Tag Archives: miracles

Are You Aware? Let’s Talk About It!

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Many months, or many individual days come with awareness titles. Each day, or month respectively, seek to bring awareness to a cause. Something near and dear to someone’s heart. Well, this month – and specifically also this day is no different. Before I get to that, I would like to say something though. I almost wish I could go back to the brand of naivety where I simply didn’t know or understand these things. But, I can’t. And, my prayer is that, after reading this post, you won’t be able to either. I want you to be aware of these things, as nothing will change until we start to talk about them. No stigmas will be removed by remaining silent.

September is awareness month for multiple things. But, near and dear to my heart are two very intensely painful and “special” ones.

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First, September is childhood cancer awareness month. The month we bring awareness to something so rampant, and so widespread – but yet so many people think it is rare. Kids get cancer too. So many children, my daughter included, have fought and died as a result of this monster. So many children fighting this fight every single day. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer knows no race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  If you are interested in standing with us to raise awareness for all those who have, or who continue to battle this monster, we’d love it if you’d consider ordering a special t-shirt – created actually by my daughter and I while she was still alive, this side of Heaven.

Children need hope – especially those who have to fight for their lives in a battle with childhood cancer. What they need is awareness, funding, research, hope and a cure. It all starts with you being aware. No amount of awareness will bring my daughter back, but hopefully fundraising that provides research will provide the potential of new medications and therapies. My heart hurts, and it is my desire that no other parent know this kind of pain. The cold hard fact is this though – there have been no new childhood cancer protocols to save our babies lives in multiple decades. DECADES. the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute (NCI) plays a pivotal role in research, yet only approximately 4% percent of its annual budget is dedicated to childhood cancer. The result is that children are dying every day waiting for promising new treatments that lack funding. Our children deserve more than 4%.

There are multiple organizations (locally, and nationwide) where funds go directly to research and finding a cure. There are also several organizations that directly help the families with a child fighting cancer. If you need help finding a reputable place to make donations to, please ask – either here in comments, or via my contact me page. I’d be happy to help you find what makes sense for you – and will gladly share my own experience in those places who made a difference during our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside my daughter for the three years she fought.

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As we open our hearts, and fight for these little fighters all across the globe, we also need to open our hearts and fight for some other fighters. They don’t fight cancer – but, they fight other demons. You see, September is also suicide prevention and awareness month – with September 10th being Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day. This is a day where the entire world locks arms and stands together, fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide. It is this day and month, that we are more vocal. Talking about it. Giving a voice to those who feel they have none. I have personally been affected by suicide as well. I have lost people I love as a result of their taking their own lives, and have struggled with my own inability to see anything other than the intensely painful moments that just hurt. I have had suicidal thoughts, and I know that I was made for more than just the pain.

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If I were to take (or have taken) my own life when I couldn’t see beyond the pain, I wouldn’t be here to ask you to please stay. I’m here today, asking you to stay. Please stay to be surprised. Please stay for love – to love, and to BE loved. Please stay to know others, but to also be known. Please stay and know that you are loved – that your life matters, and that your life is a story – with chapters, yet to be written. Please don’t take a beautiful story away from those who need to hear it. You are not alone. Not now, not ever. I join my friends at To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) in asking you to stay, and find what you were made for.

So, on this day – and throughout this entire month, will you join me in talking about the topics hard to discuss? Will you reach out to anyone you might see that is hurting? Know that any small act of love, of compassion, of kindness – it might just save a life. If you see someone in pain – for whatever reason, be present. Care enough to not greet their pain with silence. You may not have the right words to say, and it’s alright.

If you are reading this right now, and find yourself feeling hopeless, please know that you are not alone. You don’t have to do this journey alone. Please reach out for help. You are worth it. Your story is worth it. The world needs you to be here. If you need help finding resources, feel free to post here in comments or contact me directly via my “contact me” page. Also, you can find helpful resources on TWLOHA’s page.

If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA.

I don’t have all the answers, and maybe that’s okay. I tell myself this often. I ask you to join me in raising awareness for these two causes this month. Let’s take it beyond just this month – and make it something we talk about regularly. It is only with open and honest communication that we even stand a chance at making a difference, and erasing the stigma(s) that keep us from talking about it – that same stigma that takes lives, and keeps people from seeking help. Let’s be the change our world needs. Let’s talk about it. Let’s do something. Let’s let love lead the way. Always, Remember The Love.

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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! 

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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The Brave Little Soul

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This little story was shared with me today, and I simply had to pass it along.  The thoughts are beautiful.  I dunno how it all happens up there in Heaven – but I’m absolutely honored to be the parent and caregiver of such a special little blessing.  It warms my heart to know God has enough faith in me to care for the family He has blessed me with!!

 

The Brave Little Soul

By: John Alessi
Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?” God paused for a moment and replied, “Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts.” The little soul was confused. “What do you mean,” he asked. God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.” The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this – it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer – to unlock this love – to create this miracle for the good of all humanity.”
Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With his wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied. “I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!” God smiled and said, “You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you”. God and the brave soul shared a smile, and then embraced.
In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.” Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his suffering and God’s strength, he unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys, some regained lost faith – many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.