Two weeks ago my daughter’s boyfriend bought her a Kate Spade wallet in NYC. We had wandered around touching all the pretty things, basking in the happy glow that surrounds Kate Spade stores. I had texted my friend Tracy a picture of the flagship store in NYC because I knew of her passion for bows and all things Kate.
Although Kate had sold her brand to Neiman Marcus in 2006 (the brand has had several owners since) and was currently working on building other brands, she remained the iconic founder and figure behind the beloved brand.
I read just today that the last marketing campaign launched by the Kate Spade brand before her death was called “Where’s Kate?” All videos have been pulled from the internet for obvious reasons, but the eerieness of it remains. Apparently it included an actress portraying Kate herself trying to be found by a detective.
Let that sink in.
The questions that we have all been collectively asking since Tuesday when we learned that she hung herself with a red scarf in her gorgeous NYC apartment are all a form of:
Where was Kate, really?
Where were her friends?
Where were the meds?
And we ask WHY:
Why didn’t she call someone?
Why didn’t we know about her private struggle?
Why didn’t someone see signs?
A couple of days later we found ourselves asking the same questions about Anthony Bourdine.
The real question we need to be asking is:
Why don’t we talk about mental illness like we talk about cancer, diabetes and heart disease?
And also, we might want to refer to the fact that there are some questions that will never ever be answered in this lifetime.
I am familiar with the wrong questions. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 29 I got doozies like these: “Were you a heavy smoker?” “Do you have a history of cancer in your family?” “Didn’t you FEEL something or have symptoms before that grapefruit-sized tumor was removed?”
No. No. No.
Rumors flew as far as Texas that the cancer had moved to my brain, that I was dying and would leave my daughter orphaned.
People will talk. And they will scrutinize. Especially when things are hard to believe and come seemingly out of nowhere. It’s how we distance ourselves. It’s how we swallow the belief that “it could never happen to me or someone I love.” So we stand at a distance and calculate the many clues to its happening and the ways OTHERS could have prevented it.
I’m not sure what we’ve done with the disease of mental illness. We all seem to have a retrospective opinion when the monster called depression takes one of our own: Robin Williams, Kate Spade, a friend’s son. We want answers to impossible questions. We want a finger to point. We want an explanation, a reason. A way that we could have prevented it, single-handedly and collectively.
It has got to be excruciatingly painful for those close to Kate and anyone who has been lost to suicide and depression. The way we want to make sense of it. The way we flounder with our questions and our near accusations. How we put hotlines and solutions up online. As if we can solve this.
Don’t you think they are asking all the same questions?
I’m not implying we don’t offer help and resources and medications and ALL the things. Not just during a storm of awareness that celebrity deaths bring. But maybe these spotlight cases of what happens daily can bring us together to mourn a little bit together. Can we hold out a hand?
Cancer is a disease too and it has very few rules that it follows. Just today I ran into an old friend at lunch who is one of the lead cancer researchers in the world. She spends every day all day trying to figure this thing out.
I have know women who were diagnosed on Friday and died on the following Tuesday. Or those with cancer who sought all the treatments: the chemo, the homeopathic ways, yoga, wheatgrass, the clinical trials. And still they lost the earthly battle. Sometimes after years of public battles, but often in silent, steady ways that even those closest to them never knew. I used to hear from these women at the ministry I co-founded. I became the “stranger on the airplane,” the ones women struggling with cancer could trust with all their insecurities. They would share the fears that would never be uttered to their spouses or children.
They suffered in literal silence while every resource surrounded them.
I had fought a similar, silent, deadly monster. And I know it could return. It’s a precarious place to live.
Monsters like cancer and mental illness can strike silent and deadly at any time. It’s time we call it what it is: a disease. Dis ease. Lack of ease. There is no easy treatment, cure, answer, prevention.
Can we do things that help? Yes.
Do we have guarantees that it will not kill us? No.
If someone with epilepsy has a seizure and loses consciousness in a matter of minutes then couldn’t it also be true that suicidal episodes are like this? One moment the person is on the phone or laughing, and the next they are gone, eaten by the disease, with no clues at all?
Can we call mental illness what it is? A monster. A liar. Capable of eating up perfectly good (and especially perfectly creative, brilliant, artistant, high-achieving people?)
Can we get mad enough at the DISEASE
Can we have enough dis-ease about this to stop pointing fingers at family members who “must have known” and coworkers “should have said something.”
Because I believe that when those close to the ones we have lost say there was “ no indication in the last few days,” they mean it.
Just like there was no indication that an ovarian tumor the size of a grapefruit was growing on my left ovary.
And don’t think I don’t live in a place where I know it can come back again. It came silently once before. Today, if you didn’t know about that time in my life, you might wonder why a tear streaks down my cheek in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. It’s a routine visit, after all, and needles are only used to draw blood to test my hormone and cholesterol levels. My reaction might make you think that I have too much anxiety. I am being ridiculous. I am overreacting.
You would be wrong. I am reacting to my truth and my pain and my history and my present fears.I know a teeny-tiny bit about how it feels to have history with a disease that threatens to define me. But my scars don’t show on the outside. I can hide them and wear the painful truth on the inside. I can cover it all with clothing and makeup and a smile.
I want to remember what it felt like to be offered platitudes, explanations, theories, and even cold-hard facts during my own season of intense pain.
So I feebly try to do the thing that my best friend did during my horrible bout with cancer.
She didn’t have cancer and she didn’t understand, but she grabbed my hand and she squeezed it hard.
She picked me up in her car and drove me to get my favorite meal. She looked me straight in the eye and didn’t look away or try to manufacture words. She showed me the ministry of presence.
And her presence was the one thing I desperately needed in the midst of the strongest identity crisis and most intense pain of my life.
And so I offer here the ministry of my presence. Maybe we can sit and you could tell me some of the battles, of the loss, the fear, and the stories that have injured you and that make up the patchwork of your life. And maybe I could tell you mine.
You will not try to pick up and walk in my cancer shoes, and I would not try to put on yours.
Dear friend with depressive episodes or anxiety that claws at your life,
I don’t know what darkness you have faced as a little girl or just yesterday. What black hole you felt down deep inside with no way out. But I do know that that pain floods like a dam that has been broken when given the right set of circumstances.
So I quietly acknowledge these recent losses are rightfully painful for you even more so than for me. And I kneel with you and cry at the wreckage.
Of course I want you to know we are here, that someone is always there. And that hotlines exist. I’ll post resources below because they are real with real people and real love behind them.
I offer no words~ only my hand.
I love you. I will not stop showing up, reaching out a hand, telling you over and over that you are loved. I will look straight into the monster’s eyes, sitting next to you. It’s all I know to do.
1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
P. S. and Resources:
If you are in the dark right now, you can call someone for help: HOTLINE: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255)
I reached out to a dear friend who I know has had a long battle with depression and bipolor disease. I wanted to better understand.
Here is what she shared with me when I asked what this disease feels like, and what I as a friend can DO for her. (Maybe ask someone in your life?)
“Depression is a chronic and sometimes debilitating dis-ease. We live afraid of ourselves, just like your fear of cancer returning. A depressed person can be okay and then not okay. Suddenly. Without warning. Often others don’t see it coming because WE don’t see it coming. Suicidal ideations are an unpredictable and ravenous beast. And even the meds aren’t always armor enough. In the darkness we will not believe your words. We feel utterly, terrifyingly alone. The people I do get brave enough to reach out to when I think I might be in danger are the people who are here all the time. The people who ask all the time. The people who listen all the time. Who know how to hear the subtle spiraling in my words or my slow isolation or mention of too many naps. And sadly, on the worst days, my brain might even forget them. It won’t always be enough. No matter how much you love us. But love anyway. Risk anyway. On the chance that it will be enough.”
Things you can DO for someone in your life with depression:
Pray with and for her. Plant scripture and truth about who she is.
Buy your friend suffering from depression a package of classes at the swankiest yoga studio (or gym) in town and offer to pick her up and take her.
Buy her a massage, a weighted therapy blanket, or a body brush for dry brushing.
Ask her if she’s having trouble affording her therapist.
Offer to go for a walk.
Ask if she needs physical touch. Hold her hand or stroke her hair or give her a scalp massage.
Ask if you can clean her room. Put fresh sheets on her bed. Make it smell nice. Put out fresh flowers and send her to take a nap. Wake her to a warm meal.
Bring smoothie packs. It’s hard to eat when you’re depressed. Drinkable nutrition helps.
Invite her to your home. She may need a change of scenery but noisy public places can feel terrifying.
I love that my heartbeat was the first one you heard and that my hand the first to hold yours. That God entrusted broken me with you is humbling and overwhelming.When I first became a mother to you I had no idea. About so many things.For starters:I had no idea that you would say some form of “mom” or “mama” or “mommy” a dizzying number of times a day. Every. Day. For. Years. Or that I would follow you around for months on end cleaning up messes. (Eventually I got a clue that “messes” were a stage not to be outgrown. I surrendered and began to make messes WITH you. I love that part. You taught me that messy memories are the best.)
I didn’t know that I would hum the tunes of Disney movies daily. Or that I would pretend I know how to dance with you and your sister in the kitchen. You took my hand and led me to those places and it awakened something in me. Thank you. I had no idea that you, my blue-eyed boy, would humor the young girl in me and find a jacket and a flower and play “wedding.” Your toddler hand would take mine and dance. Your smile reflected that of your father’s and it halted me. Your scraped knees and tree-climbing and endless curiosity exhausted me some days. But I found my true calling in those moments. You led me by the hand to the mission of being a mom.
I had no idea that in 3rd grade, 7 years into our dance, you would flash your toothless grin over your backpack in the hall of that elementary school. And that your doing so would undo me. That I would fight to breathe through tears as I walked to my car, knowing that this was a milestone. One that needed to be fully felt and photographed. And held. The only camera I had was my heart, and so there it has stayed. Frozen in time. Just like the image I hold of those handfuls of flowers you gave me. Over and over, plucked from the backyard. Dandelions and daisies were never so beautiful.
I had no idea that laundry would overtake me. And that I would lose some of myself in it. That some days I would feel like that unmatched sock, wondering where I belonged. Existing between the changing, the feeding, the shopping, the cleaning, the rocking, the bottles and bibs.
You didn’t stay in any of those stages very long. You moved on and I jogged alongside you. I covered myself up in room-mom duties. I researched creative snacks for Valentine’s Day and marked school picture days on my calendar. I sewed Halloween costumes. I re-learned multiplication tables and wandered around school carnivals while you tried to win a fish or a new friend.
I didn’t know that I would see your passions before you did. And that I would push you out of your comfort zone toward them. I often doubted myself, but never you. I had no idea that my brain would fail to work when you were sick or that my heart would ache alongside anything that injured yours. Or that I would Google “how to treat a gecko bite” and other ridiculous scenarios that I had no clue how to handle.
The calendar spins around a few more times. You are a teenager.
Boy of mine? We play tennis. And I remember my Chris Everett racquet and how it felt to hold it in my hand on that court when I was 12. I sit on the edge of your bed as you play guitar and I try to pluck a few insights about your day out of you. I pack lunches. I pack your tennis bag. I make sure you have pants that fit.
And I pack more lunches.
I have laughed with you until my stomach hurt and my eyes watered.
I have cried. A lot. But in your presence I am mostly strong. I try hard to have conviction and answers to questions and snacks when you’re hungry and appointments when you feel sick.I have worried. A lot. But in your presence I am decisive. I calm you and have courage and your favorite dinner when you have a bad day.
I supply a fresh box of Kleenex and we go out for sushi when you are confused.
It’s what I do. It has become who I am. A mom.
And now, you stand in our kitchen before your last day of school as you have a thousand mornings. We measure each other by the fireplace. Suddenly you are taller than me.I only cry after you have swept past me, backpack flung and murmuring ” Don’t forget that I have graduation practice this afternoon.” And finally, through the now-closed door:”Love you mom.”
I stop right here in the kitchen where dirty dishes are piled and remnants of your morning routine surround me. To be thankful.
Because the truth is that at each stage you have blessed me in ways immeasurable. In fistfuls of flowers and doodles and the day-to-day knowing of you. Through your guitar music and all the hours I have sat on bleachers cheering for you. Your crayons and concerts have marked my place in the world.
It’s absurd how much I love you.
I had no idea that my entire world could abandon its axis and jump to revolve around you. And how much of me it would take to do so. And how now, teetering on the edge of you being on your own, I can’t imagine my axis jumping again when you are gone and on your own.
The dance is changing again. I miss the days when the scariest thing we did was climb the tall slide or go to the deep end of the swimming pool. It’s a big, confusing world out there. I want to look into your sweet face of yesterday and say “I’m sorry for disappointing you.” Because I’m not nearly as perfect as you saw me at 4 and 6 years old.
Can I tell you a secret that I tried to keep from you but is the truth? I am riddled with flaws. I stumbled into motherhood with lots of baggage. You have discovered some of this already. You now know that I bake (a lot) when I’m angry or sad. You scatter from the kitchen in self-defense, returning to help me consume the culinary manifestations of my mood. You’ve also surely noticed that I have ADD and at the same time I am a perfectionist. Which means I like things perfect. But not for very long. Ridiculous, I know.
My mother’s prayer today is to be able to point you to the ONE who will always have grace and forgiveness when mine has run dry. To show you how empty we need to be to allow the filling of the Holy Spirit, and to introduce you to the ONE who doesn’t get tired or bitter. To run to our God. Our God who never gets angry, even when you ask what’s for dinner or where you can you find your khaki pants. For the hundredth time. Because the reality of being a good Mom to you? It is a painful and beautiful dance. My job is to encourage you to cling to a loving God who can really CAN patch your scabbed knees and steady you when shaken. The Father who is an incredible dancer and the REAL finder of lost things. And the Book that has all the answers that I don’t.
These truths might be just word arrows now. But I pray they will point you in the right direction.
Anything good I have added to your journey has come from Him, Beloved boy of mine
Thank you for painting my world with finger paints and firefly chases and ferris wheels. And for dancing with me in the kitchen.
The greeting card aisle is going to be packed this week at the grocery store- dozen of folks swarmed around to find just the right words to stick in an envelope. It’s coming Sunday: Mother’s Day. This is the day we set aside to celebrate moms and all they mean to us. Seventy-five percent of all the flower sales in the U.S. each year happen THIS weekend. That’s a lot of roses, ya’ll. For many moms and their children this is a beautiful day filled with family and flowers, good food and gifts. We will smile and thank our families and share a meal, and it will be restful. I anticipate it will be that way for me. But this is far from reality for many.
Because sometimes there are no words and no bouquets.
For some Mother’s Day can be a brutal-reminder kind of day. The day that points out to a woman all the holes, the tattered places, the loss. There is a vacant seat at the table, an empty mailbox, or a painful place in our hearts.
Because this broken world can mean wayward children and less-than-perfect relationships. Often there is no card that can be purchased that says just the right thing from a daughter who carries too much pain and distance between herself and her mom. Or Sunday might be a day that a daughter just sits with memories of her mother, lost from this world because of cancer, a lifetime cut way too short.
Or maybe a mother sits surrounded by photographs hung on the walls of her children, her table empty, no visitors to welcome. Maybe she’s lost a child to death or to a prodigal path. Maybe there’s just silence these days. Maybe she has given up that she will ever hug them again.
These are not Hallmark moments.
So to all the moms or daughters who feel a little broken this Mother’s Day… I see you. This Sunday might be a time of mending for you, or it might just be a day to sit with the feelings. I don’t know. I only know that I have a little gift for you, to remind you that regardless of your circumstances, you are beloved.
I created these reminders for myself: 18 scriptures printed on a page that speak truth to me. I framed them, right there here where I can see them daily.
They contain words like:
You are loved. You are beautiful. You are special. You are cared for.
Words from a Father who knew that we would need them. Words just maybe for such a time as this- a day that comes with mixed feelings and lonely places.
So to moms or daughters that find this weekend hard, these are for you. I’d send you roses and daisies from my yard too if I could. You are not alone. You can download this printable HERE.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1
If you know me at all you have probably seen pictures of me and my posse. My girlfriends. My GF’s. We have 27 years between us. I have been part of this group for nearly 20. I don’t remember life without them. We will show up in your feed on retreats or arranging flowers for a girlfriend’s second wedding. You’ll know that 7 of the 9 of us have the same ankle tattoo. (Two of us will make this sisterhood symbol with permanent marker when we are in the retirement home…we’ll need to find each other.)
You might think that this whole “finding your tribe thing” is easy. You might think that it’s all brunch and road trips and birthdays.
You would be right. And you would be very wrong.
You might call me lucky But luck has nothing to do with keeping relationships for that amount of time with eight women.
That’s like saying “you’re so lucky you’ve been married for 25 years.”
This gig takes a whole mess of work and humility. If you ever find yourself envious, this is the truth behind our story. This is my version of the disclaimer that should be provided on every long-term relationship of any kind.
Because community is going to cost you.
The truth is that when friendship with a group of women is fresh and new it won’t cost you much. Over coffee you can share fashion finds and recipes, your latest thrift store purchases, family stories, and parenting tips. It’s easy, breezy, beautiful.
But stick around awhile and the casual conversations will wear thin. Facades will fail.
It’ll start small. One of you will have a bad day, a series of bad days, a bump in your marriage, or a full-blown nervous breakdown. Scars will come into focus if you spend enough time together. If you dare to examine each of your sisters and keep showing up for a front row seat to life with another human being, humanness will be exposed. It won’t be pretty. You might consider leaving.
When years spin on the calendar, nearly 20 to be exact, you’ll still realize it’s the most beautiful, hardest thing you will ever be part of.
Over the years you’ll be a witness your sisters at their best. You’ll cry happy tears because one’s daughter is saying her vows surrounded by sprays of flowers. Your mother-of-the-bride girlfriend will walk down the aisle with a knowing glance into the gaggle of you, her body at the perfect weight. She is floating like an angel and you practically gloat at the opportunity to witnesses the glory. You proudly beam at the reception.
The group of you will gather, crowding around a small cafe table and lean in close to hear the latest accomplishment of one of your sisters. You’ll toast your coffee cups and drive home smiling because gosh darn it, one of you did the thing she’s been talking about for a solid four years and it’s the proudest moment deep in your heart to know she is thriving.
You’ll cheer in the audience, one of your sisters at the podium giving her acceptance speech for one award or another, her finally finding her voice.
You’ll rock each other’s babies and then watch each of them grow like a beanstalk until they grow almost out of sight and you don’t see them often enough anymore. Each holds a piece of your heart, frozen in time with one single memory of all of you tending to ALL THOSE KIDS while trying to hold a conversation at a bible study in a messy kitchen.
You’ll buy one of the girlfriends a gift at some random store, giggling, just because it reminds you of her on a Tuesday.
You’ll group text like a teenager and send all the emojis on a heartbreaking day just to make her smile.
You’ll begin to hear all the words, even the ones she never speaks because your hearts begin to know each other.
You’ll see the beauty in her when she squints to see it in herself and you’ll sing the song in her heart back to her when she has forgotten the words.
You’ll laugh at very inappropriate times together. VERY. INAPPROPRIATE. TIMES.
And these times will become your memories and a part of you forever.
Those are the good moments, but a real tribe will cost you.
A circle of real girlfriends will beg you to lay down your pride. They will demand time, patience, and more understanding than your two year old who is yet to be potty-trained. The relationships will beckon you to listen deep and to soften judgement. Your shared love will call you to be vulnerable and transparent. You’ll have to get real up in here if you want to stay.
The truth is that you’ll have to eventually decide if your are a runner or if you are a fighter.
You’ll have to know in the guts of your very self if you can grow in deep commitment. You’ll have to know if you have the strength to to come out of hiding. From yourself and to them.
You will disappoint each other, a lot. You will hurt each other, often unintentionally.
And that’s not any kind of fun.
This past weekend I sat in a circle with my tribe. The ones who have held my hand in scary times, jumped for joy in summer seasons, and slapped me right upside the head when I was way off kilter. I talked about how hiding is the true root of any sin and satan wants nothing more than for us to be divided, alone, and without community. That’s the cold hard truth so I reminded them and myself that we are gonna have to fight.
How easy it would be to overlook each other’s bad habits, the lies we tell ourselves, and to glance away from the gaping holes in each other’s hearts.
Because we have an enemy that knows every sin that hinders us from being all that God created us to be and every tender place.
We’re going to have to be intimate here if we are going to be the body of Christ. And intimacy means “into me see.” We’re going to have to look into each other with eyes and hearts wide open.
We going to have to live with eyes wide open and a great big focus on Jesus.
Satan prowls like a lion in the night searching for an “In” to destroy sisterhood, for a way between us. He knows that we are better together. Isolation and quiet despair are the recipe he concocts to tell us we are unlovable, left out, forgotten.
So if you are in it for the long, ugly, beautiful haul of being in the body of Christ… all in for birthdays and gift-exchanges and toasting sunsets at the beach, you’re going to have to also be willing to surrender to the hard. You’re going to have to show up that one day when you find yourself with your hands on your sister’s feet, sitting cross-legged below her praying bold prayers to heal the broken places in her marriage and/ or whisper “Dear Lord to please tend to the scars she carries from the past.” You will pray for her harder than you pray for your own needs.
Because over time she has become a part of you, a mirror of you.
And you better be able to face a mirror because each woman in that circle of community you joined will hold one up and ask you to look close if they really love you.
And so, yes, I do have eight very close girlfriends. And I signed up for all of that. We each did.
Right in the middle of the retreat, when we had started talking about the broken places, we scrolled our names right across the top of a blank sheet of paper. We taped them towards the light and each of us wrote the words of truth right there under each other’s names in permanent marker.
Because just like Michelangelo, we see beauty in every block of marble. A masterpiece that is waiting to emerge.
And our words to each other begin to bring each other out of hiding.
Yes. Community will cost you.
And it will fill you.
A sisterhood will challenge you.
It will also rock the lies, expose the truth, and make you do the hard work.
Community will ultimately make you come alive, looking to the cross as your only hope.
We’re just here to sing the backup verses to the song He has planted in side of of our sisters, to carry each other’s voices when we have no words. I played this song at the end of my talk Saturday, surrounded by the girls who have helped me find my voice.
If you want to be in a girlfriend tribe you better be willing to sing a strong backup.
I’m so grateful for my dear friend Jennifer Hand of Coming Alive Ministries who led our retreat this weekend and one of the GF’s Renee who spoke and gave us deep questions to ponder with each other. I’m also grateful for the GF’s who took most of the pictures in this post because I took not a one the whole weekend. It takes a village, ya’ll.
When I was fifteen years old I was in the passenger seat during a terrible car accident. I don’t remember much from that day or the days that followed. I sustained the most injury out of the 4 teens in that Oldsmobile on that Friday night of my sophomore year of high school. Firefighters with jaws of life removed the crumpled metal and freed my leg. All the toes in my right foot were crushed, and my face hit the dashboard with great force. Scars from the stitches surrounding my mouth are still visible these 30 years later.
My right leg was broken.
I hobbled on crutches for several months after ER surgeons repaired my toes. My face was a mess but I was young and resilient. I eventually healed, with a few scars to show for the ordeal.
I remember feeling beaten up and pretty un-beautiful during a time in high school that looks and fashion were important.
My friends had new clothes and a few had new cars the January when I hobbled in after the school doors reopened. All I had were some new scars and a new pair of crutches.
I felt cheated that new year. Broken and bruised during a time that everyone appeared rested and put-together.
But something that I didn’t expect and that I didn’t understand at the time happened a few months later, close to my 16th birthday.
After the large cast was removed I noticed that the exact place where my bone had been broken on my right leg was raised. The doctors called it a calcium deposit.
I called it ugly.
But the truth was that my body had overcompensated in trying to rebuild what had been broken. It was stronger now. This raised area on my leg never went away. It has stayed as a reminder of a hard season.
My leg aches sometimes when the weather changes, but it’s a part of me now. A tangible reminder that it’s in the broken places that have been healed that we can claim strength.
That the strong, jagged place of mine reminds me that our jagged places tell a story.
And when we are broken we have a few options for dealing with it. Most of us prefer to hide.
Especially when everyone else seems to be having beautiful beginnings. When their new year’s resolutions are shiny and fresh perspectives are plentiful. When we feel like we are the only one in a broken marriage, a broken relationship, traveling a broken road limping toward hope of healing.
Every January I’m reminded a bit of my brokenness. The tree branches are bare and the road feels kind of lonely in quiet new ways. My resolutions seem shallow.
But January also reminds me of a story I heard once about a cathedral that was built over a century ago. The architect ordered fresco paintings for the walls and several large mirrors to line the ceiling. When the mirrors were delivered and unwrapped it was discovered that they were all broken into jagged pieces. The construction team was discouraged and went about the work of carefully getting the broken mirrors into the trash. But when the architect returned and learned of their condition, he ordered the pieces retrieved from the garbage. And then he ordered them to be broken further.
The tiny mirrored pieces were painstakingly adhered to the ceiling. Each reflected at a different angle and it became a breathtaking display of light.
I believe that’s what God does with our broken hearts, our broken pasts, our broken lives. Maybe January is not a place of wholeness at all. Maybe it’s a place to fully accept our brokenness. A time to see the hurts and to believe again that God removes, orders, and lines the heavens with their beautiful reflection. Perhaps so we can see our brokenness is strong and beautiful after His repair.
I have come to understand that God is not afraid of broken places.
He can make them prisms of light reflecting grace and glory. If we surrender and we are still, He will cast his mercy and beauty, which insulates us to heal.
Sometimes in the soft and broken filtering light of a new year.
Hello 2018. You came in downright cold today in most places here in the U.S. Friends have messaged me all day of -20 degree temperatures in the Midwest.
I found it hard to leave yoga pants and my favorite sweatshirt and opted to stay cozy in said comfort wear all day and organize my office. (By the way, if you EVER see me attempt to purchase a journal or notebook of any kind in 2018 please STOP me…I counted 14 when I purged today. Yes, those are just the ones that are unused.) I’m pretty sure I purchase one every single time I see one I like. It’s a problem.
But I regress.
We have kept the bottom cuttings from our Christmas tree for the past seven years. You know, the part you cut off so that water can seep up better through the trunk? Yeah, we keep them. We take a sharpie and write the year right there. Then we line them up on our mantel as Christmas decorations, resting in the garland by the stockings. They are a reminder.
We have to look back before we look forward.
Best of 2017:
Publishing a book.
You can read most of the details HERE. It was such joy to celebrate with Tammy at a few book signings and to talk 1:1 with others about the message of “A God Of All Seasons.” From copies being placed in a cancer center ministering to those undergoing chemo in Iowa to the woman who shared with me that she has used it as a daily devotional in the days after losing a loved one, God has moved powerfully. Sometimes I just had to get out of the way of who I thought the message might reach.
(Good news: The Kindle version of A God Of All Seasons is just $2.99 right now. Maybe a good way to start off your mornings this January? You can download it HERE.
Practicing A Season of Intention
During the month of November Tammy and I did series of Facebook Live videos. (We went LIVE EVERY day, ya’ll!!) We intentionally took a few moments to notice the small, to realize where God was speaking in our season. It was a joy to connect with others in this way and really stretched us to open our bibles every single morning, to look for the God moments, even in the hard winters. If you missed these I have linked each live video below. Just click on the link that interests you or watch the whole series in January, a little bit at at time.
This post really struck a chord. I penned it straight from my heart on December 10th and it clearly resonated. If you are living in “Hallway Moments” right now, this one’s for you. I see you. God sees you. You can interact with the original post HERE.
Today is “D Day”: Diagnosis Day.
Twenty years ago TODAY we heard the words “Malignant.” It was December 10, 1997.
I had survived a four hour surgery. I was eight months pregnant and our daughter was still alive there inside me. The large tumor had been removed that was lodged right beside her. Twenty-nine staples lined my body which matched my age.
At twenty nine I had ovarian cancer. I was still pregnant.
A long road was ahead.
I don’t remember much about that day. I do recall begging my mom from that bed in the ICU to tell me the truth about what they had found. I slipped in and out of consciousness, struggling with what I would later understand to be pulmonary edema, fighting contractions, and complications from the surgery from the many medications that were pumping through my body. My life and my daughter’s life were precarious.
This man carried the weight of my cancer diagnosis and the worry. He spent much of his time in the hallway. My mom and his parents did too.
We all walked hallways. The in-between places.
He paced the hallways between the NICU and the cancer floor. He fought for me and for our family and he hasn’t stopped fighting.
I survived ovarian cancer. Barely. Our daughter Shelby was born 15 days after cancer was removed from my body, at 6:14 Christmas morning. Don’t ask her if she dislikes having her birthday on Christmas. She’ll tell you she shares a birthday with Jesus. We all understand the miraculous nature of it all.
Each year on D Day I have a range of emotions. I feel deeply blessed, incredibly awed that I even get another year on this planet, and I also relive the sadness, the despair, the “unfairness” of it all.
This morning I looped my arm around my son in church, him standing much taller than me. I can hardly believe he was born 2 ½ years after my diagnosis. The biggest miracle of all. I nearly doubled over with gratitude.
Today I remembered this specific memory:
A year after my diagnosis, when my hair was just beginning to grow back and our daughter was learning to take her first wobbly steps I asked my husband a weighty question.
“I never saw you, your parents or my mom cry in my room during that really scary time. I mean, samples were being sent to Johns Hopkins and twenty-three people were in the room when Shelby was born and I just kept thinking everything was fine because you were all so strong.”
I have never forgotten his response.
“You weren’t in the hallway. There were a lot of tears and hugs in the hallway.”
We all know hallways, yes?
The places between the now and and the not yet. The shuffling about in confusion. The questioning of everything, including God. I was in the room, battling in my own way but so many others were in the hallway.
I almost didn’t post about my “D Day” today. I figured maybe it was time to just keep all my melancholy emotions to myself. But then I thought of you- ALL of you in hallways this holiday season.
Those of you pacing, struggling, hurting, and questioning in hallways. Hospital hallways, yes, but also maybe just in caverns of pain and loss. Maybe with empty chairs around your table.
If you are in a hallway this year I just want you to know that today, on my personal D Day, I see you. I don’t know what the thing is that brought you here. But I do know that God is tender enough to have come to this world in the most vulnerable of moments, in the most unexpected, broken, forgotten place that He could have showed up.
He will show up in your hallway.
Looking Forward to 2018:
I pick a “Word of the Year” and have for the past 5 years. This is simply a word to center around, to intentionally seek, study, and incorporate into my life. This year the word found ME. I’ve been asked to speak at a few places around the country in 2018. Something you may not know about me is that I was painfully shy as a child. Deeply introverted and a strong feeler, I was nearly mute during school days until the 2nd grade. Speaking was hard for me. It takes a certain kind of brave to speak. Writing has always been easier, safer. I have spoken a lot over the years on behalf of cancer patients, as a keynote many times, and I love speaking as a teacher in my roles as a professor over the years. I know HOW to speak, I just haven’t in awhile. But now I sense God widening my message and calling me to muster a braver voice. So my word for 2017 is SPEAK. To me this means speak love, speak truth, speak for justice. It is the opposite of being quiet and holding it in, which I am exponentially better at doing.
I have another book in the works. It’s just an outline now with about enough content for six chapters, but it’s a message I feel very passionate about and a goal to publish it this summer. I also have a collaborative project I am re-visiting with my co author Tammy. This all makes me giddy. (After all, I am the girl who spent every day after school at the library…my library card was (and still is) my most prized possession. I’m a girl of words. And now my office is clean, so I’m off to a good start in meeting my word counts daily.
I started my own communications company which launches, well….NOW. Yep, I did. I will still be contracting with Vi Bella Jewelry, (yay for a first client!) but I’m hanging out my own shingle, helping others with marketing through strategy and storytelling. I’m thrilled to be in discussions with several entrepreneurs. You can catch a glimpse of what’s in the works HERE. (Much more on this soon.)
Phew, thanks for staying to the end. This recap isn’t nearly comprehensive, but more of a wrap-up of my author/entrepenuer goals and memories. Later this week I’ll be sharing a post about my MUST-HAVES for 2018. You’ll want to make sure you are subscribed to my email list so you don’t miss that! Sign up HERE.
I look forward to walking through 2018 with you. Because no matter what the calendar day, month, or year says, God IS a God of all seasons. And we are his beloveds.