Choosing to Really See (An Empower Up Project Story)

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I was blessed to write a piece for The Empower Up Project yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, this amazing community/website “was created to provide ALL women with a platform where we can help each other grow, succeed and collaborate.” It was founded by the awesome Kim Albano, a leadership and development consultant doing the work of lifting women up and helping them go after their dreams. I am honored to play a little part in her vision of empowerment with a grace story that I wrote in view of my sister’s joy-filled perspective on life despite her daily struggle with the effects of breast cancer.

For those of you who are new to Grace for the Wasted Space and don’t know my sister’s story, check it out here. For those of you who need some light shed on your dark path right now, come on over to The Empower Up Project and see what I learned while watching my sister go through the greatest battle of her short life. Maybe you know someone that needs a little hope in this season. Maybe you need some?

I’ll leave you with this heartfelt quote from my piece and hope it resonates with you:

“We don’t have to say much to understand each other’s hearts. The seagulls squawking over a child’s sandy snack in the distance say what we’re both thinking: There’s just not enough to go around, is there? Or so it would seem. There are too many unfulfilled needs to be met. Too many broken hearts to be mended. Too many desperately lost to be saved. “

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Breast Cancer Stole My Sister

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Hey friends! It’s been a week or two since I’ve been on here. Life has been pretty busy! Fall is officially upon us- school activities are in full swing. As we celebrate the cooler temps and prettier colors, I have also been mindful of what October represents: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many of you know about my story of losing my sister to this awful disease. (Check it out here!)

While reflecting on this loss, I was compelled to write something in honor of her that brings awareness on the effects of breast cancer as well. Please hop over to Her View From Home and give it a read. It wasn’t easy for me to write but it was necessary for my healing journey. I encourage you to give it a try: writing brings healing in a very tangible way.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation says, “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” That’s like one gal in your mama tribe or one neighbor in your running club. One in eight means that every single one of us is already or will be eventually affected by this monster of a disease.

Do you know someone fighting this battle? Are you walking through it? Remember: you are never alone. Thanks for reading my personal story- there are so many other stories out there that deserve our attention as well. Go find one and read it today. Better yet, go write one. Your story matters.

Click here: Breast Cancer Stole My Sister

The Stranger Who Saw My Sorrow

 

I have the awesome privilege of having Aimee Niebuhr of MamaCentric guest post on my blog today! This gal’s writing has blessed me so much in very personal ways. Her posts are so raw that you feel like she is writing from your diary. (At least that’s how I feel) and I couldn’t be more grateful for it because she motivates me to be brave with my truth. Her courageous writing will stir your heart to feel and your spirit to soar. You read her honest words and feel compelled to share love with someone else. She radiates love and truth in the most beautiful ways. Read on and be blessed, dear friends.

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I was twenty-one years old. The world before me should have been bright; a horizon of possibility spread out and shimmering like sunlight glinting off of the endless ocean. But life didn’t feel like the beauty of the horizon meeting the vast, blue sea at all. It felt like a torrent of crashing waves, hitting one after the other, intent on knocking me down.

My sister was at the end of her battle with leukemia. It came fast. It hit hard. Within six months, with the arrival of a bitterly cold November, we were preparing to let her go.

Somehow, I managed to work through my college classes during that fall semester, furtively writing papers and preparing for the exams I would take after returning from the weeklong Thanksgiving break. The Thanksgiving I would always remember as the last time I held my baby sister close, the time when I said goodbye.

Classes resumed on a Monday. My peers were full of cranberries and turkey and joy. The whole world seemed to be filled with a goodness that didn’t include my pain or me, at all. I was an outsider.

I stood before my favorite professor – the one who spoke loudly in front of our classroom and taught history in a way which made you want to rise up and be better because of it. “How is she doing?” he asked me. Tears filled my eyes, as I managed to whisper, “Not well.” He hung his head in sorrow, and I knew he understood.

And though I will always remember his gentle grief, the ways he mourned for a girl he did not really know, it is the moment that happened next, which has stayed imprinted upon my soul, all these years later. It was the girl who followed me out of the classroom and tapped my shoulder who made me feel as though I was not alone.

“My brother had leukemia. He died seven years ago.”

I searched her face, trying to remember. Had we ever spoken, this girl who had sat quietly beside me since September? Every Monday and Wednesday for months we had walked into the same little classroom, and I had never even asked her name. How did she know my agony? Was it because I had been wearing it for months, cumbersome like a heavy coat drenched in the soaking rain?

I had never said a word to her, and yet, in that moment, there wasn’t anyone else on the earth that could have known me better than she did.

“What should I do?” I managed to ask.

“You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One foot, and then the other. One foot, and then the other.”

It was so simple, and yet profound.

My sobs erupted. Every ounce of heartache I had been carrying for months now spilled out into the space between a stranger and myself, into the void between my grief and her memories — our collective sorrow building a bridge neither of us knew we needed.

She opened her arms; I fell into her embrace. My tears dropped wildly onto her shoulder and into her hair. I didn’t even know her name, but she didn’t seem to care. Perhaps seven years ago, she had found her strength in a stranger’s arms, too.

One week later we would take our final exams. I never saw her again. I never even learned her name.

It has been ten years since a girl I had never met held me in a hallway and absorbed my grief. She saw me drowning under the weight of my sadness amidst the sea of goodness, and brought the goodness to me.

I’ve always wished that I could go back and tell her that I am so sorry that she lost her brother. That I am so grateful she chose to turn her pain into a beacon of light to help guide the weary home. That I whispered, “One foot, and then the other,” to myself hundreds of times in the days after my sister’s passing. I held tightly to it in the years I spent adjusting to my new normal without her, falling back upon the familiar comfort of the phrase when the days felt too difficult.

Most of all, I wish I could tell her that I have had my chance to be the stranger with the strength. I have held others the way that she held me and gently reassured, “one foot, and then the other,” as they have wept their own stories into my soul. Finally, I have understood what it means to draw forth from the well of sorrow, and find that there is still goodness to be shared.

Maya Angelou has told us that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This world will always house wounded people who are desperately trying to tread the waters of their grief. It is up to us to decide if we will answer the calling to be the compassion, the understanding, and the light of the Spirit.

I don’t remember anything else my classmate said to me that day. I can’t even really recall what she looked like through my blurry tears. But I will always remember her; her kindness will live on within my grateful heart, forever.

Aimee of MamaCentric Headshot

 

Aimee is freelance writer and homeschooling mama to three on a journey to get real with motherhood. Whenever she can find a quiet moment, she writes soul-searching reflections at MamaCentric. She holds tightly to the belief that a centered spirit inspires a centered home. (And maintains that hiding out from the kids to sneak some chocolate is good for the soul!) She hopes that her words inspire others to always seek the joy in their lives.

She would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram.

 

The Grey Sweater

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Hey gang!

I’m over on Her View From Home today talking about the very personal topic of losing my Dad. I have been on a journey in and out of grief for the past five years. People say that time heals and, on some level, I agree. I also believe, however, that allowing the memories to linger even it causes pain is okay, too. I’ve learned how to trust in the goodness of God despite life getting more and more unpredictable. I’ve gone through anxiety and depression due to the very uneven terrain of my life.

But, there is one thing I know. I am stronger because of the pain. I am able to help others in their grief because I know what it feels like to endure hardship. I can be a voice for those who don’t know how to speak about their loss. And I will press through the feelings to get to the deep truth of security in Christ.

I will write until I can’t write anymore if it helps YOU. So, I invite you to participate in my journey of growth through grief and read my piece HERE. 

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The Grey Sweater

The Best Big Bro Ever

Romans 8:29 says, “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Take a minute and really read the verse above. Let it sink in for a second.

Jesus is our big brother.

This is such a simple yet profound concept. It struck me right in the heart as I was reading my Bible plan today. You see, I am the oldest of three sisters. I have felt the sting of losing a sibling way too early in life.  And my baby sister just had her first child yet I couldn’t be there. We live many states apart and the distance makes it difficult to be actively involved in each other’s lives. Both the loss and the separation are extremely hard for me to deal with some days.

Can you imagine how hard these things are for our big brother, Jesus? He has to deal with loss and separation ALL THE TIME.

Those that turn away from Him because of the harshness of this world. 

Those that reject the free gift of family He offers and choose to do life on their own.

Loss. Separation. My whole perception of family changes when I think of it like that.

I have always cheered my sisters on. I have always tried to lead them down good paths. That’s what big sisters do. Don’t we all want someone rooting for us? Don’t we all need an example to follow?

But I have failed many times in my efforts to love them well. I have fought with them over hair dryers and clothes. I have chosen my own comfort over their well being. I have made bad choices that they saw and sometimes chose as well. I am, at most, a flawed big sister who has always wanted the best for my siblings but didn’t always get it right.

The amazing thing is: Jesus doesn’t mess up. He is the best big brother a kid could have. He fights for us not against us. He sacrificed physically, mentally, and spiritually so that we could live a life of freedom. He only chooses what’s in our best interest. He never leads us down a trail of mistakes or mishaps.

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He is all we could ever want in a big brother. And more.

For those of you who have felt loss and separation in your families- Jesus truly understands. He hurts with you.

For those of you who have never had an older sibling to watch out for you and lead you well- He can be that for you. Jesus is the most overprotective brother you could have.

For those of you who are the oldest in your tribe and have had to carry extra responsibility- Jesus wants to take that burden off your shoulders and carry it for you. He has super strength!

He’s holding up a big foam finger right now and screaming,  “You’re number 1! You’re number 1!” Can you see Him?

Ask Him to make the heartwarming truth of His brotherly love real to you today.