Words are such incredible images of what we feel and think. Words hold power and magic. I love expressing myself through words and finding the most perfectly definite word for each situation. I learned after Jessie earned her angel wings that I have to talk things out and that I cannot hold things deep down inside like I did, and do still tend to do. As the oldest child, I wanted to be the image of strength and courage and example of compassionate love. That often meant that I would bottle everything up. You can’t bottle it all up when you’re grieving and searching and reaching for normal.

I couldn’t at least. I learned to be open and risk vulnerability for peace and comfort. I learned that putting yourself out there and using words to do so would create relief and a space to grow in comfort and relationships with others. I am a very relational person and I crave and seek space to get to deeply know and care about all those around me.

Along with words having power, the silent quiet of listening does too. Listening and knowing when to not speak but just be present is an aspect of life and relationships I’m getting to know more closely because to understand someone else, you need to give them the opportunity to be present as well.

Words, spoken and written, have meanings we create, modify, and accept. To me, Joy is one of those words with deep individual definitions.

JOY. A feeling of freedom, fullness, and faith. The place where you feel known and loved. The space where to-dos don’t take precedence and the moment, the present, takes control. I want JOY to be found in each and every second of my days and to occupy every inch of my body – especially my heart.

JOY isn’t gone when the days become long, the world falls apart, and chaos seems to take over. It’s just as close as it has ever been – we just often lose sight of it. This happens to me more often than I wish it would, but I want to fight to find it anyways – through the trials and tribulations, the beauty and the miracles, the everyday middle. Life is hard; life can hit you upside the head for sure, but when you take a moment and step back, you can see the glimpse, and then the overflow of God’s love. Faith placed in Him, knowing that you don’t know the outcome, but believing anyways is the root of an abundant and overflowing JOY. JOY that will fill each space of you and show you this moment, these moments, and this life is beautiful.

Jessie was the perfect example of an overflowing JOY, day in and day out. Jessie had this balance in her. She would do her best and try her hardest, aiming to succeed in the responsibilities and opportunities she was presented, but then laugh like there wasn’t a care in the world. I on the other hand, was a type-A, everything needs to be perfect and perfect isn’t even enough, be the example and never break the rules older sister.

A good friend was just asking me the other day about JT and I’s relationship. We are very different, but we’ve gotten closer since Jessie passed. He is this completely extroverted, no cares, go with the flow, I just want to have fun, no competition, let’s play personality.

As you can tell from what I already said – this is far from me. I love lists, planning, organization, competition, learning, and out-doing myself to constantly be better. I told my friend that Jessie was an incredible middle ground between us. She knew how to hold the good from each of JT and my personalities. Jessie knew how to and when to laugh at herself and let go of everything the world can throw at you. It is probably why her belly laugh will forever be my favorite sound. It takes me to a place reminding me to enjoy.

As I’m getting older and looking inward more so I can be the best version of the woman God created me to be, I see how much I want her JOY in my life, every second of every day. It is something I’m learning and embracing: everlasting joy.

5 years without my angel, turning 20 years old, and celebrating what would be 18 years of Jessie’s life. Three large milestones, no doubt. Years expressing so much life! These are years that make me want to capture a moment, memories, and emotions . Time that calls for a tattoo.

Jessie is embodied in JOY and daisies. Gerber daisies exactly. I’d been planning and holding onto this tattoo idea since my first tattoo and I knew it would be on my arm but I didn’t think my parents would allow it. I don’t even remember how it came up but momma said it would be ok so I took off and really started thinking exactly how it would be. I knew it would be Gerber daisies and her heaven day and somehow incorporate what I’ve been talking all about: her JOY.

I reached out to one of the best artists I know to design some Gerber daisies for me and start writing out possibilities for how everlasting joy should look. Brooke drew me three of the most delicate, feminine, light, and detailed Gerber daisies. I immediately fell in love with them all.

With the help of our family’s amazing friend Greg, who just so happens to also be one of Jessie’s favorite people and a tattoo artist, we decided on the set of three Gerber daisies growing together. It’s always fun to see God work unexpectedly. None of us realized this until after my tattoo was complete, but three flowers for three of us: Jessie, JT, and I. It has become a perfect reminder for me that she is always there!

Jessie was life, light, and all of God’s love. She will forever be with JT and I. As we grow, she continues to grow up with us. She is always looking down and I hope she is always smiling. She will continue to remind me to seek His light, His love and His JOY. We are His living example of a faithful God whose plans are far greater than our own.

I love you sweet angel! Thank you for being the brightest reminder that JOY is everywhere.

x & o,

shaya