The Strength Of Fragility

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Our hearts. Our faith. Our lives. 

What do these things have in common?

 Plenty, probably. But, they are fragile. This may not be the case for the entire population. It is, however, my reality. 

For a myriad of reasons, I feel very fragile. Like any part of my life, or all of me, might break – at any given moment, on any given day. 

I often remark that my heart feels shattered at times, just broken. (It’s fragile.) That remains a painful reality. 

My faith. The fact that I identify with even having faith, and caring about God and viewing Him as a good, good Father again – those things are fairly miraculous, if I’m being honest. My faith has been shaken, broken, and mended. 

When healing happens around broken things, strength also takes root and grows. 

As my faith in a God who holds the universe is showing signs of life while being rekindled, strength is growing deep roots. My trusting in God, knowing that He is not only just there – but that He loves me passionately even if or when I’m not fond of Him, that provides healing – which cultivates strength. 

My heart. That thing pumps blood, and beats with life. When something endangers the wellbeing of this precious organ, it feels as if it might protest- it might skip a few beats, or it might just stop beating. A shattered heart isn’t conducive to a healthy life. Sometimes, it’s the little things. The little things become the huge things, and lead to the most profound healing. Even if not completely repaired, a shattered heart can find healing. That healing will strengthen fractures, and may come in sometimes unexpected ways. Through love. 

When a life feels irreparably broken, healing seems like a faraway dream being dangled just outside of your reach. The listening ear, a hug from a friend, love from friends or family, mutual trust and communication between friends – these are only a handful of things capable of allowing healing to penetrate the broken places to initiate the healing process. 

Healing can force the talons of depression to lessen their grip. 
Sometimes simply seeing healing as even a possibility is as miraculous as an undeniably supernaturally noted and recorded miracle. 

This – all of this – is precisely where I am. Broken. Healing. Loved.

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Where Am I? How Are Things? 

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I’m not these things alone, but I can relate, across the board.

If you know me at all, you know the answer to the title’s questions are apt to change, sometimes about as predictably as the wind blows. I’m not joking. 

Many people comment on my faith, my strength, my love and passion for people, and for life. Daily, people mention these things. It is during the most broken of days that I hear it the most. When the pain seems unbearable, it is the love filled, encouraging words that make a tremendous difference. 

You know I love practical examples. This is no different. I often share that words matter. That they make a difference. I say that about hugs as well. This example will explain more.

Since my little girl died a year ago next month, I haven’t been the same. Some days, I feel like I might just survive, while on other days I feel so broken. Just shattered. I haven’t been very involved in my church, and I’ve been questioning my own faith, beliefs, and if I’m being honest – God Himself. 

On January 1st, I made the decision to go back to church. A new beginning, if you will. Deep inside, I knew I still had (and, for a long time, will likely have) some hard questions. Brokenness. Pain. But also healing. Love. And, I knew that surrounded by other people, being reminded of what love looks like – that’s what my heart longed for. 

A special encounter happened, but the significance – the other individual wasn’t really privy to. They knew enough, more than most. But, the difference was their being intentional. They asked how things are medically (that’s a separate update, for another day) and just all the way around. They shared love and compassion – and a willingness to just do life with me, to sit with me in my pain. At one point, there were simply no words. In response, a hug was offered. In lieu of words, hug are the best. Hugs can often speak the things our hearts can’t. This was that moment. 

But, what they had no way of knowing was a little more of the significance. See, I write more on this blog than is released publicly. Call it self preservation. Call it self care. Call it sanity saving. You could even call it fear. But, this is a blog post I wrote very recently. (In December, actually. I’ll go back and make it public after this post.)

Here is what I wrote: 

The title might be alarming. It should be. I cannot predict all the words that are about to flow, but I’m going to free write. If I think it, I’ll write it. So, here we go. 

Death is a heavy topic. Death doesn’t hold unlimited power. It doesn’t have the final word. It is the end of one life, and the beginning of another. 

But, the allure of death? How could something so heavy and somber have an allure? Let me explain. 

I do not fear death. If I’m being honest, I long for it some days. 

For those of you psychoanalyzing my words, please save yourself the trouble – and, don’t! I’ll save you the time. I’ll break down my thoughts in a way that don’t scare you. 

When I said I long for it some days, I’ll assure you – I have no plans to speed the process along. (I’m not suicidal.) But, I’ll say this. 

Never before have I wanted to not be living as much as I do now – but – on the flip side, never before have I wanted to live more than I do right now. I don’t want to die. I do, however, have moments where I wish I just didn’t exist. Sometimes this reality feels too much to bear. Sometimes, I feel too much. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I can go on another moment – let alone days, weeks, months or years. 

But, I can. 

And, I will. 

There are days I hurt. I feel pain so deeply, that my only response is tears. At any given time. For pretty much any reason. 

Let’s circle back around to the idea that death could possibly hold allure. See, as I mentioned previously, it is my belief that death isn’t the end. I believe in life after death – in Heaven or hell. I believe that when you die, you’re not eternally separated from those you love. I believe you will see those you love again in what many call the afterlife. 

My daughter died ten months ago, after a three year journey with brain cancer. The allure death holds is that I will get to see her (and lots of other people I miss) again. 

Stop the psychoanalysis!

If you are concerned or worried, I understand. But, because I know the deep pain associated with losing someone you love dearly, I wouldn’t do anything to remove myself from the equation either. I hurt deeply because I love deeply. Suicide isn’t okay. It isn’t fair. And it leaves ripples, and touches generations. So no, that option is off the table. 

I just don’t fear death anymore, and this all explains why. 

That encounter had nothing to do with that writing. However, God’s grace had everything to do with it. It was a moment in time that gave my heart a voice. It was a moment in time that served as a catalyst to helping rekindle not only my faith in people and church again, but also in the heart of God again. His heart took human form that day. 

It has taken the time from then until now (just a couple days) for me to process this, and recognize why there was such significance. The whole thing was an answer to prayer. 

Yesterday, I had several people ask how I was. And, I could honestly say that “I think I’m okay today” and I meant it. I smiled, realizing that I felt loved – by the God of all creation, and also people. Today, I feel like I actually had a good day. 

I feel like this is cause for celebration. I’m learning about the vital nature of self care, and of celebrating the little things in life too. Not only the giant, monumental things.  

So, with a guarded heart, I celebrate today. Guarded because I fear that the world may drop out from under me at any given moment, and the feeling okay right now will come crumbling down around me. But, I am making a choice in this moment to not borrow worry or “what ifs” from tomorrow. That only robs the joy from today. 

But, if it does – if the world drops from under my feet, I won’t be alone – and I know that. That makes all the difference. And, I am grateful. 

No Empty Resolutions

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That’s right. I’m not joining the masses and making some empty resolutions to kick this new year of right. I will thoughtfully look over my life and circumstances, and I will learn to live and breathe grace, make goals, follow dreams, and all those fun things. But, I will not make a bunch of hollow resolutions. I won’t. 

Here’s one thing I will do. 

Starting today, I am creating a special jar. Yes, a jar. But the contents of this jar will be priceless. 

This jar will be more than just a jar filled with useless words. This jar will be filled with dated memories. Happy thoughts. Grateful moments. Put simply, this jar will be filled with joy. 

Life is tremendously painful at times. Even during those seemingly insurmountable moments of anguish, there is ALWAYS something positive happening. Somewhere. Sometimes it takes playing hide and seek with hope. Sometimes it means opening your eyes and looking beyond the immediate. But, there are good things to be found and experienced. 

On some days, I may not put anything in the jar at all. And that’s okay. On other days, I may write several small notes. That’s okay too. There is only one “rule” I’ll try to stick with. Add the date written. 

At the end of the year, perhaps on New Years Eve, I’ll open the jar, read the little pieces of paper, and then I’ll take it one step further. I’ll use some sort of adhesive, and attach all the notes to pages of a blank book. That book will then be a tangible way to hold onto beautiful moments in a year. 

Here’s my jar. Actually, I made a beautiful graphic to print and tape to the jar, but well – the best laid plans of mice and men. My printer is confused, and thinks it’s top door is open (it’s not) and refuses to print. (If printer support is your thing, I welcome help. It would surely be more beneficial than throwing it against the wall! 

So, for now, here’s my makeshift not so decorated jar. (Yes, the middle graphic is Hello Kitty. Fireworks, to be exact. It made me smile.)

Will you join me in this adventure? I think it’s a neat way to focus on the happy, and not only the pain. It would be an honor to see your ideas, or any jars you create. My brain is going about a thousand directions. I have ideas. (Squirrel!?) I’ll update accordingly, when the time is right! 

Thank you for adventuring to my little corner of the internet. I enjoying sharing life with you. I’m looking forward to seeing how you choose to #RememberTheLove this year and always! 

As 2016 Nears It’s End

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It is with bittersweet passion that I prepare to say goodbye to this year. This year that gave and took so much.

I used to remark about all the somewhat humorous (and generally choice) words I have for 2016 as a whole. But, as per usual, I recognized there are also immeasurably good things that added the sugar and spice, and all things nice to this year.

The main example I can share is one many of you (if you have followed this blog for any length of time) know is already know, or at least have heard about – my beautiful daughter Janet. At seven years old, she breathed her final breath this side of Heaven in February, 2016 after a three year battle with brain cancer.

Her life, though entirely too short for my liking, was a life, well lived. Though she died in 2016, she also LIVED. This year contains memories of her final breaths. This year affords beautiful memories of her significantly beautiful smile, her giggles, her passion for life, her squeezy hugs, her compassion, her grace, her love – her life well lived.

When 2017 arrives, the same will not be possible to say.  My daughter will not have been alive at any moment in this upcoming year, and that very thought further breaks my already shattered heart.

However, I choose to scroll up a bit, and recognize the absolute beauty that was her life. No year, 2017 or otherwise, maintains any amount of power that would enable it to steal that beauty, those memories, from me.

I will always #RememberTheLove and I encourage you to do the same.

If you are hurting during this season of your life – I say me too – then I encourage you to recognize that you are not alone. You do not need to do this life, or any journey of any magnitude alone.  You are worth is. Your life matters.  You are precious.

Though life hurts, it won’t always be this way. There is hope.  You are stronger than you believe. (At least that’s what I keep getting told!)  I urge you to reach out. Talk to someone. If you would like, I am available in the comments, or via my “contact me” page.  Please don’t hesitate.

Just, whatever you do, don’t give up.

The Allure Of Death

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The title might be alarming. It should be. I cannot predict all the words that are about to flow, but I’m going to free write. If I think it, I’ll write it. So, here we go. 

Death is a heavy topic. Death doesn’t hold unlimited power. It doesn’t have the final word. It is the end of one life, and the beginning of another. 

But, the allure of death? How could something so heavy and somber have an allure? Let me explain. 

I do not fear death. If I’m being honest, I long for it some days. 

For those of you psychoanalyzing my words, please save yourself the trouble – and, don’t! I’ll save you the time. I’ll break down my thoughts in a way that don’t scare you. 

When I said I long for it some days, I’ll assure you – I have no plans to speed the process along. (I’m not suicidal.) But, I’ll say this. 

Never before have I wanted to not be living as much as I do now – but – on the flip side, never before have I wanted to live more than I do right now. I don’t want to die. I do, however, have moments where I wish I just didn’t exist. Sometimes this reality feels too much to bear. Sometimes, I feel too much. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I can go on another moment – let alone days, weeks, months or years. 

But, I can. 

And, I will. 

There are days I hurt. I feel pain so deeply, that my only response is tears. At any given time. For pretty much any reason. 

Let’s circle back around to the idea that death could possibly hold allure. See, as I mentioned previously, it is my belief that death isn’t the end. I believe in life after death – in Heaven or hell. I believe that when you die, you’re not eternally separated from those you love. I believe you will see those you love again in what many call the afterlife. 

My daughter died ten months ago, after a three year journey with brain cancer. The allure death holds is that I will get to see her (and lots of other people I miss) again. 

Stop the psychoanalysis!

If you are concerned or worried, I understand. But, because I know the deep pain associated with losing someone you love dearly, I wouldn’t do anything to remove myself from the equation either. I hurt deeply because I love deeply. Suicide isn’t okay. It isn’t fair. And it leaves ripples, and touches generations. So no, that option is off the table. 

I just don’t fear death anymore, and this all explains why. 

Finding Grace In A Tweet

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Never underestimate the power of social media. Ever. Just don’t do it. Social media often wears the hat of a villain. Many consider it the downfall of modern society – a breakdown in communication. A place where people forget what “real” relationships are. 

I challenge that notion. It can be the polar opposite, on every level.  

Allow me the opportunity to talk a little bit about human connection, and the power of our words – and how a simple tweet can set events in motion that will allow two separate worlds to collide. 

If you know me at all, you may know that grace is a big deal. I live and breathe it, and want every human being alive to know grace, feel loved, and know their worth. 

Watch as this story plays out. 

First, let me tell you about my friend Aaron. He’s known as @CulturalSavage on Twitter, and shares his heart on his Cultural Savage blog. Aaron knows what it’s like to experience seemingly insurmountable odds, and feel deep pain. But, Aaron also knows about grace. I may write again another time about my friend, but for now, let me explain how his “simple” tweet changed the trajectory of my today (and potentially more).

Yesterday, he shared a tweet about grace. More specifically, he shared an opportunity to be a part of a book launch team. A new book about grace. In doing a little research, I connected with the author of this book, James Prescott, along with his Facebook community (made up of people from all walks of life, from all over the world) for his book launch. 

What I found was so much more. 

On a day like yesterday where I’ve felt pain, and cried a river – this encounter (all from a “simple” tweet) has made today new. I have a renewed sense of purpose and direction. 

Instead of allowing depressions talons to sink deeper, I find myself collaborating with other like minded people. I find excitement about future events, and passion surrounding this book launch. 

This book is launching on the exact day of the one year anniversary of my daughter taking her final breath this side of Heaven. She died one year before this book launches. That may seem sad. It is. It hurts. But, this is a way that I can see redemption and not only pain on that day. 

As that date approaches, I will share more information, more thoughts on grace, and I’ll continue to invite others to join me in helping James launch his book. His message is one I believe in, and am passionate about helping spread. 

Grace. I need it, you need it. That guy down the street that you go out of your way to avoid – he needs it too. Would you join me in an effort to help grace spread like wildfire? Click on this link, and find your spot in this grace filled community. You belong. 

If you are struggling this season, or through life in general, please know you aren’t alone. If you’d like to know more about this concept of grace, please feel free to reach out. I’m here. You can comment directly on this post, or your can use contact me link. I’ll look forward to connecting. If you do nothing else, at least recognize that your life matters, and that grace is for you too. You aren’t alone. 

The Heart That Bleeds Gold

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Driven To Make Change

Some people have ice cold hearts, while others are warm and inviting. And then there are those whose hearts bleed gold. It takes the age old saying that someone has a “heart of gold” to an entirely different level. 

If you are not aware, the universal color representing childhood cancer is gold. 

Today, I met a man named Ronnie. He started Driven To Make Change. Before a couple of days ago, I hadn’t known very much about Ronnie and his heart that bleeds gold. He is a compassionate person, who – yes, has a heart of gold. His goal and mission in life right now is to raise awareness for pediatric cancer . 

He’s driving across 48 states to learn all he can about all the  pediatric cancers (139, currently known) and also to raise awareness. His hope is multi faceted. Not only does he have vision to raise funds for fighting cancer and finding a cure – he also seeks to take that deeper and further. 

He wants to aid research into the why. Cause. Find out why or how (any environmental or otherwise) these cancers form. It is then that they become preventable. 

Preventable cancer!?

It sounds like a pipe dream – but, I’ll draw your attention to medical history – so did the cause and/or cure for polio and other similar diseases. Let’s band together and turn this pipe dream into hopeful reality. Don’t tell me it’s not possible. 

Why the passion? 

I’m glad you’ve asked. My daughter Janet (Praying For Little Janet) was diagnosed with a rare (literally one of a kind) brain tumor at age four. She courageously fought brain cancer for three years, and passed away February 13, 2016. She is my why. My passion. My love. There is a giant hole in my heart that only she could ever fill. 

She is not my only why . 

There are so many people – so many families whose lives are turned upside down, in an instant – with two (not so) simple words: childhood cancer. To hear the words “your child has cancer” or “your child has a brain tumor” are game changers. They will (and should) change perspective and priorities in a huge way. Life as you know it will NEVER be the same “normal” again. Life will change. Death may happen. And that part so royally sucks. 

They are now also my why. Every family who hears those words. I fight for my daughter, and I fight for all the families affected by pediatric cancers of all kinds. 

My daughter died. My hope and prayer is that no other family, ever, has to endure this painful kind of journey. 

Pipe dream? Not forever. WE have the power to change things. It will not happen overnight. But, it WILL happen. The key is, we must advocate for our children. They deserve so much more than the 3.8% of federal funding for pediatric cancer research currently alloted. 

Please join me, Ronnie, and all those with hearts that bleed gold, in raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research (not only for a cure – but also to be able to pinpoint cause, and thus prevent the cancer) and share hope with the world. 

#RememberTheLove