New Traditions

The holidays have always been a joyful time of year for my family, full of laughter, love, and LOTS of traditions. Just last year my parent's still  filmed all four kids walking down the stairs Christmas morning in our birth order (youngest to oldest). We always make Turkey shaped cookies for Thanksgiving, and we always read the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. 

When Julia died this summer everything changed. The holidays turned from something I would look forward to all year to the time that I was most dreading. It made me realize how painful of a time this must be for so many people. This time of year sheds a light on everything that is going well with your family and also everything that is going wrong. 

One thing that really helped was talking about this with a friend who had lost her brother a few years earlier. She said that it helped her family to create entirely new traditions instead of trying to recreate the old. It's devastating either way but with a new tradition there is less of a giant hole that you are trying to fill and more of a sense that you are moving on and celebrating the one you have lost. 

We are fortunate to have a large extended family who have been so incredibly helpful and supportive through all of this. They let us know that we could do anything we wanted for Thanksgiving. In the spirit of new traditions, here is what we decided to do: 

1) The night before Thanksgiving we had a gingerbread house making party with family and friends. 

2) On Thanksgiving day the cousins all cooked the meal for our parents. We all signed up for different dishes and showed up early in the day to cook together. We told our parents to just show up with alcohol and relax! This was a great bonding experience and allowed us to still have a traditional Thanksgiving but with a new twist. 

3) The day after Thanksgiving we went to the Malibu Cafe, a great spot in the Santa Monica mountains that none of us had ever been to before. Our cousins got t shirts made for everyone with our mantra "I Keep Dancing" and we all ate good food, played games, and remembered Julia together. After that we went bowling and even did some dancing! 

Overall there were still a lot of sad emotions throughout the course of the holiday. And I know Christmas will be just as hard. However creating new traditions helped us grab onto something new and offered hope that life does go on and we can keep dancing through the pain. It's helpful for me to think of life now as a set of new experiences rather than constantly lamenting about what I've lost. Julia is with us in all of these new traditions and I'd like to think that she is proud of how we are trying to embrace life instead of running away from it. Cheers to you Jules!! 

Empathy vs. Sympathy

If you know me, you know that my go-to mode in times of stress — for my friends, my family, and myself — is "problem solving mode." And solving problems is terrific! It's pragmatic and proactive. It's human nature to want to fix a problem, and to try to make someone feel better when something terrible happens — to take away our loved one's pain. 

But when there is a death, there are zero solutions that can "fix" that pain. We turn to words instead. And we struggle. What verbal antidote is there for grief? What can we say? The brutal truth is this: there are no magic words. 

This sweet little short reminds us that the greatest support we can give one another is not necessarily to fix the sad feelings, but to feel the sad feelings together. 

“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is a connection.”




Julia's Legacy & Lessons on Grief

Since it has been a little over 3 weeks now since we lost our sassy, loving, always dancing Julia, I wanted to share this article that was written about her service, the video tribute my dad created, and some raw thoughts on how Julia's passing has impacted us and will continue to do so. We want to thank each and every single one of you that have freely loved and supported us. We are incredibly touched and blessed by you. 

Video Tribute:

The service honored Julia's life more than I ever thought it could. How do you sum up someone's life in 2 hours? Through the handpicked songs 'Oceans',  'Though you Slay Me' and 'Stand by Me' that were sung by the talented musicians Angie and AJ, the raw and spirit -filled sermon given by our pastor and friend John Blue that captured Julia's impact on earth and the legacy she left of radically loving people as Christ loves people - without judgement and with full abandon, the memories that were shared by my parents, Amy, Katie, Stephie, Sarah, Myself, and John - each sharing a different facet of who Julia was and what she meant to each of us and to so many others, and finally the divinely put together video tribute my dad worked on day and night to give everyone a snapshot of her beautiful 29 years. She would have been blown away. Everyone left that day knowing more about our beautiful Julia then they ever did before. 800 people gathered with us to mourn and to celebrate Julia’s life. I pray we all never go back to the way things were before. That we arise and become the lights into the darkness our world so desperately needs. That we carry Julia’s mantel of bravery, no fear, fierce loyalty to friends and family, and sacrificial love. I only wish we could all have her natural wit and sarcasm. For now, if I am being ridiculous and a spaz, I will imagine what witty quip she would say to put me in my place. 

This grief is still so raw. It knows no protocol. If you ever imagine yourself being in this situation, you think you would be curled up in a ball all day every day. That is not the case. There are many moments where you find yourself screaming and crying into your pillow. but most of the time you go through your day, one foot in front of the other, being surprised by God with his comfort in the forms of friends, family, texts, emails, prayers, scripture, flowers, meals. As those immediate responses of support start to dwindle, the reality that my sister is gone slowly creeps in. As the initial shock wears off, the open wound that we have been slightly numbing with metaphorical medication starts to hurt even more than the initial injury. We know for the rest of our lives there will be moments of deep, painful sorrow. We all love Julia so deeply that the grief of losing her matches the depth of that love. To feel deep sorrow is to remember how much we love her and will continue to carry her in our hearts.

This is our new normal and it continues to encourage us to look upward. To seek eternal perspective. To remember that this earth is not our truest home. Our truest home is with the Prince of Peace sitting at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. In the meantime, we are even more aware of how our lives here on earth serve such a purpose. That these jobs, houses, cars, societal constructs that we revolve around are distracting us from our truest purpose: To love God, and to love people. It is so easy to get stuck in the day to day routine of building these lives for ourselves that we think will save us somehow from our inevitable death. Once you face death, especially a death so sudden you have no time to even say goodbye, it doesn’t flip your world upside down, it shakes you to the core. It shakes off all the unnecessary baggage that have no roots in your life. Our truest identity remains - children of the living God. Nothing else actually matters in light of who I am in Christ. Because of that firm foundation of knowing who I am in Him, He gives me strength to dust off the ashes from the pain and suffering of this world, stand up and be who he has called me to be, let him embrace me and bring me to deeper waters still. Complex theology of suffering takes the backseat when you face the rawest form of pain. The pain brings us to have an even simpler faith. To walk by faith in the midst of darkness. To trust in his sovereignty even when I have so many questions of ‘why did this have to happen to our family’, ‘why did this have to happen to my sweet sister in the happiest place I have ever seen her in my life’, ‘why did this have to happen to my sister who the last five years was truly one of my best friends and our relationship feels so unfinished’ ‘why do i have to now grieve the future we could have had together - a future where my kids will never meet her’. I don’t know. I just don’t know those answers. In those moments of deep confusion and sadness, I will still praise God because HE is never confused. I can pray that he turns my confusion into a source of awe and wonder of who HE is. I do know that he hates that this is part of my family's story because he hates evil and he hates the darkness of this world. However, he is taking this pain and producing the truest light inside each of us because of it. We already see it happening. So Lord, we trust you, in deep waters, our faith will stand. 

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine


Oceans by Hillsong:

Though you Slay Me:



2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.  Ecclesiastes 3:4