Life After Loss

 Jessica Janzen Olstad

Jessica is the founder of the Love for Lewiston Olstad Foundation, based out of  Calgary, AB. The Foundation was established after Jessica suffered the loss of her infant son, Lewiston to Spinal Muscle Atrophy  – Type 1 (SMA). This interview is not just about loss but about  “Love After Loss”. Through the interview and video links (below), you will experience the beautiful love story between Jessica and her husband, Ronnie. A story of how loss impacts the family dynamic, especially within marriage. You will be touched at how through their love and faith they not only overcame inconceivable tragedy but they have also come out stronger because of it. Their story is an amazing example to all of us of what unwavering faith and true unconditional love looks like. God was and is in every touchingly beautiful detail of their inspiring story. They truly inspire others to “Live Each Day With Purpose” and they are “Making a difference one day, one life at a time.” Jessica, Ronnie, and their daughter, Swayzie have created their Foundation to carry on Lewiston’s legacy by raising awareness and working towards finding  a cure to fight SMA.To learn more about the incredible work they are doing,  please click on their Foundation’s link here: 

Also to get a better glimpse into the life and legacy of Lewiston, click  on the video links below:


Lewiston’s Celebration of Life: 

I hope after reading my interview with Jessica you will be inspired to:

Choose Movement.         Bring Joy.          Spread Love.

You have a Foundation called, “Love for Lewiston”. Can you tell me about that it, how it came to be, and it’s mission?

The Love for Lewiston Foundation was born of a position the Olstads embraced to spend their son Lewiston’s first birthday not as a pity party, but a celebration of his short but influential life and the life lessons they desired to pass on to others. They felt the community surround them in their darkest moments and encountered so much light and strength in sharing their burden that they wanted to keep spreading joy and love to others like it was so generously offered to them. They believe to their core that Lewiston’s message of “squeezing a little tighter, loving a little deeper and dancing a little longer”, is meant to be extended to the world.

With 7 weeks to the date, they rallied their close friends, organized and hosted their first official Lewiston Event on May 25, 2017 – it raised just over $42,000 in one night. To make everything legit as a foundation, the paperwork was prepared during the planning phases but not expected to be completed for months. Jessica received a call the morning of the party, Lewiston’s first birthday, declaring the paperwork had been processed, approved and certified. This was all thanks to an amazing accounting team at Pinnacle Accounting and Finance to help push through the paperwork and ensure every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. The Love for Lewiston Foundation is now officially a non-profit currently working to achieve its registered charitable status.  Please ask us about tax-deductible receipts for your donations.

The Love for Lewiston Foundation exists to create awareness, bring joyful experiences spreading love and directing money to local families, and ultimately raising funds focused on treatments and finding a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy through SMA Research and The Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

 In an instagram post, that you wrote in honor of your son, Lewiston  – you thanked him by saying, “Thank you for giving me the gift of life, In losing yours I found mine”. Can you share with the readers how you found life in the midst of losing your infant son?                          In losing my son it gave me new perspective. The days are precious and I don’t want to look back and say I wish I would have. He gave me the courage to be bold, use my voice and speak up for what I want and dream of. You really have to fight for what you need in the hospital and I realize that is true with life. I believe I am fully alive chasing my dreams knowing that they will come true.

What is life after loss like?                                                                                              It’s tough, it sucks, and it hurts. There are empty dark days, but there are also days that you slow down and hold onto the moments more. You long for what should have been.  But you also make the most of what is given to you! It shifts your view and we choose the attitude that it is a blessing. It has deepened friendships and weeded out people who aren’t pouring into our life.

What impact has the lose of Lewiston had on your family dynamic, on your marriage? How has it helped your family to grow closer?         Honestly a loss like this could totally rock you, destroy, and tear you apart. But Ronnie and I set a pact at the beginning of our journey saying that no matter what, we would stay together! I won’t lie, it has been hard. We have fought, and sometimes we let the hurt creep in and it wants to push you apart but we choose to stay connected. We have allowed it to bring us closer. It has had its challenges, but we keep fighting for our marriage. You have to put in the effort. We have slowed down. We set time aside and we pay more attention to others who need help.

What did Lewiston’s short life teach you?                                                                Where do you start. So many lessons. To slow down, to not doubt, to listen to the nudges of your heart, to choose joy, to run towards the roar (the things that scare you the most.) To be bold, to live fully alive and that having a hope in Heaven will be what saves you on the dark days.

What is the legacy you hope Lewiston’s life will leave for generations to come?                                                                                                            Our prayer for Lewiston’s Legacy is that we inspire everyone to choose movement, bring joy, and spread love. We also believe that he will be part of finding a cure and getting treatment for those that are in need.

 You also talk about your faith on instagram, how has faith been influential in carrying you through your loss? In helping you to cope, survive, and even heal?
I don’t know how you do it without a belief in God. There is hope in heaven.

After experiencing first hand how precious and fleeting life is, how do you make each day count and live life to the fullest? Making the most out of life?
Focusing on the things that really matter. Focusing on what I actually want to say yes to, saying no to things that won’t get us closer to our goals and continuing to dream big. Loving deep, squeezing tighter.

Any final thoughts or message you would like to leave the readers with?
Regardless of where things are at you get a choice. WE always say event plus response will equal your outcome. Our event – fighting for our sons life with his terminal diagnosis, plus us choosing joy and to make it count & matter. Equalled a life well lived, beautiful family memories, and now an opportunity to pour into others & help those in need. The average person gets about 30,000 days, Lewiston had 179.  I don’t know my number but I do know I want to live them well.




Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

Does He Make The List?


Have you ever made a list of all the character qualities and things you’re looking for in the right guy? I did, and I’ve used this list to guide me in dating. This list has also helped me to know what I really want. Though over the years it has changed, I’ve gone from a broader list to one thats more specific.

Below are some of mine and why.

1). He shares the same morals and values:

Why: Because when two people do not share the same morals and values it can create a rift in the relationship since your very core and foundation are based on those. Also if this person doesn’t share your morals and values, they may not understand why you have them, nor respect them. They also may try to get you to compromise them.

2). He acknowledges your worth.

Why: Often times our worth can be taken for granted and if we feel under appreciated, it can cause issues within the relationship. Those issues may cause us to be bitter and even impact our self image, because we are not getting the acceptance we long for. Know your worth! If you do, you will have the courage to get out of bad and unhealthy relationships sooner. Also a guy worthy of you will never give you reasons to question your worth, because he will constantly be reminding  you how amazing you’re and how much you mean to him!

3.) The relationship is not built on conditions.

Why: Too often control is exercised in relationships and demands are issued, especially by guys. At that point the relationship can become unhealthy, even hostile depending on  the type of demands and control issued. No one should ever control who you are. They shouldn’t threaten dissolution of the relationship if you don’t bow to their demands. Love should be unconditional, not conditional and not based on what you will or won’t do for them.

4.) He has a servants heart.

Why: How he treats others says a lot about his character and speaks volumes to how he will treat you. Someone who is giving back, cares about others, sees a need and meets that…shows he is respectful. This also shows that he is not arrogant and does not feel he is above helping others. If he is willing to be there for others, think how much more he will be willing to be there for you.

5.) Makes your relationship a priority and puts you first.

Why: Relationships take work and if you want to be in one you both need to make it a priority and learn to put each other first, second to God of course! That does not mean that you’re catering to each others every whim or that he has the right to control you and vice versa. What this means is you make time for each other. You listen more than you talk. If one expresses concern over something you take that into consideration. You do things for the other just to put a smile on their face. In fact when you put the other first you’re being selfless not selfish.


So does he make the list? If not, don’t settle! You are valuable. You deserve to be loved unconditionally. You are worth so much more….



Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

Faith On And Off The Field



He’s a professional athlete in the NFL, having been a Fullback with the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Originally starting out as a Linebacker at the University of Tennessee. He’s a true southern gentleman, born and raised in North Carolina. He’s family oriented and one of four sons, all who have played sports. Most importantly he is a God fearing Christian man and uses his platform to share the gospel, every chance he gets.

 Throughout the interview I not only got a glimpse of the camaraderie within the football league, but also learned what it means to have “Faith On and Off the Field”. We covered Faith, Family, Football, and for my ladies, even Finding Love. On this in depth interview we got real and he got vulnerable while we talked about hardships, dreams, and what he is looking for in a future wife. Despite asking him some very personal and hard questions. I found Austin to be gracious, accommodating, humble, and very transparent. I hope you’re inspired, encouraged, and more on fire for God after reading through my interview with Austin Johnson.

How did you come to know Christ?                                                                            Gave my life to Christ, my Jr. year of college while attending a camp in Colorado, called Athletes in Action, which would change my life for the better. The camp teaches athletes to integrate Christ within the sport you play.  Through this camp, “God shook my whole life upside down and showed me what life is really all about, I was broken and he striped me of my pride – I was very prideful back then. He showed me that life is so much bigger than sports & more than myself.”

You share your faith a lot on social media and have expressed wanting to use your platform to spread the gospel.  What ways are you doing that?                                                                                                                         One way is by using social media to let people know that I am a man of God. I do speaking engagements and anytime I get the chance to share my faith, I try to do it.

What topics do you speak on for your speaking engagements?               If I’m speaking for FCA I share my testimony, about not giving up, to keep pushing forward, and that the Lord’s leading you on a certain path. With schools, that can be tough but I make sure the kids know that I wouldn’t be where I am without my Lord and Savior. When I sign autographs I always write a scripture down. Every chance I get, I try to share.

 What scripture verses do you include with your autograph?            Ephesians 6:11, (HCSB)Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics[a] of the Devil.” This is the first verse I ever memorized and have always thought it was a cool verse, just so cool to put on the armor of God. That verse meant so much then and is what helped start my walk with the Lord.

What are some of your favorite verses?                                                        Ephesians 6:11, (HCSB)Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics[a] of the Devil.” I love the Psalms, like Psalm 119:105, (HCSB) “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Colossians 3:20, (HCSB) “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Galatians 2:20, (HCSB) “And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body,[a] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

 What’s the overall message you want to convey?                                             My career has been rocky and has not gone how I wanted, pretty much my whole career. In college, I went through a bunch of coaches and have been cut a lot in the NFL. My message is to never give up. I love to share whenever I’m doing evangelistic speaking, that when you get knocked done the Lord’s path for you is so much greater than what you can see and He has a plan. Especially when things go bad in life I want to get across to people that bad things are going to happen in life and that’s just the way it is and it’s so easy, just to give up or so easy to just say woe is me when you can’t see what the Lord has for you. When we get to Heaven we can look back at those moments and the first thing we will say to the Lord is, “Oh that’s why this happened, that led me here.’ It’s not only with your work but with relationships and certain circumstances in your life. So, I definitely try to get across the message that bad things are going to happen but the Lord has a plan for you. Better than you could ever imagine and you just have to trust that. People ask me a lot, “Why would He cause this suffering?” The best answer I can give them is that the Lord allows these sufferings for a reason. An example I give is when you have a sick child, you take them to the Dr. to get shots, which causes them pain, to make them better. Yet they wonder, “Why would you do this to me?” That’s the same thing we’re doing when we’re going through all this suffering, we’re asking the Lord, “Why are you doing this to me?” Little do we know that He is saving us from something that’s going to probably, ultimately take us away from being with him in Heaven. He’s making sure we’re going to have eternal life and that’s definitely a message I try to get across.

Having a platform comes with a lot of responsibility. What example do you hope to set for your fans, for those watching you?                           A lot of that is on other people. If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. If I’m going to put pictures out there and tell people I’m a Christian, they better see that in my life and the way I do that is I try to be as genuine and graceful to everyone I meet, that’s tough for me. My brothers are unbelievable and their so graceful. Sometimes I wish I was like them because for some reason I got the personality, that probably because I’m a Fullback in the NFL, I’m supposed to be mean and tough. I’m quiet at times and I get kind of moody sometimes and these are my flaws, but its definitely a fault of mine.  I have to really remind myself that someone could be having a terrible day and just a simple gesture could make their day way better. I think at the end of the day you just have to walk the walk and show people who you’re and be graceful. Especially in our work when you lose a game it’s a terrible time and everyone’s upset and everyone’s mad but no one really knows what’s going on back at home, so asking someone how their day is can go a long way.

 How does faith play into sports, on and off the field?                                      I try to make faith the #1 thing in my life. One of the hardest things about the NFL is football is a very selfish game! When I say that, I mean you have to be selfish in that you have to look out for yourself if you want to stick around, if you want to play in the game a long time. You have to be competitive! You have to know that the person across from you is trying to take money away from you and from your family. Money that’s going to feed you and ultimately bring you success in your career, it’s a selfish game. The biggest mistake guys make and I try not to let it happen to me, is it becomes our identity. I think football is definitely a huge idol in a lot of people’s lives and that’s why you hear stories of guys who can’t get over when footballs over.  It’s such an idol in their life and they feel lost. So, I try to remind myself all the time that God is first, then football.  If football was taken from me right now would that be my identity or is my identity in Christ and I’m enough! I try to remind myself of that. It’s definitely hard because you get so caught up in the game, camp, and the season, you’re just surrounded by it all the time. It’s definitely a tough thing to do and I’m at fault a lot of the times. I might go a few days, and be like, “Oh my Gosh I haven’t been in the word enough.” I spend time in the Word by reading devotions on a Bible app sometimes but I like book in hand better. If I’m doing a Bible study then I’ll read from Bible in hand.

Can faith exist within football, does it exist within the team?                    We have a good core group of guys who are believers and everyone tries to rally around each other and bring each other closer to Christ. We have chapels and small groups. It’s a normal job. When I was in Tampa I went to a Wednesday service and small groups within the church. It’s hard to go on Sundays. Though I try to plug myself into the community just as if I was a sales man there in the city. But yes, faith is a huge part especially in my football career. Obviously, we pray before games and memorize scripture together and certain guys hold each other accountable. I’m surrounded with these guys so much and you have to surround yourself with good guys because obviously there will be temptations and things that will try to bring you down or take you away from what’s important in your life. You have to be aware of those and remind yourself what’s important and have accountability within that group.

You’ve played football all your life, and with guys there’s a lot of locker room talk. Is it difficult to only be a player on the field and not off the field?  
 Yeah, it’s difficult. That’s what I was kind of saying earlier about having accountability partners, cause conversations at lunch or in the locker room can go in directions that you don’t want to be a part of and that’s when you just got to walk away. It’s going to happen that’s just the way it is. I don’t want there to be a time where I leave a locker room and someone says, “Hey what do you know about Austin Johnson?” If I walk out of that room and they don’t know I’m a Christian then I failed that locker room! So, I want to make sure, because it’s important to me, that people know that. Now do they not talk about stuff because I’m in there? No! It’s a bunch of cocky guys that, you know, they talk about what they want to talk about. That kind of stuff is going to happen in locker rooms but I mean ultimately the whole locker room in general is a mix group of good guys and a bunch of guys that are curious, the guys that aren’t Christians. There’s probably more Christians on the team then you would think. It’s just a chance for the guys who are Christian, to spread the gospel and bring the curious ones to bible studies and just kind of work in their lives.

So how do you handle temptations and opportunities that you’re faced with that could compromise your beliefs?                                          Having accountability partners, staying in the word, and walking away. Obviously, we’re all sinners and we all fall short. I just try to make sure I’m doing everything I can to make sure that I’m living the way the Lord has called me to live. By living out the path He has out for me and not my own selfish desires.

What are some of your Christian values and beliefs?                              Basically Galatians 2:20, (HCSB) “And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body,[a] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” That’s kind of my Christian values. I think that’s the most important thing. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He died for my sins.

How do you and other Christian football players help each other stay true to your Christian values?                                                                          Loving on each other, getting to know each other, and spending time together. A lot of my buddies in the NFL are married with kids, so I go and spend time with their kids and show them that I care for them. I think that holding each other accountable is definitely an important thing.

Recently you were released, so what does that mean for your career?    What’s next for you?                                                                                 Yeah, I got fired! That’s what it means. I’m a free agent right now, so technically I’m unemployed and looking for another team to call. Any team can call me now and sign me to their team. So, I just wait by my phone and hopefully I get called. If I don’t, then looks like I got to move on. Yeah, it’s not a good thing.

How has your faith impacted how you’ve handled being released? What do you do in the meantime?                                                                    Yeah, it’s tough. When you get released its very tough because when you’re released after a few weeks you kind of start wondering what’s next.  You’re definitely tested because like I said earlier, it kind of shows you how you’re making this an idol. When that’s something I try not to do. So, I just try to keep my mind busy and just know that the suffering, if you want to call it suffering, I mean it’s not legitimately suffering. I know people are suffering a lot more than that, but the hardships I’m going through currently, is for a reason. I’m not supposed to be in Tampa right at this moment. Now if I go back there I will get immediately plugged back in and do what I have to do no matter where I go. But the Lord doesn’t see that for me right now. He wants me to be here and that’s given me time to spend with my family, with my grandma who is 90 and she’s been in the hospital every month. I’m getting to be at home and spend time with her and who knows if that’s the reason. Even if I played another 5 years after this moment. Would I look back ten years from now and be able to say, that I now know the Lord had released me specifically at that time so I could spend those couple months with my grandma. You just got to keep the faith and know that it’s for a reason. You were talking about values earlier and that’s one of the biggest things I preach to people is that everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that and I’ll stand by it forever.

Regarding relationships with the opposite sex, do you set boundaries within those relationships that reflect your values?         Do I set boundaries, yeah! If she doesn’t know who I am and I don’t know who she is I’ll ask the questions like, “So do you believe?”, “Are you a Christian”, or I’ll ask, “Do you believe Jesus died for your sins?” I’ll be blunt about that and once that conversation gets going there’s obviously things said and discussed based off that. I wouldn’t date someone that wasn’t a believer. I think that’s extremely important in a relationship. My thing with relationships is that I definitely want to get married one day and I want to have kids and I want to do all that, I mean I’m getting older. Through out my career, I’ve asked God why haven’t I found the person to share my life with! For a while, I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t strong enough. I thought maybe I’d be too weak, you know, or I’d fail her or whatever that might be. During my career, I was solid to the Saints for four years, I didn’t get cut really that much. Then like these past two years I’ve been kind of cut and signed back on a bunch of teams, been living in and out of my suitcase.  I just realized if I was married with kids right now it would not be a good time. They would have been through a lot with me going through selfish problems that I go through with being cut and trying to find my way in this league. With being signed back, then getting cut, moving to Tampa, and then moving back home. You know, I had a bunch of work outs last year and I was kind of like flying all around and it’s just not a steady family life. I would have felt terrible and maybe would have had to retire because I wouldn’t have wanted to put them through that.

 As a Christian man what are some things you look for or desire in relationships with the opposite sex, in a future wife?  
I think God puts certain people, in our lives. Whenever I meet certain people or I’m in a relationship or dating someone I look for someone who is a Christian, solid in her faith, she’s independent, she’s family oriented, that’s she’s just a graceful, and loving person. I want someone that challenges me. I want someone that makes me a better person and makes me want to be a better person and I want to be able to challenge her. And make her want to be a better person. So, I think those are huge qualities in a relationship and something that I definitely look for.

How pivotal is your faith within relationships and overall in life?        Number one.

As a Christian what advice would you give other athletes regarding the pressures, rejection, disappointments, and temptations they may face?                                                                                            
I mean the biggest piece of advice I’m going to give is you’re going to fail, you’re going to get rejected, and someone’s going to tell you you’re not good enough and that’s fine. At that moment in your life you have a choice to make, you can either accept that and go move on to something else in your life or say ok. Keep trying, keep pushing forward, and know that the Lord is leading you in that direction, if He wants you to do that. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not the best athlete or the best football player in the world. The Lord knew what He was doing. He put me in the right situations and He has given me a platform to share that faith and that’s what I try to do. So, I would just tell them to keep pushing on and don’t give up! You don’t know when you’re going to have that break through or when the Lord’s going to push you through a moment. Whenever I talk to schools I bring a picture and its of two guys hammering rocks. There’s one guy that looks like he’s hammering the rocks really hard and the other guy you see him walking away because he was done hammering but what both of them don’t know is that when they knock down those rocks, there’s gold. So, I tell people to, “Keep hammering because you don’t know when you’re going to get a break through or when that golds going to come.  But, I promise you, if your living your life the right way and you’re a Christian and you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He is leading you the way you should go!”

**UPDATE: In the time since our interview, I was able to catch up with Austin and he informed me that he has been  re-signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, joining them for the rest of the season. This answer to prayer solidifies the message that Austin shared in the interview, always trust God and never give up. In Austin’s own words he said, “God knows what He’s doing. Patience and faith!”  

We wish Austin a safe and successful football season. Go Bucs!!




Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

Hearts Full At CHRISTmas

{Photo Credit: @mydarlingcatastrophe/}



Meghan Joy lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota with her husband and their 5 kids. They are expecting baby #6 in April 2018. Meghan Joy homeschools their children while running a few businesses from home and keeping up with her Blog. They love family dinners, lazy Sundays after church, and random dance parties. You can connect with Meghan Joy via her social media accounts either through Instagram and Blog.


What does Christmas mean to you? What makes this time of year so special?                                                                                                                        Without a doubt, the sole purpose and reason for celebration at Christmas time is Jesus. All Jesus. His birth into the world is why we do all the things we do all December long. And we engrain that in our children throughout all of our traditions and events. Focusing on this fact alone, makes each and every day so special. That we get to live in a country where we have the freedom to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

What are some of your favorite family traditions during the Christmas season?                                                                                                            Beginning on December 1, we do an advent devotion (complete with chocolate) every day. We read through pieces of scripture that tell the story of the birth of Jesus. In years past, I would have a gift of a book to pen each day of Advent, but some years, that looks a little different. We have both sides of our family near and so we celebrate Christmas for like a week long. We have a “Yancy Christmas” where we open stockings in the morning, play and relax all day, and then open presents at night with snacks and treats. Christmas Eve we spend with my husbands family and go to church service. We spend Christmas Day with my side of the family and have a huge sleepover at my parents house and spend the whole next day there as well. 

What do you hope your children remember about Christmas? What do you hope to instill in them during this season?                                            We live in such a self-focused society and even more so at Christmastime where it is an easy time for kids to think of “Give me, give me” and “I want, I need.”  I want to impress upon them the impact we can have for others. To think of others, give gifts to others, and ultimately spread the love of Jesus wherever they go. I want them to know the reason for which we celebrate and integrate that into each part of the season. I want them to remember the moments of pause and peace. The moments with family and the beautiful traditions we can create. 

What does “Hearts Full At Christmas” mean to you?                             The beauty in the opportunity to live this season to the fullest. Not to let it pass us by with activities and have-to’s and to do’s but with a reflection of the beauty of this time of year. There are such wonderful experiences available to pour love into family and friends and even strangers and to allow them the opportunity of having a full heart. There is a natural overflow of joy this time of year and we can absorb that joy and spread it around more. 

How do you prepare for Christmas? 
 I get all the “to’do” done in October + November. The Christmas cards, the decorations, the Christmas gifts. I get it all done prior to the beginning of December so that I can focus on each day we are given to celebrate. I’m not stressed with everything I must accomplish and all the tasks that must be done, but instead, truly enjoy life and the greatest of all, a King being born. The kids have a present mom because the shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, and the stockings are hung. These are all good things that we love to do but there is a certain peace obtained when they are no longer items on a checklist but are just something to look forward to. We also do Advent to prepare our hearts all month long. So the physical and the spiritual/emotional aspects are in beautiful alignment for how I would like December to go.

What is Christmas morning like for your family?                                               Because of our shared family time with both sides of our family, our Christmas morning is spent at home preparing to head to my parents house. We spend the day there and open gifts with over 20 people present (11 of them are kids under the age of 8) it is a day full of loudness and absolute JOY. On the day we do our “Yancy Christmas,” our morning is a hearty breakfast while opening stockings. The fireplace is on and the Christmas music is blaring. Pajamas and snuggles and food and fun. It is a morning of excitement and overwhelming happiness.

What role does your faith have through out the Christmas season?
 Everything. All encompassing. In our gift giving, its about Jesus. We relate how the wise men brought gifts to the baby King. Our Christmas songs are about the Christ’s birth. Our Christmas tree, the star, ornaments- they can all have significant meaning + purpose, that we can trace back to the traits and depth of Jesus. I love that we get to impart that upon our kids and make the holidays less about us and more about others and ultimately, in everything, Jesus Christ.


You’re expecting your 6th child, as your family grows, how do you grow a family in faith?                                                                                            
 Our lifestyle must foster space for it. It has to be priority. We can’t rely on anyone else to teach our family, but ourselves. And it is a pure honor. I believe God equips us for the call and so He is our guide in how to lead our family. And I have a husband who leads so courageously and confidently, always seeking the wisdom of God. It is important to keep our faith first and so in all of our decision making, it comes back to our goal of how we want to raise our kids to follow Christ. 


You’re a Blogger and have your own website, tell me about that and the purpose behind it?                                                                               
 My whole life’s mantra is “Living for today” and God impressed this heavily on my heart a few years ago and it naturally stemmed into a part of my business and ministry. I am able to blog and share on social media about what that looks like in my life and how others can integrate a life well-lived with joy into their own circumstances. I consider it such a blessing to be able to run my website and blog from home while training up my children. My ultimate purpose in it all is to give glory to God. And if one life can be changed and impacted, my mission is worth it. 

Any final thoughts on the Christmas season and your growing family that you’d like to share with the readers?                                               I have a HUGE love for traditions. HUGE. But I’ve always learned to loosen my grip over the years and be okay with new and different things. Whether that being traditions changing or new traditions being started. You get to design how your life looks and so don’t be so stuck in your own ways that you can’t explore new ways to celebrate. This year, we are in a new home and so excited to see what it will feel like to have our first Christmas here. However you celebrate Christmas, enjoy every minute you are given. Go big, find times of peace, and make efforts to pour into the hearts of others. That’s what its all about. Full heart. Overflowing hearts. Hearts that are full at Christmas.

Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

Having A Christian Perspective When The Unthinkable Happens…


Lisa is the sister of Thomas Gunderson, who is a victim and survivor of the Las Vegas Shooting, which has been declared as the deadliest mass shooting ever committed by an individual in the United States. The shooting would claim the lives of 58 innocent people and injure another 546 victims and survivors, including Thomas. Who is known for being the shooting victim who was shot in the leg and whom stood on his injured leg out of respect for the President and First Lady, when meeting them. Though that respectful and yet painful stand on his part has garnered both praise and criticism. Yet he has responded to all comments and opinions with class, grace, Christ’s love, and all while sharing his faith. It is his faith and love for our country that would inspire this Q&A Blog post.

His sister, Lisa and her husband were there in the hospital with him (see pic above) as he was being treated for the injuries he sustained. As I’ve gotten to know Lisa, I’ve come to find that she’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She exemplifies a servant’s heart, as she serves along side her husband who is a Youth Pastor. Serving in community outreach with their family and church, and being readily available to help anyone who is in need.

Now being a victim of violence myself, I know the toll the trauma from violence can have on the victims, survivors, and their loved ones. So I hope all who read this will be encouraged and your hope renewed as Lisa shares what, “Having A Christian Perspective When The Unthinkable Happens”, through her own personal account of what Thomas and her family have experienced in the aftermath of the shooting. My prayer is that this blog post will help others to understand how to have faith in the midst of a world filled with violence. Especially for the victims and survivors impacted by the Las Vegas shooting and all the other shootings that have recently taken place, I hope if anything this blog post helps you to heal. Though I know that healing will never change what happened, please know my thoughts and prayers are with all of you and that this blog post is dedicated to you!


Guest Blog Q&A:

Tell me what those moments were like for you as a family when you received the news that there had been a shooting in Las Vegas & Thomas was shot?

My dad called me at 11:30 at night. Just hearing the phone ring and seeing it was him I knew something was wrong. I go to bed early so no one ever calls me that late. When I answered my Dad said there has been an incident and Thomas was shot. Go turn on the news. He was so upset he forgot to mention he was ok. I immediately turned on the TV and started calling my sister. It was unbelievable. Unreal. I was so scared.

With being a Christian, tell me how faith has played a role in how you responded and handled the news of this tragic shooting? 

Being a Christian gives me the belief in God and I have faith that everything has a reason but I was still upset. I couldn’t understand the why until a week after the fact. So many people have stepped up to support us. So many people have come together because of this. Isn’t that what God really wants? For us to love everyone no matter the person or circumstance.

What has the aftermath been like for Thomas and your family and how do you keep the faith? 

The after math has been rough and amazing at the same time. Thomas has dealt with nightmares and pain. His recovery was long and painful. For us we have learned that each day is so important and we need to be kind to everyone because you just never know. Spreading the word of Christ is my goal more than ever now.

Some people will say, “Where was God when this massacre took place?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” What would you say to them in response? 

I would say bad things can happen to anyone. We all have a choice to love God. He wants to get our attention sometimes. Our world has fallen hard and more than ever we need him. God gives free will and these people chose evil over food but guess what? Through that evil so much good has come from it!

What moment has been the hardest and how has your faith gotten you through it? 

I think the hardest part are the what ifs? What if my brother died, what if that happens somewhere where I’m with my kids. I have had to pray about it and really let it go. It could have been worse for us but it wasn’t. Sometimes we are so anxious over things that will never happen so I put my trust and faith in God always and give my fears to him.

What has been Thomas and your family’s outlook on life and this world, since this has happened? Has this changed your perspective of how you look at good and evil? 

Thomas bounced right back and I believe my family did too. We only have one life and our job is to love on others. Everyone, no matter the religion, race, or gender. There will always be people that want to hurt us but we can show them the love of Christ in those moments.

How do you keep a Christian perspective when the unthinkable happens? 

Because I know Jesus is always there in every circumstance. He doesn’t want to see his children hurt. He hurts with us. God is love and I will continue living through life sharing his love to everyone.

What is the one take away you want people to remember after something like this? 

I think that sometimes evil gets publicized too much. Look at all the good that has happened since. So many heroic people, so many amazing stories. God has orchestrated amazing things through this horrible disaster. Try to be the good the light in someone’s life. Being there for them and showing them you care. In that they will start asking how can you be like this in a time like this and that’s where you can share the love of Jesus Christ!

Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

The Seasons Of Life


Everything Has Its Time

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


We all experience different seasons in our life. The weather seasons very much can represent the different generations within your own family.

I think of how Spring is a reminder of new beginnings, very much like the great-grandkids who are just beginning to grow and thrive in the beginning stages of their young life.

Summer is probably my least favorite season but that is the season I currently find myself in.  I experience the changes of hot and cold regarding opportunities and relationships no different than the summer temps of cool nights and warm days we experience during this season.

Now Autumn has always been my most favorite season (hence the pic of Autumn in NYC), probably because its also when my birthday is, but I love seeing the changing of the leaves. Trees have always been a symbol of family and growth among other things. So is it any surprise that just as the trees bud, bloom, change colors, and wither away its no different than what our bodies endure as we age through the seasons of life! This is the season of life my parents are in. Of course after Autumn when the leaves fall to the ground and wither away we have Winter, my second favorite season.

In fact every year I pray that when those last leaves fall that it brings about a magical Winter Wonderland. Though to be honest,  I’ve been looking at this Winter season different, lately. My grandparents are in this season of life and watching them slowly wither away is devastating! Yet has opened my eyes in new ways to seeing just how precious and fleeting life truly is. As they will never get another Spring, at least not until they enter Heaven’s gates and are given new bodies and my PopPop who has Alzheimers is given a new mind. A complete healing of the mind in which he’ll be able to remember me again.

Today marks November 8th and calendar wise we’re in the season of Autumn as Winter is quickly approaching. Yet I am left feeling sad and this year, dreading the Winter – knowing that for those in the Winter season of life, that this is the last season for them. It’s hard to watch your loved ones health decline knowing the end of life is near. Just the thought of losing them makes me already miss them so much! It makes me dread the day my grandparents will pass away because as much as I will miss them, I know there is so much they will miss out on. Dreams I’ve always envisioned them being part of, yet knowing now that will never be.

 Yet scripture says, “Everything Has Its Time”. Now my head knows that, but my heart still struggles with that at times. But I learned a long time ago that our timing is not God’s timing. I do believe regardless of what His timing brings and taketh away – His timing is perfect. I take comfort in knowing their pain will someday be completely healed when they are finally within God’s loving arms in a Heavenly embrace.


We may never get over the loss of losing our loved ones but even through the weeping there will be moments of laughter and healing for us as we remember them fondly. Their legacy will live on through us, life will keep going just as it did before. With Winter turning into Spring, Spring into Summer, Summer into Autumn, and Autumn into Winter. Don’t just let the seasons pass you by – embrace it, live it, and experience it because just as quickly as the seasons come and go each year, so too will the seasons of life pass us on by. Remember with each season to always “Live Each Day With Purpose”…”Making a difference one day, one life at a time”.



Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us:

Facing Trauma with Steadfast Faith


Say Hello to Annaliese!  

She has been blogging at Southern Belle in Training for over five years! Her blog focuses primarily on affordable fashion and style, but she also enjoys writing about beauty, travel, millennial lifestyle topics, and her Christian faith. In addition to blogging, Annaliese works full-time in broadcasting as an on-air radio personality, and also enjoys cooking, reading, and traveling.                          

In April 2016, two weeks before graduating college, Annaliese was the victim of a (non-sexual) crime. After much prayer and reflection, she decided to move forward and pursue legal action. In October 2016, almost six months later, the case finished.


Guest Blog Q&A:


Tell me about how you came to have a relationship with Christ?

I grew up attending church with my mom, but didn’t really accept Christ until a middle school youth retreat that I attended in 6th grade! It’s funny looking back – I actually got sick during the retreat weekend and came home feeling physically terrible, but I also came home spiritually forever changed!

 You experienced a trauma, and I know you can’t go into it, but how does one keep the faith when the unthinkable happens?


When you experience a trauma or the unexpected, that is when the time comes in a person’s life where they have to decide if the faith that they claim to believe in is really “real” for them. I knew instantly that I would never blame God for the crime that I was a victim of, and then legal situation that I found myself apart of. To me… even though I was going through some very hard and emotional trials, it just wasn’t an option to abandon my faith. I knew in my soul that He would carry me through. That doesn’t mean that it would be an easy ride or that there wouldn’t be tears and sleepless nights, but I knew He was there and He felt my pain.


What has the healing process been like for you?


I went to counseling for the months during the court process and a few months after, which was helpful not only to the situation, but also helped me to learn things about myself! I think there does come a point for a victim of a crime when there’s only so much work that can be done in counseling related to the situation (if that makes sense?), but initially speaking it was so helpful! And only you yourself will know when that ending point is. I also sought out comfort in friendships and my parents, and I was in school at the time that my legal case was going on, and I threw myself into my education.
A blogger friend also sent me an incredible devotional called Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On by Stormie Omartian. Reading and working through this devotional during the months leading up to and in between court dates helped me SO much. This book is incredible for anyone going through a tough time!


Some people would say that for evil to exist than there is no God, what would you say to them?


 That’s such a tough question, Witlee! Honestly I have trouble sometimes debating with those who aren’t fellow believers. I pray sometimes that God gives me more wisdom in the future with sharing my faith with unbelievers. I suppose the simple answer is that yes, there is so much evil in the world. But there is also great beauty and modern day miracles too. We live unfortunately in a fallen world – we have to let the good outweigh the bad!


What are some ways to be supportive of victims/survivors in the aftermath of a trauma and during the judicial proceedings?


I wrote a whole post about that on my own blog 🙂 *shameless self promotional plug* I’d love it if you checked out my blog post, How to Help a Friend Going Through a Legal Situation


Tell me about your website/blog…Why did you start it and what do you hope to accomplish with it?


I started my blog as a hobby during my freshman year of college! Originally it was just supposed to be something fun for me to do outside of college classes, mainly just a way to document my outfits. I had no idea back then that it was possible to monetize blogs, or even make a career out of it! Clearly my site has grown a lot in the five years that I’ve been doing it, and that is such a blessing!! I went to school for communication and journalism and I do have a full-time day job in broadcasting which I love, but I adore blogging and hope to do it for a very long time!


*If you would like to connect with Annaliese, you can do so either through her blog or instagram.*


Please follow and like us:
Please follow and like us: