Throwback Writing: Fast As Lightning

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This is an essay I wrote. A short (timed) writing assignment – written by me, my senior year in high school. As I was browsing some of my older writing, a couple decades in the past, I wanted to share some of these writings with the world. I am changing nothing, and will type/print exactly as my writing on paper appeared.

Fast as lightning…what does this mean to me? There can be so many hidden meanings found. Cars can be referred to as going high rates of speed, like lightning. Another comparison I think accurately describes this cliche is LIFE. Life. Life is fast as lightning. It is like a vapor: Here one minute, and gone the next. Just as you can’t predict where lightning will strike next, neither can you predict when someones life may come to a screeching halt.

Back to the fastness of lightning. Lightning and life…they are both fleeting. Another thing that is fast as lightning is sound. I mean, you can say something, one second, and then the sound disappears. Lightning strikes, and then quickly it is gone. Sound comes, and quickly brings silence. 

Just as life is fleeting, so is time. I guess it is all of the brief, fleeting moments of time that make up life. So together, it can go by like lightning: fast! Part of time, life, and growing up is school. School can go by very fast. Kind of like, life is composed of a bunch of fast-as-lightnig fleeting moments.

Facing Life After Death – Walking Through Life’s Unbearable Moments

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This child. This courageous fighter embodied strength combined with love. She knew and showed compassion. Though she faced insurmountable odds, she gave the world so many gifts – love, hope, compassion, joy, and so many other beautiful things. She leaves a beautiful legacy of love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.

With regards to being on that floor again – it was quite a mixture of emotions. Each and every emotion you could have, I did. I was angry. I was happy. I was sad. I had joy. I knew deep pain. I knew incredible love. It hurt so much. But, there was so much beauty. I was able to see the love in those walls. Empathy and compassion on the faces of nurses who remember Janet, and who remember the love. I was stopped once, and asked if I was Janet’s mom. That was such a heartbreaking and more than that – heartwarming moment. She was there the night before Janet died, and she remembers. She’ll never forget my baby. I saw another nurse this morning that also knew Janet well. No magical words, but compassionate eyes. We did talk, and it did my heart good. They still care. They’ll never forget her either. My heart needed to feel the pain, but to also feel the love.
 
I kinda think each and every day, all of life, is this way as well. Think about it. As I have said so many times before – I KNOW that I feel the deep pain that I do because of deeply rooted love. If you look at ANY passion or emotion, look at the polar opposite emotion. Usually, you can find them attached at the hip. Weakness is attached to strength. Hope to hopeless. Broken to healing. Etc., etc., etc…
 
I want to encourage you guys with some encouragement that has been life – giving to me. As we all know I stand on the FACT that it is okay to not always be okay. More than that, it’s okay (make that vital) to feel what we need to feel. If we hurt, allow ourselves to feel. There’s that fine line, though, of not staying in that place forever.
 
If you need to know that you are not alone, allow me to be the voice that says, “me too.” No matter what you are walking through, know that you are walking THROUGH it. I know that you may be struggling with the most horrific pain you have ever experienced. Is it the same as my pain? No, not always? But, also, yes – perhaps. Either way, pain (like love) is a universal language. It speaks. Will you listen?? I will. Maybe you don’t need words. Maybe you just need someone to be willing to sit, even virtually, with you in your pain. That is a gift that has been offered to me, and it’s an outstretched arm I also offer.
 
I would also like to offer this tidbit. As a bereaved mother, I want you to know – any of you reading this, it is an honor to walk alongside you on your journey as well. Do I enjoy pain? No. But, there is great healing (for me) in doing life alongside other people. It gives me great purpose to be able to say, “I may not get exactly what you are going through, but it’s an honor to sit with you in this pain,” and mean it. I still consider it a distinct honor to walk alongside parents with children fighting cancer – at the beginning of their journey, or even in their final moments. Does it hurt? Absolutely. Is it hard? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. I said all that to say this, PLEASE connect and reach out. Though I have walked through some very painful seasons, it gives me tremendous purpose to use our experience(s) to share hope, compassion and love with others.
 
So, in the event you ever need help, know that help exists. You aren’t alone, and you matter. You are valued and loved. Please give yourself the ability to feel what you need to feel, to be honest and to give your heart a voice. It is then, and only then, that healing can begin.
 
If you would like to talk to me, I am here. Reach out. If you have a friend who has a friend fighting cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have a wealth of knowledge, and though it sucks, it’s an honor to share experience(s) with those walking through similar life experiences. If you’re just hurting, and your heart needs a voice, I’m here. A non-judgmental, listening ear.
 
To all who continue to surround our family with your thoughts and prayers – know that we are, and forever will be grateful. The love and encouragement you continue to share – there is so much strength found there. Thank you for, forever and always, for you reaching out and being able to #RememberTheLove. It brings me strength, and does my heart good.

Love Like Tomorrow Isn’t Promised 

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Love. 

I will quote one of the most inspiring people on earth, Jamie Tworkowski; founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. I’m grateful for Jamie’s heart, and for the worldwide Army of people loving people exactly where there at, that he has created and continues to help grow.  He recently shared these words (and clothing with this coined phrase) :

Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. 

I talk about love often. We all should. Why, you might ask? It’s simple. 

Love is the backbone of strength. 

Every human being needs and deserves to be loved. We all do. But, taking that a step further, we also need TO love. 

My daughter, unbeknownst to her, created #RememberTheLove. (Feel free to search Facebook with that hashtag) This is something that she lived and breathed. It’s something I strive to do more of every single day. Yes, in her honor and memory, but also to make an impact and love people well. 

Think about it. 

If we loved people in the same way we’re loved, or how we *should* be loved – we would strengthen ourselves, our relationships, families, communities, our Nation, and yes- the world. Dramatic? Sure. But it’s truth. Love (kinda right up there in connection with hugs) makes the world go round. 

My daughter was dying, and she knew she was going to die. She didn’t want everyone to be sad  (even though she knew they would be) when she went to Heaven – but, instead, she asked that we would #RememberTheLove. She GOT it. She understood.  Friends, at 7 years old, this sweet little girl knew more about love than many know in a lifetime. 

That is where strength comes in – at least for me. When the moments come, and they come often, that I am overwhelmed, and maybe feeling kinda hopeless – it is love that sustains me. It is grounding, and produces strength.  Love is this powerful force that gives strength unlike anything else possibly could.

So, yes, you’ll find that I talk a great deal about love. It’s because love is life changing, life giving, and even life saving. Will you join me in this journey of loving people well? Oh, and I should add – loving people well also includes YOU. Self care is vital. As you show yourself love, it’ll be easier to reach out with and in love. 

To all who read my words, who love my daughter and our family – thank you more than words can ever express (though, clearly it won’t be for lack of trying) for being strength for us every single day. I need you. Our family does. And, we are grateful for the continued love, thoughts and prayers, and support – in whatever form it takes. Love and hugs, all the way around. 

Dear Corporate America

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Dear Corporate America,

I’m writing today to say some important things that I sincerely hope you take to heart, and listen to. I’ll start by saying that I need you. But, stopping there would be a disservice to both of us. Here’s the thing: you need me too!

When you look at me, you see an unemployable individual. You stop at my outer appearance alone, and never offer even an opportunity to showcase who I am. You see my colorful hair and two tattoos – one on each forearm. You might see a creative person who wouldn’t work well as part of a team. You may think that I buck the rules and can’t conform.

Allow me to alter your thinking, and share who I really am.

I am amazing. I am one of the best team players your company would come to know. How can I have the audacity to say these things?

I’m not conceited, but I know my value. I’ve struggled with mental illness, but this does not define me. I know deep pain, having lost my child after her cancer battle. However, because of this pain and loss, I know that hope is real. Though I am creative, and can work on my own – as an individual, I recognize the value of community. I have incredible attention to detail, but know how to ask for help when there is a need. I have unquestionable integrity – beyond compare, and a work ethic unlike many others. I’ve proudly served these United States while on active duty military service. I am a person you need in your team.

I’m not asking you to relax or throw out your personal appearance policies. I am, however, asking you to see me for who I am, and the countless others who don’t fit societal norms, for who they are. Recognize that I come to you, eager to better your company, image, and community footprint. That, amongst a host of other reasons, is what you forfeit when you deny the possibility of my employment.

You see me and think it’s easier to simply say no – we can’t hire you – this statement on appearance alone. You’re worried about offending those who expect societal norms. What you fail to understand is that my appearance will make far more people smile, connections within  the community, and start conversation. You need that, and I need you.

My plea to you is that you at least consider giving me a chance.

Close your eyes for a moment and pretend you don’t know my tattoos and bold colored hair are even a factor. Think about the kind of person you want working alongside you. Think about trustworthiness and integrity, along with precise attention to detail. Envision a person who treats others with respect, kindness, and operates with compassion. This person values human life, and knows that every person they come into contact with are living, breathing stories – stories that matter. Think of those things, and you’ll have a good picture of some of the many qualities I bring to the table.

For even the consideration, I share heartfelt gratitude.

I am certain that I need you – but, you also need me.

The First And The Last Day Of My Life 

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When you make the choice to embark on a new adventure, what emotions surround you? Excitement? Joy? Happiness? Nervousness? Fear? What do those feelings do? Do they put shackles around you and hold you back, or do you use them as stepping stones to help propel you further? You have a choice. 

If you are driven, you will take on this task with vigor. You won’t back down. You’ll move forward with excitement – expecting greatness. Nothing will stand in your way. You start strong – knowing you won’t back down. 

Think about your life. What if you knew that today was your last 24 hours with breath in your lungs, abs with a heart that beats. What if you were going to die just after the stroke of midnight? 

What would you do? How could you possibly prepare? Would you make a list, and check it twice? 

I don’t know about you, but I would imagine there would be an intense and undeniable sense of urgency. To do even a fraction of the things I want to accomplish, I would need to not waste time. I would absolutely HAVE to be intentional with my time. I would not allow fear to have a resting place. My choices would dictate the flow of the day – and the success or failures involved. 

That would be one very productive day. It would have tremendous meaning and value. It would be a day unlike any other. 

Okay, stop right there. Close your eyes, and take a couple of deep breaths. Clear your mind, and choose sit with me for a few more moments. 

What impact could you have if you lived every day like both the first day (of a new venture) and the last of your life? If you approached the day with the intensity of both those combined – just ponder the impact, the footprint you could have on the world, YOUR world. 

What are your passions? What talents do you have to offer? How can you make an impact and add value to the world? How can you make the choices that lead to success?

I urge you today – live your life intentionally, on purpose, and like it was the first and last day with breath in your lungs and a beating heart.

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.

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.