Tag Archives: support

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.

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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!

With Childlike Faith – Fighting Childhood Cancer

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My daughter has such heart. She has a joy and just the positive spirit that she takes with her everywhere! This little girl has a smile that will light up any room. Her no-nonsense and innocent look at life is heartwarming beyond words. Children, especially those fighting big battles, just have a different perspective than anyone else alive does.

With all this said, I’d like to fill you in on some of the details of our recent history.

As you may have heard by now, our little Janet’s cancer is back, and things don’t look good in a lot of areas. First, I am going to share all that with you – then I am going to tell you were we stand on everything about to be mentioned.

We all knew that it was a possibility that her cancer could one day come back. No one, and I mean no one thought it would so soon. Dealing with a recurrent / metastatic cancer is not good. Learning that she will endure cranio spinal radiation for over a month (every weekday) is also not fun. The follow on treatment will be an outpatient chemo therapy regimen.

Let me explain her treatment plan. For four and a half weeks, Janet will undergo radiation therapy. This time, there will be mostly proton beam radiation, with “normal” radiation a few times. There are said to be normally more side effects with this because a different type of radiation, as well as a larger part of her being treated. The goal of hre radiation is to shrink and make disappear the tumors… also to preferably kill their opportunity to every even possibly return.

After radiation, the protocol is that she will go through an outpatient chemo therapy regimen. This will include daily (Monday through Friday) outpatient chemo. One week. Then, she’ll have approximately 2-3 weeks off, and then do the same thing again. Aside from that, every two weeks, she’ll have a one hour outpatient chemo administered – separate from the others. As I have learned, this chemo therapy regimen is more aimed as being palliative support, or a quality of life kind of thing – as versus curative.

If you’re like 99.99% of everyone else reading this, you may be wondering about alternative protocols or treatment options. You may have suggestions on where else we can seek treatment on behalf of our little Janet. I want you to know, we have gotten multiple second opinions – from the nations leading hospitals and have involved the nation (I’d say even the world’s) top medical minds in this situation, and in her care – simply because her tumor / cancer IS one of a kind. Nothing like it exists in the world. I spoke with another hospital again today, and heard the exact same news as all others have said – St. Louis Children’s Hospital has her with a protocol they’re comfortable with, would recommend themselves, and has state of the art equipment. There are other alternative therapies that we are also looking into, just to ensure we do all that we can to help our little princess do her best.

The entire point I am making is that we have faith and confidence in Janet’s medical team here at Children’s. Never did we doubt them. We sought second opinions just to ensure everyone was on the same page. We do NOT like the page everyone is on, but there is a certain amount of peace knowing that the medical minds agree – as to both what we’re looking at, as well as treatment options, etc.

Now, with all that said, I want you to know that we have not given up – and we will not EVER give up. In fact, we KNOW without even the shadow of a doubt that our God is greater than ANY cancer, any tumor, or any issue Janet faces. Regardless of what the situation looks like, we KNOW that God IS in control. His hands are clearly seen in just about every aspect of this journey. That’s not to say that Him being in control makes it any easier to deal with — but it does make it easier to walk through. We don’t LIKE the situation Janet is in right now, but we do trust God 100% with her situation, and her very life. All of our lives. Her life, and her battle with cancer is part of a bigger story – one bigger than her, than us, or than anyone can imagine. I have that faith. What exactly that means, I do not know. However, I do know that I am grateful to have the strength that comes from the living God we trust. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I refuse to allow the fear (like I’ve said before) to rob and steal the joy from today.

For those of you inclined to pray, know that your thoughts and prayers are valued.

Support And Love In The Midst Of Uncertainty

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Support and Love. These are two things I’ve always known about, and always “preached” about helping others out with in whatever times of need they have. Not until what we have going on medically with my daughter did I have the occasion to feel this side (the receiving end) of said love and support.

If you know someone who is going through something you consider to be unimaginable, please reach out in love. What you don’t realize is that it will likely mean the world. I can speak from experience on this topic.

As we are walking down this road we don’t want to be on, awaiting a definitive diagnosis on what may be going on with my daughter, I thank God for His hand in this entire situation. It is evident in so many ways. My gratitude is for the people God has in my life, and for the friendships and relationships that are being cultivated, even in the midst of everything going on. God’s love, and His heart is surrounding my family. My faith and strength from God through all this literally sustains me.

There are moments, and there are times that I wonder where the strength to keep going will come from. It is during those moments where God’s presence becomes so real to me. It isn’t because of anything I’ve done, but rather because He has me surrounded by people who care. I’m learning that I’m not in this – any of this thing called life – alone. Instead, I’m surrounded by much love and support. Like I have said many times before, it’s okay to not always be okay. It’s okay to need help, and it’s okay to reach out. I step out of my comfort zone when I do, but I’m grateful that God has given me the gift of friendship and relationship.

With regards to what all is going on, several people have asked if there is anything new, or if there is any specific way to pray. Right now, we are still waiting on a definitive answer. What we know is that my four year old daughter had a high grade polyphenotypic brain tumor. She had surgery two weeks ago, and both the pathology as well as genetic results are still not giving a full and complete answer. They are leaning towards either medulloblastoma or anaplastic ependymoma. The problem is, is that her results don’t fit either one specifically. It has been said that her situation medically has presented like this before, but rarely. So, samples have been sent for additional specialist consultation, and we should have those results soon. What we know is that we are essentially looking at our worst case scenario, but with some sort of rare twist. She will be starting chemo and radiation within the next two weeks or so.

As bad as all that sounds, I want you to know a couple of things. First, we are standing in faith for her complete healing and full recovery. That said, we realize that healing comes in many forms. All of that in mind, the one thing I want to stress is that no matter what the situation, and how dire it may look at times, God is still God, and He is still Good. With that, He IS in control. I don’t always understand why, or like what is going on, but my daughter is in His hands. It is out of my control…but the beauty of it not being in my control is that it IS in His capable hands.

Thanks for your continued love and support. It’s an honor to do life alongside all of you.

Faith In The Struggle

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Your faith will be illuminated, especially in the midst of a struggle. No matter what the situation – good or bad, whatever faith you propose to have — it is that faith that people will see. How you respond in the struggle will be a true test of what level of faith and trust you have in the Maker of all of creation.

My life recently has been turned upside down. I am struggling in a way that I don’t even always understand. As I find myself walking down this new path that I certainly didn’t ask for, I do find my faith being strengthened. I don’t understand what all is happening, but I love a God larger than life. Regardless of the struggle, He is faithful. He is good, and that is never changing.

Does that mean I like where I am, or what’s going on? Not at all. Am I grateful that God is able to use even this for a greater purpose? Yes, that I can answer yes to.

What is my struggle, you may be wondering? Let me share…

We found out two weeks ago today that my four year old daughter had a brain tumor. Talk about unexpected. There was the thought that she had a viral illness, and nothing more. Certainly not this. She underwent surgery to remove it a week and a half ago. The surgery was successful, and it appears that they got it all. That is the really good news. The fact that it’s aggressive and rapidly spreading – not so much. So, even though they got it all, it’s quite likely that she’ll have to go through chemo and/or radiation as well.

I wrote the following few thoughts four days after she was admitted at the hospital:

It’s really a hard thing sometimes – maintaining faith in the middle of some unimaginable emotions and situations. I have faith in a God larger than life. He created my little girl, and He knows her – from the inside out. He knows exactly what she needs, and how to take care of her. No matter what she (or any of us) goes through, He gets it. His love for her is strong, and never failing.

I know I sound like I’m preaching – and I guess to a point, I am. My thought pattern is this – regardless of what’s going on in that little body of hers, God is still in control. I don’t have to understand or even like what’s going on, but He is definitely in control. He is holding her safely in the palm of His hand.

My faith is strong, and I pray will remain unshaken. I hope that I can continue to see this through the lens of faith, and perspective of His amazing love.

Faith in the struggle. Struggle allows you too realize that things don’t always go as planned. In the midst of a struggle, though, it is okay for things to not always be okay. The key when things aren’t going as planned is to just know with certainty that God’s got this… Yes, even this.

As you can imagine, things are very tough right now. It’s odd, because it’s almost as if my heart is simultaneously broken and filled with hope, all in one. What I can say is this though. God is still good, and that fact remains. Please know how much we value your friendship, support, encouragement and especially – your prayers. Grateful beyond words.

365 Moments Of Gratitude – Thankful Today For Community And Love

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Today’s post is a going to be a little bit different. Today I am grateful for something I talk about often – love. More specifically, love that is evident by watching people band together in support of something more than themselves.

Today, I had just such an opportunity to watch an outpouring of love. A funeral. A friend’s mother passed away, and today was the visitation and funeral service. The love shown was all around, but referring to the love shown for the family. There were several people who showed up to simply show their support for the family and let them know how very loved they are. It just struck me as beautiful to watch a community rally around people in their time of mourning. No one wants to go through a death in the family, and even moreso, no one wants to go through such heartbreak alone. It was heartwarming just to watch and know our friend was not alone.

Many times, people will not step out of their comfort zone to support another person – but on this day, it was honored to watch a bunch of people recklessly loving others. Thanking God for community and for His love being shared in such real ways.

365 Moments Of Gratitude – Thankful For Social Media

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Social Media is a powerful tool, and can be leveraged to build up, or to tear down. I am grateful right now for social media because God is able, through it to foster friendships and cultivates relationships in places otherwise unlikely.

I just sit here right now, grateful. I am able to chat with a friend in a different continent, clear across the ocean – all courtesy of social media. Many relationships can be torn apart, or strengthened by resources online. I choose social media to be a platform to spread love, to reach out, and to connect with people globally.

When I see someone hurting – whether I know them or not – I do not hesitate to reach out and let them know they matter, and that they are loved. Likewise, I have had much encouragement, support friendship and prayers courtesy of the internet.

Social media isn’t evil. It’s all in how you use it. Use it as a tool to strengthen others, to share love, hope and grace. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. It really is that simple.

So yes, I am grateful today for social media – and the relationships, friendships, support, encouragement and prayers that happen as a result.