To James Walker on your first birthday

Our sweet James Walker,

What a year it has been. When you were born a year ago, we never imagined all that would happen in your first year. But we did know immediately just how much we loved you. You stole my heart from the first moment I saw you.

I cried and cried and laughed and cried some more. Seeing your sweet cheeks and listening to your little grunts. Hearing the doctor announce your mighty weight and seeing your daddy hold you. I knew you were our last precious baby and that these moments were so precious.

photo (12)

Our time together in the hospital was full of sweetness. So much of that was because I knew what to expect and had learned after two previous stays how to be my own advocate and your advocate. I soaked up as much of you as I could without a worry about any of the things that worried me with your brothers. Our first weeks at home with you with KK there to help us were peaceful and fun.

You have been such a sweet, easy baby. You picked up a schedule quickly. You were sleeping 12 hours at night by 3 months old and have been so adaptable and being on-the-go as the third little boy in our household. You love people. New people, people you know, people you don’t know… you love them all.

You are always smiling and laughing and watching. You take it all in and we have all loved watching all of your firsts. You weren’t just my baby or your daddy’s baby. You were Hudson and Hayes’s baby, too. We all gather around to watch your bath or watch you taste a new food. When you sat up or crawled, you had a full audience. Having you here has been so sweet and exciting for all of us. You’ve united us in love.


You laugh and smile all the time except when you’re starving or sleepy. You will eat anything we offer to you and are already a much better eater than your big brothers. You make me feel pretty good about my cooking!

When your daddy comes home from work you crawl as fast as you can to the backdoor to see him and can’t wait for him to pick you up. You are constantly looking for your big brothers and you think they’re hilarious. But you also let them know when they’ve taken something that belongs to you or they’re bothering you. You’ll hold your own just fine!

When I think back over the past year as KK was with us celebrating your life and helping care for you and for me, I’m so thankful for those first couple of months. She loved nothing more than to be able to hold and rock you and your brothers. And in the months where her health started to decline and we saw less and less of the mother and grandmother she had always been, your sweet spirit, James Walker, was what kept my spirits high. You were the sweetest distraction from the hard, hurt places. A bright little light in my day that always gave me so much joy as I was grieving.

Even still as I watch you grow up and learn new things, I’m mourning not being able to share that with my mother and your KK. It’s beautiful that life goes on, but also such a hard reality when someone so important isn’t there to share it.

The blessing of being able to teach you and hold you and love you has been the biggest gift to me in the hardest, sweetest year. When I tuck you in at night, I linger a little longer as I imagine what it must have been like for my own mother to tuck my brother and me in. I rock you a little longer, I hold you more, and I’m always so aware that you’re our last little one.


You’re my little sidekick, my buddy. You babble all the time and have about six words that you say regularly. You’re not walking yet, but I don’t think it will be long. We’re not in any big rush– we just love you so much.

James Walker, we all love you so much. Introducing a baby to the family isn’t always an easy thing, but you, my dear one, have been nothing but a joy. You have added so much to our lives. We are all absolutely wild about you.

We pray daily for you and that God will guide us as we raise you. Your daddy and I love you so much, J. Dubs. Our sweet baby boy.



the God of all comfort


So we’re doing fine. We really are doing fine. It’s a crazy thing when you realize that life does go on after a life-altering loss. We get up. We put one foot in front of the other. We get dressed and go about our regularly scheduled activities. We even smile and laugh!

We keep up with our commitments and do lots of things that we enjoy. We celebrate the joy in friends’ lives and in our own lives. There are still joyous events to celebrate.

People stop us a lot and ask how we’re doing and kind of give that look like they’re bracing themselves for me to cry. And sometimes I do cry. It’s funny that I can answer the same question and be totally straight faced with one person when I give an answer and dissolve into a puddle when I give the same answer to another person.

The day of Hudson’s class Christmas party, I was delivering his class treats to the school office and passed a friend who stopped me and hugged me and reminded me that she, too, had lost her parents at much too young an age. And a moment was shared that I’ll never ever forget. I know that our Heavenly Father uses others and their experiences and their grief to minister to me right now. None of them ever say it will get better. Almost all of them cry. And they all tell me that it’s absolutely okay to keep talking about my mom.

These kind friends, acquaintances, and sometimes complete strangers will take time to reach out to me to offer me words of comfort. And to take time to allow themselves to get back to a place of their own grief to grieve with me. And as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, we are each uniquely equipped to comfort someone. And I’ve been so blessed by the kindest people.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The Holy Spirit was there in those moments. Comforting us. Holding us. Reminding us of His goodness and His love.

I was driving Hayes and James Walker home this morning and an unexpected wave of pain washed over me, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I immediately began to sob. What was it that I wanted to text her? What story from the Golden Globes did I want to tell her?

How is it that if I forget that she’s gone for 90 seconds, I experience grief again as if for the first time when I remember?

These moments happen a few times a week. And I am sure they’ll continue to happen.

I know that God gives us more than we can handle. He gives us the hard stuff because He wants us to trust Him to handle it. And that’s exactly what I’ve had to do. I have to fully trust that He is good, and loving, and merciful, and He also happens to be preparing a perfect place for us where we can meet Him face to face.

And I’m confident that when I get to heaven and I meet him, I won’t even want to know “why” my mom had to die so young from melanoma. Why she never got to hear her youngest grandson say her name. Why she never got to see my brother get married. I know that those things won’t matter to me because I’ll be so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of who He is. Can you even imagine?! I try to, but I know my imagination doesn’t even come close.

The night my mom died, my dad and I had been praying with her all day. We’d read letters to her, sung “He Touched Me” next to her in the bed, and squeezed her tiny little hands. (I pray, pray, pray that I never forget how those hands looked and felt.) My dad and I tried to manage her pain all day and she was mostly out of it all day after being in severe pain the previous day. The hospice nurse tried to prepare us and said she would probably pass away that day. We had texted our closest family and friends that she was probably within hours of dying.

Todd and my closest friends had all spread the word to begin to pray that the Lord would call her home. This life of suffering and pain had become too much and we just prayed that He’d call her home to heaven or heal her. We couldn’t bear to see her suffer any longer.

At about 9:30 p.m., my dad and I moved to my mom’s bedside as the rhythm of her breathing began to change. We prayed some more. We told her we loved her and we were proud of her. We promised her that Walker, Todd, and the little boys were all doing well. I promised her I’d take care of my Daddy. And at 10:10 p.m. she stopped breathing. We wept over her and cried and thanked our precious Jesus for the gift of having someone so incredible and fierce to be our person, our mom, my dad’s life partner. We missed her immediately!

A few minutes later, I picked up my phone and saw that at 9:30 p.m. I had been flooded with text messages from Todd and friends saying that they were all praying right then for God to end her suffering. They’d each been prompted to pray and to tell me they were praying. And in that moment and in that realization, I’ve never felt closer to God. Knowing that so many were praying the same thing and that our Father answered their prayer and that my mom was standing in His presence… is there anything more incredible, humbling, and bittersweet?

We have so many moments from that night. It was a long long night as we waited for hospice to arrive. When the hospice nurse got to my parents’ house, she introduced herself and I immediately recognized her name as the mother of a high school classmate of mine who was tragically murdered a few years ago.

We were able to talk about him and she cried as she spoke about her son that she misses so much. She was with us for about three hours, and when she hugged us goodbye she said that she’d been comforted that night just to be able to spend time with someone who knew her son.

Jesus doesn’t miss an opportunity. We just have to ask for those opportunities, and I know that now. In my grief and anguish over my mother, I was still able to provide comfort for this mother. And it’s the same for me as sweet friends reach out to check on me and pray for me and send me encouragement. They’re each such a comfort to me.

I keep saying this, but I’m just completely overwhelmed with gratitude and the realization of God’s love for us. He wanted my mom with Him even more than we want her here with us. It’s hard to sit in grief and sadness for too long when we realize the fullness of His grace. The God of all comfort loves us so much.


using my words

I’m a words person. In the days immediately following the loss of my mom, more than photographs of her, I wanted to read her words. I wanted to get a peek at her heart and her sharp mind, so I went back and read her blog from beginning to end. She hadn’t blogged in a long while, but reading her words was such a comfort to me. I emailed a few posts to friends and family. I read a couple out loud to my dad and he even read part of one in the eulogy he wrote.

While I was reading her words, I realized 1) how much I love writing and how much I’ve missed it and 2) that I want to give my family the gift of words and written memories. So I’m setting an official goal to sit down and write once a week. And it’s for them.

I’ll pop in on January 1 with my list of goals for the year and a theme for this next year. Todd and I heard our pastor give a really great, practical sermon on goal setting and I’m excited to have honed in on some goals that will help me in the new year without adding endless “to dos” to my plate.

We’re welcoming 2016 at home with our kiddos. December kind of kicked our tails and we’re really tired. So the kids are eating pizza and I’m making a giant bowl of Ina’s shrimp scampi with linguine and we’ll play some cards and board games and do our best to stay awake until 10:00 p.m.


this Instagram collage perfectly captures our year

God was good to us in 2015. We welcomed our darling baby boy and he has brought endless sweetness to our days. If there’s one thing that stops Hudson and Hayes from bickering, it’s James Walker and his cute little self. Unless they’re bickering about who gets to hold him.

We discovered that my mom’s diagnosis was likely terminal in May and then we went into memory-making mode and started having some fun. After our trip to Colorado this summer (which I referred to as the best vacation we’ve ever taken), I went to hug my mom goodbye at the airport and started to sob. Sobbing wasn’t an unusual occurrence when we said “goodbye,” but this time I just couldn’t hug her tightly enough. She grabbed my shoulders with her hands and looked me square in the eye and said, “Hey! I am NOT going to die.”

We both knew she couldn’t keep that promise. Obviously. But she wanted to be here to live this life with us and to enjoy the moments with us. And she gave us countless memories that I hope I never forget. And we had the beautiful gift of being able to tell her everything she meant to us.

I’ll hold on tightly to the memories of 2015 for the rest of my life. So many sweet firsts and heartbreaking lasts. And I’m praying that my heart will be open and ready to receive what God is going to teach me in 2016. Happy New Year, family and friends!


the woman who gave me life


Sometimes you just don’t know where to start with words, so I’m just going to start and I may not stop for a while.

My mother, Karen Akin, passed away on December 1 at 10:10 p.m with my dad and me at her side holding her hand and praying with her.

In early June, after spending many weeks in our home off and on after James Walker’s birth and many weeks of beautiful, sweet memories, my mom had a scan and found out that the melanoma tumors had spread to the left frontal lobe of her brain. She had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2010. It was in the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis. It metastasized in 2013 and continued to spread for the past two years.

When we found out about the tumors in the brain and in her bones, she decided that she would remain upbeat and she really didn’t want to tell anyone about it except for a few friends and family members. My mom didn’t want to talk about cancer all the time. She didn’t want everyone constantly asking her how she was feeling. She wanted to go on about life as usual- living and loving life without people feeling sorry for her. So we didn’t really share her news either until my dad posted about it on Facebook in October.

She and my dad spent an incredible ten days in a villa in Tuscany with dear friends in June. In July, we all went to Colorado to visit my brother, Walker and his girlfriend. When we were in Colorado, it was the very first time that we’d ever seen my mom show any signs or symptoms of cancer in nearly 6 years. She was nauseated, tired, and often frustrated and overwhelmed. We went to visit my cousin’s family in Alabama in August and noticed more symptoms of the brain tumors. But we had two wonderful vacations. So many incredible memories! Playing with the boys. Talking about what heaven will be like. Singing and laughing and remembering things from childhood.

In September, Todd and I went to Indiana for the Influence Conference and my mom and dad came to visit for a few days. More brain tumor symptoms- trouble forming thoughts, difficulty multi-tasking, difficulty getting around and she was generally just not herself. In October, Todd and I took all the boys to my parents’ house for a long weekend and it was more of the same- just worse.

Since June, her health was rapidly declining. But the loss of her personality and the woman that I know was the most heartbreaking part.

My mom is such a part of me. I’m used to calling multiple times a day just to tell a funny story. I’m used to making plans for our next visit. I’m used to calling on Friday mornings to discuss what happened on Scandal the night before. And she couldn’t talk on the phone or text anymore. And, gosh, I have been missing her for months. I feel lost without my best friend.

We began to specifically pray that she wouldn’t feel anxious and she wouldn’t feel pain. That a peace that passes all understanding would overwhelm her. We prayed that she would know just how loved she is.

We know that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that He has perfectly written His story and it included a plan for a beautiful life for my sweet mom. And for all of our lives.

Watching my dad so lovingly care for my mom is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s real love in its most raw form. Having the incredible opportunity to hold my mom’s face in my hands and to tell her every reason I love her is a gift I didn’t take lightly, and my dad was able to do that every day for months. He held her, he cared for her, he prayed with her, and cherished her.

We’re experiencing every emotion possible. I can’t speak for my dad and my brother, but I’m heartbroken. I’m mad. I’m grateful. I’m hopeful. I’m in shock. I’m relieved that her pain is over. But I know I can speak for my whole family when I say that we’re so thankful. We trust the Lord and we know that He is good. He is merciful. He has provided us with so many gifts and we’ve seen so many blessings. We were given more than five precious years with her before we ever experienced any setbacks from cancer.

All of my babies got to be held and rocked and sung to by the most loving woman in the world. They know a KK that would do anything in the world to be with them.

I’ve learned from a woman who trusts God. A woman who has given all of herself to others. A woman dedicated to helping those that can’t help themselves.

A woman who saw a problem and fixed it. She would stop at nothing to fix a problem for someone or to provide an opportunity for someone. She loved people and wanted to help make things better for them.

She loved movies and committed to see every Oscar-nominated movie before the awards show every year. She loved music and would bust out in song- hymns, classic rock, show tunes, Lady Gaga and Adele. She loved it all. She loved to dance and would jump to her feet any time she heard “rock me mama like a wagon wheel.” She wanted Elton John to sing “Honky Cat” at her funeral. For two decades she maintained this wish. And we honored it on Monday at her service with a recording of “Honky Cat.”

She was a staunch Republican, incredibly conservative, but also full of compassion. She adopted a homeless couple. She ministered to lost women and was committed to rescuing women from sex trafficking. She was generous to a fault and would give someone anything they needed and would drop everything to serve you if she could. Even if she wasn’t feeling well that day.

Over the past month, my mom, dad, brother and I have read letters from countless friends who have been impacted by my mom’s presence in their lives. We’ve cried and laughed and we’ve been so thankful for these incredible people who want her to know how much she is loved. And when I think about what she’s done in my life…. I just don’t know where to start.

My mom. My best friend. She was my biggest fan and the woman who pushed me. Her influence in my life has shown me what complete trust in the Lord looks like. What bravery looks like. How to mother. How to love. What it looks like to be a good friend. She is the fabric of my life. She is all over everything I see and every breath I take. My mentor. My cheerleader. My coach. My dear dear mother. The orchestrater of all the fun. The creator of all the beautiful things in every room. She had the magic touch.

She had impeccable style and so much class, but also so much sass and the ability to sit and relate to anyone without offering any nonsense. Just grace and truth and so much love for everyone she loved.

We’ve joked that she’d be saying to us, “Oh, just get over it already!” She would. She was a dust yourself off and get on with it kind of woman. But the loss we’re experiencing is immeasurable. She lit up a room. She held everyone’s attention without asking for it.

Sometimes just hearing her voice on the phone on a bad day just turned me into a puddle of tears. The comfort she provided just by knowing she loved me was all the comfort I needed. We’d schedule visits with each other before another was over. Many days now I can’t catch my breath as I imagine this life without her.

My brother, Walker, loved her dearly and she would have done anything for him. And my dad. Oh my dad. She was his best friend and he was hers. He cherished her right up until her very last breath. The example of marriage that they have set for me is amazing.

She adored Todd, and was always saying how lucky we all are to have him in our family. (I often joked that she grew to love Todd more than she loved me!) We know she’s with us. In our actions, in our words, in the songs we sing. Gosh, she’s even there when I look in the mirror now and see so much of her in me.

When I think about what she would want you to know and what she’d want me to share, it’s this. My mama was not perfect. She was precious and she changed lives, but she wasn’t perfect. She is not the hero of this story. She was a woman who was saved by grace through faith in Jesus. She loved her heavenly Father. She wanted a deeper relationship with Him. She wanted to show the love of Christ to those in her life. Jesus in her is the hero of this story. She would want you to know that and she’d want you to draw nearer to Him. To trust Him and let Him take the reigns.

And that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaning into our Savior, letting Him carry us, and not wasting a single minute that we have to tell anyone about the Good News in our lives. We’re experiencing incredible sorrow and unspeakable joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He is good!

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