Sunday, April 24, 2016

Change a life, change the world...

Hello world...

This isn't necessarily one of my normal posts but this has been on my heart all week long. Please take a few moments and read this.

That precious little baby is Brenden. Brenden is a twin who was born six weeks prematurely on April 9, 2106. His parents, Jessica and Chris knew that he was going to be smaller than his twin sister, Briella (who is perfect and at home), and that he was going to be born with a hole in his heart. At the last sonogram before he was born, it was thought that he would weigh roughly 3lbs 10oz. Instead, he came out a whole pound smaller. Even more troubling is the fact that he was born with a condition they weren't expecting; PDA- Patent Ductus Arteriosus. After birth, the vessel outside of his heart was supposed to close up but it did not.

The doctors wanted to wait to perform any surgeries until Brenden is about five pounds, but they can't wait any longer. They tried a medication that typically helps to close it up but it didn't work. His tiny heart is pumping fluids into his lungs, making his body work overtime and as a result, he is on a breathing machine, too. The hole they were expecting is on the inside of his heart, is a condition called VSD- Ventrical Septal Defect. This is something entirely different that can't be addressed yet. They are doing surgery on him Monday (4/25/16) to try to repair the vessel. Hopefully after this, his tiny body can get some rest and start growing before they tend to the hole in his heart.

Besides having his twin sister, Briella, at home, they also have a big brother named Ben.

Although Brenden is three weeks old now, Jessica has only held him twice. I can't fathom having a sick and helpless child that I couldn't hold and comfort. It breaks my heart.

Jessica and Chris, both teachers, live roughly 45 minutes away from the hospital in Dallas where Brenden is staying. He will likely be in the hospital for several months. It's more than $3000 per day that he is there and a good portion of the costs aren't covered by insurance. That doesn't include the costs of his surgeries either.

I wanted to do anything I could to help this sweet family in their time of need, to somehow lift any ounce of burden from them. As you all know from reading my blog, I believe in the power of prayer. Please pray for him today, tomorrow when he has his first surgery, and in the coming months. Please share his story on your various social media outlets. This blog has been read in almost 80 countries now. If each of you share it, and if just one other person shares it...imagine the impact your prayers can have on this precious little baby and his family. Beyond your prayers, there is also a GoFundMe account setup in Brenden's name to help with the financial strains this is placing on his family. Anything you can give is appreciated more than words could ever say.

There is a song by Kutlas that says "I've seen dreams that move the mountains, hope that doesn't ever end, even when the sky is falling. I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered, broken hearts become brand new. That's what faith can do."

For my entire life, I have seen and felt the power of prayer. I have seen the amazing things that happen when we call on Jesus. My faith is bigger than anything that life has thrown at me these last 17 years during my struggles. I hope that you will join us in praying for Brenden and that if you can give anything financially, you will. Please share this sweet baby's story and help change his world.


Thursday, April 21, 2016


Hello, world...

Lately I've been thinking a lot about life and the stories that come out of it. I think we all have this inherent notion that life is supposed to be how we first envisioned it would be. The thing is, life is a series of twists and turns, love and loss, joy and pain, and we are supposed to adapt along the way. For most of us, it takes something huge and often heartbreaking to realize this.

For most of my life, I definitely dreamed of a life significantly different than the one I have. The first time I realized life was not all that I imagined it would be, I was thirteen. My entire teenage existence was a nightmare; mentally, emotionally and physically a nightmare. Every year I would tell tell myself "Don't worry, this year things will change and it will be how it should be." In college, with the realization that I would never be happy going down the career path that I had wanted for most of my life, I walked away from it. That was the first time that I realized I needed to adjust the dream. Shortly after that, there was a man who damn near broke me. I left Chicagoland and moved to Florida to find myself again.

Even though I had dealt with my dad's heart issues since I was eight, in terms of my parents at least, it never occurred to me that emotionally, I could be more terrified than I had been at seventeen years old. I had to drive my dad to the emergency room while he was having a heart attack and sit with him for hours by myself. It shaped me in so many ways. However, weeks after moving to Florida, my mom; my rock, my best friend and the person who has always understood the physical anguish I endured for so long, was diagnosed with cancer. It scared me like nothing else in life ever had before. During that summer, I lost my last grandparent and watched one of my uncles go through cancer as well. I realized then that life really is fleeting and again that life doesn't usually go how you imagine that it will.

Flash forward a couple of years to when I was living in DC and had a new life dream take shape. I thought that I was so happy and had everything that I had ever wanted, and for a while that was in fact the case. The one day I learned how much of it had been a lie, perhaps a mere figment of my imagination. From past experiences, I knew that if I stayed, it would break me like nothing else ever had before. I removed myself from that situation and at the time, I didn't know just how much that would change my life.

My story felt like chapter after chapter of pain, loss and uncertainty. After dealing with sickness (my own and that of many family members) for such a long time, love and loss, and dreams fading away, I decided that enough was enough. My dream was no longer that life would be a certain way, but that I would live life a certain way from there on out. For so long I placed my happiness and my dreams into the hands of others, and not surprisingly, I was always let down. I realized one day that while God holds my future, and he knows how my story ends, I am the one who tells the story. I am the one who gets to close out a chapter to better myself. I am the one who determines my own happiness.

Last year in my little corner of the world here, I talked a lot about changing your story if you don't like it. I've allowed so many things in life to hold me back from embracing who and what I am called to be. I don't anymore. After I left DC, I realized that I hadn't loved or liked myself even in such a long time. I allowed myself to be jaded by others. What power do you give to others that you shouldn't? What's holding you back from thriving and truly loving yourself?

Before my dad died last year, I had been truly living and loving myself. After he was gone, it became so difficult to believe that I could ever be happy again. I have openly talked about my struggle with grief, and it's likely that my past issues with depression made it even harder. I've said that I cried daily for months. The pain would let up for a while and then something would set me off. I read earlier today that grief is not a normal wound. Truer words have never been spoken. We all grieve differently and there is no wrong way to do grieve. Eventually though, we adjust to a new normalcy that we didn't sign up for and it's okay again. I'm happy in this new normalcy and there is peace inside of me again.

We don't always get to choose the things that happen to us. The choice we get to make is whether or not we want to stay where we are at in life. If you're unhappy, do something about it. If you don't like your story, you have a few choices. You can stay in that chapter and hope that it gets better and maybe it will. You can close the chapter all together and start the next one and maybe that will be enough for some of you. However, if you're anything like me, there have been so many chapters filled with physical pain, emotional struggles and loss that simply starting another chapter just won't cut it anymore. Write a new story.
Decide that you deserve more and go after it. Don't allow yourself to stay stuck in situations that do nothing but shatter your hopes and dreams. Place your happiness into your own hands. And when you come to a place of happiness and peace, share your story and make a difference in another persons life. I know that for being thirty years old, I've gone through more than most can fathom. I could have decided a long time ago to be angry and to question God for why he would allow all of these things. Instead, I chose to believe that there was a purpose to all of it. For the longest time, I didn't understand the purpose. My journey and my story has been read by people in almost 80...EIGHTY countries now. I've had people tell me that because of my story, they had hope again, that they had courage and found strength. My soul lights up when someone thanks me for being able to share my stories. Knowing that I help even just one person makes all of it worth it.

Share your stories; not only will you help others in the process, but it will bless you, too.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

The after life...

Hello, world...

It's been a few months since my last post. As you all know, life after my dad's death has been really difficult for me. Every time I thought I was in a better place, some memory or dream would knock me down flat again. Mentally, emotionally and physically I was a mess...and not even a glorious one at that!

A week after my last post, I was in a car accident. I was hit from behind and the driver fled the scene. I had a lot of damage to my neck and have gone through a lot of pain to get back to a place of full function again. The mental and emotion pain from it the first six weeks are so were comparable to the physical anguish. You've all read my story so you know everything I've overcome before, especially the horrible migraines and joint pain. Shortly after the accident, I was terrified that the pain I had worked so hard to to overcome in the past, was not only back with a vengeance, but could possibly be here to stay. It crushed my spirit and threw me back into my grief in a pretty powerful way.

In February, I had an appointment with my primary doctor and we were talking about where I was at with my grief eight months post losing my dad. She told me that every time we've talked about it, I kept putting so much focus on who I was before he died. She said it was as if I had been denying that I really could have an after life; a life after my dad, one in which I was happy again. Wow. In the months leading up to that day, nobody had said such to me. Later that night, I finally slept well and woke up feeling hope, something I really hadn't up until that point. It was a feeling of hope for my future instead of sorrow for yesterday.

In the nearly two months since that appointment I've found myself in a place I haven't been in for quite some time. I started fighting for myself again...fighting for what I need. I've talked about my dad without feeling pain inside of me while doing so. I've rejoiced for great things going on in my family, without feeling bad for doing so. I've made really hard decisions that were best for me and my future, rather than simply staying comfortable. I've learned that my darkest days have amounted to the biggest season of internal and spiritual growth I've ever experienced. I've gotten to know myself in a way that I never imagined I would have to and it's been an amazing thing.

My parents anniversary would have been last month, as well as my dad's birthday. I thought those days would wreck me, and although I missed him terribly, and felt sad, the feeling passed and I just kept living. In the last few weeks, I've realized that while my dad is having his own afterlife (and it's more than he ever dreamed of), so am I and I'm happy.

It's been a little over ten months now since he left us and life has changed so much. There have been other endings and new beginnings, job changes, moves and a new baby joining our family later this year. While I do wish he was here, I know he's watching over us and finds ways to show me that often. I started working on a book and the process got sidelined during recovery and some big changes. I've started writing again and it feels so good. It heals me and I hope that when it's finished, it helps other do the same.

There is a song by Danny Gokey (though it was written by Matthew West, who I also love) called "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" and the message has been on my heart daily since right before New Years. This is my favorite part... "Let every heartbreak and every scar be a picture to remind you, who has carried you this far. 'Cause love sees farther than you ever could. In this moment Heaven's working everything for your good. Tell your heart to beat again, close your eyes and breathe it in. Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace. Yesterday's a closing door, you don't live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you've been and tell your heart to beat again."

It beats loudly now. More than that, I have peace and it makes all the difference in the world.