Monthly Archives: April 2014

Get out of bed, dreamers. It’s time to go.

Somewhere beautiful

 But, really. We never signed up for this.

We never signed up to be taunted by our dreams – to be teased for all that hasn’t happened yet. Peeking out from the covers each morning wondering if this day we will fail just like we have in the long succession of days before. Or maybe, just maybe, today we will be someone great. The kind of someone we crave to be.

Then doubt gives us a fresh dose of  reality and reminds us of all the days we never got where we were going. Best efforts that never quite lifted us out of our ditches. Wheels spinning, flinging dirt all over our hearts and coating us with shame.

We haven’t been enough yet.

Or maybe we go into the world with our shiny new shoes, but the world doesn’t seem to want us. Our freshly unpacked visions and breathtaking ideas – no one has time to see our beauty. So we pack up, go home and crawl into our beds. Under the sheets we go where it is safe and we await the coming of another morning.

This isn’t what we signed up for when we decided we wanted to be dreamers, doers and original gangsters. We didn’t expect to lose or be broken down. We never expected to stop fighting.

And yet , we did. We stopped fighting for the things in us that we want to do and become. We stopped believing that Something Bigger is out there and we are meant to find it.

Each day we dull down our dreams to soften the blow of life. Each day we expect a little less because we can’t stomach the thought of coming up empty again. We sell our dreams for the comfort of our sheets. Where we hide and wait for something to change.

The thing is, I don’t want to be a timid dreamer anymore. I don’t want to stay here in this muted world I’ve created for myself.

I want to break out, have brawls with doubt and lay back with my bloodied nose knowing that I didn’t surrender. I didn’t quit. I fought and I got free.

I’m ditching this joint and I’m inviting you to come.

Remember how good cold rain felt on your face as a kid – when you weren’t worried about it ruining your makeup or your suit? The smell of honeysuckle in the summer and excitement of a new box of crayons? Remember when you expected to make beautiful things? Dreaming of seeing the world – the actual world – instead of just pinning it on your Pinterest board?

Remember when you thought you could do or be anything?

Let’s go back there.

We were meant for something far greater than this, far more grand than we have been told.

Wake up dreamers, doers & original gangsters. It’s time to go. —> click to tweet 

Life will have it’s hard days, and sand will be thrown in your face by people who don’t believe in you enough. Some circumstances won’t change no matter how hard you yell and push on them. But those are the places we simply pass through, not where we have to remain.

Let’s head somewhere beautiful again. To a place where we work hard and make things happen. Where we sit with neighbors on front porches and connect to humanity. Where dreaming makes us smile at the possibility instead of cringe at the defeat.

It may take us awhile to get out of our habits. To crawl out of our beds that we have come to seek comfort from at the start of every morning. We will trip over our own feet more often than we’d like. But, we will get there.

I don’t care how long it takes us. Let’s go somewhere beautiful again.

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Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner

Sometimes late at night, this is what I know.

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This blog is not serving it’s purpose if I am ever anything but honest.  Many of your lives are different from mine – politically, romantically, geographically and in our religious views. I really enjoy that about this space and try to mindful of that every time I sit down to type.

This isn’t a “Christian” blog but there are moments when I have to be honest about my faith. Because it is my story. My rock.

I’ve shared pretty openly on here my struggle with fear. Perhaps it sounds silly and even embarassing to admit sometimes. Hey, guess what? I don’t have it all together. I am neither impressive nor perfect.

But, I’m not alone. Seems to me that fear is something all too familiar across humanity. The dread and inexplicable heaviness of a million possibilities. Our imaginations at their worst.

These past few days I have had to really fight this one out. I found out some information that sent me into an internal tailspin. A health risk I just became aware of. I googled all about it. (By the way, NEVER EVER Google anything unless you want to get totally freaked out. Maybe state capitols are okay, but nothing else.).

And Google gave me all kinds of information and stories. Mind you these are rare cases, but each one brought new weight. I added up statistics. There is a .5% chance that we would have this health issue.

Logic would point out that we have a 99.5% chance of NOT having it, but fear rubs the .5% in my face. All I could imagine was that .5%. What it would feel like or how it would happen?

My life is surrounded by a million things to be fearful of. Adoption issues, finances, health, is Russia going to annex Texas next? So many things…

Honestly, I don’t usually let these things bother me. However there are days when I have my guard down and begin to let my mind wonder in all the wrong ways.

Tonight it got to be more than I could take. I went into my bathroom and prayed. I told God that I was not leaving until I felt His presence. I was not getting out until I’d heard Jesus speak to me about this. No, I’m not talking about anything weird or crazy. It’s more an unexplainable peace and calm. Words that run through my mind, but they are not my own thoughts. A sense of Him with me.

I stood there. Nothing. I stood longer. Even longer. Still nothing but me and cold bathroom tiles.

Then, without any warning I began to cry. Not a single tear down the face. A deep, bellowing kind of cry that  told of the things I’d been carrying for so long. This wasn’t about the .5%, it was about something much deeper. I leaned on the wall and sobbed. I couldn’t hold it in if I tried. The poison had to come out. All of it. So I cried some more.

Then came the voice I so desperately needed to hear. More like a whisper rolling through my mind. ” It’s okay baby girl. Lean on me and let’s cry it out“. I lost it. Rolling through my mind was every scene I dreaded, every conversation that haunted me and possibility of “what if” that froze my joy. And out of my soul came the deepest sobs.

How long I stood there with my hot tears I don’t know. I didn’t care. Over and over in my mind I heard “It’s okay, baby. I’ve got this. Don’t worry baby girl…”.

Time seemed to stand still as my tears dried up. I felt my spirit stretching again – fear had shoved it in the corner for far too long. I recalled all the promises I believe that God has given me along my journey and chose to trust that the One who made the promise is the One who keeps the promise.

I don’t know all of your stories or what has bullied you into a corner. Maybe its fear like me. Maybe an abusive history, depression, loneliness, deep insecurity or a relationship on the brink. I don’t know what corner you are in or how long its been your home.

Thing is, everyone I know has a corner but no one belongs there.

Sometimes on nights like tonight we need to stop dragging around the shadow of our bully. We’ve got to look it in the eyes, see it for all it is and then slowly -through our tears- smile. Cause we remember that corners are too small for us. No matter how big or ugly this bully is, it’s no match for our Maker. He didn’t make us for corners.

Whether the pain is reality or something that taunts us from a million “what if’s”, we weren’t made to be controlled by it.

Go ahead. Let the tears come and get the poison out.

There is something in us that needs to shout that we are alive and we aren’t giving up. We won’t be put in our corners any longer. —> click to tweet

Interestingly enough, Passover begins tonight. It is the holiday which celebrates when God brought His people out of  3,000 years of captivity. Thankfully, He has never stopped setting His people free. 

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Living Your History

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image: Joel Robinson

It was the start to a truly great love story. A boy. A girl. A chase through the rain…

I was 19 and running through the pounding rain. The library could be seen through the science buildings about 100 yards away. My legs were getting tired. They had carried me out of my dorm room, down three flights of stairs and across campus in a mad dash.

But I was driven.

You see, there was this boy. He’d been crazy about me for some time, but I was just too slow to see it. A million reasons and excuses blocked my view of the good thing right in front of me. I had dreams and ideals that I stubbornly clung to.

What if I  could meet a guy in Italy instead? What if a stranger with a killer accent approached me from across a crowded room? What if my dream job will get replaced by falling in love? What if this is the peak of life – and it’s just all downhill from here? What if this story is really a tragedy?

The soundtrack to my own life was drowned out by my  self-doubts. It was safer to fall in love in my head. Things always went my way – I never had a bad hair day or said awkward things on dates. And, of course, he was always charming. Any argument was resolved by the arrival of a large bouquet of my favorite flowers.  Love in my imagination always worked out.

Truth be told, I always played it safe in real life. Friendships, goals, career plans, my social life – you name it. Always lived in the realm of my control.

Yet, another life was happening in my mind. I was bold. A vibrant soul who made the witty comments and traveled the borders. A life full of chances and risks that made my heart pound and my mind race. The kind of daring that only comes when you really, truly understand just how much this life holds within it. That was the life I lived in my mind.

And that was the kind of love story I wrote inside my head. One of risk. Of being so in love it didn’t matter what he said back. My tongue just had to utter the words.

I don’t know what exactly came over me during that thunderstorm. I guess God hit me upside the head enough that the narrative burst and exposed the truth in front of me. I liked the boy back. And I had to tell him. Now. I had to tell him right now.

He normally studied in the library at night so I took off across campus to find him. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, so I went blindly.

Soaked to the bone and out of breath I ran into the library. I know I must have looked a mess, but I didn’t care. I had something to say to a boy. For about 30 minutes I roamed the aisles of books, peeked in the reading cubicles and scanned the study groups. He wasn’t there.

I headed back out into the storm. A smile flashing across my face at the absurdity of it all. Back through the rain to my car. I drove to his house. Knocked on the door. Dripping wet, I stood before him and blurted out “I like you.”.

Next month we will have been married 11 years. 

So often we miss the story before us because of a preoccupation with our internal narrative. We have clever conversations with others inside our minds, live daring adventures and feel emotions deep in our bones. So deep it is almost terrifying – but we are safe because it isn’t real. It’s just a fantasy we feed to satisfy the hunger within.

Our hunger for the life we imagine.

It’s time to do and become. It’s time to live the stories we write in our heads. –> click to tweet.

Real life hurts sometimes. Makes you want to curl up on the floor and cry out for some relief.  There are years where the failures just seem to keep piling on. The friendships are intertwined with rejection and love has to be fought for day in and day out. Plans crumble before your eyes and our lifelines fray at alarming rates.

But, live we must. Because we are made to do it. Because for every tragic turn there is a persistent Hope that whispers, “It’s gonna get better and I’ll hold you until it does.”.

Go on. Hash out the stories you’ve been writing in your head. Hold the hands of the people who walk beside you. Create the adventures you crave in that nearly forgotten part of your soul. Give grace to yourself and others along the way – you’re gonna need it.

Your history cannot be borrowed. It must be lived. 

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Do You Feel Brave?

Hearing your stories is one of my favorite things about this blog.  A few months ago I received an email from the Von St James family. Eight years ago Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a rare cancer that kills most people within two years.

Today I am posting an interview with her and I know you will be inspired by her journey just as I was. Plus, I have a crush on her hair. Heather Von St James

1. Heather, tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a small town called Spearfish, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I had worked in a small salon for a few years and wanderlust got the better of me. I decided to drop everything and move to Minneapolis/St Paul, in hopes of a better job and a better life. I’m a city girl at heart. I met my husband after I moved here , worked in a big salon, and eventually became part owner.

At 36, I had my first and only child. Three months after she was born I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. I had to quit working, sell my portion of the business and commit my life to battling this disease. It has been 8 years and I’m still going strong.

2. When your daughter was born you started having some unusual symptoms. What were they? I was tired. BONE tired…more than what I thought a new mom should be, but I chalked it up to breastfeeding and going back to work so quick after having a c-section. I had a low-grade fever that would hit the same time of the day every day. I was loosing weight at an alarming rate. 5-7 pounds a week.

One day I woke up with what felt like a truck parked on my chest. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I became winded and breathless when walking up the stairs or standing for too long. I thought maybe I had pneumonia, but I wasn’t coughing. Also, I was very pale. I had no color in my cheeks or lips. I found out I was extremely anemic and the cancer was the cause of it all.

3. I can’t imagine what it is like to hear a diagnosis of cancer. What did the doctors tell you about your condition and what was going through your mind?

All I really remember is my doctor telling me that I had pleural mesothelioma. My husband is the one who said, “Oh, this is bad”. I just looked back and forth between the two of them not really understanding. He then asked what my dad did for a living.

When I was a little girl my dad worked construction. He would come home from work covered in dust. His jacket would be white and crusty from the drywall dust that he would be sanding off the walls. Anything that I had to do outside I liked wearing my dad’s coat. Unbeknownst to us, it was chock full of asbestos. The cancer I had was actually caused by asbestos exposure and the latency period was 10-40 years.

He then told me the news that if I did nothing, I would only live about 15 months. Chemo and radiation would give me perhaps five years. There was a radical surgery that would give me my best chances – up to 10 years or more. I just kept thinking of my three month old little girl. How she needed a mommy and how my husband needed me to help raiser her. How did this happen? So many questions were flooding my brain. I couldn’t speak.

Thank goodness my husband had a clear mind and can function under stress. He told the doctor to get us to Boston where they did the surgery. My first words were “How do we pay for this?”. I couldn’t fathom the cost involved, but my doctor took care of the insurance. He totally went to bat for me and got my insurance company to cover my surgery and hospital expenses in Boston.

4. I was reading an interview you did and you said that you kept choosing hope over fear. That is an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do. How did you actually do that?

All I had to do was look at my little girl. I never once asked “Why me?”. Instead I figured, why not me? I was young, otherwise healthy, and I WOULD beat this. And if I did die from it? I would spend eternity dancing on the streets of gold. This gave me great comfort, but I knew I had to beat it.

I wanted to reach out to others and help them right from the beginning. I knew there had to be a purpose for all I was going through and chose to learn as much as I could to inspire others. I was choosing to be a warrior over a victim. I will never be a victim.

5. I have never heard of this type of cancer before. What was the treatment like? And what was the main thing you were looking forward to when it was over?

Surgery was recommended. Following that is chemo and radiation as precautionary treatment. The surgery is brutal and not for everyone. It consists of the removal of the entire lung, the lining around it, the left half of my diaphram and the lining of my heart. They were replaced with surgical grade gor-tex. The doctors also had to remove the 6th rib for ease of entry into the chest cavity. The procedure is called an extra pleural pneumonectomy.

I started the first of four sessions of chemo three months after that. In September of 2006 I had the radiation. By the end of October 2006 I was done. Exactly a year from when my symptoms started.

6. People who face tremendous obstacles and overcome them always seem so brave as I hear their story. Do you feel brave?

I hear that a lot. “You are so brave”. I don’t feel brave. I just followed the advice of an incredible medical team and prayed a lot. Brave? Nope. When I really think about it – TOUGH. Like holy moly look what I went through. I’m one tough mother! Then I come back to reality and just go back to the fact I did what I did to live. Brave? I don’t know.

7. Going through something like this must be life changing. How has being a cancer survivor altered the way you see life.

It has given me so much FREEDOM. I’m serious. I really don’t let a lot of things bug me the way I used to. I’m much more easy going and relaxed. I also feel like I have a lot to offer and want to try and make my corner of the world a little better. So many people helped us and I wanted to give back as much as possible.

Don’t have time for negativity anymore. I quickly found out who my real and true friends were and got rid of negative influences and people in my life. I’m just very happy and I think it shows. Cancer isn’t who I am. It is something that happened to me and knowing that makes life a little sweeter.

Heather, thanks so much for showing us what it looks like to be a warrior over a victim. I know we will all be sending prayers and thoughts your way that you continue to stay healthy. Thanks for inspiring us!

To hear more of Heather’s story and mesothelioma —> click here.

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