Oh my soul

Today started out like any other.
Get up.
Make coffee.
Eat breakfast.
Wake the boys.
Make lunches.
Go back upstairs to get the boys up.
Pack their backpacks.
Yell from downstairs for the boys to come eat or go to school hungry.
Go back upstairs.
Get dressed.
Go back downstairs to ensure the boys are eating and hurry them along getting dressed.
Get on our way to school and work (after a few other steps).

And then…out of nowhere….there she is…filling my thoughts.
The clouds in the sky, the sun hitting the early morning pavement. All of it reminds me of my friend who passed away only a few short months ago.

I think of Wyatt, her son, on his first day of school. He’s in 1st grade…just like my son. His daddy packed a picture of his mom in his backpack to show his friends. He looks just like her.

I smile at the picture of Bradford as she holds her teacher’s hand on her first day of preschool. She’s so beautiful in her blue dress with her blond hair pulled back and backpack on one shoulder.

I want to scream and cry and pound my fists on the ground. When I think of how badly she wanted these precious children and how she went to any lengths to give them life, I want to vomit at my hypocrisy and how nonchalantly I became pregnant even when I didn’t want to be (or so I thought). All that I took for granted and still do. All of it is put into perspective when I think about her.

Elliot passed away on a Monday in May and ever since then I have carried around letters for Wyatt and Bradford. Letters that I intend to send everyday, but never do. Letters that talk about the beautiful person that their mother is and how she not only showed love, but also lived it. Letters that make me weep just thinking about little hands opening them up to read.

Today…I’m not okay. I feel all knotted up inside.
Today, my heart breaks for a young husband aching for his wife and two beautiful children with only memories of their mother.
Today, the world is cold, and its demands relentless.
Today, the sun is hidden by the clouds and I want to close the blinds and stay inside.

I miss my friend and all of the time we didn’t have because of all the time I thought we had.

Posts written while walking through Elliot’s journey:
Girl of little faith…Why do you doubt?
When Cancer is no longer a Stranger
When the monster returns, Thy will be done
A Father’s Love
In the midst of the storm
A Tribute to Elliot
Saying Goodbye
21 Days Later
Finding God on the Farm
Five Minute Friday: Beyond
No more pain
Memorial Fund

No more pain

She went to be with Jesus and her earthly father, my grandpa Ed at 9:46. It was peaceful and I was with her.

This was the text I received from my friend whose mother has been battling an aggressive form of cancer that just recently spread to her brain.

A few short months ago I had the incredibly privilege of capturing four generations of women through the lens of my camera. I was honored when Erin asked me to come to her family home and record precious moments with her mother, daughter and grandmother. What a gift.

I would love to honor Krista by sharing a few photos of her with her favorite girls.

Thank you Erin for introducing me to your amazing mama who, in spite of the disease ravaging her body, never lost sight of the bigger picture.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.



© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; …And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. …These words are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.~Revelation 21

Five Minute Friday: Beyond

The subject for today’s 5-Minute Friday post is so fitting for me right now. I started writing about Elliot this morning and was interrupted. When I came back and read the topic I knew there was a reason why I had started writing about my friend. Though some of this was written earlier today, I compiled the post within the 5 minute time limit. This one is for my Elliot.


Thoughts of Elliot consume me. Why now? Why here? No one can plan grief. When it hits…when it leaves…only to return again. It is the uninvited stranger who breaks down the door.
This week Elliot and Chris’ daughter turned 4…without her mother. This picture was taken around this same time last year. I do not have words to describe the kind of sadness I feel when I see her precious face in pictures posted on Elliot’s facebook page.

Heaviness sits on my heart when I think of the family members gathered around singing “Happy Birthday to Bradford…” yet one voice is clearly missing from the group.

It has been just over 8 weeks since Elliot’s passing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Time goes on. And it will continue to.

There is life beyond the raw reality of death. The ache of never seeing her smile or hearing her voice. The solitude of pain is intense. I am ready to be beyond it.The children visit her grave to leave flowers and kisses. Not yet old enough to understand fully that what the ground holds is a cancer ridden shell that their mother is now free from and has shed for heaven.

Beyond the grave. Beyond the sting of death. Beyond the noise of doubt. Beyond the temporary trappings of this world. My friend sits, waiting for the rest of us. I find solace knowing that she is complete…perfectly healed…and more alive than she has ever been.

“The one thing we owe absolutely to God is never to be afraid of anything…even death, which, after all, is but that final breakthrough into the open, waiting, outstretched arms of Abba.” ~Charles de Foucauld


Mixed Blessings

The word “Mixed” by definition means; containing a mixture of both favorable and negative elements. While the word “Blessing” means; a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being. I have had a bit of experience with mixed blessings. You?

I hear interesting conversations about in-laws. Sometimes I think that they were put here to make holidays stressful. When discussing this sensitive subject with several girlfriends I asked how different their lives would be if they didn’t have a mother-in-law. This brought a smile to most of their faces. (If you’re a mother-in-law who’s already feeling offended, just hang with me.)

I then asked how it would change things had they never met their husband’s mother. They agreed that they have learned a great deal about their man from talking with his mother.

The truth is, I have never met my mother-in-law. We talked on the phone when I was a teenager, but she passed away before I was able to sit down and share in conversation over a cup of coffee or give her a hug and breathe in her unique smell that would later bring her to memory when a passerby was wearing the same scent. I was not able to ask her how she survived being a full-time working single mother.

When Chris and I were apart for a time I would have dreams about Lou Ann. We would be sitting in a cafe having conversations about life. I would wake up the next morning with her on my mind and throughout the day I felt a closeness to her.

Weird, I know. Especially for someone I had never even met. Eventually the relentless persuasion of thoughts to write Christopher a letter about his mother, whom he loved dearly and I had never met, led me to a pen and paper. My hand could not move as quickly as the words formed in my mind.

Suddenly, I was speaking of this woman I had never known as if we had been in each others company on a regular basis. I explained in the letter that I knew it sounded crazy, but there were things I felt she would want him to know. I then held on to it.

The next time I was in New York Chris and I had dinner and talked about our lives over the last couple of years. I nervously gave him the letter knowingly that he would probably think I was nuts. I asked him not to read it until the day I left. It was April 17th, two years to the day that his mother had passed away. I was not aware of that at the time.

Many things have fallen into place between then and now. Things I never dreamed possible. All I have of Lou Ann are a few photos and the memories that Chris shares with me.

She was an Educator. Brilliant. Beautiful. Strong. She was a fighter. A Survivor. She is my husband’s mother. Isn’t she stunning?

I was never able to ask her about Chris’ childhood…when he cut his first tooth or if he tried to climb out of his crib the way our oldest son did.

“What was his first word?” “When was the first time he tried rice cereal?” “Did he like sweet potatoes as much as my boys did?”

“What was his favorite lullaby when he awoke afraid in the middle of the night?” “Did she rock him to sleep?” “When was his first haircut? Did she cut it or take him somewhere to have it cut? Did he scream the way our youngest does?” “Did he have a favorite blanket or toy?” “How old was he when he took his first step?” “When did he lose his first tooth?” “What was his favorite thing to do?” “Do our boys look like him?” “Do they have the same mannerisms?” “When did he skin his knee for the first time?” “What is your favorite memory from his childhood?” “Has he always loved to draw and create?”

A vital question I wish I could have asked before going into labor with our first son is,
“How big was Chris’ head when he was born?” and “How long was your labor?”

So many questions unanswered. So many moments missed that I know she would have cherished.

Our children know her as “Lulu.” And as far as they’re concerned, heaven is filled with balloons released from their little hands while blowing kisses to the sky.

It’s been some time since I have found her on the other side of sleep, waiting in a cafe, to talk about my boys and compare notes over coffee and hot tea, I can only hope that I will find her there again sometime.

I am incredibly grateful to her for taking care of the love of my life. For making sure that he was provided for and prepared to face a world of both disappointment and triumph, ugliness and beauty.

I know, in-laws can be rather challenging (to say the least.) But they can also be a wonderful resource into the things that made our spouse who they are today. They are much like, “mixed blessings.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on extended family. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened at a “family” event or around your diner table? Do you get along with your mother-in-law?

Finding God on the Farm

I haven’t written about Elliot in a while and I feel like it’s time.

I think of her multiple times throughout the day. I look at the sky, searching for the crosses that she always saw as “a sign from God.” The other day I was studying the clouds when I thought, “God, why won’t you give me just one Elliot sky cross?” Soon after, it’s as if my eyes were open to everything in front of me and I saw the majesty of His handiwork.
It occurred to me that I was expecting far too little from a God who is capable of so much more. Look at this sky and the earth below it! This is the artist who I so often times try to fit into the box of emotional perception when clearly He cannot be contained.

Why do I ask for an open door when He can knock down a wall? Why do I expect a morsel when I’m a guest at the feast? Why do I contemplate this earth when He has promised me Heaven?

Chris and I took the boys to a farm last week and I figured I should take my camera as I haven’t been to a farm since I was about 7. I thought maybe I could get some cool captures. What I found was tangible evidence that God knows my name, He cares about me, and He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all I could ever ask or think.

He didn’t have to use words. He used the beautiful simplicity of nature and the magnificent designs of His hands. He revealed more to me that day, on a farm, than He has in years. Or maybe I was just more open to it than I have been in years? Though there are many examples, I chose a few to share with you.

Worry, stress, anxiety…have always been a struggle for me. Truly, I think I was stressed out upon my delivery and ever since.

I felt silly when looking at this cow. Does she look worried?

No. She is completely relaxed and basking in the comfort of her Creator’s faithfulness. She doesn’t worry about tomorrow. She rolls in the grass completely oblivious to the storm clouds forming overhead. Because, what purpose is there in worry?

So then how much less do I have to worry? If a cow, one of the least intelligent animals on earth, can lie down in the field, completely exposed to all of the elements, surely I can trust my Heavenly Father.

When I am stirring through the details of this life, it’s as if He says, “Look at this chicken, how unique and beautiful her colors and feather pattern.

Do I not put so much more into the life of my children…if they let me? Upon comparison, the two don’t even come close.

Look at how the little ones run and chase and play, feeling the ground beneath their feet and the sky above their head. Trusting that the sky will not fall and the earth will not give way.

Have I not told you, be more like this…childlike. Relish the moments of pure unadulterated bliss.

How can I make it any more clear? I have painted the sky, using vibrant colors you have never seen, I have placed my creation before you to enjoy. What more do You need? How much is enough?”

While reading the latest entry on Elliot’s Caring Bridge site, one of the main excerpts her father wrote that stood out to me was, “I often asked myself, “What did I expect God to do?” “What did I expect the doctors to be able to do?” “What did I expect us to do as we dealt with a monster we could not see (except on a scan, and even then only if it were big enough to ‘show up’).
So often I get caught up in my unrealistic expectations. “God, I know you have formed everything from nothing and yet my worldly expectations have not been met to my liking.” (That’s rather embarrassing to write out for you to read.)

There are monster’s all around. They can be as big or as small as we allow them to be. We can be shaken and paralyzed by their threat or we can open our hands to the heavens saying, “Here. I don’t want this. I can’t handle it anyway. Here. God, I’m going to rest a while in Your presence with the utmost confidence that, (as Elliot would say), You’ve got this.

Elliot wrote in an email to her dad last fall, “…the C-word for me is not cancer, it’s Christ.”

She understood the faithfulness of an unexplainable God. She embraced the mystery of heaven. She loved as if nothing else mattered. It doesn’t, does it? When it all comes down to recognizing what truly matters, it’s how we love.

One day I will write a letter to her children and tell them of the incredible faith and perseverance that their mother so gracefully displayed. I will tell them of her love and commitment…of her loyalty…the way she loved. I will tell them what an extraordinary woman she is and that because of her, there will be more people in heaven. I will tell them that I am no longer afraid of death…because of the way she courageously met it after living a life of faithfulness.

“Elliot is more alive today than she ever was living in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.” I agree with you, Ed. And her legacy will live on long after we are gone.

Five Minute Friday: Story

Yes, I know it’s Saturday morning, but sometimes Friday turns into Saturday before you know it. So, here we are. It’s still Friday somewhere…right?

I haven’t written a 5-minute Friday post in several weeks. I don’t know why exactly? I like this weeks theme of “Story” and after spending time with one of my closest friends last night, I had to join in the conversation.

Everyone has a story and for 5-minutes, here, on this page, I’m going to talk about Jill and a little bit of her story because I want you to be blessed by her life as much as I am. She’s amazing and though I don’t tell her enough, I want her to know that.


I certainly cannot do Jill’s story justice in 5-minutes. But you can read more on her blog at Ramblings on Anything.

Over the last five years, Jill has walked through some of the most difficult “life events” that one can experience.

She lost her mom to cancer, longed for a baby, had a beautiful baby girl, continued grieving the loss of her mother and the reality that her daughter would not meet this incredible woman who had shaped Jill into the woman she is today.

When she and Andy decided they wanted to try for baby #2, she knew it would not be easy. She had proven that “easy” wasn’t necessary. She just needed possible.

Over the next several months, she would deal with the heartache of more than one miscarriage. She walked through it with grace and never lost faith. After a tempestuous season, she is now more than half way through her pregnancy with their second (miracle) baby.

Like I said, 5-minutes isn’t enough to write about this amazing woman and her journey, so in these last 2 minutes that I have to write I will tell you why I consider her one of my dearest friends…

~ She is one of 3 people I know I can call when I am sitting on the floor of my closet with the light off and the door closed, having a moment of mommy insanity.

~ We share a mutual love for Twilight and know that we will go see the latest movie at least three times, not caring what anyone thinks of us! We like to take arm-length pics in the theater even though we know they will be dark and grainy. It’s about memories, not perfect lighting

~ Though she is far from being a germaphobe, she knows that I am and therefore, always has hand sani at the ready.

~ She loves my daughter and treats her like a human being not an annoyance.

~ I know that I can text her at 11:00 p.m. and she will answer.

~ She is the first person I think of and will ask to join me when I want to go to the symphony.

~ She is the only person I go and have mani/pedis with. (She knows I’m weird and will only go where they clean their equipment in an autoclave.)

~ When I am struggling with either something ridiculous or significant, she will treat them both the same and respond with wise and godly counsel instead of allowing me to focus on the things that are out of my control.

~ She has given me a front row seat to her journey through pain and loss, incredible joy and thanksgiving. She lets me walk along side her, sharing the deepest parts of myself and my world while showing me what it looks like to keep a strong faith during times of uncertainty. There is no judgement, only acceptance, grace and a mutual respect for the other. My life is so much better with her in it.



Sometimes all ya need is a lil light

Admittedly, I’ve been somewhat of a downer today. The first day of Bella not being here I am sulky and tend to pout. SO, I think you all deserve a burst of sunshine! I mean, it’s the least I can do for my faithful and trusted readers.

I have this friend, Courtney. She is the kind of mom that other kids see and wish they had.  (No offense to all of the boring, less awesome moms out there.) This girl is stellar. Not only is she a rock-star mama (see picture below of the shaving cream art on the mirror), she is also one of the most creative people I know, turning the ordinary everyday into extra-ordinary masterpieces. I don’t know how she does it, but she does! It’s something we can all strive for.

So today I am cruising her website looking for her site button to add to my blog, only I keep seeing posts that draw me in and before long I forget what I am looking for. I’m downloading free printables and commenting on the priceless knowledge that she and several other incredible women are pouring out on the page FOR FREE! Did I mention that this wealth of information is all in one place for FREE. (Just didn’t want you to miss that.)
You will find links to each pdf at the end of this post, but you MUST visit her website to find these…
                   ABC Scripture Cards
             My Lil Money Jars TM

Look at this oh~so~fun way of displaying the cards…

There are also great ideas on praying for our children. This one is my favorite from Ashley…

Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

Here she is! The beautiful…the talented…the incredible…Courtney. Though I rarely tell her, she inspires me to be more. Not to settle for mediocre motherhood. I admit, there are times that I am envious of her creativity, her remarkable skills, her beauty inside and out. And then she will post something about how “normal” she is. It gives me hope and also challenges me to look outside of myself and walk alongside not only other mamas, but women from all walks of life who just need to know that they are not alone. She is the epitome of the woman described in Proverbs 31:10~31  

Get to know her. You will be better for it!

Click here for Courtney’s contact info. If you just can’t wait the time it takes to click a link, have a page load, click another link, wait for another page to load…visit her on our favorite social media site by clicking the icons…

Here are those super spectacular pdf. docs I was telling you about.
My Lil Money Jars Tracking Sheet ~ Blank
My Lil Money Jars Tracking Sheet ~ Sample
Conversations For Lil Ones
Fun With Scripture Memory
Ron Blue On Money Management
Light ‘Em Up ~ List Of Ideas
Light ‘Em Up ~ Family Planning Tool
Light ‘Em Up ~ Gift Tags
Mom, Will You Just Play With Me!
Clean Slate Club Plan