Tag Archives: love

The Date That Would Alter Realities

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 This is the face of hope…of courage…of faith. This is my beautiful, then 4 year old daughter, Janet. Until this day, she had never had a hair cut in her life. Cancer treatment would take her hair away, and eventually her life. But, the smile you see here – it never really faded. She had a smile that could melt an iceberg.

This day in history. On some calendars, it is merely but a day. On mine, it will forever mark the day (four years ago today, if you’re reading this in 2017) – that our lives changed forever. It was this day, 2013, that our sweet little Janet was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That was the day that life as we knew it – it would never be the same. The normal we once knew, would never be heard from, or seen again.
 
From that day forward, however, we would also learn an indescribable love.
Yes, this journey would become not a sprint, but a marathon. A journey of epic proportions. A journey so painful, it is hard to breathe some days…but so full of love. It would be the beginning of our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside Janet. She was so very loved, and never alone — and knew both of these things to be truth.
 
With all the love in the world, it’s still a journey marked by intense pain and heartbreak. This day, 2013, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor…and three years later, she would breath her last breath this side of Heaven. Friends, I hate the fact that this is our reality. It shatters my heart, and I wish with everything I am that life wasn’t this way.
 
But, it is…and here we are. Continuing to breath, and continuing to have a heart that beats. I made some statements and promises to Janet just before she died. I told her that we were going to miss her like crazy, like there’s no tomorrow…and that it would hurt when she was gone, but that we would be okay, because we’d be together. I did tell her that we would ALWAYS #RememberTheLove. And, that is a promise I will never break.
 
For those of you following, and who share love and support – and also prayers, it is with heartfelt gratitude that I say thank you. Please, please don’t ever stop.

This Is What Compassion Looks Like In Real Time

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So, today is Resurrection Day. It’s Easter.  A day of hope rising, and of life. A day where hurting gives way to hope.

Today was good, and today was hard. Both. I find that’s a dichotomy I live with routinely.

I went to church, and I could not have predicted or in any way prepared for the rush and sheer flood of emotions that followed my just walking in the door. This is what grief does, folks. It just shows up, like the unwelcome guest that shows up unannounced to your celebration. 

It started with a hug from a precious little friend. I love her hugs. She was close to my daughter, and to our family. Her hugs are beautiful, and they’re magic. Then, I found out a beautifully touching moment from their lives this week. They had a little bunny that died. And, their mama shared with me about how my daughter now has her own little Easter bunny. It was an incredibly sweet moment for me. It showed love unlike many other things. But, yes, it also tugged at my heartstrings. Then I walked into the bathroom, and there were beautiful flowers. All I could think was that my daughter would have loved them. More tears.

A random assortment of hugs later, I went into the service – just as the beginning of the service, the songs were starting. As I walked to my seat, again with the emotions. Tears streaming down my face. Unstoppable emotion flowing freely from my eyes. I cried lots of tears. Sitting in front of me was a man with two beautiful girls. So sweet. I could see my daughter in the innocence and playful nature of the youngest. She was a sweet girl, full of smiles.

After a very good, and also challenging service, I exited the auditorium and walked around – just connecting with people. Lots of hugs, and so much love. Did it solve all the worlds problems, or my heartache? No. But, did it act as a balm to some open wounds? It did do that. I did leave in tears. It had been an emotional morning, to say the least.

As I started on my way towards getting lunch and heading home, I ran over the edge of the shoulder as I wiped away tears that were randomly escaping my eyes. At this exact moment, a police SUV going the opposite direction happened to be passing. Yep, you guessed it. It wasn’t long that the very same officer was in my lane, behind me, pulling me over. Cause that seems like a fun addition to Easter.

But, what happened next was unexpected. The officer walked up to my window, and told me why I had been pulled over. He asked if I was alright, and if I could explain what had happened. I shared with him my pain, the loss of my daughter, and the rush of emotions that have been present today. His response was one of compassion. He asked about her – how she died, how old she was, how long it has been, etc. He listened, and he cared. He could see my pain, but didn’t ignore it, or run from it.

I did receive a warning for my driving infraction, and I’m sincerely grateful for the grace that goes along with not actually getting a ticket. He inquired about my plans for the rest of the day. He asked if I was okay, but didn’t stop there. He asked the questions he was trained to ask – the hard questions. He asked if I was really okay, and if I had thoughts of hurting myself or of suicide. I explained that I’ve had those thoughts before, but that I think every human being alive would be hard pressed to say they never have. He not only made sure I was safe, but that I remembered (and no, I haven’t and won’t ever forget) I have two precious children waiting at home, and that need me. He reminded me that they (the police department) were there – just a phone call away if there ever was a need. His concern is only one reason that I stand by the fact that we live in a community I’m proud of – backed by a police force I’m sincerely grateful for.

While there is a lot of pain attached to any day (Easter, or otherwise) – there is also a great deal of compassion and love. It is those things alone that keep any version of hope alive.

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. 

Mental Illness Is Screaming – Church, Do You Hear Her? 

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Dear Church, 

I need you to listen. Right now. Please put on your listening ears and hear what I have to say. 

Mental health is important. 

Mental illness is real. It is no joke. You cannot simply pray it away. While prayer is powerful, and works tremendously – it is not always the kind of healing that’s needed. 

My best friend almost died today. She may not pull through. Her suicidal thoughts won the battle raging between her heart and head. You see, she has been diagnosed with mental illness, and lives this roller coaster every day. She felt she could no longer handle all the ups, downs, twists and turns. 

She is a person of deep rooted faith. 

But, even still, she is unwell. 

She often wonders if life will ever be okay again, let alone good. The pain cuts so deeply, into the very fabric of her being. Today, emotional lies convinced her that it was time to give up. She could hold on no longer. She was ashamed, angry, and wanted to die. 

How does this have anything to do with you? 

She is a faithful member of your church. You know her. You are placated by her feeble smile. 

She has come to you for help. 

You were all she knew she could trust. You did what you knew to do. You told her you would pray – and even offered to pray with her then and there. You even told her that God never gives people more than they can handle. This is the place, the exact instant, that she started distancing herself from a God who would “give” her all this. 

She takes medication to help fix a chemical imbalance. She feels like less than a person, and like she’s broken. 

She questions her faith,  and asks you for help. 

With compassion, you tell her how much Jesus loves her – that He died for her, and wants her to be healed of this sickness. You share that you believe medication isn’t always needed, that Jesus blood, and God’s healing power will meet her needs. 

But you weren’t 100% correct. 

God does love her, but He hasn’t healed her. She feels like a disappointment to this God you speak of. She knows she must be unworthy of His love because, after all, her faith isn’t good enough to get healed. She took your words to heart. And they broke her. She looked in the mirror and saw someone that even God couldn’t love. 

She called to tell you a final goodbye. Secretly, she hoped you’d talk her out of it. She wanted to be talked down, but felt this was impossible. You heard the pain in her voice, and her shaky voice as tears streamed down her face like a monsoon. You asked her to breathe, and to calm down. You told her that everything would be okay – that she can survive this moment. She took a few deep breaths, and calmed down temporarily. You were appeased. You prayed for her. She thanked you and, after a bit of small talk, ended the phone call. That may have been the last time you would hear her voice. 

You did great things. Truly. But, they were not enough. This may not be your fault, but things need to change. 

Instead of trying to placate her in matters you may not understand, please familiarize yourself with all mental health – including mental illness. Know warning signs. Take them seriously. 

You don’t have to have all the answers. 

If you don’t know how to handle her situation, take time to explain that to her. Tell her how much Jesus loves her, and tell her you do too. You can explain that you are unfamiliar with medications in her situation, but see to it that she isn’t led to feel ashamed for needing and taking them. Assure her that God loves her, exactly where she is. She is worthy of His love, and His grace is a free gift. Remind her that God can and does heal people, but it isn’t a strike on her character – or a lack of faith – if He doesn’t take her illness from her completely. Keep showing her love, and let her know you’re with her, care about her, and will sit with her in her pain. Offer to be there during the painfully brokenness. Mean it. 

But, there’s more. 

Tell her about resources outside of your church. Ask her if she’s willing to talk with a counselor or therapist. Remind her that there is no shame on needing help – that it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Loving her well includes pointing her towards help – even if that help is not inside the four walls of your church. Explain that mental health professionals are there, and can also be trusted. Remind her that you’re not turning your back on her, but rather adding layers of helping hands able to assist her. 

It’s okay that she needs help that you can’t adequately provide. 

You can still be a safe place, and talk to her when she needs. Give her heart a voice. But, in so doing, make sure psychological help or mental health resources are available. Point her on that direction while doing life alongside her.

Have you heard me? Did you listen? Please pray for her, and the multitude of others like her. Help her not walk through the journey of life alone. Learn how to see her through eyes of grace – while also pointing her to help. 

Church, you can change the world. 

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. 

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

When Missing My Baby Turns Into A Conversation On Faith, And Includes God Being Called An Asshole

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This piece appeared just moments ago on my daughters prayer and support (Facebook) page.

This post is going to be one of my birthday gifts to myself. I give myself the strength that surrounds not walking alone – the strength of community. So, I can guess this will probably be a bit long. (What’s new, right!?)  But, today is my birthday (the 24th of August) and this will be an attempt to be real, but also infuse joy. 
Wow. So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to post. For a chunk of the time, I was sick. But, the rest is the time I was a combination of brokenhearted and simply trying to survive. I know each of you understand, to a degree, that this is the most crazy difficult thing I’ve ever walked through. Excruciating may begin to describe it. 
This last month or so, I’ve been hurting, but also finding myself again. I’m not going to lie – it’s been tough. Watching her take her final breath here on earth was so hard, but it’s the living without her physically here that’s killing me. 😢 
Yes, the good thing is that she had an incrediblly beautiful and special seven years of a life, well lived. She truly leaves a legacy of love – surrounded by incredible joy – hugs and smiles. #RememberTheLove 
I shared so many photo collages because they are beautiful. She is beautiful. These are a small fraction of the memories I fondly remember. In time, I will share more. Many more. 
She may not be here in the flesh, but she is EVERYWHERE. I see her at every turn. As we do things as a family, or I do things she and I used to do – I pause, remembering fondly, those things — but also with a shattered heart, because no parent should have to utter the words “she would have liked this… we had so much fun, etc.” Past tense. That just sucks. No real better way to explain it. 
Oh, I have to say something while it’s on my heart and mind. Let me put a theory to rest. Some people feel like they shouldn’t talk about Janet, reminisce about her life, even talk about her death, or share the thoughts, curiosities, etc with me.  THIS COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  PLEASE don’t EVER stop. I may be sad, bit you talking about my baby didn’t make me that way. Her dying wins that trophy. So, please – if you’re sad and miss her, tell me. I’d you are curious how tall she’d be, or how she’d be doing in school, share that with me. If you want too smile and laugh, remembering beautiful moments, do that with me too. I guess all I’m saying is that anything related to my daughter – don’t EVER hesitate to bring up. 
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a “me finding” journey. This also includes my faith. If you’ve followed me, or this page for any length of time, then you know that my faith has been my rock – a source of strength when it seems The World is falling apart. Well, that hasn’t changed. It’s more like its evolved. 
About me faith, I found I had the need to own my faith – for it to be able to stand on its own two feet. I knew my faith, and what I believed – but if asked why on certain topics, I realized I had no idea. Why did I believe the way I did? Your guess was as good as mine. When I realized this, I decided this needed to change. So, I’ve been digging deeper, and seeking answers. No longer am I able to follow faith blindly. 
While this is all going on, I’ve been evaluating my feelings and thoughts on faith in general, but also specifically on God. I’m not going to lie here either. There are days I’d kinda rather punch Him in the face. I’ve seen Him as an asshole at times too. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still good. He’s still in control. He’s truly a good, good Father – even when it doesn’t feel like it. See, the “I don’t like God thing” is a personal thing. It happens when I feel like His inaction spoke more volumes than His action did. NO, I do NOT think God GAVE her cancer, or couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger as she fought and then died – but He didn’t. 
What I want you to hear is that I still had the faith I always did, but parts have evolved. Other parts I’m human enough to say I feel were flawed theology. I’m also transparent enough to say I don’t always like God, I do question Him, BUT THAT’S OKAY.  I’ve learned that it’s vital that I FEEL these things. I have to feel them before I can move past them, or whatever the situation dictates. See, I often feel like I disappoint God. However, this is false. This happens when we try to attach human emotions to a God that isn’t human. 
Thankfully, His love for each and every one of us is never ending, and unfailing. 
So, as you can see, I’ve been talking since combination of baby steps mixed with leaps and jumps towards finding myself again, and establishing who I am as a wife, mom, friend, and Christ follower. It’s kinda like a roller coaster. So many ups, downs, twists, turns, hands up in the air screaming – but with hint of joy etched on most faces – or perhaps hidden a little deeper. 
Right now, I hurt but I love. I cry but I smile. My heart is shattered, but the fractured and broken places are where healing is happening, and more light can shine through. I fall, but I pick myself back up – often with the help of friends. I miss my baby girl, but I had 7 incredible years with her here by my side. I often don’t know who I am, or where to turn – but my God doesn’t need a roadmap to find me. Janet us physically gone, but she is everywhere. 
Dear goodness, apologies on the length this has become! I just miss you guys so much. I won’t guarantee that I’ll post every day or any of that, but I will tell you that I’m happy that I feel strong enough to BE back. Thank you for loving Janet, me  and our whole family. For better or worse, we’re figuring out how to do life in the midst of great pain. 
So, for those of you still reading, thank you. Sincerely, my heart has so much gratitude. Please and thank you in advance for continued love, support and prayer. I’m beyond grateful. 

Have You Been To A Concert That Rescues And Saves Lives? 

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This is a picture taken at a concert that began with “For His Glory” (which is more than just a band, and then followed by “The Great Romance” – who already held a very special place in my heart.

Have you ever been to a music concert that saves lives and rescues people? I have. Two nights ago. 

I had an opportunity that had my stomach in knots. A concert. No big deal,  right?!  In my case, not right. Let me explain… 

My daughter passed away in February after a three year battle with brain cancer. During the first year of her fight – on a cool and crisp sunny October afternoon, Matt Vollmar (Lead singer of The Great Romance -TGR) came to visit Janet during one of her many inpatient stays at the hospital. He sang an incredibly meaningful song, Bigger Than The Odds. The song speaks of A God, who is bigger than the odds. Janet fell in love with that song, the artist who sang it, and the band that plays it. She’d take much pride in requesting and hearing it played on the radio. Every time TGR was in concert anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we made it a point to be there. It would be an understatement to say they meant a ton to us. 

Case in point, Matt Vollmar was one of a small handful personally asked to sing at Janet’s Celebration of Life (funeral) service. He sang an couple of her favorite songs, fitting for the occasion. 

This concert was the first concert I’d been to since she passed away. If you knew much about me, you’d know I’ve been to several concerts in recent years – at least 95+% of them, with my daughter in attendance. She loved music. Music has such a message, and even as a young kid, she “got” it. 

I had virtually no idea how hard, yet how impactful this concert would become. 

If you look closely, these are several of the pictures from the set where these guys/gals played/sang.

I walked in as the first group, For His Glory, was being introduced, and began to share about a cause that they support – a cause near and dear to their hearts. They seek to offer hope, healing, and practical help to people and ministries worldwide. In this instance, they spoke passionately about human trafficking, and connecting them with true and lasting, sustainable hope. The kind of hope that rebuilds lives, and communities. They have a global market, where they sell goods made by these rescued girls, to help them continue with sustainable income. I saw some of these beautiful items – baby bibs, any weather scarves, winter scarves, greeting cards, wooden sculptures, jewelry, etc. Incredible talent. 

Their mission is one near and dear to my heart as well. I was astounded to hear their heart and words in support of this cause. 

As they played, their songs spoke to my heart. I listened, and I cried. It simply couldn’t be helped. They were beautiful tears – not marked with sadness. They were my heart connecting with what felt like the very heart of God. I knew, in those moments, that I had to connect with these people. That is an indoor process at the moment, but their mission is also my mission. I’ll look forward to updating again as friendships form, and differences are made in our world. 

At the completion of their set, it was time for The Great Romance to take the stage. I didn’t know what to expect, emotion wise, but I didn’t have the slightest clue the difficulty level either. 

Look closely. These are some of several shots taken during this concert.

Their first song was a light hearted (one of a few) favorite of Janet’s. I had tears, but I was okay. The next song grabbed my heart, and was one Janet loved, got the meaning of, and was also sang at her Celebration of Life. Disappear. The basis of this song is asking “if I were to disappear, would there be footprints on the floor” – asking if the person wasn’t there any longer, would they leave a footprint on this world – a legacy of something more. At seven years old, my daughter knew she was doing, but she KNEW she would leave a legacy of love. She was and still is right. So yes, that song got me. A few other songs hit a spot, but nothing came close to the deluge of emotions that poured out of my eyes in the form of tears. I lost it. Not on a horrible way, but the tears freely streamed down my face, giant and very real crocodile tears. They were healing while heartbreaking, simultaneously. I was just enveloped with God’s love, but sported a shattered heart – knowing how much that song meant to Janet, and wishing I could watch her beautiful bald self, dancing to it time and time again. It hurts to not have her here – but my God – I wouldn’t trade having such beautiful and love filled memories of a life – seven years of a life – well lived. 
My daughter truly LOVED more in her seven years, than many will live in an entire lifetime – one that spans into adulthood, and old age. She was robbed of so much, but it NEVER put a damper on her smile. When I grow up, I wanna be just like her! Ha! 

To everyone who continues to connect with Janet’s story, and our ongoing journey, I want to thank you for the continued thoughts and prayers. Please and thank you for them continuing! 

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! 

The Letter I Wish She Could Read

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To anyone who may read this – this is going to be a letter I write to my 7 heart old daughter Janet. She passed away three day before Valentine’s Day, 2016, after a three year fight with brain cancer.  I have no idea how long this will be, but I have so much on my mind. You don’t have to read it – but do please feel free. I am not going to edit or even change grammar or spelling errors because, frankly, I don’t want to. I’m writing on/from my cell phone, and so God knows (and so do several of you) that I’m probably going to say any number of things that might not compute! I love you all. Thank you for being here. And for all you love, support, thoughts and prayers! 
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Oh, precious Janet! I love you so much, sweet girl. I will always and forever #RememberTheLove. Like I told you before you took your final breath this side of Heaven, we do miss you like crazy – like there’s no tomorrow! But, just like I followed that up with this then, I will now say that we are okay. The reason we’re okay is because we have each other. We still have you here with us, just only in our hearts. 
I’m not going to lie – sweetheart. This has been the hardest I’ve ever felt. Some days are so much harder than others. You know what I’m learning? That’s just the way it is. I do know this, though. If you were able to, you’d give me a gigantic squeezy hug. You did those the best. You’d tell me it’s okay, and you’d wipe away my tears. I know this. Sorry. I’m just missing you. 
I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, life, and even God. I think you’d be proud. I hope so, at least. God knows I’m also not perfect. But I know you’d remind me how much you love me and no matter what, that wouldn’t change. I said that to you all the time – and you picked up on or, and knew when to say it to me. 
I’m so so sorry we couldn’t do more to save you. I know it’s not my fault. But I still wish. So much. I just feel so broken. My heart hurts so much sometimes. I hate this pain, and how much it hurts. But them I remember that it hurts so bad because we shared so much love. The love you shared with me will forever be in my heart. 
I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I know how much music meant to you. It makes me smile. 
Guess what else? If you were sitting beside me, I know we’d talk about this. I’m learning a lot right now, especially about God, and my faith. Also about love, and compassion – and this messy thing called messy grace. I learned so much about this thing called messy grace at an incredible place – a blog written by my friend Steve. There is also a really neat messy grace community Facebook group that are just a bunch of people that love people just where they are. That helped me too! They just love people really well, and they share so much of this messy grace with everyone. I mean it, Janet. EVERYONE! I bet that would make you giggle. Just all this talk about messy grace! Hehe. 
I wanna tell you a little bit about the things I’ve been thinking about and realizing. I’ve been telling Jeremy and James this, so I’d tell you too. 
I’m starting to see just how much God loves us. I’m finding out a lot about my own faith in God. I know, you’d smack my hand if I told you I wanted to punch God in the face some days. I’m not doing to lie, baby. It makes me so mad at Him sometimes because you weren’t healed here on Earth. But, I’m so so so happy that you got to meet Jesus. I know that even just hours before you took that last breath, you smiled because you knew it was almost time. 
Anyway, I’ve decided to live my life in a little bit different of a way. I’ve decided it’s time to own my faith. What that means I’d I know what things I believe, but I just realized I didn’t always know why. Do you understand? I know you do. I don’t want to have what’s called blind faith. I just mean that – you know, when a person is blind, they can’t see. Well, I don’t want to believe things with my eyes closed. I want to believe them for myself – not because someone else tells me to. It’s more important than that. 
One of the biggest things that my heart needs, and wants other people to understand, is love. Love can move mountains. I bet that would make you laugh – silly mommy. But live is such a big thing. I know you knew that though. 
The world we live in right now needs so much more love. One thing going on right now is so many people aren’t showing people love very well. I know, you would ask why, and it would make you sad. Baby, it makes me sad too. 
One thing going on is the LGBTQ+ community. I know, those letters sounds silly. What those letters are talking about are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus is for all the other things in between. Lesbians are when girls like or love and want to marry other girls. Being gay is like the same thing, but with boys who like other boys. Bisexual is when a boy likes boys and girls, and also if girls like girls or boys. Transgender people are people who feel like they were born in the wrong body. They might be a person who was born with boy parts, but has always felt like that was a mistake. And even sometimes girls are born with a vagina, but they always feel like they were supposed to be a boy. Queer is kind of hard to explain. Not really, I don’t guess. It just means anything but straight. Straight people are when a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man. But, when a person is queer, they can like it love anyone. The Q also can stand for questioning. For a lot of people, there is a time when they start to question and explore who they think are nice and that they might want to get to know better and maybe love. 
This community is in the news a lot lately. It makes me sad, and I know it would make you sad too. One thing that makes me sad is that people don’t treat people very nicely. I think you’d be super proud to help me with this next thing. I know how much loving people means to you. You would want to help me love people well. ALL people. 
See, you know we go to church. I have figured something out, sweetheart. Not our church, but so many different churches aren’t doing very well in how they love people. I know, you probably can’t understand that! It’s crazy! Cause, God wants us to love every single person – even if they look different, or live different, or if they marry differently. But so many people don’t love people like that. They only love the people they understand. It makes me sad about this LGBTQ+ community because they are very special too. The Bible does talk about homosexuality (that is when two people who are either both boys or both girls love each other and want to be a family) and says in some places that it’s wrong. A lot of churches even tell them that they can’t be a Christian because of the way that they love people. 
I’m going to tell you this. I don’t really believe that’s true. I know there are a lot of people who may not like that I say that. And they may not believe it. Some may even get mad. But, I think they can come to Jesus and all Him (like you did) to come into their heart and be a part of their life. What happens after that is between that person and God. I’m not God. (I know! That’s funny for me to say!) But, I’m not Him and I can’t really tell you how He will act or react. But what I do think is that He will love them very well. You know how I feel about God, and when people want to know Him more. He welcomes people right where they are. That is what I think. 
I want to help people, all people, even in the church to love all people well — not just the people that they agree with. See, I’ve told you this so many times. As people who love Jesus, (we call them Christians or Christ followers) we are asked (by God Himself) to be like the hands and feet of Jesus. Kind of like if Jesus was here, we should act how He acted. Even to people we don’t think deserve love. When Jesus was alive as a person on the earth, He would be deleted with so many people. He loved people well. He would even hang out with really sick people, people who would break the law, and even really mean people. Just like I told you a lot, Christians need to act like Jesus because sometimes we’ll be the only Jesus they might ever see. We need to act like him, and treat people like He would. It makes me so happy when people really do that. 
So, I just think everyone, even and especially Christ followers, need to be known by how we love people, not by all the things don’t like. It’s all about the love, and I hope so many more people can start to #RememberTheLove. With ALL people. 
Janet, I love you more than The World – to the moon and back. Your Daddy, James and Jeremy also miss you so much. We all do. People we’ve never even met love and miss you! Oh, and I was looking at some special notes that your friends from school wrote to you when you were here, and even some notes from every single kid in the first grade work you. That miss you so much too! Evie. I know how much you loved her. I do too. Her whole family is just amazing. Every time I see Evie, I get a great big squeezy hug. She always tells me how much she loves you, and misses you. Do you know how happy that makes me? I’m so happy she likes to give me hugs. Oh, did you know, she cut off her pretty long hair so she could donate her hair to another little person like you were. I know why both of you got along so well. I hope that we can stay friends with her whole family, forever. Me and Jeremy got to go with her to get her hair cut. I will share pictures here after I make sure her mommy doesn’t care. 

You always knew how much you were loved though. So these special people like here in your page (who I love so so much too) also pray for our family all the time. I know I’d make it somehow, but you being in Heaven is even bearable because of all these friends and all the people who love us, and who pray for us. I know that makes you happy too!
I guess I will stop writing now. I want you to know how much I love you, and I always will. I miss you, baby – but I’m smiling now. I’m so happy that even though you were here with us on earth for only seven years, I’m so proud to be your mommy. You James and Jeremy make me so happy. I’m smiling right now because I remember so many really happy and special times. I love you! Forever!