Tag Archives: faith

Spiritual Recovery Group – Who Needs That!? 

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I want to share this opportunity with you. Before you shut down at the word opportunity, please keep reading. Give me a couple minutes of your time. YOU are worth it. 

When you read a title about spiritual recovery, you might have laughed to yourself like I did when I was told about the group. That all changed when I took the time to dig deeper, and really understand the value of what was being offered. I will share briefly why this is so, SO very important to me. 

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, it should come as no surprise that I am hurting – in about a billion places, for nearly as many reasons. My heart is shattered, and I feel disconnected and broken in too many areas. I often feel as if I don’t even know who I am anymore – especially when it comes to being a Christ follower, a Christian. 

My daughter passed away five months ago after a three year battle with a one of a kind brain cancer. That does something to your soul. To every aspect of your life, if we’re being honest. To say that I’ve lost faith is inaccurate. To say that I have completely unwavering faith – also somewhat inaccurate. To say there are days I’d kinda like to punch God in the face – accurate! To say I have so many questions, and no clue how to navigate them – completely accurate. 

I am at a place that I recognize the need for clarity. I grew up around church my whole life. I had, and still have faith. However, recently, I became aware that my faith want built on a very strong foundation. I have realized the need to own my own faith. I no longer desire to follow blindly. As such, I’m finding the desperate need for digging deeper, researching more, and not only knowing that I have faith – but the why behind my faith. 

Enter this spiritual recovery group. 

This group offers an incredible amount of hope to me personally. I joined this group, and would like to offer you the same opportunity. 

Because the life and legacy my seven year old daughter leaves – one of hope, grace and especially love – I wanted to also share that there are now two partial scholarships available. The cost of the course is $149, but two people are now able to attend for just $75. Would you be one of these two people to join me? 

From the website offering this online group:

As a former  youth pastor and worship leader, I know how deep the words of well-meaning people can cut. Even after Bible college and ten years of traditional ministry, I was secretly addicted to pornography. And when all of my mess became public, it seemed my family was too messy for the church. My desire for this recovery group is to help people take off the mask of performance-based Christianity, find healing for their wounds, and move forward.

Here’s a sad fact: the church is often too scared or ill-prepared to tackle the hard topics.But our lack of engagement with broken people is literally killing God’s children. The good news? I have been re engaging my faith and the local church for the past four years, and I can tell you that refusing to live like a victim has changed my life. Recovery isn’t easy, but second chances are possible for you…and the church.

Who is this group for?

  • Someone longing to engage their faith after years of being disconnected from the local church.
  • A person wanting to engage the local church again but in need of clear boundaries.
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and is scared of what the church will say.
  • A member of the LGBTQ community who fears they can no longer belong to a faith community.
  • Someone in a crisis of faith.
  • Anybody who feels “soul confusion” and is longing for clarity, belonging, and hope that God is still listening.



For me, I personally fit into multiple categories listed above in the “who is this group for” section. 

I know this is a group beneficial to not only me, but countless others who may be lost, hurt, broken, unsure, or any number of other emotions. Would you like to join me? I’d love to walk through this experience with you. If you are unable to afford the full price, please don’t let that be your stopping point. 

You can reach out here in comments, email me directly via the contract me page. Or, you can reach out to Steve Austin, on the blog post he shares about the group, and also scholarship opportunity

No matter if you join this group, or where you are in your faith journey, please don’t do it alone. You aren’t alone. Allow others to walk with you. You deserve it, as do those you’ll do life with! 

Community Challenge – In Three Sentences Or Less

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Challenge time

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It’s about community – it’s importance, and how it makes a difference.

Here’s your challenge. Think of a person you respect. Tell them in three sentences or less things you love about them, and remind them of things they may struggle to remember on their own.

I welcome you to post your answers here in the comments – or feel free to connect via my contact me page and I’ll update this post with all of our community of answers. Comment or message me with as many people as you’d like. This is all about love.

The first person who came to mind is To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) founder, Jamie Tworkowski. Here are the things I wish he knew and could always hang onto:

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Jamie is a kind hearted person who encourages, shares hope and compassion, and loves people well. He is tremendously loved as a son, brother, uncle, friend, comrade, and one day a lifelong companion. He lives life authentically, but with vulnerability as he tells his own story of brokenness and triumph, pain mixed with hope, and sees value in all people – all the while reminding everyone that it’s okay to not be okay, to be honest, and that everyone has a story worth telling, and one that is full of love and hope, while also remembering that rescue is possible.

(See what I did there? I made about six sentences into three – all with the magic of breaking all sorts of grammar rules – so I beg you now — don’t think it necessary to remind me of this.)

I may share and highlight others as well – but wanted to give everyone a chance to #RememberTheLove.

If You Are Who You Follow

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If you are what you follow on social media, then I am

a gay, straight, lesbian, heterosexual, single, married, bipolar, possibly suicidal, mentally ill, happy, hopeful, loving, hated, bullied, loved, toddler, restaurant, pastors wife, pastor, executive pastor, youth ministry, worship leader, friend, caring, empathetic, waitress, friend with benefits, grown ass man, feminist preacher, apologetic pastor, agnostic, TV news anchor, weatherman, LGBTQ+ community, hurting, broken, exhausted, energetic and wide awake, husband, wife, Christian band, boxer, wrestler, asshole, sweetheart, photographer, mentally challenged, evangelist with a love of fishing, triangles, pencils, scary movies, music, songs, pickles, cake, bacon in any shape or size, chocolaty popcorn, and all things love.

So, as you can tell – I am very diverse.

I am a human being, you see. I am you, and you are me. We are us. We are a team. We are individuals. We are better together and we really must not ever be alone. We all need grace, compassion and love.

Let Them Know Us By Our Love

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This blog post comes not quite 24 hours after a deadly massacre in Florida. A horrific terrorist act. A news story that rocks our world, and unravels the very fabric of all we believe. Or at least it should. I will share my thoughts, and welcome yours in return.

I would like to mention that this is written from my own vantage point, and I will speak for myself – but with the bulk of this message being directed at those who call themselves, collectively, the church. Christians. Christ followers. People of faith. Those who love the Lord. Those who love the sinner and hate the sin. The body of Christ. This is for them. This is for you. This is for all who love and breathe – but ultimately, for those who embrace faith, and consider themselves followers of Jesus.

First, I’d say that, as Christ followers, this is one area, and with one community (the entire LGBTQ+ community as a whole) we get so many things wrong. Love. Let me explain from the vantage point of a married somewhat heterosexual female. I say it like that because I see beauty in so many places, and in so many people. I love all people. But yes, I’m married to a man. Moving on…

As a Christ follower, I so often want to apologize on behalf of Jesus Himself for all the Christians spewing hate in His name. This, friends, is not love.

As the body of Christ, we are expected to act as He acted. In and with LOVE. To ALL people, regardless of who they love, or are attracted to.

Those who claim or speak in the authority of Christ should NOT show disgust in those who sin differently than they do. Instead, we should sit with them in their pain. Perhaps when we stop judging, and start loving people as we’ve been shown unconditional love – then, and only then, will people truly be free. Free to live community faith in action. Free to hurt, but free to heal.

To drive this point home – I’ll stop those of you (just for a moment) who are itching to throw the ever so popular idea that God hates homosexuality too – and that their sin will surely keep them from Heaven. See, I AM NOT arguing that homosexuality is (or isn’t)  a sin. Nor am I saying that God doesn’t mention it as sin, I will allow you to come to a conclusion on your own. That decision is ultimately between you and God. No one else. Yes, you can look to the Bible for knowledge on this – but also for knowledge on often times, messy grace and the true picture of reckless love. Love in the face of danger. Sharing love, and allowing grace to mold lives and change worlds.

I suppose the final thought I want to ensure you don’t forget is the idea that yes, we are called to share the truth – lest any person perish. However, the truth shared with love is always where it’s at. You don’t have to agree with a person’s lifestyle to show them grace and to love them. As a gentle reminder – none of us are God. Neither you nor I were appointed judge, jury or executioner. For those in this community, or for anyone whose “sin” is different than our own.

With all this said – I’d like to implore you to allow this to be a heart check. Take a moment (and lots of moments moving forward) to love people the dance way you need love. BE the change in our world.

Allow your heart to break with all the hearts of those who lost their lives in Orlando during this act of violence so utterly horrible. Let this stand as an event in our Nation’s history where love truly does win. Do not take your situation (life and security) for granted. Love those who are different. Extend grace to all. Please pray for everyone involved – for those families and friends of all those who are mourning the lives of those they now miss. That the holes in their hearts will have comfort and peace, though broken and hurting. Pray, also for the injured, and for those still fighting for their lives. When you don’t know how to pray – let love speak.

To the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, please allow me to address you directly. I wish I could speak on behalf of everyone who puts on the hat that sports the title of “Christian” – but that I cannot do. As I mentioned previously, I believe this is something that we, the church, get very wrong a great percentage of the time. I want you to hear my words. I’m sorry. I hear you. I want to sit with you in your pain. I don’t have to know precisely how you feel to just love you where you are. That, I can offer you. I offer you the same messy grace, and the same heartfelt love that I’ve also been freely given. So here – please take my hand. Allow me to walk with you, and to do life with you. Together, we can make a difference in our world. Call it a pipe dream, or call it whatever you’d like – but know that my words are true, and my love for you is real. You are beautiful. Period. My love for you is like Christ’s love for me – it is real, and cannot be denied. Please know how truly valued you are, and that love is yours. Allow these words to wrap themselves around you like a friend giving you a hug. (Side note – I’m fairly certain that love makes the world go ’round.)

For anyone who is struggling in the aftermath of this tragedy, know that you are not alone. If you’d like to talk through it – I am here. I am only one person, and I’m no counselor or therapist. But, aside a human being, I am qualified to love you, and to help you see hope in a hopeless situation. Please feel free to reach out. Do not hesitate to connect via the “about me” page – or post directly in the comments. You are worth it, and your story matters. Today is a page (or maybe a defining chapter) In your story. But, this day is not the end of your story. You have a beautiful story – much of which is yet to be written. Please talk to someone if your pain feels unbearable. Do not attempt to walk through this – or any part of life – alone.

Much love, and many hugs to all who happen upon these words. Let’s do life, together, as authentic community. A community founded on love and operating with messy grace.

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Life Changing Love And Grace

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If you know me at all, or just happened to stumble on yesterday’s blog post – then it will not come as a surprise that I struggle with depression. Some days, it feels so dark – crippling even. There have been points in my life (like yesterday) where hope plays a better game of hide and seek than any child I’ve ever known! The emotions that surround these moments lead to intensely painful times. It is what is done during those exact moments that either sustain life or make you want to see it end. I know that sounds dramatic – but anyone who has hurt so deeply can unfortunately relate to that in some way, shape, or form.

Now what I’d like to offer you, is a perspective different than I was able to see, or even comprehend yesterday. This will highlight the importance of friendship, love, grace, and the ability to be real. Even when “real” hurts.

Let me be honest. Yesterday, something just broke inside me. That’s the best way I can put it. I felt a pain with intensity of the blazing sun. Okay, that may be a bit dramatic. But, the point is this – I was hurting in a way I hadn’t ever felt. The realization that life was this vicious cycle broke me to the core. Suddenly, I felt all semblance of hope has all but disappeared. But, what happened next would change that all. It would open up the door, even a crack, for hope to come back in. It never snuck out, but I was unable to find it. The fact of the matter is that grief and depression clouded my eyes, and how everything appeared.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that things aren’t always going to be good, okay even. They’ll sometimes suck more than anyone wants to admit. Even in those times, I’m learning that it’s not only just helpful, but vital to my very survival to reach out, and not allow myself to face those moments alone. Let me explain the shape my last 24 hours took. (in all actuality, this will not be complete until the morning because lack of sleep is rapidly catching up with me!)

And, so now I pick up where I left off! (I’m exhausted, as I – quite literally – didn’t sleep at all last night. So, tonight should be an early bedtime!)

As intense as my pain was – I still (thankfully) realized the need to surround myself with people. I reached out and either called our messaged those who were available.

My friend Jayson shared an incredible example of how to – even knowing the hard times would be lurking around the corner – still find joy and beauty in the good times. I can’t paraphrase and better than he did, so (with his permission) I will quote him.

Imagine you’re going on an exotic vacation (yeah, me either . . . but let’s pretend). So you have a week in this wonderful place, but you know you’re going to have to go back to work in a week.

You can either be constantly thinking “Only 5 more days until I am back in the grind.” Or you can make the choice to put work out of your mind and just enjoy the repast.

I kind of think of it as the same thing. If I am enjoying a peak, but constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop I am cutting of the height of the peak. Does that make sense?

The valleys stay just as low, but I am ruining the vista from the mountaintops because I’m constantly telling myself “at any moment this is all going to be ruined.”

Sometimes that attitude actually seems to hasten my low points.

It takes some work, but you need to learn to be a hedonist when the opportunity presents itself. It’s completely okay to enjoy the pleasure and break from the darkness.

Even reading that all over again brings such peace. It showed me a couple of things. In reality, I’m not the only person in the world who hurts, and has had similar thought processes. It also opened my eyes, and helped me simply focus differently. I was able to see beauty and truth in what he said.

As my heart felt crushed, and I begged to feel something other than pain, I spoke with another friend. I was asked how things were going, and I explained honestly how I felt. It was explained that they couldn’t relate to or even understand the hurt I felt – but would hold my hand, and sit with me in the pain. That alone have my heart peace and small (yet huge) amounts of healing.

Another odd experience was when I stumbled on a new friends blog. I read just one blog post, and it grabbed my heart. I read and tears decided to go on mass exodus from my leaky tear ducts. It was a reply from the blog author that till me by surprise. He asked if I had joined the facebook group. I hadn’t heard of it, let alone joined it. With that, and very little searching later, I found a link that I would never regret clicking on.

It was a closed facebook about a tribe – a gigantic family/community that welcomed all people – without regard to social, marital, religious, sexual or any other status or identity. This, all in the name of grace. I was assured that all were welcome in that place – all in the name of messy grace. It’s saying that, no matter where you are, or how you got there – that you wouldn’t be judged, but WOULD be loved. For who you are, where you area – right now.

Truth be had, I was in a very dark place, but I instantly felt safe there. I opened up a small amount, and was immediately welcomed as a friend. I felt loved. Immediately, nothing really changed. However, the more I shared my personal hell, and the more my broken heart escaped and turned into words on a page – the more I felt drawn in and loved. And true kind of love that had no expectations in return. It was indeed a safe place. A shelter for the wounded, while also being a church for the hurting, a party for the celebrating – and a love fest for all who came by. Yes, I saw it. It was all those things. But, for me personally it was a place I was allowed to hurt, and to just BE. Friendships were born in an instant. Even as the night went on, there was always a person with a listening non-existant judgemental ear. And quite a few kind words that enveloped me with love. It was so tremendously healing.

Last night, I was also invited to join a twitter live chat. It was one where all were welcome, and none turned away. The chat was about church and mental health. I didn’t even really know how it all worked – I just jumped in there and answered the questions asked, and connected with others who also replied. It was clearly evident that it was authentic community as well. Everyone brought their own life and pain to the table. It was crystal clear to me that love was the driving force. To just be together, and to connect in a way – exactly where any number of us were in those moments.

I believe that the message I am trying to say is that – even if I hurt, and even if I feel as if life has nothing but pain and heartbreak to offer – it also has love and hope. Offered freely. I can speak for myself when I say that I understand how easy it is to lose sight – to essentially become blind and completely miss hope, grace and love.

People – who start as complete strangers (if I choose to allow) – can surround me during whatever brand of personal hell I’m walking through. To be loved through the pain speaks a language I was unaware that existed in such a way.

All this leads up to the concept that you aren’t EVER alone in your struggles. During the times you feel life is too overwhelming to even keep walking – it is then that you need to allow others the honor of holding your hand, and helping you take even baby steps when you feel unable to walk on your own. Please,  PLEASE reach out. You are worth it. Hope IS real, and often will come disguised as other hurting people who will love and hold you. You may think it’s difficult (I do!) but I assure you. It is worth it. You are worth it.

You are a living story – one with more pages, yet to be written.

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Please Mean What You Say

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I will start by apologizing ahead of time for the selfish nature this post is about to take on. Also, for the rambling, jumbled thoughts about to jump from my brain to this page.

I’m tired of believing that people mean what they say. I’m tired of expecting people to speak reality just because I do. For the love of God, people, just be real.

To the eighteen (yes, 18) people I messaged last night, I want to say thank you to the exactly NONE of you that responded. To the three people, in that moment, that reached out to me via message without my having messaged you first – know that I’m sincerely grateful.

I’ve just come to realize that people don’t often mean when they say “message me any time – day or night – and I’ll be there to talk or just listen” and they may mean it in that moment, but the proof is in the pudding. I messaged you. You slept. That’s actually okay. It just helps me recognize reality. A reality that sometimes bites.

To those I know would have answered that I never actually messaged, I’m sorry. I couldn’t. Not after so many other attempts tried and failed. See, I don’t always hurt and feel pain as deeply as last night. So, part of this is simply me figuring things out. Which also kinda sucks.

You see, last night, I couldn’t see beyond the pain. I needed a friend. I needed a hug. I needed to just be. The tears were very real, freely flowing, and exhausting. Crying myself to sleep hurts. Thankfully, I don’t experience this often. However, when I do, I’m learning that well intentioned people that have no follow through just add to the pain instead of being the voice of hope and love I was evidently so desperately seeking.

So, to those who tell me to contact you when I need it – pardon me if I laugh. Or if I cry. I know you won’t mean to, but you’ll teach me a lesson that will become a reality that I wish I didn’t know. That, simply, is that I’m not important to you on the way you say, and you really won’t be there in those moments. It seems that if I commit that to memory, it’ll hurt worse initially – but I’ll be better off.

To those wondering if I’m okay – I’m not. To those who read this and have the urge to reach out – don’t. Well, you can – but be willing to talk. Be willing to not walk away because you don’t have the words. Tell me that. Offer to just sit with me in the pain. That’s where healing even has a chance at beginning. But, do feel free to pray for me, if that’s your thing. You can even tell me you’re praying for me. Just be prepared for whatever my response is.

To the handful of you who you KNOW this doesn’t apply to you – please don’t feel the need to just say something for the sake of saying words. Please don’t do that. I know there are those of you who love me for me. You don’t have to say it. I already know. Thank you for that.

To those of you who suddenly feel bad, I’m sorry. Just hear my words and consider your own words. You be you. But please let your words be true.

To those who will undoubtedly remind me that it’ll all be okay, that I have reasons to live, and that other people need me. I get that. I already know this too. I’ve actually been encouraged to make a list – of all the reasons I have to live, and all the things I find value in. I’ve done that. I look at it. I’ll continue to do so.

Oh there’s another group of you I’d also like to address. Those of you also knee deep in your own pain. Why can’t we hurt together? For those of you that my daughter dying IS the reason for your pain, and talking to you only causes more pain – all I can say is I’m sorry. I wish that weren’t the case, and my heart breaks because it is that way. I’m not asking you to change that – but only to realize that hurts so much. To think I’m at fault for causing you pain. When I reach out and ask if you’re okay, I legitimately am concerned. I want to do life with you. I just wish that it didn’t cause you pain. Maybe one day it won’t. I hope that one day comes.

To everyone reading who may have zero clue how to act, react, or respond – that’s okay. Thanks for just hearing my heart here. Thanks for listening as I give my heart a voice. That voice may be happy and smiling one day, while broken and shaky another. Thank you for allowing that to simply be.

Dear Christian Mom Who Walks Away From Gay Son

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The following is a letter I wrote to a friends mom after she opted to walk way and cease contact with her gay son if any contact revolved around his significant other. This was what I felt very strongly urged to share with her. If you would like to read what he and his fiance are walking through with this, check outPart 1 which was followed by Part 2 and this will shine light on why I wrote the things I did.

Dear ( mom) ,

I wanted to take a moment to share a couple of thoughts with you about ( your son ) and ( his fiance ). Before you write me off and stop listening to anything I have to say, I ask you to please hear my words.

I understand that your faith requires you to take a step back and not having anything to do with him or his living another man. Or at least, from the outsider looking in, that’s my take on the situation. Before I go on, I want you to know I don’t judge you, or put you in a category of an uncaring mother. Instead, I see you as a mom who cares deeply.

I will share my own why behind my words, and why I felt so strongly the urge to connect and write to you.

But first, I’d like to pose a question to you. Is the faith you cling to really more important to you than your son? I’m not actually saying you’re consciously making that decision – but, in reality, you are. This is the part that I’d like to challenge. Without knowing the specifics of the faith you hold dear, I’d like to just say that the God I know, love and serve is a God of love. Let that sink in. He loves. He loves me, you, you’re son, his fiance, and all the other heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, or whatever sexual orientation the person identifies with. Note the theme is love. He loves us all – exactly where we are, with whomever we also love.

I want to take a moment to stop and remind you – I’m not trying to change your mind, or to judge your decisions. Instead, I’d like to offer a vantage point different from your own.

Let me pose another question to you. If your son was gone tomorrow, would you miss him? Taking that a step further, would you have any regrets in walking away from him and the love he still freely shares with you? I’m just asking this to make you think. If you have even a doubt about any of these questions, I’d urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and ensure your son knows you love him. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to fully grasp or even like at all that he loves his fiance , and intends a beautiful love filled life with him. You don’t even have to tell either of them that you are okay with their actions. The only thing I hope you can find in yourself to do is to give love a chance. This “tough love” thing will only drive a wedge deeper, and you will not have a relationship based on love – or even a relationship at all. Your son loves you. He reaches out. He doesn’t ask that you agree with his being gay, but rather that you love him. For who he is, and the amazing individual God created him to be – without regard to who he loves.

If I sound passionate, it’s because I am. For multiple reasons. I’ll explain.

First, I am the mother of four children. Two boys, two girls. Two residing with me here physically, and two in Heaven. I lost a child during pregnancy, and just this past February, watched as my 7 y/o daughter took her final breath this side of Heaven after a three year fight with brain cancer. I tell you all that simply to say that life throws us curveballs, and – as a mother alone – I understand the need and desire to walk by and in faith. The need to protect our children. I’ve also come to challenge my own thoughts and beliefs – and I believe that’s made them stronger. I’ve learned perspective, and how to prioritize things in my life.

I’ve also come to the realization that loving someone doesn’t equal agreeing with the way they live their life. This leads me to my final point.

*******adding this to simply let anyone reading know that I discussed this fully with my child, and he’s okay with my sharing it. His heart hurt when I explained the story, and why I was writing a letter to my friends mom. His hope is that people can see love as a way of communication instead of hatred and anger. *******

I have a open line of communication with my children as well. This doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. Instead, it makes me available. But, as such, I recently had a conversation I didn’t think I was prepared for. My teenage son reveals that he is gay – or, at a minimum, bisexual. Upon hearing these words, I expressed love to him. I told him how proud I was that he trusted me with this deeply personal information. While it wasn’t the love I saw him embracing, the fact that he could be honest with me was a blessing more than you could imagine. I continued by telling him that I’d love him, no matter what sexual orientation he identifies with. When approached with his concern of the church (or even me) wanting to “pray the gay away” my heart broke. As a Christ follower, my goal is to love like Jesus loves. In that moment, I felt a need to apologize on behalf of Jesus Himself for all the people who spew hatred in His name. He calls us to have and walk in a reckless love. This is a love, even in the face of something not seemingly worthy.

In challenging my own beliefs, I came to realize that Jesus died a brutal death because of love. He loves us enough to take on the sins of the world because He loves all of us. He died this brutal death do we didn’t have to. He loves us in a way that promotes life. Ultimately, His grace is freely given to anyone who chooses to accept it. We don’t deserve it – but it’s freely given.

I’ll conclude by reminding you that I don’t judge you for essentially walking away because you can’t fathom loving a person who loves someone of the same sex. I just wanted to share because you don’t have to love what they do to actually love them. I identify as a Christ follower. As such, I am to be the hands and feet of Jesus to ALL people – not just the ones I agree with. So, my only challenge to you really is will you join me in loving people as Jesus loves? That’s all I’m asking you to consider.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I’d be honored if you’d share your thoughts in reply. Much love and many hugs to you. You, also, are loved – exactly where you are.

Sincerely,

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A Lot Can Happen In A Year

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If the truth is known, I have no idea even where to start. I came to realize it has been a long time since I have shared here on this page. Too long. Over a year. As such, I also know it’s not wisdom to make some promise to write every day, or heck – even every week.  Though I might do that, I reserve the right to also say that I might not.  What I do know is that I have missed sharing life with you.  So, as such, I want to share where things are right now. This may not be a very long post today.

For those of you unaware, my life and my family’s lives were thrown upside down about this same time, three years ago. We were notified that our little Janet (then 4 years old) had an aggressive brain tumor.  Three years ago, our lives changed. For three years, she courageously fought a disease that would eventually claim her life.  Yes, her life. At 7 years old, my little girl breathed her last breath this side of Heaven. She passed away February 13, 2016 – just over two short but excruciating long months ago.

Truth be told, much of the previous year was dedicated to fighting childhood cancer alongside her. Now that she is gone, that fight is far from over. I proudly stand with others who are fighting, rejoice with those who have finished treatment and live to share their stories, remember the heroes who have their ultimate and eternal healing, and pray for all who stand beside them. None who walk this path are alone. This is a fight that I continue to fight – not just because my daughter died – but also to help ensure other families do not have to walk this same heartbreak.

If you have played a part in our journey – whether small or huge – know that you are greatly appreciated. Please continue to share your love and support – your thoughts and your prayers. They sincerely mean so much.

 

Just To Write – Sharing What Is On My Mind

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I am going to do something different this evening.  I am just going to write.  I don’t have anything specific on my mind, or that I need to get out, so to speak.  So, I am just going to write.  Unedited.  What you see is direct from my brain.  Buckle up  and enjoy the ride!

One of the biggest things on my mind right now is life.  Life, in general. I have a lot of time to sometimes just sit back and ponder the meaning of life.  I sometimes wonder if this is all there is to life, and it bothers me.  Then, I might feel a little bit guilty. Why?  Look around.  I have a husband and three amazing children – not to mention a multitude of extended family – and a network of amazing friends.  It takes thoughts like that to remind me that I am surrounded by so much love.  Life indeed does suck sometimes.  There is always more to life – but even if there isn’t – what I have right now is pretty special, and worth truly living for.

Living.  There have been days recently where I’ve just wanted to pull my hair out.  Truth be told, that might be a little difficult right now, seeing as how I recently shaved it in honor and support of my daughter who is six years old – and bald, fighting cancer.  But, back to my recent crazy days.  There have been moments where I have been feeling quite overwhelmed.  By everything.  Coping with life.  Coping with her having this returned cancer. Dealing with feeling inadequate to handle everything.

It’s then that I realize that I DON’T have to handle everything by myself.  I don’t.  You don’t.  NO ONE SHOULD.  You see, there are multiple factors I have on my side, making life more than worth living.

First, I have a God who is larger than life.  For some reason, He loves me.  He always has, and He always will.  The neat thing about that is that I haven’t done anything particularly worthy of Him.  Just because I am His child – that’s why He loves me.  It’s an awe-inspiring thought.  To know that I can not do everything right, make mistakes and just not live life “perfectly” so to speak, and KNOW that He is always going to be waiting with open arms…that is powerful to me.  To just know that no matter how broken I may feel, He is always ready and willing to pick up the pieces and create a masterpiece.  He is someone who understand every single part of my life.  The good and the bad.  The ups and the downs.  He gets it. And, He loves me.

Secondly, I have family.  I’ll talk about friends in a minute, but first I’m going to share how blessed I am.  I got to thinking what life would be like if I weren’t here.  No, this was not me contemplating suicide, it was me taking myself out of the equation, and wondering how things would be different if I just ceased to exist.  Let’s talk about that precious child fighting cancer.  I’m her Mama.  There isn’t anyone else in this world who can play the role I do.  I am with her every step of the way.  Her Daddy is too, but I’m primary when it comes to taking her to appointments, blood draws, etc.  I don’t resent it.  It makes me happy that she needs me.  Then, there are my boys.  They are tremendous.  I love that we have an open line of communication.  There is not any topic that is barred from conversation, and they know it.  I would like them to be able to talk to me about anything.  I want to be a part of their lives, not a distant dictator as a parent.  I love my children more than I can put into words.  Then there is my husband.  We have been married longer than we have a teenage boy alive.  Things haven’t always been perfect in our marriage. There have been times I have questioned so much.  However, though not perfect, always worth fighting for. God has given me a love for this man unlike anything I can put into words. Even through tough times, I have never forgotten the initial reasons that brought us together, and the love that connected us in marriage.

After family, there are friends. You know, some friends are as close to me as family.  Friends make me smile.  I’d like to take a moment to talk about people both online, that I’ve never met – and that I may not ever meet in person, and people I know in real life.

Don’t EVER think that “just” online friendships are worthless.  They mean so much.  No matter what, online relationships are very real.  I’ll talk about them first. Through online platforms, Twitter, Facebook and my daughters prayer and support page (also on Facebook) I’ve been able to connect with people all over the world. Literally.  All over the world.  That’s neat.  Just connecting with other people is important.  Creating friendships “across the airways” has been incredible.  There are people on my daughter’s page, for instance, that I value their friendship so much.  They have shown so much love and caring.  They take the time to let her know, and to let me and our entire family know that we are loved, and that they care how she is – and how we’re all doing.  It puts a smile on her face, and on mine to see people comment and just surround her with support and love.  There is no question in her little head that she is loved.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Real life friends.  I also know I couldn’t do life without them.  One very specific place I’m surrounded by friendship is at and through my church.  From the moment I walked in the doors the very first time these three years ago almost, I felt truly at home.  I walked in the front doors with lots on my mind, and weighing on me personally.  Like I have said previously, I am diagnosed bipolar.  I say that to just say this.  I was not at a great place, mostly mentally, when I first started going to my church.  However, I was welcomed with open arms, with no judgement, and regardless of what my story was.  That, my friends, was life changing.  Because of the welcoming atmosphere, I was able to connect – both with the people, and with God. Even at the beginning of this fight with childhood cancer and my daughter, I knew they were with me.  They freely admitted that no one at  the church had gone through this, but that they were going to walk with us through the process. They have done just that.  In short, they have been friends.  True friends. Through all that makes up life.

Speaking of connecting with friends,  I’ve mentioned how I’ve recently felt quite overwhelmed.  It’s almost as if all the emotions that come along with being bipolar and having a kid fight cancer – as if all the emotions of these two things have combined forces from years previous and come back to sneak up on me…saying, “here I am…deal with me now!”  It is during these times that I have learned the value of reaching out.  I haven’t always been one to reach out.  I’ve been one to hide, keep to myself, and not let anyone else in.  Why?  I don’t want people to know the “real” me for fear of what they’ll think when and if they find out what makes me tick.  I’m learning that if someone thinks negatively about me after knowing who I am, then fine – I didn’t really need them anyway.  That may seem harsh, but it’s true.  If someone can’t accept you for who you are, you can’t go and try and change yourself to fit the mold.  Doing that will just chip away at you, taking more and more of you with it each time.  Be you.  Be transparent and be authentic.  Doing so isn’t always easy.  It’s vulnerable.  But, it’s worth it.  Creating relationships based on reality is worth it every time.  Like I said, during the times where I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, I’ve learned the value in friendship.  In calling someone and just saying “I’m not okay” or “I’m hurting. Would you please pray with and/or for me?”  That’s hard to do.  But, it’s necessary.  At least, it is for me.  If you’re honest, you’d agree – you need to always have someone by your side that you can call on to just say that things aren’t going okay right now.

As such, it has become imperative for me to remember that it’s okay to not always be okay. I am a Christian.  Which is awesome.  However, accepting Christ into my life to lead the way doesn’t mean that suddenly life will be a bed of roses, with no troubles or struggles.  No, just the opposite.  It means you are human, but even so, God will give you strength to walk through whatever life throws your way.  I know this to be absolute fact.  It’s just that sometimes I don’t always keep my eyes on Him and Him alone.  Through the struggles, I see myself, and my own inadequacy. Of course I’m inadequate.  I wasn’t created to do life alone.  I wasn’t created to do life without Him.  I truly believe that God created us to be community people – to not walk through life alone.

I guess I needed to write all this for myself as much as for any of you who have taken the time to read.  I want you to know this.  You are not alone in this world.  You don’t have to be alone in anything you walk through.  Know that.  I want you to remember all these things I’ve needed to remind myself of.  No matter what your situation is, you are important, and your life has value.  Even when you can’t see it, look around you.  See the people you interact with, and that count on you.  You may not be able to see it, but your impact is great.  More people than you realize love and support you.  You may just need to allow them to do so.  I know people have constantly wanted to help me, and to just be a friend. It wasn’t until I was able to reach out and just be real – authentic – transparent, that I could see true and deep friendships.  I encourage you to do the same.  You are worth it.  Your story is important, and it is still being written.

If you have made it this far, know I’d love to hear from you and know what your story is all about.  If you are feeling alone, or just need a friend, feel free to reply in the comments or to connect through the “contact me” page.  Even if you are having a great day and just want to remind the world to smile, feel free to connect.  I also want to say that I value your thoughts and prayers.  Clearly this isn’t the easiest time in my life.  And that’s okay.  I’m not doing it alone thankfully.  Thank you to everyone who will take the time to pray.  It means so much.  Let me know how I can pray with and for you as well!

Bridging The Gap Of Faith And Reality

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To anyone reading this, I want you to know this is going to be a transparent look at the way I think. My reality is an interesting one, and I have had a lot of opportunities to examine just how I relate to God, and to what makes up the reality of life. The overall theme of this entire blog is where faith meets reality. I’d like to create a word picture and share my heart on how this looks in real life.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know two are true about me – I have been diagnosed (years ago) with bipolar disorder, and my daughter is fighting a rare and aggressive brain cancer that once was gone and has now returned, having returned and metastasized to multiple locations down her spine.

Alone, either of these things provide enough reason to question God, and ask a multitude of questions. Together, however, things can be unbearable at times. It’s what happens during these times that define how I see the world, and even how I react to the world around me.

Let me level with you. Things have not been easy lately, incredibly difficult at times even. How do I respond though? I recognize that the God I say I know and love truly is in control. I continuously strive to do things and live within His will – knowing it is the perfect place for anyone to be. The thing is this though. His will and my will are often not the same. They may differ only slightly, or there may be huge differences. The question I always have to look at is if I truly believe the things I say about Him. This is the place where the virtual rubber meets the road.

As for me, I make a conscious decision very regularly to remember these things I have come to know as the truth. I know that God is still good, that He is still in control (even when I’m not), and ultimately He IS in control.

Let’s talk about bipolar disorder for just a moment. That is a title, a label that describes why certain things are the way they are for some individuals. Things are difficult to imagine, unless this is something you have personally walked through in some capacity. I recently heard someone I love and respect say “these people” referring to people who deal with mental illness, bipolar disorder specifically. It was a negative connotation stemming from personal experience with someone who chooses not to take care of them self, and in so doing hurt innocent people who surround them. Being lumped in with “those people” initially bothered me. However, it also made me realize that there is something altogether different about the bipolar person who doesn’t care, and the one who does. That alone is one reason I choose to take care of myself, and to seek help when help is needed…and believe me, it IS needed more often than I’d like to admit. However, as such, it’s okay to not always be okay – it’s just what I CHOOSE to do, or to surround myself with, during these times that either breaks me down or builds me up.

This is the same concept that goes hand in hand with watching your own child fight aggressive cancer not once, but twice at this point. It hurts, and the emotions that go hand in hand with this are unimaginable. People often tell me they cannot imagine what we go and walk through just daily. That’s good. I don’t WANT people to have to understand.

Imagine being told that your child has cancer. That’s difficult, to say the least. Imagine, then, the joy that goes along with hearing that the cancer is gone – no evidence of the disease. Imagine the cancer being gone, and treatment being complete. There is unimaginable joy that goes along with these scenarios, let me tell you.

However, try to not understand the emotions that go along with hearing that the cancer is back, this time having spread. Add to that, that one part of treatment is aimed at curing the disease, while the follow on part of treatment is aimed at being more palliative in nature – helping her live with this as long as she can. That, my friend, it’s a hard thing to hear, hard facts to swallow.

Where does God and my faith come into play here? It all goes back to that moment where I either trust God, or I don’t. I recognize that, without a miracle that only can come through God’s hands, my daughter’s long term survival isn’t fully expected. It’s hoped for, but in medical eyes, Just not a realistic expectation. I know, without a doubt, that God can supernaturally heal her – with or without medical treatment.

I KNOW that He is able. However, for whatever reason, He doesn’t every single time. I’ve walked this road with other families who have children who have valiantly fought but completed their fight on this side of Heaven. They die before they’ve had a chance to really live life. Watching other families – ones filled with incredible faith and never-ending hope for healing (while on earth) for their child – is incredibly difficult. To know that God is in control, and that He has the capability to heal – but doesn’t always doesn’t make it any easier when He doesn’t. For whatever reason, God’s plan often doesn’t look the same as the plan we’d choose if given the option. No one would wish death from cancer on anyone, let alone an innocent child. However – the reality is that it does happen…and more often than anyone realizes.

The fact of the matter is that God IS still good, and He still loves me (and you) when it’s hard to see or to feel it. To realize that He is in control and that His plan is the best isn’t always easy, but it IS ALWAYS worth it.

I will not ever stop praying and hoping for total and complete healing for my daughter – and for all fighting cancer – until there is no longer a reason…until cancer is completely cured once and for all, or until she is in Heaven – – at which time I will forever seek that cure for others. I will never give up the faith that God IS in control, and my prayer will remain that this whole situation is in His hands and that His will is for her to live a full life, one completely free of any cancer or disease. That is, and will remain, the reality I hope and pray for for her…and all the others fighting this monster. Thank you for being alongside us on this fight.

If this post has spoken to you – for whatever reason – I’d like to know. If you just need a friend, or a listening ear, I’d be honored to play that part in your story. Please feel free to post below in comments, or to message me through the contact me form. It’d be an honor to connect.

Similarly, I am sincerely grateful to each and every person walking with us on this journey, even when it’s just plain difficult to walk. For all the kind words, and all the prayers, I’m forever grateful.