A “One Size Fits All” Grief


September 11th, 2019 was a truly magical day. The love of my life got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. With Minnie Mouse ears on my head, beads of sweat down my back (Florida is HOT, y’all!), and so much love and excitement in my heart – I said YES! Well, I cried, and then I said yes! And then I may have put my gorgeous engagement ring on the wrong hand for a minute – but that’s a minor detail. Suddenly, I was engaged! I went from having a boyfriend to having a fiance in a matter of minutes.

I spent the rest of the day beaming and smiling from ear to ear! While standing in line for rides I often got distracted by the pretty shiny thing on my left hand and I couldn’t help but admire it.  Each time it caught my eye I felt so special and so loved. Whenever Zach caught me checking out my new bling, he smiled and squeezed my hand tight. It was the perfect day.

Whenever I tell someone our proposal story, I always say “It was so magical!”. And it was. Straight out of a fairy tale!

But real life isn’t like a fairy tale, and what I haven’t shared with anyone yet is the explosion of grief I experienced later.

As night approached, we were looking forward to the incredible firework show that Disney displays at the castle. I had seen the show once before, back in 2015 – I watched with my dear friend Aliza, and we both cried. It was just so magical and beautiful.

I expected I would shed a tear or two this time as well because I’m a crier. On the other hand, I thought maybe crying at Disney World fireworks was just a one time thing. The show started, and it began just as breathtakingly as I recall.

Within moments, I felt myself welling up. I just felt so thankful. Thankful for my new fiance (!!!!!!!), thankful for the friends standing by my side (and thankful for the adoption process one is going through!), thankful for the moment, and thankful for my life. Thankful for the beautiful undeserved blessings God has placed in my life. Thankful for experiences just like the one I was living in. Thankful for an exciting, new season in my life.

As my entire face quickly became wet due to a mixture of sweat and tears, a thought crept into my mind. The last time I stood in this place, I was excited about heading to Peru with Aliza to visit our friend Tat. We had just finished a summer working at camp – it was a special summer because we formed an incredible friendship between the three of us.

On August 17th, 2018, Tat passed away in a car accident – days after getting engaged.

My thankful tears turned the slightest bit sour. Right on cue, floating lanterns from the movie Tangled projected onto the castle while “At Last I see the Light” played softly. This was one of Tat’s favourites, and she was obsessed with lanterns. My heart pounded and I tried not to sob uncontrollably.

I was reminded of the heartwrenching fact that Tat will not attend our wedding. In fact, she doesn’t even get to know we’re engaged. In the same way, I wasn’t able to share the news about my new job in Scotland. Tat has no idea about the life I’m currently living. She’s missing it all, and as selfish as it is – I hate that. A lot has happened in 2019 – life has been changing and moving so quickly. Sometimes it stresses me out that things happen quickly – and I think it has more to do with the fact that life continues after death than it does with actual stressful events. As I stood there, I spiraled into grief.

So how does one, cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow in front of the same magical fairytale castle on the same day? Simply put, that’s real life.

The firework show ended. Zach and I walked around Magic Kingdom for a little while, my face soaked. It was dark so nobody could see I had been sobbing, not even Zach. When I thought I could get the words out, I  began to tell him what happened. I started crying instantly and couldn’t stop. I was walking around the happiest place on earth and crying tears of deep sadness, pouring my heart out and missing my dear friend. Covered in grief in a joyful place. I wondered if anyone that passed by noticed.

I kept saying “I’m okay, I’m okay. I think I’m okay now.”, only to start crying within 2 minutes. I was a mess, and I just couldn’t bring myself back to fairytale land that day. I wanted to feel nothing but joy and love and excitement. But though my heart is full of love, it’s still so shattered. As I tried to convince Zach (and myself) that I’m okay, he softly said “no you’re not.”, and somehow that was the exact right thing to say. I gave myself permission to not be okay – there was always tomorrow.

Friends, I’ve had many “I’m not okay” days lately. Sometimes the weight of what I’ve lost comes crashing down on me all over again. And dang, it is heavy. Too heavy to conceal. I came to accept that day at Magic Kingdom that I’ll never be “done” grieving. If grief is a process, it’s a process with no final outcome, no finish line here on earth. In fact, I want to keep grieving Tat, and my sister, and my grandma, and Uncle Paul, forever. I love them, I miss them, and I’ll never be “okay” with the fact that they’re gone from my sight. Yes, grief changes over time – but I never want it to disappear. So why do I try to pretend I’ve got my grief under control?

For a while I’ve thought “Wow, a lot of people are doing so much better than I am” when it comes to grieving Tat. So I’ve withheld my sadness, concealed my feelings, limited my “Tat talk”, kept myself from clicking “publish” on many posts. When people ask how they can pray for me, I don’t often mention my grief. I’ve been afraid of sounding like a broken record. But comparing our grief can be toxic and alienating. Grief is not a uniform, it’s not “one size fits all”. It’s custom made for each person, and while that can be hard I’d like to consider it a good gift from God.

Maybe you’ve followed my posts and think that I have been “handling” grief well.  This proves it’s easy to make yourself look fine on social media.

I still cry almost every time I talk about Tat. I’m crying now. I’m trying to practice transparency in my grief. Last week I had a dream about Tat, and woke up feeling so unprepared to embrace the day. For part of the day, I pretended things were just fine. I went for a car ride with a friend and felt a nudge to share the dream. The words were trying to burst out of my mouth. I finally let them. My friend said to me “It makes perfect sense why you’re still dreaming she’s alive. She’s your close friend and you miss her. There is nothing weird or wrong about that.” These are things I know to be true, but hearing them was therapeutic.

So friends, here are some things you may know to be true but need reminding.

If you’re grieving something and feel like you should be further along in the “process”…. throw that dang process out the window!! You’re allowed to still be overwhelmed. You’re allowed to talk about your grief as much as you’d like. You’re allowed to cry your heart out. You’re allowed to have some really terrible days. If you’re struck with a monstrous wave of grief on the day you get engaged, it’s okay. If you’re sobbing on a day you’re expected to laugh, it’s okay. Life is complicated and painful and complex. You don’t always have to be a specific thing. Sometimes, you can just beThere’s nothing weird or wrong about that.



Sharing Breakfast and Heartbreak

At 7:10am on May 26th my alarm aggressively screamed at me, and I wanted to hide from my life. It felt like I had just drifted off to sleep – I didn’t manage to sleep until 5:00am. I was hot, I was cold, I was anxious, I couldn’t get comfortable, and I just couldn’t sleep. The panicky “that was not enough sleep for me to function” thoughts tried to swallow me whole.

But I had committed to making a lovely breakfast for four of the youth girls that morning. I considered cancelling. I felt overwhelmed. But I felt Jesus whisper to me “It’s okay. Stick to the plan, it will be worth it”.

So I pulled myself out of bed and started making pancakes (very strangely shaped pancakes if I may add… not a skill I possess). As I was cooking I thought about the “Discipleship” discussion I planned – I had decided to tell the girls part of my story. In particular, the parts that shattered my heart into a million pieces. I considered switching the topic because I was “nervous” that I wouldn’t be able to speak as well or be as precise as if I had gotten enough sleep. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so vulnerable when I was so exhausted. I wrestled with Jesus for a moment but I heard Him say again “Stick to the plan, it will be worth it”.

We chatted over pancakes, bacon, eggs, oatmeal, bagels and cereal. We laughed about how the “banana nut milk” I bought was absolutely awful!

After breakfast we sat down in the living room and I told them I wanted to share the most “heartbreaking” times of my life. I told them I would likely cry, and that’s okay – I told them not to feel awkward or like they need to console me. I’m just emotional, and I’ll be okay. They giggled and said that if I cried they probably would too.

So with a shaky voice and a vulnerable heart I told them about the things that broke my heart as a little girl. I told them about my sister’s death, about the anxiety that followed, about my friend Tat’s car accident, and my grandma passing away. As soon as I told them about the time the words “Tat was killed” were spoken to me, my composure began to slip. This particular heartbreak is still so raw, even 9 months later. I apologized and took a minute to calm down. I breathed deeply, closed my eyes and told myself to pull it together.

When I opened my eyes, I saw four sets of beautiful, glossy, teary eyes staring at me with so much compassion and love – hurting for me, sharing my sadness. They were hanging off of every word I shared. Captivated and interested. These teenage girls made me feel so valued.  After a while I laughed and told them they were so sweet and apologized for making them cry.

I told the girls that when I made the decision to follow Jesus, I felt like God had given me a “new heart” – even before I knew those exact words are written in His word.


I used to think having a new heart meant that it would be protected from pain and sadness, but God has actually been teaching me the contrary. Not only did He give me a new heart, but he removed my heart of stone. He brought my heart to life. He caused my hardened heart to be more alive than it had ever been. More sensitive, more tender than it could have ever been if I were in control of it. My tender, softened heart feels the joys and pains of life deeper than it knew possible. My heart breaks easier than it used to, because it’s alive.

I printed out the photo above and told the girls to write something that caused their heart to break on the back of it.  I prayed for them – I prayed that God would provide healing for the pains their hearts have felt, and also that he would soften their hearts. I told them to keep that slip of paper somewhere they’ll see it – a reminder of the new heart God offers them, and a reminder that God can heal the hurt. A reminder that having a tender, soft heart that breaks easily is not a weakness, but a strength.

I suggested we do breakfast again soon, and mentioned that I would love to hear part of their story next time. Perhaps the parts that broke their sweet hearts. To my surprise, two of the girls said they would love to share.

If you’re reading this and you’ve experienced heartbreak in huge ways – I would love to hear your story, too. I want you to know that vulnerability is hard, but its worth it. I want you to know that when you’re feeling your pain God is looking at you with beautiful teary eyes, radiating love for you. 

My heart was so full that day because I let these girls see the parts of my life that are hard to put on display. They cried with me and showed me that I matter to them. This is how relationships are built – often not through the simple, but the hard. This was a precious day, my friends. One I won’t ever forget.

When the girls left I felt energized and well-rested, despite the reality. The raging two hours of sleep begged me to cancel the plan and crawl back into bed that morning, where I would be safe. Where I wouldn’t have to expose myself.

But Jesus had a clear plan and He was so right – it was worth it.



Dear Tat (volume 2)


Dear Tat,

It’s been 6 months and 9 days since you left this earth.

I was very aware of the 5 month mark. But month 6 really snuck up on me. The date fell on the same weekend as my grandma’s birthday (the first we can’t celebrate with her) and exactly two years without my sister. Isn’t that wild?

For the past 6 months I’ve been devastated about losing you. I have thought of you every single day without fail. But literally as soon the 6 month mark hit I started missing you in a whole new way. On February 17th – exactly 6 months since your accident – I dreamed of you.

In the dream I was with your very best friend Brianna and our dear friend Aliza. We were somewhere hot, and we were just about to go to the beach.

Then you showed up. The moment I saw your face I experienced the most profound sense of relief. Pure, unquestioned joy. It felt like all my pain and sorrow and grief had been undone. Every tear I cried over you in the last 6 months reversed as if it hadn’t happened. We hugged you so tight, Tat.

We looked at you and said “How is this happening?” You told us that it was all just a “mix up”, and there you were! We didn’t question or doubt it. We didn’t tell you about how much agony we’d felt in your absence. We took you to the beach. We chatted. We laughed. We told you what we’ve been up to for the last 6 months. You were back, Tat.

I woke up the next morning and wasn’t sure if I could ever leave my bed again.  It felt like I had just been with you – like we had actually gone to the beach. I had actually just seen your face and hugged you tight. I woke up feeling cheated – you were right there in front of me but it wasn’t real.

I was so annoyed and felt cruelly manipulated by my subconscious.

Sounds dramatic, right? Oh it is! But I have never once let my subconscious convince me that someone who died is back in a dream before. I’ve shut it down every time. Even subconsciously I know the person can’t be alive, and therefore I won’t even let myself pretend. But this time… I was fooled.

Now as angry and disappointed as I was, I believe God allowed my mind to let down its defenses for a reason.

I think the insanely glad, happy, relieved feeling I experienced in my dream might be a little taste of what heaven is like. How you felt when you arrived. I think about you spending every second with Jesus often.

The truth is, Tat – you’re not angry that God called you home sooner than you expected. You’re not frustrated that the plans you made for your life on earth didn’t come to pass. You’re not confused – you’re not asking why. You’re not shaking your fists at God saying “this isn’t fair!!” like the rest of us.

Instead, you are home. The moment you saw Jesus’ face —  you felt the most profound sense of relief.

Unquestioned joy.

All the pain and sorrow and grief of this life had been undone.

Every tear reversed as if it hadn’t happened.

Nothing but love and glory.

As a tear escapes my eye in this moment, I’m reminded that this is what God promises to do for all of us. What He’s done for you, my sweet friend. You’re home. 

Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Free from death, and mourning and crying and pain.

I’ll never know why this all happened. Maybe you don’t even know why. In all honestly – I think there’s a chance you haven’t even asked though you see God face to face every day. Because you trust His plan without conditions – this I’m certain of.

So Tat, I miss you so much.

Since the dream I have had an unquenchable longing to hang out with you.  Even if I could just receive a text from you, my heart would be glad. A “like” on Instagram and I’d be reeling.

But you are home with the lover of your soul, and you couldn’t be more glad.

To have you come back would be downright selfish.


Mountain High or Valley Low | He > I


About a week and a half ago, God’s spirit moved me in a way that nothing and nobody else could ever do. Sounds just like God, right? And yet I was so caught off guard by his tender voice roaring through my soul and surfacing His deep, deep love for me.

I was at a conference in Toronto, and during the final portion we dedicated some time to just listen to God’s voice. Typically when a time like this is included in a conference/event, I simply say “God, if you have anything you want to tell me I’d love to hear. Otherwise, I’m content to sit back and just enjoy Your presence.” But for some reason, I really wanted to hear from God that day. I was desperate for a personal message from Jesus.

I want to preface this by saying I am an incredibly emotionally sensitive person. I’m easily moved. Moved by the words of others, moved by books, moved by music. I well up almost every day for some reason or another, sometimes even for a split second.

But when God Himself moves me? Man…. the effects don’t wear off quick.

I silently prayed for the Lord to speak to me. As I told God I wanted to hear His voice, a picture started to form in my mind. A real picture – one that my friend Tat had taken at Machu Picchu. We were standing on the mountaintop. She photographed her tattoo’d wrist – proclaiming He > I (He is greater than I, words she truly lived by) – with a gorgeous view of Machu Picchu in the background. My first thought was “Cool, I love this photo. But I think about Tat every single day so I may have conjured this up myself.” Just as I began to doubt, the photo changed to another actual photo – this one I took. It was the view from a hotel we stayed at in Ollantaytambo – a village within “la Valle Sagrado” which means “the Sacred Valley”. Tat’s arm isn’t in this photo, but in this moment when I’m seeing it, I still see her tattoo.

“Okay”, I said to Jesus “This is really beautiful. But what does it mean?” As I tried to wrack my brain I somehow saw these two photos simultaneously. Then God spoke to my heart in a way only He would know how. I felt the words so deep in my soul, somehow both loud and quiet.

On the mountaintop, He > I
In the valley, He > I

My heart pounded and I was overwhelmed in the best way. With 2 short phrases from Jesus, I was completely undone.

It had been a while since I felt that God had spoken words that were specifically designed for me. I was a bit floored. God has a way of delving into the recesses of our hearts, taking hold of the things that cause us sorrow, and bluntly confronting us with them. He doesn’t shy away from the broken parts of our hearts like many do. The parts we bury so we can function as human beings. Instead – He digs them up, nurtures them, consoles our spirits, whispers His promises and reminds us that His plan is intricate and good.

On the mountaintop  – He is greater than I. When I feel like I’m on top of the world. When I’m gazing at the beauty of Machu Picchu. When I’m loving my life. When all seems right. When I feel joyful and inspired. When I’m accomplishing great things. When I feel invincible and unstoppable – He is greater than I

In the valley – the low, low valley. When things are terrible. When I walk through the  valley of the shadow of death. When the people I love die. When sadness surrounds me. When chaos entraps me. When I fall hard and I don’t know how to get back up. When I fail – He is greater than I. 

Even though Tat is gone from my sight – God is using the very essence of who she is to touch my soul. This might sound obvious, but God is so creative. God used Instagram photos to speak to me. God used two actual places I stood beside Tat 3 years ago. Machu Picchu and la Valle Sagrado. A mountain and a valley.

Spending time with Tat in Peru was a mountaintop. Losing her was a low, low, low valley.

Yet Tat’s wrist sums it all up. He is greater than us through the mountains and valleys of our lives. God is there on the mountaintop celebrating with us and whispering His goodness and love. In the valley, God sees us. When we’re stuck in the valley and can’t find our way out – God is greater than us and He won’t forsake us. He has a plan. He consoles us and ensures us that we aren’t meant to know his entire plan.

This conversation with Jesus meant the world to me. It was specific and powerful and so personal. You might even say it was life changing.

I cannot wait to tell Tat about how God used her tattoo to rock my world someday. I want to thank her for deciding to get that tattoo, and for deciding to take that photo. Most importantly, I want to thank her for living the words on her skin and wearing her heart on her sleeve.

He > I.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love will not be shaken – Isaiah 54:10

The mountain (and the sweetest girls)
The valley (La Valle Sagrado)



If Not, He is Still Good | Embracing 2019

I woke up on January 1st desperately wanting to hide from 2019. I’m supposed to be celebrating, but I’m finding it hard to celebrate a year that my grandma and dear friend Tat won’t ever see. The first year that they don’t exist on the earth. How horrible is that?

The night before – New Years Eve – I was feeling indifferent about the fact that a new year was about to begin. I ate copious of food (like, way too much pizza and guac) and watched movies with my boyfriend. We pulled up a New Years Eve countdown. As the final seconds of 2018 approached, I could suddenly feel my heart sinking. I was about to say goodbye to the last year that Tat and my Grandma walked the earth. How can that even be real?!

“3, 2, 1 –HAPPY NEW YEAR!” 

I managed to muster up the words and even smile as I said them, but I didn’t believe them. I did not anticipate the intense sadness that came on so quickly. I received “Happy New Year!” texts. I saw endless posts on social media about how people are so excited for 2019. I couldn’t relate. In this moment, 2019 felt like a betrayal, a slap in the face. I know that makes no sense, but I felt like 2019 already did me wrong just by existing. For being the year that changed Tat’s last Instagram post from “August 13th” to “August 13th, 2018” — last year. For being the first year I won’t receive a birthday card from my Grandma in the mail. I mourned 2018.

After a while my boyfriend asked if I was okay. I said “yes…. just a little sad”. And then I cried and cried. I was more than a little sad. He didn’t need to ask why.

I’ve been thinking about 2019 for a while now, wondering what it holds. But these curiosities are not driven by excitement, but fear. What disappointments will I face? What spirit crushing events will occur? Who might I lose in 2019?

I posted this photo last New Years Eve with this caption:


2017 was maybe the hardest year of my life. But God is so good that He carries me through every trial and fills me with joy in suffering and sadness. I know I can trust he will do the same in 2018 through whatever victories and disappointments it brings. Happy New Year 💕💕🎉
~ Psalm 94:19
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy

My sister passed away in February of 2017. It was the worst thing I had ever experienced. In September of that year I started experiencing anxiety in a way I didn’t know possible. Crippling anxiety. Anxiety that tricked me into believing I was going to die every day for at least 2 months. Anxiety that caused me to constantly take stock of how my body is feeling, all day long. Fear of dying. And while I was able to leave most of that anxiety in 2017,  2018 was far from a “happy new year”.

A sweet boy I once knew killed himself this year. One my best friends Tat was tragically killed in a car accident in August – she was only 20. My grandma passed away exactly one month ago today.  So a “happy” new year? Not quite.

The thing is, when I posted that I knew God would be with me through all the “victories and disappointments” that 2018 has to offer, I really thought 2018 would mostly bring victories. I figured that after the year I had just had, there’s no way that more disappointment and tragedy could be waiting for me in 2018. No way. I had definitely had my fair share of loss and 2018 would be kind to me.

But I was wrong. There was a lot of disappointment and tragedy and unspeakable loss in 2018. I’ve felt a lot of sad things this holiday season. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve felt a lot of good things too. But celebrating a new year just didn’t sound appealing to me in the slightest.

Despite all of this, I have a “feeling” that it’s going to be a good, happy year (I know, I know – confusing after everything I just said). But what do I know? How could I possibly expect that? Maybe there’s just as much pain in 2019 as there is in 2018, and 2017. I cannot possibly predict what this year will hold.

So here’s hoping for a great year with less loss and more joy, less darkness and more light. Less fear and more love. There are lots of things in 2019 that I am excited about. This could be a really amazing year.

And if not, He is still good.

He is still good. God is still good. My friend Tat loved these words that come from Daniel 3:18.

As I’m reflecting on this past year and dreaming for the next, I feel these words deep in my soul. If this year isn’t all that I hope it will be, He is still good. I am not in control – I don’t get to choose whether there is suffering or pain or loss. But I do get to choose to love Jesus with all my being – and if this year is the worst ever, He will still be so good and I will still rejoice in Him.

The idea that I’m not in control isn’t new to me. Neither is the truth that God is in control. But if I accept that God is in control, why does it hurt so bad when something goes differently than I had anticipated or wanted? I don’t have a good answer for that question. But I know that He is good.

Most of the posts I’ve read about 2019 have been positive – which is good! I’m glad people are excited about 2019. That is great! But it makes posting this a little bit hard. I’ve thought hard about it for 4 days. I don’t want to make anyone sad or lessen their happy, excited vibes. For the past 5 months I’ve felt a little bit like the girl who can’t stop talking about how sad she is on the internet. I don’t want you to feel bad for me, but if you relate I want you to know that your pain is valid and you are allowed to feel however you feel – even if it’s New Years.

The other day my good friend Aliza told me I should blog more, and I told her I was afraid people won’t want to read my posts.  She replied with:

“I remember Tat saying the same thing. It’s not true though. And besides – writing is never really so other people read it. It’s almost always for you to process something yourself.”

So this is me processing. This is me making amends with 2019 because somehow it hurt me the second it begun. This is me surrendering control and surrendering my heart to Jesus once more because I know He always picks up the pieces and I can trust him. This is me erasing my fear of the unknown in 2019.

This is me making a commitment to embrace 2019, because it has the potential to be a good, happy new year.

And if not, He is still good.

An amazing print hand lettered by Aliza Latta
Tat & I in Cusco, Peru.
My Grandma and I attempting the “duck face”
Sending balloon messages up to Tat in Peru
Took a trip to Peru in October. It was hard without Tat, but I love her family so dearly and am so thankful for the time we spent together.

Dear Tat

Dear Tat,

It has been 66 whole days without you. The day that your very best friend broke the news to me – her brokenhearted parents sitting with us crying – was quite possibly the scariest day of my life. For a moment I forgot to breathe. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest when her mom, in tears, told me she needed to tell me something and her dad told me to sit down. “What the heck are they about to tell me?” were my only thoughts. When your dear best friend spoke the words I never expected to hear, I don’t even think I believed them at first. The world was spinning. This could not be true. But I could see it in her eyes that it was so real, and my heart broke for her because you two were like sisters. You are like sisters even now.

The days immediately following your accident are a blur. Your funeral feels like it was a dream – a really terrible dream. The kind you wake up from and are so angry that your subconscious conjured up such nonsense. Your burial was an even darker dream. I’m not entirely sure how I got through the last few weeks of camp, but I know I couldn’t have done it without our good, mighty God.

Hearing songs about God’s goodness and faithfulness was hard for a while. Not because I doubted God was these things, but because the fact that these things are true and yet you’re still gone felt a little bit like a slap to the face. Though I tried not to, I felt a little betrayed by the Lord. “God is so faithful” is a phrase I’ve heard when people make it out of car accidents, when death is escaped. That didn’t happen this time. And yet, God’s faithfulness and goodness never change, and now you are experiencing that goodness in a way I couldn’t even fathom.

Tat, do you remember when you came to my sister’s funeral? I had forgotten until just a few weeks ago. Can you even believe that? I forgot that you came to support me in the hardest time of my life. When I saw you walk in I was so surprised but also not surprised at all, because that was so like you. Never in a million years could I imagine the next funeral I would attend would be yours, not even two years later. How horrendous.

Tatiana, it took me a long time to call you “Tat”. I have this weird thing with nicknames – when I don’t know someone well enough, I feel like I’m not worthy enough to call them by a nickname. I felt like “Tat” was a name that the people you loved knew you by. Who knew that club consisted of literally everyone because you were so loving and compassionate? As our friendship evolved, so did the nicknames, and by the end of summer 2015 you had more nicknames than almost anyone I know. I guess that means I knew you loved me.

Visiting you and your sweet family for 6 weeks in Peru following that summer was one of the highlights of my entire life. I cannot thank you enough for that trip. Some of my all time favorite memories are from our time in Peru. God is so good and kind for giving us those 6 weeks together.

Now I’m back in Peru with your family and it feels so unfair that you’re not.

Your little jungle town is as lovely as ever, but somehow it’s a tint less colorful and a touch less magical.

The streets of Puerto Maldonado are special to me but I almost feel angry and betrayed by them because they remind me of you. It’s not their fault you’re gone, but it’s so heartbreaking to know I’ll never walk them with you again. You were at least 99% of the magic, Tat.

I so badly want to bake cheesecake with you like we did the last time around. I want to play 10,000 more games of Dutch Blitz that you will entirely destroy me in. I want to sit in our room with Aliza and Brianna and sing Taylor Swift over and over and over again. I want to sit in the kitchen and have serious talks about the past and the future, and what God is doing. (If it meant I could spend one more day with you, I’d even eat another slug *insert vomiting noise here*).

I want to tell you one more time that your friendship is so special to me. Being part of your life was such a gift. I want to tell you that when we became close friends, I felt like I learned what it meant to be a friend all over again.

The last time we were in Peru together I asked you 100 times a day how to say something in Spanish. I was never afraid that you’d get annoyed because you were so kind and so encouraging even when I completely butchered the Spanish language. You told me I was “actually so good” 🙄 but we both know you’re just too sweet to ever tell me I’m not.
About 100 times a day I want to ask you how to say something in Spanish, and it stings so bad that I cant.

I’ve been thinking about what you would do and say if you were here with us. When something funny happens, I think about how you would throw your head back and laughed until you cried.

The day before yesterday was supposed to be your wedding day. When you asked me to be your bridesmaid my heart shrieked with excitement. What an honor.

I met your fiance at your funeral.

(That might be the worst sentence ever)

It turns out he’s perfect for you, and you should see the way he talks about you. Yesterday we sent you balloon messages and he filled up the entire space of two white balloons with words of affection for you. I can’t wait to see your love story continue in heaven someday.

Tat, it has been a hard few months, and something tells me the hard months are far from over. I was thinking about how if you could actually read this letter I might make it less sad, but I have since decided that I would want you to know how much your absence breaks me. I would want you to know that your existence is so significant to me and when that existence shifted into heaven my heart could barely handle it. You are a BIG deal to me, Tat Blackburn. Your life was such a light in this world, and everything feels different without you. I could go on and on all day about you – someday we’ll look back on all our great memories together and create more then we ever could have here on earth. I cannot wait to see you again, Pink Panther.

Love you forever and ever,

Dani (White Wonder)

P.S when I get to heaven we will participate in #Rest20-infinity together 😂


“Are You Happy to be Home?”  (Written in 2016)

This blog post is about 5 months late.

I started writing this a few weeks after my trip to Peru had ended, but I’m completing and posting it now because:

a) I was too sad to complete and post it when I began writing it.

b) The words weren’t coming and my thoughts were so mangled.

c) I forgot about it..

But now that some time has passed and I’ve been able to reflect on my amazing trip to Puerto Maldonado, Peru, and process all that I learned, I think I can finish writing this.

Anyways. The title of this post is the question that everyone in my life greeted me with upon my returnal. Each time it caught me off guard, even though I knew it was coming. This, along with “What was the best part?” and “What did you learn?” was a hard, hard answer to give.

Leaving Peru was very sad for me. Yet every time someone asked me this tired question, I covered up how deeply sad and confused I was with “Well, it’s definitely a lot colder in this country”, and cue awkward laughter that I hid behind.

Then I began telling them all about the monkey, and the food, and the wonderful people.

I told the ones who really wanteto know about that time I got lost via motorcyle (Read about this HERE.) I tell them about Machu Picchu and how remarkably breathtaking it was. I tell them about sweet Aaron, the baby born to an incredible woman who was just too little to survive. I talk about the wonderful Blackburn family, and the church, and the library.  I talk about how I picked up a surprising amount of Spanish, and have grown to love the language

There are so many great things to say about my trip to Peru.

What I failed to tell them (And still occasionally do), is how hard it was for me to come back to Canada.

I left out how I was feeling.

I left out what Jesus really taught me: That He knows me.

He knows me.

He knows me. 

This lesson began only a few weeks into the trip. We were driving to the Blackburn’s house, and I was thinking about how much I already liked Peru. These thoughts took a sad turn when I thought about leaving. Why was I thinking about leaving when I had just gotten there? Because I’m crazy! But I was listening to my iPod and “You Know Me” by Bethel came on. And as these lyrics played into my ears, my heart proclaimed them to Jesus 

“Nothing is hidden from Your sight,

Wherever I go, You find me. 

You know every detail of my life, 

You are God, and You don’t miss a thing” 

This was so comforting to me. He knew the details of my sorrow. The intricate thoughts that my heart was feeling – the precursor to what I would feel later.  I sat there, taking in my surroundings and taking in Jesus sitting right there with me. Taking in the fact that he would always be sitting right there with me.

On our last full night in Peru, I was so very sad.

While everyone was watching a movie together, I took a wonderfully cold shower and cried out to my Jesus. I was playing music from my phone and pouring my heart out in salty liquid form. Because I could not keep it in. So I stood there in the freezing cold water sprinkled with salty tears, and just let myself be sad with Jesus. I think I recall the power going out halfway through the shower, so then I was showering in the dark. 🙂

And what song comes on? You Know Me. I sobbed some more. (I’m emotional…) And Jesus held me tightly that last night in Peru.

On the flight home the next day, I cried. I tried to hold back the waterfalls but there was such an overflow.  My dear friend Aliza comforted me as I shared the sinking feeling that had been invading my heart that day. She told me that I could cry in front of her whenever I wanted to, and I didn’t have to hide the fact that I was sad.

The same goes for Jesus. I don’t have to pretend I’m not sad with him. I don’t have to hold myself together. Because He knows me anyways, and for me to try to hide my feelings from him is wasting my efforts. I cannot hide, nor do I want to. He is the safest place to rest and simply be who we are and feel what we’re feeling with no masks.

I had really tried to hide that I was sad from those who were around me. I didn’t want them all to know I was sad – not because I don’t trust them (because I really, really do), but because I didn’t want to place that burden upon them. So I thought it was best not to express it.

On that flight I stumbled across this verse:

“All my longings lie open before you Lord, my sighing is not hidden from you.”
-Psalm 38:9

Every now and then I find myself reminiscing on those wonderful 6 weeks in Peru, and missing it so terribly. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally even get emotional thinking about my wonderful friend Tat (who’s coming home so soon!!) and her incredible family, and Jack the monkey. (I kid you not, I’ve shed a few tears thinking about precious JackJack.) I love seeing all the incredible work God is doing through them – when I hear their stories and updates I can see that God is moving. I am so proud of all they are doing and I love their compassionate hearts for the people of Peru. There’s been a few times when I’ve choked up when talking about Peru. Jesus really touched my heart while I was in that gorgeous jungle city, and He knows every feeling and thought that goes along with every second of the trip.

Jesus sees me in the times when I miss Peru. My sighing is not hidden from him.

Jesus is my constant companion – the friend who goes before me, guiding each step, yet also following me wherever I go. In every country. In every season. In every group of people. In every joy and every heartbreak.

The same God who walked with me in Canada, walked with my in Peru. It was the same God who comforted me as I sobbed in Peru on the flight home as the God who sat with me in silence when I returned to my room in Canada with a racing mind and heart. He listened as I asked “Now what?” and as I struggled to conjure up things to say to those who wondered if I was happy to be home. None of these feelings are hidden from him.

I cannot hide from Jesus.

He knows me.



Kind Of All Over The Place

Love love love this post by my wonderful friend!!

Tatiana Blackburn

It’s cold outside, the wind is blowing, the rain is falling and I don’t know why but I feel like this is the perfect weather for Good Friday. We’re sitting in plastic chairs, eating copious amounts of popcorn and watching The Passion. It’s the movie that chronicles Jesus’ death. I’ve never watched it before tonight but now, after seeing it, I wish I had watched it sooner.

I was never allowed to watch it when I was a little kid, it was too gory, and it showed too much. This wasn’t a bad thing; I probably wouldn’t let my young kids watch it either. It was an awful movie to watch, some of the scenes made me sick, I contemplated running to the bathroom a few times actually…

Maybe you don’t have to watch this gut-wrenching (but utterly true) movie but I do think knowing how Jesus died is important…

View original post 398 more words


Good Friday; Shame is a Liar

It’s good Friday once again, and my feelings are running wild today as I’m reminded of what Jesus did.

It’s funny – no matter how many Good Fridays I’ve experienced as a Christ follower (This marks the eighth – YAY!!), I’m never expecting the feelings that come along with this day. They come suddenly and quickly in a way I cannot explain.

On Thursday I’m going about my regular life without considering God the way I should be. And then Good Friday comes, and as I walk into church and hear the songs of Jesus’ death – songs I hear on a regular basis – I feel sorrow, I feel joy, conviction, hope, love, and everything in between in a matter of seconds. I suddenly remember who Jesus is and what he did, and my heart is so overwhelmed for a thousand different reasons.

“Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love”

These were the first lyrics I heard at church today, the ones that really got me. In particular, “Inside the lie of inward shame” is the line that really slapped me across the face like it never has before. At that moment, every inch of shame I’ve ever known came to mind and the words “Shame is a liar” echoed in my soul.

Shame has lied to me and you over and over again.

Shame is the liar that tells us we are too far gone.

Shame is the liar that tells us we need to “do more” and “do better” for God to really love us.

Shame is the liar that tells us the gift of God’s grace is not free, and not worth it.

Shame is the liar that tells us we are not enough.

Shame is the liar that tells us over and over again that we are unforgivable.

Shame is the liar that stands in front of the grace of the cross that Jesus hung on so it’s no longer visible.

More recently, shame is the liar who tells me I’m not a “good Christ follower” (which isn’t really a thing to begin with?) because I keep forgetting who He is.

About a week ago I went on a walk through the forest by myself.

While I was walking I thought to myself “I should take this opportunity to spend some time talking to God.” So I opened my mouth to begin speaking,

And then I closed my mouth.

That was the moment the shame came over me like a tidal wave. My mind raced as I tried to make sense of the fact that I didn’t feel like talking to Jesus. The fact that I hesitated told me I needed to talk to Jesus. So going against the grain of every bone in my body, I began to speak out loud in the forest.

And it didn’t feel natural. I cannot remember the last time I audibly talked to Jesus by myself before that day.

My prayers started out very generic, very empty. Very fake. With every word that came out of my mouth the sinking feeling became worse. Do I realize who I’m talking to? I felt alarmingly uncomfortable and uninterested in the words I was saying. The frustration was rising within me.

Then the truth came out. “Sometimes I forget who You are.”

Sometimes I forget just how big and mighty God is. I forget to spend time with him because I’m selfish. I tend to forget that He’s the reason for it all. I forget that God is God. I get so caught up in my own life sometimes that I forget what He’s done for me. I forget that He pulled me out of the dark pit of destruction and brought me into light. For free. I didn’t have to do a thing except for accept Him.

Sometimes I forget that Jesus died on the cross.

I mean, I never forget the knowledge that he died on the cross. In fact, I knew that even before I believed in him. But sometimes I forget the significance. The wonder. The awe. And whenever this day comes around, I’m reminded of the wonder and awe of Jesus dying on the cross for us. Paying the infinite price of our sin. It always blows my mind.

But I don’t want it to just blow my mind at Easter time. It can’t only blow my mind at Easter time – it needs to be every day. And the shame comes from the fact that it doesn’t. But the reason it doesn’t because I don’t seek Jesus on a daily basis – something that I always tell others they should do. The shame is there too.

But today Jesus is telling me that shame is a liar. He’s telling me that yes, I need to seek him and conviction is good but no, I can’t let myself become a slave to shame. That defeating shame and knowing Him go hand in hand, because they can’t both exist in the same heart effectively.

The more I know the truths of Jesus, the less I know the lies of shame.

This is only one example of shame. Maybe the shame of something BIG is weighing you down. Something you think is too big to receive grace for. Your shame is so powerful and overwhelming – you deserve to feel the shame. In reality, we do deserve to feel shame. But because of Jesus we can let that shame go, He can take it all away the moment we ask.

Shame is a liar and a thief. But on this day so many years ago, Jesus Christ died on the cross to free us from it’s power with his grace and love. And I am so so thankful.

It’s the best truth out there. Maybe you happened to come across this post and you “aren’t really into the Jesus thing”. Maybe this is all nonsense to you. If it is, I beg you – please look into this “Jesus” thing for yourself – you may be surprised what you find.

I want you to know this truth so badly.

“Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
-Romans 8:1




  2016: The Year of Yes

It’s February 1st, 2016 , and I’ve had this blog post saved as a draft for almost a month. It doesn’t make much sense to post about the “New Year” one month into it, but I’m going to share anyways. I think after reading this you’ll see that it would actually be rather hypocritical for me to not post it.

I’ve never been one for New Years Resolutions. Mostly because I’ve never been good at making commitments and sticking to them.

I’ve been really good at subtly saying “no” for a very long time.

And come January 1st, I technically didn’t have any “New Years Resolutions”

But the past two months or so leading up to January 1st, the theme of “Yes” had been showing up everywhere in my life. And when I was standing in the last few moments of 2015, I was standing in a room with 16,000 people, singing “Yes” to Jesus – literally. We rang in the new year singing “Yes” as our anthem song. A loud, thunderous anthem song that I don’t think I could have contained if I tried.

So I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, but it has been confirmed by many reliable sources (mainly Jesus) that for me, 2016 is the Year of Yes.

I’ll tell you exactly what I mean, but first I want to tell you that this loud call by God started with such a quiet whisper that I almost missed it. The first time that Jesus whispered the theme of saying yes was when I was in Peru. During the time there was a strike going on in the city we were living, and our days consisted of a lot of Dutch Blitz, and a lot of reading.

On this particular day, I was reading the Bible. And it was really, really hot that day. So hot that it was actually hard to focus on the words I was reading.

But then, the words jumped off the page and smacked me right out of my heat trance.

2 Corinthians 1:19
For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.

As God’s ultimate “Yes“.

Jesus is God’s ultimate “Yes.”

God said “Yes” through Jesus Christ.

This is so amazing to me, and as soon as I read it I knew there was so much power behind it. And the power of the word “yes” was whispered by a loving God who says “yes” to me daily.

And then, the moment was over and I didn’t think of that verse again.

Until I was back in North America at an amazing missions conference called Urbana. And we sang an amazing song, the lyrics:

“My answer is yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
To your will, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I will go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
I will say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Everything within me was bursting with excitement, and my heart was so in agreeance with this message.

The next day I was reminded of the verse I had read in Peru.  I looked it up in my Bible and started meditating on the power of the words “Jesus is God’s ultimate yes.”

“Yes” to relationship with the God of the universe.

“Yes” to eternal life.

“Yes” to undeserved grace.

“Yes” to a partnership with God.

God said “YES” to a relationship with me. Someone so undeserving of his love. But he said “yes” anyways and sent Jesus to die for me so that I could have this connection with Him. A connection there was no way to obtain without His son.

God said yes to me.

But not just to me. He is saying yes to us all. He wants us all to accept that resounding “YES” from him and start a journey with Him.

He wants me to enjoy that “Yes”, but he also wants me to share that yes. I didn’t earn it. It’s not only mine. It’s yours too. It belongs to everyone.

So, on that last night of Urbana, I said “yes” to “saying yes”. And frankly, I didn’t really know what that meant. It scared me a little bit, because if God has to remind me to say yes — what on earth could he possibly be going to ask me? Maybe something that scares me. Maybe something I think I can’t do. Maybe something I really don’t want to do. I’ve made the commitment to say “yes” to whatever it is.

When I returned home from Urbana, it seemed that God was not going to allow me to forget about the year of “yes”. Because it kept appearing everywhere. I’d see an article on the internet about saying yes, I’d hear someone talking about saying yes, and one time I even walked past a book in Costco called “The Year of Yes” (So freaky.)

Hearing someone even say the word “yes” in any context, caused chills down my spine. There is so much power and victory in that word. I believe that God will use the word “yes” over and over in my life. Because now that it has resonated in me, I don’t think it will ever stop.

Maybe God will ask me to do something big this year, something out of my comfort zone. But I also think he wants me to say “yes” to the little things that are out of my comfort zone just as much as he does the big, maybe even more.

For a long time, I’ve been really good at making my no’s sound like yeses. For the sake of my own comfort, I’ve said no to many things (and people) without ever flinching. But Jesus is calling me to really say “yes” to the things he places before me.

Saying yes to the opportunities to serve.

Saying yes to a more intentional relationship with Jesus.

Saying yes to learning and growing.

Saying yes to a fuller prayer life.

Saying yes to being thankful.

Saying yes to loving the people around me. The people who, in my heart, I’ve stamped a big “no” on. Which I 100% have – But Jesus said yes to them too, with joy.

Saying yes to sharing things that are hard to share. Saying yes to vulnerability.

Saying yes to listening, really listening.

Saying yes when I am afraid.

Saying yes to giving God – the rightful owner of all the glory –  all the glory

Maybe some of these are things you feel God is calling you to do this year also. Maybe you’ve said no to people and situations in your life that you know Jesus wants you to say yes to. Maybe you’ve neglected to love the people God himself has said yes to. Maybe 2016 can be the year of yes for you, too. I think we could all use a little bit more of the word “yes”.

So, it’s official. For me, 2016 is the “Year of Yes”. It’s February 1st and this post has sat unpublished for nearly an entire month, because I am afraid of posting it. The fact that I am afraid of posting this is the very reason why I am posting it. This post is one of the very small ways I am saying “yes”.  I’m excited and nervous to see how else I will say yes this year.

My prayer is that saying “yes” would become habitual in my life, because God gave me the BIGGEST yes someone can give. So I’m diving in to the Year of Yes And praying that it might become the lifetime of yes.

2016 is the Year of YES. 

P.S; If you catch me saying no, call me out 😉  

 ^^ Artwork done by the incredible Aliza Latta — check out here blog here


A book i casually strolled by in Costco


I started following an Instagram account that shares photos of people standing in front of cool looking walls, and moments later this photo appeared on my Instagram feed. Crraaaazy. (Check out @amyventures on Instagram)


So thankful for friends who encourage me and challenge me 🙂