Where Are The Miracles?

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I see countless people who pray for a miracle. They kneel in petition. They gather friends. They post on social media, thousands pray. They gather their church, community, and family. They go to the best doctors, their "dream team", they leverage every resource, they give their all. And they don't get their miracle. The one they long for with every ounce of their being.

Their child dies. They don't get pregnant. The cancer comes back. The test is positive. The diagnosis is devastating. Their spouse isn't coming home. They've lost it all. Soul level agony pierces their being.

And then what? Left in the wilderness of grief, they wonder where God might be at a time like this. What could they have done different? What if one more person, or the right person prayed, would the miracle would be theirs?

Maybe this has been you. It's undoubtedly been me — more than once.

Where are the miracles? Prayer changes God's mind, doesn't it?

And then it doesn't. And here we are. Here you are. Here I am.

I have wrestled with this idea for a very long time. I buried my oldest son Ethan when he was seven. He was magical in all ways. No human being like him. He was sick, and one thing after the next went wrong — one year in the hospital. I used to go into the bathroom of the intensive care unit, take out a paper towel, line the floor, and get on my knees. I would pray from the depths of my soul for his healing. I summoned the world to help, and I would lay with him at night and hold vigil.

During a particularly hard day, I asked a friend the rhetorical question, "WHY?" I believed he could be healed. What was I missing? Where was my miracle? She replied to me, "Ethan is the miracle." Super annoyed with that idea; I cast it aside. That wasn't the answer I wanted.

I had another baby, my fourth, two years after Ethan died. He's what people call a "rainbow baby." The rainbow after the storm. With Bodey came another storm. A devastating diagnosis of a rare disease. Today he's nearly five and an awesome kid and yet he has many, many special needs and an unknown future.

So where are the miracles?

After Ethan died, I sat with the hospital chaplain, who faithfully visited us almost daily. "How many undeniable medical miracles have you witnessed?" I asked him. He had guided families through illness for over 30 years. He replied that he could count them on his two hands — not many.

As the years have gone by, and I witness the scenario time and again of grave illness and the desperate prayer for healing, I wonder, "What if we have it all wrong?" What if our perspective is short-sighted? What if there are miracles in the midst of each of these stories? Miracles like friendships formed and causes funded, authors birthed, truth brought forth, and profound personal growth and expansion. But for the tragedy, the disappointment, the indescribable, none of it would be. What if the miracle is the sheer gift of having this person in our life for the time we do. Their life, then offers us marching orders for how to live ours.

What if God is bigger than physical healing. Bigger than negotiating for our little corner of the world in our slice of space and time. Have you ever considered this upside-down thinking? What if more often than not, the miracle is birthed from the pain, from the ashes, from the thing we despise most. And since this is upside-down thinking, it's never automatic. But a choice. It's not Santa Claus on Christmas morning, but rather more like training for a marathon. Harder, more gritty, and in the process, more growth and beauty.

I certainly would choose my son alive and my other one healthy over any amount of personal growth I've experienced. I'd give gladly give back the non-profit work, the impact, even the fantastic people I know because of it all. But I can't see the whole picture. And I certainly don't want the possibilities of my impact to be limited by my linear thinking.

The truth is, I don't have all the answers, and I don't know exactly how it works, but I do know that being vertical each day, continuing on, loving my kids, married to my husband, creating and contributing to the world is a miracle. All of this is an extension of Ethan and Bodey and all the challenges and grief that have come in between. And I'm certainly not the only one.

I see my friend Stefanie provide spiritual direction and teach yoga after burying two children. I see my friend Victoria run an incredible non-profit organization helping to cure rare diseases and make the world more inclusive in honor of her daughter Gwendolyn. I see my friend Kelly start a beautiful, thriving creative photography business after caring for her daughter with a rare disease and walking her to heaven. I see my friend Carrie loving her girls and being intentional with her time and commitments after a devastating cancer diagnosis. I see my friend Kelly pouring into her kids so well as a single mom. I see my friend Lexi using her beautiful talents to tell meaningful stories that change minds. I see my friend Anna faithfully loving her son Micah and providing incredible care and opportunities for him. I see my friend Anne changing the way doctors care for children because of her son Jack. I could go on and on and on.

The Ethan Lindberg Foundation was created in Ethan's honor. One of the things we do is house families with extended hospital stays. As I set up the first apartment, the tears flowed. For two days, I cried as I assembled furniture and set up a home away from home for families like mine. In the midst of it all, it was so clear to me that this apartment would never be had Ethan lived. Of course, I would exchange the impact it would have for him. But because of his life and my choice to continue, many, many families have laid their heads on a comfortable bed in an affordable place. And that is a miracle.

The human spirit that rises despite being pummeled to the ground. The desire for good that somehow births forth when all that is good seems lost. The work that is done because one has been to the pit of all sadness and has chosen to rise. To grow, to become. That, to me, is a miracle, the evidence of the presence of a God that can see the whole picture when we can only see a small portion. After all these years, and after all the wrestling, this I know is true. No, I don't think this is why Ethan died nor why Bodey has a rare disease, but I do believe these are the miracles that burst forth. Slowly, surely, hopefully, the fire that exists in us all is fanned to a flame, and that which is unthinkable creates everlasting beauty and pushes this world closer to love. Isn't that the point of it all anyway?

And so, what about prayer? I will still pray. I will implore healing and safety over the hurting. I will believe change is possible for the rest of my life. As we pray, we join our hearts to others, we create community, and we change in the process. But I don't know the days nor the future for myself nor anyone else.

I believe as CS Lewis says, "I pray because I can't help myself. ... I pray because the need flows out of me…It doesn't change God. It changes me."

So, let us be changed. Let us be vessels. Let us surrender to a bigger picture and an unknown story. Let us allow ourselves to be stretched and broken and mended. Let us be miracles and see them all around us. Let us seem them in others, in moments, in the continuation of love that surpasses any physical separation, in the beauty that God and we create together even when it seems the miracle is lost.

We are not left for dead. We can all be miracles in the making.

Me, Blake, Chase + Bodey. We always feel close to Ethan on the water.

Me, Blake, Chase + Bodey. We always feel close to Ethan on the water.

• PROCESS through PRACTICE •

Bridgett and I met 20 years ago working downtown Chicago at an advertising agency. From our first meeting, we were kindred spirits. We've always discussed the deeper things of life. We've shared so many different seasons of life, always looking for meaning with a desire to grow through the discomfort and emerge a wiser woman. Bridgett walked with me through Ethan's illness. She always showed up. She helped lead all of the Restoring a Mother's Heart Retreats and together we are developing our November Women's Workshop Day - Made For This. Bridgett is a renowned yoga teacher and a teacher of souls. Students flock to her for both their physical practice and spiritual one as well. 

One of my favorite characteristics of Bridgett is the way she sits with people. She is magnificently gifted at letting people be themselves and meeting them just where they are. Her empathetic heart allows her to love and be present to people in a beautiful way even though she does not have the same experience as they have. I hope you will enjoy this post from her about the importance of the process. You can 
follow Bridgett on Instagram here. 

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"Today in my yoga practice, the feedback I experienced was a presence in both body and mind, but that is not my everyday practice. The practice has informed a great deal about myself, as it is designed to do. Renowned yoga teacher and author, Eddie Stern, talks about yoga in its basic sense as a ritual that one performs to help one remain established in awareness. One of the most transformative learnings of my yoga practice has been the direct experience of impermanence. The state or fact of lasting for only a limited time—a ‘this too shall pass’ sentiment. The irony regarding impermanence, however, it that it is very much in fact—permanent. It’s a continual process of time in life for many, a highly avertable notion. Permanence can be much more comforting, say where love is concerned, job security, or having a place to call home. But according to the yoga text, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (II.15), offers us that it is the most pleasurable things in our lives that are actually the most painful because in time we will have to let them go. Maybe you’ve heard Heraclitus, Greek philosopher’s quote—“change is the only constant in life.” But how do we embody this tenet wholeheartedly in our everyday? 

My yoga practice has supported the inevitability of change in life, and the blueprint to ultimately embrace it to my best ability. The structure of poses or asanas done again and again, while they appear the same—are, in fact, never the same in practice. Engaging in a pose and diving into physical depth one day or mental clarity another, and then having it unfold or play out very differently the next holdsup the belief. Why the varying results with such a methodical approach? The answer lies within how one shows up each time to practice, and the circumstances around and beyond that are and will be different each and every day. Just as in life—you are faced with being steeped in what is and what isn’t in your present space. It’s the absence of a false narrative. That story you tell yourself. Ashtanga yoga teacher, Mary Taylor, says, “that practice becomes an opportunity to show up for those differences rather than trying to make it be the same each time. Impermanence is an invitation to experience each pose as it exists at that moment.”

A yoga practice attends to the mind and body as a continuum. No separation. Therefore, it possesses the ability not to entrench ourselves or become obsessed, and conversely disregard or avoid, but rather process life in an attentive way. *Insert life quotes here, “trust the process” and “we may not have all the answers.” Practiceis a never-ending, ever-changing, and a transformative field of self-study. Simply put, through a practice YOU process."

  - Bridgett Piacenti

Sunday Love to you!❤️Jessica

 

Come As You Are.

Did you catch last week’s post? I shared details about what my new event Made For This is all about. Check it out here if you haven’t yet!

Bodey is 4 ½ never sleeps through the night. Every night between 2 AM and 4 AM, I can expect to be woken up. Some nights he falls right back to sleep and others he's up for a while. Sometimes even when he falls back to sleep, I can't. I'm someone who needs at least 7 hours to feel functional. I love to get up early to write or work out. The quiet house and the smell of coffee are food for my soul. If I don't get enough sleep, those centering ways to start my day won't happen, and I feel off. It's a struggle to re-ground myself.

I show up to most of my early morning workouts tired. It's ultimately mindover matter. I always feel better when I'm finished even though getting there involves some serious self-talk. This summer I've decided to train for a race that's happening in August. Seven miles for my friend Janet's son Dean. He recently died needing a new heart, so we're gathering to support Janet and her family, to remember Dean and to feel his continued spirit as a community. I reluctantly agreed because I know how my fatigue affects my workouts. I'm competitive by nature, mostly with myself. And I know I won't be pulling off a PR run. But I've decided I will show I as I am intending to do my best.

This week I've been thinking about the trap of forcing constant positivity. Personal development abounds on social media, always asking us to do more, be more, and become better versions of ourselves. I love that stuff. I say similar things on my blog. Generally, I think it's a space to live and a mindset that helps us grow. But sometimes I wonder how one does all this goal setting and growing when we're also parenting special needs kids and working and grieving, feeling overwhelmed by the bills on the counter and the dishes in the sink.

While I value positive outlooks, I also value authenticity. We can't skip the steps towards healing or the comeback or acceptance of what we've got in front of us. Often the steps from where we are to where we hope to be necessitate an abundance of grit. It's okay to say it's tough. It's okay to say we are disappointed with life or with God or with a person. It's okay to be in the space of sadness. In those spaces, we don't need constant advice or five-step plans. We need to be as we are where we are.

Accepting the challenging work of surrender involves giving ourselves over to where we are at and to what is in front of us. I often feel the urge to skip to the place I want to be and avoid discomfort. But that is not how I grow, gain wisdom, and learn to accept things in my life which I cannot change.

I don't know if I will ever sleep through the night. Bodey's muscular dystrophy is not going anywhere. His needs will continue to be the constant hum in our lives. It's okay if some days I roll over and turn off the alarm. It's also okay to show up as I am with what I have to offer, tired eyes and all. My worth is not in my running pace, but in my showing up.

So be where you are today. Inhabit that space. Acknowledge that you are a work in progress and that you are doing your best.

And then, tomorrow wake up and try again.

I've been enjoying Emily P. Freeman's book and podcast called "The Next Right Thing". Her voice is soothing. Listening to her podcast often feels like a relaxing meditation. Emily's mantra is "creating space for your soul to breathe." So, if you need some space for your soul to breathe, check her out.

I'll be taking next week off for the Fourth of July. On July 7th Bridgett Piacenti, my lifelong friend and co-creator of Made For This, will be a guest on the blog sharing some of her thoughts and wisdom. You don't want to miss it!

Sunday Love to you,

Jessica

What is Made For This about anyway?

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A couple weeks ago I shared that I (along with some other inspiring women) am hosting an event on November 9, 2019, in Chicago. I thought this week I’d share a bit about it with you.

Almost two years ago, this idea started brewing in my heart and mind. At that time I had completed leading four meaningful retreats for women whose children had died of chronic illness, I had been working with families in the congenital heart community for many years, and I was in the process of learning about the muscular dystrophy community because of my son Bodey’s rare disease. I regularly engaged with women from all walks of life about what they were thinking about and longing for. Bridgett (my co-host), an extraordinary yoga instructor and insightful soul, and I talked about the questions and ideas her students were sharing with her.

I started to draw lines through what may seem to you like very different communities. I noticed commonality in the women I shared a conversation with - the eagerness to grow and figure out how to embrace their lives, which often don’t look quite like they planned, and the deep desire to do work that is meaningful and that makes an impact in their world. They all had dreams they wanted to bring to life. Many born out of struggle.

So, after lots of chats and some dragging my feet, I decided to take the plunge. While it’s scary to jump into this head first, I have decided that being true to myself and accepting the invitations I receive are the most authentic ways to live out my callings.

Made for This is a one-day workshop for women who want to embrace their lives, rekindle their spark, and make an impact in their world.

Embrace your life:

Sometimes, it is tough to embrace the life we have. Life can deal us a painful hand: an illness, loneliness, a challenging relationship, hopes deferred, a career we don’t love, (just to name a few) and we can really struggle with our identity. Our social media culture can make us feel like others have it more together than we do.

We want to invite you to return to yourself and embrace your life. In a world that keeps telling us we should be and do more, we’d like to suggest that you are made for the life you have. Complete with the challenges, joys, sadness, and hopes that fill your hearts. Inside of you are all the gifts, ideas, and gumption you need to bring your best self forward. We’ll share tools, encouragement, and practices to help you embrace your life. This by no means suggests we can’t do better, we always can. But instead of chasing something outside of ourselves, what if we pursued the part of us longing to come to life?

I spent a lot of time looking around, wishing my life was different. There were a lot of valid reasons for that, but embracing the life I have and figuring out how to do my best with what is in front of me has been one of the most empowering choices I’ve made in the last several years.

Rekindle your spark:

It’s easy to lose ourselves in our daily lives. We live on autopilot, rushing through our day. We can wake up one day with dreams in our hearts still aching to be born. Returning to ourselves also means that we re-up our commitment to do the work we are here to do. Being in a creative space, with some time for ourselves, can help remind us what fuels our spark.

Make an impact in your world:

After we embrace our lives and reignite our sparks, we cannot stop there. The pursuit of our best selves cannot only be for ourselves. We will miss the potential for real joy if we don’t also give ourselves to something bigger such as a belief, cause, a family, work, and a community. We are each a repository of wisdom and gifts. What would happen if each woman found a way to impact her world for good? Think about how much healing we could bring?

As women, we are the quarterbacks of our families, our communities, and our places of work. When we grow, heal, and share the best parts of themselves, our world heals, grows, and becomes better.

While this is just one day, we hope it will be a launching off point for you to recommit to yourself, your callings and to making an impact in your world. The day will have both large group and breakout sessions. It will include continental breakfast and lunch. Since we want this to be an interactive day, space will be limited. We will be meeting at Morgan’s on Fulton, a beautiful, creative space is in the West Loop of Chicago. Tickets will be on sale on September 1, 2019.

Feel free to email me with questions. I hope you’ll join us!

Sunday Love,

Jess

Seven Years + Seven Ideas On Healing

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This last week marked the 7th anniversary of Ethan's death, or as my dad says, Ethan's second birthday. The day he was birthed into Heaven. I've been quietly anticipating this date for some time. This anniversary is the one that marks Ethan being gone from earth longer than he was here. I've been trying to wrap my mind around how this is possible. How can someone who has so significantly changed my life be gone longer than he was here?

I'm not the woman I was seven years ago when I walked out of the hospital thinking, "how the hell will I live?" I'm a wiser, more expansive version of myself. I'm proud of the woman I've become.

Today I want to share seven ideas that have been critical to my evolution and have helped me experience healing. I remain a work in progress, always learning, growing and healing.

If you missed last week, I want to make sure you know about the women's workshop I will be hosting this coming November 9th. Made For This is a one day workshop for women who want to embrace their life, rekindle their spark, and make an impact in their world. Next week I'll share more about this.

I cannot dive as deep as I'd like on each of these topics on this blog today, so I've decided to post about each item on my Instagram and Facebook pages starting on Monday. I'll also tag some resources I've found helpful. Follow along there if you'd like more. Before I begin, I want to say two things. 1) These ideas have not only helped me as I've faced Ethan's death, but they have also helped me as I've worked to accept my son Bodey's muscular dystrophy and other losses that I've encountered. 2) Tom Zuba and his book Permission to Mourn: A New Way To Do Grief have influenced me on my journey. I highly recommend you give it a read.

Decide to live.

I decided early on that I wanted to live. The pain is so excruciating that it's reasonable to wonder if you do want to live. The punch to the gut takes our breath away, and we cannot imagine slogging through each day. I remember struggling to parent my living children. But I chose to live, yes to remain on earth, but also to live, not in despair, but with purpose. In the last seven years, I've seen plenty of people who choose to live in misery. They are the victim to their tragedy, and they don't want to try to rise above it. They have a fear of moving through it, of doing the work. Yes, of course, there are days of deep despair and knee buckling sadness. But I kept my commitment to live, to embrace my life, to transform my story and to make room for joy. There is no quick fix. Many days early on, it will seem impossible. Keep your eyes on the light. Your life has purpose.

Question it all.

After Ethan died, I had lots of questions about everything. About the way his medical story played out, about the decisions we made and recommendations we were given, about the way his disease was approached. I questioned every choice we made for him. I poured over his medical records. I had to write my own story about his life, and I challenged myself to see if my ideas were factual. I spent a lot of time and talking to a lot of people to come to a place of understanding and peace. This work was heavy. I learned difficult things that made healing complicated. I pushed through. I faced my guilt. I faced my anger. I forgave others and I forgave myself.

I was raised in a Christian home. My faith has always been important to me. After Ethan died, I had so many questions. The list was very long. Did God love me? Does prayer change God's mind? Where do we go when we die? Is there a heaven? If so, who goes there? Did I believe in all the things I had been raised to believe? What was my purpose? What was Ethan's? There were so many questions. We have to dig into the big questions. No question is "dumb" or "bad". If it's burning in your heart or head – ask it. I do not think you or I can be settled souls without asking the big questions. Keep asking. Search out someone who will wrestle through the questions with you.

Decide what you believe and go all in.

For me, healing has been a spiritual experience. For a long time, I didn't want it to be. I was so disappointed with God. It was not only Ethan's death that was so difficult but also the way his story and illness wreaked havoc on my family. Suffice it to say, the course of events made me feel completely abandoned. I read books, listened to podcasts, had conversations with people I trusted. I listened, meditated, ran, did yoga and prayed. I worked through my anger. I accepted mystery. I surrendered to something so much bigger than I can see or understand. I surrendered to God's love for me and the plan for my life that I can feel in my bones, but cannot entirely see. My relationship with God today looks much different than it did before. It's broader and vaster, more inclusive, more accepting of the unknown and more confident that I am here as God's manifestation of love in this body with a purpose, even if it includes pain and discomfort. Cultivating a renewed deeper faith has been one of the most important pieces of my healing and also the one that has most nurtured and mended my heart. God points me towards more love in all areas of my life.

I am not here to tell you what to believe. That is your work to do. But I do hope you will ground yourself in belief, wrestle through your unknowns and feel your heart pulled towards love. I hope you will consider the idea that God loves you and that your life has a great purpose, even when it is hard, and you cannot see the light.

Invest in your healing.

You will not heal if you don't actively seek it. This means facing your sadness head on. This means not staying busy and pretending your heart is not broken. I've met countless people who think time will heal them. As my friend Tom Zuba iterates, it's not the time that passes; it's what you do with it. Investing in your healing means seeking counseling, reading books, going to support groups or retreats, investing in relationships, and so much more. You will have to spend time and money to heal. It will not be easy. No one can do it for you. I've come into contact with plenty of people who want to heal, but don't want to make the investment. Your healing is your responsibility.

What have I invested in? Counseling and life coaching, retreats, conferences, various types of exercise, online and in-person classes, early morning exercise, relationships with people that feed my soul, travel to meet with people that can help me, massage, spiritual and faith filled teachers, books, and the all-important sleep. You will have to decide what feeds you. Please make the investment.

You may need a new community.

The fact is you will not be the same person you were before your person died or before great sadness entered your life. I've heard this over and over and over again. As time goes on, people around you may want to "move on," and they will likely want you to as well. In reality, we do not move on; we move with our beloveds as we navigate life. You will need to seek out people who understand, who have walked in your shoes and who have done the work. I have met some of the most incredible women because Ethan died, and because Bodey has a rare disease. I learn from them all the time. They are my friends and confidants. Early on having people who have walked in your same shoes matters a whole lot. As the years progress and you do your work, you will be able to expand that group of people. Remember the mindset of those around you will influence you. Choose accordingly.

You will have friends who stick with you and who want to help you. Let them in and teach them how to love you. Remember just as much as you are a student learning to heal; you are also a teacher.

For all the foibles of social media, connecting with others in your same boat is one of the positives. Seek them out. One more thing, as you grow, you may outgrow certain groups or people you follow. That is okay. Keep doing the work.

Strong body. Strong mind. Strong spirit.

You are body, mind, and spirit. Grieving is active work. Moving and strengthening your body will help your mind and spirit strengthen. Exercise will help to release sadness and all the gunk that stores up in our bodies when we are sad. Also, consider meditation and prayer. They will help to calm your mind and spirit. Do not underestimate the power that exercise will have on your healing. Cultivate these practices in your daily life.

Transform your story.

Here we are at number seven. Truth be told, I could write chapters about each of the topics. Since this is already a long enough, I want to end here. I've gotten plenty of pushback on this final belief. But this is my blog, and this is what I believe. So here it goes. Your life is one big invitation, and it's made up of tiny invitations you receive every day. You decide what to show up for. Grief and loss invite us to grow, to deepen, to question, and to transform. They invite us to be the women and men we were created to be. None of this is comfortable or easy. That's why so many people say no this invitation. I believe we are called not only to do the work I've outlined here for ourselves, but we are also then called to transform our stories to make our world a better, more loving and kind place. There is great healing in actively transforming your story; to outwardly give of yourself, your time, energy, and talent to love and serve others.

I'm not sure what transformation will look like for you. For me, it has looked like the non-profit work I've done, the teaching, leading, and writing I'm doing. It looks like creating Made For This. It's looked like Restoring a Mother's Heart. It looks like the way I use my time and resources. It looks like the friendships I invest in and the ideas that guide my work. I will continue to evolve and grow in my life. I fully expect continued evolution. I'm not sure what this might look like for you. But I ask you to consider what you are invited to? What is knocking on your heart? In healing, we cannot skip through to the end. We have to do the work. In my experience, each space I've found myself in has shown me what to do next. So keep seeking, keep asking, keep listening, stay active, and consider the idea that you are made for this life, to transform and transcend this experience, and to bring more love to the world around you. You are not in a rush to get to this place. Take all the time you need. One day at a time. Rest when you need to. Love breeds more love. We grieve because we love. We grieve because we dream and hope. Grieving is part of life and it's the greatest invitation I've ever received. My prayer is that you will accept yours too.

Sunday Love to you! See you next week.

xx

Jessica

Click on the image to learn more

Click on the image to learn more



Getting Up To Bat

It’s been a little while since we’ve met on Sunday Morning. Life has been full to the brim. During these seasons, I choose to give myself grace and take a break, but I always feel pulled back here. So here I am back at it. It’s before 6 AM, and my house is quiet. School has just let out, and we are easing our way into summerbreak. 

Summer break for working moms like me always feels somewhat daunting. I want my kids to have a magical summer, though I’m not quite sure what that means. I suppose it’s the summer that I’ve made up in my mind. But the reality is that I have to work, Bodey is home, and his needs make spontaneity difficult. The responsibilities of life keep humming. 

This summer I’m trying to shift my thinking and be grateful for the gifts of summer. Getting up early to write is one of them. Not having to haul kids out of bed and race to two different schools each morning is a gift. Hearing their voices in the house, hugging them during the day, hearing them laugh and spend time together even if the arguing makes me crazy. 

Fact is time races by and one day soon I will long to hear their footsteps upstairs while I’m working in my office. I won’t have to break up the arguing. Bodey won’t have both Blake and Chase home to spend time with him. They will be off pursuing their dreams. So this summer I’m prioritizing being present, living in the day that I am in, and being thankful for a looser schedule. I’ve made a list of the projects I need to move forward at work and a list of those that can wait until August. I’ve promised myself I won’t worry about those till then. 

This summer my ten-year-old son Blake has decided to play on a baseball team. Blake is a late bloomer to team sports. Though we’ve encouraged him to try just about everything (and he has), his desire to take up team sports has been at his own pace. I am conscious of honoring the compass my children innately have inside of them. Though I offer advice, I also allow them to listen to their intuition. We talk about the difference between being afraid and just not interested, which can easily look like the same thing. 

A couple of weeks ago Blake had his first game and his first up to bat. I was so nervous for him. During warm-up, I paid close attention to the pitcher. “Wow, he pitches with some heat,” I thought. I wasn’t sure Blake had been up to bat against a pitch that fast. But he needed to stand up and try. He committed to be there, so now my job was to cheer him on and let him do his thing.

Blake has been teaching me so much about how to be brave lately. I’m so thankful for him!

Blake has been teaching me so much about how to be brave lately. I’m so thankful for him!

Standing behind the fence at home plate, I started to think about how many times we don’t get up to bat because we are too scared. How many times we don’t leap or try the thing because we are too afraid of the competition. Since we don’t know everything that will come our way, we don’t even begin. But the truth remains, we will never hit a ball or accomplish a dream if we don’t grab that bat, stand in the batter’s box and take a swing. 

For the last nearly two years, a vision or dream has been brewing in my heart. It started after the close of leading a Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat Weekend.  I felt a call to set a wider table. It became clear that many of the topics we were teaching about on the retreat were topics that women everywhere need time to sort through. Identity, beliefs, learning to be still and listen, friendship, pursuing dreams, the desire for creativity, and more. I have also felt a shift as I’m raising and caring for Bodey. Though his story is different than Ethan’s, there is still grief, frustration, caregiver fatigue, and struggles with identity, pursuing dreams, and my continuous faith journey. I started thinking about friends of mine who have faced grief in other ways - a broken marriage, loneliness, an ill or special needs child, hopes deferred, financial struggle, a crisis of faith, and so much more.

For many years I found myself looking around sure that other people’s lives were easier than mine. If I’m honest, I felt jealous of their healthy kids, their more ordered family life, their freedom from illness, and the ability to pursue dreams. I looked at my life as one with deficits. The truth is, my assessment wasn’t all wrong. My daily life with a sick or disabled child is physically harder than that of a mom whose kids are well. But I don’t know all the details of her life, and so I needed to check myself. 

Part of my healing process has evolved towards a strong embrace of my own life. It is clear to me that I am created for the life that I have. Yes, that includes two healthy children, two sick children, one who has died, the call to non-profit work, years of little sleep, feeling different than other moms, and the many years that have felt so very isolating. These valleys have also been calls to question and grow, question and grow, over and over again. Today I am so thankful for them (and I know there will be more). Because of these valleys, I live a rich life. Embracing the life I have is one of the single most powerful and empowering things that I have done. 

I’m a lifelong learner. I will be seeking and growing until the day I take my last breath. I have not arrived. I am a work in progress. But as I continue to do the work of grief and growth, it is clearer than ever that I am called to teach and encourage women around me to do the same. To embrace the lives they have, to call forth their dreams, and to make an impact in their world. We are never made to hide our light. We are made to glow. 

And so I’m getting up to bat. I’m stepping to the plate. I’m answering this call that has been knocking on my heart. On Saturday, November 9, 2019, I’ll be hosting Made For This, a workshop day for women located in the west loop of Chicago. I’m creating this along with my soul sister, Bridgett Piacenti. Throughout the summer I’ll be sharing a lot with you about this day. If you are interested, I hope you will mark your calendar. 

This workshop day will be an opportunity to share with women who are growing in their own lives, who want to rekindle their spark, answer the calls of their hearts,  pursue their dreams and make an impact in their worlds. This day will be highly interactive, so space will be limited. If you’d like to learn more, share your email with us here. 

If something is brewing in your heart, I hope this might be the whisper or the kick in the pants you need to move in that direction. You are Made For This. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, please do, @jmlindberg. I’ll be posting about the event there too.

I’ll be back next week. 

Sunday Love, 

Jessica

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Resurrection Is For You.

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One of the greatest acts of faith is to believe that the few years we live on this earth are like a little seed planted in very rich soil. For the seed to bear fruit, it must die. We often see or feel only the dying, but the harvest will be abundant even when we are not the harvesters.
— H. Nouwen

Last Sunday I was in Boston for the Marathon. To say it was incredible would not be sufficient. To say it was spectacular would not be enough. Awe-inspiring it was. Yes, beyond words.

I always want to know the story behind the story. You know, the part that is unseen. We are easily impressed with someone at the top of their game, but what did it take to get there and what were the gifts and trials of the journey?

As I watched the runners, sat with the team at brunch and watched our foundation apartment bustle with kids and adults, I could not help but think of the story behind the story. If Ethan had lived, there would be none of this. If my friend Celie’s daughter had lived, there would be no TEAM FRANNIE (our marathon team name lead by Celie). When I set up the first foundation apartment, I spent the weekend sobbing while putting furniture together and arranging drawers. I went home with swollen eyes. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The realization that this place would house families because Ethan was not living was more than my heart could bear. Even though I knew it wasn’t possible, that weekend, I begged God to switch it back to the way things were. I also was desperate for resurrection. For good to come from the story.

Death to life.

Death to resurrection

From death comes new life.

The joy of the gatherings, the marathon runners, the families, the apartment, the changed medical care, and the music therapy are part of the resurrection. They are the ricochet of his death. The abundant harvest. Our family was not the harvester. The families after us are. Some days I feel cheated by this fact. I wonder if others know the cost that allows them to be part of the harvest.

And so is life. Death to new life. Seeds planted and harvested. We need planters, and we need harvesters. Sometimes we are one, sometimes the other. Sometimes both.

During his short time here on earth, Ethan planted seeds in our hearts and in our lives. For so long my predominant focus was his death, his suffering, but now, for me, the focus is the harvest.

The Resurrection.

But getting to resurrection means entering the depths. The deepest darkness. Space no one wants to be. The place where being in our own skin feels wrong. The gestation time of despair. We can’t skip past this part. We all want to. We like to talk about the resurrection, we eagerly post about them and share them. But it’s just not possible without the tomb.

As we celebrated the marathon in apartment #306, the family in #304 was saying goodbye for now to their daughter. Megan died the morning of the marathon. Life down the hall from death. Resurrection adjacent to despair.

It did not seem a coincidence that this is how my Holy Week began. Walking the balance of both life and death. Leaning into one and then the other. Dancing between the two in my heart. Back and forth. And so is life.

As Richard Rohr says, “Jesus is a statement about how reality works all the time...he is the blueprint, map, standard bearer of the death to life rhythm.”

And for me that is Easter. The acknowledgment of the resurrection that comes from death. The hope that new life can come from deep despair. No, it does not mitigate sadness or longing. Quite the opposite, it allows for all of it. Jesus’ death on the cross reminds us that we are not alone in our pain. Easter reminds me that the very thing that can destroy us, that can leave us at the bottom of our lives is indeed the portal to beauty. It’s in this liminal space of gestation where we are invited to grow and transform. There are too many long nights that we think will last forever. But the sun does rise. The harvest does come. Not always the way we want it to. But it arrives.

Holding the space for both. Mourning with the sorrowful, and rejoicing with the joyful, planting the seeds even if we aren’t the harvesters.

My story and your story are microcosms of the greater story we are all living. The stories of birth and death are all around us. The seeds we plant in these times matter. The messy middle is a long dark night. But I’m here to remind you that light creeps in. No, the scars are not gone, the trauma not erased, but we can choose let light shine through it all.

And so this Easter I remind you that:

Resurrection is for you.

Today and every day.

So plant the seeds and harvest the crops.

Mourn and hope.

Happy Easter.

He is Risen.

Let's Meet on Video

I thought it might be fun to meet on video this week. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but every time I think of it I'm in my work out clothes and have kids running around in the background:-) You know, real life! 

This was a busy week and I didn't get the chance to write. I'm traveling this weekend for the foundation. Watch this video to learn a little more about me, find out where I am and what really gets me fired up. I also share a little bit about a new event I'm creating for women. 

Below the video, I'm recommending a documentary that I watched last weekend called HEAL. The message of this film is that our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs have a huge impact on our health and our ability to heal. I hope you will add this to your Netflix "to watch" list. I loved it so much, I plan to watch it again.


H E A L

This film will empower you with a new understanding of the miraculous nature of the human body and the extraordinary healer within us all. HEAL not only taps into the brilliant mind's of leading scientists and spiritual teachers but follows three people on actual high stakes healing journeys. Healing can be extremely complex and deeply personal, but it can also happen spontaneously in a moment. Through these inspiring and emotional stories, we find out what works, what doesn't, and why.

Sunday Love to each you.

The Ministry of Broken Hearts

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Minister | Verb: To attend to the needs of others; to take care of someone. Original Latin meaning: “servant.”

These words have been rolling through my mind lately. Over and over again.

The Ministry of Broken Hearts. Serving and caring for those with broken hearts.

This week feels extra heavy. Dean died. A little boy I got to know through my work with the Ethan Lindberg Foundation. His parents remind me of us, giving all, loving with everything they’ve got, advocating in every way, leaving no stone unturned. And yet here we are. Last Sunday I got a message that my friend’s dad had died. She had cared for him so well, and he took a turn for the worse while she was on Spring Break. She rushed back to say goodbye. Another family staying in one of the foundation’s apartments is facing the death of their daughter. She’s 14 and awesome, and her heart is sick. There are no medical options left.

For so long I wanted to fix the heartache of everyone around me as if I was that powerful. I think what I really wanted was to convince myself that it was not so bad. Many people tried that when Ethan was sick. They thought if they did this or said that maybe they could fix it. It’s what we do as humans. We don’t really want to grasp the pain that others endure, so if we can play a part in fixing it, then we can make it better for them and ultimately for ourselves.

The only problem is that fixing is not possible. And that brings me to the Ministry of Broken Hearts. The calling that all of us humans have on our lives. Some of us in more dramatic and direct ways than others. But we are all called to it.

Shoot.

I bet you didn’t want to hear that. Just want to interject here that you cannot “catch” the same pain someone else has by being around them and ministering to them. Because you reach out to a mom whose child has died does not mean yours will die. Embracing a friend who has lost their home or livelihood doesn’t mean you will lose yours too.

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You can’t fix them.

But here is what you can do. You can help carry the broken-hearted.

Imagine deep personal pain is like luggage. Backpacks, rolling suitcases, duffle bags. Think luggage in each hand, on your back and more dragging behind each leg. Carrying someone’s pain is something like picking up some of their bags and carrying them. You cannot bear it all, but you can lighten the load.

In my desire to fix people’s pain I had to wrestle to another realization. Each person’s story is theirs to bear. My story is mine to experience. I am called to my story. To the joys and pains set before me. It is the same with the families I serve. I cannot fix, but I can help carry. That has been the spirit behind the Ethan Lindberg Foundation. How can we help carry? All the money in the world, the greatest medical minds, the most prestigious medical institution couldn’t save Ethan. But people who walked with us saved us.

Now, this is all counter-cultural. We live in a time and space that tries like mad to avoid pain. From post work out pain to relationship break up pain to the pain of seeing someone with a disability. We disconnect. We numb. We look away. We avoid. We scroll. We tell ourselves – “that will never be me.” Until it is us or someone we love. Then we have to look. Kind of. If we choose.

You don’t have to have the same experience as someone else to enter their space, just the desire to do it. I’ve received several questions this week from women who want to reach out to Dean’s mom, and they don’t’ know what to do or say. They want to let her know she’s loved and the truth is they feel helpless. Dean’s mom knows that these women can’t fix her broken heart. At the risk of speaking for her, she wants to be seen and loved, and she wants to honor Dean, her son, who taught her more about life and love then she could have ever imagined.

Here’s where I fill you in on three things to consider if you want to minister to broken hearts: the catch, the caveat, and the silver lining.

  1. The Catch: It’s tough to minister to broken hearts if you have not tended to your own. Seeking healing, wrestling through the challenges in your own life will position you to help others. You will be able to reach back and pull up a sister or a brother who is really struggling. So, if you haven’t tended to your own heart, I’m calling you to do it today. Working toward healing is not just for you, it’s for your community and ultimately for our collective humanity. We are never a finished product this side of heaven– 100% healed – but taking steps in that direction will not only help you but others who need you.

  2. The Caveat: Life is full of different seasons. If you are in the depths of the depths, it is okay. We will minister to you. I’m here to remind you that you are not alone, that you are not destined to stay in the depths. Keep going, keep looking up, and keep doing the work. Rest when you need to. Be very gentle with yourself.

  3. The Silver Lining: Being a minister to broken hearts means you also get to discover more joy. You get to experience more wonder. You find joy in unlikely spaces. You are more content. I’m reading The Book of Joy, and this quote sums it up:

Discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.
— The Book of Joy p. 17

So, if you want to enter the ministry of broken hearts this week here are some things you can do:

  • Send a text to someone who is hurting. Keep reminding them you care.

  • Give someone your time.

  • Send them a note in the mail.

  • Drop something off at their house. (a gift card, plant/flowers) My friend Kelly brought me soup last week when I was sick and it was the most comforting gesture.

  • Learn more about a topic that really grabs your heart. What can you do for this community? What skill can you lend that might help them?

  • Use your talents to tell a story that needs to be told.

  • Use your position to support or advocate for someone.

  • Invite someone over.

  • Give money. This really helps. It takes money to help people and move causes tangibly.

  • Pray. Meditate. Listen to how you might be called.

  • Pay attention and just show up.

What would happen if all humans joined in this ministry of serving others?

Let’s walk together. Join me in the ministry of broken hearts. Not just with lip service. Grab a bag this week and help carry someone as they walk the path set before them.

Sunday Love to you.

This is Dean. Join me in praying for his family. Even if you don't know them, you can minister to their broken hearts through prayer and sending them collective love.

This is Dean. Join me in praying for his family. Even if you don't know them, you can minister to their broken hearts through prayer and sending them collective love.

What’s Your Invisible Wheelchair?

I came across this post by @hopeheals on Instagram last week:

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“I recently posed the question “What’s your invisible wheelchair?” and these were some of your answers.
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The story of our wounding seems so personal—like no one else could understand—but it is in fact universal. It’s ALL our stories. This doesn’t mean our specific pains matter less because other people are hurting more, but rather it means we don’t have to feel so alone in our struggles. And if we all share the story of wounding, then we must all share the story of healing too.”

This post jumped off the screen to me because this is exactly what has been stirring in my heart over the last few years. We like to segment ourselves based on the category of our pain - cancer, divorce, death of our child, abuse, financial stress, marital struggle, depression, and the list goes on. We stay in our silos and talk over and over and over again about our specific type of pain. We think that no one else could understand us.

Before I continue let me stop here and say this. In the early days and for many many many days and months, perhaps for always, it is healthy and necessary to find a community of people that have experienced or are experiencing pain like yours. Pain in your same category. There is nothing more healing than looking in the eyes of someone who is experiencing a story like yours who can say, “I understand. I have been there”. There is tremendous power in sitting with someone who knows what IT is like. In the early days after Ethan died, I looked for women who had endured the death of their own child from congenital heart disease and who were still standing. I desperately needed to see that I could live through it too.

That is why doing our work, wrestling, asking the questions, grieving, crying, listening and growing are all so important. Do you see that it is not only for you, but also for others? First it is for you, so you can live on this earth with your hurts. But after that, it is for others so they can see it’s possible for them too.

As you grow in your healing it is so valuable to see that, like @hopeheals suggests, we all have an invisible wheelchair. We are all carrying something that causes us great sadness. This wheelchair does not have to divide us, it can unite us. It can help us to see one another in a more gentle way. One another’s stories of healing and growth offer inspiration to keep going and keep growing.

When I am out and about with Bodey it is clear I have a child with significant challenge. There is no hiding his actual wheelchair. It’s right there for all to see. The outward, evident manifestation of his muscular dystrophy can make me feel on display, other than and separated from others. Even if I don’t want it to, it does. While children with illness and special needs are second nature to me, they are not to most people. Maybe it’s most challenging because his illness asks me to confront my own insecuriites, prejuidices and ideas about what makes a good life.

It was frankly socially easier to have the wheelchair of grief because I could hide it. When I met new people it was my choice whether or not to mention Ethan. Though I felt like I was carrying this huge, bursting secret about a part of my life, I could hide it if I wanted to. I could pretend.

But here’s the thing - if you get up close and get to know Bodey, you will be captivated by him. You will learn that he is tremendously social, that he has more grit and determination than most and you will covet his long thick eyelashes:-) Meeting him might even cause you to confront your own insecurities and ideas about what makes a good life.

wheelchair

When I am honest about my story and share my wheelchairs, both seen and unseen, I get the privilege of stepping inside other’s stories. I have the opportunity to teach others how to transform their story and find joy in life, and I learn something new from them every time.

Our painful story does not have to divide us. We need to stop judging the severity of our pain versus theirs. Our wounds do not need to contain us and keep us from others. They don’t need to keep us in our silo. Our commitment to growth and healing is a beacon for others, still at an earlier stage of the journey. Opening our eyes to the stories of others connects us and helps us on our own journey.

There is abundant power in accepting your story, your wheelchair. Whether it’s visible or not. There is even greater power in your commitment to healing and transformation. Please share both stories. Share the struggle and share the healing. Because we are both, walking the balance beam of both and. Both struggle and healing. Both joy and pain. Both. And that is healthy honest living. Because we all have something. And that something connects us to one another.

Sunday Love to each of you. ❤️


PS. My friend Stefanie was recently on Melissa Radke’s podcast Ordinary People. Ordinary Things. talking about this very idea, that pain is pain. She has a beautiful and hard story. I think you will feel seen and encouraged by listening to this conversation. Listen here.

You Are Allowed To Change

Be yourself. Whenever you try to be someone else, it’s boring
— Lady Gaga

It was 2016, I was drying my hair in my bathroom while Bodey was in his Tomato Chair and the thought came over me, “you need to create a retreat for women whose children have died from chronic illness”. The thought came out of thin air, but by that time I had learned to listen to those ideas that were not just random thoughts, but rather divine inspiration.

In the previous few years, I had done massive work and had begun to experience healing in my life. It was a daily choice to keep working, keep becoming, to just keep going. I felt lighter because I was beginning to see the fruits of my work. I had been helped by people near and far. People I sat in front of for help and people I knew through books, blogs, and social media. While they all were my guides, the work was mine alone to do.

Within ten days of receiving that divine download, I had the retreat planned. Things fell into place so quickly I knew it was meant to be. I asked other people I respected and learned from to join me. And before I knew it, I had the most fantastic team of healers.

I’ve had the honor of hosting four Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreats. Nearly 100 women participated and traveled from all across the country, Canada and the UK to join in. Each woman so bravely said yes to the experience because, like me, she wanted to experience healing and continue a relationship with her child.

After the spring 2018 retreat, I felt a shift. I knew I needed to re-tool a bit. There were some challenges I had not figured out how to overcome, and I sensed that it was time to take a break. I made the difficult decision to cancel the fall 2018 retreat. I felt uneasy about canceling, but when I did, I felt a giant sense of relief.

The first Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat. Picture by Lexi Read.

The first Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat. Picture by Lexi Read.

A couple weeks ago I announced on social media that I would not be hosting a retreat in 2019. I was nervous about writing the post. I didn’t want to let anyone down. Behind the scenes, I received many inquiries about the next retreat. While it’s clear to me there is a significant need to minister to women learning to live with the physical death of their child(ren), I knew that for me, I was supposed to take a break.

Over the past year, I’ve sensed some new things brewing in my heart. A newer calling, a yearning to set a bigger table and to share what I have learned with more women who desire to create beauty in their lives. I’m heavily leaning into these ideas. Of course, I can’t wait to share more with you soon!

Here’s the message I have for you this week, you can change. You can evolve. In fact, evolving and changing is a sign you are growing and experiencing healing in your own life. Your message can change, your beliefs can expand, your passions can shift. Your vision can evolve. Changing does not mean your former work doesn’t matter. In fact, I’ll bet that previous work is the birthplace of the new path. I often feel the weight of people’s expectations. Or maybe better said, I anticipate what I think people’s expectations are and then place that pressure on myself.

But the only expectation that really matters is the one I place on myself. And I expect that I will continue to transform, evolve and become the very best version of Jessica that I can. I trust that I will keep listening to my heart, to God, to the messages that are right in front of me. I do not know where all of it will lead, but I know that in following these breadcrumbs I will go on new creative adventures which excites the heck out of me.

Will I ever do another Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat? Yes, I expect I will. Will it look at bit different than the last four have? Yes, it will. What I love about the weekends most are the incredible women who physically come into the space. They sheepishly enter because they want something we can offer them, and in turn, they learn from themselves and us how to create healing in their own lives.

Learning to live with the physical death of Ethan has been the most life-altering thing I’ve experienced. I barely have words for it. I do not say that to be dramatic or to minimalize other painful experiences. I believe pain is pain, but for me, in my experiences, this could have done me in. It was like someone went into my house, gutted it and then knocked it to the ground and told me I had to build it again, restore the walls, add furniture, and décor. And after that, I was to make it a cozy, welcoming, loving home once again. It is a daunting task that on many days I didn’t know if I wanted to do. It’s brick by brick, step by step, one choice, then another. It takes bravery, persistence, and consistency.

I love the notion that I can help women place a couple bricks back in their foundation. I look forward to doing this once again through the mom’s retreat and in other ways on my new adventure. I also love how this life-altering experience has been the springboard for some of the most beautiful work and relationships in my life. I will always call Ethan “my gateway”.

What is calling to you that you are not sure you want to answer? Does it feel uncomfortable and maybe a bit scary? Do you ask yourself, who am I to do that work, or to create that thing, or apply for that job? I hope you will answer this call. I give you permission to shift and change and grow. Some people won’t like it, some will. And that’s okay. Because all that matters is what you think. And how you feel on the inside.

Be true. Be you.

Listen.

Grow.

Change.

Shift.

Re-create.

Re-tool

Re-locate

And do this again.

And again.

Don’t wait for permission to come from anyone else. Grant it to yourself.

Who Decides What Defines You?

A couple of weeks ago I started a post about defining vs. altering life events. This topic has been swirling around in my mind for a while now. In my own life, I make conscious choices about how I label what happens to me. For example, it’s easy for my mind and emotions to race out of control when I experience the day to day tasks of raising Bodey. Some days are just really frustrating (like yesterday). I feel overtaken by things I cannot control, and it’s hard for me to get my footing. 

I think it’s easy to feel this way about life, in general. There is so much coming at us in each moment. We are bombarded by messages, requests, and requirements. It’s endless. This week I want to help you see that what happens to you does alter you, often forever. But it does not have to define you. What distinguishes you is your response to what happens. While we cannot control the event, we can always control our response. In short, we get to decide how our story goes. 

This is an essential practice in my life. I refuse to be defined by only the painful events I have experienced. I can still clearly remember taking a run on a bright, gorgeous October morning about a year after Ethan died. Anger was an ever-present companion at that time. Running was a healthy way for me to get it out. I knew at that time that I did not want to be defined by his death. I also did not want his life to be defined by his terrible medical course. And the thought clearly flashed in my mind, “What if you loved them into doing something different?” Them being the doctors, the system, the status quo. At that moment I decided that I would be defined by the love I could share and the changes I could make. This divine download is what inspired me to start the Ethan Lindberg Foundation.

 This download or calling did not make all that happened okay. In fact, I’m still not okay with any of it. But I’ll be damned if someone else decides how my story is characterized. 

The practice of consciously labeling altering vs. defining moments is one I go back to over and over and over again. 

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened just months after Ethan died. While my experience was very different than those parents, I felt a closeness to them. I related to so many of their words. I will never forget a quote I read that went something like this, “We do not want our children to be remembered for what happened to them, but rather we want them to be remembered for the changes we made.”  

All painful moments alter us. They mark us. They transform us forever. We are never the same. Once they happen, we can delineate between the people we were before and the people we become after.

They change our story. 

Change the way we see the world. 

They make us wonder about God, the Universe, how this life works. 

We lose our footing, we feel knocked down. 

Our self-confidence feels low, and shame creeps in. 

They also bring us to a moment of decision.

How will the rest of the story go?

 In the early days, it’s impossible not to be defined by the event. We want to be. We must sit with what has taken place because it has altered us, but if we're going to grow and create a beautiful story from this tragedy, then we need to let it change us, and then choose how we will be defined. As we commit to silence, listening, asking and creating we begin to see a path forward. We cultivate daily practices that help us heal. Little by little those practices add up.

I’ve learned that the power really lies within me. I can create, change myself, and let love win. Taking back this power has given me a fearlessness that I would not have if I gave death or disability or shame the power. This ability to rise lives in you too. 

 Here’s the thing, like me you’ve been altered by something. And you can choose to be defined by that thing. You can give it your power. Or, you can be defined by what you create from it. You can be fearless. You can use this energy, this pain, this thing that altered your life as a gateway to create beauty. 

Don’t give your power away. Live fearlessly. Be defined by what you create and who you become. On hard days, have a good cry, and then keep going. You have something this world needs that you and only you can offer. I know you can do it!

Sunday Love to You.

Podcasts, TED Talk + a Fashion Blog

Dear You,

This week I'm doing something a little different. Several people have asked me to share podcasts that I like. So, I'm doing that and I'm also sharing a TED Talk I think you should watch, and mom fashion blog I follow almost daily. If you like this little change up in the blog once in a while, I want to know!

|: Podcasts :|

No time to podcast you say? Me either, but I do it anyway. When I get to grocery shop alone, you'll find me with my earbuds in my ears (No, I don't have ear pods just yet:-) I podcast every day on the way to school pick-up. Yes, even when Bodey is screaming the entire 25 minutes to school. Which he does daily and I have learned to tune it out most days. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon in children with his diagnosis. I digress... Bottom line, I sneak it in when I can. There's so much great information available to us for free. So if you want to learn something, go for it!

I listen to several women entrepreneur podcasts. My work with the Ethan Lindberg Foundation and Four Hearts Shop keeps me busy and always looking for ways to up my game. I also love podcasts about faith and spiritual growth. Since I don't have lots of time I focus on podcasts about things I want to know more about and ideas that inspire me.

Entrepreneur / personal growth podcasts:

Jessica Honegger, Jenna Kutcher, Rachel Hollis, Lewis Howes, Brendon Burchard

Spiritual / life insight podcasts:

Super Soul Sunday, OnBeing, Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Elizabeth Gilbert's Magic Lessons, Maria Shriver just launched a podcast called Meaningful Conversations and the first episode was great! I also enjoy Trinity Grace TriBeCa Podcast. They are a church in NYC with great insights.

I don't listen to every episode of every podcast, just the ones that pique myinterest. What podcasts do you listen to? Let me know!


|: TED Talk: Dr. Mary Neal :|

After Ethan died, I was desperate to know what happens when we die. I devoured books about near death experiences, after death communication and other spiritual experiences people had around death. One of the very first books I read was To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal.

I have to tell you this quick story. After we moved home from Boston, Blake slept with us most nights. He was only three and I'm sure trying to figure out what the heck was going on in our lives. It was probably a month after Ethan died, I was reading this book before I went to bed. I came to a part where Dr. Neal talks about experiencing heaven. She recounts that she was greeted with cheers as she entered. I finished reading and went to bed.

The next morning Blake wakes up and says, "I had a dream about Ethan". Desperate for my own dream of Ethan started asking my 3 ½ year olda bunch of questions. He just stared at me and said, "All the guys were cheering for him". And that was it. The night before I read about being cheered into Heaven, and the next morning Blake had a similar dream. That was the beginning of my deep dive into understanding life, death and God in a new way. I guarantee this video is worth 12 minutes of your time.


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I love following The Mom Edit. They really comb through sales and seasonal fashion and offer great suggestions on what to wear and buy.

I've purchased several of their suggestions. It's like they distill it down to the top 5 picks and then you choose your fave. Saves time and I find pieces I wouldn't if I looked myself. Check them out!

Did you know I have two sisters? Sarah is in the middle and Katie is on the right. We have 9 boys between us!

Did you know I have two sisters? Sarah is in the middle and Katie is on the right. We have 9 boys between us!


Sunday Love to you!

Jessica

PS Follow me on Instagram. I show up there regularly. It's my desire to serve you in this blog. I’d love your feedback, so drop me a note.

Made For This

Dear You,

Happy Sunday! How was your week?

Last week I started a blog post, but the week got away from me and the words I was looking for never showed up. Some weeks are like that. I started writing about life-altering moments vs. defining ones. I think there’s an important distinction. I’ll keep working on the post so I can share it with you.

This week I want to explore the idea that we are made for the life we have. We are bombarded by messages that we should be more, do more, have more. As we scroll other people’s feeds, it’s so easy to wish our life was different in one way or another. It's easy to feel we don’t measure up. We remind ourselves of our shortcomings. All of this is exhausting and makes us feel disconnected from ourselves and others.

I’m the queen of striving, of having a vision for something I want to create, of rearranging this or redoing that. It’s the creative side of me. For many years my apparent discontentment with what’s in front of me was misread for a discontented person. Now I know it’s just my creativity, my mind that is always churning and turning, who loves great design and energizing places, spaces, and people. So yes, we can, of course, want more in life. We should strive to be our best selves. But we get into trouble when that inner drive to create, and better ourselves morphs into wishing we somehow had a different life.

When I feel jealous of what someone else is doing (don’t lie, I know you think this too!), I now stop myself and ask why. Maybe I love her handbag and just plain want it. Or perhaps the life she’s created came because she worked really hard for it, and yes, sometimes she just got lucky and was handed opportunities. But here’s the truth: she was designed for that life, and I’m created for mine. You are built for yours. In addition to asking myself why I feel jealous, I also need to be clear that perhaps I am called bring forth something similar to this world. Pay attention to those feelings and instead of letting jealousy take over, dig a little deeper to see what might be underneath.

The life you have is the life you are created for. And in it lives your purpose. When lives are handed out, it’s normal to speculate why some people’s appear unfairly more comfortable. We wonder if we drew the short straw. But we don’t live those lives. So it’s best to stay in our lane and focus on what we have in front of us. At one point in time my dad said to me, "if we could line up all the pain in the world in front of us and choose one to be ours, we’d pick our own". I think about this sentiment quite often. We have been imparted with the gifts and unique abilities to make this one life of ours beautiful.

My friend Stefanie and I were talking recently about the idea of living a life different than we planned. She’s the mom to three children. Two of them born with a rare disease called Sanfilippo Syndrome. In the last 14 months, both have died. She told me that she will always win the gold medal of "saddest story" in her group of friends, but that each woman has something that breaks her heart. Something in her life she wishes was different. Stefanie knows she was created for her life. A life that from the outside seems so unfair and the last life any woman would want, but when you get to know her, you see this person who is wise, beautiful and who sees clearly the purposes of her life. And you say to yourself, I want to be more like her.

This is why I say that your life is an invitation. If it doesn’t look the way you’d like, or if your circumstances seem more than you can handle today, dig in. Dig in deep. Accepting this invitation is not passive. Instead, it asks you to get honest with yourself and to start listening to your heart, to the Holy Spirit, to the God who breathed life into your lungs.

Stop grazing the surface.
Stop comparing to others.
Stop buying more stuff to make you feel better.
Start listening.
Start answering the calls of your heart.
Start creating space for new life to be reborn.
Start saying “no” to things, habits, time sucks, and people that don’t align with your vision for your best life. Start cultivating your natural talents, pursuing your dreams and finding creative ways to deal with the limitations set before you.

Erik, Bodey and I at my brother’s wedding

Erik, Bodey and I at my brother’s wedding

You are made for THIS life. Not for hers, or his, or theirs. For yours. So start making it stunning. And you know what? The imperfections, the deep pain, the crippling sadness, these make you more beautiful. Especially if you allow them to grow and refine you. When you do the hard, some days, yucky work, little by little you with breathe deeper and see clearer.

I remind myself all the time that I am created for the life I have. When I desperately miss Ethan, which is often lately, I remember I was born to be his mom. To walk with him in his illness and allow the most profound pain of my heart to transform me. When my body hurts from carrying around Bodey, and merely going to the store feels like such a production, I remind myself that I was created to be Bodey’s mom. I am invited to see life anew through the lens of disability and to be loved by Bodey (he gives so much love). When I want to redo my laundry room or buy new furniture, but there just isn’t the money because of medical bills or something not covered by insurance, I get frustrated. Being frustrated is okay. We were never promised easy. Instead, we are invited to become our beautiful selves BECAUSE of the life we have.

You are made for this. For all of this. Within you are the skills, abilities, and ideas to craft the life you want within the one you already have. You don’t need to go anywhere else. Climb inside of your own heart. See what you find. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday Love to you.

PS The great writer and poet Mary Oliver died this week. Fun fact is that like me, she was born in Cleveland OH (Maple Heights to be exact). Her words have meant so much to me. Take some time this week to read her poetry. I know her words will touch your heart too. These words are perfect for the week’s post.

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Source: Pinterest


The Courage to Continue

Dear You,

How’s your New Year going so far? Sometimes it feels overwhelming, doesn’t it? There’s pressure to change up everything from our skin care regimen to our workout schedule. Like I wrote last week, I love a new year because it’s a fresh start, a time to begin again. But as I pondered this whole New Years thing this last week, this thought came to me:

New Years is about the courage to continue.

(If you follow me on social media, you saw my post about this with a picture of my cute Bodey.)

In reality, we are continuing. Continuing on this path of life that each of us has been given. A new year doesn’t change the reality that we are where we are. It doesn’t change the fact that my son Bodey has muscular dystrophy or that I miss Ethan or that I want to re-do my laundry room.

But what it does offer is an opportunity to begin again. To recalibrate. Rethink. Redo. Reimagine. Reframe thoughts and ideas. Reignite passions. Recommit to practices that make us healthy and whole.

We get another chance to do it better.

But we can’t make it better if we don’t take the time to do so. This year I’ve recommitted myself to prayer and meditation. My goal is 10 minutes of silence before I start my workday. I know that doesn’t seem like much time, but it’s a place to start and realistic enough to make it a daily practice. After I’m done, I write down the words that come to my mind. In silence is where I can hear myself, feel centered and her God’s voice. It’s in the emptying that we are filled up.

This practice allows me to continue. To then go on to my work. To care for my family. To do my work. To create new things.

I’m sitting in my office surrounded by large post-it sheets on my walls. I’m working on 2019 plans for the Ethan Lindberg Foundation, my Four Hearts Shop and dreaming about some new things I want to put out into this world. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m actually thinking about how I can recalibrate to make more impact with fewer resources. To do more with less. To continue in a new way.

I’m continuing. I’m reworking. I’m recommitting. I’m rethinking.

This week I hope you will take some time to think about what you need to continue. Acknowledge what is painful, disappointing, and heavy in your life. Call it out and then make a plan to continue. To what do you need to recommit? To recalibrate so you can live this year well. Maybe you need to change courses to continue. Continuing is also about changing the approach so you can continue to grow into your best self.

So this week continue. Take a breath. Recommit your becoming. To your dreams. To those you love. To those you care for. Let us all continue on this journey and live well.

Sunday Love to you.

Unsplash

Unsplash

Four Thoughts About Setting Goals for 2019 (and a note to you who grieve)

Dear You,

Thank you for following along this year. Thank you for reading my posts, for sharing them, for writing to me about your stories and how my words impact you. I love writing, but for me this is really about creating a community of like-minded women who want to grow and become their best selves despite what life dishes out. I am so inspired by women who choose to live big, beautiful lives even though things have not panned out the way they hoped. In truth, we can all relate to this sentiment. It’s exciting when we are able to embrace this life, all its parts, and say to the world – I’m going to make something beautiful of it.

source: pinterest

source: pinterest

I love getting ready for a new year. It’s a blank canvas ready to be painted. Your canvas is yours and only yours, so paint away. Make it magnificent, bold, loud, whimsical, employ your greatest talents, and stretch yourself to gain new ones. Make it a full expression of you and only you. Claim it, love it, and commit to making this your best year yet.

When I think about a new year, it’s easy to be influenced by the goals everyone else has – lose weight, take this class, declutter that space, go here, not there. You know what I’m talking about. Today, I’m challenging you to really think for yourself and more importantly listen to yourself. What is calling to you? What do you know is your work to do this year?

Before I share four thoughts on goal setting for 2019, I want to write to you whose heart is grieving. Ethan died in 2012. I dreaded the calendar turning to 2013. It would be a year I’d live in without him. It felt daunting and repulsing. When our hearts ache because life has dealt us a magnificent blow, the future feels heavy. Can I let you in on a secret? While I love goal setting and the possibility of a new year, the future with my son Bodey feels unknown and scary. I miss Ethan. I always will. I often feel I have one foot here in this reality and one in heaven, where this will all make sense. I feel like I’m walking on a balance beam that is simultaneously moving, trying to knock me off. I’m not sure I’m up for what is to come.

But here’s the thing, I’m here, you are here. So that means our work is not done yet. I’m now at a place where I’m curious about what life has me here to do. I’m okay with the unknown while I simultaneously make plans and set goals. There are days when I feel the weight of it all, but I am 100% clear that I’m here for a purpose, so I want to keep discovering what that is during this lifetime.

If grief is your everpresent companion this season, I see you. I’m also going to challenge you. You were not created to sit in a corner and wither away. The excruciating pain makes it easy to wish for withering away. But that is not who you are or what you are created for. So today, I want you to set three simple goals. One for the body, one for the mind, and one for the spirit. If you just focus on those three and in the process be gentle with yourself, you will make steps forward. The only way is through. So, keep walking through. You will get to the other side.

source: pinterst and morgan harper nichols

source: pinterst and morgan harper nichols

1. Choose a word: Each year I choose a word or series of words for the new year. I post them in my office. For 2018 my word was intention. I wanted to do things with more intention. Less autopilot, more active choice. I also wanted to be conscious of the “why” behind what I chose to do. When a year ends, I do not ‘loose’ the previous year’s word. I take it with me. So in 2019, I will continue to focus on being intentional in my work and life while adding my new word (which I’m still deciding on). One tip: I write that word in my planner at the top of each week to keep my focus.

2. Goals + tactics: We often overestimate what we can accomplish in one year (I’m the queen of this), and underestimate what we can accomplish in three years. This week I’m not only thinking about what I can accomplish in 2019 but what I can accomplish by 2022. When I write a goal, I’m also thinking about the tactics and tools I need to employ to make them happen. These tactics matter, so don’t skip over them! So think about this year, but also about three years from now. Some goals have a longer horizon. Be realistic and then create a plan to get where you want to be.

3. Speak kindly: Instead of saying “I want to lose 20 pounds”, make your goal “I want to be a physically healthier person”. The first feels negative, the second feels positive. If you want to be healthier, then you need to employ tactics to make that happen. Of course, that will include exercise, diet, and habits that will help shed that 20 pounds.

4. Cultivate spiritual practice: Pray and meditate. Ready books about those whose faith you admire, on ideas about God you want to explore. I don’t think we can create the life we want or experience healing on a deep level without a spiritual compass. Please cultivate your inner self, your soul, the place in you that is connected to God, to Spirit, to your soul. You need a source of living water, of nourishment in order to face this life. If you do nothing else I suggested, do this. Cultivate the person you are on the inside.

If you’d like to dive deeper into goal setting, here are some people and sites I follow and learn from.

Headspace - a great source for learning to meditate and cultivating quiet.

Tony Robbins - he’s a powerhouse business and personal growth guru. Erik and I love to listen to his podcasts in the car together. He’s intense, direct and very insightful.

Rachel Hollis - many of you may know her from her book. Girl Wash Your Face. She’s touching a nerve focusing on goal setting and personal growth for women.

I just bought High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard. In this book, Brendan looks at six habits that create extraordinary results.

Happy New Year to you! I send you love and blessings as you approach 2019. Let’s make it a great year!

Sunday Love (on Monday:-) to you.



Christmas Is For You

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This is one of my favorite times of year. I love the music, decorations, time with friends and thinking of what to buy for people I love. I’ve always loved Christmastime most. But something shifted in me after Ethan died. And this season, while still a favorite, now has a heaviness to it that walks beside the wonder.  The heaviness catches up to me a couple weeks before Christmas. I now know I need to sit with it, not rush through the feelings, but feel them, journal about my thoughts and walk through the memories of Christmases past. 

 Ethan’s last Christmas was full of significant experiences. He was chosen to light the hospital Christmas Tree. Chase was born 12 days before Christmas that year. We baptized him on Christmas Day and Ethan’s first ever nurse made us a beautiful dinner that we ate in the department of anesthesia conference room. The day Chase was born Ethan’s doctors and nurses brought him along with his oxygen, med pumps and all that was attached to him over the bridge to the women and children’s hospital to meet Chase. We were interviewed by a local paper and that story helped Ethan meet Jack Johnson, his favorite singer, via FaceTime. A couple days after Christmas his doctors would tell us he needed another surgery and it would be the beginning of the end. The next six months would be some of the hardest of my life. 

This December Chase turned seven. Ethan died when he was seven. The passage of time felt thick and unbelievable. The memories felt close and I needed to take some time to sit with all of it. Christmas is nostalgic. Sometimes that nostalgia is painful. We find ourselves hoping or wishing or remembering. If that’s you this Christmas, sit there, and allow yourself time to be right there. Give yourself permission to feel all it is that you feel. 

 For me, it’s not only missing Ethan but confronting the reality of Bodey’s life. It’s hard to buy presents for a four-year old that can’t do ‘typical’ four-year-old things. I struggle to find toys to buy for him that he can actually enjoy. At the same time, I enjoy granting Chase and Blake their Christmas wishes. I love the lights and the baking. The parties and laughter. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I believe the sweetness of life is found in walking the middle road. The in-between spaces. I feel like my life is continuously asking me to live in this space. And as I surrender and sink into this space, I find more and more gifts there. 

This year I consciously took time to go visit and schedule meet ups with some women dear to me that I don’t get to connect with often enough. I had the chance to enter their stories. During these sacred times with dear friends, I find that my continuous walking in the middle spaces allows me to see and love them in unique ways. I love that my story has given me these gifts. This year I feel in awe and so thankful that people share with me their hearts and that I can actually feel their joys, pains, and longings. 

I love upside down thinking. I seek it out. I want to learn from others who see things in a new and different way. Who find gifts in the most unlikely spaces, who dig in and are willing to go places so many won’t. Christmas, to me, is a primetime upside down presentation. A king born in a stable. Stars guiding ordinary people. A young, unmarried woman chosen to be Jesus’ mother. The supernatural meeting the natural. Light bursting forth in the deepest darkness. Hope sitting with despair. Wonder and doubt finding a home in the same space. 

If you are sitting in these middle spaces this Christmas, I want to tell you that this time of year is especially for you. I wrote this Instagram post this week. I hope you will feel seen in it.

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 Do you wonder? Do you wonder if all this is for you too? You who ache. You who wonder. You who aren’t sure what you believe or what is even true anymore. You whose life is upside down in all ways with no signs of straightening up any time soon. You whose heart is shattered. You who aren’t sure what you are here to do. You who is flat out angry at life. You who feels lost. You who is lonely. You who longs for your soul to be fulfilled. For all of you sitting in this fragile space.

 Yes, Christmas is for you too. In it is a hidden wonder, uncertainty, darkness, and light. In its story are wanderers, those cast aside and put in uncomfortable spaces. The story shares hope born in the deepest darkness. In an unlikely place amidst ordinary people. People like you and me. People wondering and hoping as we wade through the unknown. As we sit with the sorrowful, the hopeful, the fearful, the dreamer, the weary.

We can be Christmas to each other. No, not in gifts and wrapped packages, but with our time. With our prayers. With our words. With our compassion.

This week I am holding so many stories of struggle. Of all kinds, in all different stories and circumstances. I want a magic wand. I want healing powers. I want to give answers. I have none of those things.

But like you, I have love to give. Tears to cry, work to do, ears to listen, words to speak and time to give. And in those gifts, you find Christmas. In those gifts you find Hope. Born of love, amidst the deepest darkness. For you and for me. 

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This week I also listened to these podcasts, that you might like too. BTW - I’m a huge podcaster. My favorite topics - entrepreneurship, personal growth, faith, spiritual growth. Click on the buttons for the podcast links. 

I’ll be posting one more time this year about how I approach a new year. Thank you all for taking your precious time to read my words and journey with me. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. I hope you will take some quiet time to meditate on the gifts of this season. 

 Sunday Love to each of you, 

 Jessica

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On Darkness & Hope

Alexander Shaia and Rob Bell

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7,000 Ways to Listen

Oprah and Mark Nepo

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Three Prayers for Challenging Times

Oprah and Anne Lamott




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At Least - Part Two

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I hope you had the chance to read last week’s Sunday Love. I shared a story about observing a woman in the lobby of the hospital where Ethan had been inpatient for nine months. That day I looked at her and thought to myself, “at least I’m not her”. I went on to invite you into others’ stories, especially of those whom you might say to yourself, “at least I’m not her”.

I head from several of you who wrote to me and said, “I’m her”.

“I’m the one that others look at and say, ‘at least I’m not her’.”

So, this week I want to write directly to you. To you who feel looked at in this way. To you who know life circumstances that are not easy or ideal. Perhaps these circumstances can make you feel like you live on the outside.

If you don’t fall into this category, I hope you will still read along. I think these suggestions have nuggets of wisdom for all of us. And you never know where you might find yourself and who you might be able to help.

Okay, sister, back to you. I see you. I get you. I am you. At least I looked at myself this way for a long time. Some days I still do. Some days I feel like an outsider. I see the freedom of moms without special needs kids. Who doesn’t have a legacy of heavy stuff that impacts their life in every way. (I’d love to unpack these topics sometime. Anyone?) I can easily feel a twinge of jealousy. But I don’t any longer look at myself as less than because of it all. So here are five ideas I want you to think about as a woman who might say, “I am her”. I’ll warn you, none of these are easy. But you weren’t created for easy, you were created to be a world-changer in your own sphere of influence.

#1 Offer compassion + be a teacher

When I push Bodey around in his stroller it is clear my son has special needs and is other-abled. No doubt about it. When I pushed Ethan around he was smiley, rosy-cheeked and super cute. No one saw the scars on his chest and belly, the g-tube, the list of doctor and therapy appointments, the fear I carried in my heart. You could pass me in the store and have no clue about my story. The reality is that everyone, if they are honest, has something painful they carry in their hearts. Many of our wounds and scars are unseen. My life with Bodey is very obvious and that stinks sometimes. But holding a fear in your heart and carrying the heaviness that people cannot see is hard too. Offer compassion to others. Be the one who “sees” them, even if they do not see you.

Your eyes have been opened. The masks are gone. You see the world in a way that so many do not. You are a teacher. So teach. Teaching and exposing our stories is really hard sometimes. But I believe it is part of the calling. I know you can do it.

#2 Most people see you as amazing

Here’s the truth, most people look at you and think, “she’s amazing. I don’t know how she does it”. And your reply is likely, “If this was you, you’d have to figure it out too”. Yes, this world needs more compassion. We need more people willing to crawl inside each other’s stories. Many are willing. Many are not. You cannot change that. Other’s opinion of you is none of your concern or business. But the reality is many of them look at you in awe. But I bet you if I asked those who observe you, they’d say, “she’s pretty awesome”. So, own your awesomeness.

#3 Seek community

We need community. We were created for it. When life happens and we feel “other than”, it’s so natural to want to go and hide. To retreat, to shut down and shut out. But we cannot thrive there. Every one of us desires to be seen, heard, known and loved. So seek community with other like-minded women. Women who know your struggle, your story. Social media has a lot of foibles, but it does offer an opportunity to connect with others living similar stories. We need people we can text or message when something happens who will get it.

You can also find community with like-minded women living different stories. That’s actually really cool because you will gain new perspectives. Ideally, these will be women committed to growth and learning amidst their story. Don’t get stuck with those who want to wallow in their story. Join forces with those who want to create beauty from it.

#4 Take care of you.

I know. I know. Another plug for self-care. Yep, I’m making it. First off, I know it’s hard to take care of yourself when you are doing life alongside grief, pain, and circumstances that make actualizing self-care difficult.

But you must fight for it. You must fight for you. Start small – journal, podcast, read 5 pages/day in a book that inspires you, do 10 sun salutations, take 10 deep breaths. Just do something. You cannot do what you have been called to do without it. You are so worth the time.

#5 Be a difference maker

I know it’s a tall order, but you were created for this story. I believe each of us has the tools we need inside of us to live the life we have. Sometimes we have to dig really deep. We often need rest. Go back and re-read #3 and #4.

You, my sister, were called to be a difference maker. I’m not sure what that looks like for you. For all of us, it’s different. But you are called. I’m sure of that. Use your perspective, your experiences, your heartache, your backache, and the fire in your belly. And do something. Create something, love someone better, teach, grow, learn, do. They say if you want something done, give the task to a busy person. It will get done. That person is you.

Yes, you have too much on your plate, but concurrently you’ve been given beautiful gifts, perspectives, and experiences that the world desperately needs to hear about. So get going, okay?
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Do these ideas resonate with you? I’d love to know. I want you to know that I believe in you.

So, don’t give up. Okay? You are doing a great job.

Sunday Love to you.

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At Least I'm Not Her - Part One

It was a fairly typical morning during Ethan’s year-long hospital stay. By mid-morning, post breakfast, his breathing became more difficult. So I helped him put on his bi-pap mask and he settled down for a nap. I watched the monitor to make sure all his numbers were in the safe range and he was comfortable. His breathing eased and the hum of the bi-pap machine filled the room. I checked in with his nurse and then headed to the lobby for some food and coffee.

Me the tired mom getting some love from Ethan.

Me the tired mom getting some love from Ethan.

On this particular day as I sat in the lobby, I noticed a woman walking with her son in a wheelchair. If you have ever sat in the lobby of a major children’s hospital you know that at all hours the place is buzzing with people. You see everything, kids running, kids in wheelchairs, kids with oxygen and tracheostomies. You see able-bodied kids and kids that are not. You see kids with diseases you can “see” and those with some you cannot.

She pushed her son who had blondish hair. He was about seven or nine years old. It was clear he probably didn’t walk and likely had some cognitive impairment. She had all kinds of bags strapped to her and his chair. She looked rushed and tired. At this point in time, Ethan had been in the hospital for nine months and I was tired down to my bones. So, I knew a tired mom when I saw her.

As she raced by me for the main elevators, I thought to myself.

“At least Ethan walks and talks. At least he can tell me he loves me and I can enjoy his personality. At least we travel easily with him (by this time he’d been lots of places on an airplane). At least if we can get his heart healthier, he will developmentally be pretty typical.

At least.

At least.

At least.”

The reality was that Ethan was very sick. His heart was not healing the way his team had hoped and I was feeling desperate. I had just given birth to Chase, we’d been living away from home for months, and every day I was watching my son suffer. I couldn’t see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. I was scared.

I didn’t know the first thing about the woman I judged that day. I didn’t know anything about that boy. I hadn’t the first clue about her story, her life, her dreams, her disappointments, her support system, her sacrifice, her talents. But I was certain I didn’t want her life.

Now I don’t think my thoughts are particularly unusual. When life is frayed all around us, we grasp for something to hold on to. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and who others are around us. Survival mode does all kinds of things to our hearts and minds.

Fast forward 6 months Ethan would die after 13 months in the hospital. And two years later I would give birth to Bodey who arrived on earth with a rare muscular dystrophy. And in a split second, I became that woman. The one pushing the wheelchair. The one navigating daily life in a world that doesn’t accommodate people on wheels. A world where people look and may think to themselves “at least I’m not her”. Or maybe they are just curious, but they don’t have the courage to just ask. I also became a woman who knows the incredible bond you can have with a child who does not speak.

I don’t know why I recalled this rather simple, ordinary morning so many years later. On some level, I believe I knew I’d be Bodey’s mom. I believe that who we are and what we are capable of has already been pre-wired within us. Life’s events, whatever they are, reveal these parts of ourselves. We always have the free will, the choice of how to respond. But the ingredients are there, waiting to be revealed.

How many times have you looked at another woman and made the “at least” list?

At least I’m not single.

At least I’m not in her position in life.

At least I’m not sick like her.

At least my kid isn’t sick like her’s. I have no idea how she does it.

At least I live here and not there.

At least my husband isn’t like that.

At least I don’t struggle with ______.

At least….at least…

We all do this at one time or another. I think it is simply human nature. When life is hard (as it is) we grasp for straws. We want to feel like we have a handle on things. Even when it’s not hard, we all want to tell ourselves a story about what our life is like. We often do that in comparison to others.

That morning in the hospital I was exhausted and Ethan was so very sick. I was trying to tell myself a story about my life that made it bearable on that day. Our minds reach for “at least” when life feels out of control and not the way we hoped it to be. Similarly, stories that we don’t understand or that scare us often create distance between us and others.

Women gathering at our last Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat.

Women gathering at our last Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat.

Gratitude is, of course, thankfulness. But it can also be judgment masked as gratitude. We are always invited to crawl inside the stories of others. No, we cannot absorb the pain of this world. If we did, we wouldn’t leave our beds. But we can see with more compassionate eyes. We can seek to know more about our neighbors and those we cross paths with each day. We can be honest about our own sadness and disappointment in life. We can make a call, bring flowers, send a note or just a direct message. We can choose to “see” each other in a new way.

When we feel the urge to look at someone else and say “at least”, we are invited, instead to look inside ourselves. To piece through the parts that hurt, that don’t we don’t understand, or want to see. In those spaces, we have the opportunity to sift, learn, and grow into a more beautiful version of ourselves.

I find it interesting that we are able to hold the collective pains of the world so much easier than the individual ones. We band together to help with fires and famines and shootings. We donate money, share the cause on social media and talk about it with friends. But it’s just that, it’s collective, it’s at a distance. Individual ones are harder because we have to face what these pains manifest. We have to see what these “at leasts” look like with skin on.

This holiday season I invite you to do two things:

Number One :

Crawl inside someone’s story. Consider that she is so much like you. She probably wants so many of the same things you do. Think to yourself, “This is her calling. In this space is her invitation. It seems hard, but within her is already the person needed to answer this call. What can I do to support her? Can I listen? Can I encourage? Can I just drop off a note or a coffee and tell her that I see her?

If you don’t know her, you can just send her love, you can open the space of your heart that connects all of us and whisper a prayer for her, send her some of your strength.

Number Two:

Examine the areas in your own heart where you often look at others and say, “at least”. Journal about the spaces within you that need love, healing, and understanding. Work through them in writing or reading or even sharing with a friend.

May this Holiday Season be one of reflection and fulfillment as we seek to become more whole women who love others well.

Sunday Love to you.

Transition: The Whisper of Wow

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you each had a lovely holiday with your family and friends. Ours was low key and just what we needed. Next weekend we have our final event for the foundation here in our hometown. I’m ready to check off all the to-do boxes for the year and begin working on some passion projects in December.

I’ve been thinking a lot about transition these last couple months. I am always conscious of my desire to grow and evolve. I’m ever assessing where I’m at and where I want to be. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of listening.

What is whispering in my ear?

What is pulling me?

What things are completed?

What should be continued and perhaps evolved?

What new callings are on the horizon?

Some questions you might want to think and journal about too as this year is winding down.

I wrote the following words a couple years ago and am re-sharing (with edits) as they are a good reminder to listen to what is calling to you. What “wow” is captivating your heart these days?

Photograph by Jacob Campbell

Photograph by Jacob Campbell

THE WHISPER OF WOW

Do you recall a moment where you just knew something? A thought or message stops you in your tracks. Something previously foggy becomes crystal clear. Or perhaps it’s a new thought. Something you hadn’t previously considered. A truth comes through.

 Maybe you don't know it consciously, but something about that moment seers your soul. Jolted, moved, impacted. Maybe you don't realize the clarity of the moment at the time, but in retrospect, it's crystal clear.

And maybe you work really hard to deny this truth. You convince yourself it's not a message for you. Easily rationalizing over and around this deep truth.

Moments like this are defining. They make us say WOW!  Sometimes it's a WOW! that's in awe of love, the beauty of life. And others times it's a disappointed, shocked WOW! Sometimes for sure, it's a damn it, WOW!

Listen to the message that startles your soul. The jolt that makes it clear you better listen up. These moments are life steering. Deep defining messages. Gifts hidden. Freedom waiting.  

Perhaps it's hard to discern why you feel jolted or what that message means. Okay so you sit with it. You whisper a prayer "help me to know...to discern" and helpers arrive on the scene. Maybe in two hours or in two months the answer arrives. You commit to wait.

Or maybe you are desiring a message, a sign, a signal about what's next. Maybe you fall asleep each night asking God for a sign, for a helper. These can be times of frustration and impatience. The message in that moment may be, "not yet". And so that's a "WOW! I need to listen, I need to sit with this, I need to wait". And so you wait. You watch. You listen.

Sometimes these moments come from a comment directed at you that really ticks you off (this has happened to me). "How dare they say that?" You feel injured, shaken, offended. These are the moments that beg you to listen. They are a revealing mirror reflecting truth. Maybe the message comes as you are witnessing the beauty of nature or the wonder of your children. Maybe it comes when you are on your knees crippled in despair.

 These are moments that give you a push. In these beautiful, revealing moments ask God what you can learn. Ask life what it's trying to teach you. Then listen for the answer. Wait until it comes. Don't clank around creating noise with a luster of activity so loud you cannot hear the message.

Sit and listen.

Open your ears, don't deny your deepest knowing. Make space. Invite in the discomfort. Consider the message made just for you. Breathe it in. Feel peace.

As the bustle of the holidays approaches, carve out space for yourself. I keep a journal in my purse and paper and pen in my car. When an idea strikes or I hear something I want to go back to during my quiet time, I can easily recall it. Be listening, be conscious, be on the look out for messages calling to you. If something calls to you and you want to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Sunday Love to each of you.

Jessica

Source: Unsplash

Source: Unsplash