when evil is too close to home.


I’m laying in my bed tonight, surrounded by my three sons, cozy in their pajamas after bath time. My oldest is reading his one millionth book of the month and the other two are giggling uncontrollably at a joke I’m sure I wouldn’t understand but their laughter is a healing balm for this weary heart.

I know most of us saw the news today. Questions about a website with grossly overpriced items being sold, named after young girls who have been reported missing and then if you use the product skus and do a different search photos of the girls in questions would show up. Pure coincidence right? (The details are numerous and disturbing. I won’t go into them here but you can do your own research.) Many began to ask questions about the possibility of human trafficking. Had an enormous trafficking ring just been exposed to the world?

Of course the website was swift to deny the claims. FB had fact checkers marking posts as false within hours. Based solely on the word of the company saying it wasn’t true. Every main stream media article is using the words “conspiracy theory” to assure the public that there is nothing to see here. Which leaves me wondering…

If something so suspicious and disturbing came to light on the internet, not just in the dark corners where those “conspiracy theorists” hang out but right out in the open by your every day instagram users, people asking questions, doing their own digging and finding the same disturbing results, wouldn’t a TRUE journalist go looking for the truth? Wouldn’t somebody in authority declare an investigation would be underway immediately? Wouldn’t someone out there with power acknowledge that cabinets named after little girls don’t cost 10, 20 or 50 thousand dollars and demand action? Wouldn’t that be what you would want if your daughter was missing and a 50 thousand dollar cabinet with her name on it, that led to a photo of her when you searched the sku was discovered on the internet?

Friends, I don’t know how this particular story pans out. I pray that someone does the right thing and thoroughly investigates the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of reports from people today. I don’t know if this is all just some insane coincidence and maybe the cabinets  are made from unicorn tears so they’re wildly expensive. I pray that we find out the truth.


What concerns me most is that as a society we are SO QUICK to dismiss things because we can’t even fathom that type of evil lives in our society. We don’t want it to be true. It can’t be. So we slap a label on it and call people crazy. But we all know human trafficking exists. People are selling children. It happens everyday. Children are kidnapped and never see their families again. Where do we think they go? It’s easier to pretend it cannot be true. Maybe we donate a few dollars to a trafficking organization to feel better about ourselves and then assure our anxious hearts that this only happens in places far far away. Not here. Not close to home. This is America after all.

Well friends, it happens here. And maybe not on the website in question today, but also MAYBE IT DOES.

Can I challenge you to not explain this away? I know the media isn’t going to cover this and put it in front of your face every day. Trafficking isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be. These children literally have no voice. If we let that silence prevail, who will save the children? If we are too scared to admit that this is happening in our cities and towns and neighborhoods, how will those babies find their way home? If we pretend thousands of children going missing each year, and never being found, is normal, then it will just happen to countless more.

Whatever the truth of the allegations today, human trafficking is happening around us. All of us. And I hope and pray that this situation that seems so impossible to believe is a wake up call to so many of us who have found it easier to just pretend there isn’t a child somewhere being abused and tortured and crying themselves to sleep, sobbing for their mama. Because truth be told, if one of my babies was missing I would trample over every single person telling me I was crazy and I would fight until I found my boy. I know you would do the same for your babies. So why aren’t we doing that for the over 200,000 children a year who are trafficked inside the United States and the 700-800,000 people trafficked internationally each year? The trafficking industry is a 9.5 billion dollar a year operation. Friends. Let those numbers sink in. This is real. 

I have been educating myself for quite a while but I am guilty of not taking action. Of not letting the reality sink in. Of not doing more. I don’t know exactly where to start but I’m done keeping my mouth shut and I’m done sitting still. I will find ways to give and support and save those babies and I refuse to believe that anything is too evil for the people involved in trafficking. My prayer tonight is that today there are traffickers living in terror because the internet just discovered one of the ways they traffic children. I pray that the events of this week drag trafficking front and center and we save children who are clinging to hope while living through hell on earth. Jesus show me how to move. I will not sit still. I will not stay silent.

Tonight we chased the sunset at our lake and this image stopped me in my tracks. The line through the sunset, separating the darkness from the light. May we all remember that the darkness HATES the light. Let us walk in light, in the constant search for truth and justice, may we believe evil exists but that Jesus rescues. May we carry that light with us and never be so afraid of what someone else thinks that we don’t shine that light on the evil and injustices that the world largely ignores. Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours and show me how to fight evil with your truth. In prayer yes, but also with my hands, my feet, and my voice. #savethechildren

My Kids Are Sick. Watch Me Panic.


We’ve spent the last ten days at home with our kids sharing a nasty virus like a potluck entrée. It’s important to note that when my kids are sick I have exactly zero chill. If negative amounts of chill were a thing, that is where I would live. My kids tell me they feel lousy, I notice their energy seems low, I feel a feverish forehead, I hear that all too familiar croup sound in the middle of the night, and all logic and reason literally flee from my brain. A cold is not a cold. A tummy bug is not a tummy bug. When my kids get sick I immediately go to worst case scenario. It’s not pretty and it’s one of the things I’m the most embarrassed about as a mama. But it’s true. All mamas worry. Add in a life long battle against debilitating anxiety plus a vomiting seven year old, and all hope is lost.

A couple nights ago, Hudson was feverish and croupy and sleeping on the couch next to our bed. He was restless, as any fever plagued kiddo would be. Moaning and breathing loudly as his sinuses were so full of the yuck. He would cry in his sleep because his throat was so sore. And there I sat. Cross legged on my bed. Watching my sleeping son who had a pretty bad virus that turned into croup, as it always has for him. He was sick. Absolutely. But we were not in crisis, this was not an emergency. But in my mind? I was keeping vigil at his bedside. I couldn’t sleep because something terrible would happen. So I sat there. 2 am. 3 am. Tears silently rolling down my cheeks. Shame my only companion. See, I know better. I know that life is not a constant crisis. But when my anxiety is triggered, when life is too heavy, my mind sees calamity as our only option.

I sat there, embarrassed in the dark, alternating between praying my husband wouldn’t wake up and ask me what I was doing and secretly seething at him because how dare he sleep at a time like this? Doesn’t he get it? How can he not get it? I had very literally made myself sick to my stomach with the worry of what ifs and he was snoring the night away. I was angry. And so jealous.
Where is my peace, Jesus? Where is your comfort? Where are YOU?

While I waited for the sun to rise, because daylight somehow helps to lift the heaviness, I thought about this life long battle. The days and months and years spent knowing that God is good but also wondering when the next shoe will drop. The daily tug of war between logic and fear. It’s all I can remember.

As I laid down, eyes heavy, soul weary, face three inches from my son’s so I could hear every breath and movement and fly into action the second he needed me, I remembered.

The loss I have endured in my life is always swift and sudden and world shattering. I don’t have personal experience with incredible healing or beating the odds.

My daddy had a stroke and was gone two days later. The last time I saw him I laid next to him in his hospital bed, trying to memorize his face because how could I do this life without him? I covered his feet because they looked cold and I tried to leave but I flew back to his side and crawled in one more time. He was supposed to help me navigate this world and now he’d left without saying goodbye.

My best friend called me late one night as I climbed into bed. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow, I’m too tired tonight” was all I thought as I silenced the call. The next day a driver fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the center line, and one of the brightest lights this world has ever known was taken from us. If only I had answered the phone and heard her voice one more time.

I have watched those closest to me battle chronic illness that seems to never end, I have waged that war myself and now my husband is on the front lines. I have begged God for miraculous healing, I have looked to countless medical professionals, and yet survival mode seems to be the only season we know.

Do not hear me say that I haven’t seen amazing things happen in my life. I have. And I love my life. My thankfulness is overwhelming.

But I have also experienced immense heartbreak and that fear travels with me through my days. Grief tends to do that. Once you feel its touch, you are forever changed. And so is your world.

And as I laid next to my boy I admitted to myself that I will likely never have a whole lot of chill when my kids are sick, but that I owe it to all of us to fight fear with truth. Acknowledge my heart ache but choose to believe that history does not always repeat itself. And to never stop praying for miracles and trusting that my God knows what he’s doing even when everything seems to be flying out of control.

I don’t know your story or your worry. I don’t know your heartbreak or your 3am fears, but I do know this. Your fear does not define who you are or how beautiful your life will be. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is say, “I’m scared but I’m also brave and I will not let fear write my story.” I said it that night, through waves of nausea. I will say it every day until it is etched deep in my soul and has become the soundtrack of my days. I can’t control life, but I can choose to live full and bold and courageous and vibrant. Even when I’m scared. And so can you.

Don’t let the darkness steal your light. Someone out there needs you to be brave so they can follow your lead. It’s uncomfortable and painful and it won’t happen overnight. But it will be worth it.

In the words of Francesca Battistelli “Fear you don’t own me. There ain’t no room in this story.”

Let’s write the next page believing that what’s coming is filled with beauty. And if you need someone to believe with you at 3am, please reach out. Your girl knows the battle is intense and I’ll stand with you until the sun rises.

Reclaiming the Village. A Motherhood Journey.

ACS-0227Pregnancy was nine of the hardest months of my life. Times three. Miscarriage marks my soul and our beloved tiny one waits in heaven (read his story at #losingzion). Motherhood is my greatest joy and a daily reminder of my brokenness and my humanness. A public showcase of the very best and the absolute worst parts of me.

I love cosleeping, but I miss actual sleep.

I love the creativity of my boys, but I don’t love the hurricane of projects and toys and snack crumbs they leave in their wake.

I want to be the free range mama that my heart admires, but I tend to be more of a helicopter.

I love the friendship my boys have and I wouldn’t change it for a thing, but sometimes I have to plug my ears because the volume, all the volume.

I could not be more proud to be a boy mama through and through, but sometimes I still walk a bit more slowly past the little girls section at target and wonder if I’ll ever get to shop there.

I am in awe of the powerful bond that exclusively breastfeeding all of my boys created, but sometimes I miss my body being mine.

Do I cringe writing those things? Yes. Do I know some people will read this and their heart will agree with every word? Yes. Do I know someone reading this will have struggled with infertility or struggled to breastfeed and be hurt that I would say there are things about motherhood that I don’t love, that I struggle with? Yes. Does that make me want to delete this post? Yes. But I won’t.


The beauty, and the pain, of motherhood is that every single journey is unique. One of a kind. Incomparable. But what do we do? We compare. We assume. We judge, ourselves and others. We look at others to gauge if we’re doing this thing right. We secretly congratulate ourselves when the kid throwing a tantrum in the grocery store isn’t ours. And when it is? We assume everyone must think we’re the worst mama in the world.

Motherhood has lost its grace.

Let me say it again.

Motherhood has lost its grace.

We have lost our grace.

For ourselves and for others.


Because for so many, motherhood has lost the heart of the tribe and has become another form of competition. If we can prove we’re doing better then the mama over there, then we can feel better about the places we know we’re failing.

Friends. Mamas. We can do better than this. We need to do better than this. For ourselves. For each other. For our daughters who will grow up and become us. For our sons who will grow up and marry someone like us. For all of us.

And it starts by agreeing that each of our stories are wildly unique, and deeply important. When we know there is room for all of our journeys, then we can stop comparing and we can start linking arms and walking this path together. Learning. Teaching. Encouraging. Guiding. Loving. Living. Together. A tribe as it was meant to be. A sisterhood that changes everything.


There is nothing more powerful than the heart of a mother. Wherever you are in your motherhood journey, whatever your story looks like, keep writing it. Don’t doubt it’s validity or it’s power. No one else’s story takes away from the importance of yours. We’re in this together. Don’t ever forget that. #savingsisterhood


Confessions Of The Most Anxious Mama


A quick glance at this photo and all you might see is a bossy baby trying to tell his mama where to take him, and a mama wearing too many layers and with way too much hair to call Florida home in the summer. Then you would probably scroll on past. Nothing spectacular to see here. But hold on a second! I would want to scream at you. Don’t you see it? Don’t you see underneath all of that ordinary there something overwhelmingly spectacular? No? Look closer. I promise it’s there.

See, this photo was taken at Disney Springs, outside the House of Blues concert venue. My husband, and myself, and the cutest third wheel in the world were about to see Johnnyswim in concert! Hashtag dream come true. In case you’re not familiar with all things Disney, there were approximately one billion people walking around, the concert venue was overflowing, and I was there. 

Let me say it again.

I was there. 

And I had the time of my life.

When you’re a regular person I know that doesn’t seem like anything to think twice about, let alone post on social media about. But if you’ve known me for a while you know that it’s actually an enormous deal. 

I have battled an anxiety disorder for my entire life but during my first pregnancy it became a horrible panic disorder. 

I had constant panic attacks all day long.

I didn’t leave my house except for doctor’s appointments.

I didn’t drive (for three years!)

I couldn’t go into stores without having a panic attack. 

I couldn’t sit in a movie theatre without having a panic attack.

I couldn’t watch anything stressful on tv or talk about anything remotely intense without having a panic attack.

I couldn’t be alone without having a panic attack.

I couldn’t be away from my husband without having a panic attack (He played a lot of video games that year. And never once complained that I was basically holding him prisoner in his own home. Now that’s the man of my dreams.)

I spent every single second of every single day thinking I was dying. 

I spent my days researching anxiety treatments and seriously considered inpatient treatment.

I was convinced that this was my new forever.

I was not living. I was barely surviving. I was broken and lost and embarrassed and ashamed and too scared to do a single thing about it. 

The story is long, the healing came, because Jesus.

One day we can sit over tea and I’ll tell you all about it. 

But my words today don’t need the details. They are here to address the heart of the matter.

Whoever you are.

Wherever you are.

Whatever your battle.

I see you.

And I beg of you.

Do not give up.

I will forever battle anxiety as it is part of my story, but there has been so much healing and there is so much hope. My life today is one I never could have imagined hiding under my blankets and sobbing the deepest sobs while begging Jesus to let me be free from fear for just one moment.

I had forgotten what that freedom felt like. 

We all have our battles, and I’m not here to tell you exactly how healing will happen, or when. I wish I knew and if I did I would shout it from the rooftops for you. Because when you’re in the thick of a battle for your life, one of the most difficult realities is having no way to know when it will end. When the storm will cease. When the clouds will part. When the light will come back.

But my friend.

It will come back. 

So do not give up.

When you can’t believe it will ever change, hear my words. It will.

When you can’t believe that hope is worth it, hear my words. It is.

When you can’t see past the curtain of your own pain, hear my words. Healing is coming.

When you wonder if life could ever overflow with joy again, hear my words. It can. And it will.

You are stronger than you think, braver than you know and whatever your fight you were created to overcome it and tell your story so that others may find comfort and hope and joy through you. 

Climbing my mountain started out with counting the tiniest daily victories.

I got dressed today! 

I walked to the end of the driveway and back! 

I went to the grocery store with my husband today! It may have only been for ten minutes and I may have hated every second of it, but I was there.

I went an hour without feeling a panic attack coming on.

I went a whole afternoon without a panic attack.

I cleaned the house today.

I laughed today. And I really meant it.

I told myself I can climb this mountain, and I’m starting to believe it might just possibly be true.

And on and on. Friends, it can feel humiliating to look at those things as victories. I had to radically change my mindset and ask Jesus to pour his grace upon grace upon grace on me. I had to believe that I was worth the work, I was capable of the healing, and that struggling with mental illness did not mean I was less than. 

Did you read that last bit and cringe just a little?

Read it again.

Struggling with mental illness does NOT mean you are LESS than. 

Say it out loud. 

Every single person on this planet struggles with one thing or another. We all have our stories. And yours is so vitally important. Don’t be afraid to share it, you never know who might need to hear they’re not alone. 

And if you need to hear that today, please know it’s true.

My life today may look joy filled to you, but that did not come without years of prayer and healing and one thousand doctors visits and diet changes and on and on. This life is possible because I chose to not give up even when it felt there was no hope. So if you need a touch of hope today, look at this photo, know I went to that concert and didn’t feel a single bit of anxiety that night, and know that you will have your own version of this photo in time. 

If you’re struggling to believe that, then I’m believing it for you today. If you want to share your story with me, I would be honored to hear it and I would be committed to praying for your healing journey and your hope story.

Go climb that mountain friend, the path is difficult but the view from the top will be worth every step. 

a diagnosis.

In one of my dad’s last sermons he said, “anger and sorrow, joy and hope, can be intermingled.” These are words I have clung to, desperately at times, easily at times, but forever I have held them tight. We have been on a three year journey with Johnny’s health. It came almost immediately following a seven year journey with my chronic illness and when Johnny’s health issues began I don’t think either of us had any idea what we were headed into. I believe that was the grace of God. What started as occasional and mild symptoms that seemed like exhaustion from parenting little ones, or possible burn out from being a full time caregiver to his chronically ill wife, symptoms we assumed would pass with time, rest, more vegetables, an earlier bedtime, has turned into much more.

When you are dealing with a chronic illness, often the severity of it is lost in the gradual worsening of symptoms. If one day you are running a marathon and the next day you can scarcely drag yourself to the bathroom, that would be alarming indeed. But when it takes weeks, months, even years for your illness to progress it can somehow become terribly normal. Slowly energy fades, more days are spent in bed than out of bed, symptoms increase and you adjust to a “new normal” that tricks you into thinking this is just your life now. You manage symptoms instead of searching for answers. You make it to bedtime and then prepare to do it all again tomorrow. Survival mode isn’t meant to be permanent but chronic illness makes one forget that.

For the past three years I have slowly watched my husband’s heath deteriorate. Slowly, stealthily, so gradually that I have to fight to remember that this is not who he is and that when healthy he is energetic and vibrant and full of life. He is also the most generous, servant hearted, loving, funny man I know. He is still all of those things even in his illness, but so much of his joy has been stolen.

Over the past three years we have seen countless doctors. Read endless blogs and articles. Searching for what we could be facing. Johnny has swallowed thousands of pills and supplements. We have tried medication. We have sought out experts of every kind, Medical Doctors, alternative health care providers and more. Each had a different answer for us, a new treatment plan each time, some threw their hands up in defeat, and some tried to tell him it was all in his head and he should learn to manage his stress.

Hope is difficult to cling to when answers don’t come.

Doubt creeps in when hope slips away.

Yesterday, after a particularly disappointing month with what we thought were answers and then they turned out to not be answers after all, we decided to visit a doctor a few hours away who specializes in complicated chronic illness cases. Johnny has spent the vast majority of his time in bed since New Years Eve and enough was enough. We didn’t have the money, or hope, we needed, but what else could we do? Desperate times and all that.

Yesterday everything changed.

Yesterday we got answers and a lot more questions.

Yesterday we were handed a true diagnosis.

For the chronically ill patient, as hard as diagnosis day can be, it is also a celebration, a milestone, a turning point. It means the enemy has a name, the fight has a direction, and the suffering might just possibly become healing. When you’re handed a laundry list of health issues you can formulate a plan and find purpose in your days. No more waiting. It’s time for battle.

Yesterday we were given the following diagnoses for Johnny:

* Active epstein barr virus (this one we did already know about, but it was a confirmation)

* Active HHV 6 (a virus almost 100% of people acquire as a child and then it remains in the body, dormant, but can reactivate later in life and cause a myriad of issues)

* Parasites (which I literally saw with my own eyes in his blood under a microscope. Very disturbing and also a lot like 7th grade science class.)

* Autoimmune dysfunction

* Chronic Lyme Disease as well as FIVE other tick borne infections (ticks carry multiple types of infections and most Lyme Disease patients are infected with several of these tick borne co infections.)

When I said it was laundry list, obviously I meant it.

We knew many of these things were possibilities, but to type them out and look at the list is overwhelming to say the least. We are concerned about and addressing everything, but are most concerned about the Chronic Lyme Disease diagnosis. We have experienced the impact of Chronic Lyme on many people we love and care about, most notably with our beloved Burd family and we know this is not a disease to take lightly. We are prepared to fight hard and do have access to many different treatment options for the Lyme, co infections, as well as the other diagnoses.

While right now we are not looking for further treatment recommendations, we are asking for your love and prayers as we know this is not the end of the journey but the beginning of perhaps the most trying part of the process.

Lyme disease is difficult to treat, and because we believe Johnny was likely infected during our last All Access tour on Long Island over three years ago (as that is when his symptoms began) he has been infected for a while and we do not know exactly how far his illness has progressed. We have been asked to do further testing to identify more of that information. We are also exploring the options we have with a few different doctors,  but we are grateful that there are Lyme literate doctors within driving distance of us, as many Lyme patients have to travel great distances to find a doctor who can understand and treat their disease.

We know the power of prayer, we know that our God can heal whether through miracles or treatment, and we believe that Johnny will be fully restored so that he can enjoy this crazy beautiful life we’ve been given in a way that he hasn’t been able to for the last several years. Would you join us in praying? We are hopeful but weary. The words of my dad’s sermon are ringing in my ears. I’m angry and I’m sad, but I will not let go of the hope and the joy that comes even during trials. And I will fight with every single ounce of my strength to get my husband his life back.

We are so grateful for our people. For our tribe. For our ministry and leadership who are so gracious and understanding and patient with us as Johnny works hard when able but often a half day of work knocks the wind out of him for the rest of the day. Or week. We are so lucky to have friends and family who would do anything for us. We feel your prayers, we have this whole time. We are sorry we haven’t shared more along the way. It is difficult to know how and what to share when you yourself don’t understand what is happening. But now that we have a set of diagnoses, and are working towards a treatment plan, we will keep you updated as much as we are able. Thank you for your grace with us and for believing with us for health. I have claimed and prayed over 2018 as our year of THRIVING. I still believe it is possible. And would love for you to pray that word over our family in faith.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all deeply. We need you desperately. And our thankfulness for you is beyond words I can find. And we all know I’m hardly ever left speechless.


Kelsey for all of the Koslowskis

one decision.

Often when I catch a glimpse of my husband from across the room I can’t help but shake my head in amazement at the thought of where we were and where we are today. Our marriage, our children, our ministry, none of them would have existed if the man I love had made one different choice twelve years ago.


While I was a young single woman serving as a missionary, you can bet I would have laughed in your face if you told me that my future husband was currently on the streets of a major Canadian city using and selling drugs. Impossible. Right? Someone probably would have needed to remind me that my Jesus specializes in the impossible. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.


My husband, Jonathan (or Johnny, but never John) was born in Alberta, Canada. He was raised by wonderful parents who loved the Lord and loved Johnny and his two older brothers. His dad was a North American Baptist pastor and Johnny grew up enjoying church, knowing Jesus, wrestling with his brothers and having an altogether lovely childhood. But as he got older he began to ask some tough questions about Jesus and faith and eventually decided that if he had been born into a family who practiced a different religion, he would have automatically been of their faith. He wanted to make his own decisions about what he did and did not believe so he tossed Christianity aside, bought a big book on world religions, and read.


As he searched he found that religion after religion seemed empty and meaningless. Which left him drowning in unanswered questions and aching for a place to belong. Around the same time he was invited to his first rave. That night, and the decision to go, led Johnny down a dark and difficult road that threatened to steal everything from him. He dove headfirst into the drug scene, partying for days on end, taking any and every drug that was offered to him, then eventually selling drugs so he could continue to purchase drugs for himself. His only goal was to constantly be high.


I could tell you story after story of times that he was nearly killed or arrested.


He should have been.


It is a miracle straight from heaven that he wasn’t.


He was surrounded by friends overdosing or going to jail or being killed. He was in a car accident he shouldn’t have been able to walk away from. He was stopped, questioned by police and somehow let go. He was risking his life every single day to get high and oh was his future bleak.


But Jesus.


Johnny likes to say that Jesus gave him mono.


I like to say Jesus saved our life.


Because indeed Johnny did get hit with a terrible case of mononucleosis. He couldn’t get out of bed for over a month and during that time his body was forced to endure not only mono but also the withdrawals and detox that come with quitting drugs cold turkey. One day while he laid in bed bored, long before smart phones and mindless game apps or Netflix could pass the time, his dad came to his door, handed him a bible and offered a simple challenge.


Read one Proverb a day.  


And for some reason, I believe it was the endless hours my mother in law spent on her knees praying for her baby, he picked up that bible and he read a Proverb a day.


And just like he always does when we allow him to, Jesus showed up.


The simple word of God, the truth that is found on the pages of the bible, the wisdom of the Proverbs, it began to soften the heart of a 19 year old kid who had tried so hard to find a different way. And now he had a choice to make, a decision that would forever shape his life and so many others. As his health returned, would he put down the bible and return to the life he had grown addicted to? Or would he let the truth set him free?


I rarely allow myself to ponder the what if’s. But when I do, I find myself totally overwhelmed by what is.


My husband allowed Jesus to claim his heart once again and he walked away completely from the life he had lived for over two years. That one decision completely changed both of our lives forever. And to think I didn’t yet know his name.


Shortly after becoming sober Johnny applied to a missionary training program with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in New York, the very ministry that I just happened to be on staff with. Go figure, right?


Even after nine years of marriage, when I think about what had to happen for my story and Johnny’s story to become one, I am overwhelmed by the goodness of Jesus to fight for each of his children.


A friend of ours put it this way, and it perfectly describes the man I call husband. After praying for Johnny she looked at him and truth spilled from her mouth.


“If I didn’t know your story I would never guess what you walked through. Some people have a difficult past and you can still see it on them, feel it on them. But you. You walked through so much darkness and I don’t see a single bit of it when I look at you. Nothing. When I hear your story it’s as if you’re talking about someone else. You are a completely new creation.”


One decision to open his heart up to the all consuming love and healing of Jesus Christ. Now the man I share my life with is the most compassionate, kind, humble and servant hearted man I know. He loves the Lord with all of his being and has dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with the nations. He is the husband I could never begin to deserve and the best person in the world to teach our boys how to be men.


He is the reason I will never underestimate the power of one decision.


He is my constant reminder that Jesus doesn’t believe anything or anyone is impossible.


Nearly a year ago our journey led us to the first Sunday service at Grace Clermont. Our family has found a home at Grace, and as I watch Johnny serve on the ops team or in graceKIDS, I am overwhelmed by thankfulness for a God who doesn’t give up, a husband who made the choice to change his life, three boys whose very lives are a miraculous testament to God’s faithfulness and a church that will help them own their faith from the very beginning.




an open letter to the first trimester.

dearest first trimester,

i’m here because someone has to say it. you suck. like a lot. you make the sanest of women go completely insane. i hear you denying it. i see your coy smile, your whispered promises of the most magical miracle nature has to offer. i’m drawn in by the promises of the pregnant lady glow. i wish i could say this is the first time i have fallen for your charms. but that would be a lie. you keep women so wrapped up in pregnancy announcement ideas and promises that the nausea will go away before you know it, that rarely does anyone call you out. but it needs to be done.

i started planning for you months before you showed up. i counted days, tracked ovulation, held my breath each month waiting for my period to crush my dreams. then when my period showed up i secretly breathed a tiny sigh of relief because as desperately as i longed for a baby, a little part of me was thankful for one more month of freedom before the first trimester took over my life. then came the month where my period was a day late. probably nothing. just an off month. then two days late. i finally grabbed my box of thirty dollar pregnancy tests, because the insanity has already begun and i automatically assume that more expensive means more accurate. sneak a test into the bathroom for the first morning pee. take the test. the fancy digital kind. prepared for two words. after the three longest minutes of my life only one word stares back at me. PREGNANT. wait what? then i take approximately twelve more pregnancy tests, different brands and varieties, just to be sure. i’ll never be able to send my kids to college now, but at least i am almost positive that i am indeed pregnant.

excitement and horror intermingle and i think i might be sick. flashbacks to my first and second pregnancies cripple me with fear. why would anyone voluntarily make themselves ill for anywhere between four to nine months? oh right. me. because i love my babies. but it wasn’t until this exact moment that i remembered how desperately i hate being pregnant.

the next two weeks are a blur of waiting for the worst to come and praying maybe i’ll be one of the lucky ones this time. one of the ladies who gets to say, oh nausea? well one time i felt a little sick when i skipped lunch but then i ate a cracker and felt brand new! but i know i will never be one of those.

i feel like a storm watcher tracking tornadoes in oklahoma. no one knows when the next one will hit but everyone knows it’s coming.

it starts with the underwear check. no one wants to say it out loud but every single mama who has recently peed on a pregnancy test, and gotten that big fat positive, checks her underwear for blood every single time she goes to the bathroom. and sometimes goes to the bathroom for that purpose only. like two hundred times a day. it’s crazy. and insane. and it’s part of being a mother. because we already love that tiny microscopic life so damn much that the fear of losing that child is already a part of who we are. sometimes we make it through that season of fear and get to the ultrasound where we see a heartbeat and know all is well. for now. sometimes we never make it that far and hearts break and grief is our journey.

around ultrasound time, or for me long before that time, the exhaustion and the nausea set in. for most of us, the exhaustion is all encompassing and the nausea makes daily life nearly impossible. i see women online doing crossfit or running marathons through their pregnancy and all i can think is, someday i’ll have the energy to shower.

slowly my life becomes filled with rice cakes and ginger candies and peppermint tea. i lose weight. i lose the tiny bit of muscle i had. i scroll through facebook and instagram and envy my friends who are out in public and interacting with real human beings. i throw up basically always. this time with kids old enough to follow me to the bathroom, the one with the lock that doesn’t work. i throw up daily to a soundtrack of, “mom! can i have a snack!” “mom when you’re done throwing up i really need to show you something!” “mom can i sit on your lap?” and on the really lucky days they both crowd around and lean over my back while yelling, “I WANT TO SEE YOUR THROW UP!!!!” i want to scream at them. i want to tell them to get the crap out of the bathroom. but each time i try to speak i just heave and throw up more and more. so with all of my dignity gone they discuss the size and color and volume of my vomit. while i wipe sweat from my brow and remind myself that this is so going to be worth it someday.

you see, my dear first trimester, over four pregnancies, i can say with confidence, you are one of the worst experiences of my life. you have put me in the hospital multiple times just to keep enough fluids in my body. you have made me so physically weak that i could hardly stand. you have messed with all of my hormones and caused me to have debilitating panic attacks so severe i was positive i was dying. you have forced me to miss out on multiple weddings for some of my best friends. you have secluded me from real life for months at a time. you broke my heart when i lost a baby i loved so deeply. and i am only one person. i have heard countless stories from other women who have braved your horrors multiple times. each story is unique but almost always with the same theme. you are hard. you are often miserable and long and too often heartbreaking.

you are the worst.

but you bring the very, very best.

suffering through you brought me my boys. choosing you once again gave me the gift of my baby who i never got to hold but who forever changed our family. today marks the first day of my second trimester with our tiny rainbow baby and i mean it with all of my heart when i say i hated every second of you this time around also. but i chose you. because i needed you. you are awful. but deeply important. and the truth is, i would choose you all over again a million times.

we all would.

every mama i know. some who hate you as much as i do. some who have suffered loss after loss after loss. some who face debilitating health issues themselves. some who invested every single penny they had to endure you. some who still dream daily and ache just as often, because they long to have the chance to hate the first trimester as much as so many of us do. some women i love never personally lived through a first trimester themselves but another women somewhere else in the world did, and then my friends suffered through days, weeks, months, of waiting, hoping, and living through a different kind of first trimester just to hold the babies.

it starts long before we ever hold our babies.

the second the dream of being a mama enters our hearts, we are preparing for the first trimester. the second. the third. a lifetime of loving someone more than ourselves. a lifetime of worrying and fretting because that’s what we do. a lifetime of joy and heartache and trials and triumphs. a lifetime that is so very worth every single thing we have to walk through.

so the truth is, dear first trimester, i will never love you. but i would endure you a thousand times if that is what i had to do.

being called mama is so many dreams come true.

but know this.

i screw up every single day. i fall short. i am terrible at consistency. i lose my patience. i forget to play. but my prayer, and i’m certain this is the prayer of every mama reading this, is that every single day i will love better, laugh louder, forgive easily, admit my mistakes, and live a life worthy of my children’s respect.

happiest mother’s day to each and every mama heart out there. no matter where you are on your journey, you are uniquely designed to love in a way that only a mama can. and it is okay to hate the first trimester. or all of them. it is okay to struggle and ask for help. it is okay to mess up and apologize. it is okay to admit that it takes a village. because it does. and it should.

what makes mama’s so amazing is that motherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world. it takes all we have and then asks for more. and the amazing part is that we would all choose it again and again. every. single. time.

marked by miscarriage. finding unexpected beauty in grief.

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There are things, as a writer, you cross your fingers you’ll never be able to write about from experience. When one of those things happens you know you have to write it down, because that is how you make sense of the world, but oh how you don’t want to read your own words. Today is that day for me. And with all of me, I wish it wasn’t.

Four weeks ago we found out we were pregnant with our third child. The day before Thanksgiving our beloved tiniest one was scooped up into Jesus’ arms without ever filling mine.

When I first realized what was happening I simply sat on the toilet. Time standing still. And whispered to myself. “Oh no. Oh no. Please. Jesus. No.” I sat there a long time. Knowing that if I moved from that place, I would have to face a new chapter in my life. One I didn’t want to read.

Then almost immediately I began telling myself how ridiculous I was. It was so early on. Countless people have suffered greater losses. How could I cry over someone I never knew? This world is such a mess, my problems pale in comparison.

And then the gentle voice of my Jesus. One person’s suffering is not to be measured against another’s. My grief is not less real because in my mind some else’s grief seems bigger. More acceptable. More deserving of tears. My pain isn’t invalid because I never kissed the perfect cheek of the child we dearly loved and had dreamed of for so long.

And so, because this is part of our story now, and because I believe too many women feel they cannot grieve publicly for a child they never held, I will tell our story. I will share the words I wrote in private, never thinking they would be shared. Because pregnancy loss needs to be talked about. The lives we carried need to be celebrated. And our tears need to be cried because the journey through sadness leads us to healing.

Below you will find words I wrote in the moment that our hearts broke. I pray they will offer others the freedom to grieve. And if my story connects with your heart, dear mama, please know that in our weakness, he is strong. May his praise ever be on our lips.


Sharing this photo is outside of every comfort zone I have. But from day one this space has been for sharing the real version of our life. Not just the pretty moments or the perfect days. So here it is.

I took this photo, and wrote the words below, the morning I miscarried. I couldn’t hide the sobs, and Hudson wouldn’t leave my side. He made faces, told jokes, drew me pictures, cuddled up, and let me cry. I took a photo for my husband. {See how sweet our boy is?} But I ended up capturing heartbreak, and love unwavering, all in one painful image. It’s hard to even look at. Yet it reminds that we are always better together. Even when we’re just letting someone we love cry as hard as they need.

“At 2:30 this morning I went to the bathroom. I was spotting. I laid in bed most of the night drifting between sleep and praying for a miracle. I crawled out of bed to face the truth that my baby is no longer this side of heaven.

I woke Johnny, who in a fog of sleep struggled to understand. I gave him facts. Cramping. Blood. I’ll call the doctor. I was scared to feel so I treated it like business. Then we sat silent. I felt it coming. Feared the words but had to say them.

I touched my aching stomach and whispered, “my little baby.”

And the tears, they came.

A flood of grief coursed over my body and took my breath away. My sweet little one. I’ll never see your face or watch you grow or hug you so tight. Oh how deep that ache is. How sharp the sorrow. It seems there aren’t enough tears in the world. My husband held me tight. Let me feel it all. And he prayed. The perfect words. The hardest words.

“Jesus we love you. We trust you. We love this child who will be ours forever. We want this baby here but are so jealous he gets to meet you first.”

His words were simple. And true. And words I never wanted to hear.

When glory comes, we will meet the child who has forever marked us as parents of three. But until that day we grieve our loss while we celebrate heaven’s gain. Because the risk you take in loving someone with reckless abandon and all of your heart, is that someday you might have to say goodbye. Maybe even before you’ve had the chance to say hello.”

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Truth be told, I was tempted to not share this story with you until I was pregnant again. I wanted my story to have a happy ending and the guarantee of dreams fulfilled. I wanted to say, see! God is so good because he gives us the desires of our hearts! I wanted to take a picture of a tiny baby bump and I wanted to tell you to never give up.

And then I remembered that it’s not about what I want.

My Jesus is good and he is faithful and he loves to overwhelm us with beautiful things. But he also knows we live in an imperfect world and he does not promise us perfection. In fact we are guaranteed hardship.

So the real question is this. Do we believe that, even if the dream we have clung to for so long never happens, He is still good?

It’s easier to say yes then to mean yes. And that’s okay. God can take our questions, our fear, our anger, our screaming, our tears, our four letter words, our silence. Because we serve a God who grieves with us and for us. He does not promise a perfect and pain free life here on this earth. But he does promise we never ever walk alone. So every morning I wake up and choose to dream and pray and hope for another sweet baby to fill my arms and call me mama.

And if not, if it never ever happens. I will say it even if my voice shakes. He is still good. So, so good.

motherhood. it isn’t what you think.


Motherhood is quite ordinary. My version is anyway.

It’s yoga pants and dirty dishes and diaper explosions. Motherhood is meal planning and mountains of laundry and a soaking wet floor during bath time. It’s being on duty every second of every day, never sleeping soundly ever again and being kicked in the stomach, by tiny feet, all night long. It’s cuddling a feverish toddler instead of mopping the floors. Motherhood is first steps and first dates and first jobs.

Motherhood is grainy selfies in the mirror with no make up on because your life isn’t glamorous but it is your own version of perfect. And that’s worth documenting.



Motherhood is exhausting and overwhelming and magnificent.



Motherhood is deeply personal and wonderfully unique to each woman.

Motherhood is a woman working two jobs and going to college online so she can take care of her little ones. It’s tears cried for the lives of babies lost or never held. It’s heartbreak in the doctor’s office when fertility treatments fail again. Motherhood is a mama flying across the globe to hold her three year old baby for the very first time. It’s a second grade teacher bringing snacks for her students who she knows didn’t have breakfast at home. It’s an auntie playing pirates because they asked so nice, how could she resist?

Motherhood is faithful. Motherhood is brave and courageous and strong. Motherhood is compassionate and gentle and home. Motherhood is a daily battle for patience and grace and joy.

Motherhood is love.



Every woman is writing a story, and in each story motherhood will look different. But whether a woman has twelve kids or zero kids isn’t the point.

The point is that every woman was created to give life.

The unending capacity for deep, life-giving love, is not only given to women who bear children. It lives in all women and is integral to every single relationship we nurture.

Where a woman plants her love, beauty will grow.

So, the simple truth is this…

Motherhood is the quiet place in a woman’s heart whispering that her love will change the world.

So today, on Mother’s Day, I’m choosing to celebrate all women and the gentle, compassionate, stubborn, and fierce way that we love our people. It’s a world-changing sort of love, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.


to the teenager who just drove 60 mph down my street.


I know you don’t know me.

In fact you were driving so fast I doubt you even saw me fly out of my front door trying desperately to catch a glimpse of your license plate so that I could call the police.

Yep. I’m that person.

I grew up. Got old. Became a parent. And now I’m out to destroy all of your fun.

Because here’s the thing. Your sort of fun? It gives me nightmares.

I was shaking as I watched you tear recklessly down my street with no regard for your own life, let alone the life of anyone else.

Let me tell you something I doubt you ever considered. Lean in and listen real close.

While you were taking a joy ride through suburbia, there was a three year old on a tricycle and a five year old close to outgrowing his training wheels, riding down the street.

I heard your souped up engine revving. I knew how fast you were going before I sprinted to my front door. I saw your used Pontiac for a split second. I heard your unnecessarily loud bass. And I caught a glimpse of you and your buddies having the time of your life.

You didn’t have a care in the world.

Can I ask you a question?

How would your world have changed if my five year old son, his name is Ezra by the way, had ridden off the curb? What could you have possibly done if my three year old, his name is Hudson but I call him Tiny, had disobeyed his daddy (as he sometimes does. I mean he is three after all.) and darted into the street?

You would not have been able to stop.

My world would have shattered because you thought you were invincible.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I was seventeen once. I get it. I know it feels like nothing can stop you. But that’s a load of crap.

Every single choice you make has a consequence. That freedom of choice is one of the most incredible and beautiful and terrifying gifts in this life.

Your choices determine your future.

Your choice tonight could have ended someone else’s future. And your own.

I know I said I wanted to call the police on you. And part of me still does. But if I was given the option I think I would make a different call.

I would call your mama.

Because even though you managed to piss me off in two seconds flat, once I knew my babies were safe, I had a thought.

You are somebody’s baby too.

Every single kid in that car is loved by someone, probably lots of someones, and if I were your mama or your aunt or your grandma or your fifth grade teacher, I would want to know you were being an idiot.

So I could slap some sense into you. (Not actually slap. Relax. It’s a figure of speech.)

I know you feel a freedom in being a teenager, probably almost legally an adult. But it’s only fair that you know the truth. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 21 or 45 or 73. You don’t ever get to stop being somebody’s baby.

Ezra and Hudson will never stop being my babies.

And tonight you helped me realize something. As they get older, become teenagers, start driving and dating and owning smart phones. As they search the world just to find themselves. I do not want to be the cool mom.

I always thought I would be the cool mom, but I just realized how desperately I don’t ever want to be her.

I want to be the mom who makes sure parents are home before my kids go to a friend’s house.
I want to be the mom who asks nosy questions and makes her sons talk to her.
I want to be the mom who holds her boys to the highest standards when it comes to how they treat women.
I want to be the mom who takes away driving privileges if I find out my kids are speeding through neighborhoods.
I want to be the mom who is aware of what my kids are doing online.
I want to be the mom who doesn’t look the other way when her kids act the way society says kids will act.

And if all of that makes me the least cool mom ever? That is fantastic.

Because I know that my boys were created to be amazing men and it is the greatest privilege in my life to be able to guide them on that journey.

And you, dear speeding driver, I believe that for you too. I don’t know you. Or your story. Or who is championing you along the way. My prayer tonight is that someone is. And my guess is that if I were to call your mama or your daddy, and tell them how reckless you were tonight, that you wouldn’t see your beloved Pontiac for quite some time.

See as parents, no matter what the media says or how they try to pit us against each other by talking about parenting styles and discipline tactics and organic vs non organic food, the truth is that we all know parenting is the single hardest job one could ever take on and we need each other.

I hope when my kids do something stupid (as they inevitably will) another parent loves them enough and respects me enough to call me. And I will do the same for them. Because it takes a village. A really freaking big village.

I don’t think you’re a bad kid. I think it’s quite possible you’re a wonderful, funny, intelligent, compassionate kid. You would probably call me ma’am if we ever met and I would tell you never to call me that again. It’s one of the things I like least about the south.

But tonight? Tonight you made a bad choice.

I am so thankful that for today the worst thing that happened is you left skid marks on my street.

But what about next time?

I’m crossing my fingers that there isn’t a next time, but make no mistake. If you speed down my street again I will jump in my minivan and I will follow you to your house. I will knock on your door.

And I will tell your mama everything that happened.

Because every mama deserves the chance to keep her baby safe.

Safe from others. Safe from themselves. Safe.

We can’t protect you from everything. But we spend every single day trying our very best to do just that.

Help us out, won’t you?

The owner of the voice you heard screaming at you from blocks away and the mama of these two babies.