Sweet Embrace: A Letter to Elliot

Dear Elliot,

I was browsing through one of my favorite shops in a small North Carolina town when I saw this sculpture. I picked it up and read the description from the artist. This is what it said;
Thankfully I know the owners of the store because I could not hold back the tears that were imminent. While holding the artwork tightly in both hands I was able to tell them about you, your life and your legacy. That makes two more people who know how incredible you are and what a difference you are making in the lives of others.

Mary carefully packed the figure in brown paper to ensure a smooth trip home. That was three months ago. I put the bag in my closet and looked at it several times a day, but left the statue securely wrapped.
I finally sat down and slowly pulled the pieces of tape away from the brown paper. As the image began to appear I was overcome with emotion. It sounds silly, right?

Like certain music, art has the ability to move us from where we are, right back to a moment in time.

I wanted a place where, not only would I see it throughout the day, but others could as well and ask about its meaning.

While admiring it when first getting up this morning, memories began flooding in. Sleepovers with singalongs on our hairbrush microphones and talent shows from the school’s cafeteria stage. Tennis matches in the heat and humidity we had grown accustomed to in the south and seemingly never-ending miles on the church van. It reminded me of the long days of summer and the childlike anticipation of Christmas. A time that was good and innocent. A time when divorce had not been intrusive, cancer wasn’t personal and we were unaware of how incredibly cruel the world can be. I had to smile.

I am quite certain that each time I look at it another memory or emotion will surface. I’m okay with that. I don’t think chance is what took me into the store on that particular day, I think it was God.

Wyatt is celebrating his 7th birthday today. He is so grown up! I love seeing the pictures that Chris posts on your Facebook page. It’s amazing the difference a year makes between six and seven.

El, I still haven’t written those letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to say and yet there is so much I want to say. I have things for them that, just like the figurine, remain in a bag, undisturbed. Do you think I will ever have the courage to put my thoughts on paper and stop worrying about whether it’s worded perfectly?

The children are beautiful, Elliot. I know that you are so proud. And Chris is doing a wonderful job. It is evident how much he loves and misses you. We all miss you.

Love and Light,

Related Post:

Oh my soul

To see more sculptures by Cindy Burden click here

Perspective and Grace

It’s early. The stillness is calming as I look out on the water that looks like glass, the sun is just starting to peek through the layer of clouds spread across the sky. Last night my dreams were filled with random and stressful things. I was running through most of it. Physically running.

Is that what I’m doing? Running? I have sat down staring at this white page on the computer screen a dozen times in the last week. Nothing. There are millions of things swirling around in my mind. Good things. Bad things. Meaningful things. They just won’t come together to form a sentence.

Last night I spent some time on my good friend, Leanne Penny‘s blog. Her latest entry is about seasons of life. It hit me. Why am I struggling so much? Why do I keep trying to force words into a post? Why am I looking at my stats? I know myself well enough to know that if I had 5,000 “followers” I would be asking myself why I didn’t have 10,000. When really, that’s not at all what this is about. I have to remind myself why I started.

It was to share my experience, strength and hope with others as a way of giving back. A way of saying, “Thank you.” to the God who could have left me in the gutter. A way of spreading hope and healing for broken dreams.

I am a living, breathing example that you can have a plan for exactly how your life is going to go, but for the majority of us it will not look at all like we planned. If my life had gone the way I “planned” I would have been a published author by the age of 30, after I had grown tired of being a successful actress, model and Broadway singer. You laugh, but that is what I was aspiring to.

And then something went wrong and I turned into a wretched depiction of my former self. The more I self medicated, the more hollow I became. I was far from home and completely disconnected from all that had ever been good in my life.

It took an undercover cop, a u-haul, some garbage bags filled with my things and a trip across several state lines before I could begin at zero and build from there. I look back at that scared, emaciated, ego driven, 18-year-old girl and it doesn’t make me sad or regretful anymore. It makes me smile. To think of how far one can go to escape God and everything one has ever known only to find a better understanding than she ever would have had otherwise.

I am the face of redemption. I am cleansed and restored. I have been put back together. I am found. Never to be lost again. I am People of the Second Chance.


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

Five Minute Friday: Change



© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.~Paulo Coelho

The topic for this week’s FMF post could not be more timely. Selfishly I like to think that God put it on Lisa-Jo‘s heart just for me.

I am experiencing change all around me. It’s not all bad, but unsettling nonetheless. The quote at the top of the page came from attempts to calm my nerves through hours of reading what different authors say about change. It sums it up well for me right now.

Change is a funny thing, it brings to the surface two very strong, competing emotions, fear and excitement.

Fear of the unknown.
Excitement for what the future holds.

For me, today, in this moment,
Change = Adventure.
I’ll keep you posted.

All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
is Change.
is Change.
~Octavia E. Butler


Wanna participate or just read more takes on the word change? Click here



Releasing me


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

Fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a great motivator for change. It’s when we stop moving that the fear catches up and attempts to overtake us.

It’s when we lose faith that all hope appears lost as well.

When our shadow becomes bigger than our God, we are headed for certain doom.

What is the solution?

For me, it’s about surrender. Relinquishing control on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Opening my hands as a sign of my willingness to release what I am holding, in an effort to accept the blessings that await me.

They don’t always appear as expected, sometimes arriving in the form of pain. However, as I have seen time and time again, blessings are often the reward of difficulties endured.

So keep going. If you’re in the middle of hell, don’t stop. Just put one foot in front of the other while breathing in the divine strength of the moment and exhaling the toxic fumes of discouragement and doubt.

You were created for so much more.


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