Ink instead of Italy

20 years ago we started our journey of forever together and we also started dreaming together.

We started dreaming about our 20th year anniversary.

jo bri wedding

Dreaming together of touring beautiful Italy and visiting Brian’s roots and his Italian heritage. Never mind the whole money factor, we just enjoyed dreaming BIG together.

God’s dreams are bigger.

We would and could have never imagined our lives would be so filled to over-flowing with so much love and beautiful children and all the joy and miracles and adventures!

GOD-sized dreams and invitations.

However, His plans and ways are higher and not always understandable.

 20  years ago,  we never could have  imagined the tragedy of losing our own precious child. ….. And that we would be sitting in a tattoo studio on our 20th  getting a visual representation on our arms that would represent our deepest scorch marks of our hearts and lives …. our most tragic loss, yet our greatest gift and the greatest miracle of our lives.


Never imagined…..

….Until our daughter was suddenly taken to heaven.

Now we can not imagine doing anything else.

It just felt right. We knew what we HAD and wanted to do.

We both knew this was how we wanted to honor our warrior, our brave fighter and our faithful God who never lets go.

Our aching, empty right arms, which once lovingly carried and embraced the sweetest and most beautiful treasure, now tell God’s story, our story and her story for the world to read.

Always carried with us.

Our story. Our song.

I look at my empty arm, and it is now filled with our testimony.  I see the story that I carry so deeply in my heart.

I see truth, I see miracles, I see promises,  and I see beauty.

I see HOPE.

I see my warrior Gia and her brave fight and her miracles.  All gifts that I am so thankful for and forever changed for.

When I got home from Boston without my baby girl two months ago, I began praying for GOD to give me the vision that would tell HIS story and honor our warrior in this way.  I knew I was to get a tattoo. I had never wanted one until now. I could not get there fast enough.

Brian expressed that He wanted one too.  He had always wanted one and he knew this was the right time.We then just knew what we had to do for our 20th…this was how were were to celebrate.

God gave him this artwork. It is so meaningful…

A rugged cross with his baby girl’s BRAVE heart rhythm on the side and the verse GOD gave Brian which told him to run to his daughter and to NOT FEAR.

It has been his life verse ever since.

God’s promise that the road will be rugged, not smooth….but HE PROMISES that HE Will never leave or forsake HIM and that HE would carry us always.

It was the verse God used to completely remove all of Brian’s fear.  His word is living and active!

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand


I love it SO much! It is perfect!!!!

And now my tattoo…….

After much prayer, GOD gave me this vision which I personally designed from the deep imprints that I carry on my heart. I knew it was given  to me to always tell our story.

There is healing in telling your story.


The tattoo begins with the Morning Glory Flower which represents many significant things.

First of all, it was the last flower my Gia ever planted with me.


Planting flowers was a favorite thing that we did together. So many beautiful memories.   …..Flowers represent HOPE.  Waiting for HOPE to bloom.

It also symbolizes HIS promises that HIS mercies are new every morning. I cling to these verses.

Lam. 3:22-23

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Exodus 16:7

in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD,

And, our farm is named Morning Glory Farm from this verse that was given to us after many trials with the prayer and hope of healing for our Gianna on our new land and home. It is more significant than ever. We claim it more than ever for healing as half our hearts are now in Heaven, our true HOME.

Isaiah 58:8-9

Then your light will break forth like the morning,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

It also symbolizes growth


Grow us forever, LORD!!

May our lives and hearts always enlarge and grow because we got to be loved by our Gianna Lilyfaith! 

The flower stem then turns into Gianna’s  miraculous EKG heart rhythm from our last EKG in CHOP when we were told that her heart was improving and given the miraculous news that we would be allowed to take her to NICARAGUA where God would reveal HIS GLORY and glimpses of heaven that would comfort us in our darkest days.

family beach

Her heart was beating strong with HOPE. We were filled with so much awe and joy! Such a glorious season!!! So many miracles!

Then a  drawn heart.


This is an actual heart that Gianna drew for me on her school paper when I was homeschooling her. Her own created heart. It is so  so so precious to me. She loved doing school with mama and her siblings.

then her name in her very own actual handwriting. Her actual written name. This is My favorite part. It brings me to tears to see her little signature on my arm forever.

And the word


her heart beats BRAVE.

Our brave warrior has taught us how to walk brave.  We choose brave everyday for her…. because of her.

Then the stem turns into her EKG heart rhythm from April, the month she went to heaven.  A heartbeat that represents her brave fight and our greatest surrender. Her greatest victory.

HOPE and tragedy colliding as one.

Then Psalm 27 with the rising Sun.

The sun has 6 rays symbolizing the amazing 6 years that Gianna walked this earth. She will always be a 6 year old bouncing, bubbly, sassy little girl in our hearts.  Her amazing 6th birthday spent in one of her favorite places, Nicaragua.

nica dinnr

God supernaturally gave us psalm 27 when Gianna went to heaven as HIS promises for her and for  us left behind.

It has been a great comfort to my family and a beautiful reminder of HIS faithfulness. He is our LIGHT and salvation.

I cry at nearly every sunset.


It is such a visual representation of how I could not reach my Gia those three week as she was slipping away from me.

He has given us a season of darkness with a falling beautiful pink sunset that we can no longer see or behold on this earth, but He tells us to turn around and face the darkness and to run towards the glorious rising SUN.  His promise of LIGHT,  redemption, eternity and of  GOODNESS in the land of the living, here on this earth (psalm 27).

Promises we cling to! PROMISES we CHASE after.

God paints us beautiful Gia-sunsets and sunrises to remind us!


Joy-chasers! Sunrise chasers!


Then a delicate little joyful butterfly.

This is the most emotional part of my art.

This is our Gianna’s greatest miracle. Her chains are broken and she is flying free. The only color of my tattoo. Her heart no longer broken.

She gets all her color (her favorite color blue) and she is whole, complete and singing and shouting with JOY high upon the rock in heaven.

Music notes.  We sang her to heaven and we know she sings forever high upon the rock….her favorite thing to do.

When she started my Tattoo, she started with Gianna’s precious handwritten name.

My “GIA”.

I am  so proud of how she could write her name. She makes me so proud.  So many memories homeschooling her, my smart bright little girl.

jo tat

So many tears, and so many emotions.

I sat and held my arms still through the pain as I remembered all the times we had to hold our little Gia’s dainty delicate arms down while she cried and bravely got her all her “ouchies” done which was like actual torture.

My BRAVE warrior. I miss her so much!

Then when everything was done.

we added the color to the butterfly.  Gianna’s heavenly glorification.


Her miracle


Death did not win. Her chains broken.

jo tattoo

It was an emotional moment.  We all cried. Ugly cried.

I love my tattoo so much. I never would have thought I would get one, now I can not imagine not having this visual in front of me every day.

I then thanked our artist  for being a part of our journey. For helping us honor our precious daughter and helping us tell her story in this special way.

by the way, Tidewater tatoo in Elkton is highly recommended ….They were sensitive, caring and so compassionate. And so upscale! They have won many awards! God led us to the perfect place and the perfect artist.

Our  amazing tattoo artist, Wendy,  then said (with tears flowing ) after she heard my Giannas story…. “It is my honor, but I am so so sorry I had to do this for you”.

Oh man, Her words said it all.

It is with the deepest sadness that we have found ourselves in this moment as the way we are celebrating our 20 years without our baby. This was not the story we chose.

But, now….now we can not imagine a better way to honor our miracles, our story thus far,  and our God and our precious Gia-Bia.

getting the opportunity to write on our arms the story and love that we carry in our hearts is a gift.

We don’t do this to “move on” after our loss….. but  we do this to “move with” our Gianna and with our promises.


FOREVER a part of our lives and heart.

family pic.jpg
MY right ARM tightly around my Gia….right over her heart. That is where my tattoo now is

Forever a daughter, forever a little sister.

Forever our gift. Forever our miracle.

daddy gia7

She is always with us.  She taught us more than we ever taught her. We are changed forever because of her love.

Our lives will be  lived in honor of this gift.
I look at my empty right arm that was always so fiercely wrapped around my baby girl right over her heart, and I now see HER STORY represented there.

It is not as empty as before.  That space tells the story.

Her legacy

her brave heart.

our love for each other

OUR GOD’S story





So, here we are. …..20 years of marriage and miracles.


We did not get our Italy.

But, in twenty years,  we got far more then we could have ever imagined or conceived. We are so blessed.

I can only imagine what immense joy is ahead….wrapped and woven between the fibers of a deep brokeness and ache for heaven and for our Gia. Grief will always be a part of our hearts. Always with us to teach us and humble us.

As for our special day!

Brian and I got to spend the whole day…morning till midnight together! We had SO much fun!

though, Our special day  had moments of quiet somber sadness, there was immense joy and gratefulness as we celebrated our miracles and the gift of each other.

We made space for playing together, laughing, teasing, eating, hugging, kissing, dreaming and enjoying each other on our special day. It was so needed!

We had such a fun day filled with many of our favorite things!

We chased JOY down together. It was not so hard to catch, and that was our God’s mercy.

It is our hope to always chase joy together and to always CHOOSE LOVE, not matter the outcome!


Our deep pain  is not something we would ever give up because it would mean we could have not experienced or known all the incredible LOVE, JOY and beauty and miracles that are a part of this story of redemption.

Life is lived, and miracles are found on the other side of our fears.

We do not know what our future looks like on this earth. We stopped pretending we know. We are humbled.

We only know this world is not our home, however we now live more boldly then we ever did, and we choose to live in light of eternity.

We choose BRAVE.

We always choose HOPE no matter the outcome.

This changes everything.

We are changed. brian

We are so blessed.

Broken but SO blessed.

May HIS light continue to pierce the darkness and may our broken cracks tell the story of HIS faithfulness.


HAPPY 20th to my amazing husband!!


jo brian date

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