be mending my life. Healing my heart until it is completely healed and perfected in heaven. 

Today is a rough day for me. Bittersweet. Bitter because this day five years ago I lost my beautiful son. My heart and soul were ripped from my body and I am left here to be mended by Jesus. My entire journey on earth is that of being mended by Him until eternal healing is mine in Heaven. Each day on this earth I live with shattered dreams, unchosen reality and a Thao sized hole. 


But it's also sweet. Because I am daily reminded that we do not live for now. We live for more. For eternity. For perfection and healing in Jesus Christ our Savior. For He is preparing that place for me. And sweet because my precious blue-eyed boy is running and smiling in heaven. Surrounded by Jesus and angels and beauty beyond our dreams.


It's sweet because Jesus promised peace. He promised to never leave us. He promised eternal life with Him when we accept His free gift of grace. Days like today, I cling to that. I hope you can take the chance to share this gift with someone today. I hope that through Thao's life, God's story in our family, you have the opportunity to give someone Jesus. To show love to people around you. 

If you want to know more, I'd love for you to pick up a copy of my book, Still. I wrote this memoir, memories of Thao's life and death and learning to live again, for all of us. I wrote it because there is more.  This book isn't just for those of you who have lost a child, it is for all of us living with shattered dreams. Give it to a friend or buy it for yourself. I want to share this story that God has given me. Because truly, it's not mine anyway. It's God's story written in my life. 

Whisper His Name

"I wonder at times if I spoke truth into my children's hearts that day or if my motives were pure. I wonder if I'm teaching them to be humble servants or just plan selfish, like I am so often. I pray for wisdom, and I pray that I remember to make a conscious choice, but mostly, I just pray that they see Jesus, seek Him and that He draws near with grace to cover us all.

Through this, Jeff and I decided to pursue our dream of adoption. If we gained any earthly knowledge through losing our son, it's that we shouldn't wait until later to pursue dreams. Sometimes, there are things that are worth the risk; whether the risk is emotional, physical or financial, some things are just worth it.

Children are worth the risk. Thao was worth the risk, worth the fight and worth all the pain. Every child deserves to know that someone is fighting for him or her. Every child deserves a family. Every child deserves to know love.

Just a few short months after losing our son, we started a new journey. A journey of risk, a journey that always, always, always starts with loss. The journey of adoption."

Excerpt from Still (when all else fades away)

Bridging the gap. Feeling inadequate and pursuing dreams because Jesus is enough to cover it all. Beautiful stories that begin with such pain and heartache. Grief and loss and redemption. Have you ever wondered what led us to adoption? What spurred us on when it seemed as though we should have stopped short? What made us live with open hands instead of building walls?

                     A beautiful picture of God's love for us, adoption.

                     A beautiful picture of God's love for us, adoption.

The answer is simple. Jesus.

Oh that name. Whisper His name. Jesus.

The power in His name. Jesus.

The peace in His name. Jesus.

The hope a gentle baby brought to a hopeless world. Jesus.

A sacrifice, a beloved son, a perfect man came to this sinful earth to die a painful, undeserving death because love. Love so deep and perfect and redemptive. Love that fights evil and wins hearts. Love that forgives and pursues. Love that covers all. All in one name. Jesus. 

"...and you shall call his name Jesus." Luke 1:31b

So often I feel not enough throughout the holiday season. I am never enough. I hope you know that is not what matters. I must remind myself to shift my focus from my not enough to His enough.

As you lay the babe in the manger this season, I pray you remember the Almighty God He represents. I pray you let Him in, to your home and heart and family. I pray that just the mention of Jesus' name draws you into a deep remembrance of the undeserving man on the cross, the babe in a lowly manger, the sacrifice that was made for you and I. 

This is why we risk it all. This is why we live with open hands and hearts. This is why we let them in with all the heartache and baggage and pain. Because even though we are so undeserving of such sacrifice, He freely gives His loves to us. In turn we are called to freely give this gift away, this gift of love, of sacrifice, of the babe in the manger, of the cross. It is not ours to hold onto so tightly. This great love must be given away. Thank you, Jesus

               My sweet girl came home four days before last Christmas.  

               My sweet girl came home four days before last Christmas.  

On Being Still

This year has been a crazy ride. I declared at the beginning of this year that this year we would coast. No big changes. Just being still, resting, enjoying our family. 

And God had other plans. (Which is typically what happens when I make plans!)

But the beautiful thing about this is I've learned that being still doesn't mean lack of chaos in our lives. Being still is a heart place. Being still is a choice. Being still is communing with Christ through it all. 

As parts of my family traveled the world to journey home, as we moved back into our little home, as we made decisions to take on new business adventures, as I released my first book and continue just doing life as a new family of six, we are in a place of rest. As the world spins around us in chaos, our refuge is not our house or our work or even our family, although those are places of rest and peace for us. No, our refuge is in Christ alone. His wings spread over us. He holds us in his hands. He, our steadfast King of Kings, Lord of Lords, gently leads us back to a place of being at His feet. So throughout the chaos of Christmas and life in general, we choose to glorify God with our one life. 

So this book thing, it's never been about the money. And I have struggled to present myself in a way that both gets it out there and represents our family in a humble way. I am continually checking myself. I want this to be about our God, who is so good through all the times of life. It is my ministry, what I know God wants of me right now. He wants my words, my skills, my abilities, my talents. He wants my story. And this Christmas, I want as many people as possible to know the hope of Jesus. I pray God uses this book or blog or my story to draw people to Himself. I believe He will. I believe He uses what we offer to Him to glorify Himself. How beautiful. How humbling. It fills my heart with joy. And hope, because He can and will use me. He will use you, too. Oh, how I hope you can see that! I pray you can believe that. I pray that you embrace this truth with me. 

Friends, I want you to know truth. You can offer yourselves, your everything to Him and He will use it for His glory. If we humbly present ourselves to our Almighty God, He lifts us up and turns our meager offerings into beautiful things beyond our comprehension. 

I love what we were challenged with at church yesterday. Because this has been on my heart and is finally pouring out into words as I reflect upon our year. 

"Put it all on the table." 

Live with open hands. Let Him turn our offerings into beautiful things. 

My Soul Knows


Sometimes I watch them play with tears in my eyes. I wonder how much play time they've missed out on just trying to survive. I wonder what it was like trying to care for themselves, provide for themselves. To wonder if they could trust anyone. To learn to be a family. To understand and know love, finally. I look at this child and I am in awe of his strength and faith, his courage and intelligence. And although I cannot take away his past, I can give him rest today. I can provide for him today. I want for him not to worry or stress. I never want him to doubt our love or fear that there will not be enough food for his hungry belly. I honestly cannot imagine the fear these children must have had, the distrust and doubts.

Why would they ever trust us? Why must they learn to love and be loved instead of just knowing it? Why must they go through so many mamas before the forever mama finds them to hold? Why must I continually tell myself to move forward, not dwell on the past? 

I am simply amazed by my children. They are so brave. They are so kind. They give love and accept love. I've heard people comment on how resilient children are. But this. This is just over the top wonderful (Isa's new favorite word). It is a redemption story being played out in my life, in their lives. And it doesn't stop with them. 

I am watching my biological children grow in love as well. Their love for their siblings has always been so simple and pure. It was easy and accepting. And somehow it is flourishing into so much. They fight like the siblings they are, they play hard and they love each other well. 

All four of my children have been through some kind of trauma. So parenting my obviously traumatized children really isn't much different than the ones with invisible trauma. Over and over again, I fail. But God's grace covers it. Over and over again we love and hug and cry together. We learn and grow and play together. That's just family. That's just who we are and who we will continue to be. 


But I don't promise my children I am always going to be here for them. I don't promise them life will be easy. I don't promise them safety or health or "always" of anything, really. I promise them that God is good. That heaven is real. That whatever happens here on this earth will soon enough fade away. And that I will do my very best to protect them, but no matter what, my children, hold onto Jesus. 

Love Him. Cling to Him. Trust Him. Let Him in. He is our steadfast one. The only thing worth putting our faith in. And in the end, we will be together again, in eternity, perfection, heaven. 

We cannot hide death from our children. We cannot hide hunger or sadness or shelter them from all the pain. But we can give them truth and hope. My focus has shifted since losing Thao. I came to realize I cannot control or protect or guarantee safety or health. But I can give them Jesus. 

I gave Thao Jesus. I have done my best and trust God to cover the rest with His grace. But my eyes still wander from the cross and into the grave. My mind still settles on death and it's curse. My soul knows, my heart longs for Jesus. And I come back, I remember truth. I remember the resurrection that conquered and won. 

My mind rests again, I'm free. 

There will be pain and suffering. There will be loss and grief and anxiety and stress. But here I am again, in this place of rest. This place of trusting the unknown future to a known God. So no matter what happens, Believers, we know who wins the war. Let's rest in truth. Let's teach our children God's word. And let's not worry about tomorrow, but trust it to our Almighty God. 


Risking Our Hearts

The reality is, this life could easily not have been. This life with him as our son and her as our daughter. Some days it made so much more sense to say no, humanly speaking. Because it's difficult and costly. Scary and unknown. But we just kept hearing the whisper to take one more step of faith. At times we felt like we were risking it all: our future, our finances, our family. But we pressed on because the Lord burdened our hearts and it was undeniable that this was the obedience He asked of us.  One step at a time, our hearts were open, our arms were aching, our home was ready. And finally after more than three long years, they came home. And I cannot fathom, even for a short minute life without them. I am so so thankful we were brave enough, by God's grace, to believe in the complete redemption of Jesus Christ. To believe that He covers all. To believe that "safe" isn't always what we are called to. To believe that we are weak and He is strong. And His love pours out into us and overflows into the unloved, the fatherless, the orphan. That Jesus is and was so very real to these children. Someday I will tell you of the stories we have heard. Of Jesus and child like faith. Of filling a hungry belly and comforting the scared and broken heart. 

But today I'm telling you of how hard I was hit. A weeping, sobbing hard at the reality of so many others. Of the fact that so many children, no different than my own, have a very different future. So many children are sleeping on streets. So many children are hungry. So many children are hurting. 

And we could have said no. Because it's easier, more comfortable. Saying no doesn't rock us to our very core. Saying no doesn't hurt our hearts or our families or our finances. Saying no does nothing. It does nothing to feed the hungry bellies, either. 

I'm not saying everyone needs to adopt because that is extremely the opposite of what I believe. What I do believe is this, if God is pushing you, burdening your heart and soul with the fatherless, then please do not let our earthly mindset stop you. Sometimes the easy way isn't the right way. Sometimes we miss out on abundant blessings in our lives because of fear. Sometimes we need to risk our hearts a little. Sometimes we need to step out in faith and do something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes He asks us to do this because we are more dependent on Him that way. And that's where He wants us, in complete and utter dependence on Him.

Please, please don't let fear or finances or self-doubt stop you. Because we are all scared going in. Most of us don't have the kind of money it takes to pay outright for an adoption. And none of us are perfect. These kids don't need perfect parents or their own rooms or name brand clothes. These kids need families to love and surround them. These kids need parents to tuck them in to their beds at night, feed their hungry bellies and hold them when they cry. 

I won't take for granted that my kids could have easily been "stuck" for much longer, or even forever. I don't understand so many things here on earth. Hungry, lonely children is probably at the top of my list. But I also won't sit idly by because it's easier and more comfortable. The very least we can do is pray for these children. My children pray each night for two sweet children by name. They want these two kids to have families, mommies and daddies and sisters and brothers and pets and food and toys...

They want this and they believe it will happen. Because it happened for them. I don't believe we rescued them. I believe Jesus did. I believe Jesus rescues and redeems and restores all of us. We are just journeying this life as the rescued. We are just breathing and listening and obeying as Jesus is redeeming. We are believing because Jesus promises to restore. He will someday make all things new. But as we wait in hope for the Lord, we love and live generously. I want to live as though everything belongs to the Lord. As though I believe deep down this earth is temporary. And my hope, my true treasure is in eternity with Christ. It's much easier to risk our hearts that way. 

And tonight I feel as though I am basking in the blessings of it. 



Can we talk about simplifying for a second? 

What does that even mean to you? Maybe it's your schedule or your stuff or your commitments. Maybe it's more like money and bills and expenses. Or maybe it's even just priorities and planning. 


I honestly don't think there are many people out there that love feeling stretched too thin. Or that thrive on busyness or stress. Is there any one out there that can honestly say you are not worried about a single thing? Maybe it doesn't feel like worry. Maybe it consumes your thoughts or time though. Or you keep pushing it away because it does and you just don't know how to deal with it. 

Or maybe you have filled up your life so much there is barely room to breath. And you have a list of things that someday you will do. Dreams you want to accomplish. A closet you will clean out. Or activities you want to do when you have time. People you want to spend time with when it's convenient. Maybe it's that box of photos you haven't organized yet because there just isn't time or space. 

Things can take up a lot of space in our lives. And not just in our closets or basements. I mean our actual physical material items can take up space in our brains. They can cause anxiety and cause us to shut down or stress out. Cluttered lives often lead us to believe we don't have enough of something; time, energy, and even more stuff. Cluttered lives can lead us to stress eat, stress shop and just downright stress out. Of course not everyone deals with stuff this way. But I do believe that we are all too often slaves to our own stuff. Quite honestly, that is not how I want to live my life. My things should make my life more enjoyable. My things should serve me. My things should remind me of how richly blessed I am because of the Lord. My things though, they can become and do the opposite. They can become idols in my life instead of helping me to see God more. They easly distract me from glorifying God with my one life. And let's face it, the idea of our things becoming idols in our lives doesn't often cross our minds. But it creeps in. Slowly, our things become so very important to us that we desire them more than God himself. We crave more things instead of more of God. We strive for a better way to organize the things we have instead of striving to make time with God a priority. We research and Pinterest and read the news often times before spending quality time with our Creator, the One with whom we can find true rest. 

So, I'm going to journey down this road of simplifying. It's a lifestyle. A process. And it is never truly complete. We must choose over and over again, God over things. We must choose to create space in our lives so we can spend the time with our true loves.

We must hold loosely the things of this world. Then we can live free. Then we can live abundantly in Christ, storing up treasures in heaven and stepping out in faithful obedience over and over again. 

My desire is to put God above all things with my one and only life. To lead others to Him. To know Him well. 

Simplify my life. Declutter. So I can make space to:

Love God. Love others. Serve well. Live generously. 

If you'd like to hear more about this, how to practically carry this out in your life and home,  please comment, find me on Facebook, or email me. We can do this together!


The Fingerprint of our Adoption

Here we are nine months in with her, seven with him. We adopted a toddler and a preschooler, they came home as preschool and school age. The wait was agonizing and confusing. But it's over. 

And here we are. The beauty of adoption, its like a snowflake or a fingerprint, no two are ever the same. We fully expected challenges. We've read all the hard things, we've prepared our hearts and minds for rejection to the fullest. 

They call us mom and dad. We have a little "family" cheer we do. We talk about how we are all on the same team. My heart beats for theirs. Just like all my other children. I feel no different than I do with my others. It's beautiful and heart-breaking. It's beautiful because, my goodness do I love them. It feels right. It feels normal. We are family. It's heart-breaking because of how it came to be. Because somewhere out there they have or had a biological family. And whatever brought them to me, caused much pain in their lives and others. 

We have challenges. They have fears. We have patience poured out from the Lord. They have a new start. We have years to catch up on. They have a forever family. 

We have little games we play. Like "guess what? I love you." And they've learned to play them, too. We have small expectations for them. They have blown us away. We have great love for them. They have tested it. I think we've passed. (But they will test us again, without warning.) 

We've had to re-do alot. Both us and them. Both adopted and biological. We've had to forgive and ask forgiveness a lot, both parent and child. We hug a lot. We talk a lot. We re-focus a lot. 

We are thankful for new days, a lot. We treasure the moments, a lot. They have chores, we have rules. They get mad at us for being unfair. We have gentle reminders of life now and not so gentle reminders of life before forever family. We talk a lot about the past, but it's over now. We tell them they are safe. We will not hurt them or let them be hungry. They will live with us, in our home, forever. (Or until they turn eighteen or twenty-three or thirty...) We whisper Jesus' name into their ears. Sometimes they are tough and strong. Sometimes they are scared and mad. Sometimes they throw their arms around us and yell (because there is no other level of noise) "I love-uh my mama!!!" 

Most mornings begin with a sweet girl snuggling with me, lying on top of me, listening to my beating heart like a newborn baby. She is after all, only nine months home. She wants to hear her mama's heart beat for her. 

My son is up to my shoulders now which means I must sit to hold him. I carried my then six-year old around the house when he came home. He's only seven months home after all. He still needs a mama's love and reassurance. There is a hole in him from mothers past, I have to prove my love to him. But that's okay. Jesus' love runs deep and it's free for us. He desires to pour it into our lives, it overflows into theirs. 

And in so many ways, they are just kids. Kids like yours, with a little rougher start in life. But they like to play the same. They desire to be accepted. They want to be loved and listened to. They are making friends. Their relationships with their siblings, though, is one of the most beautiful things I've seen. They laugh deeply, play hard, and fight to tears. They think of each other first. They are each other's best friend, right now. They defend and look out for each other. They have special made up games they play. They are learning from each other. It's loud and crazy and simply amazing. 

Adoption is risky. Adoption is hard. Adoption is painful. But God is redeeming their stories. He is working in all of my children's lives, to draw them close. My prayer for all of them is to know God more. To be solely dependent on him. To desire to be more like him. To be filled with love from God. To overflow his love into other's lives. So if you are wondering, if my heart feels different now, it does. I have more children to know well. I have more children to physically care for. I have more children to pour love into. I have and blessings. I have more of Jesus because of them. 

God sets the lonely in families...

Psalm 68:6a