Category Archives: Our Extended Family

Dad’s Last Service

Many of you know that we’re a faithful family. Perhaps you don’t know that is because Greg and I both were raised in our faiths by parents who are deeply faithful. In fact, I’m a pastor’s kid…even though he’s in retirement mode! Dad’s last service as a United Methodist Minister was on May 14.

It was bittersweet to step into East Brady UMC one last time. This time, it was full of family from both my Dad and Mom’s sides as we worshiped and took in his last sermon as an active minister. I won’t deny that I shed a tear or two, but it was more the church I’m used to with him – he made us laugh and he made us proud.

Once everyone had left, our family walked outside for a quick photo before celebrating both of my parents’ retirement with a picnic.

East Brady and Sligo had been their appointment since 2011 – when Evan was six months old. Their parsonage is all Evan and the Twins have ever known as Pappy and Grammie’s. Arianna and Greg knew the Allegheny River Charge (Ford Memorial, Manorville, Roger’s Chapel, and Union Avenue).

But Dad, Mom, Jack, and I have so many other places that have our hearts and that we could call home thanks to this ministry. These are stories for another time, but I am so thankful for how God moved in our midst, providing us just the right places at just the right times in our lives. Bringing us people who became friends and even family. Bringing us memories and strength. It wasn’t always easy being a “PK”, but it sure was nice looking back on it.

If you’ve been blessed by my dad’s ministry or if you’ve been part of our journey through life across Western PA and Western Ohio, thank you. Dad and Mom are settling down just a short car ride away from their kids and their grandbabies and plan to take some time to just relax and enjoy. He will be honored at the Western PA Annual Conference Retirement Ceremony on Friday (June 9) at Grove City College.

Dad (or Pappy) and Mom (or Grammie), we are so thankful for your love and faith. Congratulations on your retirement and enjoy your new home – you deserve this blessing! xoxo

My Grandma: A Year Later


How has it been a year since I got that call that you had gone to be with Jesus and your Daves? How has it been a year since I sat at your bedside and held your hand for hours before I finally had to let go and say goodbye?

My Grandma passed away a year ago today. This is the only “generations” photo I took with Arianna, my mom, and her although we had almost 7 years to capture others…

The big kids still ask about her. “How does she like Heaven and being with God?” They sing “See You Again” and then tell me they are glad they will see her again.

The twins will not know her in their earthly life yet I am confident they know their Great-Great. And likewise, she knew of them even before Greg and I did.

And I miss her. I miss her in my early mornings, especially when I smell coffee or read the Sun News (although online is not the same as the still crisp third-hand read I would get in her dining room). I miss her on Friday evenings when I am still not sure what to make for dinner because we had a 4 year pattern of being at her house. I miss her when I drive by “the field” where her body is, when we have a picnic at Aunt Wink’s or Uncle Dave’s, or when I cheer on my football team. I miss her when I feel like I am not being the best mom, I wonder if she now sees my family and is glad I had that “third kid” anyways. I miss her when I watch tears well in the corner of my mom’s eyes when we share the good memories. I miss her when there aren’t Christmas or birthday cards signed “Love you, Grandma” and think back to the messages she used to leave in them, gentle reminders of the love this woman had for each and every one of her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.

Today is not going to be the easiest day for some of us, but that is ok. Grandma was loving and well loved. She may not always have seen eye-to-eye with each choice we made, but she loved us and should be missed as we do.

But today, even tho it is tough, I celebrate the good times. The 31 and a half years I got with my Grandma. The 10 years I got of her living in PA. The almost 7 years she had with Arianna and almost 4 with Evan. The woman that had a part in shaping who we are.

Love you, Grandma (Great).

We Will Ride Again

Thankful for This 'lil Moment

Last Tuesday, I spent some time with my brother at the hospital. Jack had been in a motorcycle accident about a week before, causing some internal damage that he didn’t know about until the pain was too much to ignore. By what I believe is a true work of God, he was put into a room with a fellow biker who had also been in an accident (a few years ago).

Without disclosing too much of their personal stories, what I do want to share is that I believe there was a reason they were put together. As we casually talked, so many things came up that made me feel the presence of God’s work in that room. The similarity of the accidents. The injuries. How there was road rash but no damage to clothes, yet torn clothes but no skin injury. He talked about c-section incisions even. And the chilling resemblance he had to other family members who’ve passed.

But the overarching message that I hope my brother heard from his roommate was to take care of himself. To not ignore the little things because life is more important, especially when you are given second chances. To enjoy life, but know there are some limits.

As he was discharged, they exchanged a we will ride again. And while I believe it’s completely up to my brother whether or not he gets back on the back, I don’t necessarily believe this exchange was meant to be an “in this life”. It totally could have been a we will ride again, together in Heaven, exchange. Because I really think this man was part of a divine intervention, a witness to what life can bring your way.

I do hope you ride again, Jack. Both here on earth and when you have wide open spaces of Heaven to explore.

Three Dads


There are three dads in our lives that are pretty awesome. We will be spending the day with them.

First, there is Greg. Daddy to our ‘lil Burghers and my teammate in this game of life.

His Dad, Pops (or Pop Pop to the kids).

And my Dad, or Pappy.

I’ve had to rely on these three men more than ever the past 13 weeks, and I am so glad God put each of them in mine and the kids’ lives. What a blessing!

Happy Father’s Day.

Aunt Missy


Happy Birthday, Aunt Missy!

God blessed me with a sister who he knew our moms could not have handled if born to the same families. We continue to be inseparable, and I am so lucky to have you.

But even more so…God made sure my lil girls (and boy) had a beautiful role model in their lives. A woman of faith and love. A tried and true friend. You learned from the best women how to be an aunt, and the kids are so happy to call you theirs.

Love you, and happy birthday!

And Then There Were Twelve

NurinWedding_ (168)

It’s been a week since we welcomed Ashley and her son to our family.

We are now, officially, a family of twelve. A dozen of hearts representing so many beautiful things in this world.

A man who grew up in Harlem…

…who fell in love with a woman from Iowa after seeing each other across a crowded room at a Baha’i gathering…

…who married and then had a daughter, an avid reader who shares her love of books with all she meets…

…who is the sister of a boy who loved chasing birds and wanted to be a daddy when he grew up. He’d grow to fall in love with a girl from Pittsburgh and her daughter, forming a new part of the family and expanding with a son and two more daughters.

…who all are always made to smile by the passion and adventure of the youngest daughter of that man from Harlem and his farmer’s daughter wife. Last week, they welcomed her wife and son to this growing, diverse, loving family.

…and then there were twelve.


Can you believe that the ‘lil Burghers make up six of the twelve? 

His Brothers & One of My Sisters


They don’t know it, but there are two very special boys who I think he considers his brothers. And I totally get it. This boy was blessed with three sisters, even though he desperately prayed for a baby brother.


You are an amazing big (and little) brother that all three of your sisters are lucky to have. You love them all equally (and yet each in their own special way, never will they know that you used to believe Isla was your real favorite).

I get it, Evan.

God gives us cousins for a reason. The boys that I think my ‘lil guy thinks are his brothers are the sons of someone I consider a sister. Someone who is celebrating a very special birthday today. Someone who I consider a sister, even though God made us cousins instead. Just like he did with you and your “brothers”, Evan.

Happy birthday, Jess. This year is just another number and I pray that every year you continue to be blessed in multiple ways. Love you.

Our Family is Growing!


It’s with a happy heart that I am proud to announce…our family is growing (again)!

Today, right now in fact, our sister Nurin is exchanging vows with her partner, Ashley. In a matter of a few moments, the Willis family will grow from the original five to a family of 12 as we welcome her and her son to our circle of love.

Now, time to get an updated version of this good lookin’ family photo, right?

Congratulations, Nurin and Ashley. May you be blessed with many years full of love and memories. Love wins.


(Did I scare some of you???)